Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Last Tuesday, I caught the first of four performances of Fern Lindzon’s residency at the Rex Hotel with her stellar quartet of veteran Toronto jazz musicians, going through a cross cultural exploration of styles, idioms, and songs that crisscross through the world and back.   It was an evening where there were moments that swung hard, moments of exploration, and moments of tight exotic grooves that get your feet tapping to a different beat.

The evening started with a straight-ahead reading of the standard “I Thought About You”, featuring Fern on vocals and piano.    Her vocal reading was full of clear diction and precision, and her piano accompaniment was tasteful and complementary for both the band members and her voice.    There were even fine solo spots by tenor saxophonist Chris Gale, bass player Ross MacIntyre, and drummer Nick Fraser before closing off the song.   It was a great, swinging way to open out the night.

Lindzon’s composition “All Fall Down” is a groovy, Latin-infused take on the chord changes to “Autumn Leaves”, with an intriguing melody and a tight rhythmic pulse.   Basin Street Blues shows off the bluesy, soulful side of Lindzon with a reading that is mellow and full of feeling.   

Along with the standards and compositions performed, Lindzon manages in her performance to include international repertoire from various parts of the world, and bring her own spin to the material.    One of the highlights of the night was her take on Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro”, with a Brazilian beat backdrop that is full of life and is intoxicatingly groovy at the same time.   Kudos to drummer Nick Fraser for setting up the rhythmic groove so tightly and so succinctly that it made me want to get up and dance at times.    She even took us to France with a reading of the great French composer Michel Legrand’s “The Windmills of Your Mind”, which was moody and soul searching through its lyrical reading and melodic playing.    To close off the night, it was back to Brazil with a spirited reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Two Kites”.   

Lindzon and her stellar quartet took me in two hours to various parts of the world and back, while maintaining the essence of swing, groove, feeling and soul as the foundation for their explorations.   Her performance showed that jazz fused with these cultural influences ensures its freshness and vitality in the ever-changing tastes of music today.   With two albums out, and her latest being nominated for a JUNO (Two Kites), I am looking forward to see what lies ahead for Ms. Lindzon as she fuses jazz and world music into new exotic masterpieces.


Sunday, November 10, 2013


Before opening night, I decided to check out the sneak peak performance of a new play written by one of my new friends.    The play:  Point No Point.

“Point No Point” has got to be one of the most emotionally intense and gripping plays that I have seen in a while.   Yes, the subject matter at times can be disturbing, but after moving beyond the subject matter this was a play that goes very deep on many levels to the point where I was captivated beyond my imagination.

This play is about two lovers, Susan (played by Mylene Dinh-Robic) and Scott (played by Noah Davis).   As a couple, they have a very exciting relationship, but before they want to go forward, they must come to terms with the personal demons that they were facing in the past before getting into marriage, or will they get into marriage?

First off the bat, the acting between the two lead characters is some of the finest acting that I have encountered in a new production.   I believed in the characters.   I felt with the characters.  I even literally was transferred from the seat of my theatre into the sofa of their living room, enthralled by what goes on in one’s house and bedroom.   As a result, I was literally invited into the comfort of their own home, even their bedroom, and didn’t want to leave.

I was even drawn by the intensity the actors portrayed in the play.   It was suspenseful and edge grabbing without the need of gory visuals and effects.   Deconstructing a relationship can be a suspense story all in itself, wondering if it is going to end well or bring a cliffhanger that gets me guessing.  

At the same time, this play looks effectively into how different sexes handle various issues that they face in their past and their courage to come up front with such issues.   Susan’s character was one that needed a protector, one who will comfort and get her through the ordeal well.   Scott was one who was the typical macho character.  He wanted to bottle up his emotions, feelings and his past, showing that he can pull throughout without any need of help but his own.   Such juxtapositions were well executed and highlighted in this production.

Do yourself a favour.  Run, don’t walk, to see this show.    If you can handle the subject matter and go beyond, it is an excellent character study that is worthy to be explored.   The acting and direction is excellent, and I was literally on the edge of my seat and this wasn’t a suspense movie.   Noah Davis is an excellent playwright and should even consider having it picked up for a national release or better yet to be on Broadway.   I am really wishing the best of success on its run and looking forward to what Noah Davis and company is going to pull out in the years to come.  

Chainsaw Theatre Web Site:

(David Tompa, Me, Carli Davis, Noah Davis and Mylene Dinh-Robic)

Saturday, November 9, 2013


On Saturday, November 2nd, I was transported to the sounds and culture of Southern Italy through music performed by both the Vesuvius Ensemble and The Sicilian Jazz Project.   It was an eclectic mix of styles ranging from folk, classical, funk, jazz and even Latin forms, creating a picture of not only the richness found in Southern Italian music but in the cultural diversity of Canada and its many cultural backgrounds.

The first half of the program was a primarily folk/classical program lead by the Vesuvius ensemble.   The ensemble is unique for its use of voice, exotic instruments (chittara battente, chittarone and chittara barocca, tamburelli and colascione) and spirited performances of classic Sicilian/Southern Italian repertoire.    The tenor voice of Francesco Pellegrino brings a very authentic and operatic quality to the music, and even Romina Di Gasbarro takes some very spirited turns singing classical Sicilian repertoire amidst a backdrop of unique acoustic instruments.

