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LE NEWSLETTER

February 22, 2007

So much going on right now!  There SO much news below but don't miss a beat - have a scroll as there's some great info!

Please
change your records to reflect my new address as of February 26th:

20 Carlton Street
#1032
Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5


I've also been asked to cover the 2007 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta for which I will
leave on February 28th for one week but there will still be a newsletter out on March 1st.  This is an international boating race featuring world class sailing.  As well St. Maarten is known for the best in-shore parties - this year's closing party features Stephen and Damian Marley!

OK, enough about me.  It's Oscar time!  What a great way to watch the
OSCARS with HIV/AIDS fundraiser Oscar Goes to Africa Fundraising Event for the Stephen Lewis Foundation on February 25, 2007.  The organizers of this event are three Kenyan Canadians who are greatly committed to raising awareness on the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Want to get a
free CD when you order your tickets for the inspiring sounds of the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir on February 27-28?  Then be sure to purchase your tickets with the special offer from Langfield Entertainment and The Hummingbird Centre.  Check out the details below!

Have you voted yet for the Smooth Jazz Awards?  Check out this opportunity to vote for
DK Ibomeka as Best Male Vocalist! 

 I went to see
Alvin Ailey at Hummingbird this past Friday and ohh my goodness.  This show was incredibly moving, physically, musically and theatrically.  Unbelievable movement by unbelievably stunning performers.  They have left Toronto now but were also in Ottawa and they'll be in Montreal tonight and tomorrow.  GO SEE IT if you have the chance.  Check out the DANCE NEWS for a great review.

 

::HOT EVENTS::

Oscar Goes to Africa Fundraising Event - Stephen Lewis Foundation – February 25, 2007

Source:  Rispah M. Adala


**Win a Trip to Kenya, London-Nairobi-London, courtesy of Kenya Airways**

The
Oscar Goes to Africa fundraising event!  Your chance to have an amazing Oscar experience while supporting a unique fundraising initiative for HIV/AIDS in Africa through the Stephen Lewis Foundation.  Suggested minimum donation to attend is $100 per person, payable by cheque made out to The Stephen Lewis Foundation, or by credit card through Canadahelps. Tax receipts will be provided.   The organizers of this event are three Kenyan Canadians who are greatly committed to raising awareness on the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Sub-Saharan Africa has just over 10 percent of the world’s population but is home to more than 60 percent of all people living with HIV---25.8 million. In 2005, an estimated 3.2 million people in the region became newly infected, while 2.4 million adults and children died of AIDS.  The Stephen Lewis Foundation provides essential assistance to those suffering from the crippling pandemic of HIV/AIDS in this region, currently funding more than 150 projects with more than 80 organizations in 14 sub-Saharan African     countries.

Africa has been the focus of two critically acclaimed films in the past year; The Last King of Scotland and Blood Diamond. The brilliant performances by Forest Whittaker and Leonardo DiCaprio have both been nominated for Oscar awards in the Male Actor in a Lead Role category.  The Oscar Goes to Africa fundraiser is an opportunity to watch the
79th Annual Academy Awards live on a big screen in a safari picnic themed environment.  Attendees will experience Africa-inspired music, cuisine and beverages at the beautiful Manyata Courtyard Café in Yorkville, Toronto.

Entertainment will be provided by Washington Savage, The Afro-Fusion Band of African Musicians, DJ Kwame’s music - inspired by the soul of Africa and many more. 

All guests will receive a special “Asante Sana” basket at the end of the evening.

100% of all funds raised will go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2007
OSCAR GOES TO AFRICA FUNDRAISING EVENT
Manyata Courtyard Café
55 Hazelton Lanes, Yorkville
Doors open at 6pm; screening commences at 8pm sharp
$100 per person (Tax receipts will be provided)
Tickets: visit www.manyata.ca; or Rispah Adala at 416.980.4494. Hurry as tickets are limited.

Complimentary Refreshments:
Full bar including special Maasai Martinis courtesy of AMARULA, the tasty WINES OF SOUTH AFRICA and Steam Whistle Breweries
Greg Couillard’s Samosas and Pakoras courtesy of the Spice Room and Chutney Bar
Safari Burgers and Fries courtesy of Hero Burgers
David Nganga’s Kebabs and Nyama Choma courtesy of Mobilemiser Inc.

About the Stephen Lewis Foundation

The Stephen Lewis Foundation helps to ease the pain of HIV/AIDS in Africa at the grassroots level. It provides care to women who are ill and struggling to survive; assists orphans and other AIDS affected children; supports heroic grandmothers who almost single-handedly care for their orphan grandchildren; and supports associations of people living with HIV/AIDS. For more Stephen Lewis Foundation information please go to www.stephenlewisfoundation.org.

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

Source: Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts

Langfield Entertainment and The Hummingbird Centre have a special offer for you. The first 65 people who purchase tickets to Soweto Gospel Choir at The Hummingbird Centre February 27 & 28 will receive a copy of their new CD, Blessed. Blessed has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Traditional World Music Album category!  For February 27th, follow the link HERE and for February 28th, follow the link HERE and enter in the promo code blessed.  Act now - this offer is only available to the first 65 readers!

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, 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

::UNIVERSAL SCOOP::

Richie Spice Heads to Africa

Source:  Universal Music Canada

Richie Spice’s appealing brand of roots reggae is characterized by smoothly crooned, impassioned vocals that lovingly caress, as he does on his current romantic boom shot “Brown Skin”, or just as convincingly, deliver the militancy of a righteous rebel warrior on “Open the Door”, or the aura of ancestral mysticism that defines “Motherland Calling”. Guided by the principles of his Rastafarian way of life, Spice’s lyrics rail against injustices and the plight of the oppressed, implore assistance for the youth and extend maximum respect to the ladies. “My responsibility is to use the talent that God gave me as an instrument to uplift people who are facing the struggle worldwide and let them feel happy in themselves,” Spice explains. “It is all about righteousness, and endorsing the love of the people, good over evil and life over death.”

::OPPORTUNITY::

Vote Today For DK Ibomeka - Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards

You’ve seen him advertised and promoted a few times on my site before and now we’re asking for your votes. 
DK Ibomeka has been nominated as Best Male Vocalist in the Canadian Smooth Jazz awards.  Voting closes on February 28th – so cast it NOW. 

Vote
HERE!

DK has just completed his first European Tour in November 2006 and is currently touring Canada, having opened concerts for Colin James in Ontario and now headlining a series of club shows in Montreal, Mississauga, Ottawa and Western Canada.

Check out DK at http://www.myspace.com/dkibomeka!

About DK Ibomeka:

At six foot seven, DK Ibomeka (pronounced ee-bo-MECK-ah) has a towering stage presence and a voice to match. Musicians and industry insiders are calling DK Ibomeka one of the best new voices in years, with a three-octave range informed by the clarity and vibrancy of Ella Fitzgerald, the soulfulness of Ray Charles, and the deep, rich bass of Joe Williams.

The son of Nigerian immigrants to Canada, DK Ibomeka’s musical aspirations, oddly enough, began when he thought he was heading for medical school. Moving into a new apartment he discovered that someone had left behind an Ella Fitzgerald CD. He blew off the dust, slipped the CD into his player and immediately fell in love. “I had always loved R&B,” says DK, “but when I heard the exquisite voice of this woman, it called to me in a way that no other voice has.” He spent the next few months singing in the shower, writing songs and not confiding to anyone his dream of becoming a performer. Eventually he broke the news to his parents that he wished to devote his life to music, and they asked him to audition right there in the kitchen, a capella. Amazed (they had no idea their son could sing), his parents agreed to support his decision.

DK immediately signed up for studies at the Humber vocal jazz program and on weekends took advantage of as many open mike stages he could find. On the strength of his raw talent, he was offered a scholarship to the prestigious Berkeley School of Music, but unfortunately had to turn down this opportunity due to financial constraints. Undeterred, DK pressed on singing wherever and to whomever he could. Never in his wildest dreams did he think that before long he would be co-writing songs with Haydain Neale, leader of Canada’s jacksoul - or that Haydain would want to produce his debut album. Nor did he think that not long after launching his career he would be represented by the Feldman agency, joining their roster of such notable performers as Diana Krall, Nora Jones and Michael Buble.

DK Ibomeka’s debut album “Love Stories”, presents a mix of classic jazz sounds combined with a touch of blues and a distinct flavouring of soul-informed jazz. “Love Stories” was produced by Haydain Neale (jacksoul), with legendary engineer and producer George Massenburg on board as mixing consultant, and was mastered in New York City by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound. With each live performance (including an appearance at the 2005 Montreal Jazz Festival where he shared the stage with the Neville Brothers, Patti Labelle and Haydain Neale) DK continues to captivate audiences and critics alike.

Ibomeka recently completed a 20-date European tour, prompting MOJO, one of Britain's most highly-regarded music magazines, to declare the artist’s song “Dedicated to You” from Love Stories as one of its top 10 best songs "on the box, at the movies, on album and on line right now." According to MOJO, “The cream spills over on this version of a Billy Eckstein-Sarah Vaughn duet by a Canuck jazz/R&B singer with Nigerian roots.”

DK recently received a
Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards nomination for Male Vocalist of the Year as well as a National Jazz Award nomination in the Best Male Vocal category.

::TOP STORIES::

VJ Sarah Taylor Has Fractured Skull

By Graham Rockingham, The Hamilton Spectator

(Feb 20, 2007) MuchMusic VJ
Sarah Taylor was admitted to a Las Vegas hospital after fracturing her skull in an accidental fall. A statement issued yesterday by CHUM Television said the 25-year-old Hamilton native remained in an induced coma after undergoing surgery late Thursday to relieve pressure on her brain. "After falling ill last Wednesday, Sarah was admitted to a local hospital," David Kines, VP Music & Youth Services, CHUM Television, said. "Tests revealed that she had a fractured skull. It is not yet clear when the fracture occurred. It appears that the fracture is the result of an accidental fall. Police have ruled out any foul play." Doctors in Las Vegas were monitoring Taylor's condition to determine when to bring her out of the induced coma. "It is possible that Sarah will return to Toronto as early as this week," the statement said. Taylor, a graduate of Sherwood Secondary School in Hamilton, was on assignment in Las Vegas covering the lead-up to the NBA All-Star Game for the music station when she fell ill.  

Austin Clarke: It Always Comes Back To Barbados

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(February 18, 2007)
Austin Clarke's house is haunted. The 135-year-old dwelling on Shuter St. seems pleasant enough at first glance. The author welcomes you inside to a book-lined room with walls painted a shade of green that he says reminds him of "some fields I have seen in Barbados, where all was serene." But as anyone who has read Clarke's work knows, that is when you should be most afraid, because beneath the apparent tranquility of tropical sunshine, there are often dangerous impulses waiting to burst through to the surface.  That's the dynamic that drives his most famous book, the Giller Prize-winning The Polished Hoe, which Obsidian Theatre Company has turned into a play, starting previews tonight at the Enwave Theatre. It tells the story of Mary-Mathilda, an elderly woman of the islands who suddenly slashes through decades of oppression by murdering the manager of the sugar plantation for whom she has laboured so long. "The past is always there," admits the 72-year-old Clarke. "The only question is how often you decide to visit it, or allow it to visit you." Take this house. Clarke admits he bought it for no more significant a reason than "the way the light struck it was very magical."

But having completed the purchase, he discovered "a little framed picture that said it was inhabited in 1873 by three people, and the name of one is Jno, who was a shoemaker." He pauses and smiles, weaving the web of a born storyteller.  "Some people might say that stands for `Junior,' but I concluded that it was an African name and he was one of the slaves who escaped on the Underground Railroad and settled here. I feel protected by his spirit." But then there's the matter of the other ghost. "On the 29th of November, one year ago, my mother died," continues Clarke, "and suddenly, every afternoon at five o'clock, the doorbell would ring, but there would be nobody there. "I have friends who insist it's somebody on the street with a remote control for opening their car that triggers the bell," says Clarke with a twinkle in his eye. "But I like to believe – being a superstitious person – that it means much more than that. It is my mother's ghost coming to compliment me on my achievements, but to reprimand me to keep on the straight and narrow." As always, with Clarke, it comes back to Barbados.

He was born there in 1934 and immigrated to Canada 21 years later. But those formative island years cast an even longer shadow than the late afternoon light does through the windows of his house. It was back home in the West Indies that he wrote his first book, while still in school. "I began in the classical style," he says in a gentle, self-mocking tone. "`Once upon a time there was a boy...' But then I couldn't think about anything else to write, so I just drew lots of wavy lines. Then on the last page, I wrote, `I stepped on the wire and the wire wouldn't bend. And that's the way my story end,' and I signed it A. C. C. Clarke." And that was his last work of fiction until he came to Canada in 1955. "On the notice board of Trinity College, I saw there was a literary competition for the Trinity Review. I entered and I was shocked when I won it," he chuckles. "The prize was five dollars, a great sum of money in those days. I used it for my engagement party. I bought a big bottle of Gordon's Dry Gin, a bigger bottle of Schweppes Tonic Water and a huge bag of potato chips. I invited three of my best friends and had my engagement party in my room. "And I said to myself, `Perhaps there is some point in being a writer.'"

He laboured for a few years in the world of newspaper journalism, but finally decided that it wasn't for him. "It was 1963. I was married at the time, with two children. I said, `I'm going to be an artist' and all hell broke loose. I went on the dole. Twenty-eight dollars on Richmond St. every Friday. I gave myself one year. McClelland and Stewart accepted a book from me in six months." And that started an amazing 44-year journey. The prolific Clarke turned out novels, stories, poems, essays, memoirs – even a book devoted to the food of his beloved Islands. During the 1970s he also returned to Barbados as adviser to the prime minister and served briefly as the general manager of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (quite a different kind of CBC), before his political views led to the early termination of his contract. Clarke was such an outspoken activist during that period, in fact, that the Star once referred to him as "the angriest black man in Canada." Thirty years later, he makes no apologies for his behaviour. "I thought my anger was a legitimate anger because my point of view was being neglected and pushed aside by what James Baldwin called `the immortality of silence.' People were not willing to face their racism in those days. I would often be the only person brave enough or stupid enough to speak his mind." But now, older, wiser and accepted by the establishment, does the fire continue to burn inside Clarke?

"I still feel anger," he says. But there's a touch of sadness in his voice as well. "I'm angry because of what I see as a lack of direction on the part of young black men and young black women. "I do not approve of this new whipping boy that the absence of the black father in the nuclear home causes an upsurge in violence. I grew up being taught that hard work at school, hard work at home, would offer the possibility of success if you did what you were told. Today many young black men no longer consider that a viable belief. That is my sadness, and that is my anger." Ironically, the worldwide acclaim for The Polished Hoe and the ancillary benefits that have come with it have presented their own set of difficulties to Clarke. "The problem after a great success is writing the next book. You put things aside for travel and celebrity and then you find you have lost touch with words." He has finally finished his next book (called More) and admits to "revising it many, many, many times. I'm feeling very insecure, not because I'm worried about reviews, but because I feel I must remind people that I am still a writer." Clarke has been to some rehearsals of The Polished Hoe, but reveals that "I did not want to have too much to do with their process. "I have done my job by writing the book. They are adapting it because they like it and they believe it can be adapted." He does concede that it has been fascinating to "watch them taking a character apart and putting it back together again. That is a very valuable thing for a writer to learn." Ask Clarke what he feels today about the struggle that has occupied his whole life and he pauses a long time before answering. "I am old enough now and a little wiser to know that the problem of racism is not like the problem of homelessness. You can't just give a man a warm place to sleep and think that all the pain he has experienced will go away. "I want to say that the time has come for all of us, white and black, not to feel the need to prove our humanity to each other any more. We have had enough time to reach the Promised Land. We ought to be there by now." So it looks as though the ghosts in Austin Clarke's house are still not fully at rest, but perhaps they never will be...

Obsidian Theatre's production of The Polished Hoe starts previews tonight at the Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay West. The official opening is Thursday and it runs through March 4. For tickets and information, call 416-973-4000 or go to www.obsidian-theatre.com

Furtado's 'Say It Right' Bests Beyonce On Hot 100

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

(February 15, 2007) Nelly Furtado's "Say It Right" ends the 10-week reign of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" at No. 1 on the Hot 100 with a 2-1 climb. It's Furtado's second No. 1 from her album "Loose," following "Promiscuous," which reached the top six months ago. "Irreplaceable" slides to No. 2, ending the longest run at the top since Kanye West's "Gold Digger" featuring Jamie Foxx also spent 10 weeks there last year.  Elsewhere on the Hot 100, Gwen Stefani's "The Sweet Escape" featuring Akon rises 5-3 for a new peak, while Fall Out Boy's "This Ain't a Scene, It's An Arms Race" is down 3-4. Ludacris' "Runaway Love" featuring Mary J. Blige, which the pair performed on the Grammys last weekend, inches up 6-5, while Daughtry's "It's Not Over" drops 4-6.  Gym Class Heroes' "Cupid's Chokehold" featuring Patrick Stump zooms 15-7, giving the group its first top 10 hit. Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around ... Comes Around" rises 11-8, while Fergie's "Glamorous" featuring Ludacris rockets 31-9 as the chart's top digital gainer. Fergie thus earns her third top 10 solo hit in six months, equal to her group the Black Eyed Peas' tally over the past six years. 

Akon's "I Wanna Love You" featuring Snoop Dogg rounds out the top 10, falling 7-10. But he's got another track poised for top 10 success in the form of "Don't Matter," which climbs 30-11 this week. Meanwhile, rapper Mims' "This Is Why I'm Hot" is the chart's fastest growing track at radio for a second week in a row and jumps 59-46, while Jordan Pruitt has the week's top debut with "Outside Looking In" at No. 77.  Also new this week is Sheryl Crow's cover of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" at No. 78, Timbaland's "Give It To Me" featuring Furtado and Timberlake at No. 87, Yung Joc's "1st Time" featuring Marques Houston and Trey Songz at No. 93, UNK's "2 Step" at No. 94 and Crime Mob's "Rock Yo Hips" featuring Lil Scrappy at No. 100.  On Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Robin Thicke's "Lost Without U" flip-flops 2-1 with Lloyd's "You" featuring Lil' Wayne. He joins Alicia Keys and Blige as the only artists since 2000 to top this chart and the Adult R&B tally with the same single while also leading the Top R&B Albums chart in the same week.  George Strait earns his 42nd No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart with "It All Comes Natural," ending Rodney Atkins' four-week reign at the top. Big & Rich's "Lost in This Moment" is the chart's top debut at No. 41, the best opening of the unconventional duo's career. Its next album, "Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace," is due June 5.  Luis Fonsi climbs 11-1 to overtake the Hot Latin Songs chart, which had been ruled by Hector El Father's "Sola" for three weeks. John Mayer earns his first No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart with "Waiting on the World To Change," bumping 10-week chart-topper "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield back down to No. 2.  There's no budging atop Billboard's rock charts, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers begin a fifth week at No. 1 on Modern Rock with "Snow (Hey Oh)" and Three Days Grace starts a 10th atop Mainstream Rock with "Pain."

Montreal Singer-Songwriter Close To Success

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

(Feb. 17, 2007) The world is upside down for the young man who sings about falling to the sky. A week ago, Patrick Watson's Close to Paradise rose to No. 4 on the Canadian album charts, ascending to the pop-star air of Nelly Furtado, the Shins and Justin Timberlake.  Think of the rise more in terms of a child's breakaway balloon than a sharp, determined bullet. The album (whimsically sophisticated pop) has been out since late September, 2006, selling well after its debut in the top 60. Watson's Montreal-based band, who last summer opened for the late James Brown in Europe, has toured steadily since the release of Close to Paradise, a record which critics wrote wonderful things about. The recent high-charting isn't necessarily a fluke, but it was unexpected. Watson, who thinks of the development as the “weirdest thing in the world,” has a simple explanation. “We play music that people respond to,” he says, over the phone. “I don't think it's anything more complicated than that.” Some of the sales spurt can be attributed to the band's recent appearance on the popular Francophone television program Tout le Monde en Parle, which airs nationally on Radio-Canada.  The feet of Watson leave the ground on more than one of the album's dreamy songs, and yet the singer-pianist is not getting too carried away with the chart-climbing business. “It's pretty funny to be with Furtado and Timberlake,” he laughs. “But, you know what, why not?”

Why not, indeed? The album is ambitious for textured, fantastical and fun sounds – a little Pink Floyd there, some cabaret charm here. There's the mischief of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour to go along with a cinematic flair and vocals that are, at turns, feathery or soaring. All that, and a twinkling girl-group sparkle right out of the Eisenhower era. “In terms of production, Mr. Sandman was the first song I got turned on to,” says Watson, 27, referring to the Chordettes 1954 hit. “It's that shimmering sound, with a modern flare to it.” Raised in Hudson, Que., a small, genteel town west of Montreal on the Ottawa River, young Watson was singing in local churches by the age of seven. His father was a professional pilot who toyed with the theory that music came from the sky, and that a built-up city such as Montreal would interfere with a musician's ability to receive it. (This notion has never been dispelled officially). Watson studied classical and jazz piano composition and performance, eventually joining a high-energy ska group before concentrating on audio-visual collaborations and the refined musical styles that eventually led to Just Another Ordinary Day in 2003 and last year's Close to Paradise. “There's lots of music out there,” says Watson, when asked about his songwriting influences. “Classical music is a wealth of chord changes and amazing ideas. I mean, if you're not going back to that, you're missing out. Bands like Radiohead know that.” A Debussy-lover who plays the occasional game of pickup hockey, Watson learns from all genres. Listen to The Storm on Close to Paradise, and you will hear Johnny Cash dragged across the clouds by sugary choir – the Chordettes, perhaps. The album's closer, Bright Shiny Lights, is gospel.

