Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Soundstreams Toronto presents: R. Murray Schafer's Odditorium March 2-5, 2017

From a media release:

Soundstreams presents:
R. Murray Schafer's Odditorium
March 2-5, 2017

TORONTO - Soundstreams is thrilled to present Odditorium from March 2nd-5th, a selection of music theatre works by acclaimed Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer,under the creative direction of award-winning film and theatre director Chris Abraham.

• Tickets range from $22-$67.50 and are available through the Crow’s Theatre Box Office at 647-341-7390 or online at Soundstreams.ca.

Performances: March 2nd-5th, 2017
Thursday March 2nd, 2017 at 8PM
Friday March 3rd, 2017 at 7PM and 10PM
Saturday March 4th, 2017 at 7PM and 10PM
Sunday March 5th, 2017 at 2PM

Venue: Newly opened Crow’s Theatre, 345 Carlaw Avenue
Repertoire: Amente-Nufe, Crown of Ariadne, Tantrika, La testa d’Adriana

Odditorium weaves together 4 works from opera, theatre, and dance, all selections from Schafer’s Patria-cycle: Amente-Nufe, Crown of Ariadne, Tantrika, and La testa d’Adriana. Conceived over a 40 year period, Patria is considered one of the most radical and inventive Canadian works created in the past half-century, and consists of a cycle of 12 music-theatre works featuring a labyrinth of sideshows, lovers, buskers, and Tantric experts. As the Toronto Star has proclaimed, “there is nothing like Patria in the history of Canadian musical theatre.”

The newly conceived realization of these 4 works from Schafer’s Patria cycle will debut at Streetcar Crowsnest, Crow’s Theatre’s new state-of-the art performing arts facility in Toronto’s east end. Odditorium will be brought to life with creative collaboration from multi-award-winning film and theatre directorChris Abraham (Crow’s Theatre, Stratford Festival, Canadian Stage Company).

Odditorium features two outstanding Schafer stalwarts, harpist Judy Lomanand accordionist Joseph Macerollo. They are joined by some of the country’s most prominent interpreters of contemporary music and dance: Carla Huhtanen, soprano, Andrea Ludwig, mezzo-soprano; percussionists Ryan Scott, Dan Morphy; and dancer/choreographers Andrea Nann and Brendan Wyatt.

“Schafer invites us to journey with him into an exceptional world of magic and mythology. He touches us constantly with the eerily familiar, yet leaving us with a profound yearning for a return to innocence. These four remarkable works have been sculpted together as a continuous whole, exploring the deepest recesses of Schafer’s creative mind” explains Lawrence Cherney, Soundstreams Artistic Director.

“Myths of creation and destruction, death and re-birth, and the mythic archetypes of Ariadne, Theseus, the minotaur, and the labyrinth are on Schafer’s mind.  He speaks to our unconscious mind, in order to activate our mythic imagination. Our aim has been to follow his lead and create a space for connections and resonances between these four works” said creative consultant Chris Abraham.

Soundstreams has a storied history with R. Murray Schafer. Soundstreams has commissioned numerous works: the large-scale opera The Children’s Crusade co-produced with Luminato; The Fall Into Light for 7 choirs; Death of Shalana, Isfahan, The Soul of God, and Hear The Sounds Go Round. Schafer, one of Canada’s most prolific composers, librettists, and music educators, was the first recipient of the Jules Léger Prize (1978) and the Glen Gould Prize (1987). Among his numerous awards and accolades, Schafer has received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, and was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2013.

Andrea Ludwig, Mezzo; Judy Loman, Harp; Carla Huhtanen, Soprano; Ryan Scott, Percussion; Dan Morphy, Percussion; Joseph Macerollo O.C, Accordion; Andrea Nann, Dancer; Brendan Wyatt, Dancer/Co-choreographer

Creative Team:
Chris Abraham, Creative Consultant; Zack Russell, Creative Assistant; Andrea Naan, Choreographer; Kim Purtell, Lightning Designer; Shannon Lea Doyle, Costume/ Set Designer; John Hess, Vocal Coach/ Music Director; Thomas Ryder Payne, Sound Designer

The Crown of Ariadne by R. Murray Schafer:

Canada's 100 Best Restaurants 2017

From a media release:

Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants 
2017 Rankings Announced

Third annual list sees a new No. 1 restaurant and more than 30 new additions, plus best new restaurant, most innovative chef, best pastry chef, best restaurant design, and lifetime achievement for Susur Lee

Toronto, ON – Chefs, restaurateurs, critics and industry experts gathered this evening, February 28, to toast the 2017 edition of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants at an awards ceremony at the Shangri-La Hotel. The evening recognized exceptional tastes and talents across the country, including Toronto’s highly-acclaimed Alo, topping this year’s rankings in first place. The 2017 rankings welcomed more than 30 new additions, including restaurants in Edmonton, Calgary, St. John’s, Halifax, Ottawa and Saskatoon.

