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NEWSLETTER

Updated:  December 14, 2006

 

Is it seriously only 11 days until Christmas?  Yikes!  Tis the season for many parties - so please celebrate safely.  Little harsh reality being in the Caribbean one week and Toronto mid-winter the next!

If you want to truly receive the Christmas spirit, then tune into
your radios or TVs to CBC and to the showcases that Andrew Craig has conceptualized.  Check out December dates below!  Also, mark your calendars for December 28th for We Three Kings featuring Chris Rouse, Wade O. Brown and Carlos Morgan (aka Carll Parkes) - it promises to be a night of soulful Canadian content!  See info below.

Oh and I checked out the
Cavalcade of Lights sponsored by the City of Toronto Special Events featuring Kayte Burgess and Divine Brown.  Great great show!  Check out pics in my PHOTO GALLERY

 

 

::HOT EVENTS::

CBC “Gospel Christmas Celebration” – December 22, 24, 25 and 26

Source:  Andrew Craig

Get in the Christmas spirit with
CBC’s Gospel Christmas Celebration featuring all-new arrangements of your favourite Christmas carols!  Andrew Craig is at the helm as producer, arranger, musical director and host.  He has selected some of Canada’s biggest voices to touch us with the Christmas message, namely, Jackie Richardson, Alana Bridgewater, Kelly-Lee Evans and Chris LoweFaith Chorale ties all this talent together with a six-piece band, led by Andrew Craig at the piano. 

Sit down with your family and friends and gather ‘round the radio or television to catch this special Christmas show!

BROADCAST SCHEDULE:

December 22

8:00 pm to 10:00 pm

CBC Radio Two (94.1 FM Toronto)

December 24

6:00 pm to 7:00 pm

CBC Television

December 25

4:05 pm to 6:00 pm

CBC Radio One (99.1 FM Toronto)

 

8:05 pm to 10:00 pm

CBC Radio Two (94.1 FM Toronto)

December 26

7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

CBC Television

If you like what you see and hear, make sure you let the CBC know, so that they can create more programming like this in the future. Here's a link to CBC audience relations HERE!!

R&B Stars Unite for "The We Three Kings Soul Solidarity Concert" – Thursday, December 28

Source:  dB Promotions & Publicity Inc.

(Nov. 27, 2006) Three of Canada's hottest R&B/Soul stars - Chris Rouse, Wade O. Brown and JUNO Award-Winner Carlos Morgan (aka Carll Parkes) - are coming together for one night of electrifying performances in the We Three Kings Soul Solidarity Concert”.  Taking place Thursday, December 28th at The Revival Nightclub, 783 College St., this concert promises an evening of music immersed with soul, passion, and rhythm, featuring music from the artists' forthcoming releases as well as previously released hit songs. 

Hosted by
AKA SUBLIMINAL, and after party music supplied by DJ Sean Sax, the "We Three Kings Soul Solidarity Concert" will be the first in a series of Soul Solidarity performances being developed to bring Canada's emerging R&B/Soul artists to the forefront.    
 
"Our goal with these performances is to show the Canadian music industry, as well as music lovers at large, that Canada has a vast array of talented R&B/Soul artists - some of whom have yet to be discovered - who have what it takes to be superstars given the opportunity and right platform," remarks Morgan/Parkes.
 
Christopher Rouse (aka Hominy Manchild) is well known from domestic to Asian audiences and locally in Toronto for his talents as a vocalist, musician, arranger, and producer.  As a member of the vocal group Othello, Rouse had the experience of being the first R&B act to be signed out of Canada to a US label, first with Epic/Sony, and then with Warner directly.  As a solo artist, he has backed everyone from Glenn Lewis, Ivana Santilli, Divine Brown, Ray Robinson, Melanie Durrant, Amanda Marshall, Maestro Fresh Wes and Dan Hill from studio to stage.  Currently, Rouse is in the midst of recording his debut CD which will showcase his particular brand of soul, fusing organic new school with old school nuances.
 
Wade O. Brown became a vocalist of choice when soul performers such as Aretha Franklin, Wesley Snipes and Jamie Foxx came to town.  Born and raised in Detroit, the singer/songwriter/keyboardist was mentored as a teen by the legendary Clark Sisters and became a regular in the Midwest Gospel community.  As a young adult he moved to Toronto where he quickly became known for his outstanding stage presence and back to basics Motown sound.  Looking to fill the void left by the deaths of Luther Vandross and Barry White, Brown was developing into a true modern soul man.  With two CDs under his belt - Complete (2002) and All Night All Love (2005) - Brown continues to perform alongside many of the country's premiere artists while he completes his third recording set for a 2007 release.
 
Carlos Morgan (aka Carll Parkes) broke out onto the scene with one of Canada 's hottest selling independent albums.  Feelin' Alright earned Morgan multiple awards and recognitions including: a JUNO Award for "Best R&B/Soul Recording", a MuchMusic Video Award for "Give It To You" for Best R&B/Soul Video, a SOCAN Music Award, two Canadian Urban Music Awards, two Canadian Caribbean Cultural Committee Awards and a top-charting single with "Baby C'Mon".  Known for his sultry singing style, the singer, songwriter and producer has also been included in the Canadian Who's Who - Canada 's oldest and complete who's who publication where individuals are selected not only on merit, but on the contributions they have made to life in Canada as well.  His forthcoming album, All Of Who I Am.Vol.1, sees Morgan returning to his roots, reclaiming his birth name Carll Parkes, and telling of Morgan/Parkes' struggle and acceptance with his own self love, self respect and dignity as well as towards his fellow "brothers" and "sisters".
 
Proceeds from ticket sales for the "We Three Kings Soul Solidarity Concert" will be donated to the "
Shoot With This" organization.  Created by Dameion Royes, founder of the "Big It Up" clothing franchise, "Shoot With This" is a film development program designed to empower and motivate at-risk youth.  Led by workshop leaders, the program teaches youth video and documentary skills as a means of developing artistic, academic and career skills and expressing themselves constructively.
 
Tickets for the “We Three Kings Soul Solidarity Concert” can be purchased by calling 416-509-3710, 416-899-1403 or by emailing getatwadeo@hotmail.com for $15.00 in advance, or for $20.00 at the door on the day of the show.  A limited number of advance tickets are also available with purchase of The Soul Solidarity CD for a combined price of $20.00 by contacting the numbers above.

For further information, please contact:
dB Promotions & Publicity Inc.
Dulce Barbosa
P: 416.928.3550
E: dulce@dbpromotions.ca
 
For further information on these three R&B/Soul stars, please check out their MySpace.com Websites...
www.myspace.com/carllparkescarlosmorgan
www.myspace.com/wadeobrown
www.myspace.com/hominymanchild

::SCOOP::

Tamia Can't Get Enough

Source:  Universal Music Canada

Grammy Award winner and Canada's own
Tamia believes that her new CD is an R&B guide to the beauty and dynamics of relationships. Mixing the writing styles of Shep Crawford, the production finesse of Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Tamia's maturity as an artist and as a woman resonates in all 12 songs, including the first single, “Can’t Get Enough.”

'Between Friends' is the birth of Tamia's second child. With her growing wisdom in life, love and the music industry, she believes that "there's a time and place for music like "Drop It Like It's Hot!" But, there are also people who want to hear about love and relationships. A lot of songs I do aren't from personal experience, but the subject matter is universal."

TAMIA'S NEW CD 'BETWEEN FRIENDS' IS IN STORES NOW!

 

::RECAP::

HARLEM is BORN

Well, they did it ... again!  The 'two Carls' (
Carl Cassell and Carl Allen) brought us the newest, hippest spot in Toronto at the corner of Richmond and Church Sts!  Walking up to the spot, you could hear the music bumping with people streaming in and out.  Carl Allen brought some of the funkiest grooves I've heard in a long time! 

Harlem reminds me of a New York city spot - long and narrow with people jammin'  as they squeeze through the place.  Hands in the air, drinks being cradled and lots of familiar smiles.  Servers were passing around some of the new Caribbean tapas cuisine that will be featured on the menu. 

Harlem is Carl’s new landmark restaurant-bar and benchmark of Northern cool.  Situated in the hub of city movement, the opening of Harlem will add polish to an area already carving out new urban development. But no development is ever complete without the social and cultural contributions of the colourful class.  You’ll find it all passing though Harlem.

Want to check out the latest hot spot in Toronto to hang out?  Come and check out Harlem!

::top stories::

Peter Boyle, Father On TV’s 'Everybody Loves Raymond,' Dead At 71

Source: By Dennis McLellan, LA Times Staff Writer

(Dec. 13, 2006)
Peter Boyle, who made an indelible mark in comedy by donning a top hat and tails and performing "Puttin' on the Ritz" as the hulking monster in Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" and later gained his most enduring fame as the scrappy father on the popular sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond," has died. He was 71.  Boyle, who was also a critically acclaimed dramatic actor, died Tuesday at New York Presbyterian Hospital after a battle with multiple myeloma and heart disease, said his publicist, Jennifer Plante.  From 1996 to 2005, Boyle played the hilariously obnoxious Frank Barone opposite Doris Roberts' Marie Barone, Ray Romano's bickering and overbearing parents in "Everybody Loves Raymond" -- a role for which he received seven Emmy nominations.  Having spent nine years playing opposite Boyle on the CBS series, Roberts said in a statement Wednesday, "it's like losing a spouse."  "I'm going to miss my dear friend, so unlike the character he played on television," Roberts said. "He's a brilliant actor, a gentleman, incredibly intelligent, wonderfully well read and a loving friend."  In a 1999 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Boyle said he found playing his character on the series "very gratifying."  "(Fans say) `You're just like my father,' " he said. The Barones "are people you know and the way people really are on the other side of the TV set -- not behind the TV set, but in front of it."

Equally at home in comedy and drama, Boyle appeared in dozens of films, including playing Robert Redford's campaign manager in "The Candidate," Robert De Niro's fellow cab driver "Wizard" in "Taxi Driver" and Billy Bob Thornton's racist father in "Monster's Ball."  Boyle, who won his only Emmy -- in 1996 for a guest appearance on "The X Files" -- also played Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1977 TV movie "Tail Gunner Joe" (for which he earned an Emmy nomination) and Sgt. "Fatso" Judson in the 1979 miniseries "From Here to Eternity."  He also starred as a veteran New York cop in the short-lived 1986 series "Joe Bash."  "When I was in high school I wanted to be a leading man guy, like Howard Keel," Boyle told The Associated Press in 2001. "But then God saw fit to take the hair off my head at age 24."  Boyle had his breakthrough movie role-playing the title character in the unexpected hit "Joe," a 1970 drama in which he delivered a chilling performance as a murderously bigoted hard-hat from Queens.  In the wake of his critical success in "Joe," Boyle feared being typecast in similarly violent roles and turned down the starring role of Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in the 1971 film "The French Connection."  "I got bad advice," he told Entertainment Weekly in 2001. "Look, Gene Hackman was brilliant, so what can you say?"  Boyle's concerns about being typecast were blown away with his performance as the monster in Brooks' hit 1974 horror-movie spoof "Young Frankenstein," starring Gene Wilder. As the monster, critic Roger Ebert wrote, Boyle "somehow manages to be hilarious and pathetic at the same time."

"I was greatly saddened by the news (of Boyle's death)," Brooks said in a statement Wednesday. "I will always cherish (his) remarkable performance as the monster in `Young Frankenstein.' "  "I don't know how you breathe human life into a monster, but he did -- and in a humorous way," Teri Garr, who played Inga in the film, told the Times Wednesday. "He had that quality in his face; he could be mean and also warm and fabulous."  While making "Young Frankenstein," Boyle met Rolling Stone magazine reporter Loraine Alterman, who was doing a story on Brooks. Through Alterman, a friend of Yoko Ono's, Boyle met John Lennon, who served as best man when he and Alterman were married in 1977.  Boyle was born Oct. 18, 1935 in Norristown, Pa., and later moved to Philadelphia, where his father became a popular TV show host in the 1950s known as "Uncle Pete" and "Chuckwagon Pete."  Boyle attended a Catholic high school and joined the Christian Brothers while attending what is now La Salle University in Philadelphia.

Nelly Furtado, Nickelback and Three Days Grace Claim Billboard Awards

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Kathleen Hennessey, Associated Press


(Dec. 5, 2006) LAS VEGAS—Canada's representatives hit the jackpot in the desert last night at the
2006 Billboard Music Awards.  Toronto's Nelly Furtado won for Pop Single of the Year for "Promiscuous" while Nickelback won Rock Album of the Year for All The Right Reasons and Artist-Duo/Group of the Year. The B.C. band closed the show jamming to "Looking for Some Tush" with Kid Rock and ZZ Top.  Three Days Grace, which got its start in Norwood, Ont., won Rock Single of the Year for "Animal I Have Become."  A big winner on the night was a 17-year-old Lothario, Chris Brown, named Artist of the Year to culminate three awards.  Newcomers Rihanna and Idol-turned-country star Carrie Underwood also walked away with high honours at the two-hour show aired live from the MGM Grand.  But it was R&B diva Mary J. Blige and her comeback album, The Breakthrough, delivered nine awards to the 35-year-old singer, including R&B/Hip-Hop artist of the year.  The album debuted at the top of the Billboard charts in December 2005 and has sold 2.6 million copies since.  Blige, in white go-go boots and a sparkly mini-dress, rocked the full house by belting out a medley of her "Enough Crying" and ``Take Me as I Am.''  However Rihanna, an 18-year-old from Barbados, edged out Blige and Beyoncé for the keystone honour.  "I really can't feel my legs, this is phenomenal," Rihanna said as she accepted the Best Female Artist of the Year award. "That was a really tough category.''  Janet Jackson opened the show, performing in a short bob haircut and a belly-baring white turtleneck sweater that offered no chance of wardrobe malfunction.

The telecast did not, however, feature Tinseltown's duo du jour — heiress Paris Hilton and mom-gone-wild Britney Spears. A report had said the new best friends would co-host, but Hilton apparently was bothered by scripted jokes at her expense, Spears was never approached and neither appeared.  Country crossover Underwood's Some Hearts album won two awards and she was named Female Country Artist of the Year.  Atlanta rapper T.I. won for top artist and top album for his fourth solo album, King, which debuted at No. 1 on the chart in March.  Las Vegas natives The Killers backed out of a performance because band member Brandon Flowers was ill, the group said.  Crooner Tony Bennett was honoured with the Billboard Century Award, a lifetime achievement award.  Bennett timed his release of Duets: An American Classic — featuring Bono, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Barbra Streisand and other musical big-timers — to his 80th birthday in September. It's become the best-selling album of his 50-plus-year recording career.  Billboard Awards are given to the year's chart-topping artists. Winners are determined by the magazine's year-end chart listings, which are based on record sales and airplay.

It Helps To Have Friends In High Places: George

By Chris Atchison, Metro Toronto

(Dec. 8-06)
George knows what it takes to be a success in the music business. If he’s ever in doubt all he needs to do is examine the work ethic of his aunt, actress Kyra Sedgwick, his uncle and her husband, Kevin Bacon, and his management which includes former 3Deep member C.J. Huyer and former Backstreet Boy Howie Dorough. But it’s a hard road for any Canadian musician, particularly one trying to make his name in the ever crowded pop and R&B market. Still, the 20-year-old Torontonian — who only uses his surname Nozuka for signing cheques and record deals — feels he has the drive to turn his childhood dream of superstardom into reality. If the success of the first single Talk To Me from his debut album, Believe, is any indicator, George might be on the right path. “I realized at a young age that if I’m going to do this I have to create a work ethic myself … I think it starts from a person wanting to do something,” he says.

Listen to George reference his musical influences — Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder and even Elvis Presley — and it’s clear that his love of music runs deep. So too does his appreciation for hard work. George decided around the age of 12 that he would break into the music business. He learned to play guitar, harmonica and piano and began dancing. After bouncing around the local amateur boy band circuit, George met Huyer and began building his solo career. He’s recently been touring Canada and since October has watched Talk To Me climb the charts. The track recently peaked at No. 1 on the Much Music video countdown. George is quick to point out that having management with friends in high places has undoubtedly helped his work get noticed. “Howie’s been showing the product to a lot of people and it’s building in Canada, and people in other territories are starting to look at the product and believe in the product now, which is really exciting,” he says of Dorough’s promotional efforts. In fact it was the former boy band sensation who introduced George to the media and fans at this year’s Much Music Video Awards.

But it’s exposure to the hectic lives of Bacon, Sedgwick and even Dorough which has offered George insight into the dedication necessary to succeed in show business. Then there’s that whole problem of maintaining those achievements. Connections and name recognition aside, George feels that perhaps the most important lesson Dorough taught him early on was one in humility and perspective. “I just want to focus and get bigger and bigger,” he says. “The only way you can do that is if you stay focused. Once you believe the hype it’s the beginning of the end.”

Ezrin, U2's Edge launch Phase II

By Karen Bliss for Lowdown

(December 8, 2006)
Bob Ezrin, the Canadian-born producer best known for his work with Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel and Kiss, has stepped up the second phase of the Music Rising initiative he started with U2 guitarist The Edge to help musicians in the Gulf Coast.  The first phase of the charity campaign raised money to replace musical instruments that were lost or damaged in the aftermath of 2005's Hurricane Katrina and Rita, and while that program is still active, now Music Rising is helping to restore music programs in schools and churches.  "We started off by trying to help the professional musicians of the region get back on their feet and get playing again," says Ezrin. "We felt that that music was so important to the area for tourism, for its soul, for giving people some way to congregate and gather around something positive.  "We focused on that because, at the time, churches and schools were so destroyed that they weren't anywhere near to having their music programs back up. So we started off with professional musicians and we raised enough money [to be] able to help 2,200 musicians."

Music Rising Phase II will be administered by The Gibson Foundation with assistance from Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation and All Congregations Together. As with Phase I, donations can be made via the web site, www.MusicRising.org, where there are links to pay online or one can mail a cheque or money order to Gibson Foundation, 309 Plus Park Blvd., Nashville, TN 37217  However, if you want a memento of your generosity or a gift that makes a difference, there are t-shirts and guitars available with all proceeds going to Music Rising.  Music Rising T-shirts -- as worn by The Edge on U2's Grammy performance earlier this year -- can also be purchased for (U.S.) $30 on FanFire.com. MusiciansFriend.com is also selling a "very" limited edition Music Rising Epiphone guitar with artwork designed by The Edge for (U.S.) $599.00. For easy-access to the items, go to the www.MusicRising.org web site.  Ezrin, who returned to Canada in July of 2005 after a long absence, was in Toronto when the hurricane struck the Gulf region and the levees subsequently broke in New Orleans. Three weeks later, he was sitting next to The Edge at a luncheon in Toronto and they started talking about the tragedy and what they could do to help.

"By that time, I was already in touch with Henry Juszkiewicz from [guitar manufacturer] Gibson and Marty Albertson from Guitar Centre," recounts Ezrin. "I told Edge about what we were doing there and he said he'd like to be involved, so I gave him my home phone number and left, fully expecting that it was one of those rock star moments where they say, 'Yeah, let me help,' and then you never hear from them again.  "Sure enough, three days later, he called up and said, 'OK, here's the research I've done; here are the people I've spoken to; here's what I think we ought to do.' He was using the 'we' word right off the bat."  Operating as a virtual organization with no staff, except for Ezrin, The Edge and a couple of people from Gibson, they needed to find a way to get word out to the musicians in need.  Ezrin, who sits on the board of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), felt that the best way to do this would be to work with the MusiCares Foundation, which was established by the American recording academy to aid musicians in crisis (from drug counselling to medical care). He was aware of the thousands of professional musicians who had contacted MusiCares after the hurricane and received immediate living assistance and spending money.

"It seemed to me that those same people, if they'd lost everything, then they'd lost their instruments," Ezrin deduced. "And when we went back to them and asked, they had indeed also lost instruments."  Those musicians were then given a coupon to go shopping on MusiciansFriend.com, the largest online retailer of musical instruments. But Music Rising was unable to deal with restoring or replacing heirlooms or other special cases, says Ezrin.  A documentary about Music Rising aired in September in America and Canada. A charity single of U2 and Green Day covering "The Saints Are Coming" by The Skids was produced by Rick Rubin and released digitally in Canada Oct. 30 and in stores Nov. 7 to benefit Music Rising. Ezrin produced the live version -- available for U.S. download only -- when both bands performed the song at the Louisiana Superdome on Sept. 25 during the pre-game show of the New Orleans Saints/Atlanta Falcons game.  While Ezrin has moved back to Canada and has an office at Universal Music Canada -- from which he will soon be announcing a new venture -- he says his main focus is Music Rising.  "Also, I'm a trustee of NARAS and I'm also on the board of the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation. But more importantly to your readers, I'm one of the founders and on the committee of MusiCan, which is CARAS's music education initiative.  "That's a major passion for me and one of the stipulations I made when I was asked if I could be inducted into the [2004 Canadian Music] Hall of Fame. I said that I would, but only under the condition that I'd be allowed to really earn it. So I said that they would have to support me in the drive for universal music education in Canada."

Tim Hortons Singer Jingles All The Way

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Dec. 11, 2006)
Emilie-Claire Barlow's name and face aren't well known outside jazz circles, but as the reigning jingle singer for Tim Hortons, her voice is a household staple.  "People have probably heard me on so many things," said the Toronto native, who also lends her pipes to ads for the LCBO, Sears and The Bay, as well as several TV cartoons.  Moonlighting pays the bills, but Barlow gets the greatest satisfaction from her main gig as a jazz vocalist. That means she's in fine fettle with a new CD, Winter Wonderland, and sold-out concert at the Old Mill Inn tonight.  Putting a fresh spin on the 10 Christmas songs that comprise the record was no more daunting, she said, than revamping the jazz standards she covered on her first four discs.  "With my other albums, I'm doing all these songs from the Great American Songbook that have been around for 60-plus years that there all these classic versions of — Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Mel Tormé — so, I'm sort of in the same boat with the Christmas album," explained Barlow, who speaks with the crisp articulation that defines her recordings.  "I just wanted to do what I'm always trying to do and that's to take the songs that I want to record, and to try and put my own stamp on them somehow."  On Winter Wonderland, the results include a rollickingly chirpy and scat-infused version of "Sleigh Ride," an informally cute "Little Jack Frost" (whom she dubs L.J. Frost) and swelling strings on the sophisticated "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"  Barlow, who arranged and produced the album, which features top Toronto players, drew inspiration from varied sources.

"I listened to a lot of music (including) Diana Krall's Nat King Cole tribute (All For You), because I wanted similar instrumentation, and the Barry Manilow version of (Irving Berlin's) "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm," which I love because you can just hear the smile in his voice. It's a very peppy, upbeat arrangement and I wanted to take it some place completely different."  Barlow decided to utilize string instruments when she noted the prevalence of them on definitive Christmas albums. Lack of experience didn't deter her from penning charts for violin, cello and viola and then conducting them.  "It was very scary having these nine string players sitting in front of me in the studio and just crossing my fingers and hoping ... it was a big-time thrill for me."  Barlow, 30, grew up in a family of musicians. She began violin and piano lessons at an early age and landed her first TV commercial voice-over at 7. After majoring in music theatre at Etobicoke School of the Arts, she studied arranging and theory at Humber College.  "Taking the arranging class was a freeing experience. It's really important to me as musician to have not only ownership over my own stuff, but to know how to impart to the instrumentalists what I hear in my head, to have the ability to lead any band.  "That takes a lot of practice and you have to build up your confidence when you're dealing with these musicians that may be older or more accomplished than I am."  With no business training, Barlow was less prepared for the rigours of the industry when she made her first album, Sings, in 1988.  But she figured it out and now puts out records on her own label, books gigs and hires musicians without the assistance of a manager or agent.  "At some point, I know I'll have to get someone else involved, but right now I have a handle on it and I know if it's being done right."  Recently married, with two pre-teen stepchildren, the songstress is celebrating the holiday season with renewed vigour.  "There were a few years there when I didn't really bother; with my siblings grown up and living on my own ... Christmas isn't the same as when you were a kid."  The tree isn't up yet and she hasn't started shopping, but Barlow has at least one gift out of the way: "Everyone's getting my Christmas CD!"

::MUSIC NEWS::

Canadian Musicians A Mix Of Naughty And Nice When It Comes To Santa Experiences

Source:  By Cassandra Szklarski, Canadian Press

(Dec. 6, 2006) TORONTO (CP) - Every Christmas when
Santa Claus checked his list of naughty or nice children in Antigonish, N.S., Colin and John-Angus MacDonald would invariably make it onto the naughty list.  That's because the laid-back rockers, now members of the Trews, say they spent a good part of their childhood assuming the role of schoolyard Scrooge. "We were the kind of children from new-age hippie parents that dispelled a lot of myths of our more conservative, Catholic friends," says vocalist Colin MacDonald, one of five kids in the family.  "We were always the ones (told), oh, 'We heard that you made Billy cry today because you told him there's no Santa Claus.' “Unlike ardent Santa fans like jazz singer Molly Johnson, R&B performer Keshia Chante and pop crooner Kim Stockwood, the MacDonald brothers say they never bought into the magical story of Santa.  Mention Santa to guitarist John-Angus MacDonald and he's quick to point out that the image of the jolly old man was made famous in part by soft-drink giant Coca-Cola, which incorporated the red-and-white rendition we know today in its ads in 1931.  Prior to that incarnation, people around the world were more likely to envision the gift-laden figure as either leprechaun-like, a Scandinavian dwarf, a northern European goat, a white-robed girl or as a queer mixture of gnome and bishop, according to various legends.  Jazz singer Dione Taylor says she knew exactly what Santa looked like because as a kid she enjoyed a special moment with him every Christmas morning.  Until she was 10 years old, Taylor would be surprised not only by presents, but by a special guest waiting at her house in Regina.

