Tag Archives: live music

COOL CALIFORNIA BAND BRINGS GARAGE/INDIE ROCK VIBE TO THIS YEAR’S “VIRTUAL” CANADIAN MUSIC WEEK

Last week, I read an interesting Fcbk post from Boyce & Hart (award-winning pop/rock songwriters) via The Monkees’ Fcbk account about a young indie band out of California covering one of the 60’s iconic hit-writers’ songs, (I’m not your) Stepping Stone which was originally recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders but it was The Monkees who created magic with the tune. As many of you know, I’m a huge Monkees fan – I used to argue with my BFF at high school who was better, The Monkees or the Rolling Stones (LOL) – then in the 80’s I got to work press for the eastern Canadian leg of their original reunion tour (sans Mike Nesmith). Below, hanging with Davy Jones backstage pre-show in Toronto.Davy-Jones-80s-tour-197x300Needless to say, I was intrigued by this groovy young band, the VELVET STARLINGS, and clicked thru to their cover version of “Stepping Stone”…WOW! Big juicy sound, great licks, fab vocals. Bravo, boys! I was hooked and said so by leaving a comment on the Boyce & Hart page who seemed to like my response. So when the songwriters of a classic pop song endorse your cover version, you must be pretty damn good. VELVET STARLINGS MAIN BAND 1The band was founded by young lead singer, guitarist & organ player Christian Gisborne, brothers Foster Polling (drums) and Hudson Polling (bass), and new addition Ashton Minnich on second guitar.  I wanted to make sure I shared news of my latest discovery with my music-lovin’ friends and industry colleagues so I reached out to the band who is participating in this year’s virtual version of Canadian Music Week and asked them a few questions….

Congratulations, lads, on your participation in this year’s CMW, even though it’s online only. How has Covid quarantining and travel bans affected your new album launch and reaching new audiences?   We’ve actually finished 2 albums during Covid and we’re finally putting out our debut album “Technicolour Shakedown” this summer (to be distributed by AWAL/The Orchard in US.)! While Covid did put a damper on touring, it gave us the time we needed to really focus in on the music. We’ve started doing a lot more livestreams and such so that’s been pretty fun getting to connect with people mid-song, playing requested songs and what not.

Has the band participated in any online concerts or socially distanced events over the past year, and if so, how were you received by fans?  Yes! We did a livestream benefitting Alexandria House, raising money for displaced women and children. It was super fun as we had to learn how to do multi-camera editing which ended up being the reason for our new extremely DIY music videos coming out this summer…haa haa!  We’ve played a couple of socially-distanced local shows and they’ve been pretty fun, I think people are ready for live stuff to come back – just gotta get on that vaccine!VELVET STARLINGS PRESS MAIN BAND 2 808How long have each of you been playing/performing? And do any of you have formal music training?  Drummer Foster says:  I started playing when I was about 12, and my brother, our bass player, Hudson started playing when he was about 10. We both took music classes at our middle school and high school, but we really started getting serious about music when we started playing in high school bands. That’s around the time we figured out that we really just liked playing rock n roll as opposed to the jazz and classical music we’d play in school.  Lead singer, guitarist and keyboardist Christian (pictured below) says:  I guess with music I took the same approach as Brian Wilson, McCartney and Lennon. I learned to play by ear for most part, found all of the chords in my Beatles songbook and just applied them to my own songwriting. I had heard that George Martin made sure Lennon & McCartney didn’t learn to read and write as he thought it would confine them creatively. I wanted to play organs and keyboards after hearing Alan Price (The Animals) & Ray Manzerek (The Doors) – those guys are huge influences.10_VelvetStarlings_SkylerBarberio_53A3819What drew you together as a band? Was it style, genre or simply the love of music creation?  Christian:  I met brothers Foster and Hudson at a Cage the Elephant show and we’ve been friends ever since. Ashton used to play in their band and now we’re all rocking out together. I think growing up in a time when everyone at school worships Drake and Post Malone definitely contributed to the ‘want’ to find other people who dig rock’n’roll and organic instruments. We all love the same bands and it all just somehow worked out.

Being an oldie, I am truly impressed with your musical influences from the 60’s – legendary artists such as The Stones, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Iron Maiden…even Humble Pie! Did you each discover these groups via your parents (or grandparents)? And what appealed most to you about the rock/R&B grooves? Foster:  We just love rock’n’roll. The energy of playing music in a room or outdoors and getting a reaction out of the audience is really what we love to see each time we play, and we work hard to try and squeeze it out of an audience at each concert. Of course, this has a lot to do with what music we were introduced to when we were younger. Growing up during the garage rock revival was huge for us, listening to all these killer bands like The White Stripes or Jet really kickstarted our love of the energy that rock n roll gives off. From that point, you start to really get into it and research who influenced who, and then you just go down the rabbit hole from there.4_VelvetStarlings_SkylerBarberio_53A2967I discovered Velvet Starlings thanks to a Boyce & Hart/Monkees Facebook shout-out …you covered their “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone”. Why this song…what did you hear in it that prompted you to cover it with your own style?  Stepping Stone is such a bad-ass moment in their discography. We were gonna try and do Valleri but the solo just rips too hard and I couldn’t figure it out..haa haa. That’s so sick that you worked with them for their reunion tour! Seeing The Monkees live would be the dream – I saw Mickey Dolenz play Pleasant Valley Sunday and Last Train to Clarksville at a mini local festival in Laurel Canyon and just that blew my mind.

