Langfield Entertainment
88 Bloor Street E., Suite 2908, Toronto, ON  M4W 3G9
(416) 677-5883


Updated:  February 16, 2006

Well, this month brings to us many special events - some past and some coming up.  See pics from the Wade O. Brown CD release this past Monday at Revival in my PHOTO GALLERY.  A spectacular evening - roses and white tablecloths included!  See also a special review under TOP STORIES

This week continues the fabulous events at
KUUMBA and at Mardi Gras - check out their full calendars in their pages.  A very special night this Wednesday at Lula Lounge with the jazz trumpet stylings of Alexis Baro - a night you won't soon forget.  Don't forget that on Tuesday, February 27th is a special art gallery showing of Carl Cassell at Irie -  you might even see someone you know on the walls!  All details below under EVENTS.

Check out all categories - tons of Canadian content in MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, THEATRE NEWS, and OTHER NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!  This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTSWant to be removed from the distribution, click REMOVE.




Black History Month at Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras Bistro:  This special New Orlean's style restaurant and entertainment hive has some exciting talent lined up ... and don't forget to try the baby back ribs and jambalaya - I'm telling you, it will change your life! 

What better way to celebrate this month than with good food, good people and great entertainment.  Check out the line-up below in a calendar format.  Chef Anthony Mair insists on flawless, unobtrusive service and has managed to master this with his staff while earning their respect and still delivering the undeniable level of excellence in his food preparations.  In celebration of Black History Month and Mardi Gras we are putting together a calendar of events featuring some of the city's best and brightest musical talent. 

February 2006
1982 Bloor St West
Just outside the High Park Subway Station

Alexis Baro CD Release Party - Wednesday February 22

Some of you are aware of the sensational versatility and incredible talent of Alexis Baro.  You have probably seen him perform with many of your favourite Toronto artists.  Especially for the jazz lovers in the house, this is yet another not to be missed event.  Come and check out Alexis Baro's "Official Release" of his Cuban Trumpet Jazz CD "Havana Banana".  It will be an electrifying night!

Lula Lounge
1585 Dundas St. West -- 2 blocks west of Dufferin St.
Doors at 8:00pm
Show begins at 9:00pm
Admission $7 ADV, $10 at the door.
CLICK HERE to make dinner reservations at Lula before the party or call 416-588-0307

Irie Food Joint – Urban Vanguard Art Showing – February 27, 2006

Regular patrons of Toronto's Irie Food Joint Restaurant might have noticed gregarious owner Carl Cassell has been scarce lately. Little do most know, the business entrepreneur is usually in the studio apartment just upstairs of the restaurant, preoccupied with completing his latest works of art of 2006 - the Urban Vanguard Series II.

The succession of 20 portraits represent for Cassell an emerging creative mass in Canadian arts and entertainment. Some of his featured subjects include filmmaker Clement Virgo, photographer Michael Chambers, opera soprano Measha Brueggergosman, and some emerging artists breaking ground.  It's Cassell's belief these urbanites are in their own work reflecting, exploring, challenging and/or obliterating popular perceptions by way of sheer ingenuity.  "The industry that defines North America right now is entertainment," says Cassell.

Catch Carl's own vanguard innovation when he unveils his medium of creation -- a mode that has become his signature style.

Now, we all know that Carl knows how to throw a party so come out to the Urban Vanguard Series II of 2006 which is slated for showing February 27 at the Irie Food Joint.

Urban Vanguard Series II

Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.  
9:00 pm

KUUMBA at Harbourfront Centre

KUUMBA means Creativity in Swahili.  Celebrate African Heritage Month with Kuumba at Harbourfront Centre! Two fun-filled weekends of music, film, concerts, workshops, kid’s activities, discussion panels and more await you beginning Thursday, February 2nd!  

Highlights include a rare live appearance by UK film and music legend Don Letts, the Canadian Reggae Music Summit, Showcase and After party, and the Donné Roberts CD release party.   Calypso legends Lord Superior, Mighty Sparrow, and Calypso Rose participate in a panel discussion, workshops on Caribbean Indigenous and African contemporary dance, culinary demonstrations with Chef Dwight Boswell and a celebrity

Cook-up with MuchMusic VJ Matte Babel and singer/songwriter Jully Black are also scheduled.   

For more information
the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit

All Kuumba events are located at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto), and are free unless otherwise noted.  


