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

New Opera: Excerpts from Paradise Interrupted at the Metropolitan Museum NYC March 21 2015

From a media release:



New York preview precedes the world premiere at Spoleto Festival USA on Friday, May 22 in Charleston, South Carolina

CHARLESTON, SC (February 12, 2015)—Excerpts from Paradise Interrupted, a new installation opera by artist Jennifer Wen Ma and composer Huang Ruo, will be performed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing on Saturday, March 21. The Met Museum Presents performances offer a special preview of this work in progress before the world premiere at the 2015 Spoleto Festival USA in May. There will be two Metropolitan Museum performances at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets start at $54 and are available online or by phone (212) 570-3949. Tickets include Museum admission and are part of the Museum’s “Bring the Kids for $1” program. 

Paradise Interrupted is co-commissioned and co-produced by Spoleto Festival USA and Lincoln Center Festival. The world premiere will take place Friday, May 22 in Charleston, South Carolina at Spoleto Festival USA with four subsequent performances May 24, 27, 29, and 31.  

The one-act opera weaves together a story inspired by the biblical Garden of Eden and the Chinese love story The Peony Pavilion. For the score, award-winning composer Huang Ruo (Dr. Sun Yat-sen) musically marries Chinese tradition dating back to the Ming dynasty with Western idioms. The narrative follows a woman who searches for an unattainable ideal. As she sings, a vast garden grows from an empty stage and a host of characters come to life to accompany her in her journey. The garden installation has been created by Jennifer Wen Ma who is designing and directing the production. Known for her large-scale installations, public works, and as the chief designer for visual and special effects for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Paradise Interrupted is her first opera. 

The role of the dreamer will be performed by celebrated Chinese singer Qian Yi, who was lauded by The New York Times as “. . . China’s reigning opera princess” following her performance in the Lincoln Center Festival’s The Peony Pavilion. Paradise Interrupted also features singers John Holiday, Joseph Dennis, Joo Won Kang, and Ao Li. Spoleto Festival USA’s Resident Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities John Kennedy will conduct a 14-piece orchestra blending Western and Chinese instruments. All artists will take part in the preview performances. The Met Museum Presents preview is presented in conjunction with the exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass, on view May 7 through August 16, 2015. 

Tarragon Theatre Toronto Announces Joel Bernbaum Recipient of $15,000 Urjo Kareda Residency

From a media release:


TORONTO (February 10, 2015) -
Tarragon Theatre is pleased to announce that the Urjo Kareda Residency Grant, with a value of $15,000, has been awarded to Joel Bernbaum, founding Artistic Director of Sum Theatre in Saskatoon.

The Urjo Kareda Residency Grant supports the training and artistic residency of an exceptional emerging theatre artist each season at Tarragon Theatre. The successful applicant spends twenty weeks at Tarragon Theatre pursuing her/his own training and artistic goals by working in collaboration with professional artists in his/her chosen field(s) of interest.

The grant is valued at $15,000 and made possible by an annual donation from The Youssef-Warren Foundation.

Beginning in August 2015, Joel will spend twenty weeks at Tarragon apprenticing in directing and artistic directing under Richard Rose, Tarragon’s Artistic Director.

Upon accepting the residency, Joel offered the following remarks:

“I am excited to be a part of Tarragon’s upcoming season of powerfully pertinent theatre. It is an honour to follow in the footsteps of such diversely talented Kareda Residents. Being a theatre artist is a great privilege that comes with serious responsibility. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn everything I can from Tarragon’s artistic leaders and then to bring new and dynamic ideas home to Sum Theatre in Saskatoon.”

Joel is an actor, playwright, journalist and the founding artistic director of Saskatoon’s Sum Theatre. In 2014, three of Joel’s plays received world premieres: Home Is A Beautiful Word at the Belfry Theatre, Operation Big Rock at Dancing Sky Theatre and My Rabbi (co-created with Kayvon Kelly) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In Canada he has performed professionally with Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, Carousel Theatre, The Belfry Theatre and Puente Theatre. He has assistant directed productions for Persephone Theatre, The Citadel Theatre and Theatre Calgary.  Joel toured Italy with ACLE Theatrino (an Italian Theatre company dedicated to teaching English through drama) and created original theatre work with the Usuki City Board of Education in Japan.