“We’re thrilled to launch our 2017 issue,” said Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants Editor-in-Chief Jacob Richler. “With every issue we’re able to showcase more of the incredible cuisine Canada has to offer; from Tofino, British Columbia to Cambridge, Ontario, these are the best chefs and restaurants in the country.”

Alo Restaurant, Toronto
In addition to naming the Top 100, the Canada’s 100 Best also recognizes excellence in the industry:
  • Best New Restaurant: Kissa Tanto (Chef: Joël Watanabe)
  • Most Innovative Chef: Charles-Antoine Crête and Cheryl Johnson, Montréal Plaza
  • Best Pastry Chef: Claude Guérin, Maison Boulud Ritz Carlton Montreal
  • Best Restaurant Design: Leña (The Design Agency)
  • Lifetime Achievement: Susur Lee
Canada’s 100 Best named the following Top 10 restaurants for 2017:
  1. Alo – Toronto
  2. Toqué! – Montreal
  3. Joe Beef – Montreal
  4. Le Vin Papillon – Montreal
  5. Edulis – Toronto
  6. Hawksworth Restaurant at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia – Vancouver
  7. Buca Osteria & Bar (Yorkville) – Toronto
  8. Canoe – Toronto
  9. Dandylion – Toronto
  10. Pigeonhole – Calgary
Toqué! – Montreal
More than just a restaurant guide, the third annual Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants magazine is the definitive voice driving the conversation about excellence within the industry.  From discriminating restaurant patrons looking to make better choices, to culinary insiders, the annual list has been positively received for being unbiased and comprehensive. The standings reflect a consensus of diverse, sophisticated and educated opinions from over 82 judges that include Canada’s top chefs, restaurateurs, journalists and food industry insiders. The rankings are tabulated by KPMG.
Hawksworth, Vancouver
Available on newsstands across Canada on March 1, the magazine celebrates excellence in the restaurant industry in all its forms. For more information visit: canadas100best.com.

Twitter: @CanadasBest100
Instagram:  @CanadasBest100
Facebook: CanadasBest100
Hashtag: #C100B

About Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants Rankings Issue
More than just a restaurant guide, Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants magazine is a curated list of Canada’s top restaurants, judged by Canada’s top chefs, restaurateurs, culinary experts and journalists. Under the guidance of Editor-in-Chief Jacob Richler, restaurant rankings were determined from the ballots of an 82-member panel of judges from across Canada; results are adjudicated by KPMG. Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants magazine is published by GDC Media. See the full rankings list at www.canadas100best.com

About Alo, this year's No. 1:

Michael Tilson Thomas And The San Francisco Symphony Present Symphony Pride April 4 2017

From a media release:

Michael Tilson Thomas And The San Francisco Symphony
Present Symphony Pride, April 4, 2017 At Davies Symphony Hall
Benefit Concert In Support Of The Bay Area LGBTQ Community Features Broadway Star Audra McDonald

Ticket proceeds benefit non-profits that provide services to Bay Area LGBTQ community

Buy Tickets Now

SAN FRANCISCO, February 27, 2017 – On April 4, 2017, Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, along with Broadway star Audra McDonald, celebrate the Bay Area’s spirit of inclusion and diversity with a special concert in Davies Symphony Hall recognizing and supporting the Bay Area LGBTQ community.

Symphony Pride is scheduled on the eve of the Orchestra’s East Coast tour, which was to have included two concerts in North Carolina but cancelled in response to discriminatory legislation adopted by the state. Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony believe strongly in representing the values of the community they serve, offering Symphony Pride as an event which not only celebrates and affirms the Orchestra’s commitment to inclusion but also supports service organizations working towards equality for all.

“This special evening honors the essential contributions that LGBTQ composers have made in shaping the American musical sound,” stated Michael Tilson Thomas. “One of music’s greatest roles is to bring people together. I am proud to join with the musicians of the San Francisco Symphony and my dear friend Audra McDonald in presenting an evening that celebrates and honors the spirit of our community. This concert also offers me the opportunity to express my appreciation for the generous welcome extended to me and my husband, Joshua Robison, since our arrival here over 20 years ago.”