Wade O. Brown's New Record Woos With Respect

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry

(Feb. 13, 2006) These are the moments that make music criticism worthwhile.  You unwrap the latest record company offering and slip it into the car stereo to squeeze in a little work on the drive home. Theoretically, you have an open mind, but in the case of contemporary R&B, your low expectations are based on a genre steeped in oversexed, under-written, ghetto-love shtick.  Occasionally (rarely), you get what's referred to as "the warm fuzzies," evidenced in my case by the following: a) scrambling for the liner notes halfway through the disc to identify its songwriters and producers; b) idling in the garage — stomach growling — to hear the end of the record; c) calling the artist's publicist at first light for details of his next live show.  It's all the more surprising that this would be the case with Wade O. Brown's sophomore record, All Night, All Love, in stores tomorrow, since the Detroit-born thirtysomething musician has been a staple of Toronto's urban music scene since he moved here in the early '90s.  "I haven't played The Horseshoe or the El Mocambo," says the singer/songwriter/keyboardist, instead of listing the clubs and lounges where he has performed.  Brown is probably best known for participating in the roving showcase Bump 'N' Hustle; playing hype man to DJ Dave Campbell's erstwhile Thursday nights at Fluid nightclub, or singing at Revival Music Lounge's popular Monday jams, which resume tonight with Brown's CD release party.  On these occasions, I recall Brown — a 6-foot-3 teddy bear of a man replete with tongue ring and a tattoo of his son's name and birthdate on his right forearm — as an intense, sweaty presence, contrary to the polish and restraint of his new album.  On All Night, All Love, two years in the making, Brown, who co-wrote half the tracks, exudes Gerald Levert's passion, Luther Vandross's phrasing and Brian McKnight's storytelling abilities. He succeeds in his aim to deliver a collection of original love songs that are "sexy and sensual, but tasteful."  He plays the earnest paramour, whether tentatively wooing a single mom — "just friendly conversation, can't be too obvious/ til she can see my true intentions, my feelings I won't mention" or luxuriating the morning after because "there are eggs on the stove and my lady is smiling" ("So Glad").  "I want to give pleasure without discomfort," he explains. "If it's a romantic evening you can just put the CD on and leave it without having to get up to skip a track, because it's a little too dirty for the night."  It's a vastly superior record to his 2002 debut, Complete, also well written (entirely by Brown who produced the album himself), but weighed down by unnecessary interludes and intros, rap and duets.

The stellar arrangements of All Night, All Love, which blends live and programmed instrumentation, may be attributed to the assist from heavyweight U.S. producers, including Daryl Simmons (Destiny's Child, Pink) and Kipper Jones (Jennifer Lopez, Brandy) — a seemingly expensive undertaking for Brown's local indie label, Groove United Entertainment.  "This record wasn't done with just money, it was made with respect," he explains. "People saw what I was trying to do and got involved. It felt good to realize that vision of being respected as a musician and having songwriters and producers interested in working with me; having a busy guy like Daryl — a terrific songwriter — leave Atlanta to come write with me."  Respect was a cornerstone of Brown's Motor City upbringing. The middle of three children of Jamaican immigrants began singing in the close-knit Pentecostal church his family attended. It was on the church's annual Toronto trips that Brown discovered the city's inviting cultural milieu and likeminded friends, including songwriting partner/manager Wil Van Zyl, who encouraged him to move here after high school. He evolved as backup singer and keyboardist before developing a following as soloist.  Tonight, although he'll perform with local musicians he's worked with over the years on a stage he's graced many times, it won't be run of the mill.  "I'll be working for that reaction from the audience. You don't expect they're just going to love you no matter how popular you are. I don't take that for granted."

J Dilla Funeral To Be Held In Los Angeles

Excerpt from

(Feb. 14, 2006) *It was reported Monday that Detroit rapper/producer J Dilla, born James Yancey, died Friday (Feb. 10) of complications from the autoimmune disease lupus, a condition where the body attacks its own cells and tissues, causing inflammation, pain, and possible organ damage. A viewing for the artist, 32, was held Monday (Feb. 13) at the Forest Lawn Mortuary in Los Angeles. His funeral will be held today in the Recessional Hall.  A memorial concert is also being planned by organizers Q-Tip and Common, both of whom have worked closely with the producer in the past.   J Dilla, also known as Jay Dee, was a founding member of the rap trio Slum Village. After leaving the group in 2003 to pursue a solo career, he produced tracks for a number of artists, including Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes, The Roots, De La Soul and The Pharcyde. Before his death, J Dilla had been working on his upcoming album, “The Shining,” which was scheduled to drop in June via BBE.  While in the hospital and in his home studio, J Dilla also recorded the recently released instrumental album, “Donuts.” Approximately 1.5 million Americans have a form of Lupus, which is two to three times more common among African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.

Producer Jay Dee Dies Of Kidney Failure

Excerpt from

(Feb. 13, 2006) *Jay Dee, a former member of Slum Village and producer for such artists as Common, Busta Rhymes and A Tribe Called Quest, died Friday (Feb. 10) in Los Angeles at the age of 32, his manager Tim Maynor said.  While a cause of death was not immediately known, Jay, who also rapped under the name J Dilla, was suffering from severe kidney problems in recent years. Maynor, however, believed he had recovered.  “He was the best ever, and very underappreciated,” Maynor said. “Dilla was very reserved, quiet, all he wanted to do was make beats, make music. It wasn't about the glitz and glory. He wasn't doing it for the spotlight at all. He's a dinosaur who will be missed.”  

J Dilla’s new rap album, “Donuts,” was just released last week, and he was preparing to drop another disc, “The Shining,” in April. During a European tour in December, knee problems forced Jay to perform in a wheelchair. When his manager suggested he postpone the outing, the producer said it was something he had to do. "Maybe he knew something we didn't," Maynor told  Dee, whose production work with D'Angelo, De La Soul, Pharcyde and Busta Rhymes made him a hot name among hip hop circles, left Slum Village in 2002 to launch a solo career. “He was a trendsetter, the soul sound [in hip-hop] is really Jay Dee," RJ Rice, founder of Slum's label, Barak Records, said. "I don't know if he'll ever get credit for it or not, most people just copied him."