Thanks, guys, any messages for your new fans in Canada and around the world?  We’re big fans of Canadian rock’n’roll. Arcade Fire, DFA1979, Mac Demarco. The New Pornographers was actually the last show I went to right before Covid. We’re hoping to make it up to Canada some day…hopefully in 2022.  Toronto & Montreal are on our list of places to rock. We really appreciate Steven Dagenais & Robert Singerman for including us on this year’s CMW line up. The funny thing is we were supposed to be in Toronto in 2020 for CMW & Indie Week, but due to Covid they were postponed along with our official SXSW conference slot and our UK tour. We look forward to getting back out there again playing to a live audience.

Good luck with CMW, fellas – check out news of the Velvet Starlings and other great artists at www.cmw.net (online May 18-21) and I encourage you to visit VS’s own website for more music videos & band news as well as social media links www.velvetstarlings.com

Big thanks to Roger Gisborne, Owner/CEO Sound x 3 Records and Gemma Downes, Label Mgr/A&R/Artist Development at Sound x 3 Music UK for their kind assistance with writing this blog. Band photos courtesy: Skyler Barberio

CANADA’S LEGENDARY QUEEN OF SCREAM STILL ROCKIN’ OUT WITH HER NEW “DARBY MILLS PROJECT”

Canada’s Queen of Scream, DARBY MILLS, has been earning her living doing what she loves – singing & performing for her loyal fans – since 1978. And as she’s said in a previous interview when asked if she’s feeling a bit too old for rock & roll, “I’ll talk to Mick Jagger then let you know…”  When I arrived in Toronto a few years prior to Darby’s professional debut, it was the height of the disco era and all the clubs pumped out Donna Summer, Barry White, KC and the Sunshine Band, and the Bee Gees. As much as I loved disco, the dancing, the dubious fashions and platform shoes, I also loved to rock and roll but I had to wait until the early 80s to hear that voice, that growling, loud empowered woman’s voice that belonged to Darby Mills, fronting the Headpins band.145_origWhen you mention Darby Mills to anyone who’s a rock fan, you see a smile come across their face and a nod of recognition – this woman has earned her place in Canadian rock history. First working in cover bands, then a jazz/blues group and a funk/soul band in Alberta, finally accepting the invitation to sing with the rock band Steelback and heading back home to BC with them. Darby built a solid reputation on stage, fans flocked to see the band and its rocker chic out front. More gigs, more miles, more exposure to big international acts, both opening for and singing with, established Darby as a leading light in the Canadian music scene. Then came the Headpins…and then came the drama!  I encourage you to visit Darby’s website where you’ll find an in-depth history of her career and, in particular, her years with The Headpins (weblink at end of story).

I recently spoke with Darby from her home in BC and asked her if she’d share a few thoughts on her new Darby Mills Project (sadly sidetracked by Covid that has shut down Canada’s live music venues) and her experience as a woman in a male-dominated music genre….. 49121065_2626607834016328_5956634531585851392_nDarby, your first introduction to “performing” in front of crowds was as a young aspiring figure skater – did the discipline of sports training over a 12-year period affect your life and work ethic as a recording artist and stage performer?   Absolutely, the sacrifices made by myself and family were huge. As a competitive skater (pictured below with trophies almost as big as her) you miss out on many events outside the rink, even holidays, as training was first and foremost. No skiing or girls’ hockey (my Dad coached) and summer escapes where out of the question, but I did attend skating summer camps most of my teen years. As for the actual performance, it gave me the basis for nerve and confidence. Even though to this day there is still a tingle that hits me just before the show.9498496I understand as a youngster you spent many summers at your family’s cabin and your dad would sing as you all sat around the nightly campfires – apart from him, who were your early musical influences or inspirations?   Many many influences I’ve had over my life time. Early on, I listened to all the pre-70’s LP collection of musicals my parents had, then I got into Linda Ronstadt, Tom Jones, The Eagles, Ann Wilson, The Who and of course Led Zeppelin. It was at that point I was introduced to Janis.

You’ve been a part of several ground-breaking Canadian bands (Steelback, Headpins), honing your chops and touring throughout the 80s – what lessons did you learn during that crazy period that now allow you to take the lead with the Darby Mills Project?   In the late 70’s, after graduation I moved to Calgary where LIVE music was everywhere! Jumping back and forth from there to Vancouver many times until 1980 when I was recruited by the Headpins. My early Rock experiences consisted of searching out the correct band for my abilities and interests….and there where many!  And every time I got fired (lol) I learned more about the rights and wrongs as well as the prejudices of those in the industry. To me the answer was to become one of the guys best you could and grow a really tough skin.142662660_702376817098503_808680119311385062_nYou’ve also toured with some of rock’s greatest bands such as KISS, ZZ Top, Whitesnake and Aerosmith – were you treated differently in such a male-dominated environment or were you accorded the respect you had well-and-truly earned?   Each band is different – I’ve seen actions that are kind at heart and supportive, as well as those that are destructive and mean-hearted, meant only to undermine the success of the opening act!  WITH kiss 1982What is the significance of your “Letting Go” tattoo? Did you get that ink after you decided to take a break from your career in the early 90s?   I got the “Letting Go” tat to remind me that there was more to come.  My life was not all about what once was.  Sadly, I had been told that should I leave the Pins, I would never work again. Those people I’m guessing, had forgotten that I had already accomplished such a feat. In fact, I was the only member of the Headpins band except Brian “Too Loud” McLeod to do so!  I have earned 2 solo recording contracts, one to MCA America in 1986, and the second in 2001 with MCA Canada. Then in 2016, 36 years into a revised version of the Headpins, I felt it was past time to step up and bring something new to the table. This was not accepted by the members and I felt trapped in a downward cycle. At 56 years of age, I knew it was NOW OR NEVER. It was time again to take on that challenge.  Proudly I can say that I have now obtained a worldwide distribution deal with True North Records. 142172612_755571281744144_5778864844485981381_nAfter spending time away from the stage and recording studio to raise your family and care for ailing family members, why now, why the Darby Mills Project?   After losing my recording contract with MCA in 2002, I felt it was time to start a family. Married 10 years at that time, my husband a I both agreed. 6 months into making that decision I got a call from a former Pins drummer. He asked if I would sit in with his cover band here and there, but shortly after that I found I was pregnant with our first child. Behind the scenes, I had been dealing with a lawsuit for the past 5 years. The Headpins had acquired substantial debt to the former manager and even though I had been fired from the band, I was personally being held responsible for its repayment. With no record deal on the table and now our first baby on the way, I gave up on all counts and let the government step in.  I felt the health of my unborn child was more important than fighting over money I neither had nor made from the band, so my public defender suggested I declare bankruptcy. Those where the only months I did not work as a singer/performer. I had worked at this profession for 44 years by that time.  And now I will say that Covid-19 has given me the longest break in my life time!

