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NEWSLETTER

Updated:  February 1, 2007

 

End of January already?!  And it's the start of Black History Month.  Events to watch for!  Added to the event line-up this week is the events going down at Harbourfront Centre - it's time for Kuumba.  In celebration of Valentine's Day, there's Kama Sutra The Book Of Love featuring some of Toronto’s brightest performers in their truest art forms. Then there's the artistic and athletic dance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on February 16-17.  Be sure to mark your calendars for the inspiring sounds of Soweto Gospel Choir on February 27-28.  Check out the details below!

Check out the new pics for 2007 in my PHOTO GALLERY featuring the private showcase of
Denosh, one of Toronto's own who, while currently singing backgrounds for Justin Timberlake, is also launching her own CD.  Plenty of Mr. Timberlake's band members and crew attended along with lots of Canadian industry folk.  Kayte Burgess opened for Denosh on this special and original night of good music. 

Sports fans - it's
SuperBowl time!  See some Canadian content woven into the SuperBowl this year below. 

 

 

 

::hot events::

Celebrate KUUMBA at Harbourfront – February 9 – 11, 2007

Celebrate the artistry of the African Diaspora with 3 days of music, dance, film, food and more- highlights include the Canadian Premiere of the “Black Hair” documentary, a Concert & Party celebrating 45 years of Jamaican Independence, a Canadian Hip Hop Symposium with guests from Ego Trip and XXL’s Elliot Wilson, dance classes and The Choreographer’s Ball, Vieux Farka Touré in concert (Tix $15), celebrity food demos, kids crafts and more!

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2007 - SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 11
KUUMBA
Harbourfront Centre
235 Queens Quay West
Toronto, ON
For more information, call 416-973-4000 or visit www.harbourfrontcentre.com/kuumba
FREE! Unless otherwise indicated

Kama Sutra The Book Of Love – February 10, 2007

Source:  Jay Martin, Ajahmae Live

Ajahmae Live & SFS Entertainment presents
Kama Sutra The Book Of Love featuring some of Toronto’s brightest performers in their truest art forms. All backed by Canada’s number one DJ Starting From Scratch. The classiest show and after party of the year, just in time for Valentine’s Day.  Many prizes to be won.  Get your tickets now - last year sold out quickly!

Join
Mark Strong, Jemeni, Al St Louis, Dwayne Morgan, Chris Rouse, Lorraine Reid, Amoy, Dylan Murray and Jay Martin to assemble the chapters of love.

Click HERE for evite.


FEBRUARY 10, 2007
KAMA SUTRA THE BOOK OF LOVE
Arcadian Court, Simpson Tower, 8th floor
401 Bay St Toronto  (Corner of Bay & Queen)
Doors open 7:30 pm with appetizers; Show 8:00 pm SHARP
$40 advanced tickets only, VIP tickets $45 by calling 416-949-2766
www.comedyclash.com
www.citycamel.com
Info Line 416-949-2766

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Toronto - Feb. 16-17!

Source: Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts

TORONTO, Ontario – For more than 45 years, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has dazzled audiences from New York City to South Africa to China with unparalleled artistry.  After a long awaited return, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is back at The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts in celebration of Black History Month for three performances only from February 16 – 17, 2007.

Through captivating performances and unparalleled artistry, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been fulfilling Alvin Ailey’s vision that “dance is for everybody… dance came from the people and it should always be delivered back to the people.”  From jazz-inspired works and intimate portraits to explosive epics teeming with passion, “one cannot deny the genius behind Ailey’s…stirring eloquence,” says the Washington Post.

Led by Artistic Director Judith Jamison, this magnificent company celebrates an exhilarating performance, drawing inspiration from a variety of experiences - life’s joy, sorrows, passions, beauty and ultimate truths.  Their unmistakable style and unsurpassed talent, continue to leave audiences breathless.  Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform several works from its classic repertory–including Revelations, Ailey’s signature masterpiece that explores African American spirituals, encompassing songs of love, struggle, and deliverance.  The engagement will also include new dances by some of today’s most exciting, daring, and visionary choreographers.

There are moments when you watch the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and begin to believe that the figures on stage are not quite real. The human body can't really move like that… defies human limits." 

-  Chicago Sun-Times


FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16 AND SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17
ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER
The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. East
Toronto, Ontario
Friday: 8:00 pm
Saturday (two shows) 2:00 pm & 8:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $55 - $75
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 416-872-2262 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.ca
Or in person at The Hummingbird Centre Box Office, 1 Front Street East, Toronto  
GROUPS of 10 or more call:  416-393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805

 

Soweto Gospel Choir Makes Its Triumphant Return To Toronto – Feb. 27-28, 2007

Source: Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts

Toronto, Ontario – Soweto Gospel Choir is an awe-inspiring vocal ensemble, performing in eight different languages, in an inspirational program of tribal, traditional and popular African gospel.  Returning to The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts after a standing room only performance in 2005, Soweto Gospel Choir will perform two shows only in celebration of Black History Month, from February 27 – 28, 2007.

Soweto Gospel Choir has achieved major success in Europe and in South Africa.  Drawing on the best musical talents from the many churches and communities in and around Soweto, the concert will feature a dynamic four-piece band, traditional dancers and drummers.  Earthy rhythms, rich harmonies, acapella and charismatic performances combine to uplift the soul and express, through a vocal celebration, South Africa's great hopes for the future.  The most exciting vocal group to emerge from South Africa since Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Soweto Gospel Choir, will bring their magnetic energy, joyful spirits and beautiful harmonies to Canadian audiences.  They are much more than simply a musical phenomenon. 

Soweto Gospel Choir was created in 2002.  David Mulovhedzi and South African Executive Producer Beverly Bryer held auditions in Soweto to form an all-star “super-choir.”  They were able to create a powerful aggregation made up of the best singers from his own Holy Jerusalem Choir, as well as various Soweto churches and from the general public, including a finalist on the nationally-televised South African equivalent of “Star Search.”  Adorned in traditional and beautifully coloured South African garb, the choir has been known to win audiences with their exotic blend of South African spirituals, traditional Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho gospel songs which are interspersed with popular songs and folk anthems.

"Nothing can really prepare you for the riot of exuberance and depth of emotion."  - The Scotsman

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27 AND WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2007
SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR
The Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. East, Toronto, Ontario
8:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $35 - $75
Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 416-872-2262 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.ca
Or in person at The Hummingbird Centre Box Office, 1 Front Street East, Toronto  
GROUPS of 10 or more call:  416-393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805

 

::top stories::

Doug Richardson, 69: Jazzman

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Jazz Reporter

(January 26, 2007)
Doug Richardson was an accomplished tenor saxist known for his heartfelt solos and cheery outlook. The popular Toronto player died in hospital Wednesday night while awaiting a lung transplant. He was 69. A veteran who'd worked with stellar acts such as Freddie Hubbard and the O'Jays, Richardson was best known as co-leader of the award-winning hard bop group Kollage with boyhood pal drummer Archie Alleyne. "He was a great friend, always laughing and smiling and ready to help," said Alleyne, who praised Richardson's "distinct energy, compatibility and dedication" on the bandstand. The group last played together at Lula Lounge Dec. 5. "He may not have had the technique of more schooled musicians, but he played from the heart," said JAZZ FM 91 host Larry Green, who grew up with Richardson in the Kensington Market area.

Flautist Jane Bunnett recalled Richardson as a "positive force" who sprung into action in 1991 when a group of visiting Cuban musicians were rebuffed by local players when they attempted to join a late-night jam session at the Rex. "It was some kind of small mindedness, because they'd never heard of them and they were Cuban," she remembered. "Well, Dougie got wind of it and said `Screw that!' and pulled them up on stage with him. That's the kind of man he was." Funeral arrangements are being finalized by Turner & Porter's Yorke Chapel. Call 416-767-3153 for details.

Jane-Finch Coup At Sundance

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Movie Critic

(January 25, 2007) Park City, Utah–As this week's Best Picture nomination for the Sundance-birthed Little Miss Sunshine reminded everyone here, this is a festival that loves stories about marginal people who buck unlikely odds. You can now add the step dance adrenaline-pumper
How She Move to that legacy of little-movies-that-can. On the night of its public premiere here, the Canadian-made film was snapped up by Paramount Pictures, ensuring a wide release for a low-budget film set in Toronto's Jane-Finch corridor.  If this is good news, the director, 42-year-old Ian Iqbal Rashid, isn't exactly jumping up and down. "I'm pretty tired," he admits at an interview less than an hour after the screening. "We were up all night cutting this deal. Which is wonderful, but it was exhausting." Shot largely on location during a grey Toronto winter, How She Move was filmed in a fleeting 25 days on a budget drastically reduced from its original $10 million. The subject matter is also about exertion: not simply the rigour of the dance form, a choreographed mix of physical syncopation, chanting, hip hop and breakdancing, but the emotional fatigue that comes from struggling for identity and purpose in a disadvantaged urban community.

It tells the story of Raya Green (played movingly by Rutina Wesley), a young woman compelled to leave private school to return to the neighbourhood she grew up in (and now despises) when the drug-related death of her sister wipes out the family finances. How She Move is about her struggle to find her place via the medium of dance: joining a male step group called the Jane Street Junta, Raya must navigate an intimidating maze of obstacles, including race, family, economics, gender and the legacy of a dead sibling. Which is to say that while How She Move boogies skilfully as a teen dance movie ("I loved those late-'70s, early-'80s dance movies like Saturday Night Fever and Fame," says Rashid), it's also set in a recognizably realistic urban Toronto milieu.  Which was one of Rashid's explicit goals. Now living in London, England, born in Tanzania, he was raised in Toronto's Flemingdon Park highrise conflux. When he read Annemarie Morais' script, he was powerfully moved. "Being second generation (Canadian) myself and having grown up in inner-city Toronto, I really identified with Raya," says Rashid, who is of South Asian Muslim descent. "That more than anything struck a nerve." With a smile, he adds, "I'm also one of those stories of people who dropped out and finally amounted to something." A journalism school dropout who came to directing after writing poetry and scripts (a skill developed via a BBC internship), Rashid has strong ties to Sundance. His first feature, 2004's A Touch of Pink, premiered here. "My goal has always been to make movies that can play at both film festivals and multiplexes," he says, "and that's exactly the potential I saw in How She Move." He also wanted to capture the particular experience of living in inner city Toronto. "I used to get very frustrated watching movies made in Toronto that didn't reflect the city I knew or grew up in." Now he's accomplished that in a film likely to be seen around the world.

‘da Kink In My Hair Goes To Hollywood!

Source:  Plaitform Entertainment

(January 31, 2007) Canada’s “little play that could” ‘
da Kink in my Hair goes to Hollywood! On Tuesday, The Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP announced honourees and nominees for the 17th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California.  Actor Isaiah Washington (“Grey’s Anatomy”), actress Loretta Devine (“Dreamgirls”), Vanessa Williams (“Soul Food”), Terri J. Vaughn (“Daddy’s Little Girls”), and “TV One Access Hollywood” co-host Jamal Munnerlyn, were on hand to make the announcements. ‘da Kink in my hair, San Diego production,  was nominated for an unprecedented  five awards, including best, ensemble cast, playwright, direction, music direction, and sound.   

The 17th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards will be held on Monday, February 19, 2007 at 7 pm at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Theatre, located at 7920 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California.  This year’s event will be hosted by Emmy Award-nominated actress Chandra Wilson (“Grey’s Anatomy”).  Singer/Actor Usher Raymond will be honoured with a special Spirit award at this year’s ceremony.

This year’s selected theme, “Imitation of Life,” celebrates the evolution of the portrayal of African Americans in theatre, from unrealistic, stereotypical caricatures to a more balanced and honest reflection of the Black experience as a whole.  The NAACP Theatre Awards are given for excellence in theatre featuring African American themes and performers.

Upon hearing the news, playwright
trey anthony of ‘da Kink, stated “This play has always exceeded my wildest dreams!’ ‘da Kink has always been about portraying black women as well rounded human beings and ensuring that the work is accessible to all women regardless of economical status, race, or sexuality. This play just seems to connect with people and someone up above must be just watching out for us.”

 

::MUSIC NEWS::

Canadian Female Trio Shaye Release New Album "Lake Of Fire"

Source: Capitol/Virgin - EMI Music Canada

(January 26, 2007) Close friends and members of
Shaye, Kim Stockwood, Damhnait Doyle and Tara MacLean are known for their gorgeous vocal blend and outgoing personalities.  What some people may not realize is that these women face the same everyday challenges all women face - motherhood, balancing their personal lives and careers - all while striving to realize their dream. Now fans will have greater insight to their world as they share their lives on and off stage with the cameras rolling. Leading Canadian production company, Breakthrough Films & Television, has officially started production on its newest factual programming project, Shaye.   Set for a Canadian broadcast premiere on CH Television, followed by a run on Global Television and Country Music Television (CMT), the new documentary series follows this female musical trio on the road to stardom. Shaye chronicles the behind-the-scenes journey as the girls take another step towards fame and fortune when they release their new record, Lake of Fire on February 6, 2007. “Shaye is a welcome addition to our growing catalogue of factual programming and is certain to attract a strong and loyal audience as it reveals the real world struggles of attaining superstardom in the world of music,” said Ira Levy, Executive Producer.

"Shaye will afford our viewers a rare, inside look at the journey of an accomplished, Juno award-nominated Canadian musical group," said Christine Shipton, Vice President of Original Programming for CanWest MediaWorks. "We love this series because it features more than just music from a talented trio of women. It gets to the heart of what it takes to make it in the music industry both personally and professionally." Both the show and the new album offer old and new fans quite the revealing side to Shaye.  The three co-wrote most of Lake of Fire and just like them it runs the gamut of emotions and is always honest and real.  Their signature harmonies and sense of melody are better than ever, especially on the new single "You're Not Alone," which is quickly making its way onto major Hot AC and CHR Radio stations across the country, and on first single "Lake of Fire" which is continuing strong at AC Radio. On the new CD, Kim, Damhnait and Tara even tackle topics such as the environment, in the song "This is the Moment," a cause that they fully united on even with their different politics and cause affiliations.  Further demonstrating their concern for the future of the world we all live in, the girls and EMI Music Canada worked with the organization Zero Footprint to create packaging for Lake of Fire made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper and to 'zero footprint' the CD - paying to replace the resources used in production (energy, paper, water, etc.) - the money will be used to plant trees in any community of Shaye's choice that has an FSC-certified forest.

Considering the personalities of the three women in Shaye and the energy of the new album - it is safe to expect lots of fun, humour, strength, courage, tears and emotion on this new television program.  In the meantime, Shaye will be doing extensive promotion in February, along with a free show at Nathan Phillips Square (as part of Winter City Festival) on February 3 and a live performance on Canada AM on February 5.  You can also catch them performing on the ECMAs on February 18 (airing on CBC Television at 8:00 p.m. all time zones except/8:30 p.m. in Nfld.) and doing a concert at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga on March 30.

Mitchell Strikes A Chord

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(January 29, 2007)
Joni Mitchell's shining moment last night was not when she mounted the stage at Metro Toronto's John Bassett Theatre to be inducted by renowned American jazz composer Herbie Hancock into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Mitchell seemed uneasy with the outpouring of adoration and applause that followed James Taylor's sonorous rendition of Mitchell's "Woodstock" and a raucous funk version of "Help Me" by American R&B singer Chaka Khan. She cut short her acceptance speech, quipping, "I'd better take my award and get out of here."  She thanked companions in the audience, "friends going back to fourth grade, old friends, new friends, so many friends," and explained that her success as a composer and musician was inspired by "a need to explore ... it was just in my stars and there's nothing I can do about it." But last night's celebrations could have happily ended 30 minutes earlier, at the conclusion of a campfire-like sing-along of her signature piece, "Big Yellow Taxi," led by Andrew Craig, emcee and host of CBC Radio Two's In Performance.

Mitchell's face lit up like a child's when 2,000 or more voices broke into wholehearted song, roaring every word, with just minimal rhythm strummed by band guitarist Kevin Breit. Seated in the front row, the otherwise sedate inductee sang along too, at the top of her voice, her head thrown back, smiling and radiant. The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, now its fourth year, is prone to such emotional episodes. The songs it celebrates, written by Canadians going back 100 years and more, have the power to strike a resonant chord in the hearts of listeners, as several by Quebec songwriter Jean-Paul Ferland did last night as well. "Music has no religion, no politics, no solitude," Ferland said, after a riveting performance of his "Un peu plus haut, un peu plus loin" by Isabelle Boulay. "Music is just a noise, a wonderful noise, and I'm just grateful to be a part of it." Mitchell, Ferland and Nova Scotia-born country music star Wilf Carter, who died in 1996, were among four inductees in last night's ceremony. Broadway and film score creator Raymond Egan, whose big-band-era classic "How About You?" was given a rousing treatment by Canadian crooner Michael Bublé, was also inducted.

Among several memorable performances of songs that entered the Hall of Fame last night were Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman's dramatic version of Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," which closed the show, and David Clayton-Thomas's opener, a muscular revision of "Spinning Wheel," the million-selling hit he wrote for Blood Sweat & Tears. A go-for-broke vocal duet featuring Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy and Toronto singer-songwriter Oh Susannah reworking the 1960s pop hit "You Were On My Mind," by Sylvia Tyson, was another crowd-pleaser. Calgary songwriter Corb Lund almost stole the show in its early stages with a country string band boogie take on Carter's "There's A Love Knot In My Lariat," and Nova Scotia-born contemporary country music star George Canyon almost brought down the house with a heartfelt reading of Carter's "My Old Canadian Home." The ceremony and tribute concert airs today at 11 a.m. on CBC Radio One and at 8 p.m. on CBC Radio Two. A one-hour TV special will air March 5 on CBC.

Bublé Slams Grammys For Not Televising Award

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(January 30, 2007) Grammy nominee
Michael Bublé says he wants nothing to do with next week's awards ceremony in Los Angeles. The Vancouver-based crooner is angry that his category will not be presented during the live TV broadcast. "They give away our best traditional pop award at a dinner before the Grammys, so I just think that's bullshit. I think it's absolute crap," Bublé, 31, said in an interview Tuesday with The Canadian Press. "Our category is now selling way too many records to be given away at a dinner before, so I'm just not going to show up." Bublé, who's up against his idol Tony Bennett as well as Sarah McLachlan, Bette Midler and Smokey Robinson, says he doesn't expect to win anyway. "Why should I go to the Grammys?" he said. "Because I'll lose. ... They might as well have already scratched Tony Bennett's name into the damn thing. I'm not going." Most of the 100-plus Grammy Awards are presented during an afternoon ceremony before the Feb. 11 televised gala. Bublé is up for best traditional pop vocal album for Caught in the Act. Bennett is nominated in the category for Duets: An American Classic. Ironically, Bublé is on Bennett's album, singing "Just in Time." "I'm on that record that I'm going to lose to, and it'll be the second year in a row that I've lost," he said. "I'm not going to go."