Eve Ensler - The Good Body

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Feb. 12, 2006) The vagina? That's easy to talk about. This, this is difficult."  Eve Ensler points to her abdomen: once her enemy, now her friend.  "You wake up one day after you're 40 and say `What the hell happened to my body? Where did it go?' I kept dieting and exercising and loathing the way I looked until I suddenly wondered how I, as a radical feminist, could spend this much time thinking about my stomach."  The end result of that self-examination was The Good Body, the one-woman show that Ensler performed to great acclaim on Broadway and is bringing to the Music Hall in Toronto, starting March 7.  Like her previous work, The Vagina Monologues, which made 52-year-old Ensler a global celebrity, The Good Body gives voice to something women have been afraid to express.  "Why do I hate what I look like? Why do I hate what I am?" Ensler holds her arms up to the heavens in a gesture of defiant prayer. "That's what I heard every women asking — from Helen Gurley Brown to Isabella Rossellini. I asked it myself. And I wanted to find out why."  She didn't have any trouble doing that. As Gloria Steinem once said about Ensler, "Women have entrusted Eve with their most intimate experiences, from sex to birthing."  And so she interviewed women — rich and poor — from Brooklyn to Kabul. Ensler visited 40 countries over six years (1997-2003) to conduct hundreds of interviews, many of which she distilled into the monologues that make up the play. A 35-year-old model told her how her plastic-surgeon lover was rebuilding her body piece by piece to create a perfect woman. A young Italian woman related the saga of how her mother had her ample breasts surgically reduced for her 16th birthday. A middle-aged Los Angeles housewife explained how she had her vagina tightened to help her husband's impotence.

Some stories were funny, some sad. And despite all the differences, there was one similarity. The standards of beauty changed around the world, but Ensler found that, no matter where she looked, "There's a certain way you're always told you're supposed to be and if you keep comparing yourself to it, you're going to come up short.  "In every culture, there's a kind of mandate .... They tell you that you're not fat enough, thin enough, light enough, tight enough. And changing that becomes your heartbreaking life campaign. You get wildly distracted and wildly self-hating."  Ensler's look as she perches on the beige sofa of a downtown hotel lobby is all darkness — hair, eyes, clothes — but her blazing energy and healing smile warm up the room.  Then there are moments when anger twists her face with pain.  "I've overcome a lot of things in my life. Overcoming my hatred of my body has been the hardest thing. The hardest thing."  Ensler feels this so deeply, because she came to it later in life. "I used to say," she quips, "that The Vagina Monologues brought me into my body, so that I could finally hate it."  Does this mean her teen years weren't spent staring in a mirror, obsessing over her looks?  She shakes her head dramatically, the sharply-cut black hair looking like a protective helmet.  "I was more obsessed about existence in general, not feeling the right to exist. Not feeling I did exist. The sense of being invisible, because I so much wanted not to be in the world."  She had every reason to feel that way. Ensler was born into what looked from the outside like the suburban paradise of Scarsdale, N.Y., in 1953. Her father was a successful executive and her mother was ostensibly a happy housewife.  But behind closed doors, Ensler says her father, now dead, beat her and sexually abused her as a child. In high school, she formed a club for unpopular girls and when she got to Vermont's Middlebury College, she began a long slow slide into alcohol and drug abuse. In her 20s, she met Richard McDermott, an older man, widower and bartender who married her and helped her find peace. She's been clean and sober for nearly 30 years, although they divorced in 1989.

And McDermott's son Dylan (the actor best known for The Practice), who was only eight years younger than her, also aided Ensler, by "teaching me to be a loving human being."  Her life took a new direction when she wrote and began performing The Vagina Monologues off-Broadway in 1996. Its unbridled honesty grabbed the public consciousness and it ran in various forms in New York until 2003, with the roles played by a wide assortment of high-profile celebrities.  "You don't just hook up with Eve," actress Glenn Close has said, "you become part of her crusade. There's a corps of us who are Eve's army."  In Toronto, Jann Arden and Gloria Reuben were among those who headed the bill.  But The Vagina Monologues proved to be more than a popular statement of female empowerment. As Ensler toured extensively with her show, women were moved to tell her their own stories — of rape, incest and domestic violence. The power of these shared experiences convinced Ensler in 1998 to create V-Day, "a global movement to stop violence against women and girls." In the seven years since, it has raised more than $35 million.  By last year, more than 2,500 events (most centred around presentations of The Vagina Monologues) with performances in more than 1,000 theatres, community centres, colleges and houses of worship around the world earned $4.6 million. In Canada alone, 95 women's organizations received more than $325,000 in contributions as a result of V-Day activities.  Having made a major impact on the world, Ensler was able to turn her attention inward.  "Yes, now I can look at this body and I say, `I love it for what it is,' but it's taken a lot of work to get there and a lot of undoing of all the underlying pieces — my mother, my father, the fashion industry, everyone."  But she emphasizes that it's not just a personal problem. "This is a political and cultural phenomenon and unless we work on it as a group, it's not going to get any better."  Ensler believes women's hatred of their bodies "comes from a variety of sources. Patriarchy — whether it's represented in the church, the state, or wherever you want to find it — it's done a very good job of creating an environment where women are `less than.'  "Then there's corporate consumer capitalism, which ... is obsessed with telling women that something's wrong with them, so they have to consume products to fix it. The inherent assumption is that we're not perfect, but if we buy what they're selling, we'll eventually remedy it. And finally, there's religion, which is always telling women how they should be good and quiet and pure and invisible.