“We commend Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony for taking a stand in support of the LQBTQ community,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “This great event reaffirms San Francisco’s commitment to equality for all, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Now, more than ever, San Francisco must exemplify what it means to be an inclusive city, devoted to protecting and advancing the rights of all who live here.”

The wide-ranging concert program features the voices of many LGBTQ musical mavericks that MTT has championed throughout his career, including Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell, Meredith Monk, and John Cage. Further illustrating the remarkable impact LGBTQ composers have made on the Broadway stage, Audra McDonald performs a selection of songs by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Kander and Ebb. McDonald also narrates Aaron Copland’s iconic Lincoln Portrait, a hopeful work he wrote to capture “the magnificent spirit of our country.”

Concluding the concert is the extraordinary final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, a work the Orchestra will be performing at Carnegie Hall later in the week. Event Chairs of Symphony Pride are longtime California State Senator and civil rights advocate Mark Leno and Joshua Robison.

Broadway and television star Audra McDonald joins MTT in Symphony Pride as co-host, vocalist, and narrator of Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait. Known for her powerful performances in musicals and dramas such as Ragtime, A Raisin in the Sun, and Porgy and Bess; for her solo tours and appearances with symphony orchestras nationwide; for her role on the ABC medical drama Private Practice; and for her many successful recordings, McDonald holds a record six acting Tony awards, two Grammy awards and an Emmy award.

McDonald and Tilson Thomas have been friends and frequent collaborators for over two decades. This performance marks her 11th with the SFS and MTT since her debut with the Orchestra in their 1998 Gershwin Centennial Celebration broadcast nationally from Carnegie Hall. Throughout her career, Audra McDonald has been a passionate advocate and outspoken activist for equal rights and LGBTQ causes.

The majority of ticket proceeds from Symphony Pride will support organizations that provide services to the LGBTQ community in the Bay Area, including Larkin Street Youth Services, Transgender Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and The Trevor Project.

Larkin Street Youth Services has been at the forefront of meeting the unique needs of LGBTQ youth for decades. Throughout their continuum of services, from drop-in centers and shelters to education and employment programs, Larkin Street ensures that all programs are safe and welcoming places where LGBTQ youth are celebrated for who they are. Specialized initiatives for LGBTQ youth include HIV prevention, testing, and housing as well as their Castro Youth Housing Initiative, which provides supportive housing to homeless youth who identify as LGBTQ for up to 24 months.

Headquartered in Oakland, Transgender Law Center is the largest organization in the country dedicated to changing law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression. The center envisions a future where gender self-determination and authentic expression are seen as basic rights and matters of common human dignity.

Located in San Francisco since 1977, the National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, legislation, policy, and public education.

The Trevor Project is the leading and only accredited national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under the age of 25. The Trevor Project offers a suite of crisis intervention and suicide prevention programs, including TrevorLifeline, TrevorText, and TrevorChat as well as a peer-to-peer social network support for LGBTQ young people under the age of 25, TrevorSpace. Trevor also offers an education program with resources for youth-serving adults and organizations, a legislative advocacy department, and conducts research to discover the most effective means to help young LGBTQ people in crisis and end suicide.

Symphony Pride is made possible through the generous support of Mr. Alvin Baum & Mr. Robert Holgate, Nancy & Joachim Bechtle, Mr. & Mrs. Owsley Brown, Susie Tompkins Buell & Mark Buell, Jack Calhoun & Trent Norris, Mr. Duncan L J Clark, Matt & Pia Cohler, Jeffrey Fraenkel & Alan Mark, Laurel & Vinod Gupta, James C. Hormel & Michael P. Nguyen, Mr. Thomas Horn, Mark Leno, Nellie & Max Levchin, Nion McEvoy & Leslie Berriman, Microsoft, Mark & Alison Pincus, Michael Tilson Thomas & Joshua Robison, The Bob A. Ross Foundation, Dr. & Mrs. Orville H. Schell, Diane B. Wilsey, and Jed & Danielle York. Wine for Symphony Pride is generously provided by Pine Ridge Vineyards and Seghesio Family Vineyards.

Tuesday, April 4 at 8 pm
Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA

Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Audra McDonald, vocalist and narrator
San Francisco Symphony
Members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus

Works by Lou HARRISON, Henry COWELL, Meredith MONK, and John CAGE
Broadway selections by Stephen SONDHEIM, Leonard BERNSTEIN and others
Audra McDonald, vocalist
COPLAND Lincoln Portrait Audra McDonald, narrator
MAHLER Finale from Symphony No. 1 in D major

Broadcast: A broadcast of Symphony Pride will air Tuesday, April 11 at 8 pm on Classical KDFC 90.3 San Francisco, 104.9 San Jose, 89.9 Napa, and kdfc.com where it will be available for on-demand streaming.