Tarragon congratulates Joel on the Urjo Kareda Residency Grant and acknowledges the generosity of the Youssef-Warren Foundation which has made this residency possible.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Textile Museum of Canada announces the sole Canadian presentation of Artist Textiles: From Picasso to Warhol May 2 to October 4, 2015

From a media release:

The Textile Museum of Canada announces the sole Canadian presentation of Artist Textiles: From Picasso to Warhol
May 2 to October 4, 2015

·  The exhibition traces the history of 20th century art in textiles with rare and recently discovered examples from leading art movements: Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Abstraction, and Pop Art
·  Artists featured include Pablo Picasso, Raoul Dufy, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Sonia Delaunay, Henry Moore, Fernand Leìger, Barbara Hepworth, Joan Miroì, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder
·  Feature 40th anniversary program: Blake Gopnik on Andy Warhol and the Art of Textiles, June 3, 2015 (see bottom of post)

TORONTO - The Textile Museum of Canada is pleased to debut  Artist Textiles: From Picasso to Warhol from May 2 to October 4, 2015. This major summer exhibition offers a fascinating overview of textile design by some of the world’s most celebrated artists including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Sonia Delaunay, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Andy Warhol and Alexander Calder. With over 200 printed works on fabric, fashion and accessories – many on public display for the first time – Artist Textiles represents art movements such as Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, Modernism, Surrealism and Pop Art, as well as the work of leading fashion designers and textile manufacturers.

Highlighting the artists’ use of textiles as a medium for combining art and mass production, the exhibition shines new light on creative practice across the twentieth century in Europe and North America. “Artist Textiles tells us so much about the breadth of artists’ intention and imagination, even for those we think we know quite well,” says TMC Executive Director Shauna McCabe. “That names such as Picasso, Matisse and Warhol produced such sophisticated, commercially viable designs for use in everyday life suggests that their professional worlds were much more varied than one might expect. Clearly, the intersection of art and design has consistently engaged artists – modern to conceptual to contemporary.”

This major exhibition of works on fabric by leading artists begins in the 1910s with designs by English painter Wyndham Lewis, although it was Fauvist painter Raoul Dufy who became the first 20th-century artist to become seriously and successfully involved in producing textile designs. It was after the Second World War that artist textiles would flourish, produced by a new wave of leading artists with conceptual and Pop sensibilities. In 1950s New York, Fuller Fabrics worked with Picasso, along with Joan Miró, Fernand Léger and Marc Chagall, to produce affordable “art by the yard.” This post-war enthusiasm provided the perfect conditions the following decade for the thriving design culture of 1960s London with personalities such as British textile designer, fashion icon and artist Zandra Rhodes, also known as the “Princess of Punk.”

Artist Textiles: From Picasso to Warhol is circulated by the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, UK and is on view at the TMC May 2 – October 4, 2015. The Textile Museum of Canada is located in downtown Toronto (55 Centre Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2H5) and is open daily 11-5 pm, Wed 11-8 pm.  

Artist Textiles is organised and circulated by the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, UK
Exhibition opening times: Daily 11 am to 5 pm; Wednesday 11 am to 8 pm. Ticket prices: $15 adults, discounted admission for students, seniors and families
The Textile Museum of Canada is located in downtown Toronto at 55 Centre Avenue (main intersection: Dundas St. and University Ave.). For further information about the TMC and its activities visit
Exhibition is accompanied by the book Artists' Textiles 1945-1976 by Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain and Annamarie Stapleton

TMC 40TH Anniversary Lecture and Dinner with Blake Gopnik
Andy Warhol and the Art of Textiles
Wednesday June 3, 2015 at 6 pm
Victoria University (University of Toronto)