The Darby Mills Project allows you to reach out to long-time fans and play with musicians who had also experienced the highs and lows of the 80s and 90s.  How gratifying is it to find fans so loyal and vocal when you take the stage (pre-Covid days, of course) and have you had younger new fans reach out to you as well?  I guess they see themselves as the ones who where down in the trenches with us all these years. The Rock’n’Roll era of my generation will likely never be experienced in the same way ever again. What a time we had!!Ted VanBoort

Photo courtesy Ted VanBoort

Obviously performing live concerts or touring is off the table until the pandemic is under control, so have you participated in any online concerts or have any plans to do so?   We spent more money than we made this last year doing a new 13 min video – six Headpins tunes mashed up into a medley.  We “The Darby Mills Project” get asked at every show, why aren’t you doing this or that song? My answer was always “because we are not the Headpins”.  It was never my intention to be the Headpins as a solo artist. They have a new singer and have worked steadily since my departure.  But the questions just kept coming, so the guys in DMP suggested we do a medley of Pins tunes so we can make the ticket buyers happy. DONE!  Paid for and ready to watch.  My thoughts for 2021 are that if there are no signs of live shows coming back into play, we’re working on another adventure that I’ll speak about when it happens.    Stan Pietrusik (2)

Photo courtesy of Stan Pietrusik

I was sorry to hear of the tragic loss of your beloved father due to Corona Virus – what advice do you wish to share with your fans about health and safety precautions?   I spoke out publicly a few days after my Dad passed. Global TV news reached out to see if I would be interested in sharing my thoughts and it took some consideration as I know there are still so many who feel we were being lied to and the back lash would be harsh.  My family stayed away from Dad as he was in a long-term care home. We did NOT want to be the ones to inadvertently take the Covid virus into his care home. We followed the rules set by government regulations and called him every single day to stay in touch best we could. For 10 months he stayed safely tucked away from the world.  BUT THE WORLD GOT IN!  Covid landed in our little town with a handful of cases for a month or so but then after Christmas and, I can only surmise those who did not follow the stay home regulations, BOOM, three local care homes were on total lock down.   3 – 4 – 5 cases then 35 then 68 and now we hear about all the deaths. It is REAL and will take out so many more of us before we reach herd immunity.