"You put all of them together and it's a toxic cocktail. I think it has slammed women into this place where we are wildly distracted and incredibly disempowered by this preoccupation."  And the parameters are constantly changing. Not that long ago, Ensler recalls, full-figured women were praised and celebrated.  "I think this thin obsession began with Twiggy, which coincided with the start of the women's movement. As female empowerment began to rise, this idea of skinny women got injected into the culture. It was like — how can we make women disappear?"  She slams her hand on the table in front of her. "Because after all, what is this skinny woman thing about? It's about women NOT BEING HERE!  "One day in the early 70s, I saw a bunch of anorexically thin manikins in a department store window and it suddenly dawned on me: `Oh my God, this is about killing women. This is about doing women in. This is about the end of women. That's what this skinny thing is all about.'"  Even sadder, she says: "We're doing it to ourselves. We create the magazines, we spread the ideology, we put each other down. We're living right now in America with an incredibly fascist government, where they're reversing civil liberties at a rate matching the destruction of the ozone layer and where is everybody? They're worried about liposuction and dieting, instead of saying `Give me back my power, give me back my life.'"  The problem is not restricted to North America. "A lot of Asian women have had their eyes operated on to have all traces of Asia removed from their eyes. There's an obsession among many Chinese women that they're not tall enough, so they have their legs broken and bones added."  She doesn't believe things are "less brutal" in the U.S. "You tell me what is worse: a woman in Beverly Hills getting her vagina and labia trimmed so they can be symmetrical, or a girl in Africa getting a clitorectomy. I don't know, seems pretty equal to me."  What depresses Ensler the most is seeing self-hatred begin with the very young. "We have a whole society of baby bulimics. Girls who aren't even old enough to menstruate, but dose themselves with laxatives and make themselves vomit so they can be thin and `pretty.'  "Then there's the adolescent girls who keep cutting themselves. You know why they do that? I think it's rage.

"When girls get to be 12, they come into their power, their sexual energy, their fierceness, their originality. They're amazing. But society starts to clamp them shut. `You can't be this, you can't be that, you're too emotional, you're too weird, hold it all inside.'  "That energy has to go into something else, so it goes into cutting and starving themselves."  There are tears in her eyes. "We should say `You are carrying the soul of the planet in you,' but instead, we make them feel they're stupid and soft.  "We should tell them, `You have come into your power, go for it. Be as original and assertive and emotional as you are.' If we did that, they wouldn't be self-destructing. They'd be running the world in 10 years."  As Ensler gets ready to leave, there's one last question. It's more than obvious why her play has the word "Body" in the title, but why use the accompanying adjective, "Good"?  "We carry around this Judaeo-Christian idea of good, that it represents the elimination of evil. But maybe good isn't the removal of sorrow or suffering or problems or mistakes. Maybe it's the incorporation of them.  "Everywhere I went, people were trying to fix themselves to be good." She smiles. "I finally realized I had the good body. I was living in it."

The 6th Annual Independent Music Awards – March 1, 2006

Source: Independent Music Awards

(Feb. 10, 2006) The spirit and success of independent music is stronger and louder than ever. Hundreds of artists, who don't fit in with the ever-narrowing radio formats, are none-the-less breaking through to a hungry public and winning the support of fans, media and tastemakers across the nation. These artists will be honoured at the
Canadian Music Week Festival (CMW) with the public presentation of the 6th Annual Canadian Independent Music Awards show, simply titled "The Indies". On Wednesday March 1, 2006, "The Indies" will serve as the official CMW 2006 Opening Night party, kicking off the festivities for the CMW Music Festival, running from March 1-4, 2006.


Favourite Album
The Trews "House Of Ill Fame"
Favourite Single
Thornley "So Far, So Good"
Favourite Solo Artist
Andy Kim
Favourite Group
The Waking Eyes
Favourite Video
Alexisonfire - "Accidents"
Favourite International Indie
Favourite Blues Artist/Group
The Jimmy Bowskill Band
Favourite Children's Artist/Group
Googol Power
Favourite Classical Artist/Group
Jasper Wood 
Favourite Country Artist/Group
Paul Brandt
Favourite Electronica Artist/Group
Favourite Folk/Roots Artist/Group
The Wailin Jennys
Favourite Francophone Artist/Group
Wilfred Le Bouthillier
Favourite Jazz Artist/Group
Randy Bachman
Favourite Metal Artist/Group
Favourite Pop Artist/Group
Favourite Rock Artist/Group
Death From Above 1979
Favourite Urban Artist/Group
Gary Beals
Favourite World Artist/Group
Favourite Latin Alternative Artist/Group
Marcelo Trevino


Billboard Goes Backstage At The Grammys

Excerpt from -
Todd Martens, Gail Mitchell and Melinda Newman, L.A.

