Friday, February 27, 2015

Sublime Honesty: Alex Cuba’s Gentle Hooks and Sunny Hope Capture the Heart on Healer (Caracol Records; release: March 31, 2015)

From a media release:

Sublime Honesty: Alex Cuba’s Gentle Hooks and Sunny Hope Capture the Heart on Healer (Caracol Records; release: March 31, 2015)
New album, and live dates in NYC and LA
Rifts can close, wounds can heal.

Preorder/Buy the CD from his Website

Multiple Latin-Grammy winning singer-songwriter Alex Cuba, with effortless ease and tenderness, has lived this transformation. After years grappling with the shadows of immigration and displacement, he unites north and south, English and Spanish, Cuba and Canada in seamless, sincere songs on Healer (Caracol Records; release: March 31, 2015).

“Honesty has a divine power,” reflects Alex. “Anything that truly comes from the heart as the power to heal.”

This honesty translates into a sparer, clearer sound that foregrounds Alex’s hooky, yet never saccharine songwriting, his light touch and substantive grooves. It also moves Alex deeper into bilingual territory; he tapped five friends and admired musicians from the folk, pop, and world realms to join him in duets: Canadian maverick singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith (“Half a Chance”), sonic globetrotter Alejandra Ribera (“Beautiful Mistake”), funky Vancouver friend Kuba Oms (“Everytime”), exacting songsmith David Myles (“In 1 2 3 4”), and rising pop composer and singer Anya Marina (“No Esperes Mas”).

“As I’ve been discovering myself as a songwriter and a musician, I’ve found that music is a powerful healer,” Alex smiles. “Like many musicians, I’ve encountered endless times that my music has given me something, and given my listeners something. It’s comforting to the soul.” He’ll share this joy with American audiences in New York April 16-18, 2015, and this summer at the Hollywood Bowl (opening for Sheryl Crow; August 7-8, 2015)

Alex Cuba went from the small town of Artemisa, an hour outside of Havana, to Smithers, BC, 14 hours north of Vancouver. Though Alex found a life partner, started a family, and launched a wildly successful crossover career, it wasn’t the easiest or most obvious transition. The rift, the differences between these worlds sometimes inspired, but sometimes haunted him.

It was the inevitable double-edged alienation of the immigrant, of someone who can’t stay here or there. “When I first got to Canada, I was stunned. Canadians, people told me, aren’t romantic! Imagine! What am I going to do with all this sweetness?” he laughs, recalling one of the lighter examples from his early days in his new home. Yet the years and the music slowly worked their magic.

“I found with this album, the first album I produced myself, that I can put all of that to rest, the tensions and doubts,” Alex enthuses. “To hell with that! I’m going to do what I feel. I’m not going to change the song this way, because I love it!”

Doing what he loves yielded touching, thoughtful excursions into the nature of love’s all-conquering powers. Alex lets the heart sing freely, chronicling his personal devotion to his wife of twenty years (“Sarah”) or reflecting on the nature of love for humanity, no matter what shape it takes (“Ni Forma, Ni Colores”).

Put Alex in a room with a guitar or with the guitar’s small-bodied Cuban cousin, the requinto, and the songs will come. Alex has a knack for crafting tunes that marry the rolling sway of Afro-Latin rhythms and the bittersweet melodies of Cuba, with the bouncing appeal he gleaned from jazz, Thriller-era Michael Jackson, and from the songwriters who have become his friends over the years. His work has caught the ear of stars from Nelly Furtado to Jason Mraz.

The songs on Healer flowed from Alex’s work with fellow musicians and writers, often in his role as in-demand songwriter. “In 1 2 3 4” sprang from a songwriting session for Ricky Martin. Alex walked away with the anthemic song bopping in his head, and he decided he had to record it. Myles joined in the catchy fun, penning the English replies to Alex’s Spanish lyrics. Anya Marina and Alex wound up together at a songwriters’ retreat in Mexico and hit it off, Marina’s feather-light voice balancing Alex’s soulful singing on “No Esperes Mas.”