Tickets: $25/$50
Tickets are available at sfsymphony.org, by phone at 415-864-6000, and at the Davies Symphony Hall Box Office, on Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street in San Francisco.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Art + Sound: Soundwall Debuts Nova - art you can touch to stream music...

With material from a media release:

Art + Sound
Soundwall Debuts Nova
art you can touch to stream music...

I don't usually get into techie subjects, but this one was too supercool to pass up. Soundwall is an innovative company that manufactures flat-panel speakers made of aluminum artwork.

The Technology
The entire surface of a Soundwall is a speaker. The Nova uses Distributed Mode Loudspeaker (DML) technology to produce brilliant sound. Exciters mounted on the back of the aluminum art vibrate the surface to produce incredible, full-range sound throughout your room.

You Choose The Look
There are over 150 existing works of art to choose from in a variety of sizes. You can also upload your own pieces, including artwork or photographs, for a one of a kind design. The image is printed on the aluminum using a dye sublimation process that creates crisp, vivid images.
Artist Sam Day in his studio
Add Lighting
You can add dynamic ambient backlighting, with a number of presets to choose from. You control the lighting from a mobile app.

Interactive Magic Touch
You touch the screen to play, pause and skip songs.

The Details:
It's compatible with both iOS and Android devices, with a simple WiFi connection and a built-in computer for app functionality.

• Price: Starting at $900USD.
• Find out more at the link 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Recently released: no:carrier - Broken Rainbow; Songs for an Apocalyptic World (Independent - November 11 2016)

Recently released:
no:carrier - Broken Rainbow; Songs for an Apocalyptic World
(Independent - November 11, 2016)

Buy it on iTunes 

Just what is Electro-Noire, you ask? Judging by this latest release from San Francisco's no:carrier, it's stylish, sophisticated, and atmospheric. no:carrier's sound is elevated by pure, melodic vocals over eletronic noise that buzzes, shudders, and pulses underneath its hypnotic sway.

“We can’t be compared easily. We have our very own sound that includes elements from several styles – from Dark Wave to Synthpop, from Acoustic to Electro,” says Chris Wirsig, main songwriter and producer.

Founded in 1995 in Germany as a duo between lead singer Cynthia Wechselberger and songwriter/producer Chris Wirsigj, the band has added four more singers in a line up that's been fairly stable since 2001, including Lauralee Brown and Liza Marie Sparks of San Francisco and Scilla Siekmann and Bobby Halvorson of Los Angeles.

Broken Rainbow is no:carrier's fourth full-length album, and it covers the murky territory you'd expect. Violins and growly guitar lines weave in and out of the melody on Your Heroin.

Your heroin don't work no more
The needle's are all broken
Too much is left unspoken
Drowned forever more.

It's typical of the sense of invention that characterizes the collection of tracks. Little Death is another of the more melodic songs. The title track - Broken Rainbow - is instrumental, with a haunting melody that has echoes of Asian tonalities.

Sometimes you wonder if the effect is slightly tongue in cheek - as in the "creep mix" of Here's To You, with desolate, dismal vocals and arrangement over lyrics like

Here's to you
Here's to happiness
Here's to good times and bad
To being happy and sometimes sad
To every drop of rain 
Falling down your pretty face...

When you think of it, Bad Moon Rising was a dichotomy in the original version - solemn, down lyrics over that catchy country rock. The no;carrier version simply adds the creepy piano arrangement the words deserve. Other tracks include The Man Who Drew Cats, a song about Louis Wain, a man famous for his illustrations of anthropomorphic cats.

Electronica at its finest loses the labels and becomes simply compelling music, and that's the effect of this intriguing release.

Websites: www.nocarriermusic.com, www.facebook.com/nocarriermusic,
www.twitter.com/nocarriermusic, www.soundcloud.com/nocarriermusic

Recently released: Danophone - Rerun (Independent - 2 December 2016)

Recently released:
Danophone - Rerun
(Independent - 2 December 2016)

Danophone is the musical side project of Danish science journalist Carsten Nielsen. Rerun is his debut release.

The whole album has a slightly melancholic bent that is somewhat ironic, given that a Danophone (“Danish speaking by birth or adoption”) means you’re living in the “world’s happiest country” according to the United Nations. The city of Aalborg in northern Denmark, where he lives was recently named the Happiest City in Europe.