(Feb. 9, 2006)
Notes from backstage at last night's (Feb. 8) 48th annual Grammy Awards ceremony at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  U2, who were the night's big winners with five statues for "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," feel there is rock and roll resurgence afoot. "The Killers, the Arcade Fire, Interpol, Razorlight ... there's something about this bass-drums-guitar format that feels fresh," said Bono. "Rock and roll at its best is four kids who commit to forming a gang and go out west and want to win. Not just robbing the bank, which is nice, but stealing hearts, which is always better. You have this opportunity to make rage into a chorus or hurt into a verse. Sorrow is always so much sweeter when it rhymes."  Drummer Larry Mullen has his own wish: "When [Bono] is finishing dealing with the world's problems, maybe he can do something about the music industry because I think it needs a little bit of help."


One of the most intriguing appearances of the evening came from reclusive funk pioneer Sly Stone, who was last seen at his 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "Everything felt right," said Sly's brother Freddy Stone about the behind-the-scenes machinations in pulling off the highly anticipated coup. "As soon as I got the phone call, it was one of the few times when I immediately said yes," he added. "I talked to my sister, e-mailed [drummer] Gregg [Errico] and we were a go."

Joining guitarist Stone and Errico backstage, sans Sly, were original Family Stone members Cynthia Robinson (trumpet), Jerry Martini (sax) and Sly's sister Rose Banks (piano, vocals). Bassist Larry Graham was not on hand, having fallen ill the day of the show.

Stone stated that Sly is healthy -- and writing new music. "He hasn't stopped writing," said Stone. "He's jazzed and very much interested in letting fans hear the new material. There are some evolutionary things in the work that he and we are doing." There's even talk of a tour with Sly: "It is conceivable that we would [go without him]," said Stone. "But it would be better and more complete with him."


Talking about his collaborations with fellow Grammy winner Kanye West, Common and, three-time winner John Legend laughingly noted,"It's bad to work with friends who are bad at what they do. I happen to have friends who are good at what they do." Asked if his award-winning work on his debut album, "Get Lifted," marked a return to musical value, the Springfield, Ohio, native emphasized the only thing he's attempting to do is make strong albums. "I wasn't trying to represent an era or trying to change the whole genre. I'm just trying to make good albums," he said. "I don't want everyone else to sound like me or else I can't be unique."


Calling U2 "my boys," Kanye West said he figured the group would win album of the year because of vote splitting between his and Mariah Carey's albums. "I understand the politics of it. I didn't win it by a technicality and not because I didn't deserve it," said West, who still managed to take home three trophies. "[Producer] Jon Brion really put it down with the strings and the cinematic sound. We broke a lot of boundaries; things not done in hip-hop before."

West was more concerned about his performance. "If I had won album of the year and didn't smash the performance, I would have been disappointed. The performance and outfits were a smash. That made my night." Asked if any other show highlights came to mind, the lavender-suited West replied, "I would say this outfit I have on right now."


Once the threat of a lawsuit, Danger Mouse's mash-up of Jay-Z's "The Black Album" and the Beatles' "White Album" is now inspiring performances at the Grammy Awards. Linkin Park's Chester Bennington said Danger Mouse was the only one missing from a performance with Jay-Z and Paul McCartney. "We thought we'd try tie all those things together, and Sir Paul McCartney was gracious enough to cooperate," he said. Playing with McCartney was "the most surreal, awesome experience of my life and probably of everyone on stage with me," he added.

In other Linkin Park news, the group confirmed it has enlisted the services of producer Rick Rubin for its new album, the follow-up to 2003's "Meteora." As first reported here in December, Linkin Park has resolved its differences with Warner Bros., with which it was at one point attempting to sever all ties.


Kelly Clarkson was grilled backstage on why she omitted "American Idol" from her acceptance speech. But the two-trophy winner said it was an honest mistake. "I forgot! I didn't thank my dad either," she said. "I didn't thank a lot of people. I have like 30 [messages] in my Blackberry yelling at me. I was shaking so badly I couldn't stop crying. Your 12 year-old self is kicking yourself going, 'What in the hell is going on?' I wanted to talk to my mom. I'm going to start crying again. I was against a Beatle, for crying out loud." And where will she put the Grammy statuettes? "I'm going to sleep with them for the next couple of weeks and then I'll put them in a special place."


It took 12 years for best country song winner "Bless the Broken Road" to find its path. Co-writer Jeff Hanna said the song was written and first recorded for his group the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1994. The song's co-writer, Marcus Hummon, also recorded it in 1995. "It never became a big hit," mused Hanna. "But we always felt the song would get great exposure eventually." And it has, thanks to Rascal Flatts. In fact, Hanna says the group had considered doing the song for its last three albums. "It's a perfect case of timing is everything," Hanna said. "They did a great version, sang their butts off and people responded."


Keith Urban, who won best male country vocal performance, also took home the good sport award: he was in the press room when Sly Stone came on stage and the world stopped. "Everything pales in comparison," Urban admitted.

