Friday, March 29, 2013

MR. Stank and pal Raw Sewage ride the subway!

OK – there is stink on this planet and there is stink so bad even stink carriers complain.

A couple days back we pull up at interchange station that would be Bloor and Yonge. I’m peeping through that crusty Plexiglas door window and there stands the stink brothers – that would be Mr. Stank and pal Raw Sewage. I wasn’t prepared – it was either going to be an eye ripping tear fest or a nose dose so powerful the TTC would declare a state of emergency.
This wasn’t one of those truly sad homeless guys trying to get from point A to pint B – this was two energized  vagrant rowdies who looked as if they had purchased matching leather dirt outfits from some swanky anti-human clothier.

I imagine the moment when subway doors open and patrons collapse and roll around like dogs fighting over a dead perfuming fish.  Bam! It happens – doors pop open – Stink brothers move past suits and women dressed in business attire - aroma  like nothing ever experienced. It was if these guys slept in ageing barrels of drain pipe decay and only recently escaped.

The two sported big grins and shoved past folks at will before fading into … well who knows. Stink underworld.
Back to subway car.

Kris and I slip inside and she says – ‘Don’t go down there – this way.” So what do I do?  I go down there which happened to be their last nesting place. The shock to nasal pages and  body would wither Hercules.  Kris is out of range as I’m caught in a deadly fog. I then stumble with hand covering mouth ready to heave and she says – ‘not so bad down here.’ No such thing. This shit had to be created in an ass test tube and stolen by Taliban and sold to mayhem brothers who had been employed as delivery boys.
The following day I’m standing in subway doorway and a dude gets on wearing a beaver like pelt hat and with him came big stink. I’m thinking - is this a trend? This is not your normal dietary pass this is full body travel nasty.

I wondered if that dead head thing was just that or was trapper boy a member of the cult I’d narrowly avoided the day before.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Virginia Wicks - Jazz Publicist and Charlie Parker!

For nearly nineteen years I had steady contact with renowned jazz publicist Virginia Wicks through my magazine the Jazz Report. Most of those years I had little idea of her remarkable past until a trip to Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival organized by Wicks in the late 90s.

Virginia was always looking for print space for her beloved Lionel who she represented for decades. We`d always accommodate. Along the way came the documentary 'A Great Day in Harlem' and it`s producer Jean Bach who visited Toronto on a publicity tour co-ordinated by Virginia and we connected her with the late Alex Barris who was writing for us at the time.

This was old school beauty. You could tell by their convincing manners and  confidence these two women exuded they were stunning beauties who found an eduring career in jazz and  grand passion for the music and players.
Of the many conversations Virginia and I had none other than the one she told me about Charlie Parker came close.

We talked about the good old days of jazz – Ella, Dizzy and all then I asked her if he had any situations or incidents she regretted in life. She thought for a moment and told me this.
"I was a young woman - a very beautiful woman. I`m on my own and I drop by Birdland and find myself a private booth. I`m sitting there minding my own business listening to the band when this soft spoken gentleman approaches and asks to sit with me. I`m quiet sociable and don`t see him at all threatening and say yes. He sits there without asking much of me reaches for a napkin and begins writing. I`m still in my pretty head – I`m a model and all and watch. Time passes and he finishes and hands me the scripted napkin. I begin to read and realize it`s a poem about me. The words were lovely and him – all class. He smiles and walks to the bandstand and begins to blow the roof off – it`s Charlie Parker. I`m taken back by the encounter have a drink then leave. I`m a few blocks away and realize I left the napkin with poem behind and rush back to the club. Gone! The napkin is gone! Gone were those sweet words – words I never had time to memorize. Yes, I have one big regret in life – not stuffing that poem in my purse. People don`t realize what a gentleman and well educated spoken man he was.``

I loved her voice - loved the calls! She knew I adored Nellie Lucther and wanted to hook us up for a chat but like a dope I found something else to do. "
There are no more like her around!

Virginia Wicks, 1920-2013
Jazz Publicist

 Few could have foreseen the prescience of a Look magazine headline for a 1954 photo feature entitled “Career Girl Press Agent” detailing the busy life of star publicist Virginia Wicks.  At the height of her career in the forties and fifties, Wicks was an around-the-clock woman about town in New York and later Los Angeles, who prevailed in a field overwhelmingly dominated by men when she started in the late 1940s.  Like many of the vaunted entertainers of the latter half of the twentieth century whom she represented, Wicks worked up until her health curtailed her activities in the last few years.

Wicks, sister of violin virtuoso Camilla Wicks, died of natural causes on March 20, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 92.  Her death was confirmed by her son Brian Engel.

Wicks’ career as a publicist began the day Nat Cole said he wanted to record her song, “You Gotta Talk Me Into It, Baby,” which was featured in a 1944 film.   She met the star and his manager, who suggested she might enjoy doing record promotion for Nat and his other clients.  Knowing nothing of the field, but thrilled with the prospect of representing Cole, Wicks opened a small one-room office in New York, and her career in public relations began.  Her first five clients were Nat, Peggy Lee, Stan Kenton, Mel Torme and Nellie Lutcher.

As the Look article made clear, Wicks, a Goldwyn Girl who made an unsuccessful stab at the big time in movies and fared better at modeling, she marshaled “nerves, good looks and a striking mane of blonde hair . . . to pyramid this capital into a thriving press agentry business whose portfolio includes gilt-edged clients,” including many top-flight jazz stars.

