Monday, September 30, 2013


Being born in the most wonderful country in the world to black Jamaican immigrant parents, I am thankful to God every day that I am a free citizen of Canada.   I can be whoever I want to be, and be friends with the whole world at my doorstep.

When I hear that there are “citizens” living in Canada who would not officialize their citizen ship, it saddens me to the point of disbelief and bewilderment.   Why would anyone risking everything including their lives want to come to a country that has so much opportunity yet in turn they don’t want to be a participating citizen?  That is the puzzling question.

One of the reasons that I want to comment on is the fact that there are people who won’t become citizens because they have to pledge allegiance to the Queen.  That alone must be one of the stupidest, brain-dead excuses for not being a Canadian.  If that is the case, then what the hell are you doing here?   You came to Canada, pledge to the Queen buster for the sake of your freedom, rights, and benefits in this great land.

That is what I am exactly saying to Charles Roach, who lived for fifty-six years in Canada but will not become a citizen as a result of pledging allegiance to the monarchy.   He would even go so far as to fight the constitution to remove the monarchy from being pledged for Canadian citizenship.  He is basing this on the fact that the monarchy is responsible for such racist, oppressive and imperialistic policies throughout history.

No system is a perfect system, but the monarchy is vital to Canada having its distinct identity from another threat to our cultural significance, Americanization.   He may have his opinion, but don’t come to Canada if you have a problem with the monarchy.   The monarchy is what makes this country a vital force in the world stage and cultural identity.


On a cool fall Monday night, I capped off the day by hearing modern big band sounds from the Toronto Composers Collective Big Band, headed by trombonist and bandleader Christian Overton.

The band is comprised of young jazz musicians who play compositions written by themselves or members of the local jazz community, showcasing a wealth of talent and body of work that is worthy of mass exposure.     Through playing their original compositions and arrangements, it brings a fresh new perspective to the big band sound, paralleled by bands headed by Jim McNeely, Gil Evans, Thad Jones and Rob McConnell.

Among the highlights of the band’s performance was a brief but exhilarating swinging opener called “Four More To Go” by local saxophonist Allison Au (featuring Paul Metcalfe on tenor sax), the breathtaking, lilting dance of Shrinatha Beddage’s “Danushka’s Dance” with an exhillarating solo by Marcus Ali on soprano sax as well as Todd Pentney on piano, and the multi-faceted composition by Christian Overton called Green Black and Brown which shifts from Latin, jungle music, and right into contemporary rock alongside a bluesy guitar solo by Eric Patterson.

The band was later joined by vocalist Maya Killtron to close off the set with arrangements of popular hits.   Among the highlights is the timeless take on the Billy Strayhorn classic “Lush Life and a rousing take on Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope”, bringing a sense of high energy and funk into the big band mix.

Overall, a great presentation of forward thinking music from a forward thinking band that has a lot going for them in the future.    

Friday, September 27, 2013


On a cool fall Thursday evening on September 26th, I decided to head down to the Rex to catch a very special initiative that is happening in the jazz community in Toronto.    It is the celebration of a new web site and online community called “Toronto Jazz Central”, headed by Josh Grossman, artistic director of the Toronto Jazz Festival and conductor of the Toronto Jazz Orchestra.

The evening was filled with musicians, club owners, educators and fans of jazz music, kicking off what could be a very promising future for jazz in Toronto, Canada, and the entire world.    Toronto Jazz Central was formed “to support and advocate the jazz community of Toronto, while growing an audience locally, nationally, and internationally”, says Grossman.    Josh Grossman also states that Toronto Jazz Central is a community that is “non-partisan”, “non-profit”, and “egalitarian”, fostering a sense of connectivity and community through this new initiative.

According to Josh Grossman, Toronto Jazz Central was modeled after the success of two sites located in New York and Boston, which are Search and Restore and Jazz Boston respectively.  

The website, which will be launching in December of 2013, consists of three level tiers of memberships which people can sign up for.   General fans can pay $25 for a year and be able to cast a vote, get free access to concerts, be notified of listings, and access profiles of jazz musicians.   Musicians pay $25 but they get the bonus of uploading music, video, pictures, and gig listings to further promote their work and craft to a huge global online audience.   Industry professionals pay $100 for the year.

The musical entertainment was none other than a superlative duo consisting of Kirk MacDonald and Pat Labarbera, two tenor saxophonists who are at the top of their game and bringing the history of John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins to Canadian audiences.   They were later joined by pianist Bernie Senensky for a great take on “On Green Dolphin Street”.  

For further information and to sign up, go to




Tuesday, September 24, 2013


In celebration of their new CD “Towns and Villages”, the Nick Fraser Quartet played their brand of avant-garde jazz to a packed house.   For me, it is encouraging that a crowd is coming out to hear creative jazz music performed at the highest level.

Nick Fraser, at such a young age, is one of the most creative drummers and composers working in the Canadian jazz scene.   He treats the drums as an orchestral palette of textures, hues and colours, not just for the sake of keeping time.   He recalls the great Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, and even more avant-garde jazz drummers like Rasheid Ali and Andrew Cyrille.  

Nick’s compositions are well structured, put together, while at the same time creating emotional dynamics that enthrall the listener.   One moment the music becomes tranquil and peaceful, the next moment the music becomes intense and volcanic.  

A word about the supporting musicians:

Cellist Andrew Downing proves time and time again why he is a force to be reckoned with on his instrument.   He plays the cello with such passion, soul and heart, elevating the music into one which is about feeling the moment, not just going through the emotions.

Saxophonist Tony Malaby plays with such fire and passion that it bring excitement into the complex music.    Bassist Rob Clutton plays such effective contrapunctal lines and freeing up the time so that the music breathes and comes to life on its own.

This ensemble ranks right on par with groups lead by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton.    Nick’s music is not one for casual listening or for those wanting background music.   But for those that have ears to hear and want to be challenge, this is a band to watch out for.   


(FROM LEFT:  Andrew Downing, Rob Clutton, Nick Fraser, Tony Malaby)

Monday, September 23, 2013


On a cool Friday evening, I was treated to the sounds of tenor saxophonist Chris Gale and his wonderful quartet, serving up a dish of swinging, soulful tunes from start to finish.    One of my favourite local musicians, Chris Gale brings to mind musicians of the past, such as John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, Lester Young, and Ben Webster to name a few.   He takes these influences and in turn creates his own unique voice that enchants and enthralls the audience, craving and thirsting for more.

His backup band is made up of some of the youngest, finest musicians to grace Toronto’s stages in a long while.    Pianist Amanda Tosoff comps magnificently and brings coherency and cohesiveness in her solos.   Jon Maharaj keeps a solid, firm foundation with his timekeeping and creative bass work.   Morgan Childs happens to be one of my all time favourite Canadian drummers because he knows how to swing and he is the closest thing to Art Blakey that Canada would ever see.    He’s younger than me but there is a bright future ahead of him.

The program consisted of primarily the work of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, evidenced through the calypso swing of “Angelica”, the melancholy mood of “Isfahan”, and the jump and jive swing of “Johnny Come Lately”.    Yet one of the highlights for me is their take on one of my favourite bebop classic numbers, “Bolivia” by the recently departed Cedar Walton.   It’s an infectious, swinging groove that builds momentum and never lets up until the end.

Overall, a refreshing, swinging set of straight-ahead jazz by four great musicians at the top of their game.