Given Watson's reverence for musical predecessors – “It's a natural part of music to take from older styles” – five concerts in Europe with James Brown must have been a kick. According to the musician, the gigs were “an amazing experience,” but not just for the chance to see the then-living legend perform. “It's was a different era that they were still participating in,” Watson explains. “They have an amazing respect for the stage. To be put into a time machine, to see how an older touring band would work – it was fascinating.” As much as anyone can have an actual conversation with Brown, Watson was able to chat with the man a couple of times – once to thank him for having him on the road. “Don't think I didn't hear ya out there,” Brown told Watson. “You sounded amazin'.” Watson, who recalls the Godfather of Soul as “really sweet,” took note of the man's tireless charisma. “He was an old showbiz dude, you know? So he was quite good at it, making you smile.” That was a few months ago now, but Watson couldn't be faulted for maintaining the grin. A spot at this spring's South by Southwest Festival is coming up, and Watson and his band were just nominated for a Juno in the top-new-artist category. Watson is also up for a Genie Award tonight for Trace-moi, a song he co-wrote for the film La Belle Bête. And although Close to Paradise has drifted back closer to earth, another ascent is likely. An upcoming episode of Grey's Anatomy on CTV and ABC will include The Great Escape, a solo-piano number off the album. Seems about right, a great escape – up and away he goes. Patrick Watson plays Hamilton's Casbah on Wednesday, Windsor's Phog Lounge on Thursday and Toronto's Rivoli on Friday.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Up for Hip-Hop Karaoke

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter

(February 15, 2007) "We don't have any Main Source," says deejay Dalia Cohen.  "Yeah we do. I've got `Faking the Funk'," says Les Seaforth. He shoots back: "What about Souls of Mischief?" For the past few weeks, Seaforth and Cohen, and compatriots Noel Dix and Luc Ballon, have been making a hip-hop grocery list.  On it are columns of artists and songs, as the foursome build the final song list for their new event, Hip-Hop Karaoke, debuting tonight at The Boat. Throwing parties is nothing new for these folks – Cohen, Seaforth and Dix are the crew behind the monthly Never Forgive Action, a popular, strictly old-school hip-hop night that has rotated through many Toronto venues over the past three years. And what they've come to learn is karaoke is instrumentally different – and harder to put together.  "The logistics of this have been a little bit more difficult than any of us imagined. It's not as easy as renting a machine, getting a disc of songs with a bouncing ball that comes on a screen, and a booklet of songs that is already made, so we had to do all that from scratch," says Seaforth. He's also a well-known local rapper who goes by the name More or Les.  Of course, they have brought this upon themselves. All three are huge hip-hop heads, and as their immense record collections can attest, they are completists.

They're taking the same tack in creating this night.  They do have some help, though. Hip-Hop Karaoke has been bringing down the house in New York for the past two years. Through mutual acquaintances, Cohen says they got in touch with Jason Newman, the originator, and asked permission to bring it to Toronto. It turns out Newman had heard of NFA, and had actually tried to find the party one time he was in town.  "He gave us his blessing to do it here," says Cohen. "It's really popular there. It's had, like, huge people just drop by, like Big Daddy Kane and Rhymefest, among others." The New York affiliation has eased the way somewhat by providing some of the lyric sheets. Just as in other offshoots, like in Bristol and London, England, Hip-Hop Karaoke lyrics are read from printed sheets.  "I think we have just under 300 songs, which is a little insane, because there are some songs that I'd be very surprised that anyone will ever do," says Dix. For a list of available songs and lyrics, check out myspace.com/hiphopkaraoketoronto. In one of the promotional postings on local Web board Stillepost.ca, someone snarkily wonders how this event is different from regular hip hop.

"It's not. That's the thing, that's the point," says Dix. "This is as close as you can get (to being) onstage at a hip-hop show, doing a song that's not yours. But you've got the exact same beat as they do, so why can't you do it? I mean, you're not Nas, but you can try." It's also karaoke and, as anyone who's had a few too many at Bloor St. W. karaoke bar XO knows, in the wee hours you are sure to hear someone trying to do Biggie's "Hypnotize" or Rob Base's "It Takes Two." This night outdoes that in its breadth of selection alone. And, despite what Dix says, it is interesting because of how it is subverting some of rap's idioms. Hip-hop is incredibly self referential, but it has a specific set of rules surrounding it. For instance, while it's just fine to jack a well-known beat for a performance or mix tape, dropping any more than a lyric from a famous rapper's song at an open-mic night will get you labelled a "biter." Originality, in a freestyle, is key to the performance and demonstrating one's skills. At Hip-Hop Karaoke, that's turned on its ear, to the point that if a rapper shows up and wants to perform an extended set of their own original rhymes or freestyles, the organizers say they'll use the hook.  That's not to say they don't want known MCs to show up – just remember, cover versions only, please.  The other surprising thing is just how anticipated this event is. Hip hop's image generally doesn't include fun, and that's what this night is all about.  "It's amazing, every one we talk too is just so excited about the event, like it's an idea that people instantly get and think it will be really fun," says Cohen.

Chantal Kreviazuk Gives Back

By DAVID SCHMEICHEL -- Sun Media

(February 15, 2007) Singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk may have enjoyed a privileged existence while growing up in Winnipeg, but that doesn't mean she wasn't affected by the struggles of those less fortunate.  Quite the opposite, in fact. As a high school student at Balmoral Hall in West Broadway and later, while attending the University of Winnipeg, Kreviazuk frequently found herself coming face-to-face with the realities of inner-city life.  "While Balmoral Hall is itself a prestigious school, it's right in the core area," says Kreviazuk, 33, from a tour stop in Vancouver. "So every day, when we'd leave those gates, I'd just be amazed at what was going on in our own community."  Kreviazuk has, of course, spent the last decade or so giving back to her community and to the global community as a whole. She's been a tireless champion of children's rights -- aligning herself with charities like War Child and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada -- so it should come as no surprise that her latest hometown gig at the Centennial Concert Hall next week is a fundraiser for the U of W's newly established Opportunity Fund. The new fund exists to make education more accessible for disadvantaged students, including inner-city youth, aboriginals and young people from war-affected nations or refugee populations.

"It's not a handout," Kreviazuk says of the fund, which will reward students' individual achievements with bursary credits they can apply towards tuition at U of W. "They have to earn it."  When it comes to hard work, Kreviazuk is something of an expert, having found a way to balance a successful career (her last album Ghost Stories just earned her two more Juno nominations) with the demands of being a wife and mother.  It helps that her husband, Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida, is a successful musician in his own right. In fact, Kreviazuk's show on Monday will mark the first time the two have shared a stage with each other in Winnipeg, should you be looking for further incentive to buy a ticket.  And Kreviazuk herself suspects further incentive might be in order, noting with some irony that Winnipeg has always been one of her weakest markets, not to mention the only stop on the current tour that isn't presently sold out.  "I'm just a hometown girl, not this big glamorous chick, so there's never been much mystery to me," she says, after explaining she hopes to be able to continue in the same humanitarian vein as local activist-rockers like The Weakerthans. "It's not that I'm disappointed but I'm really counting on Winnipeggers to step up, because it's for an amazing cause. And I don't want to be playing to a half-empty theatre in my own hometown!"

Your Chance To Swing The (Jazz) Vote

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Chapman, Jazz Columnist

(February 15, 2007) Gentlemen and ladies who love jazz, boot up your computer engines. Today's the day you can start voting online for your favourite Canadian jazz idol, and give him or her a shot at winning a 2007 National Jazz Award. Voting at www.nationaljazzawards.com runs from today to March 25, with the winners in 27 categories announced at an awards night gala April 10 at the recently refurbished, newly plush Palais Royale. The stellar line-up of Canadian musicians who will entertain there is so accomplished that the sixth-annual awards wingding could well qualify as concert of the year. There's plenty of choice for voters. As well as 21 categories for performing musicians, bands, producers, arrangers and composers, there are slots for best album, broadcaster, festival, journalist, jazz label and photographer. There's just one non-Canuck category – international musician, but it does include Nanaimo's own diva, Diana Krall.

Leading the nominations are noted members of the nation's jazz elite. As in 2006, pianist-composer-bandleader Hilario Duran is currently on top, with eight nominations in the keyboardist, instrumentalist, arranger, composer, big band, album, musician and Latin jazz artist categories. Last year he mustered six nominations but claimed only the Latin jazz award. Next up are David Braid with seven and Mike Murley with six – but nitpickers know that Murley plays in two nominated bands, Metalwood and Braid's sextet, so he could perhaps be allotted eight. The fattest category is international musician, with nine nominations, followed by arrangers with eight, plus a host of others at seven. There's a total of 162 nominations from which to choose. Bill King, artistic director of the Beaches festival, as well as pianist, bandleader, publisher, journalist, photographer, vocalist, producer, and mentor to the careers of young vocalists, has four nominations. The NJA Awards, successor to the annual awards made by his Jazz Report Magazine, will be broadcast on JazzFM91 at a later date. Says King, who has played a key role in all NJA events: "The line-up of entertainment at the awards is amazing. It represents different cities and all the regions of Canada. The venue will feel very different from when it hosted the 2004 gala. More than $3 million has been spent on the (Palais Royale) makeover."

He admitted that Toronto-based artists dominate the nominations, but noted that this city has the most active jazz scene. "Moreover, our representatives in Vancouver and Montreal didn't do enough to ensure that jurors' ballots were acted on and returned by deadline." Hosting the event are Juno-nominated vocalist Dione Taylor and veteran David Clayton-Thomas. Performances include: saxophonists P.J. Perry, John Nugent, Jim Galloway and Murley; vocalists Holly Cole, Sophie Berkal-Sarbit and Taylor; pianist Oliver Jones; vibraphonist Peter Appleyard; trumpeter Guido Basso; and a house band led by Hugh Fraser.

Jewish Legend In His Own Time

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(February 15, 2007) The late, great Tangiers was renowned as one of Toronto's most tightly wound guitar bands during its too-brief run to the upper echelons of the Canadian indie scene. But the restrictions of its herky-jerky format must have seriously gnawed away at co-frontman Josh Reichmann. That's the sense one gets, anyway, from the torrent of manic energies unleashed on Telepathy Now!, his recent solo stepping-out under the alias Jewish Legend. A giddy rush of high concepts, personal catharses and loopy musical experiments, it's the sound of Reichmann – who began writing the record during a self-imposed stint in rehab a year ago, shortly after Tangiers co-founder James Sayce abandoned the band and rock 'n' roll in general for law school – letting off a lot of creative and psychological steam. But, fortunately, not losing complete sight of his previous band's well-honed pop smarts during the wild ride.

"I'm still trying to write pop songs in some way," says Reichmann over coffee with Legend bandmates Joseph Shabason and Jeremy Finkelstein. "I don't think I'd ever stray so far from pop songs that I'd just become really abstracted. I don't really like abstracted music that's hyper-indulgent so much – I still like the format of pop songwriting. "But I knew I wanted to make something about how raw I felt with life changes and this renewed sense of purpose." Jewish Legend opens tonight for No Dynamics and Demon Claws at the Silver Dollar on Spadina, then Sunday they join the Wavelength line-up at Sneaky Dee's. And by Reichmann's own admission, his solo debut on Telepathy Now! is a bit of a jumble.  The songs began as "overly earnest" cris de coeur, written while he'd checked into an institution early last year. But a growing fascination with such topics as Jewish mysticism, magic, "the language of modern shamanism" and his own family heritage soon took over. Upon release, Reichmann and pal Ian McGettigan (Thrush Hermit) set up in "a little practice-space cubicle" and tried to make sense of this brewing maelstrom of ideas whilst hammering Reichmann's rough song structures into shape, overdub by overdub. Reichmann wound up playing most of the instruments heard on the disc, with McGettigan and Nassau frontman Jon McCann contributing a smattering of bass and drums, respectively.

The results often recall the work of Marc Bolan or David Bowie in their most starry-eyed early years, but there's a lunatic unpredictability – blasts of brass, Middle Eastern flavours, lurching tempo changes, more than a hint of music-hall camp – running through all of Telepathy Now! that befits the jabbering conceptual tumult Reichmann is trying to articulate.  "I tried to be a little cryptic," he admits. "There's a different idea than just therapeutic purging. There's this idea of history and redemption and lying, all using a coded spiritual language. "I just feel like there's all these stories in my family of coincidence and confluence of events, mixed with grandmothers having these hard-to-explain telepathic experiences that have kind of been lore in my family. I've had my own experiences with that stuff, too, so I was sceptically interested in this stuff – without getting overly into the silliness and New Age junk that comes along with the paranormal. "I'm just interested in the precipice we might be on where humans will eventually tap into reserves of powers we haven't realized yet. "That's where the title Telepathy Now! comes from. But it's also about connection with self and others. It's more realist than it is total, quack-y garbage." Reichmann is pleased these days to have found in Shabason and Finkelstein (of No Dynamics renown) enthusiastic accomplices for all this weirdness. Indeed, the one-man-band thing seems to have been retired, as the firm guitar/saxophone/drums line-up is already collaborating on a second Jewish Legend album.  "It'll be more of a live record, more about the interplay and more detailed writing," he says. "I played everything on the last record. Now I don't have to do anything but talk ... "I like this band. I think the only other thing we want is a girl who's covered in tambourines to do interpretive dancing, but we haven't found the right girl yet."

Remy Ma Ready For Close-Up

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 15, 2007) *Brace yourself – a reality show about the life of rapper
Remy Ma could be headed to a major cable network before the end of the year – should the artist get her wish. According to Billboard, the Bronx rhymer is already discussing a deal with an undisclosed network. "Being that we going through contracts, we can't really talk about it, but it's gonna be real fun," she tells Billboard.com. "They follow me around, and there are things that happen to me along the way. But nothing too extra; I still wanted to have some piece of privacy so people don't know everything." As previously reported, Remy is also involved in a new group with fellow female rappers Shawnna and Jacki-O. The trio has finally settled on the name 3Some to represent the group. "We was like, 'We in the studio anyway -- n*ggas is throwing us crazy beats,'" she tells Billboard. "We're being received so well: three females from three different backgrounds, three different ages, different everything coming together." Plans are in the works to open up the project to female rappers Trina, Lil Mo and Young B (of “Chicken Noodle Soup” fame) as well. Remy is hoping to also lure the ladies out on a tour under the tentative title N.E.W., as in Never Enough Women.

"I'm on another game plan," she says. "I see how Diddy and Jay [-Z] and 50 [Cent] do it: they got they own alliance. But girls, that one doesn't hang with this one, and if you look at it, no one really has a legitimate reason. If [Lil'] Kim and Foxy [Brown] would have done that 'Thelma and Louise' album when they was poppin', it would've been the craziest sh*t ever! I feel like its time for a change; lets start a new wave of upcoming females and artists."  Remy, who is no longer affiliated with Fat Joe’s Terror Squad,” is also recording her second solo album, "PunishHer," a title she chose in honour of her mentor and friend, the late Big Pun.  "What's so crazy is that this month it made seven years since Pun died," she says. "I released my album last year on the 7th, and wanted to release my album this year on the 7th but because of contracts we couldn't. I been through so much this year, and I feel that the name fits my mood, the way I feel. That should be a good way to start fresh."

Ryan Malcolm: An Idol's Next Move

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(February 14, 2007)  There are two kinds of Canadian Idol contestants: The no-hopers who elicit sympathy and those who do well, but have to spend the rest of their lives crawling out from under the Idol stigma. They elicit more sympathy. (Not the American Idols, mind you, who fare better.) Then there's Ryan Malcolm, now 27, the guinea pig, a.k.a. winner of the first Canadian Idol in 2003, probably more recognized for his dark-rimmed glasses and toothy grin than his unfaltering voice. But the glasses are now gone in publicity shots, and the hair is multi-directional: The Kingston-raised, Toronto-based singer is preparing to break back into the business without the Idol brand behind him. His new band is the cautiously named Low Level Flight, with its first album, Urgency, arrives next month. But distributors are being coy. Initially, they only sent a short clip of the first single without biographical info about Malcolm. And on the band's website, Malcolm (who admits to growing up listening to the unlikely combination of NOFX, Rancid and Billy Joel) drives home the point that he had no control over the Idol music he is remembered for.

He is not trying to hide the past. But he shrugs off the blender-whirl that was Idol, his sixth place in World Idol, the five-times platinum post-Idol single and the more than 100,000 copies sold of his first album, Home. The truth is, his post-Idol contract with Sony BMG ran out, and he probably couldn't get another decent contract. The crucial difference this time is that the music is now his own, and more emo than Idol. Malcolm shrugs again: "The great thing is that the ownership of this album is on me. There's definitely much more of a sense of accomplishment," and well over a year's worth of writing, recording and starting his own record label. By comparison, the 15 songs on Home were picked from 125 tunes written by committee. Malcolm was given four hours to write a song in a room with a team of songwriters before going to another room for another four-hour session, and so on, working with 30 or 40 writers in the end. But that experience sank in. His new music is still radio-friendly, and Malcolm doesn't mind performing the occasional solo concert or and even musical theatre, trading off his old fame. He also now has enough connections to develop a cable-TV show about exotic musical cities around the world. And his singing career supports his regimen of playing video games for a couple of hours in the middle of a weekday. No, save the sympathy for others.

Sean Paul To Send New Message

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 15, 2007) It's not everyday that a musical artist decides to take a stand for something that he believes in, but dancehall favourite,
Sean Paul has decided to use his music to bring on change.   In a recent article, dancehall star Sean Paul addresses his concerns regarding youth violence is his homeland of Jamaica.  Sean Paul admits that his next album will be unlike what people are used to. In an interview conducted by MTV News, the artist said that "the content is just a little different than what people expect from me. [On] one or two of the songs ... it's not about partying, it's not about ladies; it's about the kids with the guns in the streets. It's more reality."   The report says Sean Paul's up and coming LP will place emphasis on the issues that hit home to him.  Since he started his recording last September, two people very close to him have passed; a founding member of his Dutty Rock crew, and a younger friend that attended a party with Sean Paul the night before he was killed.

 "The next day he goes back to his community and gets shot to death, It's upsetting to see these kids’ lives wasted," Sean Paul said when asked about the incident. "I saw potential in these two kids and many others. It really hit home.  And I'm thinking of a voice, I need to say something to people."   "I'm trying to keep the party people partying and keep them happy; that music is a release, to chill the hell out and wild out and your thing. But also it's reached a point where I know I have this voice that people listen to, so I have to make people think a little more than they may be used to."   Don't get it twisted though, Sean Paul still like to mak'em dance. The reggae rocker is currently working on a remix to Akon's "I Wanna Love You" which should be hitting radio sometime in the near future, according to the MTV article.  Even with this recent collabo completed and the lighter material he is working on for his next album, Sean Paul told the music channel that heavy items/songs would be prominent for him.  "I feel like I have things to say," Sean Paul said, "And that's what I'm looking forward to."

k-os To Sign Shawn Hewitt

By KAREN BLISS -- For JAM! Music

(January 29, 2007 ) Toronto singer/rapper k-os is setting up his own label called Crown Loyalist Recordings through EMI Music Canada and plans to make Scarborough, ON avant-soul pacesetter Shawn Hewitt his first signing.  "k-os has an imprint that we'll facilitate, but it's a little bit more complicated," acknowledges EMI Music Canada's director of A&R, Fraser Hill.  Details have yet to be worked out, but k-os, whose real name is Kevin Brereton, says, "All we know is that I'm talking to EMI about having my own label and Shawn is the first -- I don't even want to call it 'experiment;' I don't even want to call it 'project' -- it was just the most natural progression.  "He'd been touring with me for like maybe a year, maybe two years, so by the time that was finished and he was starting to get into making a new record, EMI had been blown away by him, so it's really more between EMI and Shawn. They loved him off of his own beauty, but I think, like me, he's really sceptical about this whole music industry, so I'm just kind of a friend who can explain things to him.  "Also, because I've been on this label since '99, it just all works out. So more than a label deal, it's just a scenario where it ends up that all these labels liked him, but he felt more comfortable coming to EMI because I was there."

K-os first heard of Hewitt in May 2003 when Toronto journalist Benjamin Boles wrote about the newcomer for a Now magazine cover story. The piece began, "Don't feel too bad if you haven't heard of Shawn Hewitt yet. He's only been playing under his own name for a year. He doesn't have an album out. His new band's only played two shows with him (just one in Toronto) and he has no big-name connections. You'll be hearing about him soon. Why? Because he doesn't sound like anybody else. He takes risks and he makes music that's intellectually stimulating and possesses that elusive element known as soul."  "I was looking at the cover of Now and I was like, 'Who is this guy?'" k-os recalls. "It's funny because Bob Marley had this statement that 'a musician should look like a musician' and I always remember that. You see people sometimes on a plane or an airport and you go, 'Who is that person?' So it started from that."  He then called his publisher at the time, Linda Bush, who had brought k-os to Universal Music Publishing Canada.  "I'm like, 'Have you heard of this?' because Linda Bush hears of everything,' and she was like, 'Yeah, I have his demo. Remember that guy I told you who sent me his demo, that's him.' So I was like, 'Really? Let me hear this sh*t.' So she gave it to me and it blew my mind."  Hewitt had come up with the term "Afro-Kraut" to describe his boundary-blurring, sometimes epic getaways of soul, jazz and rock, and specifically referenced Donny Hathaway and Can. K-os says that's what drew him to Hewitt's music.