Among those she represented in jazz were:  Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Josh White, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Norman Granz and his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts and Verve Records, Lionel Hampton, jazz critic Leonard Feather (and his daughter, Lorraine) , George Shearing, Al Grey, Julie London, Charlie Barnet, Annie Ross, Jon Hendricks, James Moody, the Lionel Hampton and Newport Jazz Festivals, Jean Bach’s documentary film A Great Day In Harlem and Eldar Djangirov, the jazz piano phenom who at age 19 in 2005 dedicated his recorded composition “Lady Wicks” to his pro-bono publicist and friend.

Other clients included: Rock Hudson, Shari Lewis, Eartha Kitt, Cornel Wilde, Theo Bikel, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Harry Belafonte, Jean Pierre Aumont, Grace Kelly, The Hi Lo’s, John Ireland, The Clara Ward Singers, Dorothy Dandridge, Polly Bergen, Joel Grey, Salvador Dali, producer/director Herb Ross, Diahann Carroll, Pat Carroll, Orson Bean, Howard Keel, Arlene Dahl, Red Buttons, the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain, and Bobby Short.
Wicks established her public relations firm in New York in the late forties and made her trek west in 1958.

Virginia Elaine Wicks was born in Long Beach on Dec. 9, 1920 to Ingwald and Ruby Lenora Wicks, both accomplished classical musicians; her father played violin while her mother was an accomplished pianist.  Her only sibling Camilla, one of the first female violinists to enjoy an international concert and recording career, followed in 1928 and survives her.

She is survived by three children, Michael Wicks Dunaway of San Diego, Christina Virginia Bayles of Anaheim and Brien Engel of Atlanta; and eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  Her marriages to Los Angeles judge Jack Gray Dunaway and film producer Fred Engel, whose credits included the 1963 Lilies of the Field starring Sidney Poitier, ended in divorce.

In later years, Virginia Wicks’ contributions to jazz were recognized, one in 2000 as part of a Women Legends of Jazz ceremony and concert at New York’s Merkin Hall which also cited vocalists Nancy Wilson and Annie Ross among others.  In 2010, she received an A Team award from the Jazz Journalists Association for non-musicians whose works had far-reaching consequences in promoting the music.

Wicks represented Nat Cole and songwriter Eden Ahbez, composer of Cole’s No. 1 hit “Nature Boy” from 1948.  Ahbez, a forerunner of hippies by twenty years who once lived under the first “L” of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, was on tour with Cole in New York promoting the song when he came up missing.  Thinking quickly, Wicks flagged down a taxi and asked to be driven through Central Park, where she found Ahbez meditating on a branch of a large tree.

Prepared by Tad Hershorn
Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University

The Bill King Trio +5 - One Mint Julep

The Bill King Trio +5 – One Mint Julep

With the Bill King Trio – ‘Five Aces’ recording still holding strong on the Canadian Roots and Blues Music Report some sixteen months after first entering and number fifty spot on international blues charts 2012 King thought it time to tie things over between recordings with a new single.

King played Hammond B3 organ on ‘Five Aces’ but mostly as under padding for acoustic grand piano. With much encouragement and a life time love of the classic organ The Bill King Trio +5 made perfect sense – plus 5 being the addition of three horns, guitar and percussion.

“I lived with those Jimmy Smith sides –‘Walk on the Wide Side, Chicken Shack’, Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes – ‘Misty’, Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, John Patterson, Charles Earland, Larry Young and all,’ says King. I thought how cool it would be to revisit my favourite – Ray Charles ‘One Mint Julep.’

Mint Julep is a sophisticate blues. King goes the extra mile incorporating New Orleans style piano in support. “James Booker” is my man. “Every time I sit at the piano and I go into that Crescent City mode I’m thinking to myself – what would James Booker do, “says King.

The Bill King Trio +5 – ‘One Mint Julep’ isn’t a copy or a throwaway party track – it’s an innovative reworking of the original with all the spirit and musicality one would expect.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Camera – The Rehearsal – at Bunny’s Place!

Long ago I lost the rush photographing musicians in concert. I do it for sport and doubloons but it is more a labor than love. My partner Kristine and I have done this well over twenty years and come to the conclusion – men with horns are as exciting as watching the dead repeatedly die.

This brings me to yesterday’s rehearsal at Bunny harbor - that would be Jane Bunnett’s castle.
 If you ever pass Bunny’s place noontime you can hear scales trembling from behind the walls. Bunny is a practice hound and for good reason. Keeping one’s chops in shape is an ongoing necessity. I do the same hampered slightly by a left thumb I would guess sporting a mild case of arthritis a gift from miles of boogie woogie piano and hard pounding bass lines.

Early on I hated rehearsing. I can now see clearly why. The players were less than adequate mostly struggling with instrument. Back then I had the patience of a road rage driver. I was also very forthcoming about that and not an easy read.
I prize my time with the great arranger and conductor Peter Matz of Barbara Streisand and Carol Burnett fame. I spent a month under his baton in Vegas and Tahoe in 1976 and watched this man handle players like a living saint and get the most from them. After that I changed glasses – lightened up – and smiled a lot more. I also began hiring great players.

Bunny’s house was resplendent with great musicians.

I can’t express how much respect I have for bassist/ arranger Roberto Riveron. I truly love this man! Not only is he one of the finest bass players on the planet he’s also one of the finest arrangers and bathed in humility. Watching Roberto and Hilario Duran navigate the complex time changes and intricate harmonies of Duran’s contribution to the Iroko Project recording was mesmerizing. My part in all of this is an organ solo in a blues rumba – very thoughtful but not on the scale of what’s happening here.
Cuban’s play in alien time signatures. Perhaps if I was born in Havana I could better grasp. It all makes sense and one can follow but not play. I leave this to the out worldly players who can count 15/3 – I’m content to record with camera in 4/4 time.