"I would go downstairs and Santa would be waiting at the table and he'd have a special gift for me," Taylor recalls. "I'd talk with him and say, 'How was I this year? Was I naughty or nice?' It was really cool."  Chante says she wrote letters to Santa until age 12. She'd also make him cookies and left out milk on Christmas Eve as a kid in Ottawa.  "I'd go up in my room, and my mom would tell me that Santa comes around 11 o'clock every year, because I'd be sleeping by then," says Chante, now 18. "And usually by midnight I'd wake up and open presents with my family."  The idea that a jolly old man accompanied by flying reindeer would sneak into her house with gifts every year was thrilling, she says.  "Just the fantasy and excitement. Santa Claus is exciting for a little kid, especially knowing, 'Oh, I was a good girl all year, I'm going to get all the gifts!' “Singer/songwriter Stockwood says waiting for Santa in Mount Pearl, N.L., near St. John's, was an unbearably exhilarating ordeal when she was young.  "I remember just, like, trying (to sleep)," says Stockwood, now the mother of two sons, ages one and three.  "I would have stapled my eyes shut because they kept coming open and I was thinking, 'If I don't go to sleep soon, Santa's gonna know and he's not going to leave me anything!' “Santa Claus should be an integral part of any child's Christmas, insists Johnson.  The Toronto jazz artist says she encourages her two boys, ages six and nine, to believe wholeheartedly in anything magical that catches their imagination.  "Children need to be children as long as possible," says Johnson, who says she still believes in Santa.  "My thing with Santa Claus and fairies and fairy tales and Mary Poppins and things is: they only come if you believe. Once you stop believing in Santa, he'll know and he won't come. Mommy will be there with the present ... but it's about believing."

Grammy List Polite To Canada

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vit Wagner, Pop Music Critic

(Dec. 8, 2006) High hopes for Canadian artists didn't quite materialize when the 49th Grammy Award nominations were announced yesterday in Los Angeles.  Neil Young led homegrown performers with three nods, while Nelly Furtado, Diana Krall, Michael Bublé and Sarah McLachlan were other nominees.  Canadian nominees also included Daniel Powter, The Duhks, Northern Cree and Friends, and perennial polka candidate Walter Ostanek. The Broadway cast recording for the Toronto-originated The Drowsy Chaperone was nominated for Best Musical Show Album.  Even so, it wasn't the haul anticipated by some. Most notably, B.C. rock band Nickelback came away empty-handed, despite winning two Billboard Awards earlier this week and an American Music Award last month.  R&B singer Mary J. Blige topped all contenders with eight nominations. "Be Without You" is in the running for the year's top record (for the performer) and song (for the composer), although The Breakthrough, the multi-million-selling disc that contains that hit, was overlooked for Best Album.  Next to Blige were L.A. rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers, with six nods, including Album of the Year for Stadium Arcadium. The disc is up against Gnarls Barkley's St. Elsewhere, John Mayer's Continuum, the Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way and Justin Timberlake's Future Sex/Love Sounds.

Bunched together with five nominations are singer/songwriters Mayer and James Blunt, the Dixie Chicks, Prince, Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am, Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley, producer Rick Rubin and classical/movie soundtrack composer John Williams.  In addition to Blige, Record of the Year hopefuls included Blunt's "You're Beautiful," Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice" and Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On."  The Rae, Blunt and Dixie Chicks tunes are also up against Blige for Best Song, as is Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel," co-written by Nova Scotia's Gordie Sampson.  Young's protest album Living With War is up for Best Rock Album. "Looking for a Leader," a song from the disc, is up for two other rock-genre awards, Song and Solo Vocal Performance.  Furtado, winner of a 2001 Grammy for "I'm Like a Bird," was nominated in the Pop Vocal Collaboration category for partnering with Timbaland on "Promiscuous." But the singer was shut out of the top awards.  Krall's From This Moment On is in the hunt for Jazz Vocal Album. And McLachlan's Wintersong and Bublé's Caught in the Act are both up for Traditional Pop Vocal Album.  Winners will be revealed at the awards telecast Feb. 11.

Rankins - A Bittersweet Christmas

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Dec. 9, 2006) It has been a long and anguished decade since the
Rankin Family — the Cape Breton siblings who made fiddle music radio-trendy in the nineties, and became ubiquitous with their Canadian Celtic sound — last made a record.  It's been eight years since they toured together, and seven since they made a mutual decision to break from stage and studio and pursue solo projects and family lives.  And it's been six years since their beloved brother and band mate, John Morris, died in a winter car wreck in Cape Breton. And that may be exactly where the latest chapter of the Rankin story really begins. Last month in Halifax, front man Jimmy, 42, and his sisters Heather, 39, Cookie, 41, and Raylene, 46, gathered over several weeks in the CBC Radio rehearsal hall, a plain, dumpy space marked by worn brown carpet and dull florescent lights, to practise 12 new songs they will soon be performing live. For several visitors, they ran tightly through a pair of tracks — a sweet-sounding cover of John Hiatt's Gone and a hauntingly mournful original by Jimmy Rankin, called Departing Song. You could call it a comeback, and many likely will. But the Rankins prefer to describe this outing, which will be followed by a new record and 22-city tour, as a reunion. And so the new album is appropriately titled Rankin Family Reunion. The gathering round of the Rankins coincides with the Christmas season, and although it was not planned that way, the timing is appropriate, as sweet and sentimental as a Gaelic hymn. A time for family and song, celebration and reflection: The album and the tour — and the reunion itself — embody all of that and more. The Rankins have reunited at the urging of Calgary music promoter Jeff Parry, a long-time associate who last February was on his way to Calgary when he threw a Rankin collection on the car stereo.

“We were in the car, and I said to my wife, ‘We have to get these guys back together,' ” recalls Parry. “I felt very inspired hearing their music again. There's nothing like it in the world, and I felt the time was right. The harmonization of the girls and Jimmy is something no one else has out there. Also it's fun music. Aspects are dark, but in general it makes you feel good.” Parry called Jimmy, who in turn phoned his sisters. The Rankins were keen, but also not without reservations. “My initial reaction was, ‘Can we do it without John Morris?' ” admits Heather. “He was such an instrumental part of what we did. When he died, I thought there was no chance we would ever be together again. But then, with outside encouragement, it happened. We knew it wouldn't be the same, but many of the elements are the same.” John Morris Rankin was just 40 when he died on Jan. 16, 2000. He was driving the old coastal road in Cape Breton when his truck hit a pile of road salt at Whale Cove and sailed over a 25-metre embankment into the icy, stormy Gulf of St. Lawrence. His son, Michael, and two other children survived the crash by crawling out a window and clamouring onto rocks at the foot of a cliff. They had been on their way to a hockey game. John Morris's funeral, at St. Mary's, the country church near the family home in Mabou, N.S., where Cookie would later marry Nashville record producer George Massenburg on a happier day, saw nearly 100 fiddlers play and more than 1,000 people gather to mourn. No one was more devastated than his siblings, his band mates. That day, the band played Molly Rankin's Reel, which John Morris had written for his daughter, then 12, who has now emerged as a key and poignant piece of the reunion puzzle.

In 2001, Jimmy was quoted as saying it was unlikely the band would ever work together again, because his older brother had been the nerve centre, both musically — on both the fiddle and piano — and spiritually. “But it really is strange,” Jimmy mused recently, “how things work out.” The Rankins went into the studio with the Grammy-winning Massenburg this fall with four songs, but came out with an album's worth, including a cover of Gordon Lightfoot's classic The Way I Feel and several traditional pieces from John Morris that were in the vault.  They also invited Molly to perform one of her songs on the album, and tour with them. Now 19, she dances and plays fiddle, and has been trying her hand at songwriting for the past four years. The Rankins wanted her to be a part of things, just as her father once was. “She's her own entity, very different than what John Morris was, but she embodies part of his spirit,” says Jimmy. “That's a very good thing. She's very quiet, like he was.” Was it difficult to come together without him? “I really miss him,” the girls chime in at once. “Technically he was the guy who directed everything and finessed the details,” says Raylene. “He was the perfectionist. And even though he's not here physically, I feel he's here emotionally.”

Adds Jimmy: “Initially you think, ‘How could you ever go on?' We've been playing in the same band in one form or another forever. No one could ever fill his shoes. But Molly is a wonderful addition.” For her part, John Morris's daughter, who studies music at Dalhousie University, says she isn't trying to take her father's place — but she certainly seems to have his musical gifts. She describes her song, Sunset, as a “girlie folk-pop” tune, and working with her musical family as “emotional, but I think in a good way. It's a nice feeling to have everyone around, everyone that loved my father and loves performing music. It's emotional to hear him play, and hear things without him here, but you have to take something good out of it. As long as something positive comes out of it, that's what I care about.” The album, which is being mixed by master Bob Ludwig, sounds every bit a Rankin record, with one exception: It's Gaelic-free. “When we sing Gaelic, we want to make sure we have it correct, and this thing happened so quickly that we didn't seem to have the time to finesse a Gaelic song that we felt comfortable recording,” says Cookie. “It was a time constraint, and we chose not to go there. But that's not to say we won't go there in the future.” Indeed, Parry thinks that what makes the new record special is the fact that it sounds more modern — a little less Celtic — but hasn't lost the lush, harmonious Rankin sound. “There is a hole in the market for this,” suggests Parry. “They waited 10 years to make a record, and the result is a total departure. The harmonies are still there, but it sounds fresh.” There were a dozen Rankin children who grew up in small-town Mabou. Long before they ever borrowed money from an older sister to record their self-titled debut album in 1989, five of them — Jimmy, Heather, Raylene, Cookie and John Morris — performed at dances and entertained across Cape Breton. They grew up on music, with a huge record collection that spanned John Allan Cameron, Elton John and Led Zeppelin. Not long after that first record, they released Fare Thee Well Love, which attracted the attention of officials at EMI Music Canada in Toronto. It was re-released to international acclaim, helped along by the song's inclusion in the Gabriel Byrne film, Into the West.

Almost overnight, the Rankin Family tuned people's ears onto Celtic music and the Cape Breton music scene, which included Rita MacNeil and the Barra MacNeils. The Rankins went on to sell more than 2 million records. North Country, the 1993 follow-up to Fare Thee Well Love, went multiplatinum and racked up both Junos and East Coast Music awards. In 1999, with seven albums, including the sisters' Christmas record, under their belts, the Rankins decided it was time to take a break. Cookie now lives near Nashville with Massenburg; the others reside in Halifax. Jimmy has worked steadily on his solo career; the girls reconvene each Christmas to perform live. They get to Mabou often, where the sisters own the Red Shoe Pub, which Heather spends much of her time managing. And while the record industry has changed dramatically since the Rankins first hit the charts, in many ways, they say, they've come back to where they started — with a small record deal, and a good old-fashioned tour to help spread the music. “The Rankins broke on adult contemporary radio, but all the formats have changed, the way they program music,” notes Jimmy. “Back then, it was nothing to sell 100,000 records. Now it's something to sell [half that many].  “The way to get your music out has changed also . . . There's so many ways to get it out there. It's been a huge shift. “It's going to be interesting to see who our audience is,” he adds. “We thought, ‘Without John Morris, will anyone come see us play?' But then the tickets went on sale, the buzz started happening, and the feedback we've heard has been pretty good. It wasn't just a flash in the pan when it happened. It was quality music and a great show and it had a lot of impact on our fans. People tell me they still listen to Rankin stuff and play it for their kids. There's something infectious about the Celtic fiddle.”

The Rankin Family tour runs from coast to coast, starting in Nanaimo, B.C., on Jan. 14 and ending in St. John's on Feb. 15. Their new album hits stores Jan. 9. For more information, visit
www.therankinfamily.com.

New Mathew Knowles Act Is 2 Much

Source: Amina Elshahawi, ThinkTank Marketing, E: amina@thinktankmktg.com, http://www.thinktankmktg.com

(December 1, 2006)  Los Angeles, CA- November, 2006 - Teen R&B sensations 2 Much are preparing to hit the road on the BET Scream Tour, where they will join Omarion to perform "Fire."   The group is the newest addition to the Music World Music family, which includes J Xavier, Solange Knowles, Sunshine Anderson, Mic Little and others.   Currently in the studio recording their debut album We 2 Much with super-producer Sean Garrett, the group is experiencing the success of their first single   "Fire," written and produced by Chris Stokes and David Awogboro, which is already burning up MTV Hits, MTV Jams and BET.  We 2 Much is set to drop in the spring of 2007.    "We are thrilled to welcome 2 Much into the Music World Music family," said Music World Entertainment CEO Mathew Knowles who manages the group with Max Gousse and Chris and Monyee Stokes. "They have supreme talent, charm and determination - all the makings of a super star act."  The dynamic foursome - Chris Cheeks, Myles Cleveland, Milo Stokes and Marcel Wildy - has been working together for years fusing such musical influences as the Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye and Jay Z, plus classic soul.  The group is also slated to embark on the MX2 national teen tour with fellow Music World Music star J. Xavier and Def Jam Recording artist Mic Little in the spring of 2007.   2 Much is currently working with the highly successful singer Omarion, who signed them to his O Records. This will be the label's first release through a joint venture between T.U.G. (The Ultimate Group) and Music World Music. Omarion says I know this might be a big cliché, but they're like B2K, a different version-a better version!"   Famed producer and manager, Chris Stokes, the guiding force behind multi-platinum music acts B2K and Immature/ IMX is responsible for bringing 2 Much to the forefront of music.  Stokes is currently CEO of the successful music and entertainment group, TUG that is home to such artists as Omarion, Marques Houston, Mila J, as well as many more upcoming acts.   Chris Stokes declares, "2 Much are all about Hip-hop and vocals. They're like the new Jackson Five. I see something special that I've never seen in a young boys' group before."   For Scream Tour dates please visit www.screamtour.com

Smooth Jazz Saxophonist Andre Delano Releases Limited Edition Christmas Album

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 30, 2006) Los Angeles, CA - Saxophonist Andre Delano’s debut, Full Circle, took the smooth jazz world by storm in 2005. His dynamic live performances wowed genre enthusiasts into immediate Delano fans. Next month, the East Saint Louis native brings his fans tides of great joy with a holiday offering with First Christmas, on 7th Note Entertainment. While the CD includes many traditional Christmas favourites, the title track, “First Christmas,” is an original vocal tune written by Delano and dedicated to his baby daughter, Makenna. Delano sings:
 
“Today saw the first fall of snow, how could it know to earth you would  go. Seasons seem brighter to me cause' your love will be the light in my heart that will guide me. I welcome you to your new world, head full of curls, my little girl. A precious first one for me to hold so gently, as you smile and look up at  me, feels so heavenly.”

Delano will be performing songs from First Christmas and Full Circle on December 5, 2006 (8:00 pm), at The Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Blvd, Culver City, California http://www.jazzbakery.com  To reserve a ticket, call (310) 271-9039; sponsored by ASCAP. This holiday season, the first 100 fans can purchase First Christmas at a discounted rate of $10.00 per cd exclusively at http://www.andredelano.com Also available, is the Andre Delano “Jazzy” Holiday Gourmet Gift Basket for $39.99. The gift basket includes Delano’s limited edition holiday CD, ‘First Christmas’, Delano’s critically acclaimed debut album, ‘Full Circle’, Brent & Sam’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, large Ghiradelli decadent dark chocolate bar, Lesser Evil all natural kettle popcorn, East Shore seasoned pretzels, Kencraft old fashion eight inch candy cane and a holiday scented candle. Delano, who is also saxophonist in the house band for “The Megan Mullally Show” television show, is working on a new smooth jazz CD scheduled for release in 2007.

Bow Wow Back With New CD

Source: Brian Scully, ThinkTank Marketing, brian@thinktankmktg.com, www.thinktankmktg.com

(December 5, 2006)  Just as diamonds are created from carbon through intense heat and pressure deep beneath the earth's surface, Bow Wow -- listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest solo rapper to ever hit #1 -- has matured from a multi-platinum teen rap star into a full-fledged musical force with his fifth studio album, The Price of Fame, a journey inside the mind of a man who's grown up in the public eye, felt the pleasures and pitfalls of acclaim, and learned valuable lessons from the wealth of his experience.  According to Bow Wow, who will be 20 in March 2007, this last year "was emotional and stressful. I felt like I was going crazy with things bothering me, and all this comes with being famous."  Coming off of one of the busiest -- the SRO Scream IV Tour and top-grossing features films including "Roll Bounce" and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" -- years of his career, Bow Wow wanted "to go in the studio and work because it's just natural. Every song is from experience. It's easy for me to do what I do because it is a reflection of my life." As a youngster growing up in show business, Bow Wow felt that he couldn't freely express himself on a variety of issues because of his age. While his first four albums -- Beware of Dog (2000), Doggy Bag (2001), Unleashed (2003), and Wanted (2005) -- showed an artist progressively expanding the range of his style and the reach of his topics, The Price of Fame takes Bow Wow boldly into new areas of musical and lyrical exploration. "Now that I'm older, there are things that I can talk about. I feel free," says Bow Wow. "Finally I've gotten the green light to talk about what I've wanted to talk about for so many years. It's definitely a real rap album. I've stepped up lyrically. I want to become known as more of a lyricist, I want to prove I am more than a heart-throb."  Bow Wow re-teamed with long-time mentor, friend, producer and current co-manager Jermaine Dupri to co-executive produce the new album. Always mindful of his fans, Bow Wow gives them heart-throb familiarity with his first single, "Shortie Like Mine," produced by JD and features R&B heartthrob Chris Brown and long-time songwriter and singing newcomer Johnta Austin. "Give It To You" is another high energy, Bow Wow-produced track destined to light up the dance floors of club land.

 For The Price of Fame ,Bow Wow delved deep into his writing while trying his hand once again at production. On the intro to the title track, "Price of Fame," Bow is heard venting: "I'm letting people feel my pain, letting them know what I've been through in this year alone." Young Jinsu, a 13-year-old, Rhode Island rapper by way of New York, is heard throughout the track pumping Bow Wow up.   Bow Wow is both wordsmith and budding entrepreneur, having signed Jinsu to his own label, The LB Dub Gang. "I'm passing the Lil Bow Wow torch to Jinsu," Bow Wow offers. "This Bow Wow movement with teenagers, girls and kids goes back to Jermaine being a mentor, father figure and learning from him and watching him for the past seven years."  "This is my crew," Bow Wow announces and that includes Clee-O, an 18 year old actor/ rapper who co-starred with Bow Wow in "Roll Bounce" and The Rock in "Walking Tall." Bow Wow's vision for his new label reflects his growth and maturity. "Jermaine has blessed me with the ability to do what I do and he's given me my shot into the industry," acknowledges Bow Wow, "so now it's my turn to give blessings back to other people that also have the opportunity to do bigger and better things. It's only right to push your people forward."  As Bow Wow welcomes his fans into the truth of his world, it's apparent that The Price of Fame comes with a price tag. "People ask for this life but they don't really understand what comes with it," Bow Wow confesses. "People just see the outside and that looks good - big houses, cars, girls, but you never see how the person is feeling deep down inside. Me personally, being a man, I'm going to feel better displaying all of this and pouring my heart out on each record." As the rapper/actor/entrepreneur charts his course through the next phase of his career, Bow Wow is very clear. "There's a lot of pressure," he says. "I'm a real guy, and trying to hold all of this in one brain can make you go crazy sometimes. So that's really been the price of fame for me, just dealing with all the drama and the b.s."   With a new energy and spirit Bow Wow is playing the game to win. "I let life really guide me," he admits. "Just going through things that I've been through in my life has helped me to become a better person. Things have helped me grow and become who I am. Once you go through things, you'll see things differently, and that's basically my motto and what I've learned so far."  For Bow Wow, The Price of Fame is ultimately worth the cost. "I don't have a choice," says the born artist. "I'm ready to take on anything and this album is a way for me to release it all. I can take all the negative energy and turn it into a positive simply by purging my soul through music. That's how powerful music can be. When people hear this record, they will definitely know where I'm at as far as my life and me as an artist. This album is really a tell-all album."

Ciara Pumps Up Grooves For Follow-up

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Erin Carlson, Associated Press


(Dec. 5, 2006) NEW YORK —
Ciara wants to set something straight. The hit-making dynamo — known for her hot moves and sexy tomboy style — is flattered by all those comparisons to Janet Jackson and the late Aaliyah, but she's not a copycat. She's doing her own thing.  "I do feel like we're all different," she told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "You know, it's funny, because people will say, `She's trying to be like her,' but I'm saying to myself, like, 'I'm trying to do me.'''  After the success of her multiplatinum, Grammy-nominated debut, ``Goodies," Ciara was determined to put even more of herself into her follow-up CD, "Ciara: The Evolution." She co-wrote each song and also helped produce many of them.  "I've evolved," she said. "I am still the person I am at core — the tomboy that's still in me hasn't left. You know, but everything is just going somewhere else, and it's growing. And it's really fun.''  The 21-year-old singer-songwriter first sprung onto the pop charts with her "Goodies" two years ago. When she first broke out with the crunk-infused, Lil' Jon track "Goodies," some dismissed her as a one-hit wonder — a pretty face with a slight, sweet voice and precision dance moves, the latest in a long line-up of Janet wannabes.  But the hits didn't stop there, forcing people to begin taking her seriously as a legitimate artist. The album went on to sell more than two million copies and was nominated for four Grammys.  "It was a fun process for me," she said. "But it was also cool to see people (who) may have said, you know, `Well, whatever' — just brush you off — and then you see them later and it's a totally different story.''

For her sophomore album, she collaborated with some of music's hottest producers — The Neptunes, will.i.am and Rodney Jerkins, to name a few — and 50 Cent and Chamillionaire make cameos. The result is a beat-driven mix of clubby dance numbers and sultry grooves: It's the same Ciara sound, she said, just "intensified.''  It's already spawned two hits: the funky club track "Get Up'' and the sexy slow jam "Promise.''  "It's more energetic," she said. "It's to, like, the 10th power. That's what I really wanted to be and I really went hard to make that happen. Even with us being in the studio we would dance around, we would do everything. ... I would have so much fun.''  Though the studio was brimming with male hotshots providing the beats, Ciara said she was inspired by "girl talks" she had with friends while making the album. Her songs, she said, became "much more real and relatable" — like the track "Like A Boy," in which she wishes she could "switch up the roles" and give a boyfriend a dose of his own medicine.  Could that guy in question be her ex-beau, Bow Wow? (For those who don't follow these hip-hop hookups: Ciara and the 19-year-old rapper called it quits last spring after dating for nearly a year.)  Does she want to talk about it? No. Would she date a famous guy again? "Never say never," she said.  "If you're a great person and you're a confident man and you're a really sweet guy — and you have it together and you just so happen to be a celebrity, it is what it is," she said. "If you have all those characteristics and you're a doctor, it is what it is.''  These days, she's single and not-so-ready to mingle. "I'm focused on my music," she said. She just wants to have fun, she said, and that includes ignoring wild rumours that began circulating when she first made a name for herself. People were saying that she was dating Elliott, who rapped on Ciara's No. 1 hit "1, 2 Step,'' and that she was a really a man.  "I've heard a lot of crazy things, and I feel like it's something that comes with the territory ... Being in the entertainment industry is just high school to me all over again,'' she said.  She was popular at her high school, she said, so she's used to being talked about. "I think it's amazing to see what people will think of," she said. "For people to even mention your name, it's all good.''  It could be argued that the self-described "tomboy" was such a gossip target because, like the enigmatic Elliott, she's a bit hard to figure out. Her idols are the two Michaels — Jackson and Jordan. No public diva fits or beefs with other singers. No overtly sexy get-ups (``I rock my sweatpants," she said).  Maybe she IS like a boy. But, then again, she has girl talks, long, shiny hair and two small dogs (maltipoos Ali and Tyson).  The Texas-born singer (born Ciara Harris) is also mighty ambitious. She wants to "sell more and more millions of records,'' make more "great music videos," start up a record label, do a fashion line. She even founded a dance agency in Atlanta.  "I used to say I wanted to be a combination of P. Diddy and Oprah, and I'll call that person Poprah," said Ciara, laughing.  "But more than anything my ultimate goal is to really — to be a successful businesswoman and the ultimate, ultimate goal is to become a billionaire. I believe it's possible.''