I did get messages from the naysayers, such as “It’s a hoax”. There were those who said, “Why should we worry about the likes of him, we should think about all those small businesses that are out of business for the fear of losing the old”. Well, I TOO am part of the OLD! I TOO am out of business!  But I can still find compassion for those trying to be part of the solution rather than those who are looking only for fault and someone to release their frustrations on.  May the Universe find compassion for us all ‘coz boy, are we messed up!

~~~~~

Thanks, Darby, I really appreciate you sharing your personal, painful thoughts on dealing with the frustration and fear of Covid. On a happier note, I strongly recommend clicking thru to watch the 2018 Telus Original documentary on her career “The Queen of Scream”.

…and if you would like to follow Darby for news of upcoming releases and, hopefully, live shows later this year, check out her website where you can also purchase her music: www.darbymills.com111_orig

AUSSIE MUSIC STAR ALI HUGHES MESMERIZES AUDIENCE @ HUGH’S ROOM WITH HER “LEONARD COHEN KOANS” CONCERT

What a glorious night that was! Last Sunday evening, Ali Hughes took her Hugh’s Room audience for an emotional ride with her reinterpreted songs from the late Canadian legend Leonard Cohen‘s repertoire.

Throughout her performance, her sexy sultry voice hung out on every note, laying it down then soaring again into the next stanza….and looking around the showroom, every face was turned towards the stage, eyes wide with mouths to match. I sat at the back of the room listening to the gasps of recognition as Ali introduced one classic Cohen after another, each with a new emotional and musical “translation”….it truly was a transformational moment.20190602_22345820190602_223852

Ali also brought with her the newly released 4-track EP (Tea & Oranges) from the show, recorded back home in Oz with her band, Ali & the Thieves. Her version of Suzanne will bring tears to any hardened fan’s eyes and I’m happy to tell you that the final track on the CD is, in fact, Suzanne. Check her website for purchase & download details (see end of article).20190527_132147After the show, Ali met with her Toronto fans and signed copies of the EP….20190602_203332 20190602_224839Hopefully she’ll return to Toronto soon for another Leonard Cohen Koans concert but she hinted she was working on her next project which is another unique interpretation of pop-culture classics…this time by Lou Reed. In the interim, she takes the Cohen show to the 2019 San Francisco Leonard Cohen Fest (presented by Noise Pop and hosted by Conspiracy of Beards) Nov 8, 9 & 10 at Cafe du Nord & Swedish American Hall, in S.F.   In October she will be presenting performances of Leonard Cohen Koans in London and New York with her long-time collaborator Daryl Wallis, plus performances with NYC collaboration, Sunday Swoon (with Adam Armstrong and Curtis J).

Visit her website for news of Ali’s upcoming shows, social media & music:   www.bigsbabs.comCentrefold

TONIGHT! Australian singer ALI HUGHES brings her “Leonard Cohen Koans” tribute concert to Toronto for 1 night only.

After 10 days of rehearsals, media interviews, celebrity schmoozing at a film festival and enjoying all the touristy stuff that Toronto has to offer, Aussie singer ALI HUGHES will take the stage tonight at Hugh’s Room to introduce her critically acclaimed 90-minute show featuring the songs and poetry of Canadian music icon, Leonard Cohen.ALI_271061685190_2452038624806523_1181734640604413952_nThe legendary singer/songwriter known for his sensual vocals left us nearly 3 years ago and Ali’s interpretations of songs such as Chelsea Hotel #2 and Suzanne will intrigue, engage and soothe the listener. Ali recently recorded a 4-song EP from the show with her long-time Aussie band (Ali & the Thieves) titled Tea & Oranges and these will be available for sale and autographing after the show tonight.20190527_132147 20190527_13215620190527_153559For the past 2 nights, Ali has performed at Hugh’s Room, opening for friend and fellow singer, Jane Siberry (below L) for whom she has sung back-up on Jane’s tours. Tonight, Jane graciously presents “Leonard Cohen Koans” and Ali Hughes who takes centre stage.with Jane SNBA finalists The Raptors may be playing on home court tonight but if you’d rather experience this tribute to one of Canada’s greatest artists by one of Australia’s most unique performers, we look forward to welcoming you….

Hugh’s Room is located at  2261 Dundas St. West (416-533-5483). Show starts 8:30pm
Tickets available at the door $45.00 (come early to ensure best seats)AliHughes-Triad1128181(42)__.jpg

AUSSIE CHANTEUSE ALI HUGHES to unveil “TEA AND ORANGES” EP @ LEONARD COHEN KOANS CONCERT SUNDAY JUNE 2, HUGH’S ROOM

Just in time for her upcoming concert at Hugh’s Room in Toronto, ALI HUGHES will be bringing her live recording of 4 songs from her highly successful 90 minute tribute concert LEONARD COHEN KOANS  with her so Toronto audiences will be able to enjoy her voice and arrangements of Cohen’s legendary ballads long after she returns home Down Under. I spoke with her last week and asked about the recordings….

You’ve just completed recording your new EP, TEA AND ORANGES, containing 4 tracks from your Leonard Cohen Koans project – tell us about the experience of working in-studio on your own project? It was wonderful – the musicians on the album have been playing this show with us for a long time. Bassist Michael Galeazzi has played with Daryl and me since the inception of the show, backing vocalist Gerard Carroll joined in 2011, and Michael Quigley (Quigs) started playing drums and percussion with us in 2016. There’s a kind of shorthand when you play with people for a long time and we recorded the entire EP in 5 hours!

recordings are done!

recordings are done!

I wanted the recording to carry the vibe of our live show, and so we recorded live in one room together with Sean Carey at Church Street Studios in Camperdown, Sydney. That’s the way it used to be back in the day – big bands, everything….I LOVE that, and Sean helped make that happen. I hope you’ll come see & hear for yourselves at Hugh’s Room in Toronto on June 2nd

Sean Carey

Sean Carey