Rehearsals are a camera gift. This is where real stuff happens. Not long ago manager Scott Morin and pianist Robi Botos pulled me in for Robi’s rehearsal with Branford Marsalis at Koener Hall. Lighting was a nightmare but who’s measuring? I loved it – I love the freedom to scout, scan and move around. None of that two song rule! All the players were cool. I roamed the perimeter conscious this was a working environment and there are boundaries.
Yesterday felt like a meeting  of best of friends. Each musician's arrival was greeted with an extended handshake, embrace then  exchange of laughter or tidings of joy. That’s all one needs to inspire and settle in. Not to forget master percussionist Papiosco whose hands are cut from granite guiding proceedings.

On one side congas, another strolling violin - not far away flute playing warming scales.
I set camera on collect and record mode. All around me supreme interaction. A song with impossible transitions, time out of time, frustration, exhilaration - all of this within camera range. I live for this shit!

This is the real human music deal.

Music is hard, really hard even for genius. To be in a room with this much talent and tension is gripping. The camera follows event sequence – problem solving, resolution and conquest! I love the energy, pure energy - the moral support – the long discussions between great arrangers, Riveron and Duran is what music is truly about. You have to be either in or near the moment. Pay attention or it’s fleeting.
I always come back to one story that haunts. Kris and I are on the subway and four girls I would say eighteen years of age are sitting together – I have a camera with me. They are Indian, black, Asian, white and interacting as best of friends. They hug, tease and play with each other. I’m watching this and want badly to capture and chicken out. Then suddenly the four do a big communal embrace of universal oneness - my city Toronto summed up there on the spot – and I missed that image – fuck! The pure joy and potency of that moment is something you can’t describe - profound respect for one other’s culture, history and roots. Wow! I camera missed!

Back to that guy with a horn. I’m there and trying to do my best – Janelle Monet was giving a spectacular concert – the camera is clicking she’s dancing  – Eddie Floyd reaches out and it’s 634-5789 – jazz guy stood across the yard like he had a large bean stalk stuck up his ass. I have the jpeg! Toot on…

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Atheist or 'ist?

I don’t know about you but the whole wham boozle decreeing a new Holy See has been a bit much. This should have been titled Real Popes of Vatican City. Capes a flyin’ – some hair pullin’ and sassy talk.

I’m kind of at a crossroads in life and dig where author Christopher Hitchens was coming from yet still have those images of sacred church – the rusty nails, the bloody hand, the torture and brutality etched in memory.
I was baptized Catholic rescued by pops age six from Catholic elementary school. Man or man was I a misfit. I seem to offend at every turn and summon a vicious nun who had in possession a twelve inch wood ruler which she would smack my hands around – tops and bottoms – sadistic wench. I think dad was ahead of the curve on this – “Lookee here Nunny – one day my son will play jazz piano - intricate harmonies – possibly behind crooning divas – this is no way to offend the boys money appendages.”

Was I ever grateful for an early exit?
I went from the dark side to the hood – Wall Street Elementary School – at one time it was a school for what then was called colored kids. I only recently picked up on that bit of history. Wall Street was cool – kids were mostly black and light years from devil gulch.  In fact, I believed Jesus himself checked out the same time I did and found things much more comfortable across the tracks. Yes, there were tracks. Trains park directly across the street. Brother Wayne and I copped a bad Jones sneaking in and out of cattle and corn cars mostly housing young and old men who didn’t much take to recreational crashers. I can still smell the fumes of creosoted rails.

After making a mess at my first try at university I enrolled in Catholic College. Bad choice! That liquid freedom movement I so cherish was shackled by rigid church formality and regimentation.
I had a few progressive instructors but most wore blinders and had no more connection to that popular God we all come to know from prayer.

I had a female teacher for writing who scored my essay on Barbara Streisand and another on Burt Bacharach high marks. Beyond that, I had nothing to say. The priest most in the know of the outside world taught sociology. The books were cool – James Baldwin – Steinbeck but the poor guy had been locked up to long with a pint and tales of prostitutes and gay boys only blocks away, which he expounded on every session.
 Had a pretty cool priest who saw potential in my music composing who moved me into advanced classes and scored me perfect. Every effort to get me fully immersed in composing programs was resisted by theology teachers who insisted I score high marks before planning a career in music. I only remember saying something about how ridiculous children being stuck in limbo was before being tossed.

When it gets to matters of church these days I don’t know too many people who go or spend much time considering. There is this thing about aging where you do process and reassess life choices and wonder why religion as we knew as children plays such a vague roll in our lives.
Many of us are sixties boomers who are most affected by endless war, civil rights, freedom of choice, rising feminism, love without guilt and restriction and an explosion in revealing technology who find most religion way out of touch with reality. I guess it gets down to us being daily witness to horrors of unspeakable magnitude that no divine anointed clergy or deity has any control over or solutions – just a smile and tap on head. Terrible things happen to all life and no one is capable of preventing. We can catch, lock up, and reduce the odds yet we rarely prevent. What roll religion plays in all of this is still a mystery.

The thing we can be assured of is the role of science and medicine in saving lives. Every week a new discovery a new potential cure and in many cases a lasting cure. All this comes free of superstition and religious interference for the most part – let me back up here – that part about religious interference – made that up - its non-stop – at every turn – from the laboratory to the politician’s war chest.
As long as I’ve been hiking earth I’ve had such a good feeling about the people I’ve met; the animals, the wind, the rain, the long winding rivers, majestic mountains, the broad extraordinary landscape I’ve walked to even consider hiding behind the robes of men I don’t know or particularly care to know. I once knew a young boy who lost his father very young ask me come to his church which was Catholic and play organ for his dad’s funeral. I would gladly do that. He ran it past the priest and got a tongue lashing. Now, I was willing to walk away from my detachment with church dogma and do what we are supposed to do as real people and answer a child’s wishes yet that wasn’t to be. The boy was pissed. I doubt not enough to walk away from the church.

