Thursday, January 29, 2015

Box Set - Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection February 24, 2015

From a media release:
Smithsonian Folkways
Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection
February 24, 2015

Order the Lead Belly Box Set

Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, the first career-spanning box set dedicated to the American music icon, will be released on February 24, 2015. The 140-page, large-format book includes 5 CDs with 108 tracks (16 previously unreleased), accompanied by historic photos and extensive notes.

Listen to a Sneak Preview of Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection including the previously unreleased song “Been So Long (Bellevue Hospital Blues)” at the link.

NPR’s Ann Powers says, “This is a powerful time to hear Lead Belly's voice again.” Read more from NPR and listen to the previously unreleased song, “I’m So Glad, I Done Got Over.”

Jazz/Pop CD Release: Arthur Fowler - What's Keeping Me Going (Indie - February 14, 2014)

CD Release:
Arthur Fowler - What's Keeping Me Going
(Indie - February 14, 2014)

Order/Buy the CD

Milwaukee born/Tokyo resident Arthur Fowler describes himself and his sound as acid folk singer/songwriter but I think that's a little too narrow a definition. His upcoming release features a range of styles from straight up jazz to bluesy to pop to rootsy folk.

Arthur ended up in Tokyo via a stint in Spain and has played with jazz bands and other ensembles in Spain, all over the U.S. and of course in his now home of Tokyo.

His lyrics are self aware and reflective and he sings in a nimble tenor with a pleasing soft edge and a nice range into his high end. There's a nice rhythmic pulse that fuels the groove running through the songs on this collection and he's paid a lot of attention paid to the musicianship. His own chops are solid, with some lovely fluid guitar lines in the first and title track, What’s Keeping Me Going. You can hear global influences even beyond his own American/Japanese cross-cultural story, including Afro-Cuban drums and Latin guitars.

The songs are rhythmically more complex - and interesting - than you'd expect from folk, more melodic than you'd expect from pure jazz. Arthur regularly collaborates with acoustic folk and rock band AJA, with one of Tokyo’s foremost Irish fiddlers, multi-instrumentalist Jim Ediger, and bassist Alan Gleason. It results in some some interesting instrumentation. Please try faatures harmonica. He goes gypsy-jazz-ish on Room Full of Mirrors that features Jim Ediger on accordion.

Hu is a nice laid back jazz song in a moody mournful minor mode with Japanese guitarist Kei Takasugi on lead. The album as a whole is lit up by a superb sense of musicianship - these are creative, inventive next level musicians and that's a big part of the appeal of the album.

Twilight Breeze is a melodic jazz composition - free flowing and dynamic  an instrumental piece that showcases the guitar in an extended jazz riff. The New York Song has an -appropriately - cool east coast swing to it. Melodically the songs are also quite interesting; in Here I Am the swing goes a little Latin-ish. He goes from that to a harmonica infused bluesy rendition of the Neil Young song For The Turnstiles. Splash is a melodramatic country-blues tune that features Matthew Skoller on harmonica.

Guitars and Vocals:  Arthur Fowler
Electric Bass:  Kiyo Tahara
Acoustic Bass: Alan Gleason
Accordion and Fiddle:  Jim Ediger
Electric Guitar on “HU”: Kei Takasugi
Percussion arrangement and performance:  Kikuko Yasui
Harmonica:  Matthew Skoller
Backing Vocals on the songs “Love the Music”,

Recorded and mixed by Seiki Kitano (Bang On Recordings)
Mastered by Keiko Ueda at MTC Mastering, Tokyo

Track listing:
1. What’s Keeping Me Going  Arthur Fowler
2. Please Try  Arthur Fowler
3. Love the Music  Arthur Fowler
4. Room Full of Mirrors Jimi Hendrix
5. HU  Arthur Fowler
6. Twilight Breeze  Arthur Fowler
7. The New York Song    Arthur Fowler
8. Here I Am    Music by Jw Hammond, words by Arthur Fowler
9. For the Turnstiles      Neil Young
10. Splash  Arthur Fowler
11. On the Verge  Arthur Fowler


dérangé Concert Series 'All Folked Up': intersection of Opera, Jazz, Folk & Canadian Contemporary February 12 2015 in Toronto

From a media release:

Off Centre Music Salon presents their inaugural dérangé concert
February 12, 2015

curated by Nico Dann & Ilana Zarankin
featuring Shepherds Heard, Hobsons Choice, Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin with host Nate Renner

TORONTO (January 28, 2015) – Off Centre Music Salon celebrates its 20th Anniversary season by launching dérangé - a two-concert pilot project at the intersection of Canadian Contemporary, Classical, Jazz and Folk Music celebrating a more "out of line," interdisciplinary and creative approach to performing this repertoire. The first of these two concerts, ALL FOLKED UP, takes place on Thursday February 12, 2015 at 7 pm (with a pre-concert lobby reception beginning at 6:30pm) at Toronto’s The Music Gallery, 197 John Street.