'Dreamgirls' Soundtrack Released

Source: Priscilla Clarke, 202-723-2200, pclarkepr@aol.com, Music World Entertainment & Mathew Knowles, Yvette Noel-Schure, Sony Urban Music

(December 7, 2006) Houston, TX - Music World Music/Sony Urban Music/Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax has released DREAMGIRLS - Music From the Motion Picture, the official soundtrack album for the avidly awaited DreamWorks/Paramount film, "Dreamgirls." The film opens nationwide on Monday, December 25, 2006.  "Music World Music is thrilled to release the soundtrack for such a popular classic as 'Dreamgirls,'" says an enthused Mathew Knowles, President and CEO of Music World Entertainment. "The artist line-up features today's brightest and most coveted award-winning superstars in the entertainment industry and we are confident this album will make record-breaking, chart-topping history!" Twenty-five years after first bringing Broadway audiences to their feet, the Tony Award-winning musical sensation "Dreamgirls" comes to the big screen starring Academy Award® winner Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Danny Glover, newcomer Jennifer Hudson, Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose and Eddie Murphy. Set in the turbulent early 1960s to mid-70s, "Dreamgirls" follows the rise of a trio of women -- Effie (Hudson), Deena (Knowles) and Lorrell (Rose) -- who have formed a promising girl group called The Dreamettes. At a talent competition, they are discovered by an ambitious manager named Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Foxx), who offers them the opportunity of a lifetime: to become the back-up singers for headliner James "Thunder" Early (Murphy). Curtis gradually takes control of the girls' look and sound, eventually giving them their own shot in the spotlight as The Dreams. That spotlight, however, begins to narrow in on Deena, finally pushing the less attractive Effie out altogether. Although The Dreams become a crossover phenomenon, they soon realize that the cost of fame and fortune may be higher than they ever imagined.

In addition to numbers first heard in the original Broadway musical, DREAMGIRLS - Music From the Motion Picture will premiere four new original songs including the first single "Listen" by Beyoncé (scheduled for release on November 14, 2006) and "Love You I Do" by Jennifer Hudson. The second single slated for release from the soundtrack is "One Night Only" by Beyoncé. Among the original classic tracks from the musical included on the soundtrack are "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" (Jennifer Hudson); "Dreamgirls" (Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose); "Steppin' to the Bad Side" (Jamie Foxx); "Fake Your Way to the Top" (Eddie Murphy, Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose); "Move (You're Steppin' on My Heart)" (Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé and Anika Noni Rose); "Family" (Jamie Foxx and Keith Robinson); "I Am Changing" (Jennifer Hudson); "Cadillac Car" (Eddie Murphy); "I Meant You No Harm" (Eddie Murphy); "Heavy" (Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé and Anika Noni Rose) and "Hard To Say Goodbye My Love" (Beyoncé, Sharon Leal and Anika Noni Rose).  Producers on the Dreamgirls album include; The Underdogs - Harvey Mason, Jr. and Damon Thomas; Executive Soundtrack Producers, Bill Condon, Glen Brunman, and Mathew Knowles; Soundtrack album Producers; Randy Spendlove and Matt Sullivan.

About Music World Entertainment
Music World Entertainment (MWE) is one of the world's leading entertainment and music conglomerates dedicated to bringing quality entertainment to the world.  MWE worldwide business includes record labels, artist and producer management, staff producers, artist development, Master catalogue series, Urbane Merchandise, investment and property holdings, including offices in Houston, Los Angeles, and New York with a London office opening in January 2007.  MWE is the brainchild of President and CEO Mathew Knowles, the powerhouse management behind the success of Grammy Award-winners Beyoncé and global phenomenon Destiny's Child, the most successful "girl group" in the history of pop music.

Music World Music (MWM) is one of the most successful labels in the world with over 100 million records sold to date including releases by Destiny's Child, Beyoncé, Solange Knowles, Michelle Williams, the "Roll Bounce" soundtrack and many more.  Highly anticipated upcoming releases include the official soundtrack album from the "Dreamgirls" film, Kids Rap Radio, and the Music World Master Series.  Urbane Merchandise is the tour merchandise arm of MWE which has functioned as the tour merchandiser for tours for Jay Z, Destiny's Child, Nelly, Beyoncé, R Kelly, and Chris Brown, among many others. Music World Investment and Properties is headed by Mathew and Beyoncé Knowles. This division of MWE includes real estate ownership/development of condominiums and office buildings including the House of Deréon Media Center in Houston, TX.

Sony Urban Music
Established in 2003 as a division of the Sony Music Label Group U.S., Sony Urban Music is exclusively dedicated to nurturing and developing the world's foremost Urban talent on behalf of the company's U.S. labels and divisions, including Columbia Records Group and Epic Records.  Sony Urban Music has been home to established superstars and emerging artists from the worlds of R&B, Soul, Rap and Hip-Hop including Beyoncé, Bow Wow, Damani, DMX, John Legend, Nas, Omarion, Three 6 Mafia, and many more.

Columbia Records
One of the oldest and most respected record labels in the world, Columbia Records traces its origins back to the late 1880s. The Columbia Records roster has boasted such superstars as Marc Anthony, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Cypress Hill, Miles Davis, Destiny's Child, Dixie Chicks, Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, the Fugees, Jagged Edge, Ricky Martin, John Mayer, Nas, Bruce Springsteen, Train, Pete Yorn, and many more.

www.DreamgirlsMovie.com  
www.columbiarecords.com
www.beyonceonline.com 

Jay McShann, 90: Jazz Legend

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Dec. 8, 2006) KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Jay "Hootie" McShann, a jazz pianist and bandleader who helped refine the blues-tinged Kansas City sound and introduced the world to saxophonist Charlie Parker, died Thursday. He was 90.  McShann died at St. Luke's Hospital. The cause of death was not released, but close family friend Kathe Kaul, co-founder of the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival, said McShann had entered the hospital within the past week with a respiratory ailment.  McShann, whose musical career spanned eight decades and earned him accolades from both blues and jazz fans, was born James Columbus McShann on Jan. 12, 1916 in Muskogee, Okla. Against the wishes of his parents, he taught himself how to play piano, in part by listening to late-night radio broadcasts featuring jazz pianist and bandleader Earl "Fatha" Hines.  McShann developed a distinctive style that drew heavily on his beloved blues, and began his professional career at age 15. After a raid on a club in Kansas in 1936 — liquor was still illegal in the state then — the frustrated pianist decided to head north.  "I said, `I've got an uncle in Omaha. I think I'll go up there and see what the cats are doing in Omaha,"' McShann recalled in a 1999 interview with The Associated Press.  "I got a bus ticket. I had a layover of two hours in Kansas City. I knew (Count) Basie had a band at the Reno Club. I thought I'd run over to the Reno. I might know some of these cats."  "A guy in the Reno said, `This is it, right here in Kansas City.' I said, `My money is a little low. I don't think I can stick around here too long.' He said, `Take my apartment key. Stay as long as you want. I'll stay over at my girlfriend's."'

A few days later, another musician sought out McShann. He stayed in Kansas City, making its sounds his own.  McShann hooked up with Parker in 1937, after hearing the saxophone genius' music coming out of a Kansas City club, and the two worked together off and on until 1941. Parker, who earned his nickname "Bird" while playing with McShann's orchestra, made his recording debut on McShann's "Hootie Blues" in 1941, and later went on to pioneer the new bebop style of jazz.  McShann's own nickname stemmed from an incident in which someone slipped him a loaded drink during a jam session. McShann, a non-drinker, was unable to play at the "hootenanny," and the sobriquet, shortened to "Hootie," stuck.  McShann entered the army in 1943 and served until 1944. In the 1950s and 1960s, he recorded seldom and toured even less. But in 1969, he started touring again and continued until well into his 80s.  His recording career also took off again, and in 2003, his CD ``Goin' to Kansas City" was nominated for a traditional blues Grammy.  He was the subject of a film, "Hootie Blues," in 1978 and was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1987. In 1996, he received a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and went on to be featured in "Piano Blues," a documentary directed by Clint Eastwood for the 2003 Public Broadcasting Service series "The Blues."  In 2000, the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City named its outdoor performance pavilion for McShann. The museum, in the city's historic 18th and Vine district, is also home of the Gem Theatre, where McShann performed last year.  Plans are pending for a musical celebration of McShann's life in Kansas City early next year.

Yolanda Adams: ‘Clozet’ Designer

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(December 6, 2006) *In the midst of a few special US concert performances, gospel star
Yolanda Adams made a stop to help celebrate the greatness of legend Quincy Jones and shared the latest happenings in her busy life. The singer, along with several celebrities, paid tribute to the artist, producer, and philanthropist recently at a Los Angeles event for the star.  “I’m here because I absolutely love Quincy,” the thankful singer said. “He’s contributed so much to music and movies and a lot of people don’t understand the humanitarian behind the music and behind the movies. He has been so much to so many people. During the riots and all the things that happened, and not just here in the States, but overseas, he’s always been in the forefront for justice. I absolutely believe that Quincy Jones has made this place a better place.” Settling into her own better place and taking a minute with EUR’s Lee Bailey, the statuesque singer talked about two new projects she’s working on – outside of the studio. Adams is launching her very own clothing line, with both casual and couture styles. In addition, she has created a boutique record label aimed at fostering and mentoring talent in the music industry. The new clothing line, aptly titled Yolanda’s Clozet, are designs sparked by the singer from her own experience sewing clothing and restyling designs.  “I have some great things coming out before the end of the year,” she said. “I have a clothing line called Yolanda’s Clozet. It’s been a fantastic experience. We have jeans and T-shirts coming out before Christmas. But in the spring, we’ll have the actual line out. We’re talking about ready-to-wear [styles] right now, but the couture will be coming in the fall. I think people are going to be surprised. We’re coming out with furs – they’re not going to be real furs – we want to be politically correct, so we’re working with Marc Bower who is a great designer and has some of the most impeccable imitation furs out there. You really can’t tell the difference, except for the price tag.”

Adams was inspired to start the line because of two reasons: her own talent for sewing and designing clothes, and the necessity and desires she has to redesign and reconfigure her own wardrobe.  ‘Being the oldest of six kids of a single mom, I would sew all the clothes,” she explained. “I would go and get $15 of material and make all the clothes. I found myself getting back to that because as tall as I am and as thin as I am, sometimes it’s hard for me to walk in and get something off the rack. So I said, ‘There are probably another 2 million women who have this problem.’ We have to buy large and alter. So I use my body as a model to come up with all those things so women who have long limbs can go in the store and say ‘Wow.’ “ The singer will not only be a designer for the line, but will also serve as the spokes model. And she said the clothing line will be in conjunction with Wal-Mart and Macy’s with a brick-and-mortar Yolanda’s Clozet store opening in her native Houston, TX in the spring, along with an interactive website where viewers can pair the clothing and see an outfit before they buy it.  “There’s a market out there for taller women, there’s a market out there for ample beauty-bodied women,” Adams said of the target demographic of her line. “And when you cater to them, they come back and give you ideas. We’re just trying to put a twist on the things that are there already. We didn’t need to reinvent the wheel, we’ll just improve it. In addition to the clothing line, Adams is launching a management company-independent record label.  “We started a management company and we’re about to mentor young people that cannot get on major labels themselves. I have been with some great record companies and I have been with some record companies that should have done more for me, and so taking that and knowing that, I do have a responsibility to mentor kids that are coming up and let them know that this is a beautiful business – the business of music.” The singer herself is now on Elektra, but believes her new management company will help a lot of singers and songwriters who can’t seem to draw major records companies.  “We started our own company to get some more talent out there. I don’t think there should be one gospel label or one jazz label doing everything,” she said. “I think there is a lot of talent out there and if we give them the opportunity, they can shine.” 

Smooth, Jazzy Sound Of Cuba

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

(Dec. 9, 2006) The more you hear any particular kind of music, the easier it is to hear variations in style and to tell new-school apart from old-school.  Take the sounds of Cuba. There is a world of difference between the oldsters whose careers were miraculously resurrected with the movie The Buena Vista Social Club seven years ago and younger artists, whose music has been moving with the times.  One of that island country's most influential contemporary bands is
Los Van Van, which has been blending jazz, rock and pop elements with traditional Cuban son since 1969.  It might seem odd to call a 37-year-old band pioneering, but it still is, thanks largely to several major personnel changes over the years.  The familiar Cuban dance beats overlaid with percussion, vocals, violin, flute and trombone blasts are all there. But Los Van Van's sound is smoother, jazzier — earning them a wide following among lovers of Cuban music around the world.  Given how infrequently the 17-member group tours in North America — and the health problems that charismatic founding director Juan Formell has had in recent years — tonight's Kool Haus concert is an invaluable opportunity to experience the current sound of Cuba.

Toronto's Café Cubano opens the evening, DJ Carlitos will be on hand to fill in the gaps, and the Sangre Latina Dance Company is set to strut its stuff alongside the musicians on stage.  Traditional son blends Spanish song styles with beats imported via the African slave trade in the 16th century. In general references to Latin music, son is usually lumped into the generic category of salsa.  Right from the early days, Formell began experimenting with synthesizers, Brazilian rhythms and jazz. He referred to that original Los Van Van style as "songo."  The current blend of sound and rhythm is called timba. Spawning dozens of new bands in Cuba, it is now the most popular type of music among that country's young people.  If you listen carefully to timba, you'll notice that the strict-formula rhythm and piano patterns of son are replaced by more individual combinations of beats and layered musical figures.  Each song's architecture is built on the mood of the lyrics, rather than the demands of a particular dance beat.  But the true pleasure is in forgetting about the details and getting swept up in the energy of the music and the atmosphere — and there'll be plenty of that on offer tonight.

Natalie Cole's Unforgettable Valentine

Source: Jason Elzy, Jason.Elzy@wmg.com, www.rhino.com

(December 11, 2006) LOS ANGELES - Just in time for Valentine's Day, eight-time Grammy-winning superstar vocalist
Natalie Cole sets the mood with her first-ever collection of love songs.  Rhino Records celebrates romance with this unforgettable compilation featuring a trio of Grammy-winning hits.  LOVE SONGS will be available Jan. 30 at all retail outlets and at www.rhino.com for a suggested list price of $18.98.  Containing more than an hour of Cole's amorous classics, the album spotlights 19 songs including a pair of duets with her legendary father, Nat "King" Cole - the Grammy-winning selections "Unforgettable" and "When I Fall In Love." LOVE SONGS also features the Top 10 Billboard smashes "Miss You Like Crazy," "I've Got Love On My Mind," and "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)"-the album's third Grammy-winner.  Drawing songs from throughout Cole's extraordinary career, LOVE SONGS highlights exquisite selections including "I Can't Say No" and the title track from her 1975 debut Inseparable; "Our Love" from 1977's Thankful; "I Live For Your Love" and "More Than The Stars" from 1987's Everlasting; "Starting Over Again" from 1989's Good To Be Back; and "Snowfall On The Sahara," the title track from her 1999 album.  LOVE SONGS also includes "The Very Thought Of You" and "Too Young," two songs from her quintuple-platinum release Unforgettable. Also featured are Cole's delightful takes on the American songbook classics "As Time Goes By" and the Gershwins' "Our Love Is Here To Stay."  LOVE SONGS also gathers a pair of songs that originally appeared on her Greatest Hits Vol. 1 collection-"Livin' For Love" and "Angel On My Shoulder," a song she co-wrote with Richard Marx-plus "A Smile Like Yours," a soundtrack-only single from the 1997 film of the same name.  For an unforgettable Valentine's Day, make sure to pick up a copy of NATALIE COLE: LOVE SONGS for that special someone.

NATALIE COLE: LOVE SONGS
Track Listing
1. "Unforgettable" - duet with Nat "King" Cole
2. "Miss You Like Crazy"
3. "Angel On My Shoulder"
4. "When I Fall In Love" - duet with Nat "King" Cole
5. "A Smile Like Yours"
6. "I Live For Your Love"
7. "Inseparable"
8. "Too Young"
9. "I Can't Say No"
10. "Starting Over Again"
11. "More Than The Stars"
12. "I've Got Love On My Mind"
13. "The Very Thought Of You"
14. "As Time Goes By"
15. "Our Love"
16. "Snowfall On The Sahara"
17. "Our Love Is Here To Stay"
18. "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)"
19. "Livin' For Love"

Fantasia: Singer Goes Old School For New Disc

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(December 11, 2006) *Season 3 of “American Idol” introduced music fans to soul-stirring songstress
Fantasia. The young singer’s music career launched when she was named the 2004 American Idol, but this songbird was in store for more than just a record deal and a glimpse at fame.  Her debut album, “Free Yourself” dropped in December of that year and her book “Life Is Not a Fairytale” climbed onto the New York Bestseller’s List and was subsequently made into a Lifetime Network movie, starring her. It’s now that the singer is really coming into her own, having shared her past and shed her past, her new self-titled disc hits stores tomorrow, December 12. While hitting the big apple promoting the new disc, the 22-year-old artist with the old soul sound chatted with EUR’s Lee Bailey and talked about her new project and her new outlook. “After doing my book and doing the movie and talking about a lot of situations that I’d gone through, I let all of that go and I just feel like a brand new person,” she said of her new attitude working on the new project. “I feel like what’s ahead now is a brand new start. That was my past and I gave my testimony and a lot of people know a lot of things that Fantasia went through. I’m just not there anymore.” Though the singer says she’s moving toward the future, the new disc has her glancing at the past – at least as far as music is concerned. With a little more input on this sophomore album than her first release, Fantasia took charge in working with her producers to make sure the old school sound she and her fans love was impressed on “Fantasia.”  “From going on tours and doing different shows and seeing the fans, you begin to see what they like and what they want. When I do my old school melody – I do ‘Rock Steady,’ ‘Tell Me Something Good,’ and ‘Purple Rain’ – their faces light up! Everybody gets to groovin’. So I said, ‘I wanna bring that back.’ When you listen to music from back in the day – it was real good music,” she continued. “Nowadays, you can do music on the computer and make it sound like this or sound like that. Nobody goes in the studio anymore and does live music. I said I wanted to bring that back. All the producers that I worked with were able to give me that.”

Fantasia said she sat down with every producer on the album to explain the sound that she wanted; playing classics and brainstorming. To that end, even super producer Missy Elliott brought in a whole band to help create Fantasia’s concept. “I like to call it Aretha Franklin meets Tina Turner. It’s urban rock,” she described. “It’s one of those albums that when you put it on you have no other choice but to move, which is totally different than the ‘Free Yourself’ album. On that one I had a lot of slow ballads talking about situations that I was going through and like I said, I’m not there anymore. So these are feel-good records. It’s still soulful; I’m still singing, but these are up-tempo.” This album has more Fantasia style than story, which is a bit of a switch for her established fans – though they’ll hardly be disappointed. Still, the singer is considered the voice for a number of young people and women. Just as her career launched, her story of struggle of teen pregnancy did too. “I got [criticism] on ‘American Idol’ for being honest. I don’t understand why people would try to make it seem like you have to be this perfect person. They were saying, ‘How can she be an idol when she’s a mother? How can she be an idol when she didn’t finish school?’ They were taking all the things that I failed at and my mistakes and trying to hold that against me.” However, it was that candidness that touched thousands of people. “My reason for doing it was for the people I did help,” Fantasia said. “[The] movie got over 19 million viewers and the book was a best seller. So obviously, the good outweighed the bad. At the end of the day, my mission was accomplished.”  Though “Fantasia” the CD is banging a bit harder than the first disc from the songstress, there are tender moments, including the song “Beautiful” that Fantasia said she did for her mother.  “Me and mother are so alike and we went through some of the same things,” Fantasia explained. “She’s getting married and she’s very happy right now. Me and my mom are at a point right now where we’re the same. I feel beautiful. I had to learn to love and respect myself.”  “Fantasia” hits stores tomorrow. For more on what she had to say about life, love, and the new disc, check out EUR’s special edition podcast on Fantasia in tomorrow's edition. In the meantime, check out her new music at her MySpace page.

Gwen Stefani: She's Just A Regular Star

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
- Tralee Pearce

(Dec. 11, 2006) A few days into a Toronto visit to promote her new album,
Gwen Stefani is doing the unthinkable for a major celebrity: She's running early. Past the bouncer outside her Four Seasons hotel-room door, the willowy new mom eagerly hands off her six-month-old baby boy, Kingston, to her gaggle of handlers and hair and makeup pros. They retreat behind French doors; she gets down to business. “I just saw this for the first time two days ago!” says the skinny-jeans-clad platinum blonde, pointing to a copy of The Sweet Escape, out last week. “A month ago, they were mastering the record in Los Angeles, mixing the rest of it in London. We were working on the first video and the artwork. This was the fastest record I've done.” It doesn't hurt that she's been regularly releasing albums for more than a decade with her California band, No Doubt. Still, she admits to being astonished at the pace she's kept on this, her second solo album, and attributes it in part to the paradoxical nature of motherhood. “I think because I'm nursing, too, it gives me superhero powers. I'm like a cat — I love sleeping. I'm getting less sleep than I ever have in my life, and I'm doing more, but somehow it's okay. I don't know how it works. Everything just seems to work out.” Luckily, she had a few songs left over from her first disc, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. (L.A.M.B is also the name of her successful clothing line; and this week she announced she'll be debuting a L.A.M.B. perfume, in partnership with Coty, in 2007). And she had written a few more in September, 2005, including an addictive dance mash-up called Wind It Up that features her yodelling The Lonely Goatherd à la Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music, which she debuted at a L.A.M.B. show during New York fashion week that same month. “I had a fantasy of them coming out for Christmas. But it ended up I had Kingston in my belly and I didn't put the record out.” After his birth, she went back to recording, with Kingston either in the next room or on her lap.  She describes becoming a mother with a disarming mix of wide-eyed girlishness and skateboarder-dude lingo. “It's such a miracle. You don't understand. It's so weird — you can't even believe it's growing inside of you,” she says, before getting into details. “I had a caesarean because he was breech. I totally wanted to have him naturally. Now I look back, I'd be scared to do it again. But even being in the hospital for four days, those were the favourite days of my life.”

But as much as she's feeling superhuman these days, she's also built her musical persona on being a female Clark Kent. The regular-girl-as-cool-outsider shtick started with 1995's hit, I'm Just a Girl, and spawned its own genre: Think of punky singer Pink's 2001 lyric “Tired of being compared to damn Britney Spears/She's so pretty, that just ain't me,” or Avril Lavigne's 2002 Sk8er Boi lyric about the regular girl who gets the guy after the snobby girl dumps him: “He's just a boy. And I'm just a girl.” “I recognize that age, when I did that song — I know that feeling,” she says. “I was a little late. I was 26 when that record came out. I was still living at home. But what's so great about songwriting is you get to document these time periods. Everyone asks me if I'm embarrassed by certain things I wore or wrote, and I'm, like, no. I remember where I was at and what was my inspiration.” And despite selling millions of albums, marrying a rock star (Bush's Gavin Rossdale), and becoming a fashion icon beloved by Vogue readers, Parisian couturiers and teenage girls alike, Stefani returns to the theme in Orange County Girl, one of the songs on The Sweet Escape . She says she wrote the song after flying first class to Miami to work with superstar producer Pharrell Williams. “You are always just you,” she says. “All of this weirdness is not real.” She says she realized some of the lyrics on that song came from her mother, during a family appearance on Oprah (“which is also a trip, by the way!”). “It was a this-is-your-life show, and she asked my mom, ‘What do you think of your daughter?' And she said, ‘My daughter is just an ordinary girl living in an extraordinary world.'” A marketing wonk would use the currently fashionable word “relatable” to explain Stefani's gee-whiz appeal. “The whole celebrity thing is weird, especially when you're on this side of it. I still look at the gossip magazines and want to know: ‘How did she lose the weight? How did she get her skin looking so great?' When you're the one, it's like, ‘Really? I'm the one?'” At 37, though, she doesn't envy her teen and early-20s counterparts their often embarrassing run-ins with the paparazzi. “I had the benefit of becoming famous when I was already 26. For years I was famous in my own small pond. There's something about having to do it slowly and earn it and gradually climb the ladder. In some ways I feel lucky, and in other ways, yeah, I wouldn't mind being 20 again.” Really, that's the only way in which Stefani would like to put on the brakes. Although she says she's looking forward to getting back to her musical “home” with her No Doubt band mates after her two-album solo adventure, she'd like to rest on her laurels for a nanosecond. “I'm so bored of the question, ‘What are you doing next?'” she says. “The album's not even out yet. People are asking if I want another baby and I just had him! It sucks because it makes it go too quick. I want to enjoy where I'm at. Especially at this age, you are just, like: Slow it down.”

Folk Legend Finally Takes Home Award

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Shannon Montgomery, Canadian Press

(Dec. 11, 2006) EDMONTON — A Montreal singer-songwriter often called Canada's first lady of folk put a new notch in a career spanning half a century Sunday evening at the
Canadian Folk Music AwardsPenny Lang, 64, took home two of the night's top honours — her first awards despite her lengthy career.  "Getting two of these is such a shocker," said Lang, whose storied music history includes refusing to teach Leonard Cohen guitar — every time he called she told him she was too busy — and playing with musicians who would later back Janis Joplin.  "I've been working at music in front of people for 50 years — never got an award 'til now, so it's mind-boggling."  Lang said doesn't see herself as the grande dame of folk despite her Best Album and Best Solo Artist wins for her album "Stone & Sand & Sea & Sky."  "I think it's just a hook to hook people into the fact I've been here for this long," she said with a laugh shortly after receiving her awards. "People have been singing since forever, so how could I be the first?"  The Edmonton-based family band The McDades — two brothers and a sister — were the only other winners to take home more than one trophy at the awards show at the University of Alberta's Myer Horowitz Theatre.  They won for Best Instrumental Group and Best World Group honours for their album "Bloom."  The modern roots band was without a doubt the hometown favourite, receiving a rousing cheer and applause when presenters announced them, along with the other nominees, before handing out the first award of the evening in the Best Instrumental category.