Bublé also complained about the pre-show hoopla. He said he sometimes feels "like a dirtbag" when he walks an awards show red carpet and fans don't recognize him "just because I'm not in the tabloids." "You just get pukey with it," he said. "It's like, `Enough. No.' " Earlier this month Bublé attended the Golden Globes in Beverly Hills, Calif., with his girlfriend Emily Blunt, who won a supporting actress trophy at the event. He said he mostly stood on the sidelines during the red carpet arrivals talking to Canadian journalists he knows. "When she won the thing, I was outside having a cigarette," he said. So what will he do instead of attending the Grammys? "I'm going to stay home and watch the (Vancouver) Canucks," said Bublé, who lives in Vancouver with Blunt – although a check of the Canucks schedule indicates the team is not playing on Grammy night. Hanging out in private and away from the spotlight is more their style anyway, said Bublé, who has been with The Devil Wears Prada co-star for a year and a half. "We don't live that lifestyle," he said. "Never in the tabloids. Look – I hate Hollywood parties and I hate most other celebrities, to be really honest with you." Two years ago the singer admitted to vomiting in the garden of Leonardo DiCaprio's house after having drinks with the actor and some friends. But the incident is not an accurate reflection of his current lifestyle, Bublé insisted. "I (recently) got to meet Roberto Luongo (goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks) and his wife ... and they're going to come over for dinner at my grandma's and stuff and ... that to us is like the craziest that we get."

Bublé dominated last year's Juno Awards, winning four trophies including album of the year. He was in Toronto for the Canadian Songwriters' Hall of Fame tribute to Joni Mitchell on Sunday and to promote his new, yet-to-be named album, set for release in May. He also presented the MusiCan Teacher of the Year award at the Hard Rock Cafe on Monday and was to attend the Tuesday night opening of the gangster thriller Crossing, starring his sister, Crystal Bublé.

Multi-Nominee Corinne Bailey Rae To Perform On Grammy® Awards

Source:  Capitol/Virgin - EMI Music Canada

(Jan. 25, 2007) In a signature GRAMMY moment, nominees
Corinne Bailey Rae, John Legend and John Mayer and will take the stage together and perform on the 49th Annual GRAMMY® Awards telecast, it was announced today by The Recording Academy®.  The music industry's premier event will take place live on Sunday, Feb. 11, at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast in HDTV and 5.1 Surround Sound on the CBS Television Network and on the Global Television Network in Canada at 8 p.m. (ET/PT). The show also will be supported on radio via Westwood One worldwide and XM Satellite Radio, and covered online at GRAMMY.yahoo.com. Additional performers, presenters and special segments will be announced soon.  The combination of Rae, Legend and Mayer— a unique group of singer/songwriters whose lyrical ability and resonant musicality have established them at the forefront of today's musical landscape (as evidenced by their multiple nominations) — presents a special opportunity to spotlight how a younger generation of artists continues in the tradition of great GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriters of the past.

Corinne has three GRAMMY nominations for Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for "Put Your Records On," as well as Best New Artist.  Back home she has three BRIT nominations for British Female Solo Artist, British Breakthrough Act and British Single for "Put Your Records On."  Corinne will be performing on the BRIT Awards airing on CBC Television on Thursday, February 15 at 8:00 p.m.   Three seems to be Corinne's lucky number as she is also up for three NAACP awards for Outstanding New Artist, Outstanding Female Artist and Outstanding Album for Corinne Bailey Rae.  Having already endeared herself to Canadians, she has been nominated for International Vocalist of the Year for the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. Corinne has already recently won the Q Award for Best New Artist (beating out Lily Allen and Artic Monkeys), MOJO Magazine's Best New Act and two MOBO awards for Best Newcomer and Best Female Artist. Corinne Bailey Rae's album sales in North America soared after her incredible two-song performance on Oprah.  This week her self-titled debut album came in at #4 on the U.S. album charts and #9 on the Canadian album charts.  On the digital charts the album went to #1 in Canada and #2 in the U.S.

Find out for yourself why USA Today and Entertainment Weekly picked Corinne for their Best New Artist by checking out her first Toronto concert at the Mod Club last summer at: http://entertainment1.sympatico.msn.ca/Music/Concerts/.

Justin T. Flaunts The Chops And Props

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Pop Music Critic

(January 31, 2007) It's not the size of the stage, I know, but how you work it. But if we needed any more confirmation of just how massive
Justin Timberlake has become, the sprawling mass of futuristic technology following this cat around the continent should settle any quarrels over where the world's pop dollars are being spent these days. That's one serious rig you've got there, Justin. Indeed, if there was one complaint to level at the young entertainer's   it was that the set – an enormous, constantly mutating in-the-round set-up ringed by projection scrims and flanked by lights and lasers worthy of the Pentagon – actually got in the way of Timberlake's talents.  At times, it was downright distracting. With drumkits moving hither and thither, multicoloured video art surrounding the stage and a co-ed army of dancers flailing away around Timberlake – who was mere hours shy of his 26th birthday – and his large, funk-schooled backing ensemble, it was often quite easy to lose the star of the show amidst ... well ... the show.

The odd thing is, while most pop acts of Timberlake's ilk require these sorts of ridiculous production values to draw attention away from the fact they can neither sing nor dance, the `N Sync survivor can do both. He even made like Stevie Wonder, singing from behind the keyboard from time to time, and at one moment hoisted a guitar around his shoulders to strum along with a tune, all in a most earnest show of effort. Timberlake wants us to take him seriously. And we do, blast him. Last year's Timbaland-abetted FutureSex/LoveSounds disc was an even stronger outing than 2002's not-bad-at-all Justified, and if you think chart gems like "Rock Your Body," "Cry Me a River," "SexyBack" and the climactic "Losing My Way" are a jolt on pop radio, you haven't heard them in the company of 20,000 shrieking fans threatening to riot in collective ecstasy.

You've gotta appreciate the charismatic Timberlake's ability to hit all the marks – a burst of Jackson-esque footwork here, a tawdry slap on a dancer's rump there, a winking middle finger at the camera over here – to keep a crowd frothing for nearly two hours. Plus, he gave Timbaland a full 20-minute set in mid-show to unleash his twitchy beats on a rinkful of kids who likely don't care how far the producer is pushing pop towards avant-electronic music on hit records by Timberlake, Nelly Furtado and Missy Elliott. That's a bit of cred, right there.  The ballads go on and on and on and arrive with exhausting frequency, admittedly, but I'm not one of the girls Timberlake addresses in song, so what do I know? A true showman demands your respect even if you're not always down with the show, and Justin Timberlake is nothing if not a consummate showman.

Plays Like A Rock Star, Sure

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Pop Music Critic

(January 25, 2007) If you build the band, they will come. The job used to be earned, but the rapturous hometown reception accorded Toronto-bred
Lukas Rossi and his all-star sidemen from TV's Rock Star: Supernova "reality" series at Massey Hall last night proved that sometimes it's enough just to be billed as a rock star to get treated like one. And you know what? The guy is up for the job. For a singer known mere months ago only to devout fans of the late Toronto bar band Cleavage, Rossi pranced and preened in front of 3,000-odd concertgoers – and a band behind him composed of former Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke, Black Crowes bassist Johnny Colt (filling in for injured Metallica ringer Jason Newsted) and inimitable Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, the rock star's rock star – not only like he owned the place, but like he deserved to own the place. Nope, we won't be hearing any lectures on the agonies of fame from Lukas Rossi. He's taken to it like a duck to water, and long may he, his carefully sculpted spikes and his enviable racks of high-end men's wear run with it.  The gig called for a rock star, after all, and he clearly relishes the chance to play the part. Who wouldn't? That's the whole Cinderella myth at the heart of the show, isn't it? So when last night's set was briefly interrupted by the folks from Sony/BMG Canada presenting the Supernova crew with a platinum sales award (100,000 copies sold) for its self-titled debut album, one couldn't help but grudgingly applaud the TV series for giving someone such a generous taste of overnight stardom.

Still, the music with which the latest Rock Star wonderboy has been furnished for his debut album and tour isn't that much more dangerous than the stuff foisted upon your average American/Canadian Idol winner.  Whatever effort was put into giving the jolting crowd favourite "Be Yourself (and Five Other Cliches)" and the gooey power ballad "Headspin," their lingering hooks obviously weren't expended on the rest of the set, which congealed into one long, loud glam-metal blur not unlike the sort of stuff Motley Crue was churning out when the magic failed and the drugs took over. The only other tunes rattling around in one's head upon leaving the hall were Supernova's covers of Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" and a string section-augmented version of the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony." The strings stuck around for the original tune "Fuse," but I can't remember a note of it. I'm not a fan of the show, though – I don't even know who that guy was that Rossi pulled onstage for a duet late in the set, but he seemed popular with the crowd – and I'm of the mind that billing a band manufactured under the same circumstances as O-Town or Sugar Jones as an "authentic" rock act is a sort of sacrilege.  But I'm still happy to see a cat like Rossi soaking it up with such delight. Who knows? Someday he might come up with some music of his own to earn that "rock star" title.

Bollywood's Mystery Voice

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Staff Reporter

(January 27, 2007) The first sign something unusual was happening came three months ago when an Indian journalist asked for an interview. "It's huge," the reporter said. "People are blogging you like crazy." Internet users were debating Cairo-born Toronto singer
Maryem Tollar and a song she recorded in phonetic Hindi, a language she doesn't speak. Locally, Tollar is known to a loyal but limited audience for her evocative renditions of classical Egyptian songs. Internationally, she was being discussed for her lead vocals on "Mayya Mayya," a hot opening dance number to the Bollywood blockbuster Guru. The film celebrated its world premiere in Toronto this month, but in India the soundtrack has been out for weeks. "I checked," Tollar said at her midtown home a few days ago in her cheerful way. "I typed in `Maryem' and `Mayya,' and saw hundreds of blogs. "I would say the majority seems to love it, but there are a lot of people who say the accent bugs them." In the Bollywood film world, it is possible to be famous and anonymous at the same time, Tollar says. She would know. Her brush with the industry began two years ago when a friend introduced her to A.R. Rahman, one of the Indian film industry's top composers.

He was in town from Madras to help with the stage production of The Lord of the Rings and needed extra backup vocals for a film soundtrack he was also working on. Tollar took the job for a set fee and the film Rang De Basanti (Print it Yellow) duly appeared last year. She heard little more about it. "The next time (Rahman) came to Toronto, he got me to improvise some melodies for another song," Tollar says. "He didn't have lyrics but the shape of the song was coming together." By their third meeting, Rahman had lyrics. He had also recorded the music and backup vocals – everything except the main melodic line, which he wanted Tollar to sing over top of everything. A native Hindi singer wouldn't do, he said. The scene was to be set in Istanbul. Curvaceous Bollywood beauty Malika Sherawat was to be scantily dressed in what might pass as belly dance attire and he wanted a foreign flavour to the song – in Hindi but Middle Eastern sounding. Tollar speaks several languages but not Hindi. Rahman speaks Tamil. As a voice coach, he hired Devika Mathur, a local radio host who arrived three years ago from Mumbai and became a contender on Canadian Idol. "In terms of pronunciation, I was surprised by the number of different `r's they have," Tollar says, "and some of their consonants have aspirations at the end, a little `ah' sound. "For the `p' they have a shorter stop. It finishes differently. Really subtle things but people notice them because they can make a difference to the meaning.  "So they would get me to do things over and over again – `tah, tah, tah,' to the point where after a while I didn't know whether I heard a difference or not."

Mathur would teach Tollar a phrase. She would practise it. Then Rahman would record it and they would move on to the next. They finished the number in a single session, again paid at a flat rate. "I didn't memorize the song and I wouldn't be able to sing it to you now," Tollar says. But large numbers of Bollywood fans would be. "Mayya Mayya" is a huge hit. The video promoting the movie features the song, easily found on the Internet. Bloggers consistently name it and "Barso re" as the film's two best. "Rahman is like a demi-god in India and people memorize his songs even before the movie comes out," Tollar says. Knowing she had become a household name to Bollywood fans, the singer decided to attend the premiere. The romantic leads Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan were to be there, along with Rahman and director Mani Ratnam. When Tollar called and identified herself, she was told she could buy a $350 ticket for $250. Instead, she waited until Rahman arrived. He called at 4:30 p.m. on the night of the gala and said he could get her in. Just come to the hotel, he said.  Tollar's 5-year-old daughter Omneya wanted to come, too. At the hotel, they met the director and cinematographer, and rode with VIPs in a limousine to the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre.  "We got there," Tollar says. "There were crowds of people and everybody screaming and the red carpet and all the cameras and everything, and Omneya looked at me and said, `I feel like I'm going to throw up.'" The two headed for the washroom. Afterward, Tollar decided to take the girl home but when she went to say goodbye to the others, security guards wouldn't let her through. "All of a sudden I'm just – Who are you?," she says. "Finally we found an exit into a back alley." Tollar still hasn't seen the movie.

Maryem Tollar performs classical Egyptian and Mediterranean music next Friday, Feb. 2, at Lula Lounge with the Gryphon Trio. Other guests include New York-based Palestinian oud player Simon Shaheen. Doors open 6 p.m., music 8 p.m., $20 at the door, $59 with dinner, 1585 Dundas St. W., 416-588-0307.

Music Industry Changing Its Tune?

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 26, 2007) The old saying 'if you can't beat them join them' can now be applied to the music industry.  For the first time, since downloading began dipping into the profits of the record labels, the industry is tossing around the idea of releasing digital music on the internet with no copying restrictions.  At the annual global trade in Cannes, France, the top musical executives of several technology companies said last weekend, that at least one of the major record labels could possible make moves to start selling unrestricted music files sometime in 2007, reports the NY Times. This practice isn't new. Independent labels already sell tracks in the MP3 format which can be emailed, burned, and even copied to other computers, as well as mobile devices.  Independent labels utilize this practice in order to promote future sales. If the majors decided to go this route, however, it would mean they would be yielding to the power of the internet, which by the way, has revolutionized the way music is distributed and at the same time killed the distribution infrastructure that the major labels created. For a while, before 2006, the industry counted on companies such as Apple to carry the torch with online music stores such I-Tunes. This idea alone didn't cut it. Sales, last year, grew slower than in 2005, according to a report released in London last week.

Music execs have always expressed publicly their reasons for the limitation on duplicating music.  They feel that copying music dips into the pockets of the artists as well as those who helped create the music. Lately, behind closed doors, the labels are conjuring up ways to capitalize on the "unrestricted copy" idea. These copies could be sold as singles or through subscription sites like Napster, or possibly used to support advertising campaigns. EMI for example said last week, that it would begin offering free streaming music at Baidu.com, China's leading search engine and website, where 90% of music is already reproduced without permission. Both companies are in talks to try to develop advertisement-supported musical download services. Other companies, such as Yahoo, are also jumping on the bandwagon. In 2006, certain tracks released by artist like Jessica Simpson and Nora Jones were offered through the site without any restrictions. The vice-president and manager of that division, David Goldberg, said that two of the major labels - Sony BMG and EMI - agreed to at least test the process. Rob Glaser, chief executive of RealNetworks, the company that sponsors the Rhapsody musical subscription service, told the NY Times that copying without restrictions by major labels, "will  happen between next year and five years from now, but it is more likely to be in one or two years."

Rollins Is Recharging His Karma

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jazz Reporter

(January 25, 2007) After a rigorous stretch of concerts and related professional duties,
Sonny Rollins is ensconced at his rustic homestead for a four-month respite. The eminent 76-year-old tenor saxist is noted as much for his playing as his penchant for self-imposed hiatuses from performing throughout his six-decade career. In the past, abrupt departures – of up to three years – were triggered by drug addiction or disillusionment. Now, regular breaks are part of the routine. "I would call it a recharging," said Rollins by phone from rural Germantown, N.Y.  "I still need time to kind of get myself together. And we had a very hard, physical year. I did a lot of travelling and it really tired me out. In fact, I had to cancel some engagements last September, because I was just so worn out physically." Prior to the death of his wife Lucille in 2004, the couple would have spent much of this downtime at a Caribbean resort. "I'm still sort of readjusting my life," explained the widower. "There are a lot of things we did together which don't hold the same fascination for me now and going on vacations is one of them."

Rollins is off the road, but not out of the spotlight:
Sonny, Please, his first studio album in five years, is up for Best Jazz Instrumental Album at next month's Grammy Awards. The recording, which has been available on sonnyrollins.com and at his concerts since June, arrives in stores here Feb. 6. By releasing it on his own label, Rollins joined the ranks of noted jazz musicians such as Dave Holland and Branford Marsalis who are putting out their music themselves. "My contract with Milestone/Fantasy had expired (after 35 years) with The 9/11 Concert album, so I was at a crossroads whether to re-sign. They did make me some offers ... but I had been listening to a lot of my friends and they all were saying that the music industry is changing. "People were saying `Sonny, you don't really need a record company, because your name is already established. It's just a matter of distributing your product.' That made sense to me. And I realized that records have become less important, because there are other ways of accessing music." So, last year he used his "little savings" to launch Doxy Records (named for one of his celebrated compositions). Though he's commonly referred to as the "greatest living jazz improviser," Rollins maintains a humble, work-in-progress stance.  "I'm lucky because I have an opportunity of trying to perfect my craft. A lot of these guys had a shorter time to do it – Charlie Parker died at 35, (John) Coltrane died before he was 40 – but still they had a lot to say.

"I guess I'm lucky to be alive. I don't know. The way the world is sometimes you wonder whether being alive is always a good thing. "But it is in my case, because I'm still working out my karma, working on my music." The Harlem-born Rollins, continues to augment his sound with the languid "Banana Boat Song"-type Calypso melodies gleaned from his West Indian immigrant parents. The mix of standards and originals on Sonny, Please also showcase the dynamic freewheeling solos for which he is renowned, anchored by the steady rhythmic pulse of long-time collaborator bassist Bob Cranshaw and propelled by the driving African-flavoured percussion of Kimati Dinizulu, the newest addition to Rollins's working band. Another significant member of his musical entourage is nephew trombonist Clifton Anderson who has stepped into the late Lucille Rollins's producer role. "Of course, there's always a charge of nepotism, so when he first joined me I was very careful not to always say `Oh, this is my nephew.' But over the years, he's gained a lot of credibility as a musician, so I don't have to be reticent in saying that. In fact, I'm very proud of it – after all I got him his first trombone. "On the other end, sure, it's great to have somebody in your family have your back, as they say. Otherwise, I'd be just a lamb out here to the slaughter. Clifton is into computers, he's into all this stuff like the younger people are these days and he takes on more and more of those responsibilities." The interview winds down and Rollins is headed back to hibernation.  Until sprung in spring (just ahead of a May 5 gig at Massey Hall) he'll fill the hours with yoga, reading and "watching too much television."  "The problem with taking some time off, though, is that you have to play in order to keep your skills honed. And even though I practice every day you have to be in actual combat, so to speak, before your juices start flowing and you're able to get up to that performance level. "I'm going to try to do some recording, so that will sort of keep me in the game." Nor will he pass up any opportunity to add to his closet. "I spend a lot of time shopping for my stage wardrobe and my general wardrobe. It doesn't necessarily follow that wearing good clothes means that a black man will get respect – I found that out – but it doesn't hurt.  "I came from a generation where musicians were dressed well, not only on stage. They noted a certain sense of dignity and pride and so I'm in that bag."