"At its core, I just thought of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway. Those are people who I grew up trying to emulate and also loving their music, so I had no choice but to submit to that," k-os explains. "But the broken mathematics part is he's into bands like Can, but he's also into hip hop obviously. All those elements are converging in his music and that broken mathematics is what I love, but I also love the fact that it's just soul music."  Since then, Hewitt became the recipient of 2004's NXNE/Universal Music Canada Fan Choice Award at the North By Northeast music festival. He and his band, The National Strike, used the prize money to record a six-song EP, "The Soft Society," with rock musician/producer Ian Blurton (Weakerthans, C'mon), which Universal Music Canada distributed in 2005.  k-os says he plans to produce at least three tracks for Hewitt's new album, "Spare Hearts." Hewitt, who sings and plays guitar and keyboards, will also produce much of it himself and plans to work with Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene).  "I think that guy is just a really genuine person," k-os says of Hewitt. "Sometimes, you forget that other artists get interested in other artists. They see them coming because it's a reminder of just how innocent and humble and eyes wide open, ready to see what's going on they are. You've been there 'cause you've gone through it and you see that in someone and you recognize it right away.  "To tell you the truth., the big issue right now is what's my play gonna be in it," k-os admits. "I've got until 2008 to really get what I'm doing off the ground." K-os's album, "Atlantis: Hymns For Disco," comes out in the U.S. through Virgin on Feb. 20 and he will be touring the U.S. from Feb. 17 to April 6 (including an appearance on Letterman on release day).  Hewitt's album expected to be released on Crown Loyalist/EMI Music Canada in late summer/early fall.

Shirley Murdock Is Back!

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Mona Austin / mona@lachurchscene.com

(February 14, 2007)
Shirley Murdock is cooking up nourishment for the heart and soul with her sophomore gospel recording, Soul Food, a multi-format CD.  Upon her buoyant return, the acclaimed singer redresses a subject that is closely associated with her name: relationship with oneself and God.   The first serving from her upcoming sophomore album is "I Love Me Better than That," a self-esteem boosting groove seasoned deliciously with positive attitude and a guttural garnish of ad libs at the end that make you want a second helping. Her second album is intended to inspire all Shirley Murdock fans to look to the main man in her life (God) to fortify their relationships and live balanced lives.  "I sing at conferences and prisons. I wanted the CD to reflect total ministry because we're body, soul and spirit. A lot of times, in the body of Christ, we aren't balanced. We know how to do church but do we know how to be a wife or a husband and develop relationships?" As she and her husband, Dale Anthony DeGroat (an associate minister at 2nd Baptist Church in Springfield, OH) began to write and produce Soul Food themselves, they were looking for songs that talked about consequences and solutions to consequences. 

 The Toledo, Ohio born singer describes the first singles that embodies the vision: ". . .'I Love Me Better Than That' -- dealing with the fact that God made you on purpose with purpose.  But there are some things that are blocking you that may be separating you from being all that you ought to be But you got to look into the mirror of your own life. Your battle might be different from my battle, but whatsoever it is, God's love is better than that, so take back whatever was stolen because the enemy cometh to kill, steal and destroy, but Jesus said I cometh that you might have life more abundantly." Although she still has droves of fans Murdock has waded through the waters of misunderstanding from people who still associate her with her R&B past. Over twenty years ago Murdock foretold the coming of Internet dating singing "Computer Love" in tandem with her mentor, the late Roger Troutman. Debuting as a soloist in 1986 with her self-titled release, the sultry voice of the former Zapp member wrapped around the lyrics of several relationship ballads such as the classic urban adagio about an adulterous affair, "As We Lay" and purred "Husband," which deals with a woman who resists the desire to cheat with a married man. Her full-bodied churchy voice quickly gave rise to a successful R&B career.  Then after years of unexplained hibernation she re-emerged with her signature buttery riffs and runs as a featured artist on T.D. Jakes' Sacred Love Songs singing the hit love songs for married couples, "You Are My Ministry," and the "The Lady, Her Lover, Her Lord."  Her widely embraced first gospel album "Home" would soon follow.   "A lot of people want to hold me hostage because of `As We Lay' but they fail to understand that the song never glorified infidelity," she protests. "It dealt with a real life situation. The fact that it was infidelity got your attention but the meat of the song was about consequences and hind sight being 20/20. Baby, you got to count up the cost because you may not be able to afford that thing."

As Murdock grew up dreaming of becoming a professional gospel singer, secular music was never in her plans.  As the story goes, her cousin took a recording of Shirley singing gospel to Troutman who did not have any ties to the gospel industry.  Being amazed by Murdock's voice, Roger offered her a deal that she initially refused. "I said, 'Lord is this you?' . . . I wasn't going to leave church and just be out there in the world doing drugs and drinking." She held on to her roots transporting listeners to the front pew no matter what she sang about.  Attempting to satisfy her tendency toward gospel  she sang a set of gospel songs in her concerts, but needed more: "My life would not be full if I did not have an opportunity to sing gospel."  Her break into the gospel industry came through Bishop T.D. Jakes with total support from Troutman. "I was signed to Warner Brothers to do another R&B album when Bishop Jakes came into my life and offered to have me sing on some of his projects. I went to Roger Troutman and told him what I wanted to do. The first thing he did was release me from my production deal with him because he knew this meant a lot to me and he respected that. The second thing he did was that he got Warner Brothers to release me." Now she is well on her way to ministering encouragement to those who love her as the voice behind "As We Lay" or the woman who sang on Bishop T.D. Jakes' Sacred Love Songs. To sum up the flavour of Soul Food she says, "It's all that good stuff you need to build up your inner man to get through this thing called life.  We did songs of encouragement, praise and worship because His presence is all we need.  We [sic] just giving you good medicine--Something to hold on to!" Take a look at the latest music video from Shirley Murdock, "I Love Me Better Than That" and hear the live version on the new CD along with a full spread of other spirit-lifting offerings (including a collaboration with former Zapp members.) http://www.taseis.com/videos/SMurdock/SM-ILoveMeBetter-veryHIband.wmv

Frank Jr. Fears For The Future Of Music

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(February 17, 2007) Sometimes two letters can be the heaviest burden in the world, if those letters are "Jr."
Frank Sinatra Jr. appears tonight at Casino Rama, a 63-year-old singer who has spent most of his life simultaneously basking in the glow of his superstar father's radiance and trying to escape from his considerable shadow. "I gave up weighing those two sides years ago," says Sinatra in a phone conversation from Florida a few days before arriving in Canada.  "I never went in for making studies of what I've gained and what I've lost. My job is to do the music, that's it, pal. That's demanding enough on its own." There's a tough-guy growl to his voice not unlike that of his father, who died in 1998, which makes perfect sense, both from the point of view of genetics and also from hearing that fist-of-iron-wrapped-in-velvet-sound for so many years of his life. Nature or nurture? Make it one for my baby and one more for the road. Nowadays, Sinatra performs two distinct types of material, although they're complementary rather than contrasting. "I sing a lot of my father's songs because people expect that of me and I owe it to them to deliver what they expect. It's very tough to sound like that, but after 45 years of hard work, I flatter myself that I've become a singer enough to do it."

Did he ever discuss the art of making music with his father? An emphatic "No."  "He never talked about the stuff. He just sang it. `Nice and easy does it every time' wasn't just his song. It was his motto. How did I figure out how to sound like him? I listened. I listened and I learned." But when he's allowed to sing his own choice of material – like on his recent CD, That Face! – his songwriting choices still combine paternal faves like Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen with different tunesmiths like Barry Manilow and Rupert Holmes. Interestingly enough, when you ask Sinatra how he approaches these songs of his own choosing, his modus operandi doesn't seem much different from his old man's. "I tell the story. That's all I do. I tell the story." And while he's happy about the fidelity of his father's fans ("His audience will forever be his audience"), he worries about how long there will continue to be people who like that kind of music. The recent Grammy Awards seem to have fanned his ire and now he explodes in a burst of street-guy anger worthy of his father. "I have no hope for the future of music. Not when the Grammys are full of rap and hip-hop and all of this crap is being glamorized as though it had some kind of social significance," Sinatra says.

"It's the same hackneyed stuff over and over again and they just keep giving out awards for it. And the people who are making the better music don't even get to accept their prizes with all this garbage." Sinatra is obviously sharing Michael Buble's recent ire at seeing his vocal category shoved outside of the primetime live broadcast. "Why does the music industry keep supporting this kind of stuff? My friend, it's because it can be bought short and sold long." Using a stock market metaphor drives home the fact that to Sinatra, it's increasingly a business he doesn't feel at home in. "I can't play their games," he insists. "I am not equipped to do the emotionally sterile, empty, contemporary junk that's around today.  "I'm only equipped to do the music that I know, the music that I spent my whole life learning how to sing." In other words, he'll do it his way.

Frank Sinatra Jr. appears at Casino Rama tonight at 9 p.m. For tickets, phone 1-800-832-7529 or go to www.ticketmaster.ca

Barenaked Ladies: Familiar TUnes but Passion's Still There

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Pop Music Critic

(February 17, 2007) Could it be that overexposure, not their collective tendency to "zaniness," has been the great dividing point with the Barenaked Ladies all along? Like most Canadians with a feeling about such things, I've always regarded Toronto's beloved geeks-made-good with a certain amount of fond respect for their unlikely success abroad, their heightened songwriting and busking-battered musicianship, and their dry sense of humour.  Like many Canadians, however, I wince instantly when "One Week" or "If I Had $1,000,000" – pretty much anything off Gordon, actually – drifts into earshot. Not because they're not tidy little pop tunes, but because I've heard them so many bloody times my mind and body have simply been bled dry of their ability to react positively. Whatever part of me once that allowed me to feel something about those tunes has long been hardened with scar tissue. Heading into the Ladies' homecoming show before 13,000 doting fans at the Air Canada Centre last night, though, it was tough to tell what to expect. Independent again after a long, fruitful relationship with Warner Music, the Barenaked Ladies have issued two albums' worth of new material – Barenaked Ladies Are Me and Barenaked Ladies Are Men, both released through the quintet's own Desperation Records – since September notable for not yielding a truly inescapable hit or much in the way of broad public excitement. They didn't even get a Juno nomination this year.

Left with no massive hits to flog and no one to please last night but a horde of friends, family and longtime Toronto converts, then, the Ladies seemed more focused than ever on simply letting their strong and discreetly varied catalogue, rather than foolish theatrics, speak for itself.  There was an amusing burst of choreography to close the new "Angry People," a brief game bongo-themed Name That Tune with drummer Tyler Stewart and the usual, droll banter (the best bits discussed the curling-stone market in London, Ont., and pegged Harold Ballard as "the father of bluegrass") and kinda-lame freestyle raps between co-frontmen Steven Page and Ed Robertson.  But once "One Week" was cleared away at the outset, the set list in general found the guys exploring the more bittersweet reaches of their songbook: the wistful punch of "The Old Apartment," the soft existential malaise of "Pinch Me" and "It's All Been Done," Stunt's mildly perverse "In the Car," sadness-tinged oldies like "Enid" and the crowd-conquering "Brian Wilson." The arrangements have changed over time to fit the band's evolving musicianship – the surprisingly muscular Neil Young/Rheostatics jangle of the new "Wind It Up" suits the 2007 Ladies particularly well – and the continued effort put into keeping a Ladies performance fresh speaks to the band's admirable talents as singers and players (multi-instrumentalist Jim Creeggan, in particular, is a treat to watch). Nevertheless, it was the simple pleasure of hearing these familiar songs played with continued passion in a bit of a media vacuum that made the night.  That and seeing David Suzuki, invited to speak on the environment before the show, chucking T-shirts into a rock `n' roll audience after a standing ovation, anyway. That beats everything.

Providers In Canada Say Real Competition Is iPods And The Like

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Staff Reporter

(February 21, 2007) If you ask
Sirius Canada president and CEO Mark Redmond about his company's biggest competition, he won't point to what is typically perceived to be its biggest competitor: XM Canada.  Instead, he says the chief competition is coming from popular technologies: the iPod, MP3s and Internet radio.  It almost echoes the situation in the U.S., where Sirius Satellite Radio and former competitor XM Satellite decided to merge this week in a bid to overcome competition from iPods and the like. The U.S. rivals said Monday they had agreed to a merger, pending U.S. federal regulatory approval.  Neither Sirius Canada or XM Canada have made an announcement about a similar merger here.  "Over the long haul, our business is not going to be successful trying to get subscribers away from XM," Redmond said.  "Our business will be successful if we get customers from terrestrial radio, iPod users, Internet radio listeners, from people who are getting audio content in other means. That will be the gauge of success for us, not getting it from our direct competitor."

While satellite radio providers in the U.S. have been suffering from significant losses and intense competition from other technologies, leading them to merge, Redmond stresses the provider in Canada is at a different stage, having only launched about a year ago here. What about the fears of monopoly that a marriage would bring if the situation was repeated in Canada? "I don't think a combined company, if it got to that point, is a monopoly by any stretch," Redmond said.  A monopoly means greater potential of increased prices, said Kaan Yigit, president of Solutions Research Group. "But you know what, the market dictates the prices and their competition is not really with each other, their competition is iPod, Internet as examples." The world satellite radio providers are confronting is vastly different from the one they encountered when they first entered the market 10 years ago, experts say. "The landscape has changed quite substantially," Yigit said.  "Ten years ago, if you wanted music, your option was to turn on your radio or put a CD into your CD player. Today it's entirely changed ... you can stream music from all sorts of places." Adding to digital providers' troubles, in some cases, is local programming, Yigit says.  "They have tried to do local, but it's not the same as local local, which is what you get from your local radio station or your local paper," Yigit says.  But Yigit says he believes satellite radio will endure because it fulfils a niche, especially for those living in parts of Canada where there aren't many radio stations or those who want to be introduced to new music.  Currently, Sirius Canada has approximately 300,000 subscribers whereas XM Canada has 140,000.

Documenting The Death Of A Musical Institution

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(February 18, 2007) There was a time when a singles chart based upon sales was relied upon as a barometer of pop-music tastes. But these days,
SoundScan Canada's weekly chart of singles sales is a baffling, anachronistic place that pays little heed to whatever's thrilling the kids.  It's a place where U2, two years on from its last new album, can this week claim two spots in the Top 10 – the No. 1 spot with the "Window in the Skies" EP and No. 8 with its charity duet with Green Day, "The Saints are Coming," released in November. It's a place where Mindless Self Indulgence's "Another Mindless Rip Off" and Nine Inch Nails' "Everyday is Exactly the Same" are Top 10 hits too, rubbing shoulders with Eva Avila, Ashley Tisdale and Taylor Hicks. Even Iron Maiden recently mustered a Top 20 hit with "Different World." At Christmas time, Bing Crosby routinely rises from the grave to reign supreme. The likes of Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado simultaneously dominate the upper reaches of the Canadian and American album charts, as well as Billboard magazine's trusty Hot 100 singles chart. But they're nowhere on our singles chart, because it only counts those physical singles, vinyl or otherwise, bought in record stores. Remember when we used to do that? The result is that the average chart-topper on SoundScan Canada's singles-sales chart moves around 100 units in a week, according to the company, while the singles taking up the lower echelons of the chart are generally scraping barely more than 10 units a week in sales. The chart itself varies in length from week to week – three weeks ago it was a Top 20, this week it's a Top 12 – because SoundScan doesn't bother registering singles that scan less than 10 units a week in sales.

The Hot 100, by way of comparison, is compiled based upon a formula that takes into account "brick and mortar" sales, radio spins and, since February of 2005, paid digital downloads of individual songs. The latter – which, in the company's defence, is also tracked by SoundScan – is where the singles market has been reborn, as Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" demonstrated last spring as the first-ever song to top the U.K. singles chart on downloads alone. Emo-punk pretty boys Fall Out Boy are the latest benefactors, having landed a No. 2 debut on the Hot 100 last month for "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" thanks to a whopping 162,000 first-week downloads south of the border. The singles market, in other words, is perfectly healthy; our chart is just looking for it in the wrong place. "Individual tracks are clearly driving the business," was the Entertainment Marketing Letter's assessment of the music industry's health at the end of 2006. "Album sales were down by 4.9% in both digital and physical formats to 588 million from 619 million in 2005, while 22 tracks were downloaded more than 1 million times each versus two the previous year. One single, `Bad Day' by Daniel Powter, sold more than 2 million digital copies. Only 11 albums crossed the 100,000-download mark last year." So where does that leave the old singles sales chart? It took its first truly fatal steps towards obsolescence during the late 1990s, when North American major labels stopped bothering to issue such massive hits as Aqua's "Barbie Girl" and Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping" as anything more than "focus" tracks for radio stations and music-video clips. Now, it's basically a running tally of how many consumers put the effort into tracking down the scant physical singles still out there. Those numbers are so small in Canada that when Billboard's U.S. bosses track Canadian sales, they run a tally of the most popular digitally downloaded songs from sources like iTunes and PureTracks.

"We weren't getting sufficient volume or even selection of material to justify that being the chart," says Billboard's longtime chart overseer, Geoff Mayfield, quick to add that the U.S. situation is no different. The reason? Major labels became so lax and unpredictable with what they would release during the CD-single era that many record shops stopped carrying them. Mayfield isn't alone in commenting that the industry's decision to force consumers into shelling out for entire CDs instead of singles helped engender the rise of Napster and, later, other unauthorized downloading sites. "In the States, the only meaningful numbers you'd expect to see on a single anymore would be maybe something from American Idol. It's at the point where even (when) a single was being made available in the U.S. – I think it happened to Nickelback – stores stopped carrying them because there wasn't enough selection to justify making them available in the store, so even when we ended up with a hit single available at retail, it wouldn't sell like it used to ... "There weren't places to sell it and the consumer got out of the habit of looking for it." According the Billboard digital chart, by the way, the No. 1 single in Canada is "The Sweet Escape," by Gwen Stefani and Akon. No sign of Bing.

Whatcha Thinkin' There, Sonny?

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - J.D. Considine

(February 19, 2007) “Alot of people ask me, 'What do you think about when you improvise?' " says saxophonist
Sonny Rollins, over the phone from his home in upstate New York. "Well, I came up with a good answer recently, which is that you can't think and play at the same time." With that, he laughs merrily, partly because he's gotten off a good joke, but also because he's found a convenient way to disarm a vexing question. By any reckoning, Rollins is one of the greatest improvisers jazz has produced, something the Royal Swedish Academy of Music recognized in awarding him the Polar Music Prize last month. As their citation put it, Rollins has been "one of the most powerful and personal voices in jazz for more than 50 years." His concerts are famous for their brilliance and unpredictability, and his recorded catalogue includes such classics as Saxophone Colossus, Tenor Madness, The Bridge and the soundtrack to Alfie. A solo artist since the mid-fifties, he has collaborated with such greats as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Max Roach, and Thelonious Monk, and even made a cameo appearance on the Rolling Stones album Tattoo You. At 76, he remains a surprisingly modest, hard-working musician, the kind of guy who, should you compliment the rhythm section on his newly released album, Sonny, Please, will reply, "I was very fortunate in having a very good rhythm section," then add with a chuckle, "I shouldn't say that myself, but since you agree, I can say that." Still, it's a bit much to imagine that he turns off his brain when performing -- that there's no method to his Tenor Madness. There's a tremendous musical intelligence at work in his improvisations. For instance, his solo in the title track from Sonny, Please is remarkably thorough as it works through the harmonic possibilities implicit in the tune, offering frenzied arpeggios, daring dissonance, plangent sustained phrases, even a quote from Oh! Susanna.

It all unfolds so naturally, with a casual yet inexorable logic, that it's hard to believe Rollins is merely playing, not thinking. But don't be fooled -- a tremendous amount of work goes into playing like that. "But you know, I try to practise a lot, which I do," he says. "And the elements I need -- the song we're playing, the chord structure, the harmony and melody -- I try to internalize that. And after doing that, then I try to let the music take over -- because the music is happening too fast any way -- until you can't play and think at the same time." What Rollins means by thinking is the kind of pattern-matching, lick-planning improvisation practised by musicians who prefer to plot out their solos ahead of time. "If you're doing that, you're playing a more calculated style of music, which I'm not capable of doing," he says, being careful not to denigrate those who do. "I'm not a good enough musician to calculate. That's not my style of playing. "So I can't really think of anything. When I go on the stand and I'm playing at my best -- well, any time I play -- the music is just happening. If it comes out good, really good, that's great. But either way, I have to let it go and let the music sort of play me. And as I said, it happens so fast that you can't contemplate it. It's gone by." Rollins's view of music as instantaneous and "in the moment" may explain his eagerness to keep music modern and evolving. Unlike many of his peers, who have stuck with the all-acoustic format of jazz combos of the fifties, Rollins has added percussion and embraced electric instruments in his group. But it's not because he's trying to keep up with musical fashion -- he just likes some of the newer sounds better than the old. Take his long-time bass player, Bob Cranshaw. "He shifted to electric [bass] because he had sustained a back injury some time ago," Rollins explains. "Of course, Bob gets a very acoustic-style sound on the electric bass, which is one of the good things about the switch that he made. It wasn't such a radical change."