The McDades received a lot of recognition in one weekend, having won at the Independent Music Awards in the United States for Best World Traditional Album two days before. Band member Solon McDade appeared to have trouble-keeping track as he accepted Sunday's award with the comment it was the first for the group.  Asked later about the earlier award, he said, laughing: "Oh, actually that's true. I guess I should remember that."  He said it's great "to get this recognition from our peers and kind of hear, `Hey, you guys, are going in the right direction.'"  Lang, a diminutive singer with short-cropped grey hair, said the folk genre has definitely changed and reinvented itself since she started singing. Young people are bringing in different rhythms and different sounds.  "You've got 18-year-olds playing on a stage next to old farts like me, 64. It's really fun. It's a good way to communicate with each other."  The distinction was obvious as she huddled with best new artist Tamara Nile after the show, exchanging CDs and giggling as they traded stories about being interviewed by the CBC's Shelagh Rogers.  Several of the evening's winners — especially those in categories aimed at younger artists — were fluently bilingual and record both in French and English.  McDade said his group, which also includes two musician ``cousins" from Montreal, appears to be appealing to both French and English parts of the country.  "Luckily we're able to perform in both languages, so we can do shows completely in French or completely in English," he said, adding it brings people together and makes sure everyone's included.  Nile said she hopes to write several French songs for her next album.  "Canada folk music, in particular, has elements of the Celtic/Quebecois music in there," she said. "You just can't escape that."  Added Sarah Burnell, 18, who won for young performer of the year:  "I really think that because I do folk music, which is of the people, including French music in my repertoire ... is very important."  One of the stated purposes of the awards, now in their second year, is to "celebrate the breadth and depth" of folk in Canada.  Although folk heavy hitter Bruce Cockburn was nominated for four awards, he took home only one, for Best Instrumentalist — Solo.  With a couple of artists counting in different provinces, the award winners were spread across the country — seven from Quebec, six from British Columbia, six from Ontario, and two each from Manitoba and Alberta.

Tyrese/Black-Ty Is Back With 'Alter Ego'

Source: Tammy Brook at FYI Public Relations Tammy@fyipr.com; Marilyn Lopez, FYI Public Relations,m Marilyn@fyipr.com; Theola Borden, J Records, Theola.Borden@SonyBMG.com

(December 13, 2006)  New York, NY -
Tyrese, the multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, actor, writer, producer and now rapper (aka Black-Ty), has unleashed an airwave assault with the simultaneous release of 3 tracks from his upcoming Alter Ego double CD.   The melodic ballad "One," produced by The Underdogs, the sensual "Turn Ya Out" featuring Lil' Jon and the club-banging rap track "Get It In," all showcase Tyrese's never-ending talents as each song impacts R&B mainstream, Rhythmic Crossover and Mixshow radio formats, respectively.   With the December 12 release of Alter Ego on J Records, Tyrese became the first platinum-selling R&B male artist to release a double CD with one disc of R&B songs and the other hip-hop.  To promote this unprecedented release, Tyrese will make several television appearances including Spike TV Video Games Awards (12/13) and MTV's Sucker Free (12/20). On Alter Ego's R&B disc, Tyrese joins forces with producers The Underdogs ("One," "Better To Know"), Brian Michael Cox ("Gotta Get You"), Lil' Jon ("Turn Ya Out"), R. Kelly ("Hurry Up," "Signs of Love Makin' Part II"), Eric Dawkins and Tony Dixon ("Morning After," "Better Than Sex,") and Trick Stewart ("Lights On"), resulting in a bevy of great songs that cater to Tyrese's R&B fanbase.

Although many of Gibson's colleagues acknowledge his singing prowess, they were pleasantly surprised by his skills on the mic as rapper Black-Ty. The Game, who appears on "Ghetto Dayz," says "He's [Tyrese] been successful on every scale from singing to acting so what would make anybody think that he couldn't rap?"  After collaborating on "Get Low" and "Roll The Dice," Snoop Dogg comments, "He [Tyrese] really got it cracking to the point where he didn't seem like he was out of his range. It seemed like something he was naturally born to do." Manni Fresh, Scott Storch, All Star and various members from Tyrese's Headquarter Entertainment in-house production team The Frontline BoyZ, add their production skills on the hip-hop disc which features additional guest appearances by Kurupt, Too Short, Method Man and Manni Fresh.   Tyrese also gets creative with his current "How Do You Wear Your Black Ty" campaign:  "Don't Be Shy to Show Nothing but Ty."  The online campaign is aimed at building community interaction between Tyrese and his fans.  Following the theme of Tyrese's upcoming album Alter Ego, users can upload pictures of themselves wearing a black tie however they choose.  Ten winners will receive $50 gift certificates to Victoria's Secret.  The contest runs now through January 2007 via www.myspace.com/tyrese or www.tyrese.com.

Taylor Hicks Hopes Record Sales Will Follow His Shot To Stardom On American Idol

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Sandy Cohen , Associated Press


(Dec. 13, 06) LOS ANGELES -- Kicking back on a couch with a hot cup of tea,
Taylor Hicks looks as comfortable backstage at The Tonight Show as he might in his own home. When Jay Leno pops into Hicks's dressing room to say hello, the grey-haired soul singer is unfazed -- a moment that reflects just how much American Idol has changed the 30-year-old's life. A year ago, Hicks was a struggling musician unknown to those outside the small Southern clubs where he performed. Today, he is a bona-fide TV star and major-label recording artist whose self-titled solo debut hit stores yesterday. "It's mind-blowing," Hicks told the Associated Press before taking the Tonight Show stage recently. "This is what happens when you catch a break. I'm very thankful and very gracious for what the show has done for me." As a teenager in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., Hicks knew that music would be his career. He never even considered another option. The eldest of three boys, he taught himself to play harmonica, then guitar. Next, he tried his hand at songwriting and set out to perform "anywhere I could." Along the way, he released two independent albums, In Your Time and Under the Radar. After nearly 10 years on the road, his music -- and the opportunities it brought him -- were improving, and his brother urged him to audition for American Idol. "My dad told me that I might as well buy a lottery ticket," Hicks said.

But the guy most considered a long shot with his mature look, Michael McDonald pipes and curious dancing style soon became the odds-on favourite. More than 63 million votes were cast to determine the contest, and the majority of people chose Hicks over Katherine McPhee in May, shifting his music career into warp speed. He spent the summer touring the U.S. with his fellow Idol finalists. When the concert wrapped in September, Hicks began his tutelage with legendary music mogul Clive Davis to craft an album that would be a fitting follow to his star-making turn. It was an "intimidating" experience, Hicks said, describing himself as "stubborn about my artistry and my creative integrity." But he's happy with the result. The album's 12 tracks are "a great representation of me as an artist," he said. Davis said he helped Hicks "define who he is. . . . "He's a modern soul man," Davis said. "But we have stretched him a little. He's getting in touch with other aspects of music and his versatility." The album sounds like "modern whomp music," Hicks said. "It's like funk, soul, jazz, blues, a little bit of hip-hop beats and rhythms. It's Taylor Hicks' modern take on soul music."

Making the album gave him a chance to learn more about the recording side of the music business -- something relatively new for the singer who considers himself primarily a live performer.  Producer Matt Serletic said Hicks brought his live-show energy into the studio. "He has a similar approach to soul singers of the past. They just throw themselves at the song," Serletic said. "It informs where the record needs to go." He encouraged Hicks to embrace "a more disciplined melodic approach" and showed him how to "sculpt" a song. Now, Hicks wants to try his hand at producing. First, though, he wants to establish himself as a travelling musician with a devoted following like the artists he admires: Van Morrison, Bob Seger, Bob Dylan and B.B. King. "Those people have touring in their blood," Hicks said. "I've studied [them] and I'm falling into that vein hopefully." Anything is possible for a former Idol, said Geoff Mayfield, senior analyst for Billboard magazine. "American Idol has the luxury of letting you get acquainted with artists from the comfort of your living room," he said. "By the time they get to the point where they're putting out an album, you're already in their club."

Hicks's fan club calls itself the Soul Patrol, and the singer hopes to expand its ranks with his new album. He also plans to reissue his two indie albums. The past year was packed with accolades for Hicks. Besides earning the Idol title, he was named People magazine's "hottest bachelor" for 2006, a distinction he said left him "completely flattered and completely freaked out." The honour hasn't led to romance, and Hicks said he would hardly have time if it did. He has been working 12-hour days since auditioning for Idol in September, 2005. Christmas will bring him a brief respite before his record promotion kicks back into high gear, with a halftime performance during U.S. college football's Orange Bowl on Jan. 2 and a planned tour to begin in February. Hicks said he will spend the holidays in Alabama, "eating some Southern food and lying on the couch watching football." Then he will hit the road -- and hopefully stay there. "If I can keep an audience and be a working musician, I'll be happy," he said. "I'm like a travelling musical gypsy, which is what I've always wanted to be."

MUSIC TIDBITS

Jazz By The Beach

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Melanie Reffes

(Dec. 5, 2006) Jazz, R&B and gospel will take centre stage at the 14th annual
Barbados Jazz Festival from Jan. 8 to 14. Eight-time Grammy winner Anita Baker headlines the week-long fest, along with a top-shelf roster that includes "Cubop" maestro Arturo Sandoval, soulful songstress Macy Gray, Afro-fusion trumpeter Terence Blanchard, bassist Stanley Clarke and Arturo Tappin, the "saxiest" horn man in the Caribbean. Several picturesque venues host shows: Violin prodigy Karen (Lady in Red) Briggs is bringing her jazzy gospel show to the Crane Resort; and Mary Mary will perform its signature blend of soul, hip-hop and gospel in Farley Hill National Park. For more information, visit http://www.barbadosjazzfestival.com.

Akon Talks About Upcoming Whitney Collabo

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 6, 2006) *If singer Akon seems to be everywhere at the moment, just wait until 2007. The Senegalese artist is said to be working on tracks for upcoming projects from Michael Jackson, Elton John and Whitney Houston. "I'm working on more up-tempo records for her," Akon tells Billboard.com of the Houston album. "She's been through a lot and has a dark history. So we've got to make the album brighter because she's come out of the cave now. She wants a celebration. She needs to come back to the old Whitney we remember."  As for rumours that he’s about to hit the studio with the former King of Pop, Akon laughed: "Right now that's in the air. I can't talk about it." The same response followed Billboard’s question about a collaboration with glam rocker Elton John, who has said publicly that he wants to hook up with hip hop producers for his next album. In the meantime, Akon is planning a global tour in 2007 that will include his native Africa as well as Europe.  The singer is currently No. 1 and No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "I Wanna Love You" and "Smack That" respectively, both from his new album “Konvicted.”

P.E., X-Clan Launch Joint Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 6, 2006) *Generation Xers on the West Coast can start dusting off the green, black and red leather Africa medallions and “Black by Popular Demand” t-shirts. Public Enemy and X-Clan have kicked off a December club tour that stretches from San Diego through Seattle and into the Northern Plains.  "Everybody that I know in the cultural worlds of music dreams about a tour with Public Enemy and the X-Clan," X-Clan frontman Brother J said in a statement to the press. "Public Enemy has been holding it down for the longest and they were the first major conscious group to do it big for the people. Chuck D is my inspiration for remaining independent with my music and I will salute that wisdom by spitting the fire on this tour."  X-Clan recently appeared on BET's 106 & Park, Def Poetry Jam, the Legends of Hip Hop Concert and sold out tours with reggae star Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley and Jurassic 5.  On Jan. 30, X-Clan will release "Return from Mecca," its first studio album in more than 10 years, on Suburban Noize Records. Collaborators on the album include Damian Marley, Jurassic 5's Chali 2NA, KRS-One, Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach, RBX, Abstract Rude, YZ, DJ Quik, DJ Khalil, Jake One and Bean One. Touring as Public Enemy are original members Chuck D., Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, as well as DJ Lord and two S1Ws (James Bomb and Pop Diesel). No Terminator X behind the wheels of steel.  A backing band will feature Brian Hardgroove on bass, Khari Wynn on guitar and NYCity Mike Faulkner on drums.

Wyclef Wants Brighter Future For Haiti

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 5, 2006) *During a free concert in his birth country of Haiti, singer/musician Wyclef Jean called on citizens to denounce violence and work for a more stable future.  "It's time to build a new Haiti," the artist told more than 20,000 cheering fans during his first concert in Haiti in eight years.  The event was designed to promote development in the impoverished Caribbean nation, where most of its 8 million people live on less than $2 per day. The concert wrapped a weeklong film and culture festival organized by Jean's Yele Haiti charity, which promotes music and the arts as a way to reduce poverty, create jobs and improve Haiti's image. Jean, a Haitian citizen who lives in the United States, spoke out against the pervasive street violence that followed the bloody 2004 revolt ousting former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Among the by-products of the revolt are kidnappings for ransom that occur frequently in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. "If we don't stop kidnappings, the country can't develop," Jean said, according to AP.

Chico and Lord Kossity team up for Booty Call

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(November 30, 2006) *Dancehall artiste Chico has again teamed up with French dancehall rap artiste Lord Kossity. They collaborate on the track Booty Call, which has been earmarked as the first official release off Kossity’s sophomore album Danger Zone for Universal Music (France). The video for the track was recently shot in France. Chico related the experience in a recent interview. ‘The video sell off. It was a lot of fun. They flew up Craigy Dread and he brought out the Jamaican dance element into the video’, said Chico. The video was shot in France and lasted a day and a half.  Last year Chico teamed up with Lord Kossity for the track Hey Sexy Wow. The song registered on various European charts climbing unto the top 100 in France, Germany and the UK. Chico says he is coming armed with the ammunition to revive his career. The singer who rode the charts in the late 1990’s into the early 2000’s with songs including Grudgeful, Stamina Body, We Nah Promote Dem and We Nuh Care, is looking chart bound with his latest radio hit My Life, taken from the Full Draw rhythm for Fresh Ear Records.  Another track Garrison on the Clap rhythm from House of Stars, is also generating serious buzz.

Donald K. Tarlton To Get Juno Achievement Award

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Dec. 8, 2006) Toronto — Rock impresario
Donald K. Tarlton, a central figure in the small network that built Canada's nascent recording industry in the 1960s, will receive the 2007 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award at the Juno Awards in Saskatoon. Tarlton is perhaps known more as a concert promoter, but his Donald K Donald group of record labels have also helped to propel the careers of Canadian acts from April Wine to Sum 41. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which runs the Junos, also announced that musician and actor Tom Jackson will receive the 2007 Humanitarian Award for his work raising money for food banks and other relief efforts.

Nelly Furtado To Perform On AOL Canada Live Broadcast

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Canadian Press

(Dec. 10, 2006) TORONTO —
Nelly Furtado is giving her fans a peek into an invitation-only performance in Tinseltown. The pop star's exclusive show at the Roxy Theatre on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Calif., Friday night will be broadcast live on AOL Canada's new site, AOL Music. The Internet feed will be free, starting at 12 a.m. ET Saturday (9 a.m. PT Friday), and fans need not register, AOL said in a release. The concert will also be available on demand after the show ends. The broadcast is part of AOL Canada's new free online music and entertainment services. Furtado, a native of Victoria, earned a Grammy Award nomination Thursday for best pop collaboration with vocal for her song “Promiscuous,” with Timbaland. The track is off her album, Loose, released in June.

Prince Headlines Super Bowl Show

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Dec. 11, 2006) NEW YORK — McCartney, Jagger and now
Prince.  For the third year in a row, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act will headline the Super Bowl halftime entertainment. This time it's Prince.  The Purple One, winner of six Grammy Awards and nominated for five more this year, will play at the game in Miami on Feb. 4.  The Super Bowl, which will be televised by CBS (Global in Canada), is annually television's highest rated show in the U.S. An estimated 141 million Americans watched last year's game between Pittsburgh and Seattle.  The Rolling Stones headlined the halftime show for that Super Bowl, and two years ago it was Paul McCartney.  The NFL has tended to take a more cautious approach since Janet Jackson's widely criticized "wardrobe malfunction" at halftime of the 2004 game. That game also was televised by CBS.  Last year, Mick Jagger's microphone was silenced as he sang sexually suggestive lyrics in a couple of songs the Stones performed.  Prince gained attention early his career with raunchy lyrics and racy performances, but has toned down his act somewhat in recent years.

Rumoured Sony BMG Label Consolidation Now A Reality

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 11, 2006) *Confirming weeks of industry speculation, AP reports
Sony Urban Music, a record label that catered to R&B and hip-hop fans with artist such as Beyonce and Three 6 Mafia, has been integrated with Columbia Records Group in the latest reorganization this year at label parent Sony Music BMG Entertainment. Employees were notified last Thursday by Sony Music Label Group President Rob Stringer and by late Friday a wave of pink slips - upwards of 30 - went out.  "With the integration of Sony Urban Music and Columbia Records it puts the artist roster in a position of strength under one umbrella," an email from Stringer to employees read. "We remain firmly committed to signing and breaking artists in the R&B, Hip Hop and Gospel genres." As part of the reorg, the memo also informed that the now defunct label's president, Lisa Ellis, was named executive vice president of Sony Music Label Group.  This summer, the top two executives at Sony Music Label Group U.S. resigned. That followed a shake-up in senior management at Sony BMG. Sony BMG is a joint venture between Sony Corp.'s Sony Music and BMG, the music unit of German media giant Bertelsmann AG.

Top Stars Sign On For Princess Diana Tribute

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Lars Brandle, London

(December 12, 2006) Duran Duran, Bryan Ferry, Elton John, Joss Stone and Pharrell Williams head the line-up of performers confirmed for a concert at the new London Wembley Stadium next summer to celebrate the life of the late Princess Diana.  Others named to the July 1 bill include the English National Ballet and composer and impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, who will oversee a medley of songs from some of his leading theatrical shows. A number of other major acts are yet to be unveiled.  Diana's sons, Princes William and Harry, are organizing the "Concert for Diana" and chairing an advisory board. Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group International, will sit on the board, which pools together leading executives from the entertainment industries.  The performers today paid tribute to Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997. "The concert next summer seems an entirely fitting way to celebrate her life and her work," commented Duran Duran frontman Simon LeBon. "We are honoured that she always referred to Duran Duran as her favourite band as she was certainly our favourite princess. We are delighted to have been asked to participate in what promises to be a very special event."  Elton John added, "I applaud Princes William and Harry for choosing to honour their mother with this concert. I am absolutely thrilled to be performing at this great event. Diana was a personal friend and someone I greatly admired for her tireless and enthusiastic work for charity."  Proceeds from the program will benefit various charities that were supported by Diana, and the Princes' charities Centrepoint and Sentebale.  Tickets will be made available from 9 a.m. GMT on Wednesday (Dec. 13) via the Web site Concertfordiana.com and from Ticketmaster.  The fund-raiser is the third concert announced for the iconic London stadium, which has been plagued by huge construction delays since it was closed in 2000 and later demolished. British alternative rock trio Muse yesterday (Dec. 11) confirmed the second in a pair of concerts to be held there on June 16-17, 2007.

Form Over Feeling For Pianists' Milestone

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic


(Dec. 13, 2006) In all art forms, there are works you can appreciate with your head. Others appeal directly to your heart. The best kind manages to do both.  Duo pianists
James Anagnoson and Leslie Kinton strode onto the stage of the Jane Mallett Theatre as Music Toronto celebrated the 30th anniversary of their starred professional relationship last night with a challenging recital, and the launch of their ninth CD, a compilation album.  They brought with them provocative compositions from the last 112 years that should have nourished both mind and soul. But the result was far more interesting in the analysis than in feeling it in one's gut.  On the program were works from the early 1940s by Benjamin Britten (Introduction and Rondo alla burlesca) and Witold Lutoslawski (madly jazzed-up Variations on a Theme by Paganini), two works by Igor Stravinsky (the 1938 Dumbarton Oaks concerto and the 1913 ballet score The Rite of Spring) and Claude Debussy's 1894 orchestral poem Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune.  Many of these pieces have been part of the duo's concert repertoire since the early years, so it must be music that has lasting value for these two talented performers and Royal Conservatory teachers.  The Stravinsky and Debussy pieces were the composers' own piano transcriptions yet, as Anagnoson pointed out during the verbal notes animated by Music Toronto's resident composer Jeffrey Ryan, these transcriptions turn each composition into a different piece of music altogether.  In losing the orchestra, the sound necessarily loses some of its colour. Anagnoson and Kinton made up for this with meticulously shaped phrasing and commanding rhythmic shading and precision.  They leave the impression that not a single note or rest is unaccounted for in shaping the performance.  The startling clarity of Anagnoson and Kinton's playing provided deep insight into each composer's methods, but it also drained some of the soul from the music. Especially in what should be the wispy, dewy Debussy, last night's performance felt more like a particularly skilful dissection than a blossoming of musical creation.

Oscar Klein, 76: Jazz Trumpeter

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - William J. Kole, Associated Press


(Dec. 13, 2006) VIENNA — Austrian-born jazz legend
Oscar Klein, who fled when the Nazis took power and recorded with Lionel Hampton and other greats during a career that spanned four decades, has died, local media reported Wednesday. He was 76.  Klein was not ill and his death Tuesday in Germany came as a surprise, the Austria Press Agency reported, saying a sister of the musician had confirmed his passing. He had lived with his wife in the southwestern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.  Born Jan. 5, 1930, to a Jewish family in the southern Austrian city of Graz, Klein and his family fled the country after the Nazi regime annexed Austria just before the Second World War and settled in Switzerland. He had planned to celebrate his 77th birthday next month with a concert in the alpine city of Innsbruck, APA said.  Best known for his aggressive and expressive Chicago-style trumpeting, which made him a fixture on the European club and festival scene, Klein also played clarinet, guitar and harmonica and began his career when the jazz boom was just taking hold in Vienna in the 1950s.  He teamed up with Joe Zawinul in the band Fatty George, later moved to the Tremble Kids and the Dutch Swing College Orchestra, and went on to play with Hampton, Wild Bill Davison, Bill Coleman, Dexter Gordon and other jazz greats.  Completely self-taught, Klein never learned to read music, but he made nearly 200 recordings during his 40-year career, during which he specialized in "old" jazz, Dixieland, swing and blues.  Trained as a graphic artist, he spoke seven languages and worked as an art teacher in Florence, Italy, when he was just 18.  In 1996, the late Austrian President Thomas Klestil presented Klein with the nation's silver medal of honour, one of Austria's highest decorations.  Details on survivors and funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

Nova Scotia Musicians Get Nod For East Coast Awards

Source:  Canadian Press

(Dec. 13, 06) Halifax — Nova Scotia artists lead the way in nominations for the
2007 East Coast Music Awards. Country singer George Canyon of Pictou County and roots artist J. P. Cormier of Cape Breton each received five nominations for the awards show to be held Feb. 18 in Halifax. Canyon got nods for recording of the year, entertainer of the year and male solo recording. Cormier is nominated for bluegrass recording of the year, instrumental recording and folk recording. Halifax-based band In-Flight Safety received four nominations, as did Halifax singer Jill Barber and Newfoundland's Ron Hynes. Nova Scotians Charlie A'Court, Joel Plaskett, Sloan and the Trews each picked up three nominations, as did Prince Edward Island's the Chucky Danger Band.

 

::FILM NEWS::

Big Dreams for Jennifer Hudson

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell


(Dec. 6, 2006) NEW YORK—One celebrity cynic won't be at
Jennifer Hudson's side next Monday when she strolls the red carpet for the Hollywood premiere of Dreamgirls, her new movie musical which opens in Toronto Dec. 25.  That would be American Idol judge Simon Cowell, who famously dismissed Hudson as being "out of her league" when he presided over her scandalous departure from the TV talent show's third season in 2004.  "No, Simon is not on my guest list!" Hudson says, smiling mischievously at the inevitable question about her Idol non-worshipper. On second thought, she would like to see Cowell meekly tread the red.  "I should send him a ticket," Hudson says, reconsidering her stance. "Maybe I'll invite him to L.A. with me!"  She can afford to be generous. The 25-year-old Chicago church singer is living proof of the truism that living well is the best revenge. Hudson commands the screen in Dreamgirls, the long-awaited screen adaptation of the hit stage musical that opened on Broadway in December 1981, when she was just 3 months old.  She has the key role of Effie White, the troubled diva played by Tony-winning Jennifer Holliday in the stage version. Effie's headstrong ways as leader of the Dreams, a pop trio loosely based on Diana Ross and The Supremes, fuels the film's drama.  Hudson makes such an impact with her four-octave singing and surprisingly strong acting (she has no prior film experience), she's being tipped by critics as a cinch for an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.  There have even been suggestions, led by a snarky New York Post article last week, that she upstages co-star Beyoncé Knowles, who has top billing over Hudson.  Hudson rolls her eyes at mention of the Post article. But she's already used to being the centre of a storm — she calls herself "Controversy Girl" because of the allegations of racism that followed her unexpected vote-off from American Idol.