Our arrangements are quite dynamic which made for a few obstacles, but everyone was on their A-game. I had a quick listen with Sean in the booth after the recording session – he’d just given a quick general mix and I couldn’t believe how he made it work so beautifully. And I must give a huge shout out to Sean Carey and the team at Church Street Studios for their recent Emmy Award win – they won in the category of outstanding sound mixing on a preschool animation on Beat Bugs.

Engineer Sean Carey and assistant Matt getting the bass mic'd for Michael Galeazzi

Engineer Sean Carey and assistant Matt getting the bass mic’d for Michael Galeazzi

The musicians who recorded with you – have you worked with them before and what did they bring to the recording sessions?   Yes, we’ve played together for a long time; they’re all incredible musicians with many other beautiful projects. I love playing with them, and I’m so lucky they always say yes when I call :>)  Every time we play Leonard Cohen Koans we find a new depth, especially in Suzanne where we open out into quite a free rave in the second half. This recording was no different – the sensitivity and the boldness of these musicians is extraordinary.
Michael Galeazzi is a member of the ARIA* award winning Karma County and played on Indigenous Australian legend Jimmy Little’s ARIA award winning album, Messenger. He and Michael Quigley have a super long history together playing in APRA nominated jazz outfit Java Quartet and Quigs is involved with Australian/Japanese experimental project Enough to Escape; Gerard Carroll is a highly talented vocalist and actor with a long theatre credit list including on the Australian cast of Once directed by Tony Award winning director John Tiffany, as well as recording and touring with Keegan Joyce on Snow on Higher Ground; and the spectacular Daryl Wallis‘ vastly varied career includes playing piano for Barrie Kosky’s Women of Troy as well as being an integral player in CIRCA’s regional Australian piano based verbatim storytelling show, Reclaimed Pianos.
*Australian Recording Industry Association music awards

Michael Galeazzi

Michael Galeazzi

Gerard Carroll

Gerard Carroll

Michael Quigley

Michael Quigley

Did you have a personal hand in the production process or did you relinquish full control to your producer/engineer?   Daryl and I had a very strong vision for the recording, and Sean’s sensitivity and clarity helped to enhance it beyond what I thought was possible.

Ali's long-time collaborator Daryl Willis

Ali’s long-time collaborator Daryl Wallis

Why “Tea and Oranges” – where did that title come from?   The reference to ‘tea & oranges’ is from the first verse of SUZANNE – he’s observing and feeling at the same time, and his description of her feeding him tea & oranges is one of the divine in the ordinary….exquisite.

Will “Tea and Oranges” be available for sale at your Toronto performance, June 2nd?    Yes! CDs will be on sale for $15 and I’ll be around after the show to say hi and autograph copies.cd coverLEONARD COHEN KOANS – presented by Jane Siberry
Sunday June 2 @ 8:30pm
HUGH’S ROOM, 2261 Dundas St West, Toronto
www.hughsroomlive.com
Tkts: $40 advance / $45 at the doorToronto poster

LEONARD COHEN KOANS – 1 night only with Australia’s ALI HUGHES, presented by JANE SIBERRY

I’m thrilled to announce that Australian vocalist/recording artist ALI HUGHES is bringing her inspiring celebration of the spirit, music and poetry of one of the greatest songwriters of the modern age to Toronto for a 1-night only performance:  LEONARD COHEN KOANS, presented by Jane Siberry, takes the stage at Hugh’s Room, 2261 Dundas St West, Toronto, on Sunday June 2nd (8:30pm)

This passionate, sensuous vocalist “more than embodies the energy that one expects from an evening celebrating Cohen”, her startling range and remarkable ability to hold the stage meeting this exceptionally well-crafted curation of Cohen’s poetry, prose and song – Avalanche, Chelsea Hotel #2, and the beloved Suzanne – to offer a stirring meditation on the legend and his legacy.AliHughes-Triad1128181(42)__.jpgPart-concert and part-homage, these exciting and original interpretations explore Cohen’s music through jazz, gospel and rock genres, cracking wide open the incredible musicality in his work. Intertwined with excerpts of poetry and prose, and delivered through the lens of his Zen Buddhist spirituality LEONARD COHEN KOANS weaves a new pathway into your experience of this glorious Poet of the Holy Sinners. Accompanied by masterful Toronto pianist ADREAN FARRUGIA, this electrifying, vigorous 90min narrative concert is Cohen like you’ve never heard before. Inspiring, passionate, intimate and sincere, Leonard Cohen Koans gives you another chance to savour the creative spirit with which he so exquisitely courted the world.

I recently spoke with Ali back home in Sydney, Australia, about the show and her career highlights as she prepares her 4-track EP featuring songs from the show (available for purchase on show night)…..

What is your musical background or training – were you a singer/performer during childhood or teens? I don’t have formal music training, as such – I learnt to sing via my parents’ record collection!  The Andrews Sisters taught me how to harmonize, Tina Turner taught me rhythm, Bette Midler taught me emotional range, Annie Lennox taught me vibrato control and Aretha taught me to sing out!!arethaI went to drama school in my mid-20s and in my graduating year met my creative collaborator, Daryl Wallis – he is an incredible musician and artistic mind – when we started playing shows together, I was always surrounded by highly skilled, older musicians. That environment really allowed my intuitive musicality to develop.