New York-based art historian and critic Dr. Blake Gopnik, at work on the first comprehensive biography of Andy Warhol for HarperCollins, will discuss the place that textiles had in the artist's works, life and career. The world of fabrics was central to Andy Warhol. From the beginning of his career, he knew textiles, collected them, was influenced by them, and even designed them. Textiles were an integral part of his lifelong exploration of the intersections of craft and art, high and low culture, masculine and feminine, the handmade and the mechanical, as well as art and commerce. Long-time art critic of the Globe and Mail, The Washington Post and Newsweek, Gopnik is now critic-at-large at Artnet News and a frequent contributor to the New York Times. Both the lecture as well as the private reception and dinner with Blake Gopnik that follows will take place at Victoria University, at the University of Toronto.

Northrop Frye Hall (Room NF003), Victoria University (at University of Toronto)
73 Queen's Park Crescent, Toronto

Lecture $20 (Members & Students) $25 (General)
Lecture & Reception/Dinner with Blake Gopnik $250

• Purchase online:
• Tickets can also be purchased at 416-599-5321x2246 or

Smooth Jazz; CD Release: Heather Powell - A Haze of Grays and Blue (True Groove Records - February 24, 2015)

CD Release:
Heather Powell - A Haze of Grays and Blue
(True Groove Records - February 24, 2015)

Get the CD

New Yorker Heather Powell has a beautifully clear voice that lights up this album of jazzy adult contemporary songs released on True Groove Records. She can shape her vocals to the song with a sweet, liquid edge that can really caress the notes - it's no doubt what attracted True Groove head and veteran bluesman Tomás Doncker. He co-wrote and co-produced all the tracks and plays guitar throughout the album.

Her technique sounds so effortless I was sure within a few notes it was a trained voice. It turns out Heather has a degree in theatre and spent seven years in Europe and the United States as a member of the U.S. Army where she led soldiers and managed army health clinics. Towards the end of her career in the services however she became the commander and headliner of the Army’s inaugural theatrical company. On her return to civilian life, she took up music.

She can go from a whisper to a clear high note and the songs feature a sweet girl chorus to back her up here and there. The lyrics cover sentimental ground suited to her dulcet tones. The tracks range from sweet to soulful and True Groove has high musical standards -the backing band is flawless and multi-layered.

Remember the Love has a nice swing reminiscent of old RnB radio hits, complete with a backing male voice for some rich harmonies. Blue Light is a nice, slow torch song. The album title comes from the song Awaken Me, a nice, moody tune with a great horn line - a perfect showcase for her vocals with a slow, relentless rhythm.

I live in perpetual darkness
A haze of grays and blues...

There are flashes of contemporary jazz with nice hooks and interesting chord progressions. Falling is a bit of a throw back to that golden RnB era again, ideally suited to her vocal range and facility and accompanied by sighing strings. Distance combines sexy rhythms with observant lyrics in a grown up look at love and See Me is another in the same vein. They use the strength of her voice  - that lovely tone and superb control - to its best effect. Unstoppable breaks the pattern with a kind of Broadway tune vibe to a simple piano riff.

If you enjoy smooth jazz and adult contemporary you'll love Heather's voice and the nice production values of this release.

In addition to the CD, Heather is currently writing her first musical, called Lipstick and Camouflage.

Heather Powell - vocals, Tomás Doncker - guitars, Josh David/Kevin Jenkins - bass, Michael J. Faulkner - drums, Mo Roberts - drums on "Distance", Nick Rolfe/Manu Koch - keyboards, Alan Grubner - violin, cello, viola: Violin and String Arrangements, Mac Gollehon - Trumpet, Trombone, Daniel Sadownick - percussion

1.  Unexpected, 2.  Black and White Thinking, 3.  Remember the Love (ft. Kevin Jenkins), 4.  Blue Light. 5.  Awaken, 6.  Wishing, 7.  Falling, 8.  Distance, 9.  Unstoppable, 10.  See Me

twitter:  @hpowellmusic

Performer-illusionist Geoff Sobelle February 18 to 22 2015 in Toronto #artlive

From a media release:

Canadian Premiere #artlive
The Object Lesson
Geoff Sobelle (United States)
February 18–22 2015
Harbourfront Centre Theatre

ward-winning performer-illusionist Geoff Sobelle unpacks our relationship to everyday objects in this hilarious, heartbreaking solo performance and installation.

