Signing Off
Steve Dickinson’s Songs and Stories For A Saturday Night
The Ezra Duo Brings The Work of Pioneering Women Composers To Meaford
It’s A Jazz Weekend For Local Fans
Patricia Wheeler Quartet Brings Jazz Concert to Meaford
CROW Sessions Spotlights Stephen Fearing
Massie Hall Promises a Great Summer and Fall Lineup of Talent
GBCS Battle of The Bands Becomes Music Madness
Annie Sumi Is Truly a Breath of Fresh Air

It’s A Jazz Weekend For Local Fans

by Bill Monahan

With the annual Jazzmania series of concerts happening in Thornbury and a special jazz concert by Patricia Wheeler in Meaford, it’s a special treat for jazz fans this weekend.

Start the weekend early at Bruce Wine Bar with the hot jazz of Toronto based iSpy Trio.  Led by singer-songwriter  Rebecca Everett, the band plays a style inspired by the 1940’s gypsy jazz of Quintette du Hot Club de France, with a mix of vintage and original tunes.  Lead guitarist Tak Arikushi is well known for his virtuosity and trademark Django licks.  The trio is rounded out by Chris Kettlewell, an accomplished double bass player and Humber Jazz College alumni who has performed with  jazz ensembles such as The Rachelle Courtney Quartet and The Cam Britton Collective and has toured extensively in Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

There are two dinner shows, one at 6:45 and the second at 9 pm.  Reservations are recommended.

Down the street at the harbour, well-known Simcoe county musician and educator Louis Lefaive performs at Maiolos, starting at 7:30 pm.  In addition to gigs with his family band performing Celtic and French folk music, Louis has performed in a Beatles cover band and a band that features original French music.  An accomplished composer, arranger, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he has numerous albums to his credit and has his own recording studio.

Also starting at 7:30 on Friday, The Mike Grace Quintet will be performing in the small hall at the Beaver Valley Community Centre.  In addition to being a director at Southampton’s Summer Music Camp, Mike has played around the world, from Texas road houses to world tours and has played with many jazz greats, including Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Peter Appleyard and Randy Brecker.  He is also a highly respected educator, recipient of the University of Michigan Musical Society’s Educator Of The Year.  The quintet will be performing classic jazz standards, including tunes to dance to.

Things really get swinging on Saturday with a pair of big bands playing at the Beaver Valley Community Centre.

In the afternoon, starting at two, it’s the Georgian Sound Big Band.  This is the band that started it all in Thornbury, way back in 1998 when it was formed by the late Bob Cringan.

“Bob Cringan was an incredible music educator,” says Tony Bauer, “He moved up from Toronto to Meaford and we started the Georgian Sound Big Band. 

“He did so much for music.  He put on concerts, and Bob had the idea to start a Big Band festival and we ran it for twenty years and it was very successful.  We brought five big bands up here.  I was very much involved with it and when he died we still ran it.

 “We added Jazzmania. In the heyday we had three day festivals, with bands in the restaurants in Thornbury.  We had two shows on Saturday and we had a big jazz brunch on Sunday”

The band, currently under the leadership of trumpeter Don Doner and conducted by trombonist Brad Crawford, covers numbers from the swing era to the present and includes a wide variety of danceable music including waltz, tango, and Latin rhythms using many of Bob’s original arrangements.

After a dinner break, head back to the Community Centre for another big band treat.  The Skyliners Big Band, formed in 1993, performs the big band era favourites by Miller, Shaw, Herman, Basie, Ellington, Kenton as well as more contemporary hits.  The band features the inspired vocals of Maria Branje.

There’s still more jazz in store if you head over to Meaford on Sunday where Christ Church Anglican is presenting the first in a series of monthly concerts.  This concert features the Patricia Wheeler Quartet with jazz interpretations of both standards and popular songs form catalogues as diverse as Henry Mancini, Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles.

The concert is something of a homecoming for Patricia, who got her start in music attending Grade 7 at Meaford Elementary School.  The music teacher at Georgian Bay Secondary School, Charlie Strimas, is now the musical director at the church and it was at his request that she agreed to come to Meaford for this special concert.

The Patricia Wheeler  concert runs from 3 to 5 on Sunday afternoon, with wine and cheese served at intermission.

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Patricia Wheeler Quartet Brings Jazz Concert to Meaford

Sunday afternoon, April 29, from 3 to 5, the first in a series of concerts at Meaford’s Christ Church Anglican features a performance from Patricia Wheeler’s Jazz Quartet.  With Patricia on sax and flute, the quartet features Mike Cado on guitar, Ben Riley on drums, and Ross MacIntyre on bass.

“I’ve known the other three musicians for a long, long time,” Patricia says, “and played with each of them in different situations, not only jazz but rock ‘n roll, hip hop, funk, pop, country and western.  They’re very versatile.”

Mike Cado is a faculty member at York University where he directs the York University Jazz Orchestra along with a 15-piece R&B band, Soul Collective.