Frightened For is an an acoustic pop sound with a swingy groove and energy, wrapping a cautionary tale in a catchy tune with a nice hook in the refrain - It's you I'm frightened for.

A lush, layered instrumentation with strings/keyboards and a busy finger picking acoustic style bolsters vocals that are somewhat limited in range and expression on Meet In The Middle. It's a formula that works well.

On Copenhagen Club, the mood turns to straight up rock'n roll in a stripped down, melodic vein. It's an energy he harnesses equally well on City Of The Kings, a rollicking country rock tune.

Some of the songs sound like something you might've heard on Top 40 AM radio in the 1970s, like Arrested or Written In The Sand, with ear grabbing hooks and an organic groove. Tracks like Turn Blue and The Whole Truth venture into pure roots country territory. Nation Of Two is a plaintive country-rock ballad with lyrics that reminisce about love.
Danophone aka Carsten Nielsen
Rerun, the title track, is a stand out, with soaring harmonies over a jumpy and insistent rhythm and a contrapuntal guitar line. The nicely layered effect works well.

I'm not sure what's going on with Danish journalism, but one of the back up musicians is fellow journalist Tino Pedersen. Their friendship goes back to their teenage years in high school and the two of them have performed side by side in other bands and duos as “Capones” and “Syndikatet”. Other contributions include drumming from award-winning jazz and rock talent Bertil Bille and mixing & mastering assistance from DJ Elias Bille.

In any genre, it's high calibre musicianship and a nice sense of the songwriting hook that propels this collection of modern pop.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Food, Travel & Connections: A Sourdough Story

Food, Travel & Connections:
A Sourdough Story

Sourdough as a universal connection? For Arianna Sikorski, the idea came about as a natural development.

She's taking part in a unique 12-month Master of Management in International Arts Management degree, a program offered through HEC Montréal Business School, Southern Methodist University’s Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship division (USA), in collaboration with SDA Bocconi School of Management (Italy). The program includes one four-month session at each of the three partner institutions in Dallas, Montreal and Milan plus a 10-day campus at the Universidad de los Andes School of Management in Bogotá, Colombia.

For Arianna Sikorski, currently in the research phase of working through the program, the focus has been on thinking about the links between food, culture, heritage, and how the latter are exchanged with others in modern society.

Arianna was raised in Alaska, and has traveled extensively over the last couple of years. "It's coming from my travels," she says.

She recalls ending up in New Zealand some time ago on a working holiday. "I brought with me a sourdough starter," she explains. But, it wasn't just any sourdough starter. It was a culture that had been passed down in her family for more than a century. "Sourdough is part of my childhood."

Sourdough, if you're not in the know, is actually dough that has been fermented by using lactobacilli and yeast. You might have had sourdough bread in an upscale restaurant, and some places -- like San Francisco -- are famous for their sourdough starters. It is a process that has been used for millennia to make bread, and is often used to bake rye bread. The oldest sourdough bread ever found dates back to 3700 BCE and experts believe the process actually began thousands of years before that.

What Arianna discovered was that the sourdough -- something she could share and pass on, and which, not incidentally, was allowed into the country legally by customs -- became a natural way to connect with the New Zealand family she was staying with. Blueberry pancakes became her favorite way of sharing the bounty, although the process did lead to a lot of experimentation with the sourdough too.

"The sourdough really started taking on a life of its own."

When she made it to Iceland, she tried geothermal baking, which uses hot spots in Iceland's surface crust to harness the heat bubbling underneath. Hot springs can reach 100°C or 212°F, and volcanic areas can generate temperatures close to 200°C or 400°F.

Other culinary adventures have involved turning the sourdough into classic French patisserie, and adding local flavour in Chile. "I made empanadas down there. We made a whole fusion of sourdough and empanadas."

The exchanges began to intrigue her all on their own as a form of cultural fusion -- each side bringing something, literally, to the table. "That sense of connection became a growing interest."

Food is a form of culture that speaks to everyone. "It's quite a powerful medium for understanding -- and a fun one," she says. "It's an immediate connection."

Once she heard about the program, it was a natural fit and a productive environment for artistic exploration of the idea. The end result remains to be seen -- although it is sure to be tasty.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Downtown Mexico: Stay In A Palace In Historic Mexico City

From a media release:

The Downtown Mexico
Stay in a former palace in the historic centre of Mexico City

Colonial 17th-century former palace sits on a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Stylish rooftop terrace with pool and Jacuzzi
Bohemian-chic stone-forge stairways and red volcanic walls

Make a Reservation

MEXICO CITY - Built in the 17th century, Downtown Hotel is an historic, former palace providing 17 beautiful suites - some with attractive wrought-iron balconies overlooking the street, others facing the courtyard. Other charming features include a bar and swimming pool on the rooftop with city views and all within just two blocks of Mexico City’s central square, El Zocalo.