The second half of the program was devoted to the Sicilian Jazz project, which took traditional and original Sicilian music into various stylistic directions.   As the opening of the second half started slow and atmospheric through the song “Cantu di Carrittierre”, the mood starts to pick up through songs such as the funk-jam “Jolla”, the romantic, bossa-nova influenced duet “Nun ti Lassu”, and the rousing closing number “Vitti “na Crozza”.  

Whereas the first half took a folk/classical approach to Sicilian music, Michael Occhipinti’s project fuses a lot of elements ranging from Middle Eastern music, rock music, down-home funk and straight ahead jazz at times.    Michael Occhipinti is known to be a world fusion artist, transforming unlikely material into jazz and contemporary fare.    

With the performances of both bands, it was a taste of both “La Dolce Vita” and “O Sole Mio” on a cool Saturday night in November.    For a couple of hours I felt I was in Southern Italy taking in the warm temperatures, spirited music, and the vibrant cultural scene.    



(Michael Occhipinti)

(The Sicilian Jazz Project.   Photo By Frank Nagy)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


In May of 2013, Toronto Star reported about a video showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack with a bunch of gang members in Etobicoke.    At the time of these allegations, Rob Ford denied to the public that he smoked crack.   

Fast forward to October 2013.    Police Chief Bill Blair told the press that they have obtained the infamous “crack” video and is now in the courts for investigation.    Mayor Ford still held his ground and not only flatly denied again about the crack allegations, but wanted the video to be seen to the public.   

Within a week of such speculation and media hype, the gauntlet came down on November 5th, 2013 when Mayor Ford admitted to the media that he has smoked crack cocaine “in a drunken stupor”.     His admission alone heightened calls for resignation or to take a leave of absence to sort out his problems.   Instead, he vows to still remain in office until October of 2014 when he feels Toronto will decide if they still want him as mayor or not in a democratic election.

While this story unfolds, it reminds me of the classic Bible story of Jesus when he was confronted by a woman caught in adultery.    The religious people of his day asked Jesus if she should be stoned.   To make a long story short, he was writing on the ground, and after he wrote made a call to the crowd:  “He who is without sin among you cast the first stone”(John 8:7).    One by one the crowd dropped the stones and walked away, being pierced themselves of their own personal sin.

In John 8:10-11, Jesus turns to the woman and asked her where are her accusers.   The woman replied “none”.    Afterwards, Jesus forgives her of her sin and commissions her to live her life free from sin.

It is amazing that as Rob Ford confessed his sin and vowed to never go through this again, the public is calling for his head, not realizing that we are ALL sinners with checkered pasts.     Rob Ford’s situation should be seen by those as an example of how sinful, wretched we are without God’s grace.     The event should also be seen as a contemporary example of public admission of confession, guilt, repentance, and the will to make restitution for what he has done wrong.    

Instead of being quick to judge, criticize, and satirize his shortcomings, now is the time for all of us to take a good look at ourselves and observe the true human condition of our souls and look to God for help.    For those reading who profess a saving faith in Christ, this is also a time to pray for Rob Ford and our leaders like never before and pray for wisdom and strength in the days ahead.    As the apostle Paul stated, “For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).  

The “crack scandal” shows everyone, that if there is sin at the camp, it needs to be dealt with.    We can’t cover up, hide, or conceal sin because it will all come out at the dark and God knows everything.    The courageous thing to do is to do what Rob Ford did and admit his wrongs.    Once we admit our sins toward God and others, there will be healing (James 5:16).    For those that believe in God, try not to be cynical but pray for Rob Ford and our leaders.   For those that do not believe in God yet, realize that you and I have sinned before a great God and seek out his forgiveness while there is still time.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


On October 29th, 2013, a week before he releases his debut CD "Into the Dark" for the public (see October 31st post for the review), I sat with David Rubel for an intimate one-on-one interview in which we talk from everything regarding education, musical influences, how he got into music and of course his new album.

For those wanting to catch the David Rubel CD Release party, here is the information on where its at:

9 PM

Enjoy the interview!!!


Into The Dark
David Rubel

Young saxophonist, composer and educator David Rubel’s first CD is a very melodic, spacious take on jazz that hearkens to the records produced by the ECM label.    On all of his compositions he takes the music on a more relaxed, ethereal pace where the music breathes and the melody is allowed to soar and touch listeners.

The opening track, “Into the Dark”, is a fierce, lightly funky 7/4 groove that opens the disc on one of its intense, high energy moments before it gets into its ECM territory.   Among my favourite tracks is the melancholic “Abandon All Hope”, which is a moving ballad reminiscent of Joshua Redman and “Ever”, which is a 5/4 composition that ends on a hopeful, sprightly note.  

Rubel’s choice of rhythm players shows his innate sense of simpatico and connection between the players, which effectively comes out within the music.   Rubel’s tone and playing throughout the album is full of emotion, soul, and passion, and his compositions are so accessible that even casual listeners can find something to like in this album.    Winston Matsushita, the piano player, shows off his classically trained chops very well in this record through his solos and empathetic comping behind the saxophonist.   Bassist Malcolm Connor keeps perfect rhythm and time plus takes in a few moving solos on tracks such as “Penchance to Dream”.   Robin Claxton displays sensitivity and complimentary playing on the album, showing his musical chops versus the rhythmic prowess common among various drummers.

All in all, “Into the Dark” is a fine debut from a fine set of young musicians that warrants repeated and careful listenings time and time again.