A towering junk-pile anchors Sobelle's stage as he skirts around it, rifling through to procure physical relics of his memories and awaken our own. Over the course of the show, these objects guide his heartfelt narrative – and quirky, expressive performance – about life, love and memory. Join us for this meditation on the things we keep and the things we throw away.

Sobelle, an actor and co-founder of the theatre group Rainpan 43, has received accolades for The Object Lesson from the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe to the New York Times. The show's Canadian debut at World Stage 2015 marks Sobelle's return to Toronto after performing and choreographing HOLOSCENES for last fall's Nuit Blanche.

"[It's] really tactile and hands on. You get to touch the materials and make your own stories before the show starts. In two words... Moving and unpacking." — Tina Rasmussen, Artistic Director

Ntjam Rosie Returns With Her Finest Album To Date ‘The One’ Is Out On Gentle Daze Records on February 17 2015

From a media release:

Ntjam Rosie Returns With Her Finest Album To Date
‘The One’ Is Out On Gentle Daze Records on February 17th, 2015

Check it out

Ntjam Rosie, the Cameroon-born, Dutch-based Afro-European artist who has become a tastemaker both with her music and her fashion sense, is set to make a big mark in 2015 with her fourth album, The One. The singer and songwriter, who arrived in Holland from a small village in Cameroon at the age of nine, is now based in Rotterdam and has been turning heads in her adopted home country. A truly independent woman, who runs her own record label, Gentle Daze, Ntjam’s striking creativity in the world of fashion has made her into a style icon. Meanwhile, her blend of soul, jazz, folk, gospel and world music is now set to reach a wider audience than ever before.

The fourth installment in an increasingly distinguished album catalogue, The One is a huge creative step forward. That’s both in terms of its confident, seductive songwriting ethic and because it marks Ntjam Rosie’s debut as a producer of her own work. It has invigorating elements of India.Arie’s roots-fuelled R&B, Patrice Rushen’s sultry jazz, and even the vocal independence of Beyoncé, all in an atmospheric soundscape that is purely her own.

The new record follows 2013’s At The Back Of Beyond, which was warmly received creatively and commercially, and inspired Ntjam to perform throughout Holland and across Europe. “That was an album that was a part of me, and that needed to explore my poppy side,” she says. “I’m grounded in jazz and soul, and pop. But as a songwriter, I really needed to go through that album to learn how to play the guitar, to see and hear what kind of songs I would write, and also to put the guitar on the palette — literally being able to pick the guitar up to write.”

The songs for The One were written around the time Ntjam got married, in January 2014, and was made with her regular band and engineer Vincent Helbers at her side. Martin Fondse added strings, and there are guest appearances by friends and fellow artists Pink Oculus, Eric Vloeimans and Ronald Snijders.

Her graduation as a cosmopolitan, 21st century woman and musician included nominations both for Holland’s Edison Awards, twice, and the Elle Personal Style Awards; playing the North Sea Jazz Festival, and gigs from Thailand to Turkey and Estonia to China.

Ntjam has already started to introduce The One during her live shows, and looks forward to touring it more in 2015. The future is bright. The future is Rosie.

Migrant Media Dreams: An Evening with Documentary Filmmaker Min Sook Lee Thursday February 12th 2015 in Toronto

From a media release:

Migrant Media Dreams: An Evening with Documentary Filmmaker Min Sook Lee
Thursday February 12th 2015 from 7-8:30pm

Eaton Lecture Theatre (80 Gould Street)

As Canada shifts its immigration policy to promote temporary, rather than permanent immigration policy, Toronto filmmaker Min Sook Lee has been tracking the effects of these changes on migrant workers’ lives.