Ben Riley, for fifteen years co-leader of the soul/R&B band Planet Earth, has been in demand as a touring and session drummer for over twenty years, playing with the cream of Canadian artists from Moe Koffman to Domenic Troiano.

Ross McIntyre is a legendary bassman who tours with Emilie-Claire Barlow, plays on hundreds of sessions and has worked with artists as diverse as Wynton Marsalis, Ed Robertson and Jim Cuddy.

Patricia is, in a sense, bringing these old friends to show them where the music began for her.

She grew up with good music always being played in the house.  She says her father was “a very good amateur pianist and accordion player.  My mom started her record collection back in the era of the 78’s and still has most of those discs, so I just grew up being surrounded by good music.  My dad taught ballroom dancing for many years and my mom often helped him with that. He was always sourcing out new recordings to teach with and so that kind of music was always being played.”

She was lucky enough to live in a town where music was taught at an early age.

“I was very fortunate to go to school in Meaford where band music started in Grade 7 at Meaford Elementary School.  We did half a year with orchestral string instruments, like violin, and then the other half with band instruments.  We did festivals, concerts. 

“The teacher was a man named Ron Knight, who was exceptional. For any of the students who really enjoyed it he would give us opportunities to just go to another room and practise.  And then we would feed into Georgian Bay Secondary School and Charlie Strimas took over. He ran the music program for many, many years.”

CROW Sessions Spotlights Stephen Fearing

By Bill Monahan

On Tuesday April 24th, Crow Bar and Variety in Collingwood presents the third in its special series of dinner shows, this time featuring singer-songwriter Stephen Fearing.  The early dinner-show format, with the admonition, “Shut the F@#k Up and Listen”, is designed to give audiences extra insight into the artists featured with a mix of stories and songs.  Part of the show on Tuesday will be an interview on stage conducted by writer and broadcaster Jeff Woods “asking some of the hard questions”.

Stephen Fearing, a veteran singer-songwriter, winner of  two Juno Awards, a Canadian Folk Music Award and a West Coast Music Award, has been building an international reputation since the release of his first self-titled, self-produced cassette in 1986.  He is probably best known as one of the founding members of Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, but during his decades with them he has continued to develop a solo career that includes collaborating with the Northern Irish singer-songwriter Andy White, almost two decades as a solo artist on the prestigious True North label, conducting songwriting workshops, and producing records by other artists that include Suzie Vinnick’s Juno-nominated “Happy Here”, for which he co-wrote most of the songs.

“When I started in this business it was a very different landscape and certainly there was a lot more emphasis put on just being one-dimensional,” he says, “You know, ‘don’t confuse the audience’, just be the thing that the record company is trying to sell you as and stick to that.  I think a lot of musicians have an interest to try different things, not just other styles but collaborating, performing with other players gives you a chance to try a different hat and that kind of thing.  The way the business is working now, you’ve really got to be able to spread yourself around, do different things, multiple income streams.  But just from a selfish point of view of keeping yourself interested, the more ways you find to can skin a cat, as it were, the better.”

Like a lot of veteran artists, Stephen Fearing has lived through the seismic change in the music industry that occurred with the advent of the Internet, and he’s learned to adapt.  He’s live through the change from the days when a musician was seen as “somebody who rolls out of bed at noon and picks up a guitar and then is just kind of magically transported to the show and then to a party afterward,” to the way things are now, “when so much that needs to be done is the artists’ job.”

Massie Hall Promises a Great Summer and Fall Lineup of Talent

by Bill Monahan

NOTE: Click on the album covers to sample music by that artist

Massie Hall, in the little hamlet of Massie just east of Chatsworth, has a full slate of talent lined up for the summer season.  The community centre in Massie provides a small venue for these concerts.  They set up folding tables and chairs, with a small stage at one end of the room.  There is no bar, but snacks and soft drinks are included in the ticket price.

It’s a little stage but it features big talents.  Once a month on Saturdays through the summer and fall (and one Friday) a series of high quality performers are scheduled to play.  Tickets for the concerts cost $20 each but with every show offering exceptional talent, the opportunity to get a discount by buying tickets for three or more shows at a time is worth considering.

The series kicks off on April 28th with Beggars Road, with a mix of traditional and Celtic sounds blending vocal melody with powerful instrumental texturing to an original repertoire of songs that celebrate the natural beauties of our region.  The band evolved from The Shards, a group originally brought together by Bob Robins to perform his original, traditional-flavoured songs.  They feature vocals from Larry Dickinson and Justine Maw-Farrar.

The following month, Larry’s brother, Steve Dickinson, returns to Massie Hall for a much-anticipated concert.  After several years following musical adventures abroad, recording and touring with members of Bob Segar’s  Silver Bullet Band, Steve returned home last year to re-group and consider his musical future.  His concert last summer at Massie Hall packed the room with an enthusiastic crowd that was blown away both by his powerful singing and his original songs.  He doesn’t play often in the area, so this is a show that is a must-see.