What is folk music? It is music that appeals to the most basic human conditions: love and suffering, loss and happiness… In our northern hemisphere, it is often music that reflects the struggles that the natural world presents to the human being. But the term folk music itself is complicated – it has been adopted in such varied circumstances to designate such wildly different music. dérangé’s ALL FOLKED UP explores the exciting musical possibilities born in the moment of arrangement – or de-rrangement – of a wide variety of folk material.

Featured artists are Shepherds Heard - a cross-border, cross-genre ensemble of Classically and Jazz trained musicians that uses folk music as a point of departure, Hobson’s Choice - a contemporary chamber Jazz quartet blending the improvisation of jazz with an unconventional instrumentation and approach to songwriting and paying homage to such Canadian folk songwriters as Joni Mitchell and Bruce Cockburn, and husband-and-wife piano four hands duo (and Off Centre Music Salon Artistic Directors) Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin performing Dvorák’s folk-inspired Slavonic Dances.  Ethnomusicologist and guitarist Nate Renner is our host .

Shepherds Heard is: Joseph Brent (mandolin), Nico Dann (drums), Rebecca Hennessy (trumpet), Michael Herring (double bass) and Ilana Zarankin (soprano). Since April 2013, Shepherds Heard has been arranging and performing a hybrid of folk-inspired classical Art Song and improvised, old-time, country, folk and jazz-context music. While Jazz drummer Nico Dann found himself immersed in a musical scene concerned with bringing the acoustic, song-driven, folk roots of jazz back into the modern idiom, his wife soprano Ilana Zarankin was, herself, championing the repertoire of Classical composers, specifically those of the 19th Century, trying desperately to make peace with an ever-widening and changing world, paying homage to their folk traditions. Shepherds Heard was born of this fascination with the folk in music - what began as the idea to reimagine Joseph Canteloube’s colourful Chants d’Auvergne for a small folk ensemble has grown to include similar treatments of Valery Gavrilin’s Russian folk songs and a handful of Canadian folk melodies.

Hobson’s Choice is: Harley Card (guitar/voice), Michael Davidson (vibraphone), Rebecca Hennessy (trumpet/voice) and Felicity Williams (voice). Hobson’s Choice is a toronto-based, contemporary chamber jazz group that draws on a wide range of influences. Blending the improvisation in jazz with an unconventional instrumentation and approach to songwriting, it stands on its own.

Russian-Canadian pianist Inna Perkis was described by the Weekly Seattle as having “…a commanding musical personality… poetry to every nuance…” Ms. Perkis has performed internationally as a soloist and a chamber musician.” She is the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Off Centre Music Salon with her husband Boris Zarankin.

A pianist of international renown, Boris Zarankin was hailed by the Los Angeles Times as a “pianist of flair, style and exciting virtuosity”. Mr. Zarankin studied at the Kharkov State Conservatory with Regina Horowitz and at the Moscow State Conservatory.

Nate Renner is pursuing his PhD in Ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto. His research concerns the contemporary and traditional music and dance of Japan's indigenous Ainu people.

Food for the pre-concert reception is generously provided by Toronto’s Aviv Restaurant. (

Off Centre Music Salon presents their inaugural dérangé concert

curated by Nico Dann & Ilana Zarankin
featuring Shepherds Heard ensemble, Hobsons Choice, Inna Perkis and Boris Zarankin with host Nate Renner

Thursday February 12, 2015
The Music Gallery, 197 John Street, Toronto, M5T 1X6
7 PM concert (6:30 PM pre-concert reception, catered by Aviv Restaurant)
Regular Tickets: $25 (includes one pre-concert refreshment); Students/Seniors/Arts Workers: $15

Single Release: Liz Graham - Charcoal on a Canvas (Indie - Jan 9, 2015)

Single Release:
Liz Graham - Charcoal on a Canvas
(Indie - Jan 9, 2015)

Buy the single (name your price)

Liz Graham sold over 100,000 copies of her first album - called simply, Liz Graham - back in 1998. Despite charting on CMJ, Top 10 Women’s radio and Top 10 Music in the UK and Japan, touring with Lilith Fair and receiving a big label offer, life took a different turn in 2000 when a family member became ill.

She never stopped writing though and performed at small venues. iz co-wrote and sang the techno song, “Daylight”, in the 2013 Dreamworks thriller, The Fifth Estate. Now she's back with a new album in the works (scheduled for release later this year) and a new single - Charcoal on Canvas.

I said “we’re not art yet,
I just don’t know what we are right now”

I say - you say is the back and forth motion that carries the sense of the song.