I guess the point of this essay – I know many of us aren’t atheist and believe there is something we can’t touch, see or smell but can’t completely say with all certainly – there isn’t! There isn’t what? So, I’m staying with ‘Theist’ just in case I witness a miracle or two – something more profound than white smoke!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Love Me Tender!

You had to be around to witness the insanity. Television was relatively new to most households with NBCs Dave Garroway holding court mornings and Ed Sullivan Sunday nights. There was something simple about life in the 50s although if you step away a lot more complex than remembered.
Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn were the dream couple parents often assumed the perfect marriage. A drive to a greasy burger stand would find you waving at the occasional passing vehicle. Everyone went to church – some devout others on business. School was in walking distance and summers long and hot - time enough to grow an inch or two.

Elvis Presley began his career in 1954 under the guidance of famed Memphis record mogul Sam Phillips. Elvis had the sweet sounding tenor you’d hear above all the heavy church baritones that would rumble turn like dying steam locomotives. You couldn’t make out the Christian words because men just didn’t know them – they stood and honked along as women clarified. Elvis was the singing angel.
Black and white was polar opposites. Hard news carried the daily sit-ins, civil rights marches, the murders, intruders – drowning; local news – knitting circles and farm reports – the occasional obituary.

Patti Page, Perry Como played endlessly. The Yankees ran a string of World Series triumphs – Mickey Mantle was God number two.
Mornings you could smell sun-baked roughage flowing down the Ohio – the stink of Jack Daniels, the odor of baking Wonder Bread, and witness piles of tormented driftwood catch shoreline near the falls.

Then one day life monotony was interrupted – “Heartbreak Hotel” by this young man far south pushed Nat Cole, Page and Como to the sidelines and everyone was talking. Who is this guy Elvis? What kind of name is that? Men laughed, women peeked and teenagers raged. Everyone had an opinion and everyone watched.
Good church folks are always the first to condemn. It seems wherever there’s change those in the know have to operate fast and stomp down. Oh my, those fire breathing evangelists were everywhere.”Take those Elvis records to the dump and burn – wait let’s do it in the church parking lot and make an offering to his majesty.” Men just talked and laughed – this was just a silly boy and his fleeting popularity would soon pass like that silly Davy Crockett ‘Alamo’ record.

Girls fainted boys greased up.
That sound – that mix of country blues, gospel, and rhythm hit folks in a different way. They never bought in to the rough edged street blues with those suggestive lyrics which didn’t apply to white folks but this new take was easy to absorb. There was a fat beat which rocked and swung at the same time. There where new ways to dance around that beat – you just had to invent or wait to see what Philly was doing.

Elvis was the chief salesman- sweet faced, soft spoken, humble, and thoughtful – a boy a momma would love to nurture and marry off.
Small town America loved his radical side but had to get past the sex part. You knew everyone was doing it because babies kept coming like they’d been carted from a sex factory direct to homes yet talk of such things brought morbid guilt. I mean Playboy was around but mostly read in the back of barnyards and factory men’s rooms. There were a few liberal leaning families in a community where the man of the house proudly displayed in his bathroom.

Elvis was big talk in our house. Pops called him a three chord wonder. Dad owned a guitar but could never wrap his head around a seventh chord besides he knew jazz great Jimmy Raney and there was no way this new music would rival his sacred jazz.
I had no opinion – just too young and mostly trapped by spirituals. Grandma looked after us during daytime and mostly played upright piano and sang about Jesus. I’d occasionally slip under her fingers and weasel a few bars of Chopsticks.

One day the big announcement arrived – “Love Me Tender,’ Elvis’s film debut was coming to “The Grand” in New Albany. For the life of me I would never expect my stern dismissive parents chose to go. That we did!
Dad mostly talked through the movie and glanced around at other men looking for affirmation a laugh and a nod. Mom stayed fixated on dad. She never really watched anything but him. If he said – ‘that was awful – she’d respond – “that was awful.” That was what life was for women in the 50s.

‘Love Me Tender’ caught fire. People went repeatedly to catch the young man seen cut in half on Ed Sullivan Show on big screen – guitar bouncing – legs amputated. Black and white makes every actor look credible – Elvis pulled it off. The song was so rich and gorgeous to hear in theatre young and old talked about for weeks. The local record store couldn’t keep his music in stock. Every young girl papered her bedroom with the guy – boys just looked the part.
Rock N’ Roll was here to stay! The soggy sounds of yesterday seem to disappear over-night, Boys toughened up, girls all mouthy. Kids began to punk out in school. James Dean, Brando- rebellion, retaliation, uprising was on the horizon. Meanwhile, the young man who started it all was just a plain old country boy who loved his mama and a good song.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


You know – I rarely travel without a camera. I’m a document guy – I see so much and have an urge to photograph a moment - a situation and store in camera.

Today, I stumbled on Free Tibet rally at Dundas Square. This universal protest has been going on since the fifties – western scholars have claimed Tibet was independent from China from 1912 -1950 – the Chinese claim ownership. My connection? The movie ‘Lost Horizon’ a 1933 novel by James Hilton - the fictional Shangri-La high in the mountains of Tibet. Oh, how I wanted to flee to Tibet and escape Southern Indiana to this mysterious utopian land far from the chemical laced damp earth I walked most days as a kid.

I’m thinking I’ll never get there or Vietnam another land I still want to explore during the unreal glorious coming of spring.

 You never know how people will react when you slither about with camera around neck. Today, there were so many Asians with big body cameras I ascertained the situation was most friendly and that it was.

