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When In Rome (I Do As The Romans Do)  

 

Finding the songs for the Vegas Breeze album has been a gas. Searching meticulously through the canon of late 50’s early 60’s Pop has meant hours and hours of enjoyment, discovering lesser known material of the classic showroom era.

It was an interesting time for song craft in that most of the hit parade was generated from Broadway and Hollywood, where songs from musical scores made up the mainstay of the pop charts. Its not a generalization to say that meant a more sophisticated sense of lyric and melodic structure in that pre-rock n roll period. (No wonder so many of the Jazz standards have their genesis in the Musical Theatre tradition!) 

Our first single having been the Frank Sinatra classic “Thats Life”,  I knew it was important to look beyond the Rat Pack tunes (which are sung so often and by so many) on the rest of the collection. So I went deep diving into the repertoire of other Las Vegas entertainers such as Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Judy Garland, Tony Bennett and Ms Peggy Lee.  In fact our 2nd single “When In Rome”, written by Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh (Witchcraft, The Best Is Yet To Come etc) was first recorded by Peggy Lee in 1964, although it is the Barbra Streisand version (released the same year) that I was most familiar with from my families record collection at home. A fresh “self-empowered” approach from both ladies suited the song well, however When In Rome didn’t officially enter the “jazz” canon until the Tony Bennett included the song in his collaboration with Bill Evans in 1975. 

Arranged in collaboration with my stellar band Michael Shand, Russ Boswell & Al Cross, with the notable addition of Rob Piltch on guitar, we settled on a breezy Bossa Nova arrangement with strings (with a beautiful arrangement by Don Breithaupt!), for that “international playboy” approach, after all When In Rome is essentially a very smart and sophisticated “cheating song”. 

I believe the NY Times said it best ; “When in Rome” has lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Coleman’s greatest collaborator and the only major American lyricist whose bon mots consistently match Cole Porter’s in capturing an attitude of jaded sophistication fraught with heartbreak. The more pain is exposed, the sharper the wit that covers it up”.

Ah yes that mid-century American attitude- Jet setting to the tune of international infidelity! LOL

The Festival Experience  

 Music fans crave discovery. 
Thats why we love the festival experience. And of course Music Festivals are all about discovery. The music lover may be there to see a favorite artist but along the way will have the opportunity to stumble on a whole bunch of other acts! Thats why artists love to play festivals too, we get to introduce ourselves to a whole army of potential fans we would never have reached otherwise!  

Coming together in a community around a shared interest is even more important to us in the digital age. Just witness the communal experience Canadians felt as the Tragically Hip played it's last shows together this summer. At a music festival everyone can feel a part of the atmosphere of the bigger event.  Its not about attending one concert,  it's about our shared love of the music which is why everybody is there in the first place!   

 Jazz festivals are no different. From the big international festivals like Montreaux to the local festival such as the Beaches Jazz Festival there are all kinds of arguments for hearing Jazz in a festival setting rather than only in a small local venue.  There are many challenges to putting on a great festival and one of them is how to attract an audience in a busy marketplace, which is why mainstream music festivals tend to invite international artists that we rarely get to see.     

 

Toronto loves it's festivals.
From the big ones like Tiff and Hot Docs to the local neighbourhood food festivals like Taste of The Danforth  there is hardly a week without a festival happening somewhere in the greater GTA.  
Our newest entry to the Festival calendar is The  Kensington Market Jazz Festival (in my old stomping ground) which has been conceived  of by musicians (our first lady of culture Ms. Molly Johnson) as a neighbourhood-oriented weekend for Toronto to discover and celebrate it's own jazz artists.  

Its happening in a batch of unusual local venues which are just waiting for discovery.   I'm particularly excited to be reunited with Sophie Milman when we share The Round stage Sept 17th. Our Ottawa gig with the National Arts Centre Orchestra singing Cole Porter duets was a pleasure indeed! 

 There is already an amazing street vibe in Kensington Market, and the weekend of Sept 16th, 17th and 18th the air will be filled with Jazz of every kind!  Come and hang out for the weekend. You'll see thrilled to see old favourites and make a few new discoveries I promise! 

 Kensington Market Jazz Video!


 

Whats Your New York Story Canada? 

 

When I brought the songs that would become New York Stories back from the Big Apple it took a lot of polishing and crafting before the material was ready to record. First I played the material for audiences across Canada and they told me which songs were landing deepest with them. Then my trio and I worked up the arrangements and tested them out on Toronto audiences during our residency at The Jazz Bistro. By the time we hit the studio we knew exactly which tunes and which arrangements were telling the stories the best! 

So it is in fact the audiences that helped create this CD from the very get go! 

When creative producer Leonardo came to me with the Indie Go Go campaign idea I scoffed and told him I would never ask for money from fans. By the time we had our campaign in full swing I was feeling the support and engagement and the sense of community that was building around this music.
Truly an incredible experience for an artist let me tell you! 

So, when Leo and I decided to use the CD launch at CBC's Glenn Gould Studio to film the audience and fans telling their own New York Stories it just made so much sense! After all the audience has been a huge part of this project from the very beginning. We enlisted filmmaker Diana Piruzevska to create a little studio set up in the lobby and filmed folks one at a time telling their favourite NYC adventures. You can hear an edited version of those stories in the new video of "Don't Take My Baby (New York New York)" (Big Thanks to all of those who came to support the music and  leant their stories to this video!)

                                                                                

AND as a way to say THANK YOU, as part of the national tour dates we're extending the conversation and inviting folks to post their favourite New York Stories on this page Facebook Fan Page  using the hashtag #WhatsYourNewYorkStory in exchange for a free digital download of the New York Stories album!  

…..Let the New York conversation continue! :)

Tour Life 


I am not one of those artists that resents going out on the road. In fact I embrace it with a passion.  

Touring is a fantastic way to see and hear the big wide world.  

When I started my career I never imagined that music would become a way to experience new places, new people and have new adventures.  

Keeping in mind that my introduction to full time touring was with the already established Nylons (flying to shows rather than touring in a van, staying in nice hotels, performing in beautiful theatres etc) so the beginning of my road life was supported in every way possible. 

 However even during my early career, which included tuff rock n roll bars and seedier lounges across Canada I was already caught up in the romance of collecting crazy stories and adventures.  

In fact the road became so romantic for me that for many years I made it a practice of driving back and forth from the east coast out to California, stopping to see friends along the way, but relishing the alone time away from the crowded cities where my head and heart could expand and explore. 

Perhaps thats the gift of being a songwriter, I see all of that road experience (or most of it) as grist for the creative mill.  Even at the start of my career I loved taking time to wander in each city  finding an old pier or a run down factory, or back alley's near downtown, looking for the lonely old guy to have a chat with etc. Writing notes in an ongoing journal through my wanderings (often turning up in lyrics for songs) I made a kind of loose map of North America in my head.   

Being able to travel and make music for audiences has almost always felt like a gift, an opportunity, a blessing. These busy days I find solace in a hotel room, a good book, a newspaper and a cafe and so often plan to arrive a day early and leave a day later than I need to.  

The road is a kind of home to me where my artist self feels most alive.