With help from co-producer Leo Sidran (Jorge Drexler), Alex took these songs in a novel direction, one that led away from Cuba. For all his previous albums, Alex had travelled to his native land to record percussion and brass tracks. But after a few cozy sessions with Sidran—they agreed to do a song or two, but wound up working on six together—Alex saw he could approach the songs on Healer with fresh simplicity. “When I came back from working with Leo, I suddenly knew that I didn’t need to go to Cuba on this album. I started to listen to what we did on the way back home, and I didn’t hear horns on the music. The music screamed no more horns.” Alex listened.

“In the end,” Alex says, “we’re just instruments to download what’s already floating around us, above us. We’re just capturing that healing.”

From a previous release:

Jazz/Avant-Garde/Electronica++ Joe Blessett - Excuse Me (Independent - January 12, 2015)

Joe Blessett - Excuse Me
(Independent - January 12, 2015)

Buy/Download the CD

Genre bending is a term that's thrown around quite a bit these days and it's often apt but seldom in as fluid or as kinetic a mode as in Jose Blessett's latest release, Excuse Me. It flows seamlessly from jazz to hip hop to electronica to soul and rnb - sometimes all within the same song.

Orlando based Joe Blessett wears many hats, including engineer, entrepreneur, internet radio station owner, composer, music producer, videographer and internet recording artist.

He lists artists like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Prince and Pink Floyd as influences and that background shows but with a unique flavour of experimentation that he adds to the mix. The tracks blend sampling, electronic and acoustic instrumentation; the words are likewise a mix of poetry and street level rapping.

Who's in My Shit is full of cool jazz riffs and grooves and is eminently danceable. The song evolves and morphs into and out of an electronic dance mode - don't expect any of the usual verse-verse-bridge-chorus song structure. He mixes in rock elements like fuzzy guitar licks in a mode that is endlessly inventive. Each track is a new experiment.

Taking it Down begins with synth and drums and an electronic feel that transforms into electro-jazz with an uptown groove; a classic horn solo played on a synth underscored with the repetitive loops of electronica. The influences flow in and out of the music.

Paying Bills has more of a straight up urban vibe with a rhythmic riff that trips on itself. He adds electronic noise, rap vocals and a cool walking bass line that grounds it all. LimeLight follows in the electronica and hip hop hybrid mode with a quasi-country-slide-guitar line and hip hop lyrics.

In The City stands out - all moody and melodic in this avant-garde sea of tracks, beginning with a striking horn (synth) and bass section. It's neatly contrasted by the next track, the eccentric I Say Eat Him with its playful electronic vibe and horns playing under the lyrics - and that's it; those are all the lyrics. There are other flashes of humour in the words,

I been good to my girl...
But I been looking at her best friend...

from the jazzy, danceable Good To My Girl that also features a sexy string bass line. The last track, Athene's Theory goes a different direction with spacey machine music.

Joe's said that he wants his work to stand the ten-year test of relevance and while too much can happen in a decade to say, his sense of invention and a genuine feel for the various styles he incorporates elevates the release well above the crowd.

Track listing:
1. Excuse Me
2. Who’s in my shit
3. That’s the way u living
4. Taking It Down
5. Paying Bills
6. LimeLight
7. Kali
8. Joe Blow
9. In The City
10. I Say Eat Him
11. Good to My Girl
12. Athene’s Theory

Websites :; ; ; ;

jazz at lincoln center SALUTE TO BETTY CARTER March 6 & 7 2015

From a media release:

jazz at lincoln center
Friday, March 6 @ 7pm & 9:30pm
Saturday, March 7 @ 7pm & 9:30pm

7pm Tickets: $60-$80
9:30pm Tickets: $45-$65

Online: Click here
Phone: Call CenterCharge at 212.721.6500
In Person: Jazz At Lincoln Center Box Office, Broadway & 60th Street, Ground Floor, Hours: Mon-Sat 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; Sunday 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm

Betty Carter blazed her own trail as one of the most original jazz vocalists of our time. Her flawless phrasing, uncanny unpredictability, and signature glissando placed her in a league of her own as a true “musician’s singer.”

