Wednesday, June 24, 2015


From its inception, jazz has been a unique musical language that has the ability to cross cultures, genres, generations, and gaps that transcend the ideas of time and space.   Over the years we have seen jazz journey from ragtime, smoky boogie-woogie, swing, bebop, cool, modal, avant-garde, and jazz modernism.  There are many cross pollinated idioms now in jazz, and many artists interested in exploring various facets of this rich lineage.

Trinidadian born multiple award-winning trumpet player Brownman Ali (recently nominated for a 2015 Black Canadian Award for “Jazz Artist of the Year”) is precisely one of those artists invested in crossing all boundaries while staying true to the aesthetic spirit of jazz music.    In what was one of his fourteen appearances at the Toronto Jazz Festival, Brownman does something way out of the ordinary in this performance pulling together a unique trio that featured acoustic piano, synthesizer and trumpet with effects.  They took on standard American Songbook repertoire while delving into the ethereal regions of the 21st century.

Accompanying Brown’s quest into the unknown is the  dependable, consistent, and grounded acoustic pianist David Restivo (5x winner of the National Jazz Award for “piano player of the year”), and appearing on synthesizers is a young, fresh and invigorating 24 year old pianist and composer named Nick MacLean.  Nick is definitely an artist to look out for who has an intelligent, firm grasp of jazz music coupled with a strong theoretical, conceptual approach to his playing, improvising, and composing.  His work on synth is adept, bringing interplay, bass lines, and rhythmic counterpoint between trumpeter and the pianist.   Dave brings a rich harmonic language to the trio that roots itself in the tradition while taking it into the future.   And Brown – grounding everything -  is his usual dark-toned adventurous, exploratory self, knowing exactly how to employ highly developed techniques of control and release that engage both musicians and audiences alike as he takes us all on his explorative improvisational journeys.

Brownman is at Musideum once a month doing his Brownman+1 sessions.  If you ever manage to catch a “plus”, you will be in for a real musical treat.   Expect the unexpected, release your inhibitions, and allow Brown and his chosen musical partners to take you on a roller coaster ride to the moon and back with his always eclectic and electric approach to jazz improvisation.






Dear Josh,

I bid you greetings, peace and joy in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

First off, I just want to be the one to say thanks for your honesty, boldness, courage, and the tact to admit of your sin and seeking the steps necessary to achieve forgiveness, redemption and restitution.   You are a living example to what the gospel message ought to be, if everyone acknowledges the content and the meaning that has the ability to transform lives.

From what I gather about you Josh, you are a person that is full of vision, integrity, and has a cause worth fighting and standing for.    At the same time, despite a scandal that has rocked your family, you didn’t deny, lie or back down in the face of accusation or opposition.   You took charge, you faced that Goliath hands down, and I must say that because of this you have the markings of a REAL godly man.

I was criticized for taking the road less travelled and Biblically received you as a Christian back to fellowship and in God’s good standing after your ordeal.   Again, what you and your family went through is NOT a race issue.   It is simply an issue about one’s integrity and character and from how you handled it, you passed with flying colours.

Now may the God of peace be with you, time and time again,

Conrad Gayle.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


From 9 on the dot until just after 11, I probably witnessed and experienced one of the most electric, mind-blowing, and otherworldly concert experiences in the many years I have attended this festival.   The concert happens to be the Parliament/Funkadelic collective led by the brilliant mastermind of singer, songwriter and producer George Clinton.

The entire night was probably a complete and utter smorgasbord of various musical styles and genres rolled into an atmosphere that was made to dance, groove, make friends, and for me maybe the only time I experience a club like atmosphere while going home at a decent time.  

The band started off with a blend of hip-hop and heavy metal, then rolled into deep cuts of funk with hits such as “One Nation Under A Groove” and “Tear the Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk)”.   Especially the latter, when the song was sung and played, everybody sung in unison and grooved at the same time.   It was also significant since that was the music of my childhood growing up.   It was my pop music.   In those days pop music had a lot of quality, polish, and substance, something that pop producers and musicians of today could definitely seek to benefit from.

Overall, the free Parliament/Funkadelic show was one of the most illest, dope concerts I have ever been to in my life, and it was a great way to kick off the jazz festival.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Another millennial saxophone player that is making a huge splash in the Toronto jazz scene and beyond is alto saxophonist Jake Koffman.

Jake, whom not only went to Humber College to study jazz performance, also shares a unique historic connection to the Toronto jazz scene by being the grandson of the great saxophonist and composer Moe Koffman.   As Moe conquered the 20th century with his forays into jazz, classical, and studio music, Jake is well on his way to following his footsteps and carving out a name for himself as a force to be reckoned with in the jazz world.

It also helps to have in the band pianist Bernie Senensky, a longtime family friend of Moe’s, to help out the next generation star in his jazz exploits.  He would supply effective support behind Jake to either swing softly, or drive hard into the groove.    Jake’s friend Morgan Childs happens to be one of the most strong, consistent, and creative bebop drummers produced in Canada, providing ample support to the playfulness of the group.   With Kieran Overs in the bass chair, it supplies the anchor needed to drive a steady groove from beginning to end.

The choice of repertoire that I heard in this evening are tried and tested true standards which never seem out of date or style.   Love for Sale.   On the Sunny Side of the Street.   Groovin’ High.    And much more.

Jake Koffman is an artist to look out for since he is truly a cool cat who can really swing.

Monday, June 15, 2015


Off the record, I am not ashamed to be black.    I am pretty much more prouder than ever before because I managed to do the right thing and show to white, Indian, and Jewish colleagues to name a few that here is a black man who doesn't act like the typical, trashy, and contemporary "black" male.  

If you think blackness is embodied in a very barren and trashy hip hop culture where it is all about sex, drugs, rock and roll and dripping in masochistic pleasures, then I really, really pity you.    If you think that I have to PROVE my blackness by talking in Jamaican patois, listening to Bob Marley and reggae, and hanging out with black folk that I really can't connect with, then you are sorely mistaken.

Another thing that bothers me is that contemporary black culture and folk (and I get this from my extended family in the states), sees EVERYTHING as a race issue, not accounting that we have come a LONG way from civil rights and emancipation from slavery was over 150 years ago initiated by a white Christian president, Abraham Lincoln.   The whole Josh Duggar issue is a matter of character, not the fact that if he were black he would have been jailed, and because he was white he would have got a slap in the wrist.    Martin Luther King Jr. didn't die to cause further friction between races.   His death was a means of bringing unity and peace toward all.   If we want racial harmony, follow his example and love people of white, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Muslim, etc., not have any further animosity.

However, I am open to dialogue.   Maybe I am missing something.   I have witnessed and experienced racism myself.   But I say this; the only way that a black person is going to rise above the chaff is to be 100X better than the rest, regardless of race.   And that, my black brothers and sisters, is how you will make it in life.

And that my friends, is the gospel truth.