Gossips spread a lot of nonsense and Hudson tries not to listen to them. "Anytime something good is going on, they'll find a way to throw something in the air," she says, shrugging her shoulders beneath the striking green taffeta dress she wears to the interview.  Beyoncé backs that up in a separate interview and lavishly praises Hudson for having the moxie to step into Holliday's ruby slippers, a task that would be daunting for experienced actors, let alone a complete rookie.  Hudson also felt the pressure of having to do a credible version of Holliday's tune "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," the Dreamgirls show-stopper that has become a pop standard.  "She had to live up to that," Beyoncé marvels.  "I could not imagine that. It gives me chills. I'm proud of her."  Hudson had to beat out dozens of challengers for the coveted role of Effie, including Fantasia Barrino, the American Idol competitor who triumphed over her.  Already a plus-sized woman — and proud of it — Hudson also had to gain an additional 20 pounds to make Effie seem like the odd girl out in The Dreams.  So she worked for it, and if Oscar glory is to follow for Hudson, Beyoncé is all for it.  "She deserves it," Beyoncé says. "She was very sweet and she is blessed. I can only pray that she will maintain that same sweet innocent girl — young woman — that she is. She felt like a little sister to me."  Is Hudson really that innocent? She certainly seems so. She describes herself as "a person of faith" and she begins many of her sentences with the expletive "Goodness!" She talks with genuine affection about her early days singing in her hometown church choir.  She takes very seriously a not-so-serious question about her upcoming New Year's Eve club gig here, which happens to fall on a Sunday, a day of rest and prayer for many religious people.

"If I have to work on Sunday, I say, `Lord, I've got to go to work now!' Church is my favourite place to sing and be, but I don't have perfect attendance."  Hudson may indeed be the picture of innocence off-screen — although in Dreamgirls she's as brassy as a trumpet — but another of her co-stars, Jamie Foxx, insists she's had her eyes on the prize all along. He could tell by how she sized him up in his role of Curtis Taylor Jr., the Dreams' manager and Effie's worst nightmare.  "You know what's crazy?" Foxx says in an interview following Hudson's. "It's that she knew. She knew the whole time ... I knew she was ready for this ... I said to myself, `Uh-oh, she is getting ready to rip this place apart.'"  She did just that, so much so that Foxx says he was in tears when Hudson tore into "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," a song that has been winning spontaneous applause at preview screenings.  Foxx might have reason to do much more sobbing in the future. Hudson recently signed a recording contract with Clive Davis, the recording impresario behind two of Hudson's idols, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. She'll soon be recording her first album, and although she's not sure about her material yet, you can sure there will be little, if any, hip hop or rap on it. She's into old-school pop, soul and R&B.  "Me, I love just real music and more of the style of what Effie does ... but at the same time I want to do music that sells. But I don't want to sell out. So I'm still trying to figure out how to approach this. It's definitely something that's fresh in my brain."  She's hoping the success of Dreamgirls will revive the commercial prospects of the melody-based music she favours. Hudson is thrilled for any success she can get, because it was tough being exiled from American Idol in such a public manner.  On that score, she can identify with the travails of Effie White and also of Florence Ballard, the founding member of the Supremes whom Effie is based on and who died in alcoholic poverty in 1972 at age 32 after being fired from The Supremes in 1967.  "Before Dreamgirls came along, I didn't know of Diana Ross and The Supremes," Hudson says.  "But once I started my research I learned of Florence Ballard and read into her story. That's one of the things that made me angry for Effie. I felt as if Effie was (Ballard's) voice. And that's one of the things that motivated me to help me trigger the emotion. As I read through and discovered her story I got very upset for her."  She also feels that she brings her own experiences to the hard-luck tale.  "If I can get through Idol, I can get through anything. Idol, I learned so much from. I learned that it's about a lot of hard work. It helped prep me for this. I feel like American Idol was celebrity-prepping boot camp."  Hudson no longer cares about losing American Idol.  "No, I wouldn't change a thing. I'd rather be a Dreamgirl any day."

Hudson Floors Crowd At ‘Dreamgirls’ Screening

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 6, 2006) *On “The View” Tuesday, Rosie O’Donnell said she and many others were brought to tears at a screening of “Dreamgirls” Monday night when Jennifer Hudson, as the character Effie, belted her signature song, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”  O’Donnell was among the celebrity crowd at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York who gave Hudson’s on-screen performance a standing ovation – right there in the middle of the film.  For months, critics have hailed the young “American Idol” 2004 finalist as the real star of the cast that includes such heavy-hitters as Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, Beyonce, Danny Glover and Anika Noni Rose.  “When the film was over, there was another standing O, and the entire audience stood still and watched the main end credits,” wrote Fox 411 columnist Roger Friedman. “Co-star Beyonce was long gone by then. She worked the red carpet, did her publicity and then split with boyfriend Jay-Z. She told me she'd rented a private plane and was ferrying him off for a birthday surprise.”  Back at the Ziegfeld, guest Queen Latifah and Foxx teamed up and took some folks to celebrate the film’s warm reception at Gin Lane on 14th Street, Freidman reports.  Meanwhile, Broadway must be overjoyed at the endless praise given to the film. The Broadway productions of “Chicago,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Rent” all received a huge boost in attendance after their respective films were released. Could a revival of “Dreamgirls” be on the horizon? "There's interest in (a Broadway version of) 'Dreamgirls' not only here, but in the U.K. and abroad," says John Breglio – the entertainment lawyer and executor of the estate of the late Michael Bennett, the original director of "Dreamgirls" – according to Variety.  Breglio is adopting a wait-and-see attitude about "Dreamgirls." But if the film's a hit, "I have little doubt that we'll have some kind of new production," he says.

Beyoncé Dials It Down

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic


(Dec. 12, 2006) NEW YORK—They don't give out Oscars for Best Team Player. If they did,
Beyoncé Knowles would have to be the leading candidate for honours this year.  The former Destiny's Child lead singer is in the unusual position of having to defend herself for not acting like a selfish diva — or at least not enough to satisfy the gossip hounds of the New York Post.  The Manhattan tabloid greeted the cast and crew of Dreamgirls, the screen adaptation (due out Dec. 25) of the hit Broadway musical, with a story claiming rookie Jennifer Hudson makes the top-billed Beyoncé "look like a pretty extra" in their shared struggles for Motown glory and girl-group supremacy. Hudson's striving Effie gets more screen time than Beyoncé's late-blooming Deena in the early part of the film.  The story is absurd, but mention of it brings groans from the tightly knit members of the Dreamgirls posse, who are frustrated that Beyoncé is not being given her due.  She willingly accepted a role that required her to dial down her glamour and her multi-octave vocal range in the movie's first two acts, so as not to upstage Hudson's character.  "Please! I think it's so crazy," writer-director Bill Condon says of the Post slam, taking his turn doing round-table interviews on a press day at the Regency Hotel.  "And you know what? To me it's a testament to what Beyoncé pulls off in this movie. She had to go in the opposite direction. She had to convince you that she was someone who was not special. That she was not beautiful. That she was the wallflower. That's hard."  Others second that emotion, including Hudson, an American Idol runner-up who is enjoying her personal acclaim, but who winces at the perceived slight towards her friend Beyoncé. Would it really have been better, everyone asks, if Beyoncé had demanded a rewrite of the Dreamgirls story, as many other starlets would have, just to puff herself up?

If Beyoncé is feeling hard done by, she's not showing it. Arriving for her interview in a ruffled cream blouse atop designer jeans (from her own Deréon label collection), the Texas-born beauty, 25, is the picture of grace and casual elegance.  "I knew the risks before I took it," Beyoncé says of the role, mincing no words. "I read the (stage) script. I knew that Deena was not the underdog. I knew she didn't sing (the show-stopper) `And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going.' I knew that all of our parts are very important, because it's an ensemble cast. I knew she wasn't the lead. It's not about her life."  She looks completely credible when she adds, "And I didn't care about that, because I don't have to prove that I can sing. I have nine Grammys. I don't have to prove that I'm a star, because I already am. I wanted to prove that I can act."  Dreamgirls is actually Beyoncé's fourth feature movie. But her two biggest previous roles, as singer Xania in The Pink Panther remake earlier this year and as Foxxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers in Goldmember four years ago, had her playing exaggerated comic interpretations of her public image.  Dreamgirls is something else entirely. The role of Deena is loosely based on a real person: Diana Ross, the leader of superstar trio The Supremes. The job required her to dim her usual glam and to sing without her typical confidence, since Deena is part of a group, the Dreams, that for the early part of the movie is still struggling to win ears and audiences.  "I thought this part was incredible, because out of every character, it has the biggest range and it's the least like me," Beyoncé says.  "I mean, I'm way more powerful and big than the character, way stronger and in control. So it was a challenge for me and exciting for me to show myself in a different light."  If she wasn't perturbed about Deena being upstaged by Effie, Beyoncé did have qualms about people mistaking the Dreams (and the Supremes by extension), with Destiny's Child, the recently disbanded pop trio that sold 60 million albums and singles during its 15-year reign atop the pop charts. "My biggest concern was people getting Deena confused with me. Because from the outside looking in, you see that I started out in a group and became a solo artist, and my drive and Deena's drive (are) very similar, but it really stops there ...

"Which was why I wanted lose 20 pounds (to erase her famous curves for a more '60s-inspired, Twiggy look as she ages from 16 to 36), because I wanted to lose every trace of what I'm known for, and why I sat and worked so hard with the acting coach, and why when I did the songs I didn't treat them like performances. Singing was a piece of cake. Learning the choreography, a piece of cake. The hard thing was, because I didn't have my voice to depend on in the singing, I had to do something else. So I had to go through and make sure Deena had pain behind her eyes."  Audiences will be able to judge for themselves how successful she was. But early reaction at Dreamgirls advance screening has shared the applause with Beyoncé, Hudson and their co-stars Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy. Despite the ensemble emphasis, there has been serious talk of Beyoncé gaining a Best Actress Oscar nomination, with Hudson a safe bet for a Best Supporting Actress nod.  Beyoncé has one other tough customer to please: Diana Ross. The Supremes being has let it be known since Dreamgirls premiered on Broadway in 1981 that she's not pleased with the story. Yet word is she's a fan of Beyoncé's, who is quick to return the love.  Asked to name her favourite Supremes tune, Beyoncé instead rattles off a Ross solo tune, "Love Hangover." She gives it up for the Supremes song "Love Child" after a bit of prodding.  "Well, I met her and she was very, very nice, which made me feel great, because I want her to like me because I like her so much," Beyoncé says, smiling at the memory.  "But I don't feel like this movie is about her. I think the things that happen with Effie and Deena, I don't think that ever happened to her. I think she's stronger than Deena."

The Many Roles Of Cate Blanchett

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell

(Dec. 8, 2006) NEW YORK—Cate Blanchett has recently been in the arms of both Brad Pitt and George Clooney.  "It was hell!" she jokes.  It was all in the line of work, making Babel with Pitt and The Good German with Clooney. She also gets into a clinch with Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal, another reason why writers at a Waldorf Astoria hotel press conference refer to her as "the hardest-working woman in show business."  Blanchett, 37, the Best Supporting Actress winner (for The Aviator) at the 2005 Academy Awards, is the go-to gal for roles of any kind, whether it's playing a Dietrich-esque Berlin hooker (The Good German, in theatres next Friday), a recklessly libidinous teacher (Notes on a Scandal, Dec. 25) or a threatened tourist (Babel, now playing).  She's even doing a young interpretation of Bob Dylan for I'm Not There, Todd Haynes' highly unusual biopic of the rock bard due out next year.  If that's not enough, the highly literate Blanchett also plans to reprise her Oscar-nominated role of Elizabeth I for director Shekhar Kapur, in his sequel to Elizabeth called The Golden Age.  That's just for the movies. The Australian native Blanchett and her writer/director husband Andrew Upton are busy expanding their stage range, having signed on as co-artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company, where Blanchett is currently directing her first play, A Kind of Alaska.  And did we mention she's a mother of two young children?  It's wonder she has time to answer questions, but she's game to talk about anything. Especially Steven Soderbergh's The Good German, a movie filmed in black-and-white in the old-fashioned manner of its postwar 1940s setting:

Q.        So how does your husband feel when you say, "Hey, I'm making a movie with Brad, and then I'm going to make a movie with George?"

A.            My husband is a very secure man.

Q.        Is there a link in the way you decide on projects?

A.            No, I'm erratic and random ... I'd like to say I have a five-year plan, but I'm not that Stalin-esqe. I didn't know Babel was around till I met (director) Alejandro (González Iñárritu). And he was very persuasive and flattered me. So that went. Flattery got him everywhere with that one.

Q.        How about Notes on a Scandal?

A.            Well, I really wanted to work with Judi. And (screenwriter) Patrick Marber is a friend, and I thought the book was titillating and shocking and fantastic.  Patrick doesn't shy away from the impenetrable sides of humanity. And also he can be very blackly humorous. The screenplay had all that.

Q.        What got you inside Lena's character for The Good German?

A.            Well, there are a few keys, really. There was a performance key which was, more than any other film I've made, paramount. Because it wasn't just connecting to a character in a way that one usually connects. You had to connect to the style ... normally in a modern film, there's a sense that, yes, you have to hit your mark, but the camera finds your performance. Whereas this, you had to find the camera ... History is rarely told by the vanquished, so that was a key. And the other key was, I watched a lot of films, Steven gave us this sort of library of films he was drawing from visually, but I watched a lot of Hildegard Knef's work ... and of course Ingrid Bergman.

Q.        And also Marlene Dietrich in A Foreign Affair?

A.            I did watch Dietrich but I've always watched a lot of Dietrich.

Q.        In Notes on a Scandal, was the idea to make us understand why this woman would have an affair with a 15-year-old?

A.            It wasn't really the function of the film. When you do something as destructive as that, I think you don't even know why you're doing it. And she didn't even know why she was doing it. And I think often in films you somehow have to make people understand the inexplicable. I think it was more just to explain or to allow the audience to see the state she was in. And that the two women were bonded by very different but in a strange way similar states of loneliness and isolation.

Q.        Can you explain what I'm Not There is about?

A.            It's inexplicable! Look, all I can say is, it's invented by Todd, and he's such a shape shifting, genre-defying director.

Q.        What did you do to get into Dylan?

A.            I slept with a suit! It's not a regular biopic. The hardest thing will be to open people's minds ... we were all given our sides (of Dylan) because they're like independent films that have been put together and interwoven, so they were shot separately. Mine was a rock star who wreaks havoc on his electric tour, shot in the style of Fellini.

Q.        So why would you do Elizabeth again?

A.            I've been saying no for a long time. Shake is a good friend of mine... and he started talking about making a film about immortality, and about that Holy War, and about the aging process. I thought, oh, this is really interesting. And then he said, "Oh, Geoffrey Rush is doing it, Clive Owen is doing it." I just thought, I'm insane if I say no to this.

Glover Defends Niagara Actions

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - James Adams


(Dec. 9, 2006) Lawyers for Lethal Weapon star
Danny Glover will plead not guilty on the actor's behalf in a St. Catharines, Ont., court on Tuesday to a trespassing charge. The court appearance is the result of actions related to a protest in which Glover, 60, participated in September in Niagara Falls, Ont., in support of workers at three hotels there. Security officers at one of the hotels, the Sheraton on the Falls, charged Glover with trespassing along with Wayne Samuelson, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, and Alex Dagg, Canadian co-director of the UNITE HERE union, whose local 2347 represents an estimated 500 workers at the Sheraton, Skyline Inn and Brock Plaza hotels. All three hotels are owned by Canadian Niagara Hotels. A veteran activist, Glover has visited cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Toronto in the last 12 to 18 months, sometimes accompanied by former Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards. Both are active in the Hotel Workers Rising Campaign, designed to improve the salaries and working conditions of hotel workers. Workers at the three Niagara Falls hotels signed a contract in July with Canadian Niagara Hotels, and claim they continue to have outstanding issues involving a signing bonus and split shifts.

Glover and his co-defendants were among 100 to 150 union members and supporters participating in a “rally for workplace justice” in Niagara Falls. According to a “special occurrence report” filed by security guards at the Sheraton, Glover and Dagg “walked into the hotel lobby [of the Sheraton] through the Starbucks entrance and used the public washrooms” just before noon on Sept. 16. “Glover attempted to receive service at the Starbucks” when one of the guards “informed Glover that he would not receive service and to leave the building.” Glover and Dagg complied, but returned about a half-hour later with another UNITE HERE representative “with television and print media in tow.” Again, according to the security officer, they were asked to leave the lobby, but this time they refused. The group was then charged with trespassing and Niagara Regional Police were called. Speaking from Washington on Thursday, Glover claimed to be unperturbed by the fuss. “I have a history of being arrested,” he said. “It's nothing new.” In fact, no actual arrests were made at the rally. A sergeant with Niagara Regional Police's Casino Patrol Unit told The Niagara Falls Review that “everyone was co-operative and Mr. Glover was a gentleman throughout the event.” Glover said he participated in the action because “I was using the presence and visibility I have to bring attention to the cause and to get the owners adhering to the contract they signed.” Glover was named an ambassador in 1998 to the UN Development Program and has been chair of the TransAfrica Forum and a supporter of Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. “Once you descend into the bowels of where hotel employees work and talk to them, spend time with them, something connects with you,” he said. Lawyers for Glover and his fellow protesters plan to hold a media conference Tuesday morning outside Provincial Offences Court in St. Catharines. A statement from Glover, who left the U.S. yesterday to scout locations for a film he is producing in India, will be read at the event.

André Benjamin Talks Crow In 'Charlotte’s Web'

Source  Roz StevensonPR, Rozstevenson@aol.com

(December 12, 2006)
André Benjamin, from the multi-platinum and Grammy winning hip-hop duo OutKast, continues to spread his creative wings as the voice of the hilarious dimwitted crow Elwyn in Charlotte's Web, a live-action adaptation of the classic children's book.   Charlotte's Web is a timeless story of loyalty, trust and sacrifice, scheduled for release from Paramount Pictures on December 20th.    In addition to Benjamin, Thomas Haden Church is the voice Brooks, his crow pal. Dakota Fanning stars on-screen as Fern, the first one to see something in Wilbur the pig that others miss.   Julia Roberts is the voice of Charlotte the spider, who becomes Wilbur's best friend and saviour.  Also joining as cast voices for Charlotte's Web is Oprah Winfrey as Gussy, the barn's maternal-yet-irreverent goose, Cedric the Entertainer as Golly the gander; Steve Buscemi as the barn's sardonic rat, Templeton; John Cleese as Samuel, the sheep; Kathy Bates and Reba McEntire as the barn's sarcastic cows, Betsy and Bitsy; and Robert Redford as Ike, the horse. Charlotte's Web is the story of a very small pig that finds the most powerful force in the world is the bond of friendship.  Wilbur, a pig and the runt of the litter, has a youthful manner that makes him seem naïve to the other animals in his new barn, but to Charlotte - the spider who lives in the rafters - he is a welcome friend.  Their friendship is shown to be a lasting one when the other animals reveal that the pig's days are numbered.  It seems that only a miracle will save Wilbur's life, but a determined Charlotte spins words into her web in an effort to convince the farmer that Wilbur is "some pig" and worth saving.  The magical story of loyalty and sacrifice comes to life in this live-action adaptation.

The critically acclaimed book Charlotte's Web, written by award-winning author E.B. White and illustrated by Garth Williams, is the best selling children's paperback of all time. To date, the book has sold 45 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 23 languages.  Charlotte's Web is published by HarperCollins. Most recently Benjamin and OutKast partner Antwon "Big Boi" Patton starred in the highly acclaimed feature Idlewild.  Benjamin has also become the producer, co-creator, and star of a new series on Cartoon Network: "Class of 3000," a play on his stage name. It is an animated series about an Atlanta performing arts school grad who ditches a successful music career to become a music teacher. André 3000 fans find it no wonder the artist hasn't toured. But Benjamin said that it's not the projects that have taken him from the music stage - it's love lost. "I stopped touring two and a half years ago before any of these projects happened. After a while you don't feel the same kind of passion that you did when you first started, but I still love to make music and I think it's in me. I'll make music forever, but I just wanted to take my time to do other things that I really love instead of being on stage and kind of going through the motions," he explained.  Benjamin's other acting credits include the films Four Brothers, Be Cool and the hit TV series The Shield.  He also plans to launch his own clothing line this year.  Paramount Pictures and Walden Media Present a Kerner Entertainment Company/Nickelodeon Movies production, "Charlotte's Web." Directed by Gary Winick, the film's screenplay is by Susannah Grant and Karey Kirkpatrick, based on the book by E.B. White. Produced by Jordan Kerner, the executive producers are Edgar Bronfman, Sr., Julia Pistor, Bernie Williams, and Paul Neesan.

Canucks Should Show Our Stars Love

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic
, Canadian Press

(Dec. 12, 2006)
Colm Feore is the star of one of the top-grossing movies in Canadian history, this year's bilingual cop adventure flick Bon Cop, Bad Cop.  Yet the kind of superstardom that would greet his American and Quebecois counterparts in the aftermath of such a huge hit simply doesn't exist in English Canada, where domestic films nabbed just 1.9 per cent of box office earnings this year.  "What we need is some kind of Canadian star system; we need people to say, `I know that guy, he's funny, he's in that movie? Then I want to see that movie!' so that suddenly you reach a tipping point where there's enough critical mass of interest," the energetic Feore said in an interview to promote the DVD release of Bon Cop.  Feore isn't alone in lamenting the difficulties getting Canadians to take in Canadian movies. Wayne Clarkson, head of Telefilm Canada, says 2006 was disappointing despite the huge successes of Bon Cop and Trailer Park Boys: The Movie.  "We had the best of films this year and huge successes, but the overall results were mixed," Clarkson said from Montreal.  

Bon Cop, which grossed almost $13 million, was a big factor in bringing up the domestic share of the English-Canadian box office in 2006 to 1.9 per cent from 1.1 per cent last year. Trailer Park Boys also helped boost the domestic take, Clarkson said. Ricky, Bubbles and Julian broke a record for the biggest three-day opening weekend of any Canadian movie.  Steve Gravestock of the Toronto International Film Festival says there's no need to be alarmed: the situation in Canada isn't so different from the scene elsewhere.  "There are very few territories or areas where domestic box office is dominant," he said, adding the year ahead in Canadian film promises to be a good one, with movies coming out that already have serious buzz.  Sarah Polley's Away From Her is chief among them. Polley's feature-film directorial debut is getting its American premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January before its mainstream release in May.  Fido, a funny zombie film starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Scottish comic Billy Connolly, comes out in March.  And Denys Arcand's eagerly anticipated L'Age des Tenebres is also slated for release in 2007.

2006 NYFCO Movie Awards: A Queen Sweep!

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - by Kam Williams

(December 12, 2006 ) Eagerly-anticipated as an early indicator of Oscar buzz, The
New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) recently announced its annual awards for 2006 at O'Neals' Restaurant in Manhattan. The Queen ended up the evening’s big winner, landing a quintet of accolades in the categories for Best Picture, Best Director (Stephen Frears), Best Actress (Helen Mirren), Best Supporting Actor (Michael Sheen), and Best Screenplay (Peter Morgan).  Best Actor even went to royalty, namely, Forest Whitaker for his command performance as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Newcomer Jennifer Hudson enjoyed a couple of kudos, both Breakthrough Performer and Best Supporting Actress, for her stellar work in Dreamgirls. NYFCO, a group comprised of about two dozen of the city’s top movie reviewers, boasts a diverse membership which ranges from Rex Reed of the upscale New York Observer to Kurt Loder of MTV. There’s also the politically-progressive Prairie Miller of WBAI, and Louis Proyect of Marx Mail, as well as the spiritually-oriented Frederic and Marry Ann Brussat. The group’s minority representation includes Armond White, Julian Roman, Ed Gonzalez and yours truly.

Complete List of Winners:

Picture - The Queen

Actor - Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)

Actress - Helen Mirren (The Queen)

Director - Stephen Frears (The Queen)

Supporting Actor - Michael Sheen (The Queen)

Supporting Actress - (tie) Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) & Catherine O'Hara (For Your Consideration)

Ensemble Cast - Little Miss Sunshine

Breakthrough Performer - Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)

Debut Director - Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine)

Screenplay - Peter Morgan (The Queen)

Documentary Feature - An Inconvenient Truth

Foreign Language Picture - Pan's Labyrinth

Animated Feature - Happy Feet

Cinematography - Dick Pope (The Illusionist)

Film Music/Score - Philip Glass (The Illusionist)

Humanitarian Award - Deepa Mehta (Water) for taking risks to create films about the difficulties of social change in India especially as it affects women. 

The Film Strip: Action Packed 'Blood Diamond' Delivers Powerful Message

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Marie Moore

(December 7, 2006) *"
Blood Diamond" not only has diamond dealers quaking in their shoes, but it even prompted a cover story on a hip hop magazine. It will be interesting to see if bling is a popular as it was before this film is released.  Just as important as the information relayed in this film is the relationship between Djimon Hounsou and his son. With so much talk about absent Black fathers and onscreen negative images, this film is a welcomed addition to positive cinema. Interviews with both Hounsou and Leonardo DiCaprio shed light on the dark side of diamonds, the plight of many Africans and the relationship that developed between Hounsou and DiCaprio.