Drummer and music director Alvester Garnett and vocalist Charenee Wade celebrate the legacy of Carter, who would have turned 85 this year. Garnett, joined by other past members of Betty Carter’s band including saxophonist Craig Handy, pianists Jacky Terrasson and Stephen Scott, bassists Michael Bowie and Curtis Lundy, and drummer Winard Harper will share memories of his first touring experience with Carter, performing some of her trademark tunes including “What A Little Moonlight Can Do” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Rising star jazz vocalist Charenee Wade interprets the music of one of jazz’s foremost mentors, and one of her idols. Wade was first runner-up in the prestigious Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocal Competition in 2010 and was one of a choice few selected to participate in Carter’s Jazz Ahead program. Rounding out the performance will be tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman, who recently paid tribute to Betty Carter in a performance at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.

Free pre-concert discussion nightly, 6pm & 8:30pm.

A taste of Ms Wade's vocals

Thursday, February 26, 2015

DanceWorks presents Sylvain Émard Danse in the Toronto premiere of Ce n'est pas la fin du monde February 28, 2015

From a media release:

DanceWorks presents Montreal's acclaimed Sylvain Émard Danse
in the Toronto premiere of
Ce n'est pas la fin du monde (It's not the end of the world)

Get tickets

- DanceWorks, Toronto's longest running contemporary dance series, proudly presents Montreal's acclaimed Sylvain Émard Danse in the Toronto premiere of Ce n'est pas la fin du monde (It's not the end of the world). This stunning full-length work by the award-winning choreographer Sylvain Émard runs one night only on February 28 at 8pm at Harbourfront Centre's Fleck Dance Theatre as part of Harbourfront Centre's NextSteps.

Stories of men. Renowned for his striking works featuring male dancers, Sylvain Émard plunges seven dancers - Adam Barruch, Dylan Crossman, Mark Medrano, Laurence Ramsay, Manuel Roque, Neil Sochasky and Georges-Nicolas Tremblay - into the hurly-burly of a contemporary world undergoing massive change.

Driven by doubt and a lust for life, they are searching for their place, sketching the contours of multiple identities. Carried away by their instincts and the power of the group, their only language is subtle, energetic movement; the music of bodies electrified by a shared feeling of urgency.

This vibrant piece conveys all the complexity and beauty of men coming to grips with the world they inhabit. Says Émard "If, as Madame de Staël (1766-1817) wrote in Corinne, Volume 1, 'the pagans have deified life,' then this is pagan dance."

Ce n'est pas la fin du monde (It's not the end of the world) premiered at Le Plateau in Eysines (France), as part of the biennial Danse Toujours in 2013. It is currently on tour in Canada where it ran January 28-31 in Montreal as part of Agora de la danse, and heads to Edmonton March 6-7, presented by Brian Webb Dance Company, after its Toronto outing for DanceWorks on February 28.

"A powerful dance piece; sixty minutes of energetic movement, a lot of testosterone and nonstop motion - solos, duos, trios, septets - all in perfect symbiosis." ¬ Samedi et rien d'autre, ICI Radio-Canada Première, Montreal, 31 January 2015

"A sweet fury inhabits these bodies, bodies that at times give in to moments of abandon while at other times resisting each other and an ever-present hidden threat [Š] men who doubt, who struggle and who are capable of exposing their sensitivity without wallowing in it." - Le Devoir, Montreal, 29 January 2015

A prolific and internationally respected artist, Sylvain Émard created Sylvain Émard Danse in 1987, quickly establishing a reputation for a very original style. Highly theatrical at first, his work soon evolved into a more formal approach to dance. From his first solo piece Ozone, Ozone (1989) to his most recent work Ce n'est pas la fin du monde (2013), he has been exploring the territory of human nature through the force and strength of the body. His repertoire now includes over thirty original pieces that have had a resounding impact all over the world. Renowned for his refined style and precise movement, the creation of Le Grand Continental at the Festival TransAmériques in 2009 must have come to some as a surprise. Since its inception, this unique piece, inspired by line dancing, has featured 1000 non-dancers across Canada, the United States and Mexico, attracting some 75 000 spectators. The quality of his artistic work has given Émard the opportunity to collaborate as a guest choreographer in theatre, opera and cinema. He joined forces with Robert Lepage to work on the opera 1984 (2005) by Lorin Maazel, presented at Covent Garden in London and at La Scala in Milan. Émard is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards such as the Jean A. Chalmers Choreographic Award (1996). Émard is also co-founder and board member of Circuit-Est centre chorégraphique.