You’ve performed in Canada before – when/where might we have seen you?  You might have seen me singing backing vocals on tour with Jane Siberry sometime over the last few years; or at Ori Dragan’s lovely 120Diner with my collaborator Daryl Wallis and Toronto locals John Alcorn, Bucky Berger and Terry Wilkins. Daryl and I also played an awesome house concert in The Annexe (hoping to do it again!!) and were super lucky to play in Northern Ontario on the magical Manitoulin Island.ALI_2710So why Leonard Cohen? What was the inspiration for this amazing project?  Actually, this show was built for a project-based unit of university study.  A theatre director friend of mine had suggested I do an interpretation of Suzanne. I sat on it for a long time… waiting for the way in.  In January 2010, I did a creative intensive as part of some further theatre training at university. It was a super intense, incredibly challenging course, held in a remote area, led by a small older woman who had the energy of a dragon and the presence of a Zen master. Every day pushed the students closer to breaking through our self imposed artistic limitations, and every evening ended in an exhilarated exhaustion and deep sleep. One night when I was super exhausted and almost asleep, I started hearing beautiful chords in my mind and realized they were the way into an arrangement of Suzanne! I made notes, called Daryl straight away and we started working on the arrangement as soon as I returned to Sydney. We played the arrangement at a show the following week and I knew something else was coming.LeonardI had the opportunity to do another unit of study with that same teacher. I made the proposal to create a show using only the words and works of one artist (none of my own personal patter, so to speak) and started devouring Cohen’s work. Researching his Zen Buddhist spiritual practice offered an entirely new way for us to conceptualize celebrating his work. The result is a unique experience of Cohen’s work which is accessible to Cohen devotees and newcomers, practitioners and non-practitioners of meditation, and people who just want to hear some really great music.
You’ve sung back-up with some pretty amazing artists (k.d. lang, Suzanne Vega, Rufus Wainwright) so why step into the spotlight now? What was the push that propelled you to take charge up front?  Being up front isn’t really new to me, I’ve always sung lead on projects at the same time as doing backing vocals on others. I love doing both. I love blending with another voice as a backing vocalist. When you’re really connecting energetically and vocally with someone, you feel you’re moving together like a murmuration of starlings.  And leading a room is an altogether different feeling – but has a similar sensibility to it in that, for me, its about opening oneself in order for the music resonate with the audience in all the ways it needs to.
A previous musical collaborator and Canadian icon, Jane Siberry, is presenting your concert – how cool is that? Did she approach you or visa versa?  Ah, my gosh, it’s the coolest. Jane is extraordinary – she is a close friend and such a huge supporter of this show; she saw an opportunity for us to work together in Toronto and she made it happen.Jane-SiberryOf all Cohen’s songs, are there one or two that you can relate to on an emotional level or that inspire you intellectually?  One or two?? Ha! Ok, I’ll try to keep it at one or two. Suzanne – I have a deep resonance with that song. My favourite line, ‘you know that she’s half crazy – that’s why you want to be there’. and, of course, Dance Me to the End of Love – there’s nothing I can say.
What can Toronto audiences expect to see/hear at the Leonard Cohen Koans show?  Audiences can expect to see a tall Australian woman singing some beautifully and dynamically arranged interpretations of Cohen favourites, including Chelsea Hotel #2, Sisters of Mercy, Suzanne and Famous Blue Raincoat, and some less well known tunes like The Guests and The Butcher, interwoven with a little spoken word and some story telling.  Jane Siberry will be performing as our very special guest opening act, and will also be moderating an artist Q&A session with me at the end of the show so make sure you stay for that.on stageAnything you’d like to share with those Leonard Cohen fans considering buying a ticket?  I am so happy you’re thinking of joining us at Hugh’s Room, and I really hope you decide to come along. We are excited to be just moments from releasing a 4 track EP, titled ‘TEA & ORANGES’. It’s our first recording of tunes from the show – you can find information about the EP, Leonard Cohen Koans, and also about Daryl and myself at www.bigsbabs.com or by connecting with us via our Facebook band page, Ali & the Thieves.

Inspiring, passionate, intimate and sincere, LEONARD COHEN KOANS gives you another chance to savour the creative spirit with which he so exquisitely courted the world.

WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:
Heart-stopping” (www.theatermania.com)
Spine-tingling” (SX Magazine)
“… Hands down the best I’ve ever heard!” (nytheater.com).
“…  Sensual, enigmatic… intense warmth, startling range.”  -Veronica Hanlon, SX Magazine
“… Exceptionally well-crafted…3 1/2 stars out of 4 “ – Michael Giltz, Huffington Post NYC

Get your tickets now for Sunday June 2nd from www.HughsRoomLive.com  $40 Advance/$45 at doorposter

INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED FLAUTIST/COMPOSER RON KORB DEBUTS 20th SOLO ALBUM IN TORONTO

Last night (Wed. Oct.17), Grammy-nominated and internationally acclaimed RON KORB delivered a sizzling show from the stage of Toronto’s Jazz Bistro, introducing tracks from his latest solo album, WORLD CAFE, showcasing Latin-themed original instrumentals. Ron was joined on stage by world-renowned musicians who also played on the album: Bill Bridges, Bill Evans, Steve Lucas and Larry Crowe, with special guests Hilario Duran (piano) and Joseph Macerollo (accordion).

That same day, nomination ballots for this year’s Grammy Awards were also distributed to academy members around the world and all fingers are crossed that Ron receives another Grammy nod like his previous album, Asia Beauty.
In World Café, Ron takes us to sunny Spain, the island of Cuba, and the alluring lands of South America where he merges a rhythm from one region with a melody inspired by another. World Café represents a meeting place where people from many cultures can intermingle, laugh and make friends in a relaxed space – much like his own multicultural Toronto where this album was recorded.world cafe final cover   small-450px-72dpiback cover World cafe SMALLThe packed audience at Jazz Bistro swayed to the rhythms and there was a lot of chair dancin’ during the two sets;  the show must have blown up on social media based on all the phone cameras held high to catch the action….like this beautiful accordion solo from Joseph Macerollo…

The evening was hosted by the always-charming Miss Ziggy Lorenc (Zoomer Media) who many in the crowd remembered from her Citytv days – Ziggy now hosts a nightly show during the week on Zoomer Radio AM640 called Stardust and Midnight Blue. Here she is (below, L) with friend Barbara (R) and on stage MC’ing the show.20181017_193227 20181017_205555As for many of Ron’s albums, the cover and accompanying 24-pg full colour booklet was designed by his talented wife, Jade, seen here (below, R) with fans. 20181017_185417 not for publicThis next brief video was hard to shoot – all I wanted to do was dance!! So please pardon my cha-cha-cha moves and enjoy another brief taste of World Café here:

Ron’s final set resulted in multiple encores and lots of CD sales with some audience members purchasing multiple copies as presents for friends and family! 20181017_215339To learn more about Ron, listen to World Café and previous albums, visit www.ronkorb.com or you can download World Café from Spotify, iTunes or Amazon. Thank you for supporting Canadian musical artists.

GRAMMY NOMINATED RON KORB RELEASES 20th SOLO ALBUM “WORLD CAFE” WITH OCT. 17TH CONCERT IN TORONTO

Three years ago, internationally acclaimed flutist & composer Ron Korb‘s album “Asia Beauty” was nominated for a Grammy in the Best New Age Album category. Ron has just released his latest album, “WORLD CAFE”, this time with a distinct Latin flavour, and it has been receiving a lot of attention from international music media as well as fans, and is rising quickly on various music charts. back cover World cafe  smallRon’s previous albums have garnered critical and popular acclaim from around the world; he’s shared many musical journeys, from the wonders and mysteries of Japan and China, to the infectious joy and tender melancholy of Celtic song and dance. For his World Café album, he takes us to sunny Spain, the island of Cuba and the alluring lands of South America. He explores how things sound when crossing a rhythm from one region with a melody inspired by another. All the music is played by living, breathing musicians (no computer generated tunes here!) including renowned award-winning jazz, world and Latin musicians Hilario Duran and Johannes Linstead, with an emphasis on using acoustic instruments.

Here’s a quick taste of World Café …..

I recently sat down and chatted with Ron (fittingly, in a cafe) and asked him a few questions about his music….

With a personal collection of 250 flutes, your reputation as the “king of flutes” is well earned – which instruments did you play on this latest album?  In World Café, the main instrument is my concert flute but I also used some Asian bamboo flutes and the ocarina on some tracks. I was also able to experiment with the Ellis-Korb flute mouthpieces that I’ve been developing with California flute maker Geoffrey Ellis. With the different cuts and various hardwoods we used, I could tailor the sound for each piece. It has been a long 6 year project creating the holy grail of embouchure designs and now Geoffrey and I are very excited about what we‘ve achieved together.DSC02624seasideYour previous album for which you received a Grammy nomination, Asia Beauty, explored Asian musical themes. What made you choose to record this latest album in the Latin style?  World Café has been very well received but it has taken everyone by surprise, especially listeners who have just discovered my music in recent years. Older fans know I’ve already written and performed tunes like Casco Viejo, La Sirena, Desert Night and Dark Eyes. Even back in my student days I often would write tunes that had a Spanish flavour. Latin music is the rhythm of the heart and I had been looking forward to making an upbeat album with a Latin theme for many years. Now when I look at the finished physical CD I can hardly believe it is finally manifested. It’s like a dream come true and I’m very happy with the production and the way it sounds.not for publicHow did you created the music for this album?  For the last decade I have been writing songs with pen and paper. I have books of manuscript paper full of hand written sketches and ideas. When I’m away from home and an idea pops into my head I will just sing the melody or beat box the rhythm on to my phone and transcribe it later. After the musical phrases have had time to ferment, I revisit them and discard the less than brilliant sketches and focus on the melodies that have real magic. Some songs come together very quickly and others take years to find the right contrasting section.  It’s always possible to finish off a song quickly but to write something really special takes a lot of time and effort.

It must be very rewarding to hear the completed album – what was the most enjoyable part of recording World Café?  I would say the most rewarding aspect about making World Café is collaborating with the musicians. It is amazing to hear the songs come alive when you workshop it with a band. In the past, I used midi and computer software quite a lot but since doing my Ron Korb Live album in Quebec in 2004, I gradually transitioned to being completely acoustic. It’s far more expensive to work that way but I prefer the result. Working with legendary Cuban pianist Hilario Duran and guitarist Johannes Linstead was a particular highlight. When I wrote the song Hilario, I didn’t really think that he would record it. Again, this is like another dream come true. After I contacted him, Hilario invited me to his place and I showed him the song. He immediately liked it and suggested some Cuban players to join us on the recording. It was really a thrill to work with such authentic players.

Being so musical, you must play other instruments – which ones?  Concert flute, bass flute, penny whistle, low whistle, shinobue, dizi, xun, bawu, Cambodian pie pook, ocarina. I play piano just enough for composing and songwriting. I also have sung backing and some lead vocals professionally.VIL0_XIw

On October 17th, Ron will be presenting World Café to a live audience for the first time. Performing at Jazz Cafe in Toronto, Ron will be joined on stage by an exciting group of musicians including Bill Evans (L) and Hilario Duran (C) pictured below with Ron.Bill Evans and Hilario DuranWorld Café represents a meeting place where people from many cultures can intermingle, laugh and make friends in a relaxed space – much like Ron’s own multicultural Toronto where this album was recorded.  The album is available thru Ron’s website or via Amazon.ca, iTunes, Spotify & Tidal. Listen online or purchase the gorgeous full-colour hardcover 24pg CD package designed by Ron’s talented wife and photographer, Jade. These will be available at the event, too. Perfect as gifts, as well as for yourself. .

Tickets to the concert as well as Ron’s complete discography are available at: www.ronkorb.com  dRIXZvJw

RON KORB presents WORLD CAFÉ

Wednesday Oct. 17th at 8pm (doors open 7pm)