The Hacking the Culture Speakers Series at Ryerson University, a project of The Studio for Media Activism & Critical Thought, presents  Min Sook Lee talking about how her films about/with migrant workers are used as a tool in the movement for migrant worker justice. She will show excerpts  from different films, will discuss her process, and the artistic and political choices that inform her work. After her presentation, Lee will be joined by Chris Ramsaroop of Justicia for Migrant Workers for a conversation and open question and answer period. The event is FREE.

Min Sook Lee’s filmography includes: the Gemini nominated El Contrato (Cesar E. Chavex Black Eagle Award), which looks at the lives of Mexican migrant workers in Ontario, and  and Hogtown,  an analysis of the politics of policing in Toronto’s city hall (Best Canadian Documentary Prize, Hot Docs Festival).  She is the co-creator behind the comedy series She’s The Mayor. Min Sook’s latest documentary The Real Inglorious Bastards received a Canadian Screen Award for Best History Documentary in 2013. She teaches documentary filmmaking at Ryerson University and is currently in production on a new feature documentary Migrant Dreams, about the lives of migrant women workers in Canada.

Hacking the Culture Speakers’ Series will continue until March 2015. Upcoming speakers include contemporary interdisciplinary artist Reena Katz on March 5th, and a workshop with feminist gaming collective Dames Making Games (March 19). Hacking the Culture is a free event that encourages open dialogue and invites the public to look critically at the global mediascape and investigate how artistic practices can challenge power and privilege in society.

The Studio for Media Activism & Critical Thought is a new research centre housed in RTA School of Media. The Studio links media theory, cultural work, and activism.

Indie Pop with Brazilian Beats: Complicated Animals Debut EP "In This Game" February 10 2015 Release

From a media release:

Buy the CD

Complicated Animals is Monica da Silva and Chad Alger. Their debut EP In This Game (out February 10, 2015 on Socialite Fiasco Music) features 6 songs in the duos’ self-coined Indie Nova genre. The style mixes breezy, Indie Pop with a touch of vintage Brazilian Bossa Nova.

Complicated Animals’ debut release In This Game was written and recorded over the past year in a cabin in the woods along the lakeshore in Michigan. The duo is the new collaborative lovechild of Brazilian American songstress Monica da Silva, and musician/producer Chad Alger.

Inspired by the changing seasons, and their mutual love for vintage films and music, Monica and Chad really wanted to get back to the art of songwriting on In This Game. “We really wanted the songs to unfold like a story would,” says Chad. They took their time to carefully choose each and every sound that has gone into their new collaboration, making sure that the songs evolve like the seasons. “It was also important to us to paint the picture in the listener’s mind of a specific room, space or sound- from the reverb of a large vintage church to the creaky floors of an old cabin.”

Monica and Chad released their first album together, Brasilissima, under Monica’s name in 2011. The album featured songs in both English and Portuguese, and was produced by Chad and Monica’s brother, Bruce Driscoll (Blondfire, Avicii, Freedom Fry). The first single, “Aí Então” gained attention from music critics and blogs, and caught the ear of Jacob Edgar, owner of Cumbancha Records and resident world music compiler for Putumayo World Music. The track was chosen from tens of thousands of artists, to be featured on the Putumayo World Music compilation “Brazilian Beat”. Another track from their CD, the upbeat, psychedelic inspired “That’s Not The Way” was later chosen by the music director of ESPN to be played during the programming of The World Cup 2014.