Indeed, over time Rollins discovered that the longer sustain of the electric bass had its advantages. "When Bob had been playing the electric bass with me for a while, we did a concert where he played upright bass," he says. "We had been playing with Jim Hall, and somebody wanted us to recreate something that we'd done way back in the sixties." Cranshaw got out his acoustic for the gig, and, Rollins says, "I didn't like it as much as I did the electric bass." Why? "The decay time is different. I think I prefer the sustained attack." Tellingly, Rollins also wasn't particularly happy with the attempt to recapture the magic of that 1961 band with Hall and Cranshaw, which was most famous for The Bridge. "We were trying to capture something that I think we weren't able to capture," he says. "We had a special thing going with The Bridge period, and we only just did a concert, you know, a rehearsal and then a concert, but we weren't able to capture those unique things that we had going with The Bridge." Of course, it would be hard to imagine how anyone could recreate the circumstances that led to that recording. At the time, Rollins had just come off a three-year sabbatical, during which he spent countless hours practising on the Williamsburg Bridge between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was a singular moment, both in his career and in jazz itself; it would probably take a time machine to get there again. Even so, some things do stay the same. "I went on the bridge to do what I'm doing now, which is still practising and still searching for something," he says. "I'm trying to improve my technique, my skills, but also trying to get a better way to express myself. So I'm still really engaged in the same endeavour: I'm still trying to really get myself together as a musician. "A lot of people say, 'Well gee, you've been playing so long, blah blah blah, and you're this . . .' But it has nothing to do with that. I have a certain goal in mind, and whatever it is, I realize I haven't gotten there yet. So I'm engaged in the same thing now that I was when I went on the bridge. I'm trying to really improve my skills so that when I get out there to improvise with the band, I'm able to call on everything I might need to really express myself, and get myself over. "And this is an endless thing," he adds. "If you're a musician yourself, you know that music has so many facets to it. You can't get it all."

Sonny Rollins performs at Massey Hall in Toronto on May 5 (416-872-4255) and at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver on June 22 (604-872-5200).

Brian McKnight’s Ten Brings Back Soul Music

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

(February 19, 2007) Embracing an effortless eloquence and cocoa butter smooth persona, the music of Brian McKnight has defined the true meaning of American soul man since 1991.  Like his spiritual Motown godfathers, this upstate New York native has a velvety voice and silky style that captures the vibe of vintage soul without being old fashion. On his latest disc Ten, that blend can be clearly heard.  "It's always been my goal to try and bring back real R&B music," Brian says. "When I was growing-up it was all about the seventies soul men. From the first time I ever stepped into a studio, my daydream was to pick-up where Marvin Gaye left off." While Brian's aspirations might have seemed like a lofty ambition, the longevity of his career is a testament to the purity of his vision.  In an industry that has a fast turnaround of acts vying to be the next "quiet storm" king or crooner on Soul Train, it's unbelievable that Brian McKnight is still creating beautiful music fifteen years after releasing his self-titled debut. Like the late Luther Vandross before him, the secret of Brian McKnight's rhythmic endurance comes down to his ability to create eternal music.  With the release of Ten, McKnight's first disc for his new label Warner Bros Records, the Grammy-nominated singer could not be more pleased with the outcome.  "I wasn't very happy with the situation at my former label and perhaps that attitude was reflected in the material," Brian confesses. Having penned and completed about thirty-three new songs before signing on the dotted line, McKnight was more than ready. "Right now, I am optimistic of what I can do in my new situation."

Without a doubt, the landscape of soul music has gotten younger, but that fact did not hinder McKnight's creative process. "It would be a mistake for me to try and compete with Chris Brown or Ne-Yo," Brian laughs. "I'm not going to be dancing on BET, but at the same time I believe my material will appeal to everyone from teenagers to older folks."  After 16 million albums sold since his self-titled debut, it would have been too easy for McKnight to simply follow the R&B template of rote romanticism.  But on Ten, the artist in him felt the need to be more revealing.  "As a songwriter my biggest challenge has always been finding new ways to say old things," Brian says. "For me, it was all about being honest and exploring who I am right now. Like everyone else, I am a much different man than I was ten years ago."  Using simple words to express complex feelings, Brian once again proves that not only is he a wonderful singer, but his skills as a songwriter is impeccable.  Currently working on a variety of projects including hosting the AM drive-time show on The Wave (94.7FM) in Los Angeles as well as the soundtrack for two Tyler Perry projects, including "Daddy's Little Girls," the veteran soul singer could not be happier with the outcome of Ten.  "When I finish a record, I listen to it from beginning to end," McKnight says. "Truthfully, I think this is the best record I've done in years." For fans of real music, Ten is the perfect addition to the soul cannon.

AUDIO '"What's My Name"

Real
Windows
Quicktime

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/brianmcknight 

Documentary Examines Issues Of Hip-Hop

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

(February 19, 2007) *Public Television’s “Independent Lens” program is introducing the television broadcast of “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes,” a look at the hip-hop genre’s issues of masculinity, sexism, violence and homophobia.  Long-time hip-hop fan and filmmaker Byron Hurt creates a film that takes a deeper look at the hip-hop industry, its reoccurring themes of aggression, and, in particular, the gender politics of rap. With that, the film has sparked impassioned dialog at recent screenings over the past year.   “Hip Hop: Beyond ...” premiered at last year's Sundance Festival and has already screened at a number of college campuses – with much applause. Now the film is coming to PBS tomorrow, Tuesday, February 20 (check local listings for times).

In addition to studying the deeper issues and consequences of hip-hop music, the film includes interviews with rappers such as Mos Def, Fat Joe, Chuck D and Jadakiss as well as hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. It also has commentary from Michael Eric Dyson, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Kevin Powell and Sarah Jones along with interviews from young women at Spelman College.  “The reaction to the film has been phenomenal; it’s been incredible,” Hurt told reporters. “When the film premiered at Sundance in 2006, we received two standing ovations. But the most important thing for me happens after the film and that’s the conversation that takes place. It’s a conversation that happening across race, across class, and across gender. It’s really interesting to see so many different groups of people responding to the film and the film is resonating with so many different people. I think that’s rare in a film to have so many people, from different walks of life, be able to feel the film in a way that connects [them].”

READ the full article HERE.

Mya's 'Liberation' Coming In June

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

(February 20, 2007) Change is good. Just ask Mya. The Grammy-winning multi-platinum artist is at a new place in her life and is rocking a groove that's deliciously grown, sexy and secure. Playful and passionate, tough but open, the changes Mya's gone through allow her to be the woman she is, right now.  Mya's fourth CD and her Universal Motown Record's debut is Liberation and it's the sound of a singer expressing herself with no limits. From aching ballads like "Life's Too Short" to the insistent, aggressive "Still A Woman" or the bumpin' no nonsense, "I Got That" featuring the Game, Liberation is Mya, unencumbered. "Liberation is a clean slate; my most expressive, vulnerable album," Mya says. "I'm putting my real experiences out there. On my first album I didn't know about love; I didn't even have a boy friend! Now what I'm bringing is definitely more realistic."  That funky resolve flavours "Lock U Down." Produced by Scott Storch and co-written (like all of Liberation's songs) by Mya, "Lock U Down" is a hip-shaking mission statement. "There's definitely a harder edge this time. The lyrics are less passive and more straight-to-the point. " Equally honest is "I Am" produced by Kwame. "That was one of the first songs we recorded, it's kind of therapy. If there's a theme on the album it's self- confidence that comes from my own personal experiences."  Mya's newfound strength stems from changes professionally and personally: because in many ways she is finally free to openly speak from her heart, soul and mind. After three successful cds at Interscope Records, Mya amicably left and, in 2005 signed with Universal Motown Records, where she says, "I feel that I've found home." She's also found home within herself. Last year, Mya also moved from California, where she'd lived since 2001 and relocated back to Washington, DC, where she grew up. The decision was based on an increasing sense that the business of music had muted Mya's passion for making music. "I just knew that I had to get back to my roots and rediscover what had made me excited in the first place. I have all this creative energy and all these ideas but LA it was too impersonal of a place to develop a real creative family. So I thought, 'let me go back to DC; get creative and do what I love to do.'"

With that goal in mind Mya bought a house, enlisted her brother to build a studio, and began experimenting; laying down rudimentary tracks and learning how to engineer. By mid 2005 she'd put together a band and took them to the Caribbean and Africa to perform her hits and new material. "We had a great time. I was working with local, very talented people. Now I have a real team; crew, dancers, a band. DC hasn't really blown up like Atlanta, NYC or Miami. There's no real scene here but so much talent. My goal is to bring more recognition to my city that's so rich in culture."  Her drive didn't stop there. A long time advocate for young women and life long dancer and dance teacher, Mya established the Mya Arts Foundation, dedicated to providing the arts to DC's youth. Along with spearheading the foundation Mya taught dance; something she hadn't done since was 15.  In the midst of moving back home and nurturing her creative and charitable energies, Mya's world was turned upside down when her parents, who were both actively involved in her career, split up. The fall-out from the break-up took its toll on the then teenager. "I experienced a lot of transitions going through the tug of war of the divorce and dealing with my mother's breast cancer. I've been through a lot and it's taken years to heal. But alongside the new freedom I'm experiencing with my career, I also feel personally liberated from insecurities and fears I had in the past, and I'm closer to my family than ever before."  Born in Baltimore, MD Mya became a star at the 18 with 1998's Mya. The platinum cd, yielded three top 10 singles, "It's All About Me," "Movin' On" and "My First Night With You." She continued to shine when "Ghetto Superstar" and "Take Me There" (which appeared on the Bulworth and Rugrats soundtracks, respectively) also topped the charts. Mya's sophomore cd Fear of Flying ((2000) also went platinum and featured "Case of the Ex" and the "Best of Me." 2003's Moodring went gold and that same year she starred in the acclaimed film Chicago, earning the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture. Since Chicago, Mya has appeared in several movies, including Havana Nights and Shall We Dance and is currently shooting Cover, directed by Bill Duke. She also just signed with the Ford Modeling Agency. Says Mya of her new creative outlet, "I'm just getting started in acting and I'm taking the time to study and learn enjoy it and be true to the craft. "

And you can hear that throughout Liberation's pulsating tracks that Mya's back and ready to work. Asked about the album's message and Mya answers," I started out in the industry as a young girl trying to find her way. I've definitely experienced my share of struggles and pain, but most of my experiences have taught me something great. The CD takes you on a journey of just that; it's a guide to why I'm liberated and how I got there."  Liberation is a whole new beginning.

AUDIO "Lock U Down" featuring Lil Wayne (Produced by Scott Storch)

WM:
REAL:

 

The Architecture Of Jazz

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry

(February 20, 2007) David Braid seemed like such a laid-back guy – humble, kind of shy, so reverential about his art form – until he came within a hair of dissing John Coltrane. It was triggered by a reporter's observation that the Hamilton-born, Toronto-based jazz pianist rarely records other people's songs. Not that he needs to.  Since making his album debut in 2001, Braid, 31, has been acclaimed as an exceptional composer, arranger and player. He's just been nominated for two Junos and seven National Jazz Awards, largely on the strength of his current disc, Zhen: The David Braid Sextet Live Vol. II, which gets its first full airing in Toronto this week with a performance at the Rex. The record, like Braid's previous efforts, is a showcase for his arsenal of both thoughtful and carefree compositions. "I love playing standards," said the soft-spoken musician. On Zhen, that includes sax legend Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Braid, who paid royalties for the first time with the adaptation of the famed song, exposed his not-so-mild-mannered side while talking about his deconstruction of the tune. "I really feel that that isn't Coltrane's piece any more – no disrespect intended," he said.

"But if this were architecture, it's like I borrowed some moulding and put it on a completely different building."  In this case, he's rendered Coltrane's buoyant tune almost unrecognizable with a light, languorous approach to the harmony. But why even bother?  "Because I'm really interested in the engaging process of music, like how memory works with music and what happens in the psychology of a listener when they listen to a piece of music. How can I use a familiar strand (such as "Giant Steps") and manipulate that to my advantage? "I look at a composition much like how a director directs a film: taking into consideration people's expectations, the timing of events, the familiar vs. the unfamiliar."  The classically trained Braid, who didn't discover jazz until his late teens, can spend months crafting a single tune. He cites Mozart, Ellington and Stravinsky among his influences. "I admire people who embrace the musical tradition that precedes them, so that the essence of their music isn't really revolutionary in that they broke all the rules, it's just they're so creative they make something old sound completely new. I like that sense of lineage in music."  Braid's own adherence to custom is why this interview took place at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music. He graduated from the school's jazz program in 1998 and, despite a flourishing professional career, has been back teaching senior piano since 2003. "I like how in the jazz tradition there's sort of that connection between the generations, where one generation pulls up the next. I think all (jazz musicians) teach, if not formally, as part of the culture. And because I gained so much from being here ...this was my opportunity to give back in a small way." Braid said he's "bummed" that more students don't seek him out to discuss their futures. "Being just a few steps ahead of them, I'm in position to give good advice."

Although the boyish-looking tunesmith is the youngest member of the sextet he formed in 1999, the group of A-list players whose ages span 30 years don't seem to have any problem following his lead.  "I'm not only writing for their characters, I know the instrument that they play so well I know which notes sound best on it," Braid said of the band, which is comprised of Terry Clarke (drums), Mike Murley (sax), Steve Wallace (bass), Gene Smith (trombone) and John MacLeod (flugelhorn). "On `Lydian Sky' (from Zhen), there's a key pitch that happens throughout that piece that sort of defines the whole piece and I chose that pitch because of the brightness that it had on Mike Murley's tenor. If it was someone else's tenor, I feel the piece wouldn't work."  So if Murley's horn gets left in a cab?  "We can't play that song."

Canyon Is The Toast Of The Coast

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(February 19, 2007) HALIFAX–George Canyon can add another three pieces of silverware to his already bulging trophy case. The Nova Scotia country singer was named Entertainer of the Year for the third consecutive year as the East Coast Music Awards held its annual gala Sunday night at the Halifax Metro Centre. Canyon, who came out of obscurity by finishing second on 2004's Nashville Star TV talent search, has won more than a dozen awards since, including a Juno in 2005 and the Canadian Country Music Awards fan choice honour. In addition to his ECMA nod from the fans, the granite-chinned singer from Pictou County also won for Video of the Year for his song "Drinkin' Thinkin'" and Country Recording of the Year for Somebody Wrote Love. Multi-instrumentalist J.P. Cormier, indie band In-Flight Safety and rockers Joel Plaskett Emergency also won three awards each. Jill Barber, a Toronto-raised singer-songwriter who moved to Halifax 4 1/2 years ago, won two awards on the strength of her first full-length release, For All Time. The CD was named FACTOR Recording of the Year and Solo Female Recording of the Year.

"We are so lucky here on the East Coast to have so many wonderful women writing songs and performing," Barber said after winning her first of the night in a non-televised portion of the awards show. "I'm very appreciative of this award." Barber said she has "embraced" Halifax as her new home. "It's nice to be in a place where you feel a lot of support from your friends and colleagues," she said later. "That, and a lot of other things, keeps me here." Cormier, a Cape Bretoner whose musical career has spanned folk, country bluegrass, rock and Celtic, won for Bluegrass Recording of the Year, Folk Recording of the Year and Instrumental Recording of the Year. In-Flight Safety, a Halifax-based band that formed while its members were going to Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., went into the night with four nominations. Their first full-length CD, The Coast is Clear, was named Alternative Recording of the Year, CBC Galaxie Rising Star Recording of the Year and XM Satellite Group Recording of the Year. Halifax's Joel Plaskett Emergency won Single of the Year for "Nowhere With You," and DVD of the Year. Plaskett was also named SOCAN Songwriter of the Year for "Nowhere With You." The awards show, broadcast nationally by the CBC, was hosted for the second year in a row by Bubbles, Ricky and Julian of the popular cult TV hit The Trailer Park Boys. The night included performances by Barber, In-Flight Safety, Plaskett and opera singer Measha Brueggergosman. There were also moving tributes to three Maritime music legends who died in the past year: Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas, Celtic pioneer John Allan Cameron and bluesman Dutch Mason.

Joni Mitchell In Person

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Alexandra Gill


(Feb. 17, 2007) CALGARY —
Joni Mitchell takes a long, languid haul from her cigarette, closes her eyes and exhales contentedly. Does the iconic singer-songwriter, one of the most influential recording artists of her generation, ever feel guilty about her lifelong habit? “Not at all,” she says, taking another puff and staring intently at the burning embers. The expression on her face is so serene, her body so relaxed, you might mistake this ritual for meditation.  In her mind, it is.  “To me, tobacco is a grounding herb,” she explains, as smoke swirls like a ghostly halo around blond wisps of hair twisted on the top of her head. It's late afternoon, and we are sitting in her Calgary hotel room, talking about climate change and the “dying planet.” These are the heavy themes – along with religious zealotry and “accelerated war” – that have inspired her newly recorded album and recent artwork. They are also the themes of The Fiddle and the Drum, her latest artistic collaboration, with Alberta Ballet, which opened to international fanfare in Calgary last week. The 45-minute dance, set to Mitchell's music, photo triptychs and video, is being performed in Edmonton this weekend.

Mitchell scoffs when it is suggested that the body is a microcosm of the planet, that smoking is as foolhardy and dangerous as China's addiction to coal. “I see bodies as individual things,” she says, sitting up at attention. “People who drive RVs treat me like a leper because I'm making this tiny emission that isn't going to bother them at all,” says Mitchell, whose cigarette brand of choice, American Spirit, is allegedly additive-free. “Then they get in their car and drive off and leave 10,000 cartons worth of crap in the air. ... And people are quitting smoking en masse, yet cancer is still rising. Let's be realistic. “I am a smoker. Period,” she adds, jabbing the air with her cigarette. Truth is, Mitchell doesn't know what it would be like not to smoke. When she was 7 and growing up in Saskatoon, the only child of a grocery-store manager and teacher, she was stricken with polio. The doctors didn't think she would walk again. “I started smoking right after that,” says Mitchell, now 63. “I didn't smoke to show off. I smoked alone,” she says, referring to how she'd grab her bicycle and ride off into the country, finding solace in nature and a couple of butts. “Honestly, I couldn't have gotten through life without it.” On the surface, much of Mitchell's life since then looks like that of a troubled diva. Her former manager, Elliot Roberts, has said she cancelled more concerts than she played. In the seventies, when she was riding high on the commercial popularity of such melodious hit albums as Blue and Court and Spark, she would often berate her audiences if they weren't paying close enough attention. Later, when Mitchell felt the need to grow as an artist, she turned her back on her fans, and almost abandoned melody altogether with experimental forays into avant-garde, world and jazz music. Her progressive chord tunings and innovative harmonies are now regarded as revolutionary. But at the time, her early fans couldn't keep up.

Then, in the mid-nineties, Mitchell had a startling comeback with Turbulent Indigo, which won a Grammy Award for best pop album. She was showered with honours and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Still, she categorized most of the awards as “dubious” and complained that she was still “undervalued.” Mitchell stopped writing music after 1998's Taming the Tiger was knocked by many critics for being excessively negative. She put out two more albums of rerecorded songs and jazz standards to fulfill contractual obligations. Then she retreated into her Beverly Hills home and continued painting, but rarely granted interviews. Last month, when she was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, she arrived late for the reception, said a few brief words onstage, and stayed far away from reporters. For this story, I was told she would do two interviews on Thursday or Friday, but the exact date couldn't be confirmed. It would depend on how she felt that day. There was no telling how long she might talk. And, of course, the interview wouldn't take place until after 2 p.m.; that's when the night owl typically wakes up. By Friday morning, the time still hadn't been confirmed. Saturday was looking better. Flights were rearranged, the hotel stay extended. But when the moment of introduction finally came to pass, Mitchell was positively glowing, sitting at the edge of the rehearsal studio, clapping her hands so widely she looked like a bird about to take flight. A canyon-sized smile spread easily across her face. Her remarks to the dancers were warm and encouraging. And a time was set up to meet and talk the following day.

“I have a pair of tights I could cut off,” Mitchell jokes with Jean Grand-Maître, Alberta Ballet's artistic director, when the three of us finally sit down together. They are planning to visit the hot springs in Banff, and she didn't pack a bathing suit. Grand-Maître is here to make sure the interview doesn't stray too far from the ballet. But we don't really stand a chance.  To begin, Mitchell turns to the planet. “For the first time in my life, I'm with it,” she exclaims with a throaty laugh. “Instead of being Doomsday Joan, all the calamities I've been watching for 20 years are front-page news,” she says, pointing to a story in the paper about climate change. Environmental rot was not exactly what Grand-Maître had in mind when he proposed the dance collaboration. The dance, he suggested, would revolve around a young blond ingénue and Mitchell's early life in Canada, with a set list that leaned heavily on her early hits . “It seems kind of light,” she recalls telling Grand-Maître when he came to visit her in Los Angeles about a year ago. At the time, Mitchell was assembling a collection of photographic images for an exhibit, Green Flag Song, at L.A.'s Lev Moross Gallery. The large chartreuse-toned triptychs were created from photographic images she began taking after she returned from her summer cabin on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast to find her flat-screen TV running on negative. “There was a black-and-white movie running in green and pink, pulsing to green and yellow, then pulsing to green and white,” she explains. “I kept thinking, ‘This is a magical TV set.'” Mitchell began shooting the ghostly images, modified them digitally, and printed them onto canvas. She focused on war images, jumbling current and historic footage, and added some Busby Berkeley dancers for comic relief. “The degenerate quality of the images was absolutely appropriate for the topic,” she says, lighting up an American Spirit and launching into an impassioned monologue about the folly of spending so many resources on war when they could be used to clean up the larger “earthling” problem.