JAZZ BISTRO, 251 Victoria St, Toronto

Cover: $15 advance from www.ronkorb.com   or $20 at the door

CANADA’S FIRST LADY OF THE GUITAR HOSTS TORONTO CHRISTMAS CONCERT

Over the past 35yrs, I’ve had the honour of attending concerts by (and even actually working with) some of the great music icons – Marvin Gaye, Mel Torme, Rod Stewart, Yanni, 60’s legends Connie Francis & Paul Anka, country stars Reba McEntire, Vince Gill and Clint Black…even my teenage super-crush, The Monkees. This past Saturday night, thanks to an invitation from Grammy-nominated and int’l multiple award-winning Canadian flutist & composer, Ron Korb, I was front and centre for a rare concert by LIONA BOYD, songwriter and classical guitarist extraordinaire! 20171125_214912…and she was in fine form! Here’s Liona with her protege, singer & guitarist Andrew Dolson (above centre) and Ron Korb (right).
Held in the spectacular St. Paul’s Trinity concert hall (below), the Mississauga Children’s Choir opened the show with some beautiful festive songs. Liona is a patron of the choir and it was a lovely start to the night.20171125_18544620171125_193110Sadly, we were instructed not to take any photos during the show, but the 2 sets included some of Ms. Boyd’s greatest hits from previous albums including her Christmas album, A Winter Fantasy, as well as music from her most recent release, No Remedy for Love.winter No+Remedy+for+Love+ALBUM+coverShe was accompanied by Ron on several numbers; he also performed solos from his previous albums. Ron Korb is one of Canada’s pre-eminent recording artists and composers who travels the world playing with some of the greatest symphony orchestras, performing for royalty and international heads of state. To learn more about Ron and hear his music, please visit his website: www.ronkorb.com

As soon as the concert finished and the artists took their bows, the audience was permitted a photo session which, being in the front row, allowed me close-up access to Ms. Boyd and her fellow musicians. Bravo! This was followed by an autograph session where CDs and books were available for sale (great Christmas pressies for music lovers)…20171125_220328 20171125_220534 20171125_220715Earlier this fall, I reviewed Ms. Boyd’s latest memoir, also titled No Remedy for Love, for The Rider newspaper and below is an extract. A great read with lots of juicy stories about Liona’s exciting life on stage and her personal tragedies and triumphs off stage. I definitely recommend the book…not just for music lovers or fans, it is a fabulous story that takes us inside the world of showbiz.

NO REMEDY FOR LOVE
A memoir by Liona Boyd
Dundurn Press (248 pages) $35.00 hardcover
She released her first memoir, In My Own Key, in 1998 which thrilled fans and became a bestseller; now Canada’s classical guitar icon, LIONA BOYD, strikes all the right chords once again with her recently published 2nd memoir, No Remedy for Love. The “First Lady of the Guitar” shares her loves, both romantic and musical, and offers great insight into the heart and mind of a consummate artist. She has performed around the world, sold millions of albums, won five Juno awards, serenaded heads of state and, for eight years, dated Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
We follow the journey of Boyd’s reinvention of her career after a six year period when she couldn’t play guitar due to suffering with the painful Musician’s Focal Dystonia, and we feel her pain when she suffers a serious fall and is alone, screaming for help that she thinks will never come, and are intrigued by her stories of longtime pen-pal Prince Phillip, a friendship that has lasted over 30 years. Her anecdotes are peppered with the names of close personal celebrity friends without any pretension, and the book features charming photos of Liona with Gordon Lightfoot, Ronnie Hawkins, Julio Iglesias, Leonard Cohen, Dan Hill and Pierre Trudeau. At the back of the book, you’ll find selected lyrics to many of Liona’s songs as well as album titles and song listings of her most recent recordings. The perfect gift for the music lover and proud Canadian on your Christmas list!9781459739925 (1)To learn more about Liona Boyd, her tour schedule and music/book sales, please visit: www.lionaboyd.com

A NIGHT OF ROCK LEGENDS PRESENTED BY BEST TRIBUTE BANDS IN CANADA

Rockers, and bluesmen and guitarists, oh my! What an amazing line-up of talented musicians I witnessed this past Saturday out in Oshawa for the first annual Durham Rock Tribute Band Festival presented by Sunrise Concerts and sponsored by local radio station CKDO-FM.

The roster included some of the best musicians I’ve seen play live, let alone their tribute material performed to perfection. The fans showed their appreciation with loud applause, screams and the occasional rebel yell after each hit and the bands gave back even more energy. So, now please meet my newest fave bands….

First on stage was SOUTHERN FRIED who performed the hits of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band.

Then we had THE SRV EXPERIENCE with Dave Ryan out front channeling the virtuoso guitar playing of Stevie Ray Vaughan…

Then Gator James and his band BAD TO THE BONE brought George Thorogood to the festival stage….

One of my fave 80’s bands, Bon Jovi, was manifested by BON JOVI FOREVER and lots of ladies quickly hit the dancefloor…

To close the evening, AC/DC’s best interpreters THUNDERSTRUCK hit the stage and blew the roof off. For me, my Aussie connection to AC/DC made this a very special performance [Angus Young’s brother, George, was a founding member of legendary 60’s Oz band, The Easybeats…and I still have my 45’s from back them].

Big thanks to MC for the night KENNY ROBINSON (pictured below) who did a heroic job of keeping the show flowing – so tough for a comedian to work to a crowd seated waaaay back behind the dancefloor, but Kenny was in good humour all night (and got me home to Toronto by 3am!)20170916_190158Congratulations to local promoter George Kotsopoulos (pictured below left, with Kenny in the lobby of Gen’l Sikorski Hall) for staging this festival.20170916_191905And a nice thank-you to the lovely ladies from TicketPro.ca who started everyone’s night off with big smiles and a friendly welcome!20170916_205100(0)Thanks again to all the great musicians who contributed to a successful first-time festival…see you all next year!20170916_181643 20170916_181649 20170916_193826 20170916_210044 20170916_232550 20170917_001501