In This Game - Tracklist: Roadmap, O Que Passou, Phoenix, Bees Take To Honey, Drive Around In Cars, Sempre Aqui

WE HAVE STORIES TO TELL… An Evening with Lisa Gay Hamilton, Tonya Pinkins and Lillias White February 9 2015 in NYC

From a media release:

An Evening with Lisa Gay Hamilton, Tonya Pinkins and Lillias White
Moderated by Angela Bronner-Helm

Monday, February 9, 2015
7pm-8:30 pm
Doors open at 6:30 pm

The Pershing Square Signature Center
The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre
480 West 42nd Street at 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10036

 • The event is free and open to the public. Click here for reservations.
• Seating is limited. Reservations will be confirmed on a first come, first served basis.

"All right, when I tell my daughter stories at night, invariably a few things happen. Number one, I use my imagination. I always start with life and I build from there. And then the other thing that happens...she always says, 'Mommy can you put me in the story?' It starts from the top up, so I'd like to thank Paul Lee, Shonda Rhimes, Besty Beers...and Pete Nowalk…for thinking that a sexualized, messy, mysterious woman could be a 49-year-old dark skinned African-American woman who looks like me." ---Viola Davis, Acceptance speech after receiving the SAG Award for Best Female Actor in a Drama Series

Three award-winning African-American female actors are appearing simultaneously in separate productions on the New York stage: LisaGay Hamilton in The Liquid Plain, Tonya Pinkins in Rasheeda Speaking, and Lillias White in Texas in Paris. All three plays delve into the politics of race, gender and respectability.

On Monday, February 9, at 7pm in The Pershing Square Signature Center, these women will talk career, craft and placing themselves in the story. Acclaimed journalist Angela Bronner-Helm (AOL Black Voices, Essence) will moderate this illuminating conversation about claiming and changing the narrative.

WE HAVE STORIES TO TELL is presented by Signature Theatre, The New Group, and The York Theatre Company in association with Walk Tall Girl Productions/Black Theater Online and Project1Voice.

Photo credits: (LisaGay Hamilton), Serge Nivelle (Tonya Pinkins), (Lillias White)

Hard Rock EP Review: Return For Refund - Self Titled (Independent - September 20, 2014)

EP Review:
Return For Refund - Self Titled
(Independent - September 20, 2014)

Buy the Album

Toronto's Return For Refund sound assured and well immersed in their hard rock niche on their self-titled EP released last fall. They got a lot of buzz during Indie Week 2014 and with good reason. They set the bar high for musical chops - and it's really nice to hear a real rock drummer adding rhythmic interest to the standard song form.

Vocals are another strong suit for the band. Singer Drew Clementino has got that rock edge but his voice is still melodic. The power is there when he needs it. He's backed up with some exuberant guitar wizardry from Sasha Molotkow. There's a nice interplay between the members of the band that speaks to their ease with each other musically.

The met after Drew auditioned for a few bands that didn't fit with his sound. Then he tried out for a cover band and felt what he calls an instant chemistry with Sasha. Later that same night, Drew went to an open mic and ran into Sasha again.

“We ended up playing a bunch of Blues songs like Mustang Sally and Red House. He played guitar and I sang. We just immediately hit it off,” says Clementino.

The songs cover the usual hard rock territory and the lyrics cover familiar relationship-oriented terrain.. On TV Light, there are some moments reminiscent of Iron Maiden - those repetitive melodic and rhythmic patterns.

Drew shows a nice vocal range in songs like Between My Sheets. It's a track with a distinct grunge-era influence; it's moody and based on a repeated guitar line. Yolo is a highlight of the EP with its inventive sense of rhythm and melody. Some is Better Than None is another great track, displaying a jazzy complexity and jangling guitar sound that neatly contrasts with an insistent drum line.

The EP has been well received by campus stations around the country, charting on several of them and getting regular airplay. It's not surprising - the EP gives you a nice taste of well produced and well executed hard rock.

Drew Clementino (Vocals, Guitar, Sasha Molotkow (Guitar, backing vocals), Karlis Hawkins (Drums, Backing vocals)
Tracklisting: 1) The Fields 2) TV Light 3) Between The Sheets 4) Yolo 5) Some Is Better Than None 6) Those Bombs