2 years ago

Volume 26 Issue 3 - November 2020

  • Text
  • Recording
  • Artists
  • Concerts
  • Musicians
  • Choir
  • Orchestra
  • Jazz
  • Toronto
  • Musical
  • November
Alanis Obomsawin's art of life; fifteen Exquisite Departures; UnCovered re(dis)covered; jazz in the kitchen; three takes on managing record releases in times of plague; baroque for babies; presenter directory (blue pages) part two; and, here at the WholeNote, work in progress on four brick walls (or is it five?). All this and more available in flipthrough HERE, and in print Tuesday Nov 3.


SANDY MAMANE JAZZ.FM91’s FRIDAY LIVE live-to-air concert series, October 9: Dione Taylor performed music from Spirits in the Water with Nichol Robertson, guitar, Mark McIntyre, bass, and Lyle Molzan, drums. Dione Taylor takes a more philosophical approach. When her fourth album, Spirits in the Water, was supposed to come out in March and everything came grinding to a halt, the veteran blues/roots singer and songwriter decided to just put things on pause. Then, after several months of reflection on world events and discussion with her team, she decided September was the right time to bring Spirits in the Water to people. “I don’t believe in coincidences,” said Taylor. “Even though we wrote many of these songs a couple of years ago, a lot of the meaning and messages in them are relevant right now.” Inspired by mythical folklore, Taylor took an insightful road trip to Nashville to find inspiration for her new album. The songs have themes of perseverance, mystical truths, race inequality, homesickness and transformation, while staying true to her signature “prairie blues” style, which is a mix of roots, blues and Americana. “My sense is that people will feel empowered by our music,” said Taylor. “Plus everyone’s at home a lot more right now and people like to hear something new.” Taylor said she loves touring and playing live and she’s definitely missing the exchange of energy that happens with an in-person audience. “We’ve been doing some livestreaming via Facebook and Instagram and it’s been a huge learning curve doing those,” said Taylor. “We’ve also used this as an opportunity to produce a video for each song on the album, using existing images and footage, since we weren’t able to shoot original footage. That was a fun experience.” Not being able to play live has taken a toll but she’s optimistic it won’t last forever. “I did a live to air on JAZZ.FM91 with my band that reminded me what a good feeling it is to play with musicians,” said Taylor. “Connecting is what makes the arts so vital but it takes a lot of courage to do that right now. I hope non-arts people will realize it and be kind to musicians because of that.” JUNO Award-winning singer, arranger, producer and voice actor, Emilie-Claire Barlow, has been collaborating with musicians and recording remotely for years, so she was prepared when the pandemic hit. “My partner Steve Webster and I have been splitting our time between Mexico and Canada for some time now,” said Barlow. “We have a portable set-up to record pretty much anywhere we are. I’ve been doing voice work for commercials and cartoons and music recordings like this for years now, so the pandemic has not changed this part of our process in any big way.” No stranger to traditional studio work, of course, Barlow has done many group sessions over the decades and misses the magic of in-person work, especially when it’s with the 70-piece Metropole Orkest she worked with on her Clear Day album. There’s no recreating an experience like that remotely, she says, but enjoys the freedom to make music anywhere in the world with musicians who are anywhere in the world. “Right now we have several musical projects on the go, and are recording singers and instrumentalists in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Berlin and LA.” Which isn’t to say, even living in Huatulco, that it’s all been a day at the beach for Barlow. (Pun intended.) “I miss my bandmates terribly,” said Barlow. “I definitely miss some parts of touring – the music and the audiences, the camaraderie with my band. But I will say that staying put in one place for these seven months has been healing and restorative in some ways. Even as I say that, though, I hesitate, because I’m incredibly sensitive to the fact that for some musicians, touring is their whole livelihood. But for me, while I miss the live music experience, there have also been some positives.” Barlow explained that she and Webster were finally able to work on some musical ideas that had been brewing for years but just hadn’t had the time to develop while touring. Making their new duo, Bocana, a priority has resulted in six singles being released and a substantial listenership on digital platforms. “It’s been a hugely rewarding and freeing experience to collaborate together in this capacity to make music that lives in its own space apart from ‘Emilie-Claire Barlow.’ We truly feel free to make our own rules and defy genres.” Cathy Riches is a self-described Toronto-based recovering singer and ink slinger. Bocana: Steve Webster and Emilie-Claire Barlow KAREN WIKSTRAND 50 | November 2020

Mainly Clubs, Mostly Jazz Rolling with the Punches A Tale of Two Virtual Festivals COLIN STORY A month ago, as I was putting together the October edition of this column, it seemed as though the live music scene in Southern Ontario was beginning – cautiously, carefully – to reassemble itself. Clubs were posting listings on their websites; artists were beginning to advertise gigs on social media; it was possible to plan a night out. Then, on October 10, restaurants in at least three regions were ordered closed for indoor seating and live music was put on hold once again. While there are still some clubs that are presenting shows, including The Jazz Room in Waterloo, there is a cloud of uncertainty hovering over the industry: venues, musicians and patrons alike. If case numbers go down, will venues be permitted to reopen? If they reopen, will audiences feel safe (and motivated) enough to seek out live music? Meanwhile, amidst the gnawing uncertainty, two organizations have committed to presenting major jazz festivals in November, in streaming formats, with a full range of venues, from clubs to concert halls, involved, playing their part in keeping the music alive. Kensington Market Jazz Festival 2020 marks the fifth anniversary of the Kensington Market Jazz Festival, which usually takes place, as the name implies, in a network of venues throughout Toronto’s Kensington Market. A sprawling affair, the 2019 festival featured over 100 acts in traditional music spaces like Billy Newton-Davis (KMJF) Poetry Jazz Café and Handlebar, non-traditional venues like Wanda’s Pie in the Sky, and purpose-built spaces, including the Slaight Music Big Band Stage. This year, things will look more than a little bit different. Over two days (November 7 and 8), 27 acts will be streaming short sets, in segments hosted by Garvia Bailey (on November 7) and John Devenish (on November 8). Performers include Jackie Richardson, with Joe Sealy and Dave Young; Robi Botos, in trio format with Mike Downes and Larnell Lewis; and Billy Newton-Davis, whose performance is slated to close out the festival. Planning for KMJF began as usual in January, according to Molly Johnson, KMJF artistic director. By April, the decision had been made to shift to a virtual format, based on the prevailing outlook for the rest of the year. Rather than livestream the proceedings – with all of the health and safety complications that would attend multiple bands coming in and out of the same space in a strict time frame, or the technical complications that would attend each artist producing their own segment on the fly – the shows were pre-recorded, in August. Over half of the shows were recorded in artists’ homes; the others at Poetry and at Handlebar. The process of recording live in clubs was as involved as one might imagine. Artists and festival crews had two days at each venue. On the first day, as Johnson told me, “Our team came in and did a deep clean prior to our tech team, led by Evan Thompson, Poetry Jazz Café Handlebar November 2020 | 51

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