Saturday, January 31, 2015


Hailing from Regina Saskatchewan but now calling Toronto his home, drummer and composer Chris Wallace leads a stellar quartet of musicians creatively playing tried tested and true standards to an attentive audience at the Pilot Tavern.

From the get go, the ensemble of Wallace, bassist Ross MacIntyre, pianist Adrean Farrugia and saxophonist David French takes on the classic material with such poise and aplomb that it really sounds like they are a working unit going on for a few years (Wallace moved to Toronto in late 2013). 

By the time I came in, they did a rousing, blues number called Whims of Chambers that swung, is full of energy, and a piano solo by Adrean that is full of life, intensity and energy that he had at one point ran out of notes to fully express what he was conveying.     After the hotness of the blues, things cooled down with Sam River’s “Beatrice”, delivered romantically and textually by saxophonist David French with ample support from the fellow musicians.   

The first set ended with two of Monk’s enduring compositions, “Rhythm a Ning” and “Think of One”.    The former brought back the intense swing and finesse displayed throughout the group while the latter took Monk’s tune and did a nice Latin arrangement to the piece.   It really shows that Monk’s enduring compositions and music can be easily adaptable and interpreted in many ways, a mark of sheer brilliance and timelessness.   The quartet simply added to this legacy through its respect and inventiveness of the Monk tunes.

The rhythm tandem of Chris and Ross was very solid, in the pocket, and at times very creative and tempo bending at times.    Chris is a very creative drummer with a lot of colours and touches with his drum kit, and Ross is a reliable bass player who keeps times with some touches of creativity thrown in.

In all respects, a nice way to spend a casual Saturday afternoon at a great listening spot in Toronto.


(From Left:   Adrean Farrugia, Ross Macintyre, Chris Wallace, and David French)


For a good cure of the winter blues, I decided to spend a nice cozy evening listening to some jazz from current University of Toronto music students.   

The trio, consisting of vocalist Ariel Shetzen, pianist Jacob Thompson, and bassist Chris Brinton, performed an excellent program of standards that show diversity, range, uniqueness and class from start to finish.

The trio digs right away with a rousing blues called “Centerpiece”, where from the get go the trio is locked into a heavy groove and all of the musicians are having a great time with the source material.   Ariel’s performance echoes soulfulness and creativity through her diction, delivery, and scatting; Jacob’s performance was thundering and full of wonder (even adding grunts a la Oscar Peterson and Keith Jarrett to really dig and feel the music); Chris’ timekeeping is impeccable plus a tasty bass solo to top things off.

The standard “Day by Day” swings easily and blithely without stopping or letting go of emotion; the ballad feature “Dreamsville” is performed just how the title suggests: dream-like and treating the performance like an expressive story.  The ballad medley has taken three of the most beloved ballad melodies (“My Foolish Heart”, “Detour Ahead”, and “The Very Thought of You”) and the trio takes it with such maturity, poise and respect that is just highly remarkable in their young lives; by the closing number “Beautiful Love”, the trio showed its true simpatico, was clearly an in-sync unit, and they absolutely had a great time and sheer enthusiasm with the choice material.

A great night of straight ahead, swinging jazz produced by great up-and-coming talent shows that the future of jazz is surely bright and has no signs of slowing down.

(From Left:  Jacob Thompson, Ariel Shetzen, Chris Brinton)

Friday, January 30, 2015


4 out of 5 Stars

Straight out of Oshawa Ontario, the band “Mellowkotzen” presents 10 tracks in which could be classified as sophisticated, grown up pop-rock-jazz with a slight edge.

Through exotic instruments such as ukulele, saxophones, flutes, double bass and organ, it provides the back drop for the lead vocalist to soar mightily through her soulful expressions on topics covering bullying, angst, relationships, and good times.  There are moments where there is a good party vibe (the opening number “Bottomless” and “Lobster”), to the torch song soulfulness bringing in angst and seriousness to the performance (I Can’t Swim).   