QUESTION: AS AN AFRICAN PLAYING THIS CHARACTER WHAT DID YOU BRING TO IT OR LEARN ABOUT IT THAT PERHAPS WASN'T THERE BEFORE?

DJIMON HOUNSOU:
[Laughs] Well, first of all, I must say that when I came across this story this was the most powerful human story that has come out of Africa and that I'd ever heard anyone be involved with and certainly not with a studio, a major Hollywood studio taking this on. It was a blessing for me personally. Secondly, it was probably the most challenging story ever and in so many areas. Reading 'Blood Diamond' I realized that it wasn't so much about the Blood Diamond. It was about so many other issues in Africa - issues of child soldiers, issues of refugees, the displacement of millions of people throughout the continent, the effects on the neighbouring countries and so on and so forth. So it was a very powerful story for me. So, again, for being an African and being in Hollywood and making movies, these are the kinds of stories that I love to be a part of and be able to bring more awareness to the world. And the Oscar race, I'll have to leave that to the studio to decide what we're

Q: BEING FROM AFRICA DID YOU FEEL A RESPONSIBILITY TO BRING ATTENTION TO THESE ISSUES?

DH: I mean, yes, of course being African. But I think that we have a responsibility as citizens of this world to really do what is necessary to change the outcome of this trading issue. I think that to do nothing is intolerable and certainly to do something is just not enough. So as citizens of this world we must do everything that we can to bring awareness to the world so that everyone knows what the issues are about trading diamonds.  Also, being African, absolutely. Of course I feel a need and a strong desire to be involved in films that deal with important African issues because. Our lifestyle is so challenging that we're always running, running, running and chasing, chasing. So we really have very little time to get an education the way that we used to be educated through books and so on and so forth. A lot of the education we're getting today, I feel, personally, is through movies.

It's unfortunate, but it's also fortunate. The movie industry now also has a responsibility to tell compelling stories and stories that mean something, stories that change our lives and stories that make us reflect on our conduct and the way we treat one another and the way we treat neighbouring countries and how we view other people from different continents. So, yes, we do.

Q: HOW WAS IT SHOOTING ON LOCATION?

DH: The physicality and the emotional content of the story were just overwhelming. So, day in and day out you were just in it. You couldn't necessarily get away from it because once you finished shooting the environment in which you were shooting and the people of that country and those places were just, you know they're so quite deprived. Obviously we shot in places that didn't have issues with conflict diamonds or elicit diamonds, but you could see that throughout the whole continent of Africa it's very difficult. People are living very challenging lives and you couldn't get away from that. I guess that we were in it day in and day out.

Q: WITH THE DISTURBING ISSUE OF CHILDREN SOLDIERS, IS IT POSSIBLE TO GO BACK TO A NORMAL LIFE WITH CHILD KILLERS?

DH: That's the problem. That's one of the reasons we're telling this story, to bring the awareness that these kids cannot go back to their villages. The villages that they went to and completely ravaged killing mothers and fathers and sisters, raping - they cannot go back to those villages with any sort of assistance and reintegration into the system and give them a bit of education so that they hopefully won't fall into those situations. Those kids are susceptible of being the rebels of tomorrow.

Q: LEO SAID THAT YOU WOULD BE A LIFELONG FRIEND TO HIM SINCE WORKING ON THIS FILM. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT GOING FROM CO-WORKER TO LIFELONG FRIEND?

DH: I have to say that Leo will hopefully be a longtime, hopefully forever friend. Being African I can only embrace the guy who comes to try and bring awareness to my continent - I can only embrace him. Lets start from there.  Also, he has done things for me that only I on the receiving end know what he has done. I mean, I can say that he's given me his house to host my friends that came to visit. He's given me his chef to cook for me. He's fed me many times. He stood up for me. I didn't know about it, but a week later I found out that he stood up for me because someone threatened to shoot me at a place in South Africa. He said, 'You're going to have to go through me because I know this guy and I'm sure he didn't do anything wrong to you.'

The guy showed him his gun and that's where they got that line. The guy said to him, 'We don't do things here like you do in Hollywood. Bling, bling.
Here it's bling, bling pow!' That's where he got that line from because the guy told him blatantly that he was going to shoot me.

Q: WHY DID HE WANT TO SHOOT YOU?

DH: To this day we can't find out why. We don't know. So, those are the reasons why I like him. 

Q: SO, LEO, HOW WAS IT WORKING WITH DJIMON?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO
: Well, you know, his character is really the heart and soul of the movie. It's the story of a man trying to find his son, and he embodied this character. Actually the word is electrifying that applies to the intensity that he gives in his performance. What can I say? He and I were kind of alone on set. It was me and him. There is no other actor that could've played this role and given this performance. I mean, he is astounding in this movie and the intensity and energy that you get from him as an actor is amazing, and we got to play off of each other everyday. He's quite a brilliant actor.

Q: DID YOU ANTICIPATE THE CONTROVERSY THAT WOULD SURROUND THIS FILM?

LD: I didn't anticipate it. No. But when you approach situations like this, these are things that are based on real events. We're depicting a specific time in recent history where these diamonds resulted in a lot of civil unrest in these countries. I had never anticipated that it would be this intense by any means.

Q: DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DIAMOND TRADE AND THE PROBLEMS IT'S CAUSED IN AFRICA BEFORE YOU DID THE FILM?

LD: I think that I was like anyone else. I had heard whispers of it, but until I got there and until I read the script and started to do the research I didn't really quite understand the immense impact that these diamonds had had on certainly Sierra Leone and other places in Africa. I certainly had heard the Kanye West song, for example. I had heard bits of all of this in conversations, but it really wasn't until I got to Africa and heard the first hand accounts and started to read the books and learned about it all that I really realized what was going on, what had happened.

Q: SO WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO DO THIS MOVIE?

LD: Well, first off, it was the script. It was such a powerful character. It was such a powerful storyline and that's what you look for first. I mean, I wasn't personally going out seeking films with social or political messages to them, or just doing it for the sake of doing it. It has to have some entertainment value. It has to be a good movie and it has to convey a message without the audience feeling like they're being preached to, and I really felt strongly that this script accomplished that. To me it was very representative of a huge issue in the world today of corporate responsibility and what these corporations do. Certainly Africa has been a prime target for it all the way from gold and rubber and all kinds of other natural resources. So, here was this character that really represented someone who was exploiting people less fortunate than him and dealing in the black market and not really being conscious of the world that he lived in.

Q: SPENDING SO MUCH TIME IN AFRICA DID YOU WALK AWAY WITH A SENSE OF THE COUNTRY'S CULTURE?

LD: Well, certainly from me playing a character like this, who was taking advantage of the poverty around him and taking advantage of the continent created a lot of - what's the word - uncomfortable situations as an actor and having to portray this man on set amongst an African crew. In locations like Mozambique where there was a tremendous amount of poverty, I mean, that's a country right now that's sort of having an economic resurgence, but still there is a serious situation with HIV or AIDS. There are astounding conditions there, but what I was left with after spending time in Africa, and this is not at all to sound trivial, but it really was the power of the human spirit there and the fact that these people have been through so much.

They've been through a civil war for thirty years. The poverty rate is astounding. Literally people were still dancing in the streets. I mean, the joy and the energy and the happiness that they exude to everyone that comes into contact with them was unbelievable and it made me come back home and not want to listen to anyone's problems. I don't want to hear about what we as Americans have to do that. When you're immersed in a place like that for six months and you see the extreme levels of what people have to deal with there and what their lives are like, it's amazing and yet they're able to keep a positive attitude. I just don't want to hear people's problems here anymore.

Q: DO YOU THINK THAT IT'S TOO MUCH TO HOPE FOR CHANGING PEOPLE'S MINDS WITH CINEMA?

LD: I don't think that it's too much to hope for at all. I think that there is tremendous capability there and certainly in the world of documentary.

Absolutely. I mean, look at films like 'Fahrenheit 9/11' or numerous other documentaries that have changed the political climate, but I think that there is a tremendous role to be played in that respect, but that's the key thing, and not to comment on this film or talk about how great this movie is, but I think that this movie is that rare combination wherein you're able to get people into the audience and able to get people to be involved with the compelling story and meanwhile they're getting this political message.

It's also not hitting them over the head. They're going to absorb this social message, I believe anyway. Traditionally it's kind of been one thing or the other. I think that this is one of those rare opportunities or combinations that is going to affect people like that, simultaneously, while entertaining them.

Q: THERE HAS BEEN A BIG SHIFT IN CONGRESS WITH THE RECENT ELECTIONS. DO YOU THINK THAT THERE IS CHANGE IN THE AIR?

LD:  Let me just say, I'm happy. I think that it's taken a turn for the better and I think that a lot of things that have been sort of subdued politically and a lot of things that people have wanted to happen are hopefully going to happen now. It's really up to the democrats now to not say things anymore, but to take action now. I think that they will.

Jury's Top 10 List Is Just As Notable For The Movies That Didn't Make The Cut

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Liam Lacey


(Dec. 13, 06) Though funding agencies are pushing for a more commercial agenda, leading Canadian filmmakers appear to be sticking to their non-commercial guns. That's the superficial impression from this year's
Canadian Top 10 film list, picked by a jury selected by the Toronto International Film Festival.  Neither the top-grossing film in the country last year, Bon Cop, Bad Cop, nor the most expensive Canadian film, the $11-million zombie comedy Fido (which has yet to open theatrically), made the cut. The Top 10 films include three documentaries about the environment, one feature film mostly in the Inuktitut language (Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn's The Journals of Knud Rasmussen) and dramas about Alzheimer's disease (Sarah Polley's feature directing debut, Away from Her) and political radicalism (Reginald Harkema's Monkey Warfare). Also on the list are three comedies, including Mike Clattenburg's Trailer Park Boys: The Movie and, from Quebec, Philippe Falardeau's picaresque father-son story, Congorama, and the deadpan Sur la trace D'Igor Rizzi, the first film from Toronto-born, French-raised Noël Mitrani, also about a displaced European (French actor Laurent Lucas) in contemporary Quebec. The third Quebec film, Une dimanche à Kingali, based on Gil Courtemanche's novel, revisits the 1994 Rwandan genocide from the perspective of a Quebec documentary filmmaker. The three documentaries about the environment include: Gary Burns and Jim Brown's meditation on suburbia, Radiant City (the only entry from Western Canada), Jennifer Baichwal's Manufactured Landscapes, which follows environmental photographer Ed Burtynsky in China, and Sharkwater, Rob Stewart's film about sharks.

Both Polley's yet-to-open Away from Her, based on an Alice Munro short story, and Manufactured Landscapes will make their U.S. debuts at next month's Sundance Film Festival. In a statement issued before Tuesday night's announcement of the Top 10 list, TIFF director Piers Handling said: “This year has been phenomenal for Canadian cinema both critically and commercially. “The diversity of genres and subjects featured in Canada's Top 10 highlight the extraordinary filmmaking talent in this country.” This year's 10-member jury included no film critics and only one film journalist, Manon Dumais from Voir Montréal. Other jurors included freelance producer Lorraine Clark, programmers Helen du Toit and Marguerite Pigott, filmmakers Thom Fitzgerald, Aubrey Nealon and Jean-Marc Vallée, and producers David Hamilton, Liz Jarvis and Raymond Massey.

Dakota's Pig Tales

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic


(Dec. 13, 2006) NEW YORK—She's only as old as Forrest Gump, a good bottle of Scotch and the Netscape Navigator Web browser.  But 12-year-old actor
Dakota Fanning has packed more into those dozen years than many people manage in a lifetime.  The Georgia-born moppet has appeared in movies with Tom Cruise (War of the Worlds), Denzel Washington (Man on Fire), Robert De Niro (Hide and Seek), Sean Penn (I Am Sam) and Reese Witherspoon (Sweet Home Alabama), to name just a few of her 32 film and TV roles.  She learned to read at age 2, began her acting career at age 5 (a Tide commercial) and starred in her first $100-million-grossing movie (Sweet Home Alabama) at age 8.  She knows how to knit and play the violin, she's learning to speak French and Spanish and she has presented a movie award with a grown-up Shirley Temple, the ultimate child star. If you ask Dakota for her career ambitions, she'll cite Jodie Foster and Meryl Streep as role models or — as she told Time magazine editors recently — reveals the shocking news that one day she hopes to direct.  It's probably best not to dwell on these things, especially if your résumé is somewhat short on superlatives. But it's hard not wonder who hit the gas pedal on the life of the poised young lady who sits before a roomful of journalists on this bright Saturday morning, happily discussing her latest movie, Charlotte's Web, which opens Friday.  At least it's a children's film, based on the E.B. White bedtime fable about a helpful spider named Charlotte who befriends a befuddled pig named Wilbur. There's no fear of having to discuss Oscar buzz, although that is sure to come one day.

"Of course I love the book and have always loved the story," Dakota chats merrily, as if her childhood is just a fond memory. "I talked about it with the director Gary Winick. I just loved him so much, I wanted to work with him."  Ditto for Winick, an indie helmer hired for Charlotte's Web on the strength of his handiwork on 13 Going on 30, a Jennifer Garner comedy that did surprisingly big business.  He's such a fan of Dakota, he swears he wouldn't have made Charlotte's Web without her, even though her role as farm girl Fern Arable isn't the lead. Winick actually held up production of the movie to wait for her, even though he already had the voice talents of such stars as Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey and Robert Redford.  "She was doing War of the Worlds, so we had to reschedule everything for her. But it was totally worth it," Winick says in a separate interview.  "I wouldn't do it (without Dakota), I don't think. Because the movie is about the animals' relationships, so Fern's storyline, there's not really that much there. Only someone like Dakota could elevate it in way where all of sudden there's a coming-of-age story for her as well."  Dakota was happy to oblige, even though it meant moving to Australia for the 3 1/2-month shoot and wrestling with the dozens of real piglets who played Wilbur (he had mucho stand-ins) and other oinkers.  "I really had a lot of fun with the pigs," she says, smiling through braces and tucking one sneakered shoe up beneath her as she rocks excitedly in her chair.  "They were all so cute. We had like 50 or 60 of them that we worked with and they were little babies and they would grow up, and they were all like the crew's little kids that we'd be watching grow up and they were all adorable."  Speaking of growing up, how is it going for her? Doesn't she feel as though her childhood is slipping away? Not a bit, apparently. "You know, I'm just getting older and not wishing to be any older, just kinda having fun ... in this movie, my character at the beginning she's a little girl and at the end she's kind of growing up and I think that's kind of where I am a little bit in my life, so it was fun to portray that."

Doesn't she feel the pressure of carrying a big picture? She has the most famous human face in Charlotte's Web, a live-action adaptation quite unlike the 1973 animated version of the book.  "You know, I really don't think about that. Of course, it's a responsibility to so many people and I don't want to let anyone down. But also some of that is out of my control and I realize that as well, so I don't beat myself up about it. I just enjoy doing the acting. So that's really what's important."  She's equally sanguine about her planned trip next month to the Sundance Film Festival, where she will star in a movie — still known as Untitled Dakota Fanning Project — in which she plays a sexually abused girl in the '50s who finds solace in the music of Elvis Presley. Early reports have suggested her character is raped. Dakota denies it.  "No! That was all like blown out of proportion. It was a total rumour."  There isn't much that isn't going very right for Dakota right now — except for maybe the confusion she has with fans who don't believe their own eyes. When they meet her, they don't believe it's really her.  "Oh, fans. A lot of people sometimes don't believe that it's me, and they'll be like, `Oh, you look like Dakota Fanning,' and I'll be like, `Oh, I am.' And they'll be like, `Oh, no you're not!' and then I'll be like, `Oh, yes I am!'"  Give them time. They'll have many more chances to catch up with the rest of us.

FILM TIDBITS

Cheadle To Direct And Star In Miles Davis Biopic

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 6, 2006) *TMZ.com is reporting that Don Cheadle will direct and star in “Miles Davis,” a biopic about the jazz great that has been the actor’s pet project for several years.  According to the Web site, the Oscar-nominated film star has hired screenwriting and producing team Chris Wilkinson and Steve Rivele, who adapted the life story of Muhammad Ali for his biopic that starred Will Smith. Cheadle has reportedly been trying to produce a movie about Davis since the dawn of the new Millennium, but rights to the late jazz trumpeter’s music have always stood in the way. According to TMZ, the hurdle was finally cleared after the project’s producer Cary Brokaw recently recruited former Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman John Calley to help secure the rights to much of Davis' Columbia Records catalogue, which is owned by Sony BMG. Brokaw will produce "Miles Davis" along with Cheadle, Wilkinson, Rivele, and others, TMZ reports. Insiders say the plan calls for the movie to be independently financed, with the possibility of taking it to a studio for distribution.

Hollywood Taking A Global View

Excerpt from The Toronto Star  - Los Angeles Times

(Dec. 8, 2006) HOLLYWOOD—The world is opening up, and it's taking Hollywood with it.  Almost a year after the racially tinged Crash scored a Best Picture upset at the Academy Awards, deep explorations of non-white cultures have dominated the silver screen. It's an expanding vision of storytelling that not only has taken audiences to Uganda, Morocco, South Africa, Spain and Japan, but into new areas of North American culture.  Many of those stories have been among the industry's best told, earning heavy buzz as potential Oscar contenders for the films and the minority actors in them. All of which could turn the upcoming Oscars into more than just a tribute to film artistry, transforming it into a festival of multiculturalism.  "The time has finally come," said Jarvee Hutcherson, head of the Multicultural Motion Picture Association, a 1,400-member group of filmmakers, educators and others that promote diversity in film.  Much of the excitement has surrounded seasoned actors (Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland, Penélope Cruz in Volver), as well as first-timers or novices (Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi of Babel, Jennifer Hudson of Dreamgirls and Rudy Youngblood of Apocalypto).  Dreamgirls is already considered a front-runner for several nominations, with buzz surrounding most of its cast, including Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles and Eddie Murphy.

Spike Lee To Direct ‘L.A. Riots’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 8, 2006) *Spike Lee will turn his lens toward the violent race-based eruption in Los Angles following the 1992 “not guilty” verdicts of four white officers who were videotaped beating motorist Rodney King. “L.A. Riots” is set up at Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment under Universal Pictures. John Ridley (“Barbershop: The Series,” “Three Kings”) will write the screenplay, tapped to take on a straight-forward approach in dramatizing the events.  "This isn't about some cavalcade of stars, but rather a truthful and realistic examination of what happened, what the ramifications were and where we are now, in hopes that something like this doesn't happen again," Lee told Variety.   Grazer said the subject matter was "the best way to use Spike's power as a filmmaker, to tell an even-handed story that gets beyond the iconic pictures that we all remember. I was most interested in looking at the idea of universal group dynamics that manifest themselves under the highest amount of stress and to get all these points of view as they converge into each other and ignite in flames."  According to Variety, the goal is for Ridley to have a script before president Donna Langley before the business closes for the holidays.  Lee, meanwhile, remembers exactly where he was when the verdicts were announced on April 28, 1992.  "The day the riot happened was the very first time that Terry Semel and Bob Daly saw 'Malcolm X,' when they were running Warner Bros.," Lee told Variety. "All the things Malcolm X was talking about were happening. Assistants were running into the room, passing them notes. 'Do you want us to order a helicopter to come into the studio to get you home?' You could see it in their faces, watching this movie, wondering if L.A. was burning down, and if the world was coming to an end.  "I have to give credit to Bob and Terry, because I know they wanted to leave but they stayed and saw my first cut, which was about three hours and 45 minutes," Lee said. "I don't know how they got home, whether it was by helicopter or by car, but they ran out of the screening room. It was very scary."  Lee was also shaken by the events going on in the city. "I went straight to LAX, and my ass was on the red eye," he said.   “L.A. Riots” follows Lee’s HBO documentary "When the Levees Broke," about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The filmmaker is also developing a sequel for “Inside Man” with Grazer’s Imagine and Universal. 

Andre 3000 Suits Up For Hoops Comedy

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter

(December 08, 2006) Hip-hop star "
Andre 3000" Benjamin, one half of the Grammy-winning duo OutKast, will join Will Ferrell in the basketball comedy "Semi-Pro."  The New Line project is set in the '70s world of the now-defunct American Basketball Association and follows Jackie Moon (Ferrell), the owner-coach-player of the fictional Flint Michigan Tropics. Moon must lead his team on a desperate attempt to make it to the big leagues.  Benjamin plays a self-styled ladies' man who is the best player on the team. Woody Harrelson already has been cast. Former New Line executive Kent Alterman is making his directorial debut on the picture.  Benjamin is the co-creator of Cartoon Network's "Class of 3000" and is one of the voices in the upcoming family movie "Charlotte's Web." OutKast received two Grammy nominations yesterday (Dec. 7) for songs on the soundtrack album to its "Idlewild" movie.

Clooney Wants To Go Bollywood

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Associated Press

(Dec. 9, 2006) NEW DELHI —
George Clooney says he'd like to appear in one of India's spectacular song-and-dance movies. “I'd love to. There are some filmmakers whose films when you see (them) you say, ‘That could be an interesting story to tell,”' the 45-year-old actor said in an interview Thursday on the private CNN-IBN channel. Clooney said he's a fan of Bollywood, India's prolific Hindi film industry, and is impressed by the way it has expanded. “I was watching a film the other day and the music was just amazing. It's become such a huge industry,” he said. “There is a small market in the (United) States as of now, but it will be fun if it catches on because it is such a positive way of looking at filmmaking and I really love that. I truly think it's fun,” he said. Clooney, a favourite among India's English-speaking middle and upper classes, won a best supporting actor Oscar for 2005's Syriana. “It seems like the Indian filmmakers are pushing boundaries in terms of pushing the censors. I think it's (Bollywood) an interesting place for filmmakers to go,” he said. Clooney's upcoming movie, The Good German, will be released by Warner Bros. in the United States later this month. It will be released in India next year.

Cage Helps Develop Bahamas Indie Cinema

Source: Associated Press

(Dec. 9, 2006) NASSAU, Bahamas -- After more than 55 films,
Nicolas Cage plans to cut back on acting to pursue other interests, such as helping develop independent cinema in his new home of the Bahamas. "I'm thinking about taking more time in between movies," the Oscar winner told The Associated Press backstage at the third annual Bahamas International Film Festival. "I feel I've made a lot of movies already and I want to start exploring other opportunities that I can apply myself to, whether it's writing or other interests that I may develop," he said. Cage was in Nassau late Friday to receive the Chopard Award for career achievement. Fellow actor Sean Connery, Cage's co-star in the 1996 thriller "The Rock," presented the award at the Atlantis Theater in Paradise Island. "Nic is a professional and brings to the table all the stuff that makes it a real joy," Connery said. Cage, who won a best-actor Oscar for 1995's "Leaving Las Vegas," owns a house in Paradise Island and bought an undeveloped private island in the Exuma Cays this year. He said he hopes the film festival continues to grow. Some 50 narrative, documentary and short films from around the world are being showcased during the four-day festival, which began Thursday. Bahamas International Film Festival: http://www.bahamasinternationalfilmfestival.com

 

::TV NEWS::

'04 Tsunami's Cruel Wake

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon


(Dec. 6, 2006) There are bodies floating in the tranquil ocean. Others are entangled in the debris strewn outside the beachfront resort.  Yet, most eerily, there is silence. And an unsettling calm.  The opening scenes of
Tsunami, The Aftermath (TMN, Sunday, 8 p.m.; Part 2, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m.) set an appropriately bleak mood for a miniseries based on the earthquake that triggered a series of killer waves across the Indian Ocean two years ago.  A co-production between the BBC and HBO Films, the movie has generated controversy in London, where some politicians, aid workers and survivors have accused creators of sensationalizing the disaster that killed more than 226,000 people.  These discussions have centred on two questions: 1. Should television fictionalize a real-life tragedy of this scale? 2. Isn't it too soon?  But here's the thing: Tsunami, The Aftermath is neither sensational nor gratuitous. In terms of story structure, it would have been easy (and possibly more dramatic) to build suspense and conflict by putting the tsunami somewhere in the middle.  However, as the title implies, the narrative starts at the end, concerning itself with the metaphorical darkness that flowed after the water ebbed. This is a human story, not a cold re-enactment of what happened on Boxing Day, 2004, when tectonic plates shifted, raising the sea floor, unleashing energy equivalent to 23,000 Hiroshima bombs and devastating coastal communities in 13 countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

In other words: instead of attempting to package an objective reality, producers have opened the lid on emotional truth.  Tsunami, The Aftermath explores the lives of several characters who become linked by this unfathomable calamity: Tony (Hugh Bonneville) is a British Embassy official in the midst of a crisis of conscience; Than (Samrit Machielsen) is a Thai survivor dismayed by the onslaught of greedy hotel developers eager to raze what's left of his battered fishing village; Nick (Tim Roth) is an enterprising but callous journalist determined to get the story; and most memorably, Ian (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Susie (Sophie Okonedo) are a married couple who lose their young daughter in the deluge.  Near the end of Part 1, Ian is seen at a town hall meeting, surrounded by other stranded British nationals. He reacts with anger after Tony innocently uses the term "natural disaster."  "I last saw my daughter 36 hours ago," Ian says, choking back tears. "She was screaming for help. She was alone. And she was afraid. There is nothing natural about any of this.  "I want my daughter back. I want her here and I want her now. You have to tell me how to do this. Because I'm not leaving until you do."  Ian and Susie's portrayal of parental loss — a jarring, downward spiral of shock, disbelief, anguish, anger, guilt, reproach and recrimination — is about as complex, honest and heart-rending as you will find on television.  Part 2 includes more about hoteliers' unseemly and rapid land development along Thailand's fragile coastline. Nick pursues a story about a Thai scientist who warned the government about an impending tsunami but was ignored. And the difficulties in administering international aid are explored, albeit subtly.  In one scene, an Australian aid worker (Toni Collette) is frustrated after supplies wait on a cargo plane. She quips: "The NGOs are still in a meeting to arrange a meeting about a meeting."  Written by Abi Morgan and shot on location in Thailand, Tsunami, The Aftermath does not rely upon special effects or any other gimmicks. So those looking for the kind of visual jolts you can find within our canon of one-word disaster movies — Volcano, Asteroid, Virus, Twister, Armageddon — are advised to look elsewhere.  In related programming, The Fifth Estate repeats Tsunami: Untold Stories (CBC, 9 tonight).