To hear clips from Sonny, Please, go to http://media.thestar.com/audio/sonny.mp3 and http://media.thestar.com/audio/nishi.mp3

John Legend: It's On 'Again'

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

(January 31, 2007) *Grammy-award winning artist
John Legend is gradually becoming his namesake – a legend – in the world of soul music. His 2004 debut album, “Get Lifted” moved from tour to radio to disc players with a loyal, but modest following.  Soon, the industry took notice and the newcomer snagged three Grammy Awards in 2005, including Best New Artist, while the disc steadily garnered platinum status.   Two years after releasing that first project, the singer/songwriter introduces his sophomore album, “Once Again,” once again wowing audiences and bringing credibility back to R&B music. The follow-up disc is already doing just that with three Grammy nominations and three NAACP Image Award nominations. EUR caught up with Legend during his tour in support of the disc, which he reported was “going beautifully.” “We keep getting better every night and having more and more fun every night, too, he said. And now that he carries the label “Grammy-winning” the venues have become sold-out arenas thanks to the growth of his fan base. “I think it’s grown in a lot of ways,” Legend said about both the type and number of fans he’s gained over the past two years. “And I think the music on this album is a little more universal. Also, the Grammys helped me get a lot more recognition, so a lot more people know about me now, so my audience has grown.”

In regard to the universality of his latest project, Legend says that there are a few different themes the disc covers, though there’s a lot about relationships, as usual. “The music is very eclectic,” he described. “It’s got a lot of classic influences; classic soul and pop – also hip-hop, a little bit of jazz a little bit of all that.” As “Once Again” sounds off like a melting pot of genres, Legend says that in mixing in different sounds and styles, with the thought maintaining the integrity of soul, he wasn’t quite sure how the album was going to come out. “I didn’t know what this album was going to be like until I made it,” he said. “It was interesting to see it develop, because we couldn’t predict how it was going to go. It went to a good place, but we had no idea. Growing up, listening to more music, having three years more life experiences. All that changes your approach.” The change of his approach to music for this disc didn’t sway to far from the sound that won him fans the first time around, but it does have some fresh elements that weren’t there for the debut disc. Legend said that that could cause some fans to be a bit disheartened, but he’s assured that that would only last a little while. “Sometimes when you fall in love with somebody, you want them to stay the way they were when you fell in love with them, so people will always have a connection with the first album that they may never have with subsequent albums. But I’m certain that this is a better album.”  The rare-yet-familiar (to soul fans, anyway) sound of John Legend comes through again for “Once Again.” And if there’s any worry to his eclectic style finding its place in music, don’t. As he explained: “It’s the perfect way to have a space – if you’re unique. If you have your own space, you end up standing out.” “Once Again,” on Columbia Records, is in stores now. For more on John Legend and his upcoming US dates, check out his website at www.johnlegend.com. You can also listen to complete cuts from "Once Again" there, too.

Jill Scott Releases CD Of Top Collaborations

Source: The Chamber Group, Chris Chambers / Kate Lupson, chris@thechambergroup.com / kate@thechambergroup.com

(January 31, 2007) New York, NY -- On the heels of the announcement of celebrated vocalist
Jill Scott's 10th GRAMMY nomination for her collaboration with legends George Benson and Al Jarreau, "God Bless The Child," Hidden Beach/Universal Records releases an album of all Jill Scott's top collaborations, in stores now.  Acclaimed for her ability to smoothly weave pop, R&B, jazz, and even operatic styles, Jill Scott: Collaborations is a tour de force of cool.  Included on the album is the GRAMMY-nominated partnership with jazz greats Benson and Jarreau, as well as two other tracks honoured this year - her duet with famed jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, "Good Morning Heartache" (Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists) and the sensual "Daydreamin," off of Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (Best Rap Album), which the two recently performed on The Late Show with David Letterman.  The album features guest spots from these collaborators and hip-hop heavyweights Common, Mos Def, will.i.am, and Will Smith, as well as legendary performers such as Kirk Franklin, The Isley Brothers, and Sergio Mendes. The genre-hopping album is Jill Scott and her signature stylings at their best.

Next up Jill Scott heads to the studio for work on her third studio album, due out in Summer 2007. She recently made the scene at Sundance in support of her role in the Dakota Fanning movie "Hounddog," in which she plays Big Momma Thornton, the artist who originally sang the Elvis Presley hit. Acting has become a new joy for Scott, who will begin production on two Tyler Perry movies this year.  In 2005, Jill Scott won her first GRAMMY for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for "Cross My Mind," from her sophomore album, Beautifully Human: Words & Sounds Vol. 2, nominated for Best R&B Album that same year. It was the follow-up to 2001's critically acclaimed Who Is Jill Scott?: Words & Sounds Vol. 1, which earned Jill four GRAMMY nominations, including a Best New Artist nomination.  Just talking about Jilly from Philly puts us in the mood to check her out and watch her do her thang. Here she is with the legendary George Benson.

Tanya Stephens To Be Featured On Remix With Rock Band Pepper

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson


(January 25, 2007) *
Tanya Stephens is to be featured on a remix of rock group Pepper’s upcoming single Like Your Style.  The band which is originally from Hawaii is a favourite among the surf crowd.  Formed in 1999 and signed to Atlantic Records through Volcom Entertainment, Pepper is coming from the same management company, Silverback Management, which had signed Southern California band Sublime a while back. Sublime has sold more than 10 million records with their reggae influenced rock style. Pepper’s latest album, No Shame, was released in October last year. It has to date sold over 150,000 copies. It is the band’s fourth album and among those who worked on the set is Tony Kanal, bassist for ska/punk/rock group No Doubt.  Like Your Style is the follow up to the band’s latest single No Control. No Control recently peaked at number 19 on Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The members of the band are eagerly anticipating Stephens’ vocals, and firmly believe that their fan base (who might be unfamiliar with the singer) will subscribe to the song.  Greg Nadel A&R at Atlantic Records commented "Tanya is the perfect choice for this remix, the band has listened to her music for years, this will be a great look for both parties."

VP Records staff member Chris Schlarb who originally approached Tanya with the idea to record the collaboration, said "Pepper is a band on the rise and they have been recording for years. The group is heavily influenced by reggae, there is no doubt in my mind that Tanya will benefit greatly from this collaboration. The surf crowd is one of the largest untapped fan bases in reggae. The band members are huge fans of reggae, but rarely get to work with artists from Jamaica, let alone to work with an artist as popular as Tanya. Most artists in dancehall today are interested in working with hip hop, but it takes an artist like Tanya to break the trend and work with an alternative rock band, and this could be a catalyst for a sea change in the music and could set a new trend in crossover potential." A few years ago, another VP Records artiste, Lady Saw recorded the song Underneath it All with rock/punk/ska outfit No Doubt. The song topped Billboard’s Hot 100 Airplay chart and picked up a Grammy award. Bounty Killer also teamed with No Doubt on the single Hey Baby, a char topping single that also garnered a Grammy win.  Stephens is currently recording her portion of the song Like Your Style. Upon completion, the song should be ready to be serviced to US alternative and rock radio stations by early February. 

Coko And Crew Take Celebration Of Gospel Higher

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 26, 2007) Last year, Coko former lead singer of chart-topping 90s girl group Sisters with Voices made her gospel debut with "Grateful" on Artemis Gospel.  When an artist chooses to use their God-given talents beyond the religious locale, they are often targets of judgment.  She has experienced a bristly transition to "the other side," a place she says she never left.  "It hasn't been easy. I ain't gon' lie. Some people don't understand.  Some people don't want to understand.  But, at the end of the day, I know who I am -- who I'm doing this for and that's what it's really all about." The delicate intertwining of our musical roots leaves the line between R&B and Gospel nearly imperceptible in African American Culture, an understanding that became the basis for the premise of BET's Celebration of Gospel. The show has brought together the complementary forces of gospel and R&B as one of the network's most watched special programs for the last six years.  Kim Burrell said at an industry event recently that Celebration of Gospel should only feature gospel performers, emphasizing its gospel focus.  Burrell, who was the hostess of said event, voiced her uninvited opinion just after Coko performed a tribute to Yolanda Adams. She further stated that the musicians should be church musicians who can flow without sheet music.

For the seventh instalment of Celebration of Gospel, Coko and crew (Lil' Mo. Fantasia and Kiki Sheard) were endowed with the Holy Spirit in a performance that was the exclamation point to an evening of glorious entertainment.  When she decided to re-make her favourite Clark Sisters song ("Endow Me") on "Grateful" some sisters with voices who knew how to go to church on a song originally rendered by vocal powerhouses were required.  "The first person I thought of was Faith Evans, Lil' Mo -I love her-and Fantasia came along afterward."  (Faith is expecting and is on mandatory bed rest.)  Kiki Sheard was Evan's replacement.  Proof positive that "you can take the girl out of gospel, but you can't take gospel out of the girl" the performance was one of the most incredible of the night, elevating the atmosphere to a higher level of worship. In song, scripture and comedy Celebration of Gospel united some of Black entertainment's brightest luminaries-and the fact they that were not all from the gospel community definitely did not detract from its success.   Blair Underwood and others from the Bible Experience cast delivered inspiring "spoken word," Tonex ended the show with a riveting performance, Kelly Price performed a chilling rendition of "For Every Mountain" with a special dedication at the end.  Catch Celebration of Gospel on Sunday, January 28 at 8/7 central.

Rising To The Thrill And The Terror

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Classical Music Critic

(January 25, 2007) The first thing
Yannick Nézét-Séguin does upon entering his dressing room following a rehearsal at the Canadian Opera Company last week is dash into the washroom. "Just let me splash some water on my face," he says as he disappears. Seconds later, he's back and sits down, his dark, curly hair a sweaty tangle, water running down his cheeks onto a black dress shirt.  After four hours of rehearsing singers and orchestra, the 31-year-old Montreal conductor is flushed, bubbling with energy. He is in town conducting the COC's Faust, the most famous opera from late-19th century French composer Charles Gounod, which opens on Feb. 1. This is Nézét-Séguin's debut with the COC. Exciting as this is, the musician has even more reason to be pumped. Last November, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra announced that Nézét-Séguin would replace Russian superstar Valéry Gergiev as its music director in the fall of 2008.

"Gergiev is one of the Top 3 conductors in the world," says Nézét-Séguin of the globetrotting maestro based in St. Petersburg. "These are very large shoes to fill. It is exciting and it is terrifying." Succeeding Gergiev is much like trying to replace Steve Jobs at Apple. Gergiev is as formidable an ideas person as he is a conductor. Some people may think that the Rotterdam orchestra, known for its high standards, is taking a gamble with a young, relative unknown from Canada, but Nézét-Séguin feels he is ready for the challenge. Asked how one goes about getting such a prestigious job, Nézét-Séguin is modest. There were no auditions, he explains. Instead, the players were asked to evaluate every one of their guest conductors after Gergiev announced his resignation two years ago. "It's becoming more and more common for players to be involved in the selection process," says Nézét-Séguin. He believes the more collegial relationship that many orchestras are forming with their conductors "makes for better music." Nézét-Séguin knew he was being judged for more than one program when he first met the players in the fall of 2005. "I felt it at the first rehearsal," he recalls. "I felt like the players were holding back, like they were watching me. It felt a bit artificial."

Asked if this made his palms sweat, he laughs. "I decided that I had nothing to prove because I had everything to prove." The orchestra members invited him back right away for a repeat engagement in 2006.  "It was on this second visit that I actually felt electricity with the orchestra," says Nézét-Séguin. "It all fell into place very quickly after that. We had a finalized contract in two weeks." Better yet, he says the musicians' decision was unanimous – the highest praise. Out of dozens of promising young conducting grads who emerge from music schools in every country each year, how does one rise to the top? According to Nézét-Séguin, "it's all about honesty," of being true to the music and not playing power or mind games. Nor does one need a big stage persona. "I don't conduct for the audience," he says earnestly. "I conduct for the orchestra." "It's not about being a nice guy, either," the conductor adds. Delivering the music counts most for orchestra players, he says. "They are professionals. They want to play and do a good job." Hard work goes a long way. Take, for example, Gounod's Faust. Nézét-Séguin conducted this work for Vancouver Opera last year, but he still revisits the score during his free time before and after rehearsals in Toronto. "I know the score by heart. I know all the arias. But I'm always studying," he says. "I was up at 6 o'clock this morning looking at the score."

The Montrealer says that it has long been a dream of his to have a position in Europe. With the Rotterdam appointment, he has it, "except that it's with an orchestra with a much higher profile than I expected," he says. Nézét-Séguin will stay on as artistic director of the Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal, which hired him when he was only 25. His contract expires in 2010, and he wants to stay on beyond that. He says both the Rotterdam and Montreal symphonies have one thing in common: they are No. 2, and so they try harder. (In Holland, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw orchestra is tops, while in Quebec it's the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.) The Rotterdam Philharmonic is 75 per cent funded by the city, Nézét-Séguin explains, so he was personally welcomed to the post by the city's mayor. Despite the fact that Gergiev lived out of hotel rooms whenever he was in Holland, Nézét-Séguin says he felt he "needed to make a bigger commitment." This means an apartment in Rotterdam. He says his contractual time with the orchestra is about eight or nine weeks a year, which is not much.  But that doesn't include the time he needs to devote to the Rotterdam Philharmonic's other projects: an annual opera production in Amsterdam; ongoing recording engagements; a chamber-music series; and international touring. Nézét-Séguin will take the Rotterdam players on a multi-week tour of China, Japan and Korea in the summer of 2008, before he assumes his new post in August. Taking on a permanent gig in Rotterdam means even more planning, more travel, more responsibility. Nézét-Séguin has an active career as accompanist for singers (most notably Quebec soprano Suzie LeBlanc) and participant in chamber music presentations – both of which he wants to keep up. How does he do it all? "Actually this feels like nothing," he says. "When I was 18, I was at three schools, I was starting a choir here, playing there ..." he gets up from his chair and spreads his arms and legs. "I felt like I was going in all directions." Nézét-Séguin started playing piano at age 5 and graduated from the Conservatoire de musique du Québec in 1997. His further studies included work with Italian conductor Carlo Maria Giulini. Barely past age 20, he was named assistant conductor for Opéra de Montréal and he founded La Chapelle de Montréal, a chamber ensemble. The Montreal native may say he's slowed down, but his calendar bulges with big dates. He has opera and symphony concerts in Canada through early March, followed by appearances with major orchestras in Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain and at the Sydney Opera House in June. Yannick Nézét-Séguin is on the path to becoming the first Canadian to reach the top echelon of international conducting. It will have been built on honest, hard work – and bracing splashes of water.

To hear a clip of Yannick Nézét-Séguin conducting the Orchestre Symphonique du Grand Montreal on its upcoming CD of Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7, go to
http://media.thestar.com/audio/Bruckner.mp3

Wu-Tang Clan Eyeing Summer For Comeback Album

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(January 24, 2007)  After years of false starts and delays, the
Wu-Tang Clan will release a new studio album, "8 Diagram," this summer via SRC Records. According to principal member RZA, the album will include an unreleased performance from the late Ol' Dirty Bastard and a long-in-the-works tribute to the artist dubbed "Life Changes."  SRC founder Steve Rifkind has a long association with Wu-Tang dating back to its seminal 1993 debut, "Enter the 36 Chambers," released on his Loud Records label.  After years of inactivity, the group reunited to play the Rock the Bells festival in California in 2004 (released as the CD/DVD "Disciples of the 36 Chambers") and staged a North American tour last year. Wu-Tang Clan has not released a new album since 2001's "Iron Flag."  "People want something that gives them an adrenaline rush," RZA said in a statement. "We're here to supply that fix. How could hip-hop be dead if Wu-Tang is forever? We're here to revive the spirit and the economics and bring in a wave of energy that has lately dissipated." 

RZA has actually been pushing for a return to the studio for several years, but he conceded that coordinating the members' busy schedules and meeting their financial needs were formidable obstacles.  "I know everybody has a lifestyle they have to maintain," he told Billboard.com in February 2005. "Let's just say a Wu-Tang Clan album is worth a couple million dollars. Once 10 guys get on it, it's still worth a couple hundred grand. Some guys' lifestyles require them to make five or six hundred thousand dollars a year regardless. Maybe doing Wu-Tang will make you that much money, but doing it by yourself could you make you a million, because there aren't so many hands involved. But for the legacy, I think we should be willing to make that sacrifice and get it cracking."  To tide fans over, Nature Sounds will on Feb. 6 release the collection "Wu-Tang Clan & Friends -- Unreleased." The 20-track set rounds up rare material produced by the group's DJ, Allah Mathematics, including remixes of "Wu Banga" and "Da 'W'."

Secretly Canadian Artists Cover Each Other On CD

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(January 26, 2007) Bloomington, Ind.-based record label
Secretly Canadian will celebrate its first 11 years with the compilation "SC100," due April 10. The 18-track disc finds the label's artists covering one another's songs; a digital version will also be available with 18 additional tracks.  Secretly Canadian has released more than 150 albums but as label co-founded Chris Swanson tells Billboard.com, the retrospective was originally intended to coincide with the label's 100th release, well before it signed artists such as Antony and the Johnsons and I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness.  "We had a few artists we really wanted to be a part of it, but we had to have some constraints," Swanson says. "The bands didn't choose the songs -- we married the bands to one another.

We actually had each band cover two songs; that way they'd maybe choose the obvious one as well as the dark horse. We wanted it to be a double-disc, but we thought that'd be too intense, so the digital version will be twice as long."  Swanson is particularly partial to Marmoset's cover of Jens Lekman's "Sky Phenomenon" and the late Nikki Sudden's version of June Panic's "See(ing) Double," which opens the album. "He recorded that maybe a year-and-a-half ago. It is just killer. It's beautiful, but also very sad," Swanson says.  Details for the digital bonus tracks are still being finalized, but expect them to feature Danielson covering Dave Fischoff's "For the Ones Who Fall Asleep on Buses" and Ativin covering Marmoset's "The City."  Secretly Canadian and sister label Jagjaguwar have a busy 2007 in front of them with new and upcoming releases from David Vandervelde and Richard Swift (who will tour together in May), Okkervil River (summer) and the Besnard Lakes (who Swanson likens to "Low with Beach Boys harmonies"). A new Antony and the Johnsons record is due in early 2008.