For a young band, their first album is one in which I would classify it as “beyond category”.    It has the old fashioned feel of a jazz record, but it is not jazz.   The vocals and songs are radio length, but don’t fit the confines of the synthetic popular music sound.    For this alone, this is probably one of the most creative genre-bending records I have heard, with its tight, succinct arrangements, strong lead vocals, and great use of unique instrumentation that gives it an old school feel yet updating it for the 21st century.   “Under Water Melon” is a very strong debut with cool new sounds from beginning to end.


Friday, January 23, 2015




“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?   Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” – Mark 8:36-37

“And Jesus looked round about, and said unto His disciples, ‘How hardly shall they who have riches enter into the Kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were astonished at his words.   But Jesus answered again, and said unto them, ‘Children, how hard is it for them who trust in riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.’  And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, ‘Who then can be saved?’ And Jesus Looking upon them said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God, for with God all things are possible.’”- Mark 10:23-27


This week in the news, it was reported that by the year 2016, the richest 1% of the world’s population would have control over 50% of the world’s wealth.   In other words, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and there is fear of greater economic disparities between the haves and have not’s.

From the above video of Kevin O’Leary (saying it’s “fantastic” news) and Amanda Lang discussing the seriousness of the issue, my attention has to be turned to the callous response of Kevin O’Leary and the many rich who think it is fantastic news that they are the one’s that “rule the world”.   

Looking at the two passages outlined in the gospel of Mark, I feel that if Kevin O’Leary and the rich were to encounter Jesus, they would have a hard time letting go of their wealth, power, and prestige because it has become their God and master.   On the outside they may have it all together, but deep down there is a spiritual bankruptcy that leads to pure death and eternal destruction.   The heart of man is so sinful and so bound for separation for God that no amount of money can buy your way into salvation and into God’s heaven unless righteousness and true justice is served.

Earlier, when the rich man came to Jesus, he told Jesus that hey obeyed the commandments as a little boy, thinking that he’s earned his way to everlasting life.  But when Jesus prodded at the real God of his heart, his wealth, the real tragedy is that he wouldn’t let it go for true riches and true life in Christ.    Grace, good favour, and true spiritual riches can only be maintained by realizing your spiritual bankruptcy before God and allowing Jesus and Jesus alone to fix the problem.   When that is fixed, one is truly free from being bound by worldly possessions, pleasures, issues, and bondages and is free to enjoy the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, meekness, goodness, self control, temperance, longsuffering and faith) from this life and in the new life to come.   

From personal experience, I’m not famous, I don’t make a lot of money, and I don’t live in the richest neighbourhood in the city or have a cushy career.   What I have is my faith in God, my relationships in others, and my ministry of servitude to God and to others.   For that, I can truly say that I am rich and in need of nothing from this world, and that I get all of my help and sustenance from God.

So, are you spiritually rich, or spiritually bankrupt?   The choice is yours.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Diane Roblin
Independent, 2014
5 out of 5 Stars

After a long hiatus from music, Diane Roblin comes back to her first love with her stellar debut album of all original compositions.   

Her compositions mix funk, straight ahead, classical and free jazz into a pot-pourri of soul expression.   Her style echoes influences of pianists such as Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver and (when playing free) Cecil Taylor.   Along the way, her supportive team of saxophonist Jeff King, guitarist Howard Spring, bassist Russ Boswell and drummer Roger Travassos contribute concise and musical solos and support along the way to make this record a very passionate artistic statement.

This is a jazz album with something for everyone, at a pace that is not too tedious and laborious.   You can dance, bop, groove, and tap your feet to her songs and be dazzled at the artistic abilities that this fine artist has to offer.   After coming from a tragic experience with the loss of her husband, Diane Roblin’s album proves that music is the real healing tonic to keep one’s soul moving and to allow one’s beloved memory keep fresh and alive (as evidenced in the composition “Tune for Fraser”, dedicated to her late husband).

‘Reconnect’ is by far one of the best, concise, and accessible independent jazz albums of 2014 that is sure to win new fans young and old alike.