The red volcanic rock of the walls, the wooden beams, vaulted ceilings and handmade clay floor tiles lend a dramatic sense of history to this delightful residence. High above the city bustle, relax by the pool on Downtown Hotel’s rooftop and savour a drink from the bar.

For each of their properties, Grupo Habita use a local team and integrate the local culture into the design concepts. Such was the case when lovingly renovating the Downtown, one of the oldest residences in the area that still maintains this particular Mexican vice regal style. The property blends elements of colonial style with local, indigenous culture. Characteristics such as ornate detailing around the windows of the facade and a stone-forge staircase with intricate handrails sit alongside red volcanic rock walls and handmade cement tiles. The 17 rooms and suites possess a stripped-back, bohemian-chic elegance.

Located in the central balcony of the palace of the Countess of Miravalle, is the breakfast patio and lobby of downtown, a unique space that lets you enjoy the 17th century colonial architecture and the fresco 'The Holocaust', by muralist Manuel Rodriguez Lozano. In this area guests can enjoy breakfast and access to their rooms.

The large terrace has spectacular views of the skyline of the historic center, with its churches, Torre Latinoamericana and the Casino Español, among others. It is the perfect place to hold events and to relax with a drink.

The pool terrace has a pool, a jacuzzi and a bar that let you enjoy the best views and the best weather.

A short walk from Downtown Hotel and you are in El Zocalo Square bordered by the cathedral, Palacio Nacional, and the ruins of the Aztec Tenochtitlan, including the Templo Mayor. Well worth a visit is The Mercado de Xochimilco, as is the Museo Castillo de Chapultepec overlooking the city.

Address: Isabel La Católica 30, Cuauhtémoc, Centro, 06002 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Phone: +52 55 5282 2199

Jazz CD Release: Saxophonist/Composer Miguel Zenón releases Típico February 10 2017 on Miel Music

From a media release:

Internationally Acclaimed Saxophonist/Composer Miguel Zenón releases intimate new recording Típico 
February 10, 2017 on Miel Music

Zenón’s 10th recording as a leader celebrates his longstanding quartet with Luis Perdomo, Hans Glawischnig, Henry Cole

Pre-order/Buy the CD

Miguel Zenón’s new album, Típico, is above all a celebration of his longstanding quartet. His past several releases have generally fleshed out that core unit with additional instrumentalists as Zenón has looked outward to explore various aspects of his Puerto Rican heritage. This new album feels more intimate. Its focus stays closer to home, with nods to Zenón’s own personal and professional life as it zeroes in on what makes his band unique.

“I was thinking about what this band and the guys in the band mean to me as I was writing the music,” he explains. “I kept going back to this idea of us developing this common language that identifies us as a band.”

That language has been developing for more than a decade. Pianist Luis Perdomo and bassist Hans Glawischnig have been with Zenón since the turn of the millennium; Henry Cole joined the band in 2005. Their language is thoroughly fluent modern jazz, with all the instrumental prowess and rhythmic and harmonic complexity that that implies. But the dialect they’ve created together through the years is distinctive.

“‘Típico’ refers to something that’s customary to a region or a group of people,” Zenón says. “Or something that can be related to a specific group of people. And when I was writing the music, I was thinking about music that identified us and this band.”

Each of the album’s final three tracks, Zenón notes, was composed around a solo or signature rhythmic line that one of the band members had played before. “My approach was more systematic on those three compositions specifically. But the whole record essentially is about representing the sound of the band. The sound of our band.”

The album opens with “Academia,” a tune inspired by Zenón’s teaching at New England Conservatory, where he serves as part of the jazz faculty. “One of the great things about teaching at NEC is that I get the opportunity to create a personalized curriculum for each of my private students, depending on their needs and on what I feel they should be working on. So I find myself having to come up with new exercises constantly, in order to keep our interactions interesting and challenging. This composition is built around various harmonic and rhythmic exercises that I developed with some of my more recent students at the school.”

The second track, “Cantor,” honors Zenón’s friend and frequent collaborator Guillermo Klein. “Gullermo’s music has a very personal voice, something very unique. With this piece I was trying to convey some of what I feel are his most interesting qualities as a composer, like the lyrical character of his melodies and the very nuanced harmonic movement of his pieces. He also has very particular way of organizing the 3/4 bar, which he breaks down into three bars of 7/8 and one bar of 3/8. The piece touches on this a bit towards the end, sort of as a way of tipping my hat to a great friend and musician.”