DanceWorks began as a collective of independent dance artists in 1977 and has grown to become Toronto's leading presenter of independent dance. Strong in the belief that dance has the power to illuminate, engage and transform all who participate, DanceWorks offers seasons of eclectic, exhilarating choreography programmed to intrigue, challenge and enthrall. DanceWorks adds to the theatrical experience with danceflics, Carol's Dance Notes and post-performance conversations with artists. DanceWorks is the administrator of the CanDance Network and Dance Ontario Association.

DanceWorks presents Montreal's acclaimed Sylvain Émard Danse in the Toronto premiere of
Ce n'est pas la fin du monde (It's not the end of the world) as part of Harbourfront Centre's NextSteps
Choreographed by Sylvain Émard

Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 8pm
Silent Auction and Reception following performance

Harbourfront Centre's Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West
Tickets: $28 - $37 Adult; $15 CultureBreak (under 25); $5 HipTix for students.
Discounts for seniors, students and groups.
Harbourfront Centre Box Office: 416-973-4000 OR online:

Images by Valerie Simmons
- (l-r): Justin Gionet, Georges-Nicolas Tremblay
- (l-r) Georges-Nicolas Tremblay, Dylan Crossman, Manuel Roque, Justin Gionet
- (l-r) Justin Gionet, Georges-Nicolas Tremblay, Manuel Roque

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cooking with Kids: TASTY RECIPES AND TRAVEL ADVENTURES FOR CHILDREN Official Launch of Za and Zoey, a New Recipe Adventure Book Series February 28, 2015

From a media release:

Cooking with Kids:
Official Launch of Za and Zoey, a New Recipe Adventure Book Series
February 28, 2015

Buy the books

Za and Zoey Food Adventures are pleased to announce the official launch of their new children’s cookbook series, website, and social media platforms.

The Za and Zoey series features two main characters, Za and Zoey, who explore tasty recipes while travelling around the world and experiencing exciting adventures. Hannah Zanele Granger is Za, a popular, fun-loving fashionista who is intelligent and has a big heart. Heather Star Granger is Zoey, the sweet, playful girl with a great sense of humour.

If you're in the Southern Ontario area, you're invited to an upcoming LIVE meet and greet book signing for our Food adventure series. Za and Zoey Food adventures !

The event will be held during Black History Month on Feb 28th , at Chapters-Indigo Burlington location, Canada's largest book chain and flagship store. Children,women, men and teens are welcome to attend.

Please RSVP by clicking the link

This is a unique children’s book series is an international, family-oriented culinary experience. The books are filled with easy to make recipes and geared towards the everyday home cook and children of all ages. The different book installments feature a variety of international cuisines as the two characters travel around the world.

Za and Zoey are inviting individuals to visit their new website and fall in love with this children’s cookbook series. Within the next several weeks, Za and Zoey Food Adventures will be adding a variety of products and services to their website. This includes; accessories, clothing, home decor, and magazines.

Za and Zoey Food Adventures can be ordered directly on the company's website, as well as many local independent bookstores, and a select few chain shops. Copies of books can be brought to school readings and will be autographed by Za and Zoey themselves.

Contact: Za and Zoey Food Adventures

Friday, February 13, 2015

Red Dot Award 2015 – Star designers Jimmy Choo and David Andersen To Jury Fashion Category

From a media release:

Red Dot Award 2015 – Star designers Jimmy Choo and David Andersen will assess fashion category
Red Dot Gala: 29 June 2015

The registration phase of the Red Dot Award: Product Design 2015 ended on 11 February. The annually organised international competition has been awarding products of good design quality for 60 years  now. In its anniversary year, “Fashion, Lifestyle and accessories” is one of 31 categories. Red Dot contributes to the growing number of submitted projects from the world of fashion. To be up to the variety of areas like haute couture, shoes, street fashion, and bags, Red Dot invited the most prestigious fashion experts in the history of the award: Jimmy Choo and David Andersen are part of the Red Dot jury 2015.