The singer/songwriter is at work on the follow-up to his triple-platinum album, "Be Here." "I've been writing the last several months, just discovering the theme that comes about from writing," he said. He expects to be back in the studio with producer Dann Huff in April or May, and sheepishly answered, when asked, that no, there aren't any musical dedications to his girlfriend, Nicole Kidman.

Nickelback's Chad Kroeger sat in on a number of Canadian dates with Urban, and the singer didn't rule out a future collaboration. "I like the idea of harnessing talents from wherever they are and seeing what you can come up with," he said.


"Virtual band" Gorillaz, who won best pop collaboration by a duo or group with vocals for "Feel Good Inc.," kicked off the broadcast by sharing the stage with Madonna. During rehearsals, group member Murdoc said he was in no way star-struck by the Material Girl. "I can honestly say that since jamming with us at the Grammys, Madonna can really say to herself, 'I've arrived,'" he said. "She should be very proud of herself."

But once it came time for the real thing, Murdoc found himself severely distracted by his human collaborator. "I was right in the middle of a really tricky bass part when I saw her coming towards me," he said. "I immediately thought 'Uh oh! Stage invasion.' I almost swung my bass-axe at her. That frisky Ms. Madonna was all over me like a virulent case of thrush. I tell you though, close up, she's a real cracker. I mean, she even looks good when you squint."


Yolanda Adams declared she's now a legitimate songwriter and producer after winning her first Grammy as a songwriter for "Be Blessed." The best gospel song honouree was co-written with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and James Q. Wright. "I love songwriting," said the singer, who also doubled as a backup singer for the show-closing tribute to New Orleans. "It's about life experiences: what you and your friends have gone through, E-mails I get from fans. You glean from that and write from the heart."


Audio Adrenaline, which announced in late January that it was disbanding after 15 years due to vocal problems suffered by lead singer Mark Stuart, took home a Grammy for best rock gospel album. The band's Ben Cissell said the group "toyed with [replacing Mark by] getting some of our friends who we'd met to be singers, but Mark's the best front man in Christian music. For us to go on would be wrong." The members will devote much of their time to an orphanage they started in Haiti.


Louis Vega, who won for best remixed recording, non-classical, said taking on "Superfly," a track from "Mayfield: Remixed -- The Curtis Mayfield Collection," was intimidating given its iconic status. "I saw the movie when I was seven years old and doing the song was a real challenge," he said. "At first I thought maybe I shouldn't do it, but then thought, 'It's Curtis Mayfield!' I had to do it. I [spin] around the world, so I got a chance to test the waters around the world."


Burt Bacharach, who won for best pop instrumental album, speaks out strongly against the current administration on "At This Time." "I've never seen times like we have right now," he said. "This is the future that I'm leaving behind to my children and I'm concerned because I feel we're really made a mess of it. I never like to be lied to by a girlfriend or an agent and certainly not the president." Bacharach says he's received very little backlash for his outspokenness: "No one's throwing anything at me [at concerts], but I will never say anything on stage derogatory against the administration. Let me do it through my music."


Much to his surprise, John Prine snared the award for best contemporary folk album for his first album in 10 years, the Oh Boy release "Fair & Square." "It's a tough category," he admitted. "It wasn't so surprising beating Springsteen as it was beating [parent company of Springsteen's label] Sony. Oh Boy is just a small office with three people." The album is Prine's first since successfully undergoing treatment for throat cancer. He says that experience hasn't influenced his music ... yet. "Something really big [like that] takes a long time to come through in the music, you know," he offered. "Someday it will."


Bob Marley’s Son Damian Junior Gong Marley Wins His Second Grammy Award

Excerpt from -
By Kevin Jackson

(Feb. 13, 2006) As was expected, Bob Marley’s son, Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley won the Best Reggae Album award in the 48th annual Grammy Awards.  Marley’s album Welcome to Jamrock which debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200 album chart last year, beat out crossover poster boy Sean Paul (The Trinity), veteran reggae group Third World (Red, Gold and Green), reggae icon Burning Spear (Our Music), and Shaggy (Clothes Drop) for the coveted trophy.   This is the second win for Marley. His Half Way Tree album won that award for 2001. Incidentally, Marley’s siblings Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers, are also double Grammy winners. They won in 1989 and 1990 for One Bright Day and Conscious Party respectively.


Backstage At The Grammys

Excerpt from

(Feb. 10, 2006) *It was all cheesy grins of victory backstage at the 48th annual Grammy Awards Wednesday night in Los Angeles. Here are some highlights from the press room at the Staples Center:

• Kanye West, who said he’d be disappointed if he didn’t win for album of the year, told reporters that he understood “the politics” of losing out to U2, whom he referred to as “my boys.” He said the loss would cause him to work harder for the next album. "I'm going to keep on delivering albums of the year that are so undeniable to the point where you are finally going to let a rapper come up and accept this award," he said.  The artist walked away with three rap awards and a feeling of satisfaction over his performance of “Gold Digger” with Jamie Foxx and a black college band, an idea that only began coming together in the last week.  "I felt it was very black to have the black colleges. I want to see what people are saying on right now about the black colleges and sororities,” he said. “If I'd won album of the year but not smashed the performance, I'd have been disappointed. But I smashed the performance.”