The third and fourth tracks both stem from Zenón pondering what gives a particular song a folkloric feel. “Ciclo” emphasizes melody and rhythm, Zenón taking “a melody that is meant to sound very folkloric — a bit simpler harmonically and delineating a very specific beat” and building a complex extended cycle around it using smaller, interlocking rhythmic cells.

 “Típico” approaches its folkloric aims harmonically. “There’s a harmonic cadence that is very common in Latin American music, especially music in the Caribbean. Something that revolves around a minor key and then slides down, going ‘Subdominant Minor – Tonic Minor – Dominant – Tonic Minor.’ A very simple cadence, but one that is very unique and effective. It’s always caught my ear because I’m always on the lookout for things that serve as sort of musical connecting threads, things that makes me feel that the music from all these different countries and cultural expressions is somehow connected and coming out of the same combination of elements. I built this specific composition around this cadence, and called it “Típico” in reference to this Pan-American idea.”

“Sangre Di Me Sangre” is a tune the quartet has been playing for a while now, a balladic tribute to Zenón’s 4-year-old daughter, Elena, written before her first birthday. “I was sitting in this park with her,” he recalls. “She was playing around and I sat down and sketched out the song on my notepad.” Zenón wrote the piece first with lyrics, then orchestrated it for the quartet, featuring Glawischnig’s bass both on a sprightly introductory melody played in unison with Perdomo and on a solo meant to convey a singing quality.

Glawischnig is also featured on “Corteza,” its melody derived from Zenón’s transcription of his bass solo opening the track “Calle Calma” on the 2009 Zenón album Esta Plena. It, too, has a balladic feel, with lyrical solos from Zenón and Perdomo leading to a closing uptempo restatement of the theme.

The Perdomo feature “Entre Las Raíces” (“Amongst the Roots”) is more fiery, emphasizing two key facets of the pianist’s musical personality. The intricate melody he and Zenón whip through together was transcribed from a Perdomo solo on “Street View: Biker,” the opening track on Perdomo’s album Awareness. But this arrangement opens with Perdomo playing wild and free, and Zenón’s alto solo when it comes reveals a free side of his own, veering more toward Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler.

“The piece is very free in terms of the way we deal with the improvised segments,” says Zenón. “Luis always talks about listening to Bud Powell and Cecil Taylor at the same time when he was growing up in Caracas, and always having a foot in this freer, avant-gardish world of jazz. And when you hear him play on that track, it sounds that way. For that piece specifically, he really sounds like he’s 100 percent in his element.”

Cole’s playing is suitably free on “Entre Las Raíces” as well, but his featured track, “Las Ramas” (“The Branches,” Cole’s own debut album having been titled “Roots Before Branches”), required more discipline. “I wrote the piece around this figure that he has been developing over the last few years and plays all the time,” says Zenón. “The piece is very difficult to play — sort of like an etude for the drums, pretty much. And I know he worked very hard on it. Even though the original idea came from him, he worked very hard on making it precise and making it clean, and really sounded amazing on this track.”

It’s no accident that the final three songs are named for parts of a tree. “I was thinking of the band as a tree,” Zenón acknowledges. “And thinking of myself as the watcher. I mean, I’m part of it also. But mostly I’m observing these amazing musicians night after night, and how together they kind of make up this living organism.”

Zenón is onto something with that metaphor. The spotlight cast by Típico illuminates how alive his quartet’s music has always been, while never ceasing to evolve and grow.

Miguel Zenón 
February – March 2017 Tour Dates
• Thursday, February 9 – La Nouvelle Scene, Studio, TD Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, Ottawa, Canada
• Friday, February 10 - Villa Victoria Center for the Arts - Boston, MA
• Saturday, February 11 - Annenberg Center Live,  Philadelphia, PA
• Tuesday – Sunday, February 14 - 19 - Village Vanguard, New York, NY 
• Wednesday, February 22 - The Loft at UCSD - San Diego, CA
• Thursday, February 23 - Kuumbwa Jazz Center - Santa Cruz, CA
• Friday – Sunday, February 24 - 26 - SFJazz Center, Joe Henderson Lab - San Francisco, CA
• Wednesday, March 1- Cornish College of the Arts, Earshot Jazz - Seattle, WA
• Thursday & Friday, March 2 & 3 - Dazzle Jazz, Denver, CO
• Sunday, March 5: Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society,  Half Moon Bay, CA
• Tuesday, March 7: Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
• Wednesday, March 8:  Jazz Kitchen, Indianapolis, IN
• Thursday – Sunday, March 9 - 12 - Jazz Showcase, Chicago, IL

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

CD Review: von Konow - Lieder (Independent, Jan 14, 2017)

CD Review:
von Konow - Lieder
(Independent, Jan 14, 2017)

Buy the CD

It's hard to put this solo release by Marko von Konow into a specific category. There are shades of classic 80s synth pop and dance music, there's glam and there's lush orchestration. Above it all, his technically accomplished vocals flesh out the sound with lyrics about love and life.