Exclusive: J. Lo's First Spanish Album Due In April

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Leila Cobo, Miami

(January 26, 2007)
Jennifer Lopez catapulted her acting career with her starring role in "Selena," a biopic on the Latin Tejano star who sang in Spanish and was on the verge of an English-language crossover prior to her death. Ten years after "Selena," and following a multiplatinum recording career in English, Lopez is ready to sing en Español once again.  "Como Ama Una Mujer" ("How a Woman Loves"), Lopez's first Spanish-language album, will be released by Epic and worked in conjunction with Sony BMG Latin for the U.S. Latin marketplace and Latin America. The all-Spanish album, co-written and co-produced by Lopez's husband Marc Anthony in conjunction with Estefano and Julio Reyes, hits stores April 3 supported by groundbreaking media synergies.  At the heart of it all is a deal in the works with the Univision TV network to produce a five-part miniseries based on a treatment by Lopez, which in turn is based on the content of the album. The series will feature the album's music. Lopez will not act in the series, but she will perform a track at the end of each episode. 

However, "Como Ama Una Mujer" wasn't conceived as a clever way to utilize media platforms. The notion of recording in Spanish was behind Lopez's very first demo when she finished filming "Selena" in 1997. The concept materialized three years ago, when Anthony was wrapping up production of his album "Amar Sin Mentiras" with Estefano and Reyes. Lopez went into the studio to record one song with her husband and got hooked. "Emotionally speaking, to me this album is more me than any other album," she tells Billboard.  Lopez is also working on a more urban-leaning, full-fledged English-language album that she plans to release before year's end. "I've matured as a singer," she says. "Marc gave me confidence in the studio as well. When someone believes in you so much, you don't want to let them down. And it's also the material. I think this material lent itself to my voice. And it actually made me approach my new English album in a different way. I have a different standard now."

O Canada! We Pen Great Songs

Excerpt from The Toronto Star
- By Greg Quill

(January 28, 2007) We are a nation of songwriters. More than any other art form, the song has for generations been the thing Canadians make best.  It could even be argued that the simple song provides the common language that binds and illuminates the nation more richly and completely than any other of our cultural endeavours in literature, film, drama, symphonic music, opera and even the visual arts. Songs are everywhere in this country, in every nook and cranny. Pop songs, traditional songs, art songs, rock and country songs – everything from Ian and Sylvia to the Arcade Fire – have, since the great surge of cultural nationalism in the 1960s, been our most popular and passionate form of self-expression. So it's no surprise that the Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame annual event has, in four short years, become the focus of national pride. The brainchild of veteran music publisher Frank Davies, the gala induction ceremony in Toronto – this year's honouree, Joni Mitchell, will be feted tonight at the John Bassett Theatre with performances by James Taylor and Chaka Khan and a presentation by famed U.S. composer Herbie Hancock – now looms so large on the musical calendar that it threatens to overshadow the industry's more established horse race, the Junos.  The absence of a business agenda and political manoeuvrings elevate the Songwriters gala to the status of a generous and benign national celebration of song craft and the Canadian identity. There are no losers, only winners, and lots of great music to enjoy – much of it being repatriated for the first time and lacking a lasting place on commercial radio playlists.

Canadians know about hitmakers like Paul Anka and Neil Young. But there were countless Canadian songwriters from decades earlier – the creators of still-instantly-recognizable songs like "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" to "Ain't We Got Fun" to "What A Friend We Have in Jesus" – whose names have faded from memory. As long as there has been popular music, Canadians have been writing it and writing it well. Of course, for many contemporary songwriters, the benchmarks were set during the golden age of the 1960s and '70s, when Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, Young, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Bruce Cockburn and countless others reached the world music market with songs that were distinctly and unself-consciously Canadian. "A disproportionate number of Canadian songwriters have touched the world," says Toronto composer John Capek, an Australian expat whose songs have been recorded by the likes of Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Joe Cocker, Cher, Olivia Newton-John, Heart, and Manhattan Transfer. "Canada has produced hit songwriters going back 100 years. But before the folk era and the emergence of Canadian story songs, they had to go to the States to get work and recognition." Our songwriters owe a lot to Yorkville, Toronto's music crucible in the 1960s and '70s, says Vancouver-based roots/pop composer Joel Kroeker.

"What made Canadian songwriters different after that – for me, at least – was the quality of their stories. They looked into their own psyches to find universal feelings and ideas that others shared. "It's too easy to go with the first rhyme that pops into your head. There's nothing superficial about Leonard's lyrics, or Joni's. They often went into very dark places in their souls to find a poetic view of life. That's the standard I hold myself to." Acclaimed songwriter Ron Hynes, based in St. John's, says, "It's almost second nature for us to document ourselves in song. We've been doing it for hundreds of years, long before there was a music industry. Songs were written – still are, as far as I'm concerned – to document who and where people were and what happened to them. In Canada, if you scratch a lawyer, a doctor or an Indian chief, they'll tell you, `I wrote a song once.' "Some songs become so entrenched that they simply move like the air from generation to generation. `Four Strong Winds' (written by Ian Tyson in 30 minutes in his manager's New York apartment in the early 1960s) defines the Canadian West. And the beautiful thing is, like so many great Canadian songs, it defies the conventions ... the chorus has the same melody as the verses, there's no bridge, no artificial construction. It's the native approach ..." Respect for the traditions in Canadian song craft is paramount for her, says Juno-winning roots/country songwriter Jenny Whiteley, of the prolific musical clan. "The writers who first amazed me – particularly Willie P. Bennett and Robbie Robertson, and my dad – all tapped into the older idioms, whether rural American music, southern ballads, blues and jazz, that embodied storytelling. They could tell a whole story, create a life or a character in a three-minute song."

Whiteley believes Canadian songwriters are motivated by factors beyond fame and wealth. "If you look at the work of Barney Bentall, Tom Cochrane, Jim Cuddy, Stephen Fearing, Gord Downie and so many others, you can see it's not just the hit song they're going for, it's something bigger, something nearer the truth. Their bullshit detectors are all working. That may have something to do with peer respect, or an awareness of the work already out there." Toronto songwriter Ron Sexsmith, on the phone from his tour bus in Colorado, says this high standard of songwriting is "a tradition I'm always trying to uphold. So many of the most influential songwriters in the history of popular music are Canadian. I'm constantly reminded of that. It's a matter of national pride." Raised in St. Catharines, Ont., Sexsmith – whose songs are openly adored by fellow pros ranging from Steve Earle to Coldplay's Chris Martin – started out wanting to be a pop star in a rock band. He remembers being unimpressed by the famous 1960s National Film Board documentary on Cohen when it was screened at school, dismissing the Montreal troubadour as "a poet who couldn't sing." But a few years later, when he was exposed to full-blown Cohen-mania during a stint in Quebec, he listened again and the experience changed him forever. "It made me want to be a songwriter, not just another musician," says Sexsmith.  "It's the standards set by those guys – and Joni Mitchell, and k.d. lang – that I try to reach. Everything they write has such a distinctive personal stamp. They're not writing for the marketplace. "Those are the standards every songwriter I know in Canada tries to live up to. You hear that respect in the work of (Toronto composers) Bob Snider, Kyp Harness and Sam Larkin, writers who have their own way of saying what they need to."

Nova Scotia rocker Joel Plaskett, who seems poised to crack the international music market in the near future, believes migration and isolation have a lot to do with the unique quality of Canadian songs. "Immigrants brought their music from Scotland and Ireland and Europe," he says. "And those origins are reflected in the melodies and song forms of each region of the country. They've stayed with us, partly because they connect people to their past. But also, I think, because our songs give us both a real sense of place and time and some kind of collective sensibility.  "The first time I played in Glasgow (Scotland), I felt as if I'd gone home. Everything was so familiar to me – the people even looked like Nova Scotians, and songs gave us a common language. We understood each other through songs. "You could make an argument that climate and distance make a difference as well. The sense of aloneness, the need to connect can be pretty acute in most small Canadian communities. So details are important in a lot of Canadian songs, as personal points of reference. We also have a lot of time indoors during the winter. We read, we make music, we think a lot about ourselves and our circumstances." Big landscapes, long winters and endless roads are consistent elements in the songs of Alberta roustabout Corb Lund, who will sing the late Wilf Carter into the Songwriters Hall of Fame tonight with a performance of the 1940s country star's signature song, "There's a Love Knot in My Lariat." "Climate and distance are things we deal with in a lot in our songs," Lund says. "Canadians are generally more artistically inclined when writing songs, I guess because we're so far from the centres of the commercial music business in America. We don't necessarily think about writing hit songs ... more about writing songs that communicate.

"Communication is what motivates me. I'm a natural introvert, so songs give me a platform and instant feedback when I play them." The focus shifts slightly when it comes to writing pop songs, says Carl Newman of Vancouver's New Pornographers, on the phone from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y. "What makes Canadian bands great is they go about their work quietly. Arcade Fire is one of the best bands in the world, but they're humble people with good heads. You could say that about Blue Rodeo, the Tragically Hip, Barenaked Ladies." In pop, motivation often comes down to keeping up with the Joneses, Newman says, "the way the Stones did with the Beatles, and the Beatles with Brian Wilson. "But for me it's always the song that comes first. I'll hand over a song to (vocalist) Neko (Case) if she can make it better. "That's not a decision most performers would make. And it makes me a Canadian songwriter, I guess ..."

Al Jarreau -- “Givin’ It Up”

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Deardra Shuler

(January 30, 2007) *No matter how you slice it,
Al Jarreau is one of the more exciting performers of our time.  Known for his unique vocal style, the multi-Grammy winner who has netted Grammies in the categories of jazz, R&B, and pop respectively, recently joined forces with another great talent, vocalist and guitarist George Benson.  The two are Givin’ It Up and taking their craft seriously via their collaboration on their latest CD, which features new arrangements on some of their old standards. “George and I go way back together.  I am not going to tell you how old we are.  Let’s just say we are over 45.” Jarreau mentioned while referring to his longtime friendship with George Benson.  “I cannot tell you what a thrill it is for us to have this sense of creative accomplishment and validation at this juncture of our careers.   It’s really a thrill to be at the point wherein we were able to create moments so fresh and exciting via our new CD “Givin’ It Up.”  The music is fun to listen to and even made better by the opportunity to work with those who contributed on this album to make it a great recording,” remarked the songwriter and vocalist.   “Jill Scott offered her talents, as did Paul McCartney. Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Chris Botti, Stanley Clarke, and Patti Austin added something of themselves to this album too.  It was this village of people who came and validated the importance of this record which gave it a kind of high watermark of achievement,” explained the esteemed performer.  “Their participation served to authenticate the importance of this kind of music.  It’s classical really.  Classical in that so many well known people came out of the woodwork; came out of their homes, and came to the meeting place and said, “Yes, I want to be part of this record.”  In a world filled with hip hop “Givin’ It Up” could be considered a classic” commented Jarreau earnestly.  “I mean even the blue haired ladies driving down the freeway surrender to hip hop.  That is all well and good but it’s also important to acknowledge that other forms of traditional music exist.  When these artists came out to work on this album, I think it was to say, “‘I want to be included in making that statement.’”

Already singing by age 4, Jarreau grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he excelled in sports. Although music was always a big part of his life, Jarreau attended Ripon College where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and later attended the University of Iowa where he planned to get a Master’s Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation.  In pursuit of his career, George moved to San Francisco where he got caught up in the club scene and eventually was bitten hard by his natural talent for singing and thus by the late 1960s, Al changed his career direction.  He located to Los Angeles where he sang at Dino’s, the Troubadour and the Bitter End West.  He eventually moved east where he gained some notoriety.  Al was ultimately signed by Warner Bros. Records where his first album “We Got By” was released to wide acclaim.  “We Got By” earned him a German Grammy Award for Best New International Soloist.  Then followed “Glow” which netted another German Grammy and finally in 1977, Mr. Jarreau, won his first American Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance.  Further awards and kudos followed.  “Look For The Rainbow,” “All Fly Home,” “This Time,” “Breakin Away,” “High Crime,” “L is for Lover;” Heart’s Horizon” (included the song “So Good,” which won a  Grammy), “Tenderness,” and “Best of Al Jarreau,” were just some of the great classics counted amongst the singer’s hits.  “Heaven and Earth,” won Jarreau his fifth Grammy.  “Early on, I won Grammys and I was grateful for that but I wasn’t necessarily making money,” recalled Al. However, with songs like “Breezin,” “Mornin,” “Summer Breeze,” “God Bless the Child,” “Ordinary People,” “Bring It On Home To Me,” and a new song entitled “Let It Rain,” “Givin’ It Up,” could be another Grammy contender. “I hope those folks who like the music George and I make get behind it and shout about it so that interest in this style of music can be rekindled” stated Al. “I am so glad to be a part of this music.  It’s unusual how other music has been neglected and set aside in favour of the new flavour.  I support the success of some young brothers and sisters who are doing hip hop but it’s just unfortunate other types of music are not being recognized.  Profit is really the beast that we are railing against.  It’s the not very broad thinking of profit and profiteering that has some young performers thinking they need young gals thrusting their pelvis at them in order to get the message of their music across.  It suggests these performers need to be extreme and inflammatory in order to attract audience attention. Because of the profiteering there is a kind of limited thinking, limited exposure.  Instead of offering campus students the opportunity to enjoy the philharmonic and other forms of music, the idea is to limit, rather than broaden the student’s horizon.  However, if there is no exposure to other forms of music how can young people know what’s out there?” inquired Al making a valid point. 

Monster Music, the newly created record division of Monster Cable Products, the world’s leading manufacturer of high-performance cable and power of home theatre, etc., combined forces with Concord Music Group to use their considerable marketing and networking prowess to distribute the CD throughout all their retail networks and distribution channels. “We are touring with the music.  People can come out to see two gentleman perform who are in love with each other and the music -- and ain’t nobody gay!” laughed Jarreau, tickled by his own sense of humour.  So, everybody…come on out and see us!” For more info see: http://www.aljarreau.com

Rankins Playing Through Tragedy

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Entertainment Columnist

(January 31, 2007) It was supposed to have been a celebration, a family reunion album and tour to remind North American fans of Cape Breton roots music stars the
Rankins that all had not been lost with the death in 2000 of their founder, brother and mentor John Morris. It seemed then that we'd never see the Rankins en masse again. Just two years after they decided to end their 20-year run and pursue separate paths, John Morris, their fiddler, keyboards whiz and "engine, brain and glue," was killed in a car accident near his home.  But time heals.  And the emergence of John Morris's fiddler/songwriter daughter Molly on the East Coast music scene presented a reason to pick up the pieces and carry on, even if for just one more ride, Raylene Rankin said this week in a phone interview from the tour's halfway point in Winnipeg.  Then another shock: Rankin sister and onetime band member Geraldine died of a brain aneurysm at 50 in her Calgary home, just days before the tour was scheduled to begin in B.C. "It was a blow, unbelievable ... and hard sitting around hotel rooms and concert halls while it weighs on your mind.

"It's better when we hit the stage ... the music is therapy for us," said Raylene. The Rankins – Jimmy, Raylene, Cookie, Heather and special guest Molly – perform at Toronto's Massey Hall Friday and Saturday, and in London, Kitchener and Hamilton on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, to promote their latest and possibly final family recording, Reunion.  Getting back together was never an impossibility, just unlikely, Cookie Rankin chimed in on another phone. "We've had all sorts of offers since we called it quits in 1998, but it's very difficult to co-ordinate four different schedules. We disbanded for a reason, to establish our own lives and work. Jimmy's solo career is going really well and Raylene has lots of music projects on the boil. Heather manages The Red Shoe, a pub in Mabou (N.S.) she and I bought a couple of years ago with another sister, Genevieve. "And I'm happy living in Nashville. My husband (producer/musician George Massenburg) is very busy travelling, performing and writing, and I get to perform whenever I can. "I love singing, but I'm not crazy about travelling. When you're on the road in a band you race from one venue to the next ... you see nothing, eat too much. It's all hurry up and wait. The most rewarding part of touring for me is meeting people at shows, but even then, there's never enough time." The timing was perfect for Calgary concert promoter Jeff Parry's offer: besides mounting the cross-Canada tour, he footed the bill for the album, which includes nine songs recorded last October in Tennessee, two cuts featuring traditional material arranged and performed by the late John Morris and recovered from archives at CBC Radio studios in Halifax, and one previously recorded by Jimmy.

"It just happened that we all had the time to make the record and perform together for a couple of months," Raylene said. "There was nothing to stop us." The album was intended to be a reasonably inexpensive compilation of previously recorded and unreleased material, with the addition of a couple of new songs, she continued. "But when we got together to workshop the material, the sessions went really well. Cookie and Heather and I have a trio, and from that repertoire came John Hiatt's `Gone' and David Francey's `Sunday Morning.' We used to do Gordon Lightfoot's `The Way I Feel' when we first started out, and it seemed the right time to revive it. Molly contributed her own song `Sunset' and I had one I'd written with Susan Crowe for another project, `Sparrow.' "So with Jimmy's pre-recorded tune and a new one, `Departure Song,' and the John Morris material we were able to retrieve, the album took on much larger dimensions," Raylene Rankin said. "We kept calling Jeff asking for more studio money and he'd say, `I asked for a baby and you're giving me sextuplets!'"

MUSIC TIDBITS

Police Reunite For Grammys

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Reuters

(January 30, 2007) NEW YORK –
The Police will reunite to open the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 11, The Recording Academy said Tuesday, fuelling speculation that the hit 1980s British band is planning a reunion tour. The five-time Grammy-winning band, led by frontman Sting, with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers, split up in 1984 and was last seen playing together in 2003 to commemorate their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band, known for such hits as "Roxanne," "Message in a Bottle" and "Every Breath You Take," has never performed at the annual telecast for the music industry's most prestigious awards that are given by The Recording Academy. "The Police join a stellar list of past Grammy Awards opening acts, which includes reunions and once-in-a-lifetime performances," said a statement from the academy. Members of The Police have so far refused to confirm rumours that the band is planning to reunite in 2007 for dates in Britain and the United States, with this year marking the 30th anniversary of the release of "Roxanne." Last month the band's label A&M Records, which is owned by Universal Music, said in a statement that they would mark the year somehow. "It is our intention to mark the anniversary by doing something special with the band's catalogue of songs. Needless to say, everyone is hopeful the band will support our plans and while early discussions have taken place, nothing has been decided," said the statement. Other presenters at the Grammy Awards include Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Christina Aguilera, Melissa Etheridge and Stevie Wonder.