• When three-time Grammy winner John Legend was asked if he’s trying to bring R&B music back to its melodic roots, he told reporters: “People ask me if (I'm) trying to change the musical landscape ... but I don't want everyone to change and sound like me because I wouldn't be special.”  Asked if he was playing this year's Jazz Fest in New Orleans, he replied, "I don't know ... if they invite me and pay me enough."

• Dianne Reeves, who picked up a jazz vocal album Grammy for the soundtrack to Warner Independent's "Good Night, and Good Luck," nearly missed her opportunity to accept the award. “I was so far back they were going to accept the award for me, so I had to holler out I was here," she said.

• Yolanda Adams said her win for the first-ever gospel song Grammy legitimizes her dual role as both songwriter and producer. “When you're asking someone to hit that one note with a bit more emotion, sometimes it takes a person with that compassion to pull it out of them,” she said.

• Family Stone guitarist and vocalist Freddie Stewart was asked if Sly would follow up the night’s appearance following a 19-year absence with a possible tour. He replied: “Sly is very much interested in letting the people -- his friends, his loved ones, his fans -- know that there's some evolution in the works as far as what he's doing today, and he's very much interested in letting you hear that.” Stewart added that Sly has material "you ain't heard yet." and is interested in "doing other things." He left it at that.


U2 Trumps Mariah, Kanye At Grammy Awards

Excerpt from -
Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Feb. 9, 2006) U2 cruised by leading contenders Mariah Carey and Kanye West to win five awards at the 48th annual Grammy Awards, held last night (Feb. 8) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The band surprised many by winning album of the year and rock album of the year for "How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" as well as song of the year and best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal for "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own."  The veteran Irish rock act's other trophy came for "City of Blinding Lights" (best rock song). "This is really a big, big night for our band," frontman Bono said while accepting album of the year, making sure to acknowledge the other nominees in the category. The "Atomic Bomb" single "Vertigo" won three Grammys at last year's ceremony, including best rock song.  Asked backstage if U2 truly are the best rock'n'roll band in the world, guitarist the Edge replied, "We are tonight," to which Bono retorted, "You can't ask me to be humble at a moment like this."  It was also a big night for West protégé John Legend, who was named best new artist. Additionally, took home best male R&B vocal performance for "Ordinary People" and best R&B album for his debut, "Get Lifted," released on West's G.O.O.D. Music label via Columbia. "It doesn't sound like anything else and we made it a hit," Legend said of "Ordinary People."  Carey and West came into the evening with eight nominations and wound up winning three each. Carey won best contemporary R&B album for "The Emancipation of Mimi," best R&B song for "We Belong Together" and best female R&B vocal performance for the same tune, none of which were handed out during the CBS telecast. The artist had not won a Grammy since being named best new artist in 1990.  Also shut out from the major categories was West, whose sophomore release, "Late Registration," won best rap album, while "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" won best rap song and "Gold Digger" took home best rap solo performance.

"I'm not disappointed," West conceded backstage when asked about coming up short for album of the year. "It’s all good. It just gives me another goal: to go back in the studio and keep on delivering great albums until they finally let a rapper win this award."  In another surprise, Green Day won record of the year for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" from its 2004 release "American Idiot," which was named best rock album last year.  Other multiple winners included Kelly Clarkson, who snared best female vocal performance for the massive crossover hit "Since U Been Gone" and best pop vocal album for "Breakaway" (RCA). Clarkson thus became the first "American Idol" participant to win a Grammy. "To be honest, winning is great, but the favourite part for me was my performance," she said backstage of her version of "Because of You." "I've been wanting to perform on this show since I was a little kid."  Perennially recognized in bluegrass categories, Alison Krauss & Union Station won for country collaboration with vocals ("Restless"), country instrumental ("Unionhouse Branch") and country album ("Lonely Runs Both Ways," Rounder). "We’ve always kind of made records for ourselves and sent them in when we’re done," Krauss said backstage. "We don’t have meetings with anybody. To be recognized in a whole other category of music is remarkable to us."  The show was driven by more than two dozen performances, beginning with Madonna's segment with "virtual band" Gorillaz. Sly Stone made his first major public appearance since his 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction to briefly perform during a tribute to his band the Family Stone, while West and Jamie Foxx brought down the house with a medley of "Gold Digger" and "Touch the Sky."  A tribute to victims of Hurricane Katrina closed the telecast and featured performances by Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and Dr. John.