When Grand-Maître saw the new artwork, he said he wanted to use it in the ballet.  “You can't put those images with that music you've chosen,” Mitchell told him. But while the new songs she had started writing – the first in nearly a decade – would have made a natural accompaniment, she had actually finished only two. And so together they refashioned the ballet into a lament for the planet, and came up with a score largely drawn from her repertoire in the eighties and nineties. She seems to take a perverse delight in the fact that most of the songs are her least popular. Mitchell's talk sounds tough, but her demeanour is gentle, almost vulnerable: “My later work, from my sixth album on – and I did 21 or 22 – was really underrated. Every time I did an album, it was unfavourably compared to Court and Spark. Until Blue sold more over time, then it was unfavourably compared to Blue.” She laughs. “The chords I like are complex,” she adds. “They're fresh in the history of harmony. They're mostly suss [suspended] chords. It's still taught in the schools not to stay on a suss chord too long. I didn't know the term suss chord, I called them chords of inquiry. They're unresolved. So, traditionally in the laws of harmony, even at the end of the 20th century, it wasn't good to go from a suss chord to a suss chord, and not to stay on them too long. I guess it's because men like to bring that to harmonic resolution. It went against the grain of normal composition.” She pauses, staring into space, and then returns with a bang. “To enjoy my music, you need depth and emotionality. Those two traits are bred out of the white, straight males who control the press.” For a woman who marches to her own suspended chords, though, Mitchell has a curious distaste for feminism. “They're Amazons, a lot of the ones that I met,” she says, leaning back and placing her frosty pink, perfectly manicured toes onto the coffee table. “In some ways, I think the movement did more harm than good. I think it created an aggressive-type female with a sense of entitlement that's a bit of a monster.”

On a more personal level, Mitchell is learning late in life that it isn't all that easy to coax children onto the path you want. In 1997, she reunited with her daughter, Kilauren Gibb, the baby she put up for adoption, at 21, when she was a penniless musician. “In some ways, my gift for music and writing was born out of tragedy, really, and loss,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2004. “When my daughter returned to me, the gift kind of went with it. The songwriting was almost like something I did while I was waiting for my daughter to come back.” For 10 years, Mitchell happily retreated into domestic life. “I was being a grandmother,” she says, smiling brightly. “My house was dripping in pictures of my grandchildren. I spent a few years basically puttering, and then I realized: My parents are still living; they're only 30 years older than I am. I've had a very full life, but only two-thirds of it is gone. I'm a little young for retirement.” She and her daughter are currently estranged. She has lots to say about the problems they've encountered. The stories spill out, easily and ugly. Until she suddenly remembers this is an interview. “Can you please keep the kid out of it?” she asks, trustingly. “It will only fan the flame. Let's just say it's a work in progress.” The family rift has had one silver lining: It has opened up room for creativity to rush in. “I honestly didn't think I'd ever write again,” she says wistfully. Given the dark subject matter – war, torture, “fertile farmlands buried under subdivisions” – the music for the new songs is surprisingly bright and uplifting. If, an adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling poem that's being used in the ballet, has a buoyant, hip-hop groove. Shine is a lush lullaby for the soul. “I always try to do that,” she says of the dichotomy. “Even my saddest songs – The Beat of Black Wings, for instance – is set to a very happy pop melody. It's like the sugar coating on a bitter pill.”

Her agent is now in L.A. shopping the new album around, but Mitchell still doesn't have much time for the music business. Other things seem more important. A self-described Buddhist-Gnostic hybrid, she was introduced to Buddhism through a mind-bending encounter with the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual master Chogyam Trungpa while performing on Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder tour. It was 1975 and she was being paid in cocaine during a brief dalliance with drugs. The monk asked her if she believed in God. “Yes,” she replied, snorting a line right in front of him. “Here's my god and here is my prayer.” The monk flared his nostrils and “zapped” her into an awakened state of consciousness with rhythmic breathing. For three days, she had no sense of self. “My mind was back in Eden, the mind before the fall. With the ‘I' gone, you no longer have a divisional mind that goes ‘good, bad, right, wrong.'  “I am of the ‘God is within' school,” Mitchell adds, explaining that she sometimes gets close to re-entering a similar state, which she now calls the dazzling darkness, while painting or playing pinball. “I see the entire world as Eden, and every time you take an inch of it away, you must do so with respect. We've just whittled it down to nothing, so that it can no longer support us. We are a disease upon its back, and it's calling on all of its immune system to get us off.” And God doesn't mind the tobacco smoke in them thar gardens? “Look,” she says laughing. “I smoked in cars, in saunas, in all sorts of small spaces. If secondary smoke is going to kill me, I would have been dead 20 years ago.”

Ray Evans, 'Silver Bells' Songwriter: 92

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Associated Press

(February 16, 2007) LOS ANGELES – Oscar-winning songwriter Ray Evans, whose long collaboration with partner Jay Livingston produced such enduring standards as "Mona Lisa,'' "Buttons and Bows,'' "Silver Bells" and "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," has died. He was 92. Evans died late Thursday of heart failure at a Los Angeles hospital, Frederick Nicholas, Evans' longtime lawyer, said Friday. "I talked to him the day he died. He was just full of energy and excitement. When I heard last night that he died, I couldn't believe it," Nicholas said. Singer Michael Feinstein, a close friend, said he spoke with Evans on his birthday, Feb. 4. "He said to me, 'I lived a great life and everything now is gravy. I take it day by day,'" Feinstein said in a telephone interview from New York. "He was always thrilled that his work survived.'' Evans' musical partnership with Livingston spanned more than six decades, with Livingston providing the melodies and Evans writing the lyrics. Often called the last of the great songwriters, the duo earned seven Academy Award nominations and won three – in 1948 for ``Buttons and Bows" in the film Paleface, in 1950 for "Mona Lisa" in the movie Captain Carey, USA and in 1956 for ``Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" from The Man Who Knew Too Much.

They also produced the classic Christmas carol "Silver Bells,'' and the theme songs for the television series Bonanza and Mr. Ed. Evans and Livingston wrote songs for dozens of movies, most of them when they were under contract with Paramount from 1945 to 1955. But the duo also wrote the music and lyrics for two Broadway musicals – Oh Captain! in 1958 and Let It Ride in 1961 – as well as many unproduced scores. "They had a strong work ethic and they wrote a lot of plays that have wonderful and sophisticated songs that are quite different from movie songs," said Feinstein, who in 2002 released an album devoted to the Evans and Livingston songbook. Of his body of work, Evans told friends his favourite piece was ``Mona Lisa." The song was originally called "Prima Donna," but Evans changed the title at the suggestion of his wife, Wyn. "She was an art lover, and she said 'Prima Donna' didn't sound right. Why don't you call it 'Mona Lisa?'" said Victoria Looseleaf, who is writing Evans' biography. Evans was born in Salamanca, N.Y., on February 4, 1915. He met Livingston at the University of Pennsylvania, where they were both students, and formed a college dance band. After graduating in 1937, they moved to New York City and began their songwriting collaboration. Livingston died in 2001 at age 86. Evans, whose wife died in 2003, is survived by his sister.

So You Want To Start A Classical Collection

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(February 17, 2007) You're muddled by Mozart, baffled by Beethoven and don't know squat about Strauss. You would like to start a classical music collection but don't know where to begin. There are piles of reference guides out there, but most don't give readers specific playlists. So this presumptuous music critic is going to be so bold. Once every few months, a reader will ask for advice on what to listen to as an
introduction to classical music. I usually don't know what to say, so it was time to do something about it. I've collected a broad overview of Western classical music from the last 400 years. As with any music, the ears and soul – not the dictates of fashion or critics – have guided me, as they should guide you. I've mixed a variety of genres and instruments. I've picked compositions that reach both backward and forward – works that borrow from old forms, or that made a leap into the future.

Above all, it is music that I love deeply, passionately. What I haven't done is dip into the well of "the greats" like Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. Since those are the composer names we hear most often anyway, you're bound to discover the joys they have to offer in your own good time. I went through my CD shelves and made a shortlist. Then, over the course of nearly two weeks, listened to hours of music, adding and deleting items, shuffling albums between the Yes, Maybe Yes and Maybe Not piles. I became obsessed. One night I left the bed at 4 a.m. to shuffle the decks once again. It all came together last Sunday, after borrowing a friend's disc to help me compare four different performances of the same work. I wanted to make sure that the artists on each album had that special sparkle, too. I know there are hundreds of other worthy picks out there. But you have to start somewhere, don't you? Here are 10 picks, each from my personal collection of "desert island" albums. Hopefully, there is at least one piece here that will kindle a life-long love affair.

ORCHESTRAL

1. J.S. Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 Players: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and guests, directed by Jeanne Lamon. (Sony S2K 66289) Many believe that everything that one needs from Western music can be found in the broad output of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). One can argue with that. But one can't dispute how his six Brandenburg Concertos contain all one needs to know and love in the Baroque era. From the multi-movement form of alternating tempos to the development of the solo instruments' themes within a larger orchestral context, these works are prototypes for the concerto form, where a soloist meets the orchestra as an equal, to this day. Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 focuses on the cello and viola, blending dark colours with Bach's perky orchestration.

2. Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 2 Players: Budapest Festival Orchestra & guests conducted by Ivan Fischer. (Channel Classics CCS SA 23506) "Bigger is better" doesn't apply only to old Detroit cars and new SUVs. Orchestral symphonies tripled the number of musicians on stage from the 17th century to the end of the 19th, adding organ, solo voices and choirs. Austrian composer Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) wrote some of the biggest. His Symphony No. 2, known as the "Resurrection," brings everyone and everything on stage in a big catharsis of death and rebirth first performed in 1895. This work has five movements – some as long as a whole 18th-century symphony. Listening to No. 2 is equivalent to all nine of Beethoven's symphonies.

VIOLIN ORCHESTRAL

3.Erich Korngold, Violin Concerto Players: Violinist James Ehnes; Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey conducting. (CBC Records SMCD5241) Music critics have scoffed at this tuneful showcase for the virtuoso violinist since the work's premiere in 1947. But there's magnetism in the lush sounds that owe much to the golden years of Hollywood. Like several talented Jewish composers fleeing European anti-Semitism, Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) landed in Hollywood, where he quickly proved himself to be one of the best soundtrack composers. The three-movement Violin Concerto, premiered by legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz, borrows heavily from Korngold's day job. The haunting theme for the first movement comes from the 1937 film Another Dawn. The sweet second movement comes from his Oscar-winning score for Anthony Adverse (1936), while the fiery final movement borrows from The Prince and the Pauper (1937). Never mind the silver-screen associations, this is first-rate music that won't grow stale.

VOICE ORCHESTRAL

4. Samuel Barber, Knoxville: Summer of 1915 + Toccata Festiva Players: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Marin Alsop conducting; soprano Karina Gauvin; organist Thomas Trotter. (Naxos 8.559134) At a time when new music had drifted into atonality, American composer Samuel Barber (1910-1981) managed to shape a new, modern sound with traditional means and techniques.  Knoxville: Summer of 1915 is a gorgeous poem by James Agee that evokes lost youth and innocence in a simpler age. Barber's orchestral accompaniment evokes the details of a streetcar passing while painting a larger picture that is both dreamy and foreboding.  Toccata Festiva, something completely different, was written to celebrate the unveiling of a new concert organ in Philadelphia in 1960. It is big, brilliant, muscular, inventive – and over in just 14 minutes.

SOLO VOICE

5. Reynaldo Hahn, L'Heure exquise Players: Contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux and pianist Daniel Blumenthal. (Naive NV5022) Born in Venezuela, Reynaldo Hahn (1875-1947) would become the embodiment of stylish French vocal music around the turn of the 20th century. He worked chiefly in opera, but he left behind a shelf-load of gorgeous mélodies. The key characteristic of mélodies is their super-smooth phrasing. The singer is meant to interpret these pieces as if their voice is a finger skimming the top of a freshly iced cake.

CHAMBER

6. Edward Elgar, Piano Quintet Players: Sorrel Quartet and pianist Ian Brown. (Chandos 9894) Chamber music is anything you can perform in your living room – say one instrument to 10, in any combination. A beauty (among the thousands of options) is the gorgeous 1919 Piano Quintet by the quintessential Victorian composer, Edward Elgar (1857-1934). In three movements scored for two violins, viola, cello and piano, Elgar weaves a seamless musical tapestry stitched in the melancholy key of A minor. So much music from this era suffers from over-thick orchestration. But this Quintet is limpid and restrained, perhaps because Elgar usually wrote for big orchestras and choirs, and was conscious about scaling back.

PIANO

7. Claude Debussy, Images (Bk 2) Player: Vanessa Wagner. (Ambroisie AMB9991) People think of French composer Claude Debussy (1862-1918) as a writer of pretty tunes. But none of his orchestral or piano pieces are hummable. Debussy's great achievement was in playing with effects rather than manipulating emotions with melody. His solo piano works condense everything to two hands and 88 keys, conjuring rippling water, fluttering leaves and even goldfish swimming in the three pieces that make up the second book of Images. So complex are Debussy's musical instructions, that he added a third line of music to read rather than the usual two. There is a lot of piano music out there, much of it including the greatest masterworks ever written (like Bach's Preludes & Fugues and Beethoven's Sonatas), but these confections are more fun for the novice listener.

SACRED CHORAL

8. Maurice Duruflé, Requiem Players: St. Jacobs Kammarkor & guests, directed by Gary Graden. (Bis 612) The Roman Catholic funeral mass has inspired many magnificent musical settings. French composer Maurice Duruflé (1902-1968) spent most of his adult life as organist at St. Etienne-du-Mont in Paris, yet it took the prompting of his publisher for him to sit down to write a large-scale Requiem setting in 1947. The result blends plainchant, Renaissance polyphony, Baroque counterpoint and typically 20th-century French tonal colour. The original score was for orchestra and chorus, but there is an elegant spareness to the version for organ that enhances the meditative mood. "In Paradisum," where the soul is accepted into Heaven, floats in an ethereal other dimension.

9. Arvo Pärt, Nunc dimittis (2001) Players: Elora Festival Singers, directed by Noel Edison. (Naxos 8.570239) Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, 71, concentrates on sacred choral music. Like plainsong, his spare, tonal style draws in listeners of all faiths, not just Christians. Pärt can be called a minimalist, but his compositions from the last 30 years marry Russian Orthodox harmonies, plainsong, Renaissance polyphony and Eastern influences. Pärt's 2001 setting of the Song of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis) perfectly captures the words' peaceful ecstasy.

OPERA

10. Henry Purcell, Dido & Aeneas Players: Le Concert Spirituel, conducted by Hervé Niquet (Glossa GCD 921601) It may seem odd to suggest a one-act work from 1689 as the place for an opera novice to start. But this music is gorgeous as well as rich in drama. Plus, the lyrics are in English. At the time Henry Purcell adapted the story by Nahum Tate, opera was less than a century old. One characteristic early English opera shared with the Italian form was the "dramatic lament," which takes place here in Dido's death-scene aria, "When I am Laid in Earth." Its plangent melody floats atop a chromatically descending accompaniment. It's such an affecting aria that almost every great operatic soprano (with the music transposed upward) and mezzo wants to record it.

Urban Feels T.O.'s Love

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(February 15, 2007) Valentine's Day provided the ideal backdrop for Keith Urban's return to Toronto. The county rocker's trip here to promote his fourth solo album, Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing, was postponed last fall after he checked into rehab for treatment of alcohol abuse. Better late than never was the unspoken sentiment of the enthusiastic crowd of about 300 contest winners and fan club members who landed invites to the exclusive concert that capped Urban's day. The hour-long Mod Club gig provided an intimate glimpse of the New Zealand-born, Australia-raised, Nashville-honed Grammy winner who sells out arenas and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart with his latest.  A romantic vibe flowed through the audience, with couples swaying to the burners as well as the ballads. Urban had left his own bride of eight months, actor Nicole Kidman, behind in L.A. But earlier in the day, during a live performance for Canada AM, he told fans that he'd written "Stupid Boy" – the No. 1 country single in Canada for the fourth week in a row – for his wife. "We haven't played in a club in a long time," the singer-songwriter-guitarist said as he took the Mod Club stage with his five-piece band. "We're not going to pretend we're professionals giving you a slick show; we're just going to play some songs."

It was only Urban's second multi-song performance since wrapping up a three-month stint at the Betty Ford Center last month. He is slated to kick off a world tour in April. (No Toronto dates have been announced yet). He launched last night's set with the upbeat "Once In a Lifetime," the first single from Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing, which set a record as the highest debuting song in the history of the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart.  He followed with a selection of old favourites and new songs that showcased his deft guitar playing and earthy, seductive vocals, as attendees sang entire verses back to him. Clad in scuffed shoes, jeans and a black T-shirt, Urban, 39, has tattoos on both buff arms, lanky hair with honey-coloured highlights, and the prettiest teeth I've ever seen on anyone who rocks that hard. Carolyne Hall, 40, and Cathy Craggs, 50, left their spouses in Brantford to come see him. "My husband asked if I'd rather spend Valentine's with Keith than with him," said Craggs.  "Well, yeah, but I gave him a gift certificate." Hall presented her husband with chocolate cupcakes and a card before ditching him and driving to Toronto. For his part, Urban pledged his affection for his Commonwealth cousins. "For some reason my songs go No. 1 here before anywhere else," he acknowledged graciously.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Santanas Bite Into The Restaurant Biz

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 15, 2007) *
Carlos Santana’s 2000 hit single “Maria Maria” is now the name of a new restaurant chain he is planning along with his wife Deborah and the Walnut Creek-based Dudum Sports & Entertainment Corporation (DSE). The collaboration began with DSE's purchase and make-over of three Northern California restaurants -- currently operating as The Cantina -- into Maria Maria, described as “a new breed of restaurants with genuine yet modern, flavourful Mexican cuisine.”  The first restaurant to adopt the new name and concept will be the Walnut Creek location in April, followed by Mill Valley in May and Santa Rosa in June. Future plans include other new Maria Maria locations in select cities nationwide. In addition to Maria Maria, DSE's partnership with Carlos and Deborah Santana includes the development of a flagship location under the banner Santana's in an as yet to be determined location.

New Rush Album Out In May

By JAM! Music

(February 15, 2007) Rush has announced its 18th studio album, "Snakes & Arrows," will hit stores May 1.  Billboard.com reports that the album will be preceded by the single, "Far Cry," hitting North American radio outlets in mid-March.  According to drummer Neil Peart in a previous Billboard article, the lyrics of the album are inspired by his motorcycle trip through the U.S., chronicled in his book "Roadshow: Landscape With Drums."  "Just seeing the power of evangelical Christianity and contrasting that with the power of fundamentalist religion all over the world in its different forms had a big effect on me," Peart said in the article.  "You try to put your own way of seeing the world into some kind of congruence with other peoples, and that's difficult for me," he admits. "I mean, I see the world in what I think to be a perfectly obvious and rational way, but when you go out into it and see the way other people think and behave, and express themselves on church signs, you realize, 'Well, I'm not really part of this club.'"  Rush is set to tour the album, but dates have yet to be announced.

Jennifer Lopez Releases All-Spanish Disc

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(February 20, 2007)  NEW YORK – Jennifer Lopez says she is fulfilling her dreams with the upcoming release of an all-Spanish album "Como ama una mujer," or "How a Woman Loves," and two Hispanic-themed films this year. "I wanted to sing in Spanish from the beginning of my recording career," said the New Yorker of Puerto Rican origin. The album, which will be released in the United States March 27 after more than two years of work, was mainly produced by her husband, Marc Anthony. Lopez also produced and stars in "Bordertown," a film about the killings of hundreds of women in and around the city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on the U.S. border. In the film, directed by Gregory Nava and co-starring Antonio Banderas, Lopez plays a reporter sent to the city to investigate what she says is "one of the world's most shocking and disturbing, underreported crimes against humanity." Lopez also has a leading role in the film "El cantante," starring her husband as Puerto Rican salsa singer Hector Lavoe. Directed by Leon Ichaso, Lopez plays Puchy, the singer's long-suffering wife. "It's such a passion project, it took four years to make it," she said. "It's a very exciting, passionate, intense movie of the tragic life of Hector Lavoe." Both films will open in U.S. theatres this summer. Lopez soon plans to promote "Como ama una mujer" in the United States, Spain, Mexico and "everywhere we can."

::FILM NEWS::

Tasha Smith The 'Daddy's Little Girls' Interview

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(February 15, 2007) *
Tasha Smith was born one of identical twins on February 28, 1971 in Camden, New Jersey where they were raised by their single-mom, along with a younger sister. She and her clone, Sidra, got an early start in show business, both modeling and performing in community theatre. At the age of 18, the statuesque beauty moved to L.A. where she supported herself by taking assorted odd jobs while trying her hand at stand-up comedy. She made her big screen debut, along with Sidra, in 1994 in Twin Sitters, following that up with supporting roles in such movies as Playas Ball, The Whole Ten Yards, ATL, and You, Me and Dupree. A versatile talent, Tasha handled guest TV appearances on everything from Nip/Tuck to Girlfriends to Chicago Hope to America's Next Top Model to The Steve Harvey Show to Girlfriends to The Tyra Banks Show to Boston Common to The Corner, an HBO mini-series.

With Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls (currently in theatres), she has landed what is likely to prove to be her breakout role as Jennifer, a vindictive woman caught up in a custody battle with her ex-husband over their three daughters. Away from the set, Tasha is committed to devoting some of her time as a motivational speaker for kids from disadvantaged communities. In addition, she enjoys cooking, rollerblading, working out and travel.

Kam Williams: Tell me a little about your character.

Tasha Smith: I play Jennifer. Jennifer is what I call the devil of the script. Anytime there's a God, there has to be a devil. And anytime there's good, there has to be evil. And the evil sometimes is the best! [Laughs] Jennifer is a mom seeking revenge and power, the control that she feels she may have lost. And Monty [the character played by co-star Idris Elba] is going to have to suffer as bad as she can make him suffer. So, I had a lot of fun playing Jennifer. I hope that people hate her, literally. [Laughs again] If they do, then I've accomplished my job.

KW: How would you describe Jennifer and Monty's relationship?

TS: My character loves him, was in love with him. It was just one of those deep-down soulish loves that didn't work out. And because of whatever reasons it didn't work out, resentment, anger and bitterness developed, out of hurt. It's like, 'If I can't have you, and if you can't be happy in my life, I'm going to make your life hell.' And I think that she still wants Monty, if she could have him, yeah. But it's not going to happen, so therefore, she has to go far to the left, baby.

KW: How was it working opposite Idris?

TS: Mr. Idris Elba is amazing! He happens to be British, but what's funny about him is that when he's speaking in his American dialect, he looks like he's a brother from the 'hood. But as soon as he brings out that English thing, I'm like, 'Woo! You look like you're from London. Oh my God!' It's like everything on him changes. He's so cool! He's the coolest. He's so supportive. He's so present. He's just a professional actor. And on top of that he's funny too. He's a good guy to hang around. He's just so unselfish.
I loved working with Idris. I hope to work with him again, too, because he's so amazing.

For full interview by Kam Williams, go HERE.

Tentative Deal Reached To End ACTRA Strike

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Entertainment Reporter

(February 17, 2007) The big chill in Hollywood North appears to be over.  Canada's actors and producers have reached a tentative deal to end the first strike by Canada's actors, the performers' union
ACTRA announced last night.  The strike lasted six weeks, grinding the already slow movie production business virtually to a halt in the Toronto area. Sixty per cent of ACTRA's members are in Toronto.  Only one major movie is being shot in the GTA. (See Bruce DeMara's story on Hank & Mike on page H1 in today's A&E section, printed before the tentative agreement was reached yesterday afternoon.)  ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) represents 21,000 actors. They went on strike seeking a wage increase, but also over compensation regarding residuals for performances related to burgeoning new media outlets such as webisodes and cellphones.  "Canadian actors are big winners in the deal we reached today," said ACTRA's chief negotiator Stephen Waddell in a statement last night. "ACTRA has made important significant economic gains in the areas that are priorities for us: a 10 per cent increase for actors over the next three years including a 1 per cent increase into retirement contributions; and a comprehensive new agreement for productions made for new media and productions converted to new media."

Jeff Brinton, a spokesman for the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, told Canadian Press that small details needed to be worked out, but that both sides had reached an agreement. Details were not available, but ACTRA's statement said, "the Internet won't be free. Residuals will be due to performers on Internet use from first dollar. "A `reopener' provision will allow the parties to revisit these terms after the Screen Actors' Guild (in the U.S.) has negotiated its next agreement. ACTRA will use this clause to seek further improved Internet terms should SAG achieve them." The deal still has to be ratified by the union's membership, ACTRA said.  While the strike, which began Jan. 8, was bitter, production continued on a few TV and small movie projects in exchange for a 7 per cent wage increase for staff. The industry is keeping a watchful eye as unions in the U.S., dealing with some of the same disputes regarding new media content, are in position to strike later this year.  A leading supplier of film services and equipment said he was pleased to hear of a possible deal but wondered what legacy the labour woes would leave. "The fact that it went on for six weeks is ridiculous, and now the challenge is to undo the very serious damage that's been done," said Paul Bronfman, president and CEO of Comweb Group. "It's going to take several weeks, if not months, to get things back on track. Production is not going to start flowing back here immediately."

With files from Canadian Press

Ryan Larkin: Animator Never Lost Artistry

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Entertainment Columnist

(February 17, 2007)
Ryan Larkin, a brilliant Canadian filmmaker who brought the art of animation to new heights in an era before computer animation, and a tragic figure whose career was destroyed by drug and alcohol abuse, died near Montreal at 63 Wednesday after a battle with lung cancer. During his career, he was nominated for an Oscar for an animated short film, Walking, and became the subject of another animated short, Ryan, which won an Oscar in 2005. Between these two highlights, Larkin spent most of his life living in homeless shelters, begging for money on the streets of Montreal. The Montreal native studied at the Art School of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and was recognized early for his fluid and expressive figure drawing. Recruited by the National Film Board as a 19-year-old, he worked with the late Norman McLaren, a giant of the art of animation. Under McLaren's tutelage, Larkin brought his painter's expressiveness and masterful visual style to his film work.

Walking (1968) and Street Musique (1972), in particular, were widely praised as lyrical studies of human gestures, faces and movement. Critics generally rate them as among the best animated films ever produced. It was not long after the release of Street Musique, however, that Larkin began his decline. A history of emotional fragility – as a child he had witnessed a boating accident that took the life of his older brother – combined with cocaine and alcohol abuse, made film work increasingly difficult for Larkin. His film Ding Bat Rap, intended by Larkin as an attack on ethnic and religious narrow-mindedness, was viewed by his NFB employers as bordering on racism. Further tension occurred in 1975 when the NFB commissioned a mural from Larkin and the artist responded by painting an adolescent boy with an erection. The NFB removed the mural from public view.  By the end of the '70s, Larkin had ceased to have any connection with the film board.

"I just took an early retirement," Larkin once told a journalist. He never lost his sense of humour and his talent for drawing, however. When brought back to the attention of the public, after Canadian filmmaker Chris Landreth portrayed the artist in his film Ryan, a strikingly inventive work of animation worthy of the subject, Larkin refused to lament his years as a panhandler. (His favourite spot was the sidewalk outside Schwartz's Deli on Saint-Laurent Boulevard.)  "I was panhandling on the street because I enjoy it," he insisted. "I have people that expect me to be there in front of Schwartz's restaurant and I don't want to disappoint them." On another occasion, he compared panhandling to performance art. He was also a well-liked figure among rock musicians and other habitués of the downtown boulevard. When Landreth's film won the Oscar for best animated short, Larkin watched on television with friends and well-wishers in the Copacabana Bar on Saint-Laurent.

The cheering was so loud Larkin was unable to hear Landreth tell the world that he won the award because of "the grace and humility of one guy watching in Montreal. Ryan Larkin, I dedicate this award to you." Since that event, many sympathizers tried to restart Larkin's filmmaking career, most notably Montreal musician Laurie Gordon, who acted as his producer and manager. The two have been collaborating on a film entitled Spare Change, about the vicissitudes of begging on the street.  Reintroduced to film work through this project, Larkin told journalists that, although he recognized the startling effects that can be created by computer animation, he preferred his traditional methods of drawing.

He was in Toronto in December to promote a series of short animated station identification "bumpers" he drew for the MTV channel. His death is a serious blow to Canadian film. "What killed him was cigarettes, not cocaine or alcohol," Gordon told the Star yesterday. Not even the ravages of cocaine succeeded in destroying his abilities.  "He had much more to say artistically – the guy never lost his ability," Gordon said. "The artist in him was always alive."  Gordon also said that Larkin was "in a physical and spiritual rehabilitation" when he died. "I think he wanted to be remembered as a man back on his own two feet – that he didn't have to panhandle at the end of his life, that he was okay." "Canada has lost a great artist and a true innovator who inspired and influenced generations," said Claude Joli-Coeur, acting Government Film Commissioner and chairman of the National Film Board of Canada. "Ryan Larkin will be missed."

With files from Thulasi Srikanthan
 

Isabella Rossellini Makes Her Film-Directing Debut As Part Of A NFB/Bravo!Fact

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(February 19, 2007) In an extraordinary coup, the National Film Board of Canada and Bravo!FACT will be presenting a film directed by
Isabella Rossellini as part of their downloadable short film series Shorts in Motion.  Titled Oh La La, Rossellini's film is said to be an off-kilter homage to Paris and its architecture. There are sounds of sensual moaning throughout, phallic symbols abound and the whole thing ends with the Eiffel Tower and an explosion of fireworks, followed by a title card that simply says "Paris." "It's fabulously over the top, but somehow she pulls it off," says Matt Hornburg, whose company, Marble Media, co-produced the series. It's a risqué bent that should come as no surprise from the star who, despite her serene appearance and ageless beauty, has been drawn to such projects as David Lynch's Blue Velvet and Guy Maddin's fever dream set to celluloid, The Saddest Music in the World. Toronto filmmaker and photographer Jody Shapiro produced and shot the two-minute film with Rossellini and a single camera along the streets of Paris.  His connection with Rossellini has been largely through Maddin, it seems. Shapiro had worked with Rossellini on Saddest Music, which he produced. He also produced the Maddin-directed short My Dad is 100 Years Old, which was written by Rossellini about her father Roberto, the Italian cinema master.

Shapiro also produced the director's short film Nude Caboose, about an overeager, shirtless man leading a conga line, which is in the Shorts in Motion: The Art of Seduction series and will be joined by Oh La La. Rossellini's Parisian film is expected to have a prominent run on the festival circuit, with Cannes and Toronto's Worldwide Short Film Festival in the spring as possible destinations.  It will then be available as a download along with the other nine films in Shorts in Motion: The Art of Seduction (http://www.shortsinmotion.com), the second instalment of films in the award-winning Shorts in Motion series.  In addition, Oh La La will likely be broadcast on the Bravo! TV network, following its festival run. Hip-hop musician k-os had been slated to make the tenth film in the series, although with a new album out and all the attendant projects that go along with it, his film wasn't ready.

Colin Roach: The Light the Flambeau Interview

By Kam Williams

Born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago,
Colin Keith Roach migrated to New York City in 1970 before moving on to Los Angeles seven years later. He attended college out West, earning an undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering and a graduate degree in Public Administration from California State Dominguez Hills and California State Los Angeles Universities.  In the mid-Eighties, he studied ancient Egyptian history and its related spirituality, authoring numerous articles on the Egyptian philosophy of MAAT, focusing on its application to contemporary life. After recently developing an interest in filmmaking, he wrote a screenplay, “Light the Flambeau,” and produced a very intriguing, professional-quality trailer for it which can be viewed at: http://www.previewreels.com/light_the_flambeau/  By day, he’s the Industrial Engineering Manager of a large fireplace manufacturing company in L.A., though he’s currently co-writing another script called “Downside.” Colin is divorced and has two sons but he is about to remarry soon. Here, he talks about “Light the Flambeau,” which he hopes to turn into a full-length feature. The movie is about a suicidal, 21 year-old college student’s attempt to convince the father he has just met to take him back to their Caribbean roots to heal his illness.    

KW: Are you related to the late Trinidadian poet, Eric Roach, who is known as the black Yeats?

CR: He was my father.

KW: I was a black literature major, and enjoyed his work. Where did you come up with the idea for Light the Flambeau?

CR:  As they say, Kam, fiction usually has some elements of truth to it. My son entered my life when he was 21. To find answers, I simply drifted back through the generations and my experiences from growing up in a family in Tobago that really didn’t want me.

KW: Do you identify with the main character?

CR: There are two main characters and I identify with both of them. I’ll let the audience decide whose story it is.

KW: How would you describe the angst that he’s going through?

CR:  When one is battling for survival in an unorthodox way, you either build character if you don’t have it, or else lose your fight. Imagine a 21 year-old propelled by forces he cannot see, and fighting his inherited demons on a journey to save himself. Bloom or doom, human beings teach us something either way.

KW: What genre of film would you consider this picture and what themes will it be exploring?  

CR: To me and those who worked on the trailer, read and edited the script, it’s a spiritual melodrama. In Flambeau, people are struggling with the cards they were dealt, and with the consequences of the decisions they made. The results are deeply transformed characters.

KW: What is your prior experience with moviemaking?

CR: None.

KW: Did you study cinema in school?

CR: Just some workshops and classes in screenplay writing.

KW: What audience do you expect this film to find?

CR: We are really going after spiritual communities globally, but specifically, the African-American, Canadian, English, African, Caribbean and Brazilian markets are our bulls-eye targets.

KW: Are you looking for help to turn this trailer into a full-length feature? 

CR: Boy are we! Part of our approach is to cast actors from each of the regions I just mentioned. We already have bios and photos from many actors. We have a budget done and would really like our community businesses to participate through our corporation that’s has already been set up.

KW: When did you decide to take a shot at showbiz?

CR: I have lived in Los Angeles since 1977 but I am not employed in that industry. Living here gave me access to training and professionals but this type of project is independent. Hollywood studios make action thrillers and horror movies for 18 to 24 year-old audiences. They will have nothing to do with these types of non-white dramas, and that’s understandable. These stories must be told independently. To be successful, we must take risks and have support from like-minded people across the globe.

KW: What’s the message of the movie?

CR:  I don’t want to give away much but I’ll say the story suggests the human capacity to grow and adapt is limitless when we step off the beaten path.

KW: Do you plan to bring back the same cast members from the trailer to be in the movie?

CR:  That’s up to the fine production company, Production HQ, and Judy Marcelline who produced it. It’s their call, but I’ll say probably not. I think they would love to talk with Delroy Lindo about playing Noah.

KW: Do you have any interest in perhaps acting in it yourself?

CR: Oh God, none.

KW: Who’s your favourite director?

CR:  Mira Nira, the Indian lady who made Monsoon Wedding.

KW: Don’t worry, he’s not a stalker, but Jimmy Bayan needs to know where in L.A. you live?

CR: The San Fernando Valley.

KW: What do you do to unwind?

CR: I am energized by going after Caribbean immigrant stories. I have three log lines in the can. My cousin and I are working on one about a young man who rejects his family’s deeply held values of hard work and opted for a very different lifestyle. He is on a journey also but in the wrong direction 

KW: It seems like you are on a journey yourself.

CR: Absolutely!

KW: Where to?

CR: That’s the mystery of life. We think we know where we are going, and what we are doing, but do we really?

Golden Opportunity No. 69 For The NFB

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Quebec Bureau Chief

(February 21, 2007) MONTREAL–It started as whimsical doodling on blueprints, a workaday urban planner fostering her inner cartoonist, and led to an improbable destination: the glitz and pomp of Oscar night. Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony will be the second in seven years for Montreal film director Torill Kove, a Norwegian-born filmmaker and former urban designer. Kove, 49, is nominated for Best Animated Short. Her film
The Danish Poet – the poet in question, beset by writer's block, seeks out a famed Norwegian novelist for help and undertakes a mystical journey – is one of five up for the coveted prize. Kove's second Academy Award nomination is the 69th Oscar mention for the National Film Board, which co-produced The Danish Poet. It's a remarkable haul for the 67-year-old organization, which finds itself at yet another crossroads as Kove prepares to fly to Los Angeles. Famed documentary producer Jacques Bensimon ended his five-year term as NFB commissioner in December and no successor has yet been found.

But the usual trepidation that precedes the hiring of a new NFB head – the result of perennial concerns that the federal government is on the cusp of slashing its funding – doesn't seem to be taking hold. Interim NFB commissioner Claude Joli-Coeur said in an interview this week that the film board is well positioned to draw maximum benefit from its permanent collection and its future production in the digital age. "I think it's a golden opportunity, especially now because the emergence of multiple platforms is reshaping the entire industry," said Joli-Coeur, who is director of business affairs and legal services, and secretary to the NFB board. The NFB's aim, Joli-Coeur said, is to eventually set up its own version of YouTube; the board has also ironed out a long-standing legal and licensing issue with that website, where pirated versions of NFB films have long been available. "The fundamental goal is to make sure that all the NFB's 12,000 films are available to all Canadians, whether it's through an online videothèque or DVD sales or traditional television distribution," Joli-Coeur said. "People should be able to go see The Danish Poet on our website." The board has scored a major success with its recent box set of legendary animator Norman McLaren's complete oeuvre – which used proprietary technology to restore and digitize dozens of his films – and it is expected to easily reach its $1 million sales target later this year.

"The biggest challenge over the last few years has been to maintain our relevance; there's an understanding that we can't be doing what anyone else is doing, which explains the emphasis on animated films and documentaries," he said.  Kove also alluded to those changes, saying that in her 12 years working at the NFB – its Montreal headquarters is a grim brick pile wedged in between car dealerships and warehouses beside the city's busiest expressway – the stable of staff directors has been slowly replaced by freelancers. "It's really different than when I started there ... sometimes I look at it with a bit of sadness," she said. "Having said that, we are succeeding in replacing the old way of doing things with a very exciting new way of doing things." Kove said the NFB was the best place to learn her craft and to explore her main interests (animation and Scandinavian folklore), so now she's giving back: Kove has signed on to mentor young filmmakers as part of the NFB Animation Hothouse short film project. Kove, whose parents were international aid workers, spent her formative years in Africa and her Canadian ties actually originate in Nairobi, Kenya. As a high school student in the Kenyan capital, Kove forged friendships with several Canadians ("they were everywhere in Kenya"), and in her early 20s travelled to Montreal to renew acquaintances. "I came to visit a few people and ended up staying," she said. She then finished a graduate degree in urban planning and eventually worked for firms in Toronto and Montreal. Then, in the early 1990s, Kove's contract with a Montreal planning company wasn't renewed. "There was a lot of buzz around NFB films like Strings/Cordes and Blackfly around that time, and it was like I was being bombarded by all this animation," said Kove, who lives in Montreal with her husband and 4-year-old daughter. Kove – who by then was working as a freelance illustrator – cold-called filmmaker Wendy Tilby, who was nominated for an Oscar for Strings/Cordes, and who agreed to meet her. Tilby, who was teaching at Concordia University's film school, encouraged Kove to audit some courses, after which she decided to enrol full-time. Shortly thereafter, Kove got her first film gig at the NFB as a tracer, the animation equivalent of starting out in the mailroom. Kove was encouraged to flog a project she had done for a script-writing class. It turned into My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts, her first major outing as a director. It led to her first Oscar nomination in 2000. It's expected the NFB board will recommend its choice for commissioner to Heritage Minister Bev Oda by the end of next month. And Kove hopes that with luck, the incoming head will be greeted by a 12th Oscar statuette.  "I try not to think about it too much, there's a lot of truth to the cliché, the nomination is the biggest thrill," she said, "but it would be really nice to win."

FILM TIDBITS

Milli Vanilli Film In The Works

By JAM! Music

(February 15, 2007) From Robert Redford and Paul Newman in "The Sting" to the recent announcement that Leonardo DiCaprio will star in a film based on Enron, Hollywood has always loved a good fraud story.  So it should be no surprise that a film about Milli Vanilli is in the works.  Variety.com reports that Universal Pictures has purchased the rights to the story of the disgraced German pop duo. Jeff Nathanson ("Catch Me if You Can") will write the script, which Kathleen Kennedy ("Munich") will produce.  Milli Vanilli - Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus - rose to the top of the pop charts in 1990 and won a Grammy Award for best new artist. Soon after, rumours began circulating that the German duo lip synched during live performances.  Eventually, it was revealed that they didn't even sing on their records.  Morvan and Pilatus were hired by producer Frank Farian to lead Milli Vanilli. Farian already had songs recorded by three other singers. At first the duo went along with it but soon wanted to put an end to the lie. They refused to promote a new album unless Farian let them sing, but instead he blew the scandal wide open.  Soon after their Grammy Award was rescinded, a series of lawsuits were filed and Milli Vanilli was dropped from their record label. Pilatus died of a drug overdose in April of 1998 as the pair were attempting a comeback.

Anthony Anderson Headed To Fox’s ‘K-Ville’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 19, 2007) *Anthony Anderson has been cast as one of two leads in the Fox drama pilot “K-Ville,” which is set in New Orleans and follows a pair of cops dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Anderson will play an experienced officer, an idealist who deeply believes that if everyone pulls together, the city can re-emerge stronger than ever. As previously reported, “K-Ville” is one of four New Orleans-themed drama scripts ordered this development season, and the only one that has moved forward to the pilot stage. Writer-producer Jonathan Lisco (“The District,” “NYPD Blue”) spent several weeks in New Orleans researching the project. The story calls for the partner of Anderson’s character to have a different race and very different take on how the city should go about rebuilding after the hurricane. The pilot will also tell stories about the heroism of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Anderson will next be seen in the film "Transformers," which opens July 4.

Ryan Gosling Nominated For Best Actor

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail


(February 19, 2007) Sure he gave a great performance in Half Nelson, but the film's distributor ThinkFilm worked long and hard to help Canadian actor
Ryan Gosling get his coveted domination. Part one of the strategy: Get a head start and release the film in August, a month before Oscar-bound movies are usually unveiled.  As Mark Urman, ThinkFilm's marketing president, told the Hollywood Reporter: "We had to go out ahead of the pack." Urman said it helped that critics raved about Gosling's performance and that the field of potential nominees was weaker than usual.  So the company pushed hard -- sending DVDs out early to 5,800 members of the Academy, the SAG nominating committee, as well as press groups and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (who decide on Golden Globe nominations).  It also bought a number of strategic Internet and newspaper ads.  Other things helped: Gosling made a number of appearances at awards shows and ThinkFilm had more cash to spend on the campaign after the company was sold last October. When the nominations were announced, Gosling's name was on the list. The strategy had worked.