Bobby McFerrin Spills Secrets

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 26, 2007) *After a lengthy break from recording, Grammy-winning vocalist
Bobby McFerrin returned to the spotlight Wednesday night with a concert in advance of a tour through the United States and Europe. Best known for his 1988 hit “Don’t Worry, Be happy,” the artist gave a vocal workshop at the Jazzschool in Berkeley this week and was asked immediately to explain the way in which he transforms his voice into musical instruments. "There really is nothing to teach. I just tell them that it's yodeling, that's what it is. There really is no great secret behind it," he told Reuters. "What's the secret to being uninhibited, not only in music, but in general?" an audience member asked him. "I've always been sort of a goofball, really," answered McFerrin, 56, who now sports dreadlocks and a goatee. The singer has spent much of his hiatus from recording leading various orchestras. In February and March he will lead the Munich Radio Philharmonic Orchestra in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. In May, he will conduct La Scala Orchestra in Milan, and in the coming months will give solo concerts in Hungary, France and Britain. One song he stopped performing in concert long ago is the tune that continues to make him a rich man, most recently after its inclusion in the 2005 film "Jarhead."  "'Don't Worry' has allowed me to do all sorts of things," he said. "It's given me a financial cushion."

Stewart, Connick Jr., Morrison Set For Jazz Fest

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Katie Hasty, N.Y.

(January 25, 2007)  Organizers of the 38th annual
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival have announced the line-up for this year's two-weekend event. Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, Norah Jones, Brad Paisley and Dr. John lead the April 27-29 bill, while Harry Connick Jr., Steely Dan, ZZ Top, John Legend and Allen Toussaint will headline May 4-6.  The festival will be hosted in its usual location at the Fair Grounds Race Course, which boasts 10 stages for live music events. Tickets are on sale beginning today (Jan. 25). Proceeds will benefit the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports various community development activities.  Jill Scott, Irma Thomas, Ludacris, Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pharoah Sanders, Lucinda Williams, Calexico, Counting Crows, New Edition, George Benson, Gilberto Santa Rosa, the Allman Brothers Band, Better Than Ezra, Joss Stone, Stephen Marley and Taj Mahal are among the hundreds of other artists also featured on the bill.  "Jazz Fest is an invitation to move your body and your soul," said event producer/director Quint Davis. "New Orleans is the best place in the world to listen to music and to sing and dance in an open and loving atmosphere, and this year we're presenting more music than ever."  Last year, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Dave Matthews Band, Jimmy Buffet, Toussaint, Elvis Costello and Fats Domino headlined the festival, the first since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city.

Jerkins-Helmed 'We Are Family' Hitting Stores

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(January 23, 2007)  Originally expected last fall, the
Rodney Jerkins-helmed all-star cover of Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" will be released Feb. 27 on the CD/DVD "We Are Family 2007." The Bungalo/Universal project will raise money for the Points of Light Foundation's Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.  The new version of "We Are Family" reunites the Sledge sisters for the first time in two decades and also features Chris Brown, Ciara, Patti LaBelle, Mary Mary, BeBe Winans, Ray J and Joy Enriquez.  The album is rounded out by new tracks from Angie Stone ("Who's To Blame"), Take 6 featuring Al Jarreau ("Eagle & Condor"), Musiq Soulchild ("Soul Clap"), Winans ("Don't Wanna Be Wrong Today") and Mike City with Lala Hathaway ("Heaven"). Behind-the-scenes footage from recording sessions for the single will be found on a bonus DVD.  To celebrate the effort, Sister Sledge will appear at a Feb. 3 event at the Miami Museum of Contemporary Art Plaza in conjunction with this year's Super Bowl festivities. For more information, visit WeAreFamily2007.com.

india.arie Pads 2007 Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 30, 2007) *
India.Arie continues spreading her “Testimony” in 2007 with the announcement of a new round of dates for her tour promoting her third studio set, last year's "Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship."  Kicking off tomorrow (Jan. 31) with a two-night stand in Anaheim, CA, the Grammy winner will mix standard headlining dates and isolated one-off performances through a trek that ends Aug. 25 in Park City, UT.

 

::FILM NEWS::

Market Access Premieres at the 60th Annual Cannes Film Festival

Source:  Market Access

(January 31, 2007) Toronto - Market Access, a new Canadian company with the mission to foster business development skills of emerging filmmakers will make its premiere at the 60th Annual Cannes Film Festival.  

Founded by
Kirk Cooper, former Director of Film Programming of ReelWorld Film Festival and creator of ReelWorld Indie Film Lounge, Market Access’ mission is to minimize the hurdles that newcomers to the film industry encounter  as they begin to develop business contacts and gain greater insights into the ‘business’ of film production and distribution.

In partnership with Scarlett Media, Market Access will launch its program in February 2007.  Space is limited to 10 Canadian participants.  Each applicant has three (3) options to choose from based on their needs and desired outcome. These options are Market: Cannes Filmmakers Institute - designed to provide filmmakers with a platform to showcase their projects and/or films while participating in a daily networking Happy Hour and Short Film Screening Showcase. Market: Cannes Internship Experience - Created for film students who wish to pursue careers in film distribution. This unique opportunity takes place within a Canadian distributing company that frequents Cannes. And finally Market: Cannes Network Connection - gives applicants the option to take in the experience without the commitment to a given goal. All three options give the applicant access to the Marché du Film, which remains, the most popular industry meeting-place; increasing opportunities for meetings and discussions, providing the opportunity to establish new relationships, and contributing to the discovery of new talent.

Market Access Program starts with a weekend workshop in Toronto - provided by Scarlett Media where applicants learn from industry professionals - film market culture, strategies on where to look for "hidden" audiences and how to present a product to international acquisitions executives. The workshop concludes with a trip to the sunny and glamorous
60th Annual Cannes Film Festival and Market – May 16th – 27th 2007. Included in the program are accommodations in Cannes for two weeks, festival/market registration, a private orientation session within the Telefilm Canadian Pavilion, black tie gala film screenings and invitations to fabulous star studded parties on the Riviera.

“Market Access is a sound investment for emerging filmmakers! Whether you’re a budding director, producer, screenwriter, actor or a buyer, if you want to make the most out of your trip to Cannes, Market Access should be on your list of priorities” says founder Kirk Cooper.  To find out more about the program or to apply to the program please visit www.market-access.ca . Sign up today!  Deadline is March 30th.

CBC Filmmaker David Ridgen's Research Helps Secure Arrest In Two Murders From 1964

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Raju Mudhar, Staff Reporter

(January 26, 2007) Their deaths could be characterized as mere embers in the case that has come to be known as Mississippi Burning. For 43 years, the murders of
Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee were overshadowed by the deaths of three civil rights workers, dramatized in the 1988 film starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe. But thanks to the work of a CBC documentary filmmaker, justice might finally have a chance to be served.  David Ridgen knew he had the makings of an interesting documentary about the murders of Moore and Dee, the two 19-year-old black men who were killed in 1964, two months before the civil rights workers went missing. It is believed Moore and Dee were hitchhiking when they were picked up by Ku Klux Klan members who tied them to trees, beat them and eventually dumped them alive into the Mississippi River, archival records show.  When their bodies were found, the FBI investigated. But with the national focus in the U.S. on the missing civil rights workers, the two men's deaths were not considered a priority.  About two years ago, Ridgen found archival footage that perked his interest in this case and decided to make a documentary.

"It was a national event when the Mississippi Burning victims went missing, and yet it was a nothing when Charles Moore and Henry Dee went missing. The stories were so similar, except the only difference was that – surprise, surprise – the victims were black. So that's what led me to Thomas Moore. "I wanted to find one of the victim's siblings and I wanted to go back, and I made this idea up, to go back to Mississippi with one of them ... at the very least I expected I would get some great pictures." Ridgen ended up with so much more. At first the victim's older brother was not interested in helping the filmmaker. Through some coaxing, Ridgen got Moore to agree to his approach and, over five visits, the two men connected and became close.  Thanks to Moore, they found and confronted two suspects from the cold case living just a few kilometres down the road from where the kidnapping is believed to have taken place. One, James Ford Seale, a former sheriff's deputy and reputed KKK member, was believed to be dead, After finding the men, Moore and Ridgen informed authorities and on Wednesday Seale, 71, was charged with kidnapping, a result that Moore says would never have happened without Ridgen's assistance. (Seale, who his lawyer says has cancer, pleaded not guilty yesterday and was held in jail for a bail hearing Monday.) The other suspect, Charles Marcus Edwards, was not charged and is believed to be working with authorities. Moore believes that none of this would have occurred without Ridgen's prodding.  "I want to thank CBC for supporting David and giving him the opportunity to do what no man was able to do. There is no doubt about it, the documentary that is being put together right now is directly responsible for what happened yesterday and for what is happening right now to this case, in reference to Charles Edward Moore and Henry Dee," said Thomas Moore in an interview from Washington. "I could not have done it; I never was able to do it. David was the man at the time and the CBC graciously gave him the resources to allow him to do this."

Moore and Ridgen heard the news about the arrest in Mississippi and immediately drove across the country to Washington, where their involvement was also lauded by the FBI.  "Forty years ago, the system failed," FBI director Robert Mueller said in Washington. "We in the FBI have a responsibility to investigate these cold case, civil rights-era murders where evidence still exists to bring both closure and justice to these cases that for many remain unhealed wounds to this day." For the filmmaker, it's an interesting position to be in. Unlike filmmakers such as Michael Moore and Nick Broomfield, Ridgen prefers to stay behind the camera and not become part of the story.  "My traditional approach to doing any kind of documentary is to not be in it – reporterless, so I'm never part of it. It's hard to both follow a story and lead it," he said. "There's sort of fine line that you have to walk when you get to that point, and I don't think it's one that I'll ever reach again. "It was challenging to me, just because I have that sensibility of fly on the wall, with the camera always on ... but Thomas didn't have anyone to help him and that's part of the reason that this has languished for so long. No one has ever really invested any time in Thomas and his anguish, really."  Ridgen's film is going to be called Mississippi Cold Case, and since it is still in production there is no planned airdate.

Mekhi Phifer: Making It Happen

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Jan. 26, 07)
Mekhi Phifer is taking matters in his own hands. The 32-year-old Harlem born heart-throb (who made his debut in Spike Lee's 1995 film 'Clockers') isn't one of those black actors who complain about having no work in Hollywood. Although he's been blessed with a string of great film and TV projects ('ER,' 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' '8 Mile,' 'A Lesson Before Dying,' 'Soul Food'), the actor, producer and director recently announced plans for the formation of two production companies, Facilitator Films and Facilitator Music.  His business partner, comedian and actor Ronnie Warner will co-head the outfit, which will be based out of the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California.  "Being able to develop projects for film, television and music has always been a passion and goal of mine so I am thrilled to be launching Facilitator," Phifer said about the venture. "Both Ronnie and I share a creative vision and drive to create a variety of diverse projects across the entertainment spectrum."

Several film projects are currently in production under the Facilitator Films banner: 'This Christmas' starring Delroy Lindo, Regina King, Nia Long, Loretta Devine, Chris Brown and Idris Elba is currently in production; a spiritual outer space suspense thriller with a working title, scheduled to start production in the spring; and a partnership with Jeff Clanagan of Universal/Code Black for distribution of theatrical and DVD releases. Along with music producer Todd Mushaw, whose production credits include Kelly Rowland, Dr. Dre, Game, Destiny's Child, Facilitator Music recently signed their first artist Face, a Virginia based rapper.  "[Our] goals are to provide quality entertainment by breaking down the walls of diversity and focusing on unity," Warner added. "There is a common denominator that binds us all - that is our focus." The company's first project was last year's straight to DVD comedy 'Puff, Puff, Pass.' As an actor, Phifer will next be seen on the big screen alongside Ray Liotta and Taye Diggs in 'Slowburn' -- due out in the spring.

Funny Guy Takes A Gamble

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Jim Holt


(Jan. 27, 2007) PARK CITY, UTAH -- You know you're a star when you get pulled away from a Sundance party before the hot tub gets hot. Such is life for Canadian actor
Ryan Reynolds, who was forced to make a quick exit from this snowy ski town: His indie film screens at the Sundance Film Festival on the same weekend that his big-budget gangster movie opens in North America. "Yeah, it's another example of fortune favouring me and God mocking me at the same time," says Reynolds, reached by phone in New York yesterday. "It's a mixed blessing for burning the midnight oil and burning the candle at both ends." The busy actor flew into Park City earlier this week to catch the premiere of The Nines, answer a few audience questions and savour some applause. Then he was whisked off to New York to promote the Smokin' Aces. "I was on my way to New York right after Sundance," he said. "When I'm at Sundance, I'm there in dog years: One day at Sundance is like a week." His two films couldn't be more different -- The Nines is a stylish tapestry of images, a jigsaw of storylines and coincidences, written and directed by John August (screenwriter for Tim Burton films such as Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory); while Smokin'is a star-packed most-bullets-possible-per-second action film, directed by Joe Carnahan (Narc). But both are big steps for Reynolds, 30, who's best known for his wisecracking persona. Born and raised in Vancouver, he emerged from three years on the sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place to gain lasting fame as the title character in National Lampoon's Van Wilder -- the loveable collegiate smarty-pants. "Most people know me from comedies," he says. "So a lot of people were kind of taken aback by [The Nines], which I always find funny, because the comedy stuff is actually the really, really difficult work.

"Most comedy, I think, is born of some pain or rage and usually developed at some young age as a self-defence mechanism. So, to do something that's dramatic or emotional is kind of easier because you're letting that guard down." In Smokin', he plays Federal Bureau of Investigations agent Richard Messner, who enters a world of heartless hit men and women. Amidst a sea of co-stars (Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta and Grammy Award-winner Alicia Keys), he breaks down for a brief moment of humanity, delivering a touching performance. While Reynolds juggles his two roles, he also has to dodge rumours about a possible upcoming gig. Since 2004, critics and fans continue to talk about Reynolds as comic-book hero the Flash. Even at last month's press tour for Smokin' Aces, one Los Angeles reporter had to ask: When are you going to play the supersonically fast superhero? "I never understood why people think I should be playing this role," Reynolds said. "I understand that the character is somewhat sarcastic so I think I could pull it out of my bag of tricks, but it's something that has followed me around for a long time." Each time he's asked about the Flash, Reynolds says the movie is expensive and difficult to produce because of the special effects. He also says he can wear red tights any time. "We'll see. It's in the hands of the dark overlords at Warner Bros."

In Praise Of Real Movies

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(January 26, 2007) PARK CITY, UTAH–At the beginning of the
Sundance Film Festival last week, event chief Robert Redford made a special case for the vitality of contemporary documentaries. Perhaps not coincidentally, he made his plea on the very day that the festival's opening night movie, Brett Morgen's Chicago 10, happened to be a documentary. Not only that, a documentary – about the three-ring circus of a trial of those charged with "inciting riot" at the 1968 Democratic Convention – that had both an historical focus and up-to-the-minute pertinence. "Our leadership has such a dim view of history," said Redford, by way of reiterating the theory that what's bad for society can be good for art. "Films and documentaries can bring that information." He called docs, "the most honest and maybe the most important form of filmmaking," with "fewer restrictions than other films ... really what independent cinema is all about."  In making his aggressive pitch for the pertinence of non-fiction movies – which comprise nearly a third of the festival's total number of features – Redford had an agenda.

He was evidently peeved that what might be called the Paris Hilton-izing of Sundance, which sees vapid celebrity news taking precedence over the movies and he was addressing one of the most persistent and deeply embedded myths in the history of movie culture: that documentaries are somehow lesser forms of movie-making, or that they're boring, earnest and somehow less fun than "real movies." (Actually overheard in a line-up this week: "Is this a documentary or a real movie?") Redford wasn't buying it and reminded the journalists gathered at the inaugural press conference (many of whom seemed more interested in the 70-year-old star than either his festival or his documentary sermon) of just "how entertaining a sharp-edged truth can be." Over the years, Sundance has launched a lot of these virtual "truths," of both the hard-edged and entertaining variety – and often both at once. Hoop Dreams was first screened here, as were Crumb, American Movie, Super Size Me, Grizzly Man and – last year's long-running Energizer Bunny of a documentary – An Inconvenient Truth. As a result, Sundance has become a compulsory stop for documentary programmers, buyers and filmmakers. Especially filmmakers. Given the difficulty documentaries face of cracking the commercial marketplace, getting one's movie into an event like Sundance (or the Toronto International Film Festival) can make the difference between being thrown a theatrical or TV lifeline or going under. The stakes are high and the competition fierce. Of the 1,362 documentaries (856 from the U.S. alone) submitted to the festival this year, only 42 made the final cut. Of those, only a handful will walk away with a sales or broadcast deal attached.

While this year's festival had its share of high-profile documentary sales – including the love-gone-wrong Crazy Love, the audience-tickling astronaut movie In the Shadow of the Moon, the wrenching Nanking and perhaps most surprisingly, given its bestiality theme, the gorgeously artful Zoo – it would be very difficult to charge Sundance with programming its non-fiction movies on the basis of bankability, popularity or even conventional form. On the contrary, if some of the movies could be categorized according to theme or content – historical/political documentaries like Chicago 10, Crossing the Line, and No End in Sight, or high-quirk profiles of human strangeness like Crazy Love, My Kid Could Paint That and Chasing Ghosts – the most striking thing about this year's Sundance documentaries were how consistently uncategorizable they were. To provide just a few examples, consider these: Julien Temple's Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten, a portrait of the late Clash frontman that unfolds with precisely the same spirit of collision and collage – of movie clips, archival footage, news reports and animation – that was the hallmark of both punk culture and the band itself. Or Robinson Devor's Zoo, which may have been inevitably mischaracterized as "that horse-f---king movie," but which proved to be one of the most beautifully restrained, formally distinctive and mysterious films of the entire festival. In Chicago 10, Brett Morgen interweaves archival footage with animated re-enactments based on trial transcripts. While this proved controversial in terms of viewer response here, there's no question that the form suited the content. If ever there was a cartoon trial, this was it. Other instances of highly creative non-fiction filmmaking on display were Canadian director Jennifer Baichwal's justly celebrated Manufactured Landscapes, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki doc White Light/Black Rain, A Very British Gangster, Manda Bala and Acidente.

At once examples of Redford's principle of "how entertaining a sharp-edged truth can be" and how vast the tools of documentary expression are, these and other docs were perhaps otherwise bound only by their stylistic innovativeness and their deceptively narrow designation as "documentaries." After almost 10 days of watching this eclectic crop of new non-fiction movies, I'm left with one question: If this isn't "real" moviemaking, just what is?