Von Konow spends his time going back and forth between Helsinki, Finland, and sunny Alentejo, Portugal, which may account for the diversity of influences.

Von Konow sees the work as a synthesis of his journey through the music word, free as a solo act to explore songwriting. The words typically tell stories. Many of the sounds, like Cosmic, have an anthemic element that sticks in your head. Others, like Horses Run With Me, meander through several moods.

At times, the beats have a rougher edge. In Heartbeat, the rhythms have a harder edge, his voice smoothly melodic over a stuttering beat. Dream includes fuzzy guitar lines that add a note of tension.

Hello has a cool, spacey vibe, full of breathy air and atmosphere. It's his vocals that make the elements coalesce into a jazzy groove. The track is a highlight of the album, where the emotion of the song matches the song structure in intensity.

Castaway is another great track, its unexpected phrasings tripping over a lush pop arrangement. The key is the sincerity of his delivery - that's what carries the songs. Illusions has a groovy kind of retro feel that builds in layers over a twangy guitar line. He's got a great sense of song structure, and how to make the familiar sound fresh.

Marko von Konow, vocals, keyboards and programming; Timo Vikkula, Guitars; Tommi Pietiläinen, Guitars; Jari kääriäinen, Keyboards; Paco Halonen, Bass guitar; Ville Särmä, Drums
Production: Marko von Konow / Vild Music

Be Sociable:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/vonkonowmusic
Instagram: vonkonowartist

Watch the "Horses Run with Me" video (Filmed on the beaches of Alentejo, Portugal. Produced by Tommi Pietiläinen and Hannu Pyyhtiä and starring beautiful Johanna Öman.):

CD Review: April Martin - In The Blink Of A Life (Shrimp Toast Music - December 7 2016)

CD Review:
April Martin - In The Blink Of A Life
(April Martin / Shrimp Toast Music - December 7, 2016)

Buy the CD

In the Blink of a Life is the second release for New York City based singer/songwriter April Martin. She inhabits the country rock genre with a convincing flair in this interesting collection of songs.

April's voice is a fluid alto, perfectly matched to the storytelling nature of the lyrics. She's expressive, and the vocals have a light quality that dances above the music.

From Heart Break Doesn't Come:

Get a little case of dread
Finding grey hairs on your head...
But heart break doesn't come from lovin' me.

The songs are clever and insightful, and drive the straight up country swing of the music, with the guitar playing a mournfully twangy line above it.

She began songwriting later in life, after a career as a psychologist and raising three children. April says the inspiration for her lyrics is a love of the simple music she heard in her youth during the 1950s.  "I overheard my first grade teacher complaining, “If that child doesn't stop humming I will go crazy.” I hummed the tunes and memorized the words, which spoke life’s truths to my little heart. I knew for a fact that love is a many splendored thing, that Davey Crockett was king of the wild frontier, and that when you load sixteen tons all you get is another day older and deeper in debt. My musical tastes may have broadened, but to this day I’m drawn to the simplicity of a song that makes me laugh or cry or wonder about something that rings deeply true."

My Rock and My Rain takes a poetic approach to love's universal values. April's voice and sound are compared to Loretta Lynn and Gillian Welch, but I'm also hearing Patti Smith in the slightly quivering vocals and the stripped down rock arrangements. It's a sound that appears again in All I've Got.

She incorporates various elements with imagination. The vocals in While I'm Waiting take on a nicely roots country feel over Latin percussion and guitar. Some tracks, like Looking Back and Everyday I Love You More fall more neatly into the roots folk vein, with her voice over a simple guitar line. In Sara's Lullaby, the chorus is sung in Spanish, again blending a classic American folk feel with Latin rhythms.

One Part Truth and The Party's In Full Swing draw on traditional country sounds like banjo, with lyrics that look on life (and death) with a wry lens. In Praise The Morning, she blends roots and country gospel in a catchy melody.

It's no surprise that her earlier release, 2010's Pennies in a Jar, collected more than 10,000 fans globally via Internet radio.