Don't you want to be in my gallery?
Don't you want you want somebody who can capture you on canvas..?
Charcoal on canvas

As someone who makes a nice chunk of my living from modeling for artists, naturally, a song about persuading someone to pose for you (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) is dear to my heart. The tune falls neatly into the adult contemporary pop genre with a nice pop-style swing to it and an upbeat tempo.

Liz' vocals are strong with a nice hard edge to the top end that she can use to good effect to contrast the little girl quality of the low end.

As she says herself about the song,

"Charcoal On A Canvas" is a song about wanting to get to know a person on a deeper level. I want to start by sketching him on my canvas because I am intrigued by his shadows (the things that he hides) and what his truths may be. As I continue to pursue him, he questions everything that I say and resists my advances. Perhaps he doesn't want me to really know him....?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

TD Discovery Series Spotlights Toronto Jazz Musicians - March 25 to April 30 2015

From a media release:

The TD Discovery Series Presents Live Music and Educational Performances Year-Round

Upcoming Dates:
Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – Alexander Brown CD release, Lula Lounge
Thursday, March 26, 2015 – Robi Botos CD release, Jazz Bistro
Saturday, April 25, 2015 – Tom Richards’ Riverrun 12-Hour Music Marathon, Beit Zatoun
Thursday, April 30, 2015 – Alex Goodman CD release, Jazz Bistro

Bringing fresh jazz to the forefront of the city’s music scene, the new TD Discovery Series will present year-round live music and educational performances featuring some of the best talent in the Toronto scene. Designed by Toronto Downtown Jazz, producers of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, with the generous support of TD Bank Group, this new initiative encourages the creation, development, and presentation of unique, new programming by local jazz musicians.

“With the TD Discovery Series, we are excited to foster the development and growth of jazz in Toronto: emerging artists, perhaps unknown to a wider audience, who represent the next generation of outstanding jazz; established artists working on a new or special project; and the students – and their teachers – who will take jazz into the future as musicians, audience members and supporters,” states Artistic Director Josh Grossman.

The TD Discovery Series will include a showcase on Emerging Artists, highlighting upcoming and promising jazz musicians in Toronto. Featuring up close and personal interviews with the artists, these performances will introduce the latest local talents on the jazz scene.

Educational Programs, mainstays of the Toronto Downtown Jazz Society, aim to develop the art of jazz within the community while celebrating and nurturing Toronto’s next generation of jazz musicians and jazz supporters. These sessions, geared toward jazz students, fans and teachers alike, both promote the growth of new pathways in jazz music and solidify the tradition of mentorship in the jazz community.

The Special Projects Initiative provides marketing and public relations support, and awards a bursary to artists who bring original programming to the stage. Determined through a juried process, this year four outstanding recipients have been selected to participate: critically acclaimed pianist Robi Botos; Tom Richards’ Riverrun, who will perform a 12-hour music marathon; Juno nominated guitarist Alex Goodman; and Cuban trumpeter Alexander Brown.

"We're pleased to be supporting some of the outstanding jazz musicians who call Toronto home”, states Grossman. “Promoting an event is a big job and can be time-consuming for an independent musician - especially when preparing for a big show. With the TD Discovery Series Special Projects we're excited to help promote the events, and hopefully we're providing each musician with more time to prepare the music for his project."

All submissions for the Special Projects were reviewed by a panel of judges that included saxophonist, flutist and clarinetist Colleen Allen; Tracy Jenkins, Co-Artistic Director of Lula Music and Arts Centre; bassist, arranger, composer, producer and label owner Peter Cardinali; and musician, producer, artistic director, composer and radio personality, Andrew Craig.

All performances for the TD Discovery Series will be recorded for an engaging online audio-visual experience through and other social media platforms allowing music-lovers to appreciate Toronto’s jazz artists through new and exciting media.

Soundstreams presents the Canadian premiere of THE WHISPER OPERA by David Lang February 26–March 1 2015 in Toronto

From a media release:

Canadian premiere: The Whisper Opera straight from NYC and Chicago
Soundstreams presents the Canadian premiere of
Words and music by David Lang
February 26–March 1, 2015
The Theatre Centre

The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer explores the tension between our private and online selves in an opera so intimate it can be experienced by just 52 people at a time.