To Be Tony Montana, You've Got To Have The Right Voice

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(January 27, 2007) Some 10 years after making his screen debut in Al Pacino's Looking for Richard,
Andre Sogliuzzo found himself playing Pacino. Actually, the New York actor won the voice role of Pacino's storied character of Tony Montana in the made-in-Vancouver videogame Scarface: The World Is Yours. Released last October, Radical Entertainment's Scarface has gone on to sell more than a million copies and is still flying off the shelves. The game, rated M for mature, starts with the climactic shootout in Tony's mansion from the end of the Scarface film. But this time he survives and the gamer plays the Cuban-born crime boss as he tries to put his empire back together and take vengeance on his enemies. Cam Weber, executive producer at Radical, says getting the right Tony voice actor was one of the keys to the project, given the 1983 film's loyal following. "I think we auditioned about 75 or 80 different potential Tonys. Each one of those who auditioned had an agent saying that my guy is THE Tony Montana impersonator," Weber said from Vancouver. "They could all pull off the key lines, like, `Say hello to my little friend.'" But almost all stumbled when they were asked to be Tony Montana off script. "Andre was probably the only guy that could handle just being Tony," Weber said. "You can just sit here and have a full conversation with him and he's Tony Montana and he nails it. He's quite amazing in what he does with that stuff."

Weber and Radical narrowed down the list to three voice actors before consulting Pacino. "He's the one that actually chose Andre, but Andre was far and away our favourite as well," Weber said. "He's someone that Al has used in the past, someone who Al trusts, and this guy is a dead ringer for Tony," he added. Sogliuzzo, 40, is also a veteran of almost 100 videogames. According to the movie database website imdb.com, "Andre has died a thousand deaths in titles such as Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, Destroy All Humans, Spawn and Doom 3." Pacino, meanwhile, agreed to allow the developers use of his likeness in the game. "He was very involved in the project," Weber said. Pacino's contract gave him approval over more than his voice double. He also had final say on the look of the character and the game's main writer, David McKenna. Vivendi Universal, which ended up buying Radical last March, was also closely involved as holder of the Scarface licence. So game assets, voice samples and scripts went first to Universal and then Pacino for approval. "He was really good to work with," Weber said. "Everything we did around the feedback we got from both those groups made our game better in the end."  While Pacino did not lend his voice, other actors were knocking on the door to be part of the videogame project.

"I'm sure we have the largest celebrity voice cast of any game in history," Weber said proudly. "We had over 50 celebrity voice actors that contributed to this title. And we had over 100 total voice actors that contributed." The developers went after celebrities they wanted and then found people started coming to them. "We were actually able to secure a ton of celebrity talent for really reasonable prices, because people really wanted to be part of it. People love Scarface, it was just something that they jumped on and a lot of people approached us." Robert Loggia (Frank Lopez) and Steven Bauer (Manny Ribera) reprise their roles from the film. Other celebrities who lend their voices to the game are Ricky Gervais, Elliott Gould, Ice-T, Motörhead bass player Lemmy, Miguel Sandoval, Michael Rooker, Richard Roundtree, Michael York, James Woods, and Cheech and Chong. "I think the guy that made me laugh the most was Anthony Anderson," Weber said. "He did one of our dealer characters and he just improvised a few lines. ... Some of the lines are just hilarious." The game allows you to take part in specific missions, or just lets you explore Miami and other locales as Tony Montana. A taunt button makes the game a guilty pleasure, as Tony spouts insults as he sprays bullets. "We probably cut about 1,200 lines when it came down to the end. They went a little too far," Weber said with a laugh. Radical got to do the game after pitching an original project – which featured an open world with plenty of driving and combat – to Vivendi. The pitch was turned down but Vivendi liked the technology and offered the chance to do Scarface. Not surprisingly, Weber usually dreads telling his team about rejections. "But this one, when I told them there's an opportunity to do Scarface, they cheered all at once. It was like a standing ovation, they loved it." There were bumps along the way and the game was delayed. "It was just looking like we weren't going to knock this thing out of the park quality-wise," Weber explained. "We wanted extra time to really make it the game we wanted to make it, so we decided to delay the schedule, moved it from 2005 into 2006 and shipped in 2006. I think the total development time ... was almost three years." The development team also grew to a peak of 117 people, more when you add in those involved in game testing. At the time, that represented about half of the Vancouver studio, whose staff now ranges from 200 to 300. Radical's resume includes such hits as Simpsons: Hit and Run, Simpsons: Road Rage, and a pair of Hulk games.

Tyler Perry: Getting His Praise On

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Jan. 26, 07)
Tyler Perry will be honoured during 'BET's Celebration of Gospel '07,' premiering Jan. 28. Perry, creator of nationally renowned stage plays and blockbuster films 'Diary of A Mad Black Woman' and 'Madea's Family Reunion,' was chosen as an honouree for embodying the theme of this year's show: "Taking You Higher."  Producers set out to recognize his body of work and his successful approach to making gospel-themed urban theatre accessible to the masses. During a special segment, the filmmaking phenomenon gets nods from the likes of Quincy Jones, Gabrielle Union, Lou Gossett, Jr., Blair Underwood, veteran Hollywood producer Reuben Cannon and rising star Keke Palmer.  Grammy Award winning gospel diva Yolanda Adams, who appears on the soundtrack to Perry's upcoming movie 'Daddy's Little Girls,' nearly brings down the house during a musical tribute to the man who went from "homelessness to Hollywood. "It's really an amazing thing for me to be honoured by BET at Celebration of Gospel because gospel music is our heritage and so much a part of what I'm about," said Perry during the festivities, which was taped at Los Angeles' Orpheum Theatre, two weeks ago. "So, to have BET honour me within a gospel celebration was an amazing thing. It was very moving and very personal to me, and I thank God for it."

Hosted once again by veteran comedian/actor and popular syndicated radio personality Steve Harvey, the annual praise-fest features spiritually uplifting performances by some of the biggest names in gospel and mainstream music. Outside of the tributes to Tyler, and the late R&B crooner Gerald Levert, the musical collaborations are the true highlights of this year's 'Celebration.' 'American Idol' winner Fantasia Barrino, hip-hop soul diva in the making Lil Mo (looking better than EVER), gospel ingénue Kierra "Kiki" Sheard and former SWV frontwoman Coko brings a new meaning to the term "Sisters With Voices" with their impassioned rendition of "Endow Me," a Clark Sisters classic remake featured on Coko's debut gospel album. The revered Pastor Shirley Caesar joins forces with gospel vocal giants Inez Andrews, Dorothy Norwood and Albertina Walker in a spirited reunion of The Caravans on their classic "Sweeping Through The City." Harvey brings comedy relief into play during a pairing with Dr. Bobby Jones on the gospel staple "Give Me That Old Time Religion." Other performers featured during the hand-clapping, foot-stomping two-hour showcase include Kirk Franklin, Smokie Norful, Prophetess Juanita Bynum, Fred Hammond, Kelly Price and original 'Dreamgirls' star Loretta Devine. An added treat was seeing actors Derek Luke, Malinda Williams and Underwood recite selections from the celebrity-clad audio project 'The Bible Experience' throughout the show. "Every year BET is proud to celebrate Black History Month with one of the foundations of the African-American experience, gospel music," said the basic cable network's President of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin. "From The Caravans to Tye Tribbett, the full range of our spiritual expression is represented."  Repeat airings of 'Celebration of Gospel '07' are scheduled for Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. ET/PT; Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and Feb. 7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Mirren, Whitaker Take SAG Acting Honours

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Arthur Spiegelman, Reuters

(January 29, 2007) LOS ANGELES — Helen Mirren of “The Queen” and Forest Whitaker of “The Last King of Scotland” won
Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday as best lead players, their latest prizes on the road to the Academy Awards. The road-trip romp “Little Miss Sunshine” won the prize for best film ensemble, the guild’s equivalent of a best-picture award. Solidifying their positions as Oscar favourites, Mirren won for playing British monarch Elizabeth II and Whitaker for starring as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. It seemed the soft-spoken Whitaker was struck speechless, rambling through some awkward words of gratitude. “I want to thank you for allowing me to have a moment like this,” Whitaker said. Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson won supporting-acting honours as soulful singers in “Dreamgirls,” reinforcing their status as Oscar front-runners as well. Murphy, who built his career as a fast-talking comic player, began with a thank-you speech more appropriate for a serious thespian — but his sober demeanour proved a gag.

“What a tremendous honour to be recognized by one’s peers. I’ve been acting for some 25 years now and this is a tremendous honour,’’ said Murphy, talking in a British accent. “No, I’m sorry,” said Murphy, cracking up in laughter. “I feel goofy up here, ’cause I don’t be winning stuff.” “Dreamgirls” gave Murphy a chance to show off his splashy and dramatic sides as a James Brown-like singer struggling to remain relevant in the 1960s and ’70s music scene. As a powerhouse vocalist in “Dreamgirls,” Hudson continued her breakneck rise to movie stardom after becoming famous as an ``American Idol” contender two years ago. Hudson thanked her co-stars, who included Murphy, Jamie Foxx and Beyonce Knowles. “Because of you, I was able to work and learn from the best. Yes, you are the best,” said Hudson, who added thanks to the actor’s guild. “Just thank you for noticing little old me and accepting me.’’ “Dreamgirls,” which had been considered a potential best-picture favourite at the Academy Awards, was among the guild nominees for best ensemble cast, yet was shut out of the nominations for the top Oscar. Backstage, Murphy said he and his “Dreamgirls” castmates were as surprised as everyone else was that the film received a leading eight Oscar nominations — but not one for best picture. “We got eight nominations, that was a great thing. We were happy about that,” he said. “I was so happy to be nominated, I wasn’t feeling disappointment about anything. I was caught off guard that we didn’t get nominated for best picture but I’ve just been happy, non-stop happy.”

The ensemble win for “Little Miss Sunshine” could give the film a best picture boost at the Oscars. But academy voters tend to favour heavy drama such as fellow nominees “Babel” and “The Departed.’’ The guild category has never been a reliable forecast for how the top Oscar might play out. In the 11 years since the guild added the ensemble honour, only five winners have gone on to receive the best-picture Oscar, including 2005’s “Crash.’’ Past guild ensemble winners include “Sideways,’’ “Gosford Park,’’ “Apollo 13” and “The Birdcage,” none of which won the best-picture Oscar. The guild’s individual acting winners often line up with eventual Oscar, however. Three of the four guild winners for 2005 — Philip Seymour Hoffman of “Capote,” Reese Witherspoon of “Walk the Line” and Rachel Weisz of “The Constant Gardener” — all went on to receive Oscars, while all four guild acting winners for 2004 won at the Oscars. Whitaker, Mirren, Murphy and Hudson have dominated Hollywood’s acting honours this awards season, all four also taking home Golden Globes. Mirren was diplomatic backstage when asked if she wants the Oscar. “I’m not going there right now,” said Mirren, who also won the guild’s prize for best actress in a TV movie or miniseries as the current queen’s namesake in “Elizabeth I.” But it’s been the most incredible year for me, ever. That’s been amazing at this end of my life.” Mirren’s “Elizabeth I” co-star Jeremy Irons won the guild’s prize for best actor in a TV movie or miniseries. Other TV winners were America Ferrera of “Ugly Betty” and Alec Baldwin of “30 Rock” as performers in comedy series, and Chandra Wilson of “Grey’s Anatomy” and Hugh Laurie of “House” as performers in dramatic shows. TV ensemble prizes went to “Grey’s Anatomy” for drama and “The Office” for comedy. “This is quite the honour having these people present this to us,” Steve Carell, star of “The Office,” said of the award’s presenters, the cast of the sitcom classic “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” including Moore, Edward Asner and Cloris Leachman.

FILM TIDBITS

Mehta's Water To Open In Cinemas Across India

Source: Associated Press

(Jan. 26, 2007) Mumbai, India — The Oscar-nominated Canadian movie Water will be shown in India this spring, seven years after angry Hindu nationalists stormed the sets, forcing its Indian-born director to stop filming. This time, promoters say, they don't foresee any trouble. Distributor Sanjay Bhutiani said Water will open across the country in March. Protests by Hindu nationalists, who alleged that the film was anti-Hindu, forced Toronto director Deepa Mehta to suspend shooting in the holy city of Varanasi in 2000. She resumed filming in Sri Lanka four years later. "The film is not negative and it is based in the 1930s," said Bhutiani, business director of B.R. Films, which will distribute the movie in India. "There is nothing controversial in the film and I don't see the trouble last time repeating itself." Water is a nominee in the foreign-language film category.

Court To Appoint Arbitrator In ACTRA Strike

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(January 30, 2007) An Ontario court agreed Tuesday to appoint an arbitrator in the ongoing strike by 21,000 Canadian performers. "The court did what we asked them to do by throwing it back into arbitration," said Jeff Brinton of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association. Last week, producers argued that the strike by
ACTRA, which began Jan. 8, is illegal and asked for the arbitrator. They also wanted the court to suspend special agreements that allow ACTRA members to keep working despite the strike. Brinton said the judge also referred that issue to arbitration. ACTRA called on the producers to settle the dispute. "These fruitless legal strategies are diversionary tactics ... to avoid facing the real issues up front and head on," Stephen Waddell, the union's chief negotiator, said in a release. At the heart of the dispute is compensation for performances broadcast over the Internet and on cellphones. Brinton said arbitration is expected to begin in two weeks, but added that the producers group is also willing to return to the bargaining table.

 

::TV NEWS::

Adam Beach To Join 'Order' Cast

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(January 25, 2007) LOS ANGELES – There will be no disorder on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," with series stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni agreeing to new contracts. They will be joined next season by an additional cast member,
Adam Beach of the film "Flags of Our Fathers.'' "I'm thrilled that Chris and Mariska have decided to stay with a show that they've made an indelible stamp upon, as we move into our ninth season," series creator Dick Wolf said Wednesday in a statement. The actors signed two-year deals with substantial raises that will mean annual salaries of more than $6.5 million each, Daily Variety reported, citing unidentified sources. That increase will make Hargitay one of the highest-paid actresses in television, the trade paper said. Wolf declined to discuss details of the contract, said spokeswoman Pam Golum, who confirmed that Beach would be joining the show. He'll play Brooklyn police Detective Chester Lake, a character he guest-starred as on a recent episode.

Beach also is starring in Wolf's TV movie, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," set to debut in May on HBO. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is part of NBC's long-running trio of "Law & Order" series and is the highest-rated. The original "Law & Order" is in its 17th season, while "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" is in its sixth year. Hargitay and Meloni have been with the show since it debuted in 1999. The actress won an Emmy and Golden Globe for her role, while Meloni was nominated for an Emmy. NBC announced last week that "Special Victims Unit" would return next fall.

TV TIDBITS

TV’S ‘Noah’s Arc’ May Test Cinema Waters

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 26, 2007) *Gay-themed channel Logo is planning to adapt its hit series “
Noah’s Arc,” about the life and loves of four gay African American men in Los Angeles, into its first-ever feature film. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the movie would be released sometime in 2008 with a storyline that picks up where the show’s second season left off.  "'Noah's Arc' has so many dimensions and possibilities, so advancing to the feature film format is an exciting way to motivate our loyal fans and engage an even wider audience," Logo president Brian Graden said. Distribution plans are in the process of being worked out, a Logo spokesman said.

 

::THEATRE NEWS::

A Sexy, Cutting Threepenny

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Theatre Critic

The Threepenny Opera
(3 stars out of 4)
By Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Directed by Tim Albery. Until March 10 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St. 416-866-8666

(January 31, 2007) "It reminds me of Chicago," said one member of the opening night crowd at The Threepenny Opera. "I think it's more like Cabaret," argued his friend. Funny, but they were both right and they were both wrong. Yes, Tim Albery's Soulpepper version of the Brecht-Weill classic has a certain resemblance to those two cynically decadent musicals, but let's never forget where they got it from in the first place. One of the best things about this sexy, sardonic production is how it captures the feeling of Weimar Germany: a society where the rich have too much, the poor have too little and nothing succeeds like excess. All of this, of course, was on Bertolt Brecht's mind in 1928 when he created a new adaptation of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. Yes, he set it in Victorian England, but you can smell Berlin under every line of dialogue. The highwayman Macheath has become Mack the Knife, a corporate buccaneer without portfolio, and Albert Schultz plays him to perfection with a self-satisfied smirk. But when death comes near, Schultz rails against the world with a voice that cuts like a knife and has amazing power.

Equally good is Patricia O'Callaghan as his beloved Polly, lovely to look at, delightful to hear and deadly to cross. And there's something diabolically wonderful about the Ballad Singer of d'bi.young.anitafrika, who becomes an itinerant butcher in this production, hacking away at random pieces of meat and pouring a bucket of blood down the drain at the evening's end. There's also solid work from Stuart Hughes as the duplicitous chief of police, Tiger Brown, and the venal couple known as the Peachums are rendered in fine style by Nancy Palk and William Webster. Further down the ranks, Jennifer Villaverde is a sharp-tongued minx of a Lucy Brown and Mike Ross makes gang member Matt a memorably three-dimensional person. But there are also some problems. Sarah Wilson isn't up to either the dramatic or vocal complexities of Jenny, which makes a fairly large dent in the evening, and most of the other whores are just too genteel for words.  On the plus side, the set and costumes of Lorenzo Savoini have been lit masterfully by Bonnie Beecher until they seem like a series of George Grosz paintings come to life.  Paul Sportelli contributes his usual masterful job of musical direction, capturing the rasping, tinny sound that Weill's score demands, and Tim Albery has staged it all with just the right kind of edgy invention. This version of The Threepenny Opera still isn't perfection, but it's far better than the two-bit knock-offs we've suffered through in recent years.

Radio Golf Extended In Chicago

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 25, 2007) *Due to popular demand, Chicago’s Goodman Theatre will extend August Wilson's
Radio Golf, directed by Kenny Leon, through Feb. 25. The play officially opened Tuesday and is the centerpiece of Goodman Theatre's August Wilson Celebration, a tribute to the late Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright. The launch of the play made Goodman the only resident theatre to have produced every play in the late Wilson's ten-play cycle about the 20th century African-American experience. For more information, visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org.

 

::DANCE NEWS::

Dance Showcase Richer Than Ever

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Dance Writer

(January 26, 2007) Inclusion in Toronto Dance Theatre's annual choreographic showcase,
Four at the Winch, has come to mean you've arrived as a contemporary choreographer. Only the experienced, and more or less established, need apply.  This year, for the first time, artistic director Christopher House held an open call for choreographers.  Opening up the selection process to competition has resulted in more thoroughly worked-out dance pieces and has made this year's Four at the Winch a richer event than in the past.  Each of the choreographers had 60 hours to work with the amazingly versatile and creative TDT dancers on a piece of about 20 minutes' length.  Laurence Lemieux, co-artistic director of Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie and a TDT alumna, created a mini-musical using four songs by Jimmie Rodgers, a country and western singer of the 1920s known as "The Country Brakeman" or the "Blue Yodeler."  Performed against a painted canvas backdrop of an open prairie sky, Slowdance is a series of vignettes done partly in slow motion, which makes the six dancers appear as if they're in an old silent film. It's more a send-up of western stereotypes than say, Agnes DeMille's famous Rodeo, which it automatically brings to mind.  In Allison Cummings' unbreakable, the dancers are outfitted with bizarre appendages created by Sherri Catt: a pair of wings made out of twigs, a headpiece that looks like an egg-cup with a broken egg in it, or hand pieces that resemble claws made of dried seaweed.