::TV NEWS::

Spike Lee Wins Top Journalism Prize

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Larry Mcshane
, Associated Press

(February 20, 2007) NEW YORK – Director
Spike Lee was named Tuesday as one of the winners of the annual George Polk Awards for journalism for his acclaimed documentary on life in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Lee, the director of "Malcolm X" and "Do the Right Thing," was honoured for "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," along with its producer, Sam Pollard. The pair won the award for documentary television for illustrating evidence of the government's poor performance in the aftermath of the devastating August 2005 hurricane. Other 2006 winners ran the gamut from New York Times correspondent Lydia Polgreen, honoured in foreign reporting for her work on the carnage in Sudan's Darfur region, to the staff of the free-circulation weekly Lakefront Outlook in Chicago, cited for its expose on cronyism at the Harold Washington Cultural Center. The 12 awards, considered among the top prizes in U.S. journalism, were announced Tuesday by Long Island University. The Polk Awards were created in 1949 in honour of CBS reporter George W. Polk, who was killed while covering the Greek civil war. They will be presented at an April 12 luncheon in Manhattan. Lee made eight trips to New Orleans and interviewed about 100 people while filming the documentary, which aired on HBO. Pollard is Lee's longtime collaborator, and the pair worked together previously on "Mo' Better Blues," "Jungle Fever," "Girl 6," "Clockers" and "Bamboozled."

Other winners were:

– Senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers and producer Adam Ciralsky of NBC's nightly news for network television reporting. The pair exposed a secret effort by the U.S. Army to drop a new technology aimed at protecting soldiers from rocket-propelled grenades.

– Hartford Courant reporters Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman for military reporting. Their four-part series detailed the military's lack of mental health screening and the high suicide rate among American troops.

– Robert Little, national correspondent for The (Baltimore) Sun, for medical reporting. His three-part series, "Dangerous Remedy," probed the use of an experimental drug on more than 1,000 soldiers.

– Los Angeles Times reporters Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling for environmental reporting. Their series linked a variety of health issues worldwide to industrial pollution and other factors that are destroying the oceanic ecology.

– Charles Forelle, James Bandler and Mark Maremont of The Wall Street Journal for business reporting. Their piece on backdating stock options, which allows executives to buy low and sell high, triggered a federal investigation into more than 130 companies.

– The Oregonian's Jeff Kosseff, Bryan Denson and Les Zaitz for national reporting. The trio did an expose of a multibillion-dollar federal program that was supposed to help people with severe disabilities find work but instead rewarded corporate executives.

– Debbie Cenziper, of The Miami Herald, for metropolitan reporting. Her year-long investigation into the Miami-Dade Housing Agency prompted the firing of top housing officials, along with a criminal investigation.

– Editor Ray Ring of the High Country News for political reporting. His investigation of the financing behind a campaign against land use regulations led to a defeat of the proposals by voters or courts in five states. The biweekly Colorado-based news magazine, founded 37 years ago, won a 1986 Polk Award for environmental reporting.

– The Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California-Berkeley, American Public Media and Living on Earth for radio reporting. The three groups were cited for "Early Signs: Reports from a Warming Planet," a project on global warming.

Living Up To Steve Irwin Legacy

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon

(February 20, 2007) As I walked across the 25th floor of the Metropolitan Hotel yesterday, I was feeling a bit uneasy. Not about interviewing Terri Irwin, per se. But more about saying the wrong thing, however accidental, to somebody who has already endured such unfathomable tragedy. Irwin was in town for G'Day Toronto, an Australian tourism festival that ended Sunday and included a performance by her 8-year-old daughter, Bindi. Promoting the land Down Under was a role Terri's late husband, Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin, shouldered with blistering gusto. "For the last 14 years, Steve was the personification of everything that was Australia," says Terri.  Steve was killed in September after a stingray's poisonous barb punctured his heart, a freak accident that unleashed a deluge of global sorrow. "No one would have been more shocked at the outpouring of grief than Steve would've been," says Terri. "Steve was such an immense person in so many ways. I never realized how much I depended on him until he was gone ...  "After losing Steve, it does kind of feel like I'm free-falling. From time to time, I think, `How can I do this without Steve here?'" But during these moments, she focuses on his indefatigable advocacy when it came to the environment, conservation and everything that might fall under the rubric of a Wildlife Warrior.

"The determination I have to try to continue Steve's work and make the world a better place is so important," Terri says. "I'm not Steve. I can't do what he did. And I wouldn't pretend to try to fill his shoes. "But we can no longer sit back and say, `I carpool to work and recycle, therefore I'm making a difference to the planet.' We have to fight." The couple met in 1992 when the Oregon-born Terri was vacationing in Australia. She never left. Does she ever miss America, especially now? "I miss my family and friends," she says. "And the wildlife is so dramatically different over here in North America than it is in Australia. But I've really come to love the country and I would never leave." Does she get enough privacy? "I get plenty of time on my own," Terri says. "I live in Australia Zoo. I have a very private home. We've got three bedrooms, one bathroom ... "The carpets are rose-coloured, which grossed Steve out, but I love it. He let me do everything the way I wanted. The house is just warm and cozy and small." Her eyes get wide as she adds: "When I hang clothes on the line I can hear tigers, elephants, lemurs, crocodiles, blue-winged kookaburras, macaws and dingoes – every single day."

Both of Terri's children, Bindi and 3-year-old Robert, were in Toronto. "Because he's not in weather this cold very often, little Robert said to me, `There's smoke coming out of my mouth!'" says Terri. "So he figures you come to Toronto and you turn into a dragon." I ask her about Robert's older sister, specifically, criticism that Bindi may be spending too much time in the spotlight.  "I get to see her when the camera doesn't," counters Terri. "I see her when she's at Disneyland or when she's playing with her teddy bear or when she's poking her brother." But Bindi, who was visiting the CN Tower yesterday, seems beyond precocious. I mean, it's like she's 8-going-on-40.  "Isn't it weird?" asks Terri. "She's so much like Steve. She has an uncanny wisdom beyond her years. There is something really unusual about Bindi. It's who she is. It's not something you can cultivate." On Sunday night, for example, Bindi was reluctant to leave the side of a wallaby here in town. "I said, `Bindi, you have a field of wallabies back home,'" Terri recalls. "But she said, `Yeah, but I just need a wallaby fix. I miss them.' So I said, `Okay, hug and kiss the wallaby for a while.'" Another time, Bindi noted her mother wasn't in high spirits and said something remarkable. "I said, `I just really miss your daddy. It's a hard day today,'" says Terri. "And she said, `I tell you what. I'll go in the house with Robert. You stay out here and cry.' It was so cute." As I leave the "Bangkok" conference room and walk past the Cubist-inspired wall panels toward the dimly lit elevator corridor, the uneasy feelings have vanished. If anything, I feel strangely optimistic about the environment, now that Terri is promising to carry on with Steve's work.  "I spent 14 years trying to keep up with Steve," she says. "He was an exhausting force of nature. And now I'm determined to try to get people to keep up with me."

::THEATRE NEWS::

In Death, Celebrating Life

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Theatre Critic

Elegies: A Song Cycle

By William Finn. Directed by Lezlie Wade. Until Mar. 3 at Berkeley
St. Upstairs Theatre, 26 Berkeley St.
416-368-3110

(February 17, 2007) It will break your heart – but in the best possible way. Let's get right to the point: Elegies: A Song Cycle is the most satisfying, fulfilling, beautifully performed piece of musical theatre I've seen in this city for a long time. It officially opened last night at the Berkeley St. Upstairs Theatre (although I saw it at a preview), and if I were you, I'd book my tickets now. Because once word gets out about what an absolute winner this show is, the place should be packed every night. Elegies: A Song Cycle delivers just what its title promises: 18 songs written by William Finn, which are indeed elegiac in the sense of being "a song or poem for one who is dead." The only difference is that most formal elegies are solemn in nature, while many of these are ribald, joyful and life-embracing. Oh yes, there is heartbreak as well and if you can sit through the final half-hour of this 90-minute show without being dissolved in tears, then your heart, I fear, is made of stone. Inspired by the 1998 passing of his mother, Finn began to write a series of songs that celebrated people who had departed from his life. They range from a devoted family of Korean grocers who fed him when he was young and poor, to a group of gay men who celebrated "an all-male Thanksgiving" together each November.

There are ornery songwriters he really didn't like, chicken farmers who read Jean-Paul Sartre and even some famous people like New York theatre giant Joseph Papp. All the songs are witty and perceptive, written with that combination of rhythmic invention and melodic idiosyncrasy that mark Finn's work. At their wildest, they're almost surreal, but at their best, they're clearly sublime. That takes us through the first hour and were the show to end then, you'd be tempted to pronounce it "offbeat and interesting." But then Finn moves in for the kill – literally. He starts with a song called "Anytime (I Am There)," which is the call from beyond the grave of a young mother who died of cancer to her daughters. Then we're into a pair of songs about Finn's marvellous mother Barbara and her last day on earth. And while you're still reeling from the force of that, you find yourself on the morning of 9/11, where a husband is trapped in one of the twin towers while his wife watches it all on the TV at home. The amazing thing about Finn's writing (and the performers in this production) is that while they fill these sequences to the brim with emotion, they never spill over the edge into maudlin excess, over-emotionalism or sentimentality.

Discreet direction by Lezlie Wade and sensitive piano accompaniment by Wayne Gwillim are two ingredients that make this possible. But it's the marvellous cast who deserve most of the kudos. Barbara Barsky claims our focus most strongly, not only because she's playing the figure of Finn's mother, but also because she has a quiet dignity and reserved power that fill her songs with nobility time and time again. Steven Gallagher is also doing amazing work, proving himself an actor capable of conveying the most subtle emotions and delicate shades of meaning, while also knowing how to nail us to the wall when the moment demands. And the talented
Thom Allison reveals a new maturity and control here. Without sacrificing any of his sardonic glee or deep-seated feeling, he's learned how to communicate them in a more minimalist way that is even more effective. Newcomer Michael Strathmore makes an astonishing impression. For most of the show, he's called on to do the broad comedy and he delivers it with charm and style, using his youthful energy to its maximum. But when the chips are down, he suddenly takes you to places of deep pain with an effortlessness that is breathtaking. And Eliza-Jane Scott rounds out the quintet by nicely providing some of the more offbeat comedy characterizations as well as some of the most intensely personal sequences.

The whole work has been designed by Sarah Melamed with utter simplicity against a background of flowing white drapes, and Paul Major lights everything with an understated skill that works well. It's also wonderful to hear these actors sing without benefit of any amplification, letting their own vocal skills provide all the modulation we need. Elegies: A Song Cycle may not be for everyone. If you're looking for a campy romp, an empty spectacle or pointless nostalgia, you won't find it here. But if you believe that musical theatre is an art form capable of rousing you to both tears and laughter in the same evening, then this is the show for you. "The living was the prize. The ending's not the story," sing the cast and they're right.  These songs may initially seem to be about death, but instead, they're ultimately all about life and how we should embrace it while we can.
 

Slice Of Life And Courage In Cabaret

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

(February 15, 2007) Last season at Stratford, he played Luther Billis and Honeybun in South Pacific and Mr. Bumble in Oliver!. He was the Baker in Stephen Sondheim's fairy tale Into the Woods the season before, and Nicely-Nicely Johnson in the festival's 2004 production of Guys & Dolls. Bruce Dow may not have been playing lead characters, but he wowed audiences and critics. The energetic, sweet-voiced showman has a way with comedy. He is also an accomplished dramatic stage actor, director and composer. It's a combination of aptitudes that lends itself well to the world of cabaret. The cabaret artform isn't a popular one in Canada, partly because it's such a challenge: strip away scenery, costume and character and you have no one to rely on but yourself – and your accompanist. But Dow is fearless. In recent seasons, visitors to Stratford have been able to catch the performer in action at a local after-hours venue. Thanks to next season's rehearsals being a couple of weeks off, the Stratford resident arrives at the Berkeley Street Theatre on Monday to give Torontonians a one-night taste of his musical and theatrical craft.

"Most people think of cabaret as a variety show," says Dow, 43, during a recent interview. He points out it's something much more focused than that. "It's an intimate communication of stories through song." He says some performers sing show tunes. Others perform "a whole repertoire of songs written for an intimate setting." It may seem like nothing to walk on to a bare stage to sing a few numbers for a small crowd. But, as is so often the case, the simpler a piece looks, the more complicated it is in making it look (and sound) good. "You have to be as prepared as you'd be for a full show," says Dow, who is currently reading James Gavin's book Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of New York Cabaret.  The Big Apple has nurtured performers big and small in a still-thriving cabaret culture. It's a broad form encompassing New York City legends like Bobby Short and Mabel Mercer, dabblers Phyllis Diller and Barbra Streisand, Broadway mainstays like Peter Allen and Barbara Cook, and foreign guests such as Ute Lemper. "I like the vulnerability of it," says Dow of the close proximity of audience and performer. He says the key to making a show work is in finding a theme: "The best ones tie into something personal."

The actor's last Stratford cabaret was Bruce Dow Goes Bananas. "They were songs by second bananas in shows," says Dow of the nice neighbour, the guy who doesn't get the girl or the melancholy clown. Monday night's theme is "impromptu retirement party." "No, I'm not leaving show business," he laughs. "I just decided it was time to retire some of my songs – some of which I've been singing for a long, long time." Dow says he still loves every one of the pieces he will present with piano accompanist Marilyn Dallman, but he has decided that "it might be time to move on and learn some new songs." The singer promises Stephen Sondheim chestnuts – from Merrily We Roll Along ("Good Thing Going" and "Not a Day Goes By") and Into the Woods ("Children Will Listen" and "No More") – in the 45- to 50-minute presentation. "There will also be some Peggy Lee and Jacques Brel," he says. Dow may also read a couple of stories and letters in what he calls his "combo platter." He promises it won't get maudlin. One of the stories might be about "Lonely House," the Kurt Weill song he used in a Toronto audition two decades ago. "It was a Phantom (of the Opera) replacement call and I was doing Les Misérables at the time," Dow recalls. "Everyone was there, the music director, Mr. Drabinsky. It seemed like there were 17 people behind the big table. "The accompanist started playing at a different tempo from the one I had practised, and I was not experienced enough to know how to speed it up or to simply tell him to stop so we could start again." So Dow bravely kept singing. "Then I heard the music director yell, `I think he's flat – does anyone else think he's flat?' while I was singing and I just wished the ground would open up so I could disappear." Dow is now a seasoned pro who has acted, sung, directed and written for Canadian and American stages. It's all been grist for the cabaret mill.

THEATRE TIDBITS

‘Color Purple’ Finds A New Miss Celie

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 19, 2007) *Looks like Fantasia won’t be taking over the role of Miss Celie in Broadway’s The Color Purple,” at least not for now.    The role originated by Tony winner LaChanze and currently played by Jeannette Bayardelle has officially been given to Kenita R. Miller, who most recently served as understudies for the Broadway roles of Miss Celie as well as Celie’s sister, Nettie.  Miller’s resume includes the off-Broadway musicals Dessa Rose, in which she also understudied LaChanze, and Best of Both Worlds. Other credits include national tours of The Civil War and Ragtime as well as regional stagings of Once on This Island and Smokey Joe's Café.  A critic for the Web site Broadway.com caught a “Color Purple” performance with Miller filling in for LaChanze and enthused how “she tore up the role.”  Bayardelle, who took over the role of Celie on Nov. 6, will play her final performance with the Broadway cast on Feb. 18. 

::OTHER NEWS::

Cayman Turtle Farm Serves – And Protects

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(February 17, 2007) GRAND CAYMAN, CAYMAN ISLANDS--A young American tourist has just heard a snippet of a conversation at the new home of the
Cayman Turtle Farm inside the Boatswain's Beach marine park that has left her a bit confused. "Do people eat them?" she asks staff member Marsha Ebanks who is guiding journalists through the park on a tour of the new $52-million (U.S.) facility.  "Uh-huh," says Ebanks. "What part?" "Fins, belly, steak ... everything but the shell, pretty much."  "Where?" the woman asks horrified.  "Here," says Ebanks without batting a lash.  She means that literally.

Caymanians in general are fond of turtle meat and just a few feet away from the breeding tank and turtle petting area (home to more than 11,000 turtles ranging in size from 179 grams to 272 kilograms), both the Turtle Crawl Deli and Schooner's Bar and Grille have turtle on the menu.  It's a fact that many tourists seem to have a hard time swallowing. "You've got some that run in there and can't wait to eat the turtle and then others who can't believe it," says Ebanks.  Caymanians may love their turtle soup, fritters and steaks, but they also have a deep admiration and respect for the animal that has long been a part of their history. When Christopher Columbus arrived at the islands he called them Las Tortugas (which means "the turtles" in Spanish) because of the large population of green sea turtles that were once the sole inhabitants of Grand Cayman.  According to Cayman literature, when permanent settlements developed in the 17th century, turtles were both a means of income and a convenient food source. That's why you will find turtles on the country's flag, seal and currency. But by the early 1800s, the turtle stock had become seriously depleted and by the 1960s, they were on the verge of extinction. It was then that the original Cayman Turtle farm stepped in. The small beachside facility raised the turtles, both to provide food for locals and also to replenish the declining turtle population. And though 60 per cent of the animals raised at the farm still end up at the local market, more than 31,000 have been released to the wild since 1980.

And now Caymanians have created a backdrop for their hard-shelled friends that is sure to provide even more awareness about their achievements. Boatswain's Beach is a far cry from the small stand on the beach that housed the farm only a few short years ago.  The 9.3-hectare adventure marine park set in West Bay (about 13 kilometres from Georgetown) is set to become Grand Cayman's largest tourist attraction. The turtle farm is joined by an aviary, iguana exhibits – featuring the protected blue iguana – and gardens that highlight some of the flora and fauna of the region.  The Barrow family, visiting from England, were clearly impressed.  "We're having an excellent time," said Ian, while his wife, Caroline Mann, and children, Jack and Lily took turns holding the slippery creatures at the display tank and snapping photos. "We're already looking at coming back next year."  They should. The park is only about 60 per cent complete and there is much more to come.  The highlight of the park will no doubt be the predator tank – filled with sharks, eels and other marine life – which will divide the island's largest freshwater wading pool from a 4.2-million-litre salt-water snorkelling lagoon. The result will be the ability for snorkellers to go nose-to-nose with a shark.

The same opportunity will be available from a viewing platform outside the tank for those who'd rather do the experience with their feet on terra firma.  Other planned attractions within the park include a streetscape depicting a historical Caymanian street filled with porchside artisans.  There, visitors will find everything from portrait artists to hair-braiding shops to unique jewellery.  The 3,500-square-foot retail centre selling souvenirs from the park and the island is already open and a fine dining restaurant is slated to open this summer.  And as for the turtle-eating thing? It's not so strange when you think about it.  I mean, how many times have you left the petting zoo and then ordered up a bacon cheeseburger?

Heather Greenwood Davis is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her trip to Grand Cayman was subsidized by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (www.caymanislands.ky).

She Saw Ski-Doos, Not Igloos

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(February 17, 2007) The most telling scene in
Annie Pootoogook, Marcia Connolly's fine 2006 biography of the Nunavut artist, is one of the few where Pootoogook herself isn't visible.  Instead, the documentary opening the Reel Artists Film Festival Thursday shows a number of women, some young mothers with children strapped to their backs, heading directly to the frozen food section in their modern local supermarket in Cape Dorset. Outside, meanwhile, the late fall temperatures on Baffin Island begin to plummet.  Even without her, this is a quintessential Pootoogook moment, poignant, a bit smart-alecky and resoundingly true all at the same time. Throughout her brief career, the 38-year-old artist has shown the uncanny ability to illuminate precisely the right pared-to-the-bone images she's extracted from the 21st-century culture around her, and to make them resonate beyond their time.  The film was shot during a tight schedule mostly in October 2005. It lasts only 23 minutes. Thus it can hardly be called an exhaustive survey of the artist's complex and often troubled life and art. More insight along this line is revealed in Pootoogook's work itself through its scenes of domestic violence, ravaged lives and suicide.

Nevertheless, Annie Pootoogook heralds a remarkable year waiting for the artist. Last year she won the $50,000 Sobey Award and had an exhibition at the Power Plant. This year she'll be taking part in Documenta XII, the invitation-only exhibition of cutting-edge contemporary art held in Kassel, Germany, starting mid-June. Held once every five years, Documenta has in the past helped drive the international careers of Canadian artists such as Stan Douglas and Jeff Wall. Even better, the film doesn't get in the way of either the artist or her art. Before its completion, it might have been different, though. At one point Connolly – a CBC-TV news VJ during her regular workweek – toyed with the idea of including some expert opinion and went so far as to interview Pat Feheley, Pootoogook's Toronto dealer, and Nancy Campbell, the curator of the Power Plant show.  This is not an unexpected approach on Connolly's part nor an unreasonable one, either. Pootoogook required a translator when I talked to her less than two years ago, although her English is said to have improved remarkably following her recent artist's residency in Scotland. Yet using extraneous "expert" (i.e. white) voices often adds a paternalistic element to cross-cultural documentaries. "So in the end I found the (talking head) idea offensive," Connolly says. "What others said about her world didn't ring as true as what she said about her world. The only expert on Annie is Annie. She is very old and very young at the same time. There is a playful part about her that often doesn't come out."