Stop Prattling, People, And Look Outward

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - John Doyle

(Dec. 6, 2006)
David Suzuki and Stephen Lewis, together at last. It's enough to make the hard-core CBC audience squeal with delight. One has a PhD in zoology and is famous for his persuasive programs about saving the planet and critters. The other is a politician and broadcaster, famous and much admired for his persuasive arguments about saving people, in his role as United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. All joking aside, we're talking great Canadians here, no argument allowed. Stephen Lewis: the Man Who Couldn't Sleep (CBC, 8 p.m., on The Nature of Things with David Suzuki) is the third Nature of Things special about Lewis's work in Africa. And it is a fine, incisive reminder, not so much of Lewis's role, but of the desperate situation in Africa. Lewis talks about the people of many African countries “suffering the worst assaults of poverty and AIDS imaginable, and yet somehow withstanding these assaults and working collectively to overcome them.” He also uses the term “the abattoir of horror.” As eloquent as Lewis is on the urgency of his mission, Suzuki is equally eloquent on the changes fostered by Lewis. The program is relevant and airing now because Lewis steps down from his role on Dec. 31 of this year. It's timely to remind Canadians of his work and, more important, the daunting situation in Africa. We see Lewis giving important speeches and meeting important people, making his impassioned plea — for government support, for cheaper drugs, for a better understanding of the enormity of the AIDS crisis. But most of the program chronicles Lewis on his long, exhausting journeys across Africa, meeting local doctors and officials, assessing grassroots projects. He makes it clear that something has been achieved, but, as he says, he remains haunted because “the spectre of death is still everywhere.” Lewis has also suggested that it is, perhaps, beyond the capacity of the Western mind to absorb what is happening in Africa, to fully understand the links between poverty and disease.

In that, he's correct. One major reason for this program's being vitally important is the visceral picture it gives of the situation of others. We tend to be self-absorbed here, awash in nutty ideas about ourselves. While Africa cries out for the benefits of modern science and medication, in this neck of the woods we're arguing about pasteurized milk. Honestly, the way some people are jawing on, with their wobbly logic, you'd think that Louis Pasteur was part of some conspiracy by big corporations. Anyone who has any experience in countries where people die, daily, from diseases and afflictions that have been eliminated here — often thanks to the work of Pasteur — can only be bewildered. The great strength of this program about Lewis is that it compels us to look outward, to grasp how lucky we are and how necessary it is to acknowledge the horror that exists for other people. Lewis will officially end his work at the end of this year, but he'll keep at it in other capacities, and so should we. We can stop prattling about being entitled to the nuances of taste in cheese made from unpasteurized milk. Look out at the world, and you'll know that's a pathetic preoccupation. In the matter of prattling — and the CBC, please note — I really don't care who is sleeping with whom. Really, I don't. Neither do you, as far as I know. So CBC employees can stop sending me e-mails on the topic. I'm oblivious to that stuff. Why, on Monday when I got my Christmas card from my MP, Olivia Chow, I was astonished to find a photo of her playing the piano with Jack Layton. I had no idea they were an item. Now, I'm told they're shacked up or something. Who knew? I'm that oblivious. In the matter of doings at CBC, I'd be far more concerned about the standards of what's being broadcast. Last week, it was revealed here that Newsworld had blithely cut 49 Up, excising the contribution of one of the subjects. CBC dutifully admitted that this was a mistake and, as this paper reported on Saturday, that it plans to re-air 49 Up intact on Dec. 30 and 31. This news doesn't seem to have reached the documentary department at CBC, where the problem originated. Last Friday, a reader e-mailed the documentary department and asked politely when an intact 49 Up might be aired. The response the reader received on Monday was this: “I'm sorry, I'm not sure what you mean. 49 Up aired in two parts in late November as far as I know. This was the first broadcast, so I'm sure it'll repeat at some point in the future.” Hello? Maybe the employees at Fort Dork could stop nattering about who is sleeping with whom and pay attention to what is going on the air, especially the mistakes. Medium ( CTV, 8 p.m., NBC, 10 p.m.) finds Allison (Patricia Arquette) buying a camcorder for Joe's (Jake Weber) birthday, but she sees images through it that may be linked to a murder that may or may not have happened. Right. I know many fans of Medium are preoccupied with Arquette's new hairdo, but the plot lines are getting a tad absurd, are they not? Dates and times may vary across the country. Check local listings.

Diversity On TV Group Sees 'Marginal Progress'

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Dec. 8, 2006) LOS ANGELES — Civil-rights groups seeking greater ethnic diversity in the TV industry said Thursday the major broadcast networks are making improvements but it's time for greater progress — and pressure.  "I don't want to wait 10 years until we're close on television to the 15 percent of the population we are in the U.S.," said Alex Nogales, an official with the National Latino Media Council.  The council has been working together with groups including the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition and American Indians in Film & TV since 1999 to increase minority hiring and representation in the broadcast TV industry.  Karen K. Narasaki, chair of the Asian Pacific American coalition, said there has been "marginal progress" as all four networks increased the number of starring roles for Asian-American actors in series. In one case, however, that meant going from one role to two.  "We're still far from where we need to be," she said, with far too many all-white shows or shows that by dint of their setting should have Asian-American characters but don't.  There's been a worrying drop in Asian-American writers and producers, Narasaki, also president of the Asian American Justice Center, said in a phone interview following a news conference.  Increasing their ranks is crucial to creating more minority characters, she said. She noted the cast diversity on ABC's ``Grey's Anatomy," created and produced by a black woman, Shonda Rhimes.  Nogales lauded ABC, a network he said "finally got it" and has Hispanic characters in its most popular shows, including ``Desperate Housewives" and freshman hit "Ugly Betty." As a result, he said, the network is winning over more Hispanic viewers.

In annual "report cards," ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are graded in areas including their hiring of minority actors, writers and directors, development of programs with ethnic diversity and overall commitment to diversity issues.  This year, for shows airing from fall 2005 to fall 2006, the National Latino Media Coalition gave ABC the highest overall grade, A-minus, followed by a B-plus for CBS and a B each for NBC and Fox.  The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition gave NBC, ABC and Fox a C-plus each, while CBS earned a C.  In the coalition's first report card, in 2000, the networks received mostly Ds.  There was yet again a sharp slap from Americans Indians in film & TV: The virtual absence of any American Indians on screen or in the industry earned a flurry of Fs and Ds, with just a handful of higher grades.  In separate statements Thursday, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox reiterated their commitments to diversity and pledged continued efforts.  ABC is "pleased to be recognized as a leader in diversity,'' said Robert Mendez, senior vice president for diversity at the Disney-ABC Television Group. "Our mission is to make our programming and environment reflective of the rich diversity of the world in which we live.''  Nogales, also president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said he planned to study a recent University of California, Los Angeles, study that said lawsuits may be warranted when the casting process for films takes into account race and sex.  "I think it's completely applicable (to television), and if it is we'll use it," he said in a phone interview.  Nogales said he considers the networks "partners" in the diversification effort but has no qualms about pushing hard for results.  "Sometimes you have to kick your partners" in the behind, he said.

TV TIDBITS

Telefilm To Push Canada At International Festivals

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Michael Posner


(Dec. 5, 2006) Toronto —
Telefilm Canada will pour an additional $700,000 annually into beefing up Canada's international film presence.  In a pilot program, the federal agency said yesterday that it would allocate up to $200,000 a year to support the profile of French- and English-language films officially selected for screening at five key festivals -- Cannes, Berlin, Pusan, Sundance and Venice.  A second initiative would spend $350,000 to $500,00 to boost the marketing and promotion campaigns of French-language films in international markets. Each project would receive a maximum of $50,000.  Although the lion's share of new funding is being directed toward French-language films, Telefilm officials noted that English-language films receive more money in training, script development and marketing strategies.

Vivica A. Fox Kicked To The ‘Curb’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(December 5, 2006) *Vivica A. Fox will star in the upcoming season of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as part of a black family who moves into the expensive home of Larry David and his wife Cheryl following a natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina proportions.  The storylines for the comedy’s sixth season are likely to explore interracial relations, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The show has tackled such issues in the past via such episodes as "Krazee-Eyez Killa" and "The Carpool Lane."   Actress Wanda Sykes, who had a recurring role as herself on the series as a next door neighbour, has also been in memorable episodes that dealt with race relations.  As the Hollywood Reporter points out, the topic of race relations has emerged with a vengeance following the racist rant of Michael Richards, co-star of the hit comedy "Seinfeld," which Larry David created with Jerry Seinfeld. Meanwhile, Fox recently starred in the Lifetime drama series "1-800-Missing" and did a multi-episode arc on the UPN comedy "All of Us," which has since migrated to the CW.

Netherlands First Country To Switch To Fully Digital TV

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Dec. 12, 2006) The Netherlands ended transmission of "free to air" analog television yesterday, becoming the first nation to switch completely to digital signals. Few Dutch consumers noticed, because the overwhelming majority get TV by cable. Only around 74,000 households relied primarily on the old-fashioned TV antennas in the country of 16 million, although 220,000 people had an "occasional use" set somewhere such as in a vacation house, camper or boat, according to government figures. The bandwidth formerly used by analog has been licensed through 2017 by former Dutch telecommunications monopoly Royal KPN NV, which will use it to broadcast digital television. Under its agreement with the government, KPN bore the cost of building digital broadcasting masts and must continue to broadcast three state-supported channels and several regional public broadcasters free of charge. In return, it can use the rest of the open bandwidth to charge around $18.50 (U.S.) a month for a package of other channels comparable to cable. Whether customers opt for just the free channels or a full cable-like package, they must first buy a tuner to decode the new "digital terrestrial" signals, available for around $66.50. KPN spokesman Jan Davids said the switch occurred between midnight and 2 a.m. without any reported problems. "Then we broke out the champagne," he said.

Degrassi Teen Drama Sold Into U.S. Syndication

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald


(Dec. 13, 06) Toronto — CTV's teen drama
Degrassi: The Next Generation has been sold into syndication to the United States, including in five of the top U.S. markets and 18 of the top 25. Vancouver-based Thunderbird Films and its American distribution partner, Program Partners, said yesterday the Degrassi syndication strip has been sold to Tribune Broadcasting group, as well as a consortium of others that includes stations under the Clear Channel banner.  The 25-year-old franchise of shows is produced in Toronto by Epitome Pictures and is the brainchild of veteran producer Linda Schuyler.

 

::THEATRE NEWS::

Jamie McKnight - Actor Off To Flying Start

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian


(Dec. 5, 2006)
Jamie McKnight may be playing the title role in Aladdin, which opens Thursday night at the Elgin Theatre, but he's one guy who doesn't seem to need a magic lamp.  Ever since graduating from theatre school in 2001, the 27-year-old Scarborough native has been making his mark in roles so good, it almost seems as though a genie handed them to him on a silver platter.  McKnight has been Claude in CanStage's Hair, Paul in A Chorus Line at Stage West, Ren in Footloose at the Rainbow Stage in Winnipeg — the list goes on and on.  Even when he only has one song, as in The Producers with "Springtime for Hitler," he manages to stop the show.  And on those rare occasions when he plays a chorus role, as in 2005's Annie Get Your Gun at Massey Hall, he's working with stars like Louise Pitre and directors like Donna Feore.  "I have been very, very, very lucky," admits McKnight, taking a break at the Elgin during Aladdin rehearsals.  But unlike actors who say things like that while crossing their fingers behind their back, you believe that McKnight is telling the truth.  He seems like that rare commodity: a genuinely nice individual whose good looks, considerable talent and early success haven't given him a swelled head.  As McKnight sketches his short career, he somehow manages to make himself the fall guy in almost every anecdote.  He was born on March 24, 1979 in Scarborough to a pharmacist mother and a father who was a minister in the United Church.

His choir work got him into the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus at the age of 10, and he vividly recalls playing one of the children in Alben Berg's Wozzeck, not the cheeriest of works to launch your career in.  "I had to say, `Your mother's dead,'" he recalls, "while I was playing jacks on a raked stage and they kept rolling off the edge."  It was a few years later, while performing in Der Rosenkavalier, that he had the "eureka" moment when he said to himself, "Wow, I would love to do this for a living."  Shortly after that, his voice changed, ending his years with the children's chorus, but luckily there was a thriving musical theatre program at Wexford Collegiate to fill the void.  "I was never the lead or the romantic hero back then," he says. "In fact, I played the geeks, like Osric in Rockabye Hamlet and Hugo in Bye, Bye Birdie."  But he knew that theatre was what he wanted to do and soon headed to Sheridan College.  "I loved it there," McKnight remembers, "but I also kept thinking it was so hard and I wondered if I would ever make it."  Sheridan molded his talent and inadvertently also shaped his nose, giving it the distinctive bump it has today.  "I was working out in the gym," he blushes, "feebly trying to get buff, and the equipment I was using smashed my nose, breaking it. That's the first of my two broken bones."  The other came in 2001 when, right out of Sheridan, he landed the plum role of Gilbert in the Charlottetown Festival's Anne of Green Gables and promptly broke his foot during rehearsals.  "I was freaking out," he admits. "I thought I was going to get fired right at the start of my career. But they kept with me, I got better and it all worked out okay in the end."  Since then, McKnight has avoided any other physical injuries and even when the productions he's been in have crashed and burned, he's personally come through with flying colours.  Ask him about the shows that haven't worked, like The Producers or Hair, and he shrugs endearingly. "Look, we always try our best, but sometimes, I guess it's just not good enough."  Does McKnight have superstar ambitions? Well, if he does, he's not wearing them on his sleeve.  "I am just so happy to be doing the work I'm doing and I don't care if it's in summer stock or on Broadway."

Aladdin opens at the Elgin Theatre on Thursday and runs through Christmas Eve. For tickets phone 416-872-5555 or go to http://www.ticketmaster.ca

Stratford, Shaw In The Black, But U.S. Sales Down

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(Dec. 9, 2006) Both of Ontario's major theatre festivals —
Stratford and Shaw — have finished their seasons with small surpluses after playing to virtually the same size audiences that they did the year before.  The Stratford Festival revealed yesterday that it would be concluding the season $19,736 in the black (down from $73,000 last year), with attendance dropping marginally from 540,000 in 2005 to 528,373 in 2006, a decline of approximately .02 per cent.  For the second year in a row, General Director Antoni Cimolino cited the decline in American audiences as the major revenue problem facing Stratford, although — once again — he also noted that the amount of money contributed by donors from south of the border had increased as well.  This erosion of American audiences has been an ongoing problem for Stratford since 9/11 and it will be interesting to see how the new management team headed by Cimolino, Des McAnuff, Marti Maraden and Don Shipley tackle it when they assume full control after next season.  Over at the Shaw Festival, attendance held largely steady this year after an impressive 6 per cent increase in 2005. While the festival is claiming another percentage advance (up from 68.6 per cent to 70 per cent), the actual number of paying patrons seems to have declined slightly from 295,642 in 2005 to 295,016 this year.

The Shaw Festival customarily doesn't reveal its bottom line until early in the new year, but publicist Odette Yazbeck verified earlier reports that they would be finishing with a surplus "not unlike" the $52,000 they posted for 2005.  Shaw's box office has benefited enormously from the introduction of a musical on its main stage over the past two years and this summer's offering, High Society, despite largely negative reviews, has been one of the best attended shows in the festival's history, obviously driving up the revenue figure.  While this year's figures seem close to identical for both organizations, it's worth recalling that their long-term histories are somewhat different.  This year marks the 13th consecutive surplus for Stratford, which is sitting comfortably in the black, whereas the 2003 and 2004 seasons at Shaw resulted in a $6.57 million deficit that the board later reduced to $4.4 million through the use of a "rainy day" fund.  As a result, while both organizations must view each new season with caution, obviously the theatre makers from Niagara-on-the-Lake will continue to be even more careful in the future than their cousins up in Perth County.

THEATRE TIDBITS

Line-up Unveiled For New Harbourfront Stage Series

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Michael Posner


(Dec. 6, 2006) Toronto -- Troupes from 10 countries will be part of an ambitious new series next year at Toronto's
Harbourfront Centre. Beginning Jan. 24 and running until June 10, the inaugural New World Stage International Performance features 17 productions, encompassing theatre, dance, music and cabaret companies from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, England, France, Norway, Poland and the United States. The series begins with a production by Mabou Mines of Ibsen's Doll House and ends with Luminato, a 10-day multigenre festival of about 90 events that includes Risk Everything (TR Warszawa), Back Home (Urban Theatre Projects) and Shen Wei Dance Arts. Other highlights: three new Harbourfront commissions; the return of world renowned Peter Brook, who will direct Sizwe Banzi est mort from France's Bouffes du Nord; Griots t' Garage: A Musical History of the African Diaspora with Dennis Rollins; and a double dance bill featuring Brazil's Cristina Moura and B.C.'s Sarah Chase.

Pinkett Smith Funds 'Tupac Shakur' School Theatre

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -


(Dec. 12, 2006) BALTIMORE (AP) —
Jada Pinkett Smith has donated $1 million to the Baltimore School for the Arts, asking that its new theatre be dedicated to classmate Tupac Shakur, who was shot and killed in 1996.  The 35-year-old actress graduated from the high school in 1989.  "It means a lot when you're a teacher and your most famous alumnus comes back to give a donation," said Donald Hicken, head of the school's theatre department since its founding in 1980 and Pinkett Smith's former theatre teacher. "It really says a lot to the community that the school matters in people's lives.''  The donation from the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, which is based in Baltimore, will be used for renovation and expansion. The school, which announced the donation Monday, said it will name its new theatre for Pinkett Smith.  Pinkett Smith is married to Will Smith, who stars in the new movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" with their 8-year-old son, Jaden.  The couple had previously given $112,500 to the school.  When a $30 million expansion program is finished in the fall of 2007, the school will increase its enrolment from 316 to 375 students.  Karen Banfield Evans, executive director of the Smith Family Foundation, and Pinkett Smith's aunt, said the actress was moved by the school's advances since she graduated.  Pinkett Smith wanted the theatre named for Shakur because of the friendship they developed at the school. The rapper died after a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.  The actress has appeared in movies such as "Ali," which starred her husband, and "Collateral," and she was the voice of the hippo Gloria in the 2005 animated film "Madagascar.''  "The Pursuit of Happyness," a Sony Pictures release, opens in theatres Friday.

 

::DANCE NEWS::

Dancing Dream Comes True

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Drea Edmead, As Told To Matthew Chung

You don't know
Andrea (Drea) Edmead's name — but she might be all over your TV. The 29-year-old from North York is a hip-hop dancer who has shaken her bon-bon next to Ricky Martin and shared an MTV Video Music Awards floor with Diddy and Jay-Z.  She lives in Brooklyn now but got her start in Ryerson's theatre dance program. Last week she was dancing beside Ludacris at the Billboard Music Awards and has been showcased in videos and award shows with Alicia Keys, Pharrell, Beyoncé and Gwen Stefani. She's also performed on Saturday Night Live and The Late Show with David Letterman.  She was a longshot to build a career like this out of Toronto — not quite the epicentre of the global hip-hop industry — but Edmead is more likely to credit destiny than luck. Here is her story:

(Dec. 10, 2006) I guess I can say it's my dad's fault. It all started with him. My family's from St. Kitts, and my dad is an avid music listener. I learned dancing from him.  My earliest memory was when I was about 2 years old and this song called Sugar Boom Boom, a calypso song, was my first favourite song. Whenever they put it on, I would go nuts. We were in our old apartment at Lawrence and Don Mills and when the song came on, I would dance around a glass coffee table, twirl and jump. I could barely talk but my body was telling me to get up and dance.  My first job in the entertainment industry was singing back-up for Bobby Curtola on his album Christmas Flashback. I was 14 years old and got paid around $200, which was like hitting the jackpot!  In school, every show, every function that happened I was involved in choreographing. It was my purpose for going to school. I planned to study fashion design. It never occurred to me that dancing could be a career until later on.  All those years that I was dancing, I was kind of watching and learning. But I wasn't technically trained. I went to York for the year, learning modern dance and ballet techniques, then I auditioned for Ryerson because that was a program I really, really wanted to get into. And because I didn't think I'd get in, I did a really good audition. I was doing things I didn't think I could do, like pirouettes — I was easily knocking off triples. They took me.  I kind of feel like that was the universe saying, "You're going the right way. We're going to help you along."

X marks the moment

My big break came on a sweltering afternoon in August 1999 when I got a call from my quasi-agent about a job at a casting house on Queen St. E. No details, just "Can you make it downtown for a casting this afternoon?"  I half-heartedly got up and began to get dressed. Another ghetto Toronto casting, I thought. Should I even bother going? I put on my dad's old powder-blue pyjama bottoms (they've got a drawstring, super comfortable) and a fuzzy white belly top. Throw on some sneaks and lip gloss, and jump in my ride. I arrived late to a room filled with girls. Not casual girls, decked-out-to-the-nines girls. Heels, mini skirts, halter tops, jewellery, full makeup, hair and nails. They were pageant ready!  I felt unprepared and a bit nervous. "Wow," I thought. "Should I have brought heels?" But on the surface I'm easy as Sunday morning with a side of eggs. My mantra, "Never let them see you sweat," echoes in my head.

I find the sign-in sheet and fill out my name and information.

Height: 5'4"
Weight: 120 lbs
Age range: 18-25
Special skills: A positive outlook (count for anything?)

As I scanned the sheet, I noticed the video is for the Canadian hip-hop artist Choclair. I liked Choclair. Cool. Maybe things would be better than I'd been expecting.  I spotted a friend and took a seat next to her at this long wooden table in the centre of the room. It was like Donald Trump's boardroom table, and each of us was hoping to hear: "You're hired!" We sat facing one another, doing a bit of nervous shuffling and chitchat. Some pulled pocket mirrors out of their purses and applied last-minute touches of blush or mascara. I pulled out my book Personal Power Through Awareness and tuned everything out.  One by one, each girl got her turn to audition — we have to freestyle dance for a panel. A few more names called, a few less girls sitting at the table. Finally, there was just my friend and I.

"Drea?"
"Yes?"
"You'll be next."

I mentally prepared myself. ("Never let 'em see you sweat.") The Rocky soundtrack ran on "repeat" through my mind.  A few moments, then I was led into the audition room. It was small and carpeted (a nightmare for dancing), with a video camera set up, and a few people sitting down. I took my place in front of the camera and got ready to "slate" (slating is stating your name and agency to the camera, then showing both side-profiles).  "Drea?" I turned to look directly at the panel for the first time. It was Raj. I know him. He's a local entertainment manager I worked with at a venue the previous year. He's warm and friendly, makes the environment a little less intimidating. In the room with him were two other men I don't recognize.  The music starts. The song is laid back, chill and I was feeling it. It's called "Let's Ride." Hesitantly I began to move, then my body began to warm up and everything fell into place. I dip, I kick, I jump, I turn, I shimmy, I shake and flow to the beat, enjoying every second!  The entire process lasted a minute or so. I thank the panel and exit the room. At the boardroom table, my friend was still waiting to audition. As she went in, one of the panel members walked out and headed my way. "Hey!" he said. "Don't you remember me? I'm
Little X, (1, see Decoded, above) I'm the director on this job. I met you last year on Glenn Lewis's video shoot."

"Oh! I didn't recognize you."
"We want to use you for this video. Are you available?"
I paused. ("Yes! A MILLION TIMES yes!")
"... I think so, let me just double-check my agenda."