The key prop, given the title of the dance, is Valerie Calam's rubber replica of a human heart attached to a long rubber tube. Dressed in tie-dyed beachwear, the seven dancers tear at each other or perform combative duets, until the music cues a return to a peaceful holiday scene.  In Nova Bhattacharya's Related Fragments, the most intricately conceived piece on the program, Linnea Wong and Brendan Jensen take the lead, under a red light, to the tranquil music of Arvo Part.  The radical shift to the Beatles' "Revolution No. 9" and then to an endlessly repeated phrase from a Steve Reich composition makes a chaotic, almost threatening environment for the dancers' increasingly precise and involved steps, as they pass each other in lines as on a parade ground.  It offers a satisfying symmetry, a sense of order in the face of confusion, in a dance that argues for the civilized order and offers a kind of prayer for harmony. Bedlam reigns in David Pressault's Impondérables. Here the piano and orchestral music of Harold Budd and Johann Johannsson provides serenity in contrast to the scene onstage, which might be a clip from the psychiatric ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  Kristy Kennedy advances, arms outstretched, eyes closed, complaining "It's dark in here." Calam messes frantically with Kaitlin Standeven's long blond hair. Standeven moves along a bar of light like a tightrope walker, erupting into loud obscenities as she nears the end. Calam jams herself between the legs of an overturned stool and gets an audience member to pull her out. Meanwhile, Sean Ling is performing an aimless solo amid the disarray.  Impondérables brings the audience into its surreal landscape, inviting us to find meaning in it.

::OTHER NEWS::

Up-And-Coming Canadian Artist Gets Solo Show At London's National Gallery

By J. Kelly Nestruck

(Jan. 25, 2007) LONDON (CP) - Along with Rembrandts and van Goghs, Canadian artist
Tim Gardner's work can now be found hanging in the National Gallery in London. The up-and-coming artist is currently receiving a prestigious solo exhibition as part of the British museum's new commitment to young, contemporary artists.  "Being compared to Old Masters, it's a bit of an awkward position to be in," laughs Gardner, 33, over the phone from his home in Victoria, B.C. "The experience has been pretty overwhelming and at times intimidating, exhilarating."  "Tim Gardner: New Works" showcases 20 paintings created by Gardner during and after a three-month residency at the National Gallery in the autumn of 2005. Based on photographs taken during the last 15 years, the new watercolours and pastels depict landscapes like the Manitoba Prairie and the Rockies, as well as less grand Canadian landmarks like the CanWest Mall and a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in suburban Victoria.  It's a departure in subject matter for Gardner, who previously had been working on pastel paintings of commonplace pictures like family portraits, high school graduation photos and hockey team photos. "I'd worked for about a year and a half on these portraits alone in the studio, not paying attention to the outside world," says Gardner, a graduate of the University of Manitoba and Columbia University schools of art. "I was ready to start looking at the world around me again. This work is about getting back out in the landscape."

But Gardner, who grew up accompanying his geography professor father on field trips into the Canadian wilderness, paints a less romanticized picture of Canadians' relationship with nature than the Group of Seven or Emily Carr did. In "Into the Rainbow Vein," named after a song by the Scottish electronica group Boards of Canada, he depicts a baseball-capped youth sleeping on a train oblivious to the rainbow in the sky outside his window. In "Two Men on a Bus," the two men of the title ignore the beautiful mountains their bus is passing.  "Tim Gardner: New Works" also features portraits of the artist's father and brothers, who have long been subjects of his work. "Nick on the Prairie, Facing Into the Wind" and "Tobi on the Red River" are pastel paintings of photographs of his brothers taken outside Winnipeg.  "They find it kind of weird that their pictures are hanging in the National Gallery, but for the most part I think they're OK with it," says Gardner, who first gained an international profile with his photorealistic paintings of young men drinking and partying.  While Gardner's snapshot-based work may seem at odds with the classics of pre-1900 western European art on display elsewhere in the museum, National Gallery curator Christopher Riopelle believes there are strong connections to be found.  "What he is doing, which is absolutely contemporary and North American in subject matter, nonetheless addresses themes that have long been important in the western tradition of painting," says Riopelle, who invited Gardner to be the first artist to participate in the new residency program after seeing a show of his at a London gallery in 2003.

"Working from photographs, he re-examines the portrait tradition, the landscape tradition, social relationships, particularly male friendship - all of these things have figured in western art for centuries," notes Riopelle, who is himself Canadian and has worked at the National Gallery for the past nine years.  Gardner believes he absorbed quite a bit from the months he spent working near the National Gallery's permanent collection. He changed the way he paints skies after hours spent observing the backgrounds of works by artists like Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens and German Romantic Caspar David Friedrich. The influence of French impressionist Claude Monet is also evident in his watercolour "Sunburst Over the Prairie," he says. "Having that freedom to look through the gallery for days and days on end, it was a real luxury," Gardner says of his residency at the 183-year-old British institution located on the northern edge of Trafalgar Square.  Gardner, whose work has been called "profound" by The New Yorker magazine and who was named an artist to watch by Rolling Stone in 2000, has so far been receiving positive reviews for the National Gallery show, his most high-profile exhibition to date. The Evening Standard wrote, "even a picture of a lone KFC bucket might be a thing of beauty in Gardner's hands."  According to the National Gallery, one million people will pass through the museum during the course of the exhibition. "After my show, maybe eventually it will be just a normal thing where young artists show at the National Gallery," says Gardner. "But this, being the first since the renewed interest in contemporary art there, it's kind of a big deal."  "Tim Gardner: New Works" continues at the National Gallery until April 15.

Revealing Look Into Life Of Jazz

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(January 29, 2007) NEW YORK–For years,
Lorraine Gordon rebuffed entreaties to write her memoirs. She knew she had a story to tell – about running the iconic Village Vanguard after her husband's death and working at nascent Blue Note Records during her previous marriage to the label's renowned producer. But there was a lot to consider before spilling the beans.  "I'm a private person," the Newark, N.J., native told the Star. "I thought, `What are my daughters going to say? What are my friends going to think? What are the people in my building going to say to me?'"  Boy, did she ever put aside her reservations.  The newly released Alive at the Village Vanguard: My Life In and Out of Jazz Time, which traces Gordon's evolution from teen jazz fan to grande dame of the most famous jazz club in the world, delivers expected tales about being on jazz's front lines but also includes titillating intimacies: about losing her virginity to a radio DJ, being introduced to marijuana by a legendary musician and finding solace in extramarital affairs. "That's what I was afraid of, I'm a talker," sighed Gordon, seated in the empty Greenwich Village nightclub one recent afternoon.

At 84, Gordon is still as striking as the stylish figure in the timeworn photographs scattered throughout the book. Regal and authoritative, imbued with a reckless laugh, she's a no-nonsense New Yorker who dismissed the hapless worker bee who interrupted our interview to show her awning samples: "I want to deal with the top guy, you tell your boss to come see me."  "Grumpy-but-lovable," is how one writer described the caretaker of jazz's most constant thing.  Founded by her late husband Max Gordon in 1935, the modest 123-seat Vanguard is an acoustic marvel that nurtured the early careers of heavyweights such as Dinah Washington and Miles Davis, and hosted classic recordings by Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. "I used to come here when I didn't know Max," recalled Gordon. "I'd stand over there at that bar with my friends. I was 16 or 17 and we'd pass a beer between us. We didn't have any money and I heard him say `Get rid of those kids.'" In 1948, then not-so-happily wed to Blue Note co-founder Alfred Lion, she approached Max about booking the label's rising star, Thelonious Monk.  Within two years she was divorced and married to the Vanguard's impresario. "I was pretty good-looking then and a younger woman and I knew more than he did about music. He couldn't say no to me. Monk was our cupid." Though she'd been a bookkeeper and publicist at Blue Note, Gordon wasn't involved in her new husband's operation. She worked at arts institutions and participated in anti-war activities while raising their two daughters. In his own 1980 treatise Live at the Village Vanguard, Max mentions his wife just once, in passing.

"Max was more private than me; and I think getting married and having children was a side entrée to his other life.  "He was so involved in this club.... He doesn't even talk much about himself (in his book) and his life was certainly more colourful than mine, in the sense that he was embedded from early days on into the business." When Max's health failed, Gordon began helping out at the Vanguard and assumed the reins when he died in 1989 at 86. "The musicians were very wonderful to me," reflected Gordon, who was feted last summer by an all-star line-up at Carnegie Hall.  "I guess they were helping me in their own way by just being nice; except one who was just nasty. I refused to come to work while he was here. And he never was here again. And he's a fine musician, believe me. I enjoyed him a lot, but I don't need him." She has the final say on performers, a blend of old favourites – Cedar Walton, Roy Haynes – and new jacks such as Brad Mehldau and The Bad Plus. Gordon cited a small, loyal staff (including younger daughter Deborah) and its landmark status for the endurance of the Vanguard, which doesn't serve food or accept credit cards. "People come who don't know or care who's playing. They just want to see it. What they expect, I don't know. Some say `Is this all there is?' I say `Wait until the music starts, you'll see its more than just the trappings.'" Many nights, Gordon takes in the show from a seat near the entrance. In her absence, flattering comments and song dedications are still cast her way from the bandstand – and the sentiments are mutual.

"I've always had great empathy for musicians. Their life has been tough, their music is fabulous and they give me so much enjoyment." In Alive at the Village Vanguard, Gordon recounts declining a romantic overture from drummer Art Blakey. She smiled coyly when the Star asked about other propositions from other entertainers. "I must have had some kind of style that kept them at arm's length, but friendly. That was good, because I wanted to really enjoy the music and not have extracurricular activities going on – a couple, but not too many. I love the music maybe more than the men. Although I wouldn't have said no to Duke Ellington." And how have her daughters reacted to the revelations in the autobiography that she claims to be embarrassed by?  "They're cool. They just accept it as they accept me. Deborah has been very pleasant about it. I think Rebecca is still reading it, but she did write me a little note saying she was proud of me, and that was enough."

Good News For Sidney Poitier

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press


(January 28, 2007)  If her goal was to erase the memory of the disgraced James Frey, then
Oprah Winfrey couldn't have made a better pick for her book club than a memoir by Sidney Poitier. Winfrey ended a year-long hiatus in her club by announcing Friday that she had chosen The Measure of a Man, a "spiritual autobiography" by one of Hollywood's most admired actors and a personal hero of Winfrey's. Published in 2000, Poitier's book combines memories of such plays and films as A Raisin in the Sun and The Defiant Ones with observations about the Academy Award-winning actor's childhood, his religious faith, and his thoughts on racism. "He writes really candidly and passionately about his childhood, his family, relationships and his extraordinary career," Winfrey said on her show, which airs from Chicago. "It (the book) really is about what makes character, what makes you be who you are." Winfrey said she will host "a once in a lifetime dinner party" with Poitier that will include members of her book club. In a statement issued Friday by his publisher, HarperSanFrancisco, Poitier said he was "overwhelmed far beyond the point where words, alone, could fully express either my appreciation or my gratitude.''

The Measure of a Man spent several weeks on The New York Times' list of best sellers, and the audio edition, narrated by Poitier, won a Grammy Award for best spoken word album. Poitier wrote a previous memoir, This Life, released in 1980. Before Winfrey announced her selection, the 56th for her book club, The Measure of a Man ranked 288,958 on Amazon.com, a number that quickly changed, soaring to the top 50 within three hours. Winfrey's picks almost inevitably top best seller lists. Mark Tauber, vice-president and deputy publisher of HarperSanFrancisco, an imprint of HarperCollins, said he expects to sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Poitier, who turns 80 on Feb. 20, became the first black performer to win the Oscar for best actor, cited in 1964 for Lilies of the Field.  James Frey's memoir A Million Little Pieces was picked by Winfrey in the fall of 2005, only to be revealed as largely fabricated.

Mailer's Novel Ideas About Hitler

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Publishing Reporter

(January 28, 2007) Not long after it first appeared in 1998,
Norman Mailer read a book by Ron Rosenbaum titled Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origin of His Evil.  While the bibliography of Mailer's just released novel The Castle in the Forest lists about 150 sources, it is Rosenbaum's book above all that roused his imagination.  "Rosenbaum had interviewed about 15 authorities on the subject of Hitler," he recalls. "And I read their explanations and thought that all of them were wanting. "After I finished reading the book – you can't be a novelist all your life without developing a certain species of arrogance – I thought, I know more about it than these folks. I began to think of writing about Hitler." We are talking in the office of his publisher, Random House, where a stream of journalists from the U.S., Canada and Australia have come to do interviews. A German TV crew, fascinated by new theories about Germany's national monster, stands at the ready. Almost 84, Mailer has been investigating the dark, instinctual side of human nature since he published The Naked and the Dead in 1948, when he was 25. In truth, what draws interviewers is not the new book but the chance to see a dinosaur, a relic of a more brilliant age, a natural wonder who can produce a 468-page fiction in his ninth decade.

He has come in from Provincetown, Mass., with his sixth wife, Norris Church, a tall, ageless, willowy woman dressed dramatically in a black hat, a multi-coloured striped trapeze coat and chandelier earrings. She watches over him protectively.  Church met Mailer in Arkansas three decades ago when she asked him to sign a book. She's an artist and writer, and the mother of two of his sons. In August, Random House will publish her second novel, Cheap Diamonds.  Mailer apologizes for remaining seated. His knees have given out and he walks with two canes. His memory falters: he cannot remember being in Toronto, though this reporter heard him read at Convocation Hall in 1988.  Yet, though his body is oddly shrunken, there is no diminution of his fierce intelligence. The bright blue eyes twinkle, his voice is confident.  When asked whether there has not already been a surfeit of books about Hitler, he replies: "If you have something to say that others haven't said, it doesn't matter how much else has been written. I do think there has never been another book quite like this one." A blend of fact and fiction, The Castle in the Forest describes Hitler's tangled parentage with its possible incestuous connections; his birth to Klara and Alois Hitler; his weaning, toilet training, schooling, childhood games; his masturbation, love of his mother and sister; and his fear of his father, a customs officer who takes up beekeeping in retirement. We leave not very interesting boy "Adi" at 17, after he wipes his behind with his school diploma while drunk.  Mailer's explanation of why the young Adolf accumulated cruelty and hubris in his makeup turns out to be centuries out of date: the Devil made him do it.

The novel is narrated by "Dieter," an SS man who is working for "the Maestro," as the author calls Satan. The Maestro had inserted himself into Adi's soul, and it had been Dieter's assignment to keep an eye on the boy and make sure he grew up crooked and sacrilegious.  Does Mailer actually believe this? "I'm a novelist," Mailer says. "I don't deal with certainties. To me the possibility is very great that there is a Satanic presence in human affairs." He is as fascinated with scatology in the novel as he is with the Devil, and describes Hitler's potty training in detail. "Why is everyone annoyed at that? The publisher at Random House wanted me to take out all that stuff, but it's fundamental. I have eight children (I'm father of nine, including an adopted son) and if you have raised eight babies you are not going to pretend that s--t never entered your recognizance." The objection, however, is not to the potty contents, but the discredited Freudian view that it has something to do with shaping character. "It has never been disproved," he says. "A novelist doesn't need proof, only to know that something is possible." Mailer's 36 books have blasted away the taboos against writing frankly about the body in serious literature. He tried to write his World War II novel The Naked and the Dead in the brutal language of soldiers faced with death but, in 1948, his publisher insisted he write "fug" for the ultimate expletive.  "Now I get so tired of hearing f--k. It was once a wonderful word and now it's totally used up," he says. He has lived to see literary fiction devolve from the mainstream art form it once was. "People used to read novels to learn more about life. Now they turn on the TV – it's what people talk about at dinner parties, not books. It's painful to watch your profession diminish."

Still, the old lion can roar, especially when wounded. Of all the reviews his late work has elicited, none have stung him more than negative notices from Michiko Kakutani, the influential critic of the New York Times. She called his novel about Jesus, The Gospel According to the Son (1997), "a silly and self-important book" that makes the Saviour sound "like a guest on Oprah." His 1995 book Oswald's Tale about JFK's assassin, she wrote, "succeeds in simultaneously being boring and presumptuous, derivative and solipsistic." His compilation of fiction and non-fiction excerpts The Time of Our Time (1998), she wrote, vacillates "between the bravura and the boneheaded." "She's dissed Cormac McCarthy, John Updike, Thomas Pynchon – she hates major American novelists who are male," Mailer says. Kakutani did not review The Castle in the Forest.  "For a good reason," he says with relish. "I was interviewed in Esquire and I said `I don't know why she dislikes me so much. What put the hair up her royal Japanese ass?' And that was put into print and then it turned out she was disqualified from reviewing me because the Times has a policy that none of their reviewers can review someone who is either a friend or an enemy." It may be that Mailer's reputation rests most securely on his great non-fiction works such as Armies of the Night (1968) and The Executioner's Song (1979), in which his gifts as a social and political observer were in full play.  Of the U.S. today, he says that George Bush is "the most ignorant president in my lifetime." He would like to see Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama jointly on the Democratic ticket.  He has no plans to write non-fiction again. "If I do anything now, it will be a continuation of this (Hitler) novel. I used to write 10 hours a day; now I can do three or four in the afternoon. Any day you can work is a blessing."

Ontario Backs Artists With $3-Million Gift

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Jeff Gray

(Jan. 30, 2007) A project that is turning an old streetcar repair shop into affordable studio and living spaces for Toronto artists will get a $3-million boost from the province today.
Culture Minister Caroline Di Cocco will announce the cash for the Wychwood Barns conversion project -- co-ordinated by the non-profit arts organization Artscape -- at a nearby public library this morning, sources say. The planned $17.6-million retrofit will turn the old Toronto Transit Commission facility, near Christie Street and St. Clair Avenue, into the Green Arts Barns, with 26 live-work spaces for artists, art studios and an environmental greenhouse. The provincial support for artists in Toronto comes amid increasing complaints that rising rents and property prices -- for which condominium development projects are often blamed -- are forcing artists out of once-affordable locations. This month, Mayor David Miller, local artists and activists condemned a decision by a provincial tribunal to approve a high-rise project on Queen Street West -- over objections from city planners and local residents. The Ontario Municipal Board approved several residential towers (between 14 and 19 storeys) near Queen Street West and Dufferin Street, an area known for art galleries and low-rent studios.  Activists in the Queen West fight welcomed word that Queen's Park is helping to create affordable space for artists in the city with the Wychwood Barns project, but said they hoped the government would help them out, too.