As I wander around I’m attracted to the splendor of color. We are such a colorless country. India, China and most of the Far East are bathed in radiant vivid color right till death. We meet death in drab silver plated caskets and morbid ceremony. The opposite side of the world you dissolve in bright colorful flames. All around is a searing spectrum of tones and relatives adorn in rainbow drenched pigment.

That`s just part of the equation -the clothes, the beads, the lightness, the smiles and the kindness. Everyone just flat accepted my presence and encouraged me to get closer.

Twice recently I`ve left the house and failed to check the camera battery and after a few dozen shots camera dies. What an ass! So be it. I got something more from this that shooting could satisfy – to hang for awhile with some truly kind and humble people. This is a highly spiritual – loving people. Winter has mostly reduced us to believe it`s hard lessons are truth something many can`t recover from but a trip outdoors among people with a greater connection to the divine broke the last bit of ice lining the inner wall of my heart. I`m blessed!

I've Had My Say - You Yours!

The past couple days have ignited such passion from such mediocre subjects – Rob Ford and Justin Beiber.

Honestly, it’s like one long continuous laugh track without a final punch line.
I try to stay topical on FB and Ted and I the same at Newstalk 1010 especially first half hour 11-11:30 AM. We may have a dry run in car ride over or just get to it like Ted did yesterday with ass grabbing intro. These are water cooler topics everyone loves to opine about. What really amazes is the range of responses. I must say the vicious attacks on Sarah Thompson, mostly by men still blows me away.

FB has a way of attracting crazies to a topic they can’t let go. I suspect a few who posted on my Ford – Miller essay had exhausted a hundred other sites before hunting me down and wearing out last night. I was still short responding near bedtime. It’s like one of those who get the last word in claims victory.
Now, the Beiber thing remains a mystery. The guy is a monster success and we’ve followed since he was sixteen. We as Canadians share in Beibs long gold run but just mention time for a break and grown men who think they have a stake in Beiber go off the deep end. This post should have stopped two days ago but there are a few aging dudes I suspect have a creepy fantasy chasing FB posters trying earnestly defend the boys daily meltdown. A good doctor would prescribe rest but this is an industry that devours the young then spits them down an oldies pit when they no longer sell. That day will come. My advice which is universal – take time off – refresh – keep close to your fans – go play more basketball – be a kid – stay out of trouble then come back.

 Beibs doesn’t get England – boy bands, boy toys are a hoot to them. They’ve had their share but the press feeds on this especially with great material from the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Elton John, the Beatles – I’m mean real talent to gage all comers. You want to hear the difference between bad and great - catch Beibs singing live on SNL without aid of auto tune then slip to YouTube and listen to Sir Rod sing – Maggie Mae!
Now, as far as Rob and Sarah – come Monday and throughout the week the battle between the sexless will continue. Ford worship will abound – the excuses will pile up and no matter how devious the man is he will slide by – that’s his life song. Thompson will continue to sound credible – speak in full sentences and be pillared.

I have some great friends right and left and can find humor in most of this. I think what folks outside the entertainment industry who get fired up over this silliness must keep in mind – this is all fake – it’s a diversion – it keeps you riled and occupied. We’ve followed the gossip train since man began when Eve convinced Adam to bite into devil apple. I have the inside scoop on what she said – “Rob Ford grabbed my ass.”

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Did the Mayor Really?

Eat a crate of spoiled oysters and when belly began to revolt reached around for a trouser napkin.

We as FaceBook pros know never let someone take a picture as memorable as this – well even with a small dog hanging like a bib could be a stretch.

There is so much one can read into the mayor’s lifetime achievement photo that will haunt until death. Did he clutch Sarah Thompson’s ass and whisper in her ear? Who knows, but I suspect he did.

 Why? Because men have taken to kicking the women to the curb, off a bridge, around the corner and into their hate collection. What did she do – she was smiling when photo was taken. She’s been smiling during interviews. I’m thinking professionals smile its part of the technique to win support. Thompson just didn’t know when to switch to holy grief face.

I think some of the funniest conversations between my right wing FB friends are the universal admittance the mayor to them is stupid but that’s alright because he’s not the erudite bygone mayor David Miller.
I didn’t much care for Miller before he was mayor when he was councillor and we had to defend the Beaches jazz festival from Councillor Sandra Bussin who had a likeability rating – well let’s just say no one will ever miss her and or wish her happy anything. She was the mayors second in line and part of the hard left on council. Now, I’m a lefty and she was to me what Stalin must have been like on the first day of spring. As for Miller? He was overly dismissive in dealings.

When Miller and Tory were slapping each other around Kris and I happen to be walking past nostalgia central 44 Gothic Avenue where next door to our first long term residence in Canada was a woman sweeping the street in front of # 46 the old homestead of Maureen Ford and her two daughters Andrea and Nielle Brockie. For five years we were families with very young kids who ran between houses, got sick together and faded into the woods behind our houses having a grand old kid’s time. During conversation we discover the sweeper is actually David Miller’s wife. We have a friendly chat and tell her we were certain Miller would win and win he did.
I got to like Miller over the next few years as the face of Toronto. He was all class, super intelligent and a raging jazz fan that made frequent appearances on Jazz.FM. Miller’s popularity and abrasive style rubbed the right much like Obama into a hate-frenzy. They would have run a mass murderer against if needed to rid themselves of Miller’s aristocratic musings. To this day, mention his name and the right will bang their heads on lampposts to drive any thought of him from their concrete skulls.