Datuk’ Professor Jimmy Choo founded his own couture label and opened a shoeshop in London’s East End in 1983. In 1996, he launched his ready-to-wear line and sold his share in the business in 2001. He is a promoter for design education and an ambassador for footwear education at the London College of Fashion as well as a spokesperson for the British Council in their promotion of British Education to foreign students. In 2015, Jimmy Choo will be in the Red Dot jury for the third time and is not only looking forward to new product designs and the jury colleagues but estimates the award as a source of inspiration: „I feel very happy to be here again and see so many people for design. We all have our strong point and at the end we choose the right things. I see a lot of new designs, which also inspire me for my collections.”

A new member of the Red Dot jury is David Andersen. The designer from Denmark creates successful ready-to-wear clothing, shoes, perfume, underwear and home wear. In 2007, he launched his collection “David Andersen” and conquers the world of fashion in giant steps: His brand is expanding in Europe, Asia and the US. The all-rounder regularly presents his designs in couture exhibitions all over the world and is a visiting professor at Scandinavia’s largest design and management college. Along with Jimmy Choo, he will award the best design achievements in the field of fashion with a Red Dot.

4.815 products from 53 nations have been entered into the competition in 2014 alone. One of the designs awarded last year: The women’s felt boots “Moose” by Diversus LT with moose decor and a high shaft made of milled sheep’s wool provide warm feet. The jury has been enthused: “These warming boots are the new interpretation of a well-tried, classic piece of footwear with stylish accents.” Already now, the Red Dot experts can look forward to numerous high quality submissions of this year.

About the Red Dot Award: Product Design:
Designers and companies are currently invited to submit their products in 31 categories. An international jury of independent design experts will assess each product and project. There is no digital preselection phase; each object is assessed directly in situ. The best achievements will be awarded the sought-after seal of quality, the “Red Dot”. The award-winning designs are traditionally celebrated at the festive Red Dot Gala in the summertime and exhibited in the Red Dot Design Museum Essen.

Images from 2014 winners:
• my feltboots Long top feltboots “Moose” -Women’s Felt Boots - Manufacturer: Diversus LT, Lithuania -
• ITEM m6 Shape tights translucent - Shaping Tights - Manufacturer: medi GmbH & Co. KG, Germany -

Israel's Jazz Scene Comes to Toronto - Showcase March 18 2015

From a media release:

Bringing a taste of Israel’s jazz scene to Toronto
March 18, 2015

From Tel Aviv to YYZ, some of Israel’s most prominent jazz musicians are bringing their craft to the Toronto stage. For one night only, the Israeli Jazz Showcase featuring Anat Cohen, Kobi Hass and Guy Mintus takes over The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar on Wednesday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. ($20 cover). Presented by Toronto Downtown Jazz and the Consulate General of Israel, with generous support by the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation, this triple bill is a part of the Spotlight on Israeli Culture.

A two-month showcase, the Spotlight on Israeli Culture celebrates contemporary music, drama, dance, art, film video and photography all originating in Israel. Fifteen of Toronto’s leading cultural institutions are participating in this showcase highlighting some of the breakthrough talents transforming Israel’s vibrant cultural scene today.

On March 18, the Israeli Jazz Showcase will feature the Toronto-based Kobi Hass Quartet. Hass, a Tel Aviv-born upright bass player who relocated to Toronto in 2010, is internationally-renowned for his wide stylistic range. He leads a quartet of local musicians as they perform a set filled with soulful compositions.

Following Hass is the Guy Mintus Trio, of which two musicians are America-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship winners. At just 22 years of age, Mintus is the recipient of ASCAP’s Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer award and a full scholarship student at the Manhattan School of Music. His creative and versatile piano arrangements have already taken him to many acclaimed stages, including the Kennedy Center, the Apollo Theater, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Wrapping up the evening of Israeli jazz, in her first Toronto appearance as a leader, is the Anat Cohen Quartet. Cohen, a seven-time Jazz Journalist Association Clarinetist of the Year and internationally acclaimed saxophonist, is known for her rich tones and dynamic stage presence. Her virtuosity has placed her atop multiple critics and readers polls in DownBeat magazine, and her fluency in an abundance of styles has earned her a place in the hearts of audiences around the world.

For more information on the Spotlight on Israeli Culture, visit For more information on the Israeli Jazz Showcase, visit