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Volume 21 Issue 2 - October 2015

Vol 21 No 2 is now available for your viewing pleasure, and it's a bumper crop, right at the harvest moon. First ever Canadian opera on the Four Seasons Centre main stage gets double coverage with Wende Bartley interviewing Pyramus and Thisbe composer Barbara Monk Feldman and Chris Hoile connecting with director Christopher Alden; Paul Ennis digs into the musical mind of pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, and pianist Eve Egoyan is "On the Record" in conversation with publisher David Perlman ahead of the Oct release concert for her tenth recording. And at the heart of it all the 16th edition of our annual BLUE PAGES directory of presenters profile the season now well and truly under way.

Beat by Beat | Jazz

Beat by Beat | Jazz Stories Remembering Ray ORI DAGAN Whodunit? Ray Jessel done it. He lived a life that was full. Much more than this, he did it his way, right up until the night he passed away in his sleep at 85, just a few months ago. Born in Cardiff two weeks before the stock market crash of 1929, the acclaimed Jewish-Welsh-Canadian-American was five times recognized by the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs. Jessel’s songs were recorded by Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Durante, Michael Feinstein and John Pizzarelli, to name a few. He will forever be considered a master composer, lyricist, musician and cabaret performer. If that weren’t enough, in his final year on the planet, at 84, he became a YouTube sensation, when he performed What She’s Got (The Penis Song) on the NBC reality television program America’s Got Talent. “The comedy was always there, and so were the one-liners,” recalls his beloved sister Vivienne Muhling, with whom he was extremely close. “When he was in college in Cardiff, he wrote a story in his college magazine which was a whodunit, and he started by saying “Who done it? The butler done it!” (laughs). Before showing me a 1965 Broadway playbill of Baker Street, which brought Jessel to New York City to collaborate with Marian Grudeff, Muhling reminisces about her brother’s humble beginnings as an aspiring classical composer. “Grudeff persuaded him to write for a revue called Spring Thaw in Toronto – that was the beginning of it. Then, when Alex Cohen came here to put on the very first musical that opened the O’Keefe Centre, which was Camelot with Richard Burton, he was told about the two of them. Then, when he needed someone to write Baker Street, he called Ray, and that’s how he got to New York from Toronto. “But let me go back a little. He wrote his first song at two-and-a-half years old, and he wrote it because we were close, and I went off to school because I was five … When we got older there was a competition in the weekend papers, a songwriting competition, and we wrote a song together called ‘Stargazing’ which I still have a copy of, and we lost out to a pair of old spinsters who had written ‘Cruising Down the River on Sunday Afternoon’– so he was already writing popular music, even though he thought of himself as a classical composer then. “In Toronto, he did a lot of writing for people – he wrote whole programs for them for them to go on stage – Pamela Hyatt is one of those singers.” Indeed, at Lisa Particelli’s “GNO Jazz Jam,” on a June night in 2011, actress and singer Hyatt was showcased. Out of her five selections, three were by Jessel, including a definitive version of Life Sucks and Then You Die, what she calls “Jessel’s ode to Shirley Temple.” That night, Hyatt’s brilliance matched that of Jessel’s on The Things You Do and I’m All Right Now, a classic collaboration between Jessel and his wife Cynthia Thompson. The two met in 1980 and collaborated on songs since then. Hyatt had the amazing experience of working with Jessel in 1958 for CBC’s musical revue Off Limits directed by Norman Jewison, co-starring with Jack Creley, Dave Broadfoot, Sammy Sales, Sheila Billings and Jimmy Hannan. “Ray wrote deliciously silly material,” says Hyatt, “and it was always fun to perform his songs. That show broke all house records for the Mountain Playhouse in Montreal, ran the entire summer. Looking back, I am hugely privileged to have worked with Ray in his youth, and been given the opportunity to perform his and Cynthia’s songs in my dotage.” Asked if she has a favourite Jessel tune, Hyatt says: “I adore his and Cynthia’s tender ballad I’m All Right Now because the images are so precise and they don’t demand any self-pitying nonsense. He was a brilliant wordsmith with a great love of his fellow humans, our foibles, our fears, our utter lunatic behavior. His songs really covered so much of the human condition. They were never Jazz Stories continues on page 35, following the Blue Pages Ray Jessel St. Philip’s Anglican Church Sunday, October 4, 4:00 pm | Jazz Vespers Bernie Senensky Quartet with Bernie (piano), Bill McBirnie (flute), Terry Clarke (drums), and Steve Wallace (bass) Sunday, October 18, 4:00 pm | Jazz Vespers John MacMurchy Quartet with John (clarinet and saxophone), Mark Kieswetter (piano), Dan Ionescu (guitar), and Ross MacIntyre (bass) Sunday, November 1, 4:00 pm Mariachi Vespers with Jorge Lopez & Mexico Amigo Band St. Philip’s Anglican Church | Etobicoke 25 St. Phillips Road (near Royal York + Dixon) 416-247-5181 • • free will offering Featuring some of Toronto’s best jazz musicians with a brief reflection by Jazz Vespers Clergy October 18, 4:30 pm Joe Sealy (piano) & Paul Novotny (bass) November 1, 4:30 pm ALL SAINTS DAY with The Chameleon Jazz Band Christ Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge St. 416-920-5211 (north of St. Clair at Heath St.) Admission is free; donations are welcome. 34 | Oct 1 - Nov 7, 2015


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