Towards Millers final days Gothic Avenue threw a block party and all of us original 1970s hippies were invited to meet the young mega baby stroller brigade and Miller was there cleaning tables, passing food, chatting – playing with the kids. We told him about our adjacent houses and he took Kris, Maureen and I on a tour of his home to let us inspect the changes. Wouldn’t you know the place was warm and friendly and Miller, a grand host and more than anything Miller wanted us to see his jazz collection – that pile of Oscar Petersons. For me – I wanted to see the small window that linked our house with Maureen and where we would pass spices, utensils when asked and look on at each other’s kids when sick. I had a moment where I caught my breath and visualized the commotion that was a normal day – the heat of summer when windows were open and the voices of young screaming kids echoed down the side of the houses. The crying, the laughter – “Jesse where are you – Andrea – put that down.” These are the times we never forget.
Did the mayor cop a feel or did she lie – who the hell knows. What I do know eventually the city will blow Mr. Nonsense into yesterday and plead never comeback. I’m thinking where is the Miller photo wearing sweat barf and bulging pink face. Until then – more photos please!

Friday, March 8, 2013

I Got Up This Friday Morning

I’m an early riser but not like my friend Don Gibbons or Jan Cooksey who light up the bedroom at five in the morning as the iPhone starts signaling Ottawa and Indiana are on the rise.

Morning is Zen. It’s just me, a dozen or so fresh thoughts, the newspaper, a cup of tea and a loose plan for the day. If I had a day job that plan would be decided well beyond this domicile and I could be nailing carpet or training seals.
There’s something righteous about a head cleared of yesterdays junk and blank canvas waiting. That’s not to say there aren’t things scheduled or obligations to be met but it’s that morning illusion – the clarity and lightness.

I’ve already popped off a couple emails dealing with yesterday and bent over and picked the Star off the porch and caught a glancing look at the headline – its Rob Ford again and his lobbyist party. What would news be without a bit of Ford nonsense, or that snake at Orange - Mazza who used the province as his personal bank account without any governing Liberals taking this asshole to the shed and beating with a tire iron.

Friday – yes Friday! My favourite day of the week. This is exhale day! The transition between got to be somewhere to I’m not going anywhere because tomorrow is Saturday.
Friday afternoon is glorious mainly because Friday night is up ahead. Its fuck off time unless you’ve got a gig. A gig? If you have a gig on Friday these days it’s because you are playing your own music in a venue that’s not paying or working for another. You may be squeezing the door or claiming a few dollars from whoever you’re wanking behind. Gigs that pay come at weird intervals these days usually corporate. They could be Tuesday at 5:30 or Wednesday at noon.

Today I get time with my son Jesse as we head over to the Orbit Room and record some sounds on the magnificent Hammond B-3. I loves oooogan! The Orbit Room has the best nasty! This baby howls and screams like a pack of wolves standing over a plate of moose. Tim is always upgrading and toying with his joy cabinet and every organ player that touches this beauty makes it part of them.
Last night Gavin and I got it done. Three songs in the can – the piano tuned to my ears and now I’m starting to relax knowing eight songs are in play. And yes – Moon River .. what can I say. And yes Audrey was there - reached over and slapped Gavin upside the head and said – “You beast you – take it to the bridge and don’t stop until I’m back on set!”

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Moon River

When I was fifteen I used to detest this song. I wanted more Miles and Bill Evans less Andy Williams. But this morning as I’m gearing up to record with the outstanding Gavin Hope – I’m passionately in love with this tune. It could be while working on my ode to cinema – the solo piano, ‘Cinemascope’ and revisiting some of the female stars I had a mad crush on back when I was an aspiring piano dufus has changed my perspective or maybe I’m just courting nostalgia.
Moon River was written for dream girl Audrey Hepburn for the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It would go on to garner an Academy Award for composers Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. The great Jerry Butler would record in 1961 and it rocketed up the charts peaking at number eleven. In 1962, Andy Williams released on an album called ‘Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes – the recording would sell over a million copies. The song was never released in single format by Williams.

Gavin and I spoke early on about the song adding to a list of possibilities. A few days back Mr. Hope green lighted and am I elated with the choice. Sometimes a change of key will bring life to a song that has been heard within a certain tonal range and euthanized the masses.
I sat at the piano slowly playing the melody to get a better read on what Mancini had in mind when I notice FB friend Ian Anderson sends this stunning clip of Audrey Hepburn dosed in warm Mediterranean sunshine – a smile as wide as the Pacific Ocean - her body clothed in the fabric of eternal youth and Moon River soundtrack for all of this.

I never took to videos influencing a mental picture of a song but in this instant Hepburn won the day.
So today, when five o’clock comes calling and the Steinway has been perfectly tuned and Gavin and I begin exploring, I know Audrey will be sitting on an adjacent stool bending the brim of her hat, glancing side to side and smile as Gavin sings, “Moon river wider than a mile I'm crossing you in style someday - You dream maker, you heartbreaker - Wherever you're going, I'm going your way.”
I’ll be in a much better place than young jazz boy ever imagined.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

the Dog, the Vet and Me..

I love my guy Samson! He was our first litter pick and he’s never been less that a glorious smiling pooch. I also feel for my buddy in that he suffers allergies that make him screw with his ears, his eyes, chew a paw or two and scratch dance like he’s been hired to direct choreography for Justin Timberlake.
Today was the final straw. Vet time! It seems the only thing that calms the lad is an antibiotic shot and alternative squeeze tube of ear drops.

Samson’s sister Suzie just watches from the sidelines. She has no issues other than addiction to belly rubs. This is not a casual ‘hey rub the hairless skin portion,’ this is an out of body addiction.

I walk in the bedroom and she does a Pethouse spread – belly up. When I’m reclining – she’s looking on with wistful eyes yearning for an opiate tummy rub. While she’s luxuriating in my lap spa Samson is out of view sawing his body in half.
I arrive ten minutes early at vet hoping all pet squirrels have been vaccinated for raccoon. No such luck – the place is overrun by lonesome cats in crates - squirrels missed the bus. I have never put my dogs in crates it reminds too much of a bad children’s show where they toss the extras off a bridge who then are rescued by a timber wolf and live happily on dead birds in the nearby woodlands..