What does emerge in the film is a whole lot of soul. For much of the film, the artist is clearly communing with her memories of her late mother, Napatchie Pootoogook, and late grandmother, Pitseolak Ashoona, both established artists with solid international reputations.  "I wish I was born in the past," Annie Pootoogook says at one point. "I would know (things) in the traditional way. But I'm not from the past. I didn't see any igloo in my life. Only today, Ski-Doo, Honda, house." At the same time, the artist – who grew up watching her mother draw scenes of domestic violence in her own life – realizes her subject is exactly what she sees around her.  "Things inside the house," she says. "That's only (what) I see today. What I see, I do." A little later, she adds: "Sometimes I drew about my life (what) I've been through. I'm not even shy about that. It was my life. That guy was trying to hit me with a bat. So that drawing, it looks like ... that thing out of my mind."

The bare walls that frame figures in Pootoogook's work, the monochromatic pastel colours of the exteriors of her painted houses, and her endless icy blue horizons are extracted from the artist's own surroundings.  "As soon as you get to where she lives, her work makes so much more sense," says Connolly. "The landscape can be oppressive. It used to be about freedom. But Annie and a lot of her generation don't go out on the land. Yet the interiors of her life are very spare. Annie's walls look like a piece of drawing paper. Yet they are actually her walls." Connolly nevertheless ends the film showing Annie Pootoogook on an upbeat frame of mind. "I'm happy, very happy, I'm an artist," the artist says. "I know what's next. I'm to do some more work."

Annie Pootoogook (2006) has its world premiere Thursday at 7 and 9 p.m. along with American director Marina Zenovich's Vanessa Beecroft in Berlin (2005) at the Canadian Art Foundation's Reel Artist Film Festival, Al Green Theatre, Miles Nadal JCC, 750 Spadina Ave. (at Bloor St.).

::DANCE NEWS::

Contemporary New York Company Expresses The Joy Of Being Alive

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Dance Writer

(February 17, 2007) It is easy to see why
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is probably the most successful contemporary dance company of its day. This New York company connects with an audience like a plug goes into a socket. Last night's first of three virtually sold-out performances at the Hummingbird Centre had the whole house rockin'.  Alvin Ailey, who died in 1989, was only 27 when he brought together a group of black modern dancers to perform at the 92nd Street YMCA. The youthful spirit, audacity and boundless energy that put the Ailey company on the map from its earliest years remains constant in the present company of 30 dancers.  Ailey said he wanted his dances "to hold a mirror to our society so they can see how beautiful they are." That's another way of saying that the audience sees themselves embodied in those amazing figures on stage, especially in their expression of joy at being alive. Night Creature is from Ailey's 1974 celebration of Duke Ellington. The exuberance of this piece, set to Ellington's "Suite for Orchestra," made a fitting introductory statement. Renee Robinson was the night creature Ellington referred to when he said, they "do not come out at night; they come on." Jazz rhythms are expressed in symmetrical arrangements of 14 hip-swaying dancers.

There is no specific Ailey technique or style. This company has an unusual ability to grasp any form and make it their own. Love Stories, choreographed in 2004 by the current artistic director Judith Jamison, modern dance artist Robert Battle, and hip hop producer Rennie Harris, is set to the music of Stevie Wonder. A group of dancers in workout clothes look as if they're just fooling around in the studio. Then they coalesce, moving through modern dance, social dance and finally a street environment with a group of dazzling b-boys. The gradations are subtle and the dance is always electric.  Clifton Brown, Glenn Allen Sims and Matthew Rushing adopt a b-boy attitude in Solo, a piece from 1997 choreographed by Hans van Manen. Each of the three virtuosic dancers comes on to strut his stuff. They move with incredible speed through intricate footwork and spinning pirouettes, cheekily inserting a bit of jive into the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.  The show closer is Revelations, a signature Ailey piece set to African American spirituals. Ailey created Revelations in 1960. The dance is as stirring as ever, matching grace of movement to a kind of sacred music.  The Pilgrim of Sorrow section is pure Martha Graham, with a clutch of dancers raising their arms and outstretched fingers like a magical tree. The repeated motif of arms stretched out and curved like an albatross's wings expresses the uplifting nature of the songs.

Amos J. Machanic Jr.'s solo to "I Wanna Be Ready" is celebration of the spirit set free from the suffering of the flesh.  As the company comes together in their Sunday best, to dance to "Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham," you're sure this must be what dancer heaven is like.

DANCE TIDBITS

Celia Franca, 85: National Ballet Founder

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(February 19, 2007) OTTAWA – Celia Franca, the founder of the National Ballet of Canada, died Monday at the age of 85, the dance company said. Franca, who was born in London, England, began studying dance at age 4. She came to Canada from England in 1951 when she was asked to help start a national ballet company. Franca started the National Ballet while supporting herself by working at Eaton's department store. The company debuted in 1951. She served as artistic director of the ballet for 24 years and brought in guest artists including Rudolf Nureyev. In 1967, she was made an officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to companion in 1985.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Harvick Wins Daytona 500

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Associated Press

(February 18, 2007) DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. —
Kevin Harvick nosed out Mark Martin in a frantic wreck-filled finish to win Sunday’s Daytona 500.  Martin, making his 23rd attempt at a 500 win, seemed to have victory in hand when a hard-charging Harvick barrelled along the outside of Martin to earn his second victory at Daytona International Speedway in two nights. Harvick won Saturday’s Busch race — his first ever victory at Daytona.  As Harvick pushed into the lead, Kyle Busch wiggled behind them and bumped into Matt Kenseth to start a melee. Harvick and Martin raced side by side, waiting for NASCAR to call for a caution. When it finally came, Harvick was barely ahead.  “My go-kart experience over the winter paid off, because I didn’t let off the floor and we just kept hitting things and the wall and bouncing off everything,” Harvick said. “But man, this is the Daytona 500. Can you believe it?’’  It took several moments for NASCAR to declare a winner, finally giving it to Harvick and spoiling what would have been the biggest victory of the 48-year-old Martin’s career.  “I didn’t ask for a win in the Daytona 500, I asked for a chance,” Martin said. “I let it slip away, slip through my fingers, and I’m fine with that.’’

It was just the finish NASCAR needed to put racing back in the spotlight after a cheating scandal nearly ruined the Great American Race.  Five teams were busted for breaking the rules during Speedweeks — including two-time winner Michael Waltrip, who broke the NASCAR code by tampering with his fuel before qualifying.  It put the sport in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, and NASCAR had to ratchet up its penalty process to prevent its premier event from turning into a joke.  Finishes like this one might fix everything.  Martin led 26 laps and was out front when a five-car accident brought racing to a standstill with five laps to go. It made for an agonizing 11 minutes, 39 seconds for Martin, who could do nothing but sit idly in his car trying to plot his strategy during the stoppage.  When racing resumed with two laps to go, Martin seemingly needed only to hold off Kyle Busch in a sprint to the finish. He weaved high and then low to block Busch’s attempts, which may have distracted him from Harvick.  Running in his own high line, Harvick charged hard on the outside and was side-by-side with Martin when Busch triggered the accident. Neither driver let up as they charged ahead waiting for NASCAR to call it.

Nash Inks Deal With Watchmaker For Charity

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(February 18, 2007) LAS VEGAS – Canadian basketball star
Steve Nash has teamed up with Swiss watchmaker Raymond Weil in a charitable cause. The Phoenix Suns point guard announced an endorsement deal with the watch company with proceeds going to the Steve Nash Foundation.  Raymond Weil donated $60,000 (U.S.) to the foundation, and Nash is contributing all of his endorsement fee to the foundation as well. "I have a few endorsements, but they all have a charitable component," Nash said at a news conference Sunday morning at the Palms hotel and casino. "This one with Raymond Weil is 100 per cent charitable. I'm not making any money on this, every penny is going to the foundation." Nash will appear in an advertising campaign, along with NBC broadcaster Ahmad Rashad, for the RW line of sports watches. The Steve Nash Foundation logo will appear on all the Nash ads.

The endorsement deal comes on the heels of Nash's announcement he was taking popular B.C. youth basketball league nationwide.  The Steve Nash Youth League has grown steadily in B.C. over the past six years since the Victoria native took over the developmental program formerly run by the Vancouver, now Memphis, Grizzlies.  The Steve Nash Foundation was founded in 2001, with an aim to help underserved children in their health, personal development, education and enjoyment of life. Nash was a coach's pick for the all-star game in Las Vegas, but pulled out with a nagging shoulder injury.

Keon's Homecoming Flat

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(February 18, 2007)
Dave Keon waited too long.  They don't much remember anymore. Or maybe four decades is far past caring. Oh, the crowd cheered all right, as the prodigal Leaf and 16 teammates from the triumphant 1967 squad were reunited at centre ice. But not lustily or lengthily, even a little tentatively, as if withholding, more polite and scripted than impassioned. Of course, Toronto doesn't really do passion, certainly not at the Air Canada Centre. But on what was in many ways a night in the museum – hockey fossils on display (all of whom nevertheless had more hair than Mats Sundin) – the envisioned aura of nostalgia was thin in the air. It was in fact a strange atmosphere after the overwrought media build-up, all hail the return of enigmatic and disgruntled Keon: Conn Smythe winner the last time a blue-and-white brigade won the Stanley Cup, captain later, perhaps the archetypical Leaf. Then, gone, rarely to be seen again 'round these parts. The current captain even admitted, after Toronto dismissed Edmonton 4-3, that he hadn't a clue who Keon was when first arriving in town. Sundin's distant predecessor didn't loom and overshadow, as had more recent "C'' vintages such as Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour. "But I've learned a lot about the Toronto Maple Leaf franchise the last 12 years, that's for sure.''

The estrangement between Toronto and Keon had been so prolonged, and so poorly explained by the man behind the grimace, that rapprochement felt awkward, not quite as advertised, and something less than magic. Keon looked uncomfortable on the blue carpet, barely cracking a smile – either devoid of emotion or suppressing it. Later, though, he visibly trembled in the midst of a reporter gang press. "Just look at this,'' he said through thin lips when an inquisitor wondered if it was easier being a Leaf two generations ago.  "There was always three papers, some television, a little bit of radio. But not really the scrum there is now. "For the players, it's got to be much more difficult today.'' He would have hated it, no doubt, such scrutiny day in and night out. "Well, if I was playing now, I guess I would have to (cope). But I'm not playing now so I don't have to.'' A typically taciturn observation from No.14 — note that jersey still doesn't hang from the rafters, but one of the many disputes that have festered between icon and franchise `lo these many years.  He remains aloof and remote, a self-imposed other, even on an evening of salutation, when everybody was ostensibly keen on Keon. He was asked: Had he maybe shunned too stubbornly, this organization and his fans? "No.''

Did he regret not reconciling sooner? "No.'' Indeed, while he may have temporarily sheathed his jagged bitterness on this occasion – the sword of resentment he's tilted at Toronto Maple Leafs Inc. for decades – there was yet thorn and bristle there, a corrosiveness that won't be soothed by sentimentality and belated détente. A handshake, then, not a hug. "This is one night, one weekend,'' said Keon, when pushed over whether the bitterness is now ended. "Let's just leave it at that.'' The audience seemed to grasp this; understood Keon's heart was maybe not quite in the sepia-burnished occasion. So they applauded, but there was no great outpouring of love – the love that Keon has rejected for half his life. He said that he was "appreciative'' of the reception and pleased that GM John Ferguson had corralled most of that '67 squad. That's why he said yes this time when he'd previously always said no. But didn't say sorry for so long scorning the franchise – and by extension the devotees who had once adored him. "I can't live on people's expectations. I have my own life to live.'' Only slightly bending, but still unbowed, after all these years.

::FITNESS NEWS::

Ab & Butt Toners: 10 Best Exercises
 

 By Raphael Calzadilla, B.A., CPT, ACE, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro
 
 
I hate to see anyone feeling awful about their body, but at the same time that's what it sometimes takes for people to make changes. Looking in the mirror and being honest with yourself, becoming annoyed with how tight your clothes fit, going to the doctors and hearing about your health issues… Most times a wake-up call is exactly what we need.
 
 So what areas of the body stand out so much that they practically initiate this wake-up call? We are obsessed with these two areas of the body -- glutes and abs. If an alien landed on earth and knew little of our culture, it would quickly assume that a firm butt and tight abs were reserved for those with royalty and prestige. It may sound crazy but just think of the way you look at someone with a tight butt or flat stomach.
 
 A calorie-reduced nutrition program combined with exercise will do wonders to create a tight booty and firm abs. The formula that works for a healthy body is the same one that works for a great looking butt and abs -- nutrition, exercise and loads of consistency.
 
 As far as nutrition, the biggest mistake people make is reducing calories as low as possible. After a few days of this insane approach they're back to eating more junk then ever because the approach isn't realistic. The key is to reduce calories low enough to lose fat but still keep calories high enough to sustain your energy. Food, when used properly, can actually stimulate the metabolism to lose body fat. This is where eDiets can help! Our staff of qualified dieticians have not only created great meal plans, but they're also accessible to you as an eDiets member whenever you have a question.
 
 Your glutes and abs won't get tighter and smaller unless your overall body fat is reduced. You can perform all the butt movements on the planet for hours a day, but it won't make one bit of difference unless you lose body fat. Spot reduction is simply not possible.
 
 To help accelerate your progress, I've constructed five great abdominal exercises and five great butt exercises. Take two exercises (one butt and one abs) and include them in your current workout (no matter what the workout is). Perform three sets of 15 reps of each on alternate days of the week. After three weeks, choose two other movements from the list. This alternating schedule will allow you to keep changing abdominal and butt exercises without adapting to the same movement. And it will also prevent boredom.
 
 
ABDOMINALS
 

 
Vertical Scissors
 

 Starting Position:
 

 
·  Sit on a chair or bench with your legs straight out in front of you.
 
·  Your hands should be under your butt for balance.
 
 Movement:
 

 
·  Contracting your abdominals, lift your right leg as you lower your left leg.
 
·  Reverse the positions of your legs by lowering your right leg and raising your left leg, mimicking a scissor.
 
 Key Points:
 

 
·  Breathe rhythmically throughout the exercise.
 
·  Squeeze your butt and hip muscles as you switch legs.
 
 
Cable Kneeling Rope Crunch
 

 Starting Position:
 
 
·  Kneel in front of the cable machine with your body facing the machine. Hold a rope attached to the upper cable attachment. Keep your elbows in.
 
 Movement:
 

 
·  Contracting the abdominals, curl your body downward toward your legs stopping when you have reached a full contraction of your abdominals.
 
·  Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of the weight stack touching.
 
 Key Points:
 

 
·  Exhale while lifting the weight and curling down.
 
·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.
 
 
Incline Bench Leg Raises
 

 Starting Position:
 

 
·  Lie on an incline bench and stabilize your body by gripping the bench above your head with your legs extended out.
 
 Movement:
 

 
·  Contracting the lower ab area, raise your legs up until your hips form a 90-degree angle.
 
·  Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of your legs touching the bench.
 
 Key Points:
 

 
·  Exhale while lifting your legs.
 
·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.
 
·  Point your chin toward the ceiling to avoid using your upper body.
 
 
Reverse Ab Curl
 

 Starting Position:
 

 
·  Lie on the floor with your back relaxed and your hands on the floor by your hips.
 
·  Keep the upper back pressed into the floor throughout the exercise.
 
 Movement:
 

 
·  Contracting your abs, raise your butt and gently roll your hips off the floor stopping when you feel a full contraction of the abdominals and can no longer lift your hips.
 
·  Slowly return to the starting position.
 
 Key Points:
 

 
·  Exhale while lifting your hips.
 
·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.
 
 
Reverse Trunk Twist
 

 Starting Position:
 

 
·  Lie on the floor with your back relaxed and your arms out to the sides forming a "T" with your body.
 
·  Extend your legs straight up in the air so that your hips form a 90-degree angle with a slight bend in your knees.
 
 Movement:
 

 
·  Contracting the abdominal and oblique muscles, lower your legs toward one side keeping your feet together and your back on the floor. Stop at the limits of the strength of your abdominal and oblique muscles.
 
·  This may start out as a very small range of motion and gradually increase as you get stronger.
 
·  Slowly return to the starting position.
 
·  After completing the set on the one side, repeat on the other side.
 
 Key Points:
 

 
·  Exhale while lowering your legs.
 
·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.
 
 
 
BUTT
 

 
Smith Machine Forward Lunge
 

 Starting Position:
 

 
·  Place the bar across the back of your shoulders. Be sure it is not resting on your neck.
 
·  Place one foot forward and one foot back. Both feet are flat on the floor and facing forward with a slight bend in the knees.
 
 Movement:
 

 
·  Lower the weight until the front leg is at a 90-degree angle. The rear heel will come off the floor slightly but should remain straight with a slight bend in the knee.
 
·  Contracting the quadriceps muscles, slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of the legs fully extending.
 
 Key Points:
 

 
·  Inhale while lowering the weight.
 
·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.
 
·  Do not let the front knee ride over your toes (you should be able to see your foot at all times).
 
·  Do not let the back arch.
 
 
·  Never let the knee of the back leg come in contact with the floor.
 
 
Barbell Wide Stance Squat
 

 Starting Position:
 

 
·  Begin by standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Although the animation shows the feet wider than shoulder width, I�ve found that the glutes receive better stimulation when the feet are shoulder width.
 
·  Place a barbell across your shoulders. Be sure it is not resting on your neck.
 
·  Maintain a neutral spine and a slight bend in the knees.
 
 Movement:
 

 
·  Concentrating on the quadriceps muscles, begin to lower your body by bending from your hips and knees.
 
·  Stop when your thighs are parallel with the floor.
 
·  Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of your knees fully extending.
 
 Key Points:
 

 
·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.
 
·  Inhale as you lower down.
 
·  Do not let your knees ride over your toes (you should be able to see your feet at all times).
 
·  It helps to find a marker on the wall to keep your eye on as you lift and lower, otherwise your head may tend to fall forward and your body will follow.
 
·  Think about sitting back in a chair as you are lowering down.
 
·  Push off with your heels as you return to the starting position.
 
·  Perform this movement in a slow and controlled fashion without using momentum.
 
·  You may want to try this exercise without weights until you master the movement. It is a very effective exercise that involves most of the muscle groups of the lower body, but if done improperly can lead to injuries.
 
 
Straight Leg Reverse Lift
 

 Starting Position:
 

 
·  Start this exercise on your hands and knees.
 
·  Straighten your left leg as if you were going to do a push-up.
 
·  Keep the right leg bent, supporting your weight along with your arms.
 
 Movement:
 

 
·  Contracting the buttocks muscles, lift your left leg up toward the ceiling stopping when you feel a full contraction of the buttocks.
 
·  Slowly return to the starting position.
 
·  After completing the set on the left side, repeat on the right side.
 
 Key Points:
 

 
·  Exhale while lifting the leg.
 
·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.
 
·  Do not let the back arch.
 
·  If you are an intermediate or advanced exerciser, you can add an ankle weight to the working leg to make it more challenging.
 
 
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.
 
 
Treadmill Incline Power Walk
 

 Starting Position:
 

 
·  Stand tall with your legs straddling the belt.
 
·  Choose the manual program.
 
·  Step carefully on the belt.
 
 Movement:
 

 
·  Perform a 5 minute warm-up and then adjust the incline setting to 12.0. Increase your speed to 3.0 mph to 3.5 mph based on your fitness level. Make sure to use your glutes and hips with each step Walk at this level for 15 to 20 minutes.
 
 
 As always, please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note - The Secret to Success

Motivation123 Newsletter by J. M. Gracia, www.motivation123.com  

One small change. A single step in a different direction. That's all it takes to break the cycle and mix up the routine. That's all it takes to get the things you really want. You and I both know that routine is a dangerous thing. It can literally eat away your entire life. Your patterns can take control and ensure that you stay far from the things you want to achieve. And routine wants nothing more than to make the next ten years of your life exactly like the last. This isn't to say that the last ten years of your life haven't been happy, but you wouldn't be subscribing to this newsletter if you were happy with the status quo. You want more, and in order to get more, you have to break the cycle. I want you to really think about this for a minute. If you change nothing about your pattern, your day-to-day routine, will you get everything you want? Will you make the changes you've wanted to make and achieve the goals you've always dreamed about? Never. You have to break out of the pattern once and for all. I don't blame you. It's harder than not to get caught up in a routine. Things just sort of fall into place and you find yourself doing the same things every day. By the time you realize it, a few months or years have passed by. But this is time you can't let pass you by. Your life is too short and precious.

Now it's your turn.

How to Make it Happen

Where should you begin? How do you break the pattern? Simple. Take one action outside your typical routine and start first thing tomorrow morning. Even better, start today. The smallest act is enough to get the ball rolling in a new and better direction. Using only five seconds, you can carry out a small action that will create an entirely new direction for your life. Thinking about starting a business? Go online and buy a book about the subject. Want to get in shape? Take a walk around the block. Want to improve your marriage? Surprise your spouse with an a-typical action. It's all about shaking things up and giving your brain new material to feed on. Aren't you strong enough to make yourself make just one new move? One step away from routine and toward success? I think you are.

I Hope You're Frightened by This

We're not talking about a hypothetical situation here. I am certain that routine will run your life from today until you are gone if you don't do something about it first. I hope this scares you. I hope it frightens you into doing something different tomorrow, something that will lead you down a new and exciting path. And when you do it, when you take that first step toward something new, you'll never be the same - as long as you can keep it going. The trouble with change is the power of routine. The first step gets you started, but it's the next steps that get you to the finish line.