Toronto – Soundstreams continues its 2014/2015 season with the Canadian premiere of American composer David Lang’s The Whisper Opera at Toronto’s newest live arts hub, The Theatre Centre, from February 26 to March 1. Straight from acclaimed performances in Chicago and New York, this extraordinary, contemplative, and haunting work will have a limited run of just six performances, and also marks the Canadian debuts of soprano Tony Arnold and New York’s International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

Inspired by the question “What if a piece were so quiet and intimate and so personal to the performers that you needed to be right next to them or you would hear almost nothing?” The Whisper Opera is David Lang’s response to the immediate accessibility of all music online. In fact, he specifies in his score that the work can never be recorded, filmed, or amplified: “The only way this piece can be received is if you are there, listening very very closely.” Using a libretto compiled from search-engine responses to such prompts as, “When I think of you, I think of…” and “When I am alone, I always…,” Lang and his performers explore the tension between our private and online selves, encouraging the audience’s 52 members to bask in a soundscape of whispering, murmuring, humming, and movement.

Passionate, prolific, and complicated, David Lang is committed to music that resists categorization, constantly creating new forms. With his winning of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for the little match girl passion, The New Yorker stated that the post minimalist enfant terrible had “solidified his standing as an American master.” Lang is currently Carnegie Hall’s Chair in Composition, Professor of Composition at the Yale School of Music, and is co-artistic director and co-founder of New York’s legendary music festival, Bang on a Can.

Reprising their success at Lincoln Centre and Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, soprano Tony Arnold and New York’s International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) make their Canadian debuts. The Chicago Tribune writes, “Anything sung by soprano Tony Arnold is worth hearing,” while The New York Times hails ICE as “one of the most adventurous and accomplished groups in new music.”

Related Events

ICE will follow their second performance of The Whisper Opera on February 28 with an intimate concert of chamber music at The Theatre Centre exploring the expressive breadth of contemporary music, from the 1960s to the present day. The concert will include a work by Canadian composer Sabrina Schroeder. Check it out here

Soundstreams’ free Salon 21 at the Gardiner Museum on February 20 at 7:00 pm features an exploration of how we hear and the tricks our ears play on us when listening to music.

The Whisper Opera
Words and music by David Lang
Soundstreams presents an International Contemporary Ensemble production

February 26-March 1, 2015
Thurs Feb 26 at 8pm, Fri Feb 27 at 7pm & 10pm, Sat Feb 28 at 2pm & 7pm, chamber concert at 9pm, Sun Mar 1 at 2pm

The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen Street West

Jim Findlay, director and designer
Karen Young, costume design
Kelly Moran, stage manager

Tony Arnold, soprano
International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE):
Claire Chase, flutes
Joshua Rubin, clarinets
Kivie Cahn-Lipman, cello
Ross Karre, percussion

Post-show chats will be held after each performance.

• Tickets to The Whisper Opera are $67.50 and are available through The Royal Conservatory Box Office at 416-408-0208 or online at
• Tickets for the chamber concert on February 28 at 9pm are $18 in advance online, and $15 at the door for ages 30 and under or for those with a ticket to The Whisper Opera. General admission. Buy tickets online at or at the door.

From Nacional Records:Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Release of 'Ska Me Forever' (February 10, 2015)

From a media release:

From Nacional Records:
Iconic Band Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Highly-Anticipated Release of 'Ska Me Forever' (February 10, 2015)

Pre-order/Buy it here

Renowned Worldwide for Explosive Live Performances, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra’s International Following Continues to Grow Through Extensive Global Touring

After decades of performing sold-out shows in Japan and in over 26 countries, legendary band Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra celebrates their 25th anniversary with the U.S. release of their new album, ‘Ska Me Forever” on vinyl and digital download on February 10th, 2015 with online pre-sale for the album going on now.

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra’s 19th album boasts a dynamic blend of rock, jazz, ska and punk, and features the lead single “Wake Up!” with Asian Kung-Fu Generation. Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra also puts their playful and diverse spin on fan-favorite covers of Café Tacvba’s 'Eres,' Beethoven’s 'Symphony No. 9,' and the classic Mexican folksong, 'Cielito Lindo.’ Their new release 'Ska Me Forever’ marks a significant milestone for the ever-evolving band who continue to delight and surprise audiences with their music and exciting live shows.

Starting out in the late '80s as a ska revival group playing the streets and clubs of their hometown, the sharply suited Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra quickly became the flag-bearers for the Japanese ska scene. This movement gained popularity in the 1990s and included the arguably more "authentic" ska sounds of the Ska Flames (signed to Gaz Mayall's label in the U.K.) and the Determinations from Osaka. Like those two acts, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra's sound is largely instrumental, with powerful, punchy arrangements that re-create the jump-up energy of Jamaican ska originals such as the Skatalites. It's a sound as vibrant as any modern-day ska -- anywhere.

From their beginnings in the late 1980s club scene in Japan, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra rose to fame in their native country and have taken their acclaimed live show worldwide, performing to festival audiences in Europe, the United States and Latin America, including the Warped Tour, Glastonbury, Supersonico, Coachella and Vive Latino.