The two of us arrive like it’s a sweet mythical episode of Sons of Anarchy – on a bike - dog pouched in.
We step to the curb like we’ve been chasing hombres up and down Dupont Street. I pull back Samson's hoody so he can see where  needle den is located and  enter like a couple of seasoned road warriors.

Samson then goes about visiting every crate. I’m often fascinated with dog sniffing. At the vet dogs seem to drop their guard realizing this is a medical sanctuary. They will get in a cat’s face without much foreplay and stick that silly mug within an eyeball scratch and keep advancing until ailing cat goes bat psycho.

Over in one corner an aging bull dog looks on as if he has terminal constipation. Samson ignores. The rest of the room remains under mind siege by caged cats.
We had two home cats that lived twenty years. I understand the attachment but up against a dog a cat is wallpaper. Dogs are creative busy not just taking advantage of easy living conditions. Dogs have stuff to do – cats not so much. When a cat gets to a certain age they tune you out in fact they tune everything out but things they swat. Then they begin a new life in deep terrestrial sleep where they will reside until death.

Dogs have shit to do.

Our little girl has an owner schedule. She’s always at attention and ever present. She watches our every move. We’ve taken to calling her mother – that’s what my mom did. You could feel her breath on your ears.
Samson – he’s busy too - yet he knows when to climb in his bed and call it a moment. No such break for the girl. She’s either planning her wedding and our after life!

The vet tells me exactly what I expect. All kids are different – some have asthma, some hate bathing. In this case Samson will be forever challenged by his disadvantage and will have to cope. As far as Suzie – counseling may be in order.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I Have Walked a Mall in These Shoes

I’m not a mall walker – there are pros out there that put me to shame. I hate malls – I hate shopping. I only do it’s because it’s God’s and my wife’s will.

I left the house Sunday with one thing in mind - revisit these sweet cheap flannel print shirts that were racked over Christmas of which we kept buying for daily wear. I’m thinking – there were vibrant colors I missed out on.
I have the same problem no matter which mall I hike through – legs, mind and feet rebel. I don’t get it. Maybe, there is a training program for this. I saw women with bags of loot traipsing along with big grins – I’m wearing a friendly grimace. They speed marched on – me, foot drag, limp then collapse.

My deceased parents were professionals. Mall walking was sport for them. Mom did it to get away from dad’s deafening blasts of FOX News broadcasts. The man had a thing for screaming white men and pompous dimwitted news blonds. I’m sure Sarah Palin would have thrilled him if he had lived long enough to have experienced the call of the wild.
So the lady of our house traps me in one of those must have men’s shirts moments and I’m out of the roost hobbling about on a bus with a few dozen frozen stiffs.

We have two malls in our territory Dufferin Mall and Galleria. Now, Dufferin Mall has a Walmart and real stores while Galleria has shriveled pink hot dogs that look as if they were dipped in chilled bath water, cheap furniture made from recycled chipboard, once upon a time Zayre’s – cheap, cheap, cheap and the ever present throng of aging sports traders who push World Cup flags, miniature inflatable’s, photos of hockey legends, and of course the talking Maradona head.

I definitely prefer Dufferin Mall – it seems like the place where people who have adjusted to life shop.
Let me say Yorkdale Mall is impressive. My problem – I don’t have enough money to shop there. I was up there a few months back when I put a lonesome camera of mine which I thought was a collectible on Kiiji only to be told by a Chinese collector it was shit. I really didn’t mind that at all. He tooled through the camera like a forensic genius. I was so taken back I wanted him to inspect any future purchase from vegetables to shirts for me.

There is also the Trillionaire mall in Dubai that comes to mind. This place is so out there a pound of sugar costs three thousand dollars and folks are happy to pay because it has a gold seal on it – well maybe not – but who’s counting?

Back to Dufferin Mall. I made the trip for my new favourite shirts and Dammit!, wouldn’t you know – the place no longer exists. I mean I’m standing right where memory connects with reality and there’s nothing – just walls of blank grey. I even wore my last purchase - flashed the mall and quietly asked – Anyone seen a match?
My parents wouldn’t have cared. They bought coffee and the occasional bag of less than a dollar stuff.

I’ve seen photos of my dad in a mall – that was one happy dude! You’d see his buddies each with a foot in the beyond yet sporting happy day faces.
Brother Wayne was dad’s chosen victim. Wayne worked in a mall down in Indiana the same one the notorious King mall walkers adopted as a second address. So every day pops paid a visit. Now, if I needed a daily laugh, brother would serve up an arsenal of stories.

My wife and malls are compatible - me not so much. I shop in my head, rarely physically. I have numerous photo sites on my iPad all screaming product at me. Sometimes I bite but most times just drool.
Mall walking is a blood sport. You must be bred for this. I don’t really know the proper conditioning but I expect you don’t become a real pro until past eighty. I feel I have a lot to learn and as it stands - I’m pathetic, a novice a sniveling wretch. Maybe when the time comes and there’s a deal on walkers I’ll adapt!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Amy McConnell & William Sperandei 'Stealing Genius'

When I first landed a copy of Amy’s CD ‘Stealing Genius’ I had no idea she was the same little girl who used to walk this massive fur bearing dog on Helena Avenue back in the 80s – our wonderful neighborhood where son Jesse ‘Dubmatix’ and a multitude of kids all in or about the same age inhabited a corner of urban paradise where kids ran free.
As years pass I would hear through rumor of Amy’s work in film and directing but had no idea what an accomplished singer she had become.