Charles Campbell, a lawyer involved with Active 18, a group that was part of the fight against the Queen Street development, said government help is needed to preserve more space for artists in the area, which has suffered a "body blow." One warehouse slated for demolition, he said, now has 80 live-work studios. "I'm glad they're supporting the Wychwood project," Mr. Campbell said, "but here's a neighbourhood that's losing its artistic heart. And some money would help us." Michelle Gay, whose art includes drawings and large installations, said she and other west-end artists, dismayed by rising costs, have contemplated leaving Toronto for Hamilton. "That was really depressing, actually," Ms. Gay said. ". . . How many times do we have to move to another community?" She said she was pleased to hear of support for the Wychwood project, but said more needs to be done to keep artists in the city, particularly when the city is boosting various arts events. "We had the whole Live with Culture, the big Nuit Blanche. It seemed that the city officials, the elected officials, were really interested in what culture does for a city," she said.  "But that's presentation. Artists really need support living."

Obituary: Sidney Sheldon, 89

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Bob Thomas, Associated Press

(Jan. 30, 2007) LOS ANGELES —
Sidney Sheldon, who won awards in three careers — Broadway theatre, movies and television — then at age 50 turned to writing best-selling novels about stalwart women who triumph in a hostile world of ruthless men, has died. He was 89. Sheldon died Tuesday afternoon of complications from pneumonia at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, said Warren Cowan, his publicist. His wife, Alexandra, and his daughter, author Mary Sheldon, were by his side. “I've lost a long-time and dear friend,” Cowan said. “In all my years in this business, I've never heard an unkind word said about him.” Sheldon's books, with titles such as Rage of Angels, The Other Side of Midnight, Master of the Game and If Tomorrow Comes, provided his greatest fame. They were cleverly plotted, with a high degree of suspense and sensuality and a device to keep the reader turning pages.  “I try to write my books so the reader can't put them down,” he explained in a 1982 interview. “I try to construct them so when the reader gets to the end of a chapter, he or she has to read just one more chapter. It's the technique of the old Saturday afternoon serial: leave the guy hanging on the edge of the cliff at the end of the chapter.” Analyzing why so many women bought his books, he commented: “I like to write about women who are talented and capable, but most important, retain their femininity. Women have tremendous power — their femininity, because men can't do without it.” Sheldon was obviously not aiming at highbrow critics, whose reviews of his books were generally disparaging. He remained undeterred, promoting the novels and himself with genial fervour. A big, cheerful man, he bragged about his work habits.

Unlike other novelists who toiled over typewriters or computers, he dictated 50 pages a day to a secretary or a tape machine. He corrected the pages the following day, continuing the routine until he had 1,200 to 1,500 pages. “Then I do a complete rewrite — 12 to 15 times,” he said. “I spend a whole year rewriting.” Several of his novels became television miniseries, often with the author as producer. Sheldon began writing as a youngster in Chicago, where he was born Feb. 17, 1917. At 10, he made his first sale: $10 for a poem. During the Depression, he worked at a variety of jobs, attended Northwestern University and contributed short plays to drama groups. At 17, he decided to try his luck in Hollywood. The only job he could find was as a reader of prospective film material at Universal Studio for $22 a week. At night he wrote his own screenplays and sold one, South of Panama, to the studio for $250. During the Second World War, he served as a pilot in the Army Air Corps. In the New York theatre after the war he established his reputation as a prolific writer. At one time he had three musicals on Broadway: a rewritten The Merry Widow, Jackpot and Dream with Music. He received a Tony award as one of the writers of the Gwen Verdon hit Redhead. His Broadway success brought about his return to Hollywood. His first assignment, The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer, starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple, brought him the Academy Award for best original screenplay of 1947. While under contract to MGM, he recalled in 1982, “I worked like hell and I never stopped. Dore Schary [then production head] one day looked at a list of MGM projects. I had written eight of them, more than three other writers put together. That afternoon, he made me a producer.”

With the movie business hurting because of television's popularity, Sheldon decided to try the new medium. “I suppose I needed money,” he remembered. “I met Patty Duke one day at lunch. So I produced The Patty Duke Show [in which she played two cousins], and I did something nobody else in TV ever did. For seven years, I wrote almost every single episode of the series.” Another series, Nancy, lasted only a half-season, but I Dream of Jeannie, which he also created and produced, lasted five seasons, 1965-1970. The show concerned an astronaut, Larry Hagman, who lands on a desert island and discovers a bottle containing a beautiful, 2,000-year-old genie, played by Barbara Eden. She accompanies him back to Florida and eventually marries her. “During the last year of I Dream of Jeannie, I decided to try a novel,” he said in 1982. “Each morning from 9 until noon, I had a secretary at the studio take all calls. I mean every single call. I wrote each morning — or rather, dictated — and then I faced the TV business.” The result was The Naked Face, which was scorned by book reviewers and sold 21,000 copies in hardcover. The novel found a mass market in paperback, reportedly selling 3.1 million. Thereafter Sheldon became a habitué of best-seller lists, often reigning on top. Sheldon prided himself on the authenticity of his novels. He remarked in 1987: “If I write about a place, I have been there. If I write about a meal in Indonesia, I have eaten there in that restaurant. I don't think you can fool the reader.” For Windmills of the Mind, which dealt with the CIA, he interviewed former CIA chief Richard Helms, travelled to Argentina and Romania, and spent a week in Junction City, Kan., where the heroine had lived. Having won a Tony, an Oscar and an Emmy (for I Dream of Jeannie), Sheldon declared that his final medium was the best. “I love writing books,” he commented. “Movies are a collaborative medium, and everyone is second-guessing you. When you do a novel you're on your own. It's a freedom that doesn't exist in any other medium.” Sheldon was married for more than 30 years to Jorja Curtright Sheldon, a stage and film actress who later became a prominent interior decorator. She died in 1985. He married Alexandra Kostoff, a former child actress and advertising executive, in 1989. Along with his wife and daughter, survivors include his brother Richard, two grandchildren and other family members.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Serena Dismantles Sharapova Down Under

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 29, 2007) *In the words of ESPN2 tennis commentator Dick Enberg, “
Maria Sharapova has never seen such a spanking.”   It was sweet vindication for Serena Williams, who had been hearing all tournament long that she was too unfit to offer any legitimate competition in the Australian Open – the first Grand Slam event of the 2007 WTA tour.   Adding to the low expectations was her quarterfinals loss in a fourth-tier tournament at Hobart, Australia earlier this month to 26-year-old Austrian Sybille Bammer, who has never won a WTA Tour title.  Dressed in her neon green and big hoop earrings, Serena disposed of five opponents in the Australian Open en route to Saturday’s 6-1, 6-2 massacre of the world’s No. 1-ranked player Maria Sharapova.   Williams walked into the Rod Laver Arena with the same no-nonsense look and swagger that Mike Tyson used to carry en route to the ring. From the first point to the last, Serena was all business – staring down her opponent, slamming home winners with authority and serving up a number of blistering aces.   Sharapova, who struggled with her serve throughout the match, had no answer for the younger Williams sister. Although the Russian was the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Serena – ranked 89th going into the Open – had a harder time beating her opponents in the earlier rounds. She was two points from exiting the tournament in her third round match against No. 5 Nadia Petrova, and had similar difficulty in her thrilling quarterfinal win over Israel’s Shahar Peer.  After the winning point in Saturday’s massacre, Serena’s game face melted into that patented million-dollar smile as she stretched out on the ground, jumped up and down, then ran to the stands to high-five her mother, Oracene.

 During her post-game remarks, she became emotional when dedicating the victory to her sister, Yetunde Price, who was murdered in a drive-by shooting in California in Sept. 2003.   "Most of all I would like to dedicate this win to my sister, who's not here. Her name is Yetunde. I just love her so much," she said, her voice cracking. "I'll try not to get teary-eyed, but I said if I win this it's going to be for her. So thanks, Tunde."  Williams later said she wrote Yetunde’s name on a piece of paper and carried it with her onto the court for motivation.  "Usually I write, 'Look at the ball, move forward, do this, do that.' Today I just had one word. My note was just ‘Yetunde,’” she said. “Every changeover I looked at it and I just thought about how happy she would have been ... about what an amazing sister she was to me. I just said, 'Serena, this has to be more than enough to motivate me.' And I think it was."  The “violent beatdown” of Sharapova, as described by ESPN anchor Chris Fowler, catapults Serena’s WTA ranking to No. 14. Her championship Saturday was her first in two years, and only her second in a Grand Slam after completing her "Serena Slam" in Australia in 2003, when she won a fourth consecutive major.    Williams is only the second unseeded player to win the Australian title in the Open era, and it was the most dominating win in a completed championship match at Melbourne Park since Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-0, 6-2 in 1994.  

The Making Of An All-Star

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Sports Reporter

(January 26, 2007) Some all-stars are made from the nightly highlight reels, players elevated to iconic status with an array of dunks and displays of athleticism that capture the attention of even the most casual fan. And others are made in the quiet of the gym late at night, the quieter types honing their craft under the eyes of a couple of coaches, without a camera or a witness in sight. For
Chris Bosh, as unassuming a star as the NBA has these days, a handful of nights in the Air Canada Centre, a handful of sessions making shot after shot and doing drill after drill have confirmed his place among the NBA's elite. The 23-year-old Raptor power forward, the face of an ascendant team and its most valuable player, will start for the Eastern Conference in next month's All-Star Game, a statement that a majority of fans who vote for the spots appreciate substance over style. "It's a good feeling for that to happen," Bosh said yesterday. "It's good to know that people just recognize that you try your best to get the job done. "You don't have to go out there and have eight dunks a night. You and go out there, make the right plays, get one dunk a night and you'll be fine." The 6-10 Bosh, in just his fourth NBA season, comes by his all-star selection through little more than hard work. Every now and then, he'll call up a coach in the evening and ask for some workout help in the team's practice facility. It will be all about his commitment to improving his skills, his commitment to helping his team get better and his commitment to getting every ounce out of his potential.

The shooting sessions aren't mandatory by any means – only a handful of players bother to put in extra time long after a day's practice is done – but they speak to his willingness to do whatever it takes to make his team better. Much has been made about Bosh's development as a "leader" of this Raptor team and he is comfortable taking teammates to task when it's necessary but it's his work ethic and professionalism that really shows what he means to the team. "Everybody has to be responsible for themselves and the problem with trying to be the ultimate leader is it can drain you because you find yourself worrying about everybody and not taking care of your own business," Raptor coach Sam Mitchell said yesterday. "My advice to Chris is lead by example first, (by) being on time, working hard, playing hard, doing your job and the rest of that stuff will follow. What good is it to be running around screaming at people and you show up five minutes late every day or you're not producing on the court?  "People get caught up in what is a leader? If you run around screaming and yelling at people that's not going to make people respect you. What makes people respect you is if you do the things you're supposed to do first, that's where you gain respect." When Bosh signed his contract extension in July, a deal that could earn him more than $50 million (U.S.), it was a sign not only from the team about his value, but a signal from him that he wanted to be part of the Raptor turnaround. He said that his top priority is returning the Raptors to the middle of the Eastern Conference pecking order.

"So far it's working out pretty good," he said. "We're near .500 (Toronto is 21-22 heading into a game tonight against Boston), we're playing good basketball right now. I think we always have room to get better but everybody has a good attitude around here. "I'm just trying to do my part, continue to work every day, push my teammates and, shoot, just win. That's the bottom line." Bosh becomes just the third Raptor to play in an All-Star Game and the second to be voted in as a starter by the fans. Vince Carter was voted a starter five times and Antonio Davis was an injury-replacement starter in 2001. Bosh was added to the Eastern Conference team as a backup a year ago in voting by the league's coaches but this time fans voting around the world on the Internet or at various arenas, named him to the team.

Newest Argo Recalls Brush With Super Bowl

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Sports Reporter

(January 27, 2007)  Like millions of others,
Jamel White will be watching the Super Bowl on television next Sunday. In 2003, White actually came within three games of playing in the championship game with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns were within 54 seconds of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC wild-card game and going on to the next round. "But then it fell apart," said the newest Argonaut yesterday from his home in Cleveland, recalling how quarterback Tommie Maddox rallied the Steelers from a 17-point deficit to beat the Browns with less than a minute left. "That's the closest I got to the Super Bowl," said White. "Now I'll watch it on television, but I'll never go to the game. What's the point in going if you're not playing in it?" At 29, White is aware that his NFL days are done. That's why he elected to sign with the Argos. And now his goal is to be in the Grey Cup game next November in Toronto. But first he'll have to win the Argos' starting running back job, which currently belongs to John Avery. White's signing is yet another challenge the Argos are tossing at Avery, who's been hampered by a series of injuries in his three seasons with the Argos.  An old ankle injury and the arrival of NFL star Ricky Williams on a one-year loan limited Avery to seven games last season, in which he rushed for 432 yards on 82 carries.  In six NFL seasons with Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Baltimore, the 5-foot-9, 222-pound White rushed for 1,406 yards on 376 carries and scored nine TDs. He returned 55 kickoffs for 1,145 yards, while catching 170 passes for 1,290 yards and two TDs.

 

::FITNESS::

Slimmer Hips: 4 Trimming Exercises!

By Raphael Calzadilla, B.A., CPT, ACE, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

When I contemplated writing an article about how to trim the hips, I wanted an outrageously successful eDiets member to help provide the solution.  Cathy, an eDiets member for many years, proved to be a perfect person to speak with.  Cathy has lost more than 100 pounds of fat as a member of eDiets and has propelled her fitness capability to levels she never dreamed possible. She has also shed an amazing 10 inches off her hips!  I asked Cathy how she would advise a person to trim their hips. The following is her unedited answer:  "Raphael, I'd probably just parrot back what you say so often -- that it's not possible to 'spot reduce' any one area, that overall body fat needs to be reduced, plus adding a balanced strength routine and cardio program (like running) works well on the hip area." Cathy is absolutely correct.  I'm not suggesting that you can't trim your hips. However, most people are confused about how the formula works.  Depending on genetics, people store fat in varying amounts on different areas of the body. Some people are prone to storing fat around their hips and thighs, while others store excess fat around the waist. However, no matter where you store it, you have to come to terms with one physiological fact: You can't tighten up body fat. Generally, the first place you gain fat is the last place that you lose, so patience and consistency is critical.  The bottom line is that you have to reduce overall body fat and focus on a balanced program with an added specialty workout for troubled areas.  That being said, the best strategy for trimming your hips is the following:

1. Calorie-reduced nutrition program -- This is your first line of attack in reducing body fat.

2. Cardiovascular program, such as jogging three to five days per week for 30 minutes -- Many of my personal-training clients and eDiets members have experienced great success with a moderate-intensity cardio program (jogging, power walking, videotapes, etc.).

3. Strength training performed two times per week for approximately 20 to 30 minutes -- Even small amounts of muscle revs the metabolism and stimulates fat loss.

4. Specialized routine for the hips -- This allows one to work the hips with concentrated exercises so that when body fat is reduced, you're left with lean and tight-looking hips.

I'm focusing on a specialty workout routine for your hips as well as a cardiovascular recommendation. Follow the parameters of one through four above and your hips will get leaner.

Pay close attention to the exercise descriptions. The animations will provide the basic movements but will not contain one key element (pulsing), which I describe below.

1. Fitness Band Standing Leg Abduction

Starting Position:

·  Attach a fitness band to a door at ankle height (make sure to use the door attachments provided).

·  Attach the fitness band to your left ankle.

·  Stand with your weight on the right leg and your right hand on a chair or table balancing your body.

·  Place your left hand on your hip.

·  Maintain a slight bend in the knees throughout the exercise.

Movement:

·  Contracting the muscles of the outer thigh, raise your leg out to the side stopping when you feel a contraction in the glutes and outer thigh area.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while moving your leg away from your body.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Perform 15 repetitions. After rep 15, continue to perform a partial movement. Meaning, after you can't complete another rep, continue to pulse the leg with a partial movement until you can't perform any additional reps. Rest 30 seconds after completing sets on both legs and immediately go to the next exercise. (A cable machine with ankle attachment at a gym also works very well. If you don't have access to a gym, the fitness band will work well).

2. Fitness Band Standing Leg Adduction

Although this exercise also works the inner thigh, it must be worked in tandem with the first exercise for balanced muscles.

Starting Position:

·  Attach a fitness band to a door at ankle height.

·  Attach the fitness band to your left ankle.

·  Stand with your left side facing the door with your weight on the right leg and your right hand on a chair or table, balancing your body.

·  Place your left hand on your hip.

·  Maintain a slight bend in the knees throughout the exercise.

Movement:

·  Contracting the inner thigh muscles, move the left leg passed the right leg, stopping when you feel a contraction on the inner thigh.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

·  After the set, perform the movement with the other leg.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while moving the leg across the body.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Perform 15 repetitions. After rep 15, continue to perform a pulse movement just as in the first exercise. After working both legs, wait 30 seconds and go to the next exercise. (A cable machine with ankle attachment at a gym also works well. If you don't have access to a gym, the fitness band will work.)

3. Dumbbell Lunges

Starting Position:

·  Stand straight with your feet together.

·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides.

Movement:

·  Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor.

·  Contracting the quadriceps muscles, push off your right foot, slowly returning to the starting position.

·  Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set.

Key Points:

·  Inhale while stepping forward.

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  The step should be big enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Do not let your knee touch the floor.

·  Make sure your head is up and your back is straight.

·  Your chest should be lifted and your front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement.

·  Your right knee should not pass your right foot. You should be able to see your toes at all times.

·  If you have one leg that is more dominant than the other, start out with the less dominant leg first.

·  Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

Perform 15 repetitions for each leg.

 

AFTER PERFORMING ALL OF THE EXERCISES, WAIT 60 SECONDS AND REPEAT EACH ONE ADDITIONAL TIME.

At the conclusion of the above exercises, wait two minutes and go directly to the cardiovascular recommendation below.

4. Jogging

Perform 30 minutes at a moderate intensity. I've found that jogging has a great effect on reducing overall body fat and leaning out the lower body.

Perform the entire routine twice per week on alternate days of the week for six weeks while also incorporating my four-point formula -- and reap the rewards of slimmer hips.

As always, please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

 

:MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note - Up, Think Up, Cheer Up, Show Up, Speak Up, Pray Up

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Jewel Diamond Taylor

"Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat." ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald "If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it away from him. An investment of knowledge always pays the best interest." -- Benjamin Franklin "In everything you do - -- do it with enthusiasm, excellence and integrity. Your character and work ethic is a valuable treasure. Put your best foot forward and watch the doors of opportunities and blessings open up. Let go of any "just average" performance, small thinking and small faith. This is your life and you can only get out of it what YOU put in it! Be complete in your pursuit of happiness. Dr. Martin Luther King stated that in order to be complete, one must achieve the length of life (inner self- pursuits), the breadth of life (serving and helping others) and the height of life (reaching for God's calling for your life) ~ Jewel Diamond Taylor "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." ~ Martin Luther King Jr.