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Volume 29 Issue 1 | September 2023

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Bridges & intersections: Intersections of all kinds in the issue: the once and future Rex; philanthropy and music (Azrieli's AMPs); music and dance (TMChoir & Citadel + Compagnie); Baroque & Romantic (Tafelmusik's Beethoven). also Hugh's Room crosses the Don; DISCoveries looks at the first of fall's arrivals; this single-month September issue (Vol. 29, no.1) bridges summer & fall, and puts us on course for regular bimonthly issues (Oct/Nov; Dec/Jan; Feb/Mar, etc) for the rest of Volume 29. Welcome back.

JAZZ NOTES “Beautiful

JAZZ NOTES “Beautiful Gumbo” LONG LIVE THE REX ANDREW SCOTT Although not yet as canonically sacrosanct to the history of jazz as NYC’s Minton’s Playhouse was, Toronto’s Rex Hotel is equally important to this city’s jazz community as both a performance venue and a musical testing ground where creative ideas and group concepts germinate and take root. Guitarist Lorne Lofsky began playing there with such musicians as saxophonists Bob Mover and Kirk MacDonald and drummer Jerry Fuller in the late 1980s. “It’s really interesting,” he recalls, “to witness the evolution of people’s playing at The Rex. The club is not a laboratory exactly, but rather a magical place where musicians are free to try things out. From that initial experimentation, groups have formed, concepts evolved, and people have grown as players because of the playing that we did there.” The famed Harlem NYC nightclub, Minton’s Playhouse, existed from 1938 until a fire ripped through the Hotel Cecil that housed it in 1974. It remains an important site to this day, discussed in reverential tones by jazz enthusiasts coming to pay homage at the locale where modern jazz’s equivalents of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades held court. On Monday evenings in the early 1940s, at crowded jam sessions following earlier Apollo Theatre performances, the Olympian“Big Three” were Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Christian. As much as Minton’s was a place and physical site, it is remembered primarily as a spot of musical experimentation, ultimately becoming the metaphorical petri dish of modern jazz. As the writer Ralph Ellison explained in a 1959 Esquire article, the club’s Monday Celebrity Nights incubated ever-new musical ideas, “allowing the musicians free rein to play whatever they liked.” Yes, there were other spots where this music was developing, but it is safe to say: no Minton’s, no bebop. Stumbling serendipitously: Like many “Temples of Sound,” to borrow a phrase from William Clark and Jim Cogan’s great book, The Rex stumbled into its place as a preeminent site of musical excellence not by design necessarily, but rather serendipity – benefitting from the happenstance of proximity, Situated at 194 Queen St W, it was located just down the street from Doug Cole’s Bourbon Street, which in the 1970s and 1980s was bringing marquee name American jazz greats to the city to perform with local rhythm sections. “A lot of musicians who were on break at Bourbon Street would come to The Rex for the The United Clothing Store, with a side entrance for the Rex Hotel (1950s) (above), The Rex by David Crighton cheaper booze and to have a taste between sets” remembers pianist Mark Eisenman, who considers his performances at The Rex as part of trumpeter Sam Noto’s band (with Kirk MacDonald, drummer Bob McLaren and either Neil Swainson or Kieran Overs on bass) as “among his most treasured musical memories.“ Conversely, Rex owner Bob Ross – whose father Jack and business partner Morris Myers had purchased the former Williams Hotel in 1950 as a Avi Ross (left) and Bob Ross “beer hotel” investment opportunity – would cap off his working evenings by going to Bourbon Street to unwind and hear some music. “If it swung, I was into it,” says Ross, who cites performances of Zoot Sims and Jackie Cain and Roy Krall as particularly memorable. And so, by the early 1980s, a reciprocal ecosystem of musicians moving between Bourbon Street to The Rex Hotel was established. The Ross family business soon went from hosting musicians looking for an inexpensive drink at its bar, to hosting them on the stage that had been built on the hotel’s Queen Street side (previously the United Clothing Store that occupied the southerly portion of the building’s ground floor). Early and exciting musical sets by saxophonist Jim Heineman and organist John T. Davis, with Mark Hundevad on drums, forged performance ground at the club. Soon a roster of local players was rotating appearances at the club, including the brothers Lloyd (bassist) and Don “D.T” Thompson 10 | September 2023

(saxophone), pianist Norm Amadio, teenagers Jake Wilkinson (then on valve trombone) and saxophonist Grant Stewart, trombonist Terry Lukiwski and drummer Norman Marshall Villeneuve. The roster also included saxophonist Bob Mover, who, at the behest of long-time Rex server Rob Collins, began living upstairs in the club’s second floor hotel rooms. The running joke was that a fireman’s pole should be installed from Mover’s room directly to the club’s stage. Both living and playing regularly at The Rex, saxophonist Mover gained insight into not only the musicians who worked the weekend performance slots, but the Damon Runyan-esque characters who fraternized the establishment. Be it the erudite “Stoney” (who would apparently quote Bukowski between sips of a drink), the drummer Norman “Spike” McKendry (who recorded in Montreal with Sadik Hakim), or pianist Jim McBirnie (who was there so often that he had an unofficial bar seat. The Rex was as rich in character as it was in the musical talent it hosted. “It was a fascinating atmosphere with a lot of soul,” says Mover, “which, for a New Yorker like me was very refreshing in ‘Toronto the good!’” Looking to expand the club’s weekend performances to include a Tuesday evening set, Ross tapped Villeneuve and Mover to co-lead the club’s now famous and longstanding jam session, currently hosted by bassist Chris Banks. These formative sessions soon afforded young musicians the opportunity to perform regularly, learning from the established masters of this music such as Mover and Villeneuve: the latter consciously modelled his bands’ commitment to “passing it down” after Art Blakey’s Messengers, in a rite of passage as old as the idiom itself. “It was an amazing time,” remembers trumpeter Jake Wilkinson, who by the early 1990s went from sitting in at the jam sessions to co-leading a group at the club on Wednesday evenings. “I learned a lot during those days,” remembers Wilkinson, who would rehearse after hours in the club’s basement with Mover when the older saxophonist was living upstairs. 23|24 SEASON ON SALE NOW Incredible Theatre! Incredible Savings! Subscription packages start as low as 7 “It was a fascinating atmosphere with a lot of soul, which, for a New Yorker like me was very refreshing in ‘Toronto the good!’” — Bob Mover Photo of Hailey Gillis by Colton Curtis JIM MCBIRNIE Pianist and Rex fixture Jim McBirnie took this photo in the mid-nineties: (l-r) Charlie Mountford, piano; Archie Alleyne, drums; Don Thompson, bass; Bob Mover, sax; and Pat LaBarbera, sax. 647.341.7390 | September 2023 | 11

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