Today, Amy dropped by The Ted Woloshyn Show Newstalk 1010  and what a delightful session this was. If Amy had been better known in 2012 she would be up for a Juno this season – that’s how good this debut is.
Sidekick trumpeter William Sperandei is my kind of player. William’s played on numerous 7 Arts productions for us – from Real Divas, to Saturday Nite Fish Fry, Sophie Berkal Sarbit to my Rhythm Express. William leaves his stamp with an exclamation mark! To have a Sperandei solo on any recording is to have something brilliant to savor for years.

Back to Amy - its the voice and delivery. With McConnell there is none of this – ‘She should have stuff ‘– she did it! Rich tone – lovely phrasing and note perfect pitch. More than anything Amy wraps her voice around a song with purpose, conviction and style.

 ‘Stealing Genius’ leads with a borrowed Ahmad Jamal rhythm from the 60s classic ‘Poinciana’ integrated with a sublime version of ‘Wild is the Wind.” Amy selected a righteous duet with pianist Michael Kaeshammer‘I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,’ for a must play today. Another big win!
You’ll love the diverse range of composers she’s chosen – Tom Jones, George Harrison, Burt Bacharach, Edith Piaf, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Jerry Wexler – ‘Candy?,’ - how many remember Big Maybelle’s version?

In short, if you are a patron of Canadian jazz go online and download – you’ll pinch yourself silly..

Friday, March 1, 2013

Did a Girl Ever Bully You?

The baddest girl in our neighborhood in 1956 was Doris Iscrigg. Doris wanted to fight all young men!

Brother Wayne and I would slither through small town allies to school – hide behind dumpsters and milk cans property of Shannon's diary. You could count the grease balls covering exits from all sides - this was truly Sharks and Jets shit!

Brother Wayne and I were quick becoming track stars with no team bidding for our services. Doris was like a giant piranha floating around the hood ready to attack. 

I never really had much to say to Doris other than, ‘I’m on my way to bible school,’ some kind of cop out plea to keep her from attacking.

Doris would yell shit – in fact you’d just see her jaw wiggle, eyes flare and you knew she was hunting young man flesh.I was ten at the time and weighed my age.

I mostly skated by and watched her knock the lights out of guys. Most would roll on the ground while she punched and kicked.
I didn’t really know much about her other than she was pissed about something when one day she shows up in our front yard looking to do fight business.

Pops positioned his beloved cabin cruiser up on stilts trying his best to seal three hundred faulty leaks. The old man loved this woody and spent hours trying to bring it up to floating standards. The craft smelled like the last voyage of Sinbad.

I’m doing what I always did with Brother Wayne – scooping water. How the hell did we end up on dry land doing what we did over water I’ll never know? Maybe we were scraping too.

July summer is knocking the wind out of us and sweat fills the same Maxwell House coffee cans we dip water with when I hear – “Come down here King boy – I’m going to kill you.”

Talk about a message from the undead. “I’m speaking to you King boy.”

Fuck me!

Brother Wayne looked on like I had a serious problem – none of his concern besides he was up high enough to jump to a nearby tree.

Pops looks down and sees this scrawny fourteen year old in her summer dress and nasty face and says to me – ‘Take care of her.”

“Take care of her?” I look at him and say – ‘Do you know who that is that’s Doris Iscrigg – mass murderer.” Pops looks at me – ‘Are you scared of a girl?” I’m thinking no boy should go there. Pops next move? He yells, “Bills coming down.”

Before I could run to Nebraska I’m face to face with the devil and she’s about to collect blood.

Doris comes charging at me punching and kicking. We end up on the ground choke holding each other. This goes on what seems an eternity. Remember, I hadn’t picked up a clarinet or played piano yet so I’m defenseless. Doris and I roll about trying to get a serious grip. Somewhere in this tangled mess we start laughing. I mean, boy – girl laughter. We both eventually let go and face each other. She’s got weeds sticking out of her hair, ears, between her teeth and me a dozen unwanted girly scratches. Doris and I call a truce – dad then offers her an opportunity to drop by and scoop water from the boat. That she never did. As the months pass I’d see Doris on the odd occasion but never as adversaries. Then one day she was gone – I’m mean forever gone!

March so Far..

 What can I say? March so far has been terrific.

My left eye opened to little doggie spying me through eyes lit by the shine of window light. She lay there with woolly face on my shoulder – something she does most mornings. I dare not move and lose that moment so I roll from 7:04 to 7:30 listening to her breathe and absorbing her goodness.

7:30 I say the magic words – ‘Want to go out? I should interupt and say –I need to get up, light is here and head is clear. Anyway,  bingo! she’s upright with serious bop bounce in her feet.

I get dressed she jets downstairs and waits until I unlock back door and out she goes to roar at neighborhood – ‘Everybody up!”

Meanwhile, I cook tea and haul in Friday edition of Toronto Star, search through a few jazz photos from the past - post then prepare for total March 1 day - So far so good.

When all is right I place iPad in pad position, smartphone nearby, and unfold front pages of The Star and spot the headline – “Step Away from Charity Ally Tells Ford.” You would think by now our city court jester would get the message. I know I would be terrified by another round of legal proceedings but I assume when you are this popular with your renegade posse and have banked considerable wealth this stuff is just a nuisance. One day I want to be mayor just so I can hold up a Royal Bank in broad daylight with a can of soup and walk away like nothing happened and have my posse yell –‘Fuck those lefties.”.

In reality, the humor keeps sizzling. I expect the month to give more than it takes. Tomorrow I’ll be back on radio hanging with Ted and that will be  Saturday big fun. Sunday – Canadian Screen Awards – I hope Argo wins!