On the day of the shoot, I arrived with butterflies beginning to flutter in my belly, as I imagined video chicks, oiled up and hosed down in gold thong bikinis, droppin' it like it's hot for the camera. Oddly enough, the video turned out to not feature any dancing at all.  Instead another girl and I "rode" a motorcycle (fastened to the back of a truck) through the financial district. Several blocks were shut down for us by the police; it's just us, and I feel like we own the streets. Round and round we went, picking up speed with the breeze blowing our hair and "Let's Ride" blasting out of the speakers.  After about an hour, X said, "That's it, we got it. You're wrapped!" I smiled to myself, thanked him and the crew, headed back to my trailer. I felt incredible. An amazing day. I felt relaxed and easy. And I barely broke a sweat!  Within a month of shooting "Let's Ride," I received a call from a New York casting director who's seen it. Then I heard from Hype Williams (2). and soon I'm working with him, too! I was getting regular calls to shoot in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Mexico, and the Caribbean, blessed with the opportunity to work with top urban choreographers like Fatima Robinson (3), Showtime and Laurie Ann Gibson from Making the Band III, all while still living in Canada.  That audition day was the beginning of a whole new chapter of my life, and I had no idea.  If I can make it there  That was exciting, when I paycheque for a shoot. I thought, "Wow, I can actually support myself." Up until that point, I'd get paid in Toronto sometimes — if I was lucky. Sometimes you'd have to wait forever, keep bugging people to get that $50. I remember my mother making calls for me.

Moving to New York is what busted me open. It's the kind of city where you do or you die. I found out about an audition and went the next day and booked a Mary J. Blige job while living in my great-aunt's basement in Queens.  It was a featured role as a waitress in the video for "Family Affair" — it's difficult to recognize me (in) ... a burnt orange Ronald McDonald wig ... that was day two in New York.  I heard about another open audition, went and booked Jay-Z for the MTV Video Music Awards, which was huge. But still, I had to hustle. People didn't know who I was and things were rough. To make ends meet, I worked as a promotional model, a nightclub dancer, and a coat-check girl. I did not sleep, I did not rest. I would work late at night as a go-go dancer at a club called Rhumba in the Bronx.  Oh my gosh, that was a ghetto club. When I told people I was working there, they'd look scared. It was the club that if you can stay away, you don't go. All patrons had their mouths checked for concealed weapons before they could enter the club — wowzers!

Dancing with the stars

I've had some bizarre experiences. I worked with R. Kelly (4) a few times. One time we were rehearsing for the BET awards and he showed up unexpectedly with his entourage and made us stop so we could pray. Dancers do pray before shows, it's just something we do. But this prayer went on and on. This was around the time he was in trouble on child pornography charges and I remember him saying, "Dear heavenly Father, I ask you to forgive us for our sins, known and unknown."  I remember rehearsing for the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards with Puffy (5), and the dancers being dogged a lot by him and the choreographer. At the time he was filming a TV show, so cameras would follow him wherever he went — including our rehearsals.  One time, he gave us a tough talking to about our attitudes, focus, and attaining perfection. While he was speaking, he seemed to be looking at me. I remember thinking, "Am I being paranoid?" Then he went to sit in the corner of the rehearsal space. He looked very serious. Someone from his camp came over and told me, "Puff wants to speak to you." I was nervous. I thought, "Oh no, that's it! He thinks I have a bad attitude or I'm not working hard enough. He's kicking me out!"  I walked over to him. My heart was pounding but I sat down calmly facing him. He took a breath, then said, "It's about your hair ... do you mind if we straighten it?"  I started laughing. Phew! He had looked so solemn.

The VMAs ended up being a great success. We got a standing ovation and Puffy was thrilled. He had all the dancers come back to his dressing room to thank us. He was jumping off the walls just in his boxers and socks, high with energy. He grabbed and kissed each dancer, couldn't stop saying thank you.  Last summer, I was shooting a video with Ricky Martin and he had jeans on but no underwear. He would do this move with his bum to me and his jeans kept falling down, revealing a quarter inch to an inch down the crack.  I was starting laughing inside at the thought of what my parents would think at that moment, if they could see me gyrating next to him. 

Issues for dancers 

I haven't had a whole lot of problems in this business. Another kind of dancing, I would have problems physically. But I have a booty. I have thicker thighs. I have a muscular body. For hip hop, that works well.  But a lot of people do have problems. There are girls who are amazing dancers but don't get jobs because someone might say, "Your belly's too soft." Or an artist might tell you to lose weight. L.A. is far worse than New York for that.  It's a tough industry. Dancers do unhealthy things just to maintain weight. Diet pills — which I don't use — are really common. It's imperative to have a firm understanding of your objectives and who you are. Sex, drugs and alcohol are common. Plastic surgery and eating disorders are common. So is sexual harassment.  I've been on jobs where men in an entourage get this mindset that the women there are at their beck and call.  Once I was in a trailer at a Puffy video. There was a back room with some guys in it, and one was like, "Come here."  I told him I was getting my makeup done. He said, "Come sit on my lap."  When I said no, he cursed at me and shut the door in my face. I remember feeling so small and embarrassed.  That happens, but not all the time. As I gained strength in myself, things that used to happen when I was afraid to speak up don't any more. But some of the girls are 17 years old and they think, "I don't have a voice, I don't know how to speak up." Or sometimes they're very calculating — "This guy has money. Maybe I'll do something else if I need to." I've encountered that.  I can't tell you how many people have said to me, "I can make you a star."

::OTHER NEWS::

Mayor Miller asks Torontonians “How Do You Get Your Move On?”

Source:  City of Toronto

(Nov. 30, 2006) The “
How Do You Get Your Move On?” media campaign is being launched this week with print advertising and a series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to air on Rogers OMNI Television in four languages, Farsi, Mandarin, Spanish and Tamil, in addition to English.  The PSA features a cycling Mayor David Miller, Honorary Chair of Toronto’s Get Your Move On (GYMO) initiative, encouraging everyone to join him in being physically active. “I’m pleased to be able to join leaders from health, recreation, and corporate sectors as well as others to take action on an important issue for the health and vitality of our city,” the Mayor said.  The media campaign promotes the GYMO website and phone line where people can get information about thousands of physical activity opportunities in Toronto, as well as multilingual physical activity resources. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd., owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors and a lead member of Get Your Move On, is showing the PSA on Air Canada Centre’s Jumbotron and airing it on Leafs TV and Raptors NBA TV.

The PSA will also be streamed on the YMCA of Greater Toronto website, another key GYMO partner. “Get Your Move On is connecting Toronto to opportunities for healthy, active living,” said Scott Haldane, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Toronto and co-chair of the initiative. “Children, youth, and adults of all ages and backgrounds need to move more.”  In 2004, leaders in the public, voluntary and private sectors started Get Your Move On to address epidemic levels of physical inactivity by making it easy for people to be active, any time, any place. “Get Your Move On is about reducing barriers so everyone can become healthier,” said Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health. “Reaching people in many languages is fundamental to the campaign.”  “We applaud GYMO for creating an inclusive campaign that recognizes the importance of extending its message to local ethnocultural communities in their language of comfort,” said Madeline Ziniak, vice president and station manager of Rogers OMNI Television.

Funding for the GYMO PSAs was provided by OMNI Television’s Public Service Announcement Production Fund, which supports local community groups and helps ensure the accessibility of important public information to third language communities.
Alison Duke of Goldelox Productions and Susan Nation of Tween Entertainment were responsible for creation and production of the PSAs, working in association with the GYMO Public Awareness Action Group.

For more information and to view the PSAs, visit the Get Your Move On website http://www.toronto.ca/getyourmoveon or call Toronto Health Connection at 416-338-7600.

Rihanna Becomes A CoverGirl

Source: CoverGirl via PRNewswire

(December 6, 2006) HUNT VALLEY, Md.  --
Rihanna, the internationally-acclaimed songstress who has won millions of fans with her smash hit "S.O.S." and charming persona, is joining the CoverGirl family.  The 18-year-old star joins the ranks of CoverGirls including Queen Latifah, Molly Sims, Christie Brinkley and Keri Russell. Rihanna will shoot her first CoverGirl ads this December for a nationwide launch in summer 2007. Rihanna's debut album "Music of the Sun," which she co-wrote with renowned music producer Evan Rogers and his partner Carl Sturken, was released in August 2005. Her world renowned second album, "A Girl Like Me," featuring "S.O.S." and her follow-up single "Unfaithful" has established her among today's top artists. Through it all, Rihanna has managed to stay grounded and strives for her music to be a personal conversation with girls her age -- reflecting their triumphs, complexities and struggles. Rihanna is now working on her third album which is set for release in 2007. "Rihanna's natural beauty and musical talents make her a perfect fit for CoverGirl. She is the latest in a long line of CoverGirls such as Queen Latifah, Faith Hill and Brandy to reinforce the brand's heritage in music," said Gina Drosos, Vice President and General Manager of Global Cosmetics, Procter & Gamble Beauty. "Rihanna is a talented, confident young woman who exemplifies the CoverGirl ideals with her inner confidence and fresh beauty. We're proud to welcome her to the CoverGirl family." "I've loved makeup and dreamed of being a CoverGirl since I was a little girl," said Rihanna. "Growing up, my mother was a makeup artist and I was fascinated watching her apply lip color, blush and mascara. Now I get to be surrounded by all of my favourites from CoverGirl!"

Since its introduction in 1961, CoverGirl has helped launch numerous modeling careers and was one of the first brands to link models' names and faces with a product. The long list of famous CoverGirl models includes Christie Brinkley, Cheryl Tiegs, Rachel Hunter, Tyra Banks, Niki Taylor and Molly Sims, and the brand is known for consistently signing models who embody both inner and outer beauty, such as current spokes model Queen Latifah. Visit http://www.covergirl.com for more information on CoverGirl's family of models and makeup or to chat LIVE with a beauty consultant that can answer questions on an array of beauty topics and provide make-up suggestions. P&G Beauty products help make beauty dreams real and grooming enjoyable everyday for millions of women and men worldwide. With more than 100 brands available in nearly 130 countries, P&G Beauty delivered sales of more than $21 billion in fiscal year 2005/06, making it a leading global beauty company. P&G offers trusted brands with leading technology to meet the full complement of beauty and grooming needs: Pantene(R), Olay(R), Head and Shoulders(R), Max Factor(R), Cover Girl(R), Always(R), Sassoon Professional(R), Wellaflex(R), Rejoice(R), Sebastian Professional(R), Herbal Essences(R), Koleston(R), Clairol Professional(R), Nice 'n Easy(R), Venus(R), Gillette(R), SK-II(R), Wella Professional(R), and the luxury and or prestige fragrance licenses for Dolce & Gabbana(R), Valentino(R), mHugo(R), and Gucci(R). Please visit http://www.pgbeauty.com for the latest news and in-depth information about P&G Beauty and its brands.

Crosby Lives To Write About It, Again

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill

(Dec. 10, 2006) Most survivors of catastrophe get to tell their tale and move on.  For catastrophe-prone American folk-rock singer, composer
David Crosby, the tale apparently never ends.  His first memoir, Long Time Gone (1988), chronicled his hedonistic and truly eccentric existence at the epicentre of the California music boom in the 1960s up to his conviction on guns and drugs possession charges and his 12-month term in a Texas jail, where he recovered from substance abuse and found the spiritual wherewithal to pick up the shattered fragments of his career.  After reading that harrowing tale — a graphic and brutally candid account of the rise and fall of one of that generation's most charismatic icons, the book became the model for countless tell-all rock `n' roll biographies that followed — you'd think there'd be little the man who coined the phrase "If you can remember the '60s, you weren't there" would have, or want, to share.  Wrong. Life goes on. Stuff happens. And, as Crosby has learned, an inordinate amount of it happens to him.  In an earlier time it would surely have been fodder for the kind of intensely personal songs for which he became known during his years with The Byrds, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  But record contracts aren't easy to come by when you're 65 and suffering from hepatitis C, a poor heart and diabetes, even though Crosby still tours and writes "all the time, mostly love songs about my wife."  Besides, the independent music market is overpopulated with younger songwriters spilling more palatable guts. It's easier and more efficacious to surprise us all with a second autobiography, How I Survived Everything and Lived to Tell About It.

"So much crazy stuff has happened since the last book," Crosby said in a phone interview from his Los Angeles home earlier this week.  "Just in 1993 and '94 a series of events almost blew me away. I found out I owed a massive amount in back taxes to the IRS, money that had been stolen by my accountant. I lost half my house in the big earthquake that year. After being told for years that she could never conceive, (future wife and long-time companion) Jan found out she was pregnant. And my doctors told me my liver was failing rapidly and I was dying."  In the new book he also recounts meeting his grown son James Raymond — also a gifted musician and partner in a new band fronted by Crosby, CPR — for the first time, and the personal circumstances under which he became in the late 1990s the father of Julie Cypher and singer Melissa Etheridge's two children. The lesbian couple have since split.  "I'm disappointed they weren't able to keep it together, but they're wonderful mothers, and the kids know who I am and where to find us," Crosby said.  "The best thing that came out of that whole experience was a feeling of immense love for my wife. Julie and Melissa were over for dinner, not long after Django (the Crosbys' son, and the most recent of the singer's six offspring) was born, and they saw how happy we were. They couldn't see any easy way to have a child of their own.  "And that's when Jan volunteered me."  Asked whether he could be as generous with his wife's genetic material, Crosby was quick to respond: "No. I couldn't do that."  Never doubting the world was dying to hear more of his adventures — the liver transplant operation, and the nasty controversy surrounding the sudden emergence of a donor organ at the last minute, account for a 20-page rant — Crosby's only concern was how the second instalment of his autobiography should be written.

It fell to veteran TV and movie screenwriter Carl Gottlieb (Jaws, The Jerk, The Bob Newhart Show), who co-authored Long Time Gone, to devise a template that reads like a script for a documentary, with Crosby's narrative offset by fade-ins to second and third opinions, and alternative recollections of friends, family and witnesses to key events in the book.  "Shifting between different points of view gives the reader a real sense of the truth," he said, as if the minutiae of his existence are of elemental significance, rather than late-night eyebrow-raisers.  There are some surprises. For a child of the 1960s and a member of two of the most outspoken bands of the era, Crosby turns out to be politically quite conservative. One section of the new book focuses on his grievances with government policies relating to Native Americans.  "It's not about Native American rights," Crosby said. "It's about casinos, which make bad neighbours, and reservation residents not being subject to income tax and the same building and zoning codes as the rest of us. In America we're all supposed to be equal."  Crosby would also like to see welfare — or the American version of it — dismantled. "I don't think paying able-bodied people not to work is the way to go. I'd like to see the (U.S. military) Construction Corps revived."  Though he believes the Bush administration has caused America "great harm," he has no faith in Democrats and votes "for individuals, not for parties."  Published just in time for Christmas — as is Voyage, the handsome and expensive three-CD box-set retrospective of Crosby's musical oeuvre, as well as the two-disc, DVD-enhanced re-release of his 1971 solo classic If Only I Could Remember My Name — the new book certainly puts Crosby back in the front trenches of gossip mongers.  Or not.  "It'll pass soon enough," Crosby chuckled. "Next week they'll go back to Britney Spears and her underwear."

::SPORTS NEWS::

Iverson Likely Down To His Final Hours In Philly

Source: Associated Press

(Dec. 12, 2006) Philadelphia — The
Allen Iverson era in Philadelphia is over. Now, all that's left to determine is when and where the former MVP resumes his career. Nearly all traces of the inactive Iverson were gone from the Wachovia Center on Monday night. His nameplate was removed, his locker was cleaned out, and the pregame line-up video featured none of his dazzling highlights. All that's left to officially sever his relationship with the Sixers is a trade, and that might come Tuesday. Sixers chairman Ed Snider watched the game from a suite instead of his normal courtside seat, chatting possible deals with team president Billy King. With the Sixers on an eight-game losing streak after Monday night's 81-79 loss to Portland, and tied with Charlotte for the worst record in the Eastern Conference, whatever they get in return likely won't be enough to jolt them back into the playoff race this season.

"I just know you're not going to get equal value for a little monster that good," Chris Webber said. Iverson, still officially with the Sixers, was inactive for the third straight game and probably won't be around when Philadelphia hosts Boston on Wednesday — unless he's playing for the Celtics. King said in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Monday that he would not comment until a deal was done. Webber, traded to Philly from Sacramento in a blockbuster deal in 2005, said he can understand what Iverson must be going through. "I've been in that position where I felt I helped make a franchise," Webber said. "He cares about people, he cares about Philly. I know he's hurting about having to leave." Iverson's not hurting enough to prevent him from requesting a trade last week. Snider said on Friday the All-Star guard had "probably" played his last game with Philadelphia. "We are so used to playing with Allen, I think that we have to adjust and make plays," Kyle Korver said. Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks was peppered all day with questions about Iverson, but said his only focus was on the players in the locker room and snapping the team's losing streak. "I'm not here to say how this happened, how that happened," Cheeks said. "We're just going forward with the people we have and we're trying to win games. I think our team has been pretty good through all of this."

Iverson's relationship with Cheeks had deteriorated this season, with Iverson leaving a recent practice reportedly after a blow-up with his coach. He skipped a team bowling function later that night, apologized and was fined by the organization. When the Sixers hired Cheeks in May 2005, Iverson joked he was so elated Cheeks got the job he wanted to kiss him on the mouth. The two formed a close relationship when Cheeks was an assistant coach with the Sixers. "If you got a problem with Mo Cheeks, there must be something wrong with you," Iverson said at the time. Cheeks said he would only look back fondly on Iverson's 10-plus seasons with the Sixers. "I have no hard feelings about Allen, none whatsoever," Cheeks said. "He's been a phenomenal player for 11 years. There have been not many people who can stay as consistent as he has his years in the NBA." While Cheeks said he had not talked to Iverson, third-year swingman Andre Iguodala — Philly's other A.I. — said he had a brief conversation with his soon-to-be former teammate to see how he was holding up. Iguodala joked he asked to borrow one of Iverson's chains, but didn't talk about all the swirling trade rumours. "Any time a player who's had a great and successful career in this city, whenever it ends, it's kind of bitter," Iguodala said. Korver said the Sixers are prepared for a season without Iverson. "We want it to be over. We just want to move on," he said. "Obviously now Allen is probably going to be traded, or is going to be traded, so we just want to move on and not have to have long interviews after shoot around." Also, the Sixers said Chris Webber would be fined for missing shoot around. Webber's return flight from an unannounced destination was delayed.

Hale Big On Court Relations

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Morgan Campbell, Sports Reporter

(Dec. 12, 2006) As the new director of the Rogers Cup,
Karl Hale says running a successful pro tennis tournament depends on three things: Player relations, media relations and tour relations.  The next nine months will test Hale's skills in all three areas.  Tennis Canada named him Rogers Cup tournament director yesterday, replacing Grant Connell, who resigned to concentrate on his real estate business and to help his wife raise the twins she's expecting.  Hale's toughest task will be to restore prestige to the Women's Rogers Cup, which returns to the Rexall Centre in August. Each of the last two years, several of the top players in women's tennis have backed out of commitments to play there.  Hale is confidant he can persuade top players to honour their promises to play in Toronto.  "That's where tour relations comes in," he said. "It's meeting with player agents and letting them know our event is a top tier one event."

Last summer's tournament in Montreal took place without Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams, who all pulled out after first promising to play.  Hale says new WTA rules will help the Rogers Cup retain top talent in his first year as director. First, the WTA has doubled the fines for players who withdraw without notice. Also, the tour can force at least two of the top 10 players to appear at any tournament.  Hale says those rules, coupled with his deep roots in the local tennis community, will combine to make next year's Rogers Cup successful.  "My strength is (the ability) to rally the Toronto area together to support (the Rogers Cup) in a stronger, more vibrant way," said Hale, who organizes a celebrity tournament at the Donalda Club, the North York country club where he works.  Hale, 39, was born in Fallmouth, Jamaica, but moved to North York as a 6-year-old.  He forged many of the relationships with players and agents on the women's tour when he moved to Japan in 1991. He stayed there six years, serving as Monica Seles' hitting partner and working with several Japanese pros.

Colaiacovo A Leaf Again

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Paul Hunter, Sports Reporter

(Dec. 12, 2006) At one point during the Maple Leafs' game day skate this morning, coach Paul Maurice skated over to defenceman
Carlo Colaiacovo with a simple but uplifting message.  "You're a hockey player again," said Maurice.  It’s been a long time coming.  Colaiacovo has not played an NHL game since January when he suffered a serious concussion in a collision with Vaclav Varada, then a hard-rock forward with the Ottawa Senators.  In a career already stalled by numerous injuries, the 23-year-old's comeback attempts were further delayed by chronic headaches when he exercised too strenuously - though the team said he was not suffering post-concussion syndrome. Then he broke a finger after blocking a shot during a conditioning stint with the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs' farm team.  But Colaiacovo will be back in the line-up as the Leafs try to end an eight-game losing streak against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning. Maurice will sit fellow rookie Brendan Bell to make room.  "It's a great feeling right now. I'm just full of excitement," the Toronto native said this morning. "I'm more anxious than nervous. It's been too long. I'm just going to go out there and keep it simple. I can't wait."

It was not immediately clear who Colaiacovo would be paired with though Bell had been skating with veteran Pavel Kubina.  Maurice said instead of trying to suppress his excitement, he wanted Colaiacovo to run with it, comparing his situation to other players playing their first NHL game.  "He should feel nervous going into his first game," he said. "That sick feeling you get before you go out, you've worked really hard to get that feeling. You've worked 20 years to get this chance. You should take in national anthem, the cheering, everything," he said.  "I don’t think trying to fight that or keep it under control works. He should enjoy it. He's worked hard to get back."  A first round pick, 17th overall in 2001, Colaiacovo has only played 25 games with the Leafs but in those contests he showed why he was drafted that high. A gifted skater and puck mover, Colaiacovo is also a forceful physical presence in his own end. Toronto fans have been repeatedly teased by that unfulfilled potential.  "Tonight, I'm just going to try and pick up where I left off and hopefully we come out with a win tonight," he said.  "This is a team game. Obviously, I'll bring as much as I can to help the team to win but, in the end, it's a team effort. As a team I think we're going to bounce back tonight."

SPORTS TIDBITS

Jays Finalize Deal With Stairs, Sign Smith

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(Dec. 12, 2006) The Toronto Blue Jays finalized a minor-league contract with veteran Canadian outfielder
Matt Stairs and signed infielder Jason Smith to a major-league deal Tuesday.  They also named Bill Masse manager of their double-A affiliate, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Eastern League.  Stairs will earn $850,000 (U.S.) if added to the major league roster, of which $400,000 would be a signing bonus and $450,000 salary. A deal in principle was reached last week at the winter meetings.  The Fredericton native batted .247 with 13 home runs and 51 RBIs with Texas, Kansas City and Detroit last season. The 38-year-old has played for nine major league organizations and ranks third among Canadian-born players in games (1,416) and second in home runs (220).  Smith, selected in the Rule 5 draft from the Chicago Cubs roster, agreed to a $500,000, one-year contract. Smith hit .263 with five home runs and 13 RBIs in 49 games for Colorado last season. He has played in 166 games in the majors for the Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Colorado.  He’s expected to compete for the 25th spot on the Blue Jays roster.  Masse joins the Blue Jays after seven years in the Yankees system, spending 2006 as manager of the double-A Trenton Thunder. He began his minor league coaching career with Montreal, spending four seasons in the Expos system.

::FITNESS::

Slim Your Butt & Hips

By Joyce Vedral, eDiets Guest Columnist

You've heard it before: "wide load," "child-bearing hips," "big Butt!" Well, you can hone down that out-of-control rump if you're willing to work out just a little bit every other day. But it gets better! While you're at it, you can tone your flag-waving triceps and hamstrings (back of your legs).  How can you do this? You do special exercises that attack two body parts at a time. It saves time and prevents boredom. I find that working the hip-butt area can be boring.  One of my favourite ways to work fat off the hips and butt is to do two-for-one hip-butt exercises.  For example, why not get your hamstrings toned while zapping your hips and butt? And why not tighten those flag-waving arms (the triceps) while melting down your hips and butt? This makes me more motivated to work out, especially on days when I really don't feel like disturbing my lazy tranquility. And yes, like everybody else, I have those days.  The following two "double whammy" exercises will go a long way toward getting rid of your reindeer rump -- and at least it gives you a good start by Christmas. As I said, you will also make headway on your hamstrings and arms. So let's get started!

Butt & Hamstring Toning Hack Squat.

Position: Stand with your feet a natural-width apart, holding a broomstick or barbell behind your back (see start photo).

Movement: Bend at the knees to a comfortable position, not more than your knees can go and not more than thighs parallel to the floor. Flexing your butt, hips and back thighs, rise to start position and repeat the movement until you have done 12 repetitions. Without resting move to the next exercise.

Butt/Hip & Triceps Toning Floor Lift

Position
: Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you, and your arms at your sides, elbows bent. (See start photo.)

Movement: Flexing your triceps and hip muscles as you go, lift yourself off the floor by straightening your arms not quite fully. Flex your triceps and hip/butt area an extra time, and return to start position. Repeat until you have done 12 repetitions.

Repeat the sequence two more times. This little routine will take no more than five minutes and goes a long way toward getting your reindeer rump, along with your hamstrings and arms in shape! To get there faster, it's a good idea to add more exercises for this area and for the rest of your body!

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note - 12 Days of Christmas!

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - by Willie Jolley, www.williejolley.com

The First Day of Christmas – “Share The Gift of Self Confidence!” The old parable states, “You have to find happiness in yourself before you can give it to someone else!” Before you can effectively give to others you should take time and give to yourself, give the gift of self-confidence. This Christmas forgive yourself of past mistakes and past failures, learn from them. Learn to speak good to yourself and then spread the confidence to others!!