Grammys Deliver Promised Musical 'Moments'

Excerpt from -
Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

(Feb. 9, 2006) From the opening number, the Grammy Awards were a musical spectacle with plenty of the "one of a kind moments" the Recording Academy had been promising in the weeks preceding last night's (Feb. 8) event. Distancing the show from its past as an extended commercial for nominated albums and songs, the 48th annual edition boasted intriguing collaborations, surprise appearances and two massive tributes, if few actual award presentations.  To inaugurate the night, "virtual band" Gorillaz appeared in 3D animated form, delivering their best pop collaboration-winning song "Feel Good Inc." complete with a live appearance by veteran rap act De La Soul. With bored looks on their faces, singer/guitarist 2D, bassist Murdoc, keyboardist Noodle and drummer Russel (who at one point nodded off) then backed Madonna on the acoustic opening of her single "Hung Up."  Dressed in a purple corset and bodysuit, she strutted the stage, visually weaving behind Murdoc and in front of 2D before joining her own band and a troupe of dancers on the other side of the stage to complete the song.   The three-and-a-half-hour show featured more than 25 performances, including an impromptu rendition of "Higher Ground" by Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder prior to their presentation of the night's first award. Wonder dedicated the song to the late civil rights crusader Coretta Scott King, who recently passed away.  A rumoured appearance by the reclusive Sly Stone came to fruition, as John Legend, Joss Stone, Fantasia, Devon Lima, Maroon 5, Ciara,, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Robert Randolph paid tribute to him, backed by the Family Stone. Following a medley of "Family Affair," "If You Want Me To Stay," "Everyday People" and "Dance To the Music," the platinum-mohawked Stone joined the ensemble for a brief jam on "I Want To Take You Higher," but left the stage before it was complete.  Another stage-filling event came at the show's conclusion via a tribute to New Orleans. Big Easy natives Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and Irma Thomas were joined by Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, U2 guitarist the Edge and Sam Moore, and a backing band that included Costello's Imposters. Among the offerings was a run through the late Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour," sung by Moore, Springsteen and Thomas.

Rap giant Jay-Z and Linkin Park revisited their "Collision Course" mash-up with "Numb/Encore," working in the Beatles' "Yesterday," during which Paul McCartney walked on to join the performance. Earlier in the evening, McCartney performed his own "Fine Line" and a raucous the Beatles' "Helter Skelter."  Kanye West and Jamie Foxx delivered the night's most playful performance, employing a marching band and dance troupe for a collegiate-themed delivery of "Gold Digger" and "Touch the Sky."  Closely packed on a small stage, U2 blazed through "Vertigo," lost at least once behind thick smoke effects. Slowing it down for the old favourite "One," the group was joined by R&B diva Mary J. Blige, who covered the tune with Bono on her latest album, "The Breakthrough."  Other pairings included Christina Aguilera and Herbie Hancock ("A Song for You") and Keith Urban ("You'll Think of Me") and Faith Hill ("The Lucky One"). There were also plenty of solo performances, led by John Legend, who sat alone at a grand piano for an impassioned version of the Grammy-winning "Ordinary People."  Fellow best new artist nominee Sugarland followed with "More Than This," which suffered from feedback and stray voices from the crew clearing Legend's set. Other solo performances came from Coldplay ("Talk"), Kelly Clarkson ("Because of You"), Mariah Carey ("We Belong Together") and Springsteen ("Devils & Dust").


Sly Stone Emerges At Grammy Awards

Excerpt from -
Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Feb. 9, 2006) Music legend Sly Stone made his first major public appearance since his 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last night (Feb. 8) at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Sly & the Family Stone were the subject of a multi-artist tribute during the telecast, for which Stone joined in during the final number, "I Want To Take You Higher."  Stone, now 61, has not released an album since 1982's "Ain't But the One Way" and was last heard from on the 1986 soundtrack to the film "Soul Man." Over the years, he has battled drug addiction and been the subject of bizarre rumours about his personal life, but is understood to now be in better health and living in Beverly Hills, Calif.  Boasting a huge platinum mohawk, dark sunglasses and a floor-length metallic coat, Stone took his place at a synthesizer in the middle of the stage, flanked by such artists as Joss Stone, John Legend, Maroon 5, Fantasia, and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. He only occasionally sung into the microphone and walked off the stage before the song was finished, but not before stepping to the stage and flashing a brief smile.  The tribute also featured portions of the Family Stone classics "Family Affair," "If You Want Me To Stay," "Everyday People" and "Dance to the Music."  As previously reported, those songs are the basis for the new album "Different Strokes for Different Folks," which features new renditions by such acts as Legend, Maroon 5, OutKast's Big Boi and Buddy Guy with John Mayer. The set is due Tuesday via Legacy.


Kanye West's His Own Biggest Fan

Source: Angela Pacienza, Canadian Press

(Feb. 10, 2006) Los Angeles — Backstage at the Grammys, winners are rushed from room to room, posing for photos and making the press rounds. Kanye West has become a favourite of reporters for his outlandish behaviour, and this year was no different as the rapper sashayed onto the Q&A stage shouting “What's up?” During his five-minute stop in one room, he managed to accuse the Grammys of refusing to give a rapper album of the year and pester a few reporters. “Excuse me sir. Could you please get off the cellphone?” he told one member of the media who wasn't paying attention. “I'm here.” He later mocked another who came from Mexico City, asking him to “speak English.” West blamed his cockiness on “the drink.” “Bono had this wine backstage. ‘This is the best wine Kanye,”' West said in an Irish accent. West, who made it no secret that he felt he deserved the bulk of awards, said he wasn't disappointed with his haul of three Grammys. He lost the one he coveted most — album of the year — to U2. “It's all good,” he said. “U2, those are my boys. I didn't think it was going to happen because of vote splitting. “I didn't win it by a technicality, not because I didn't deserve it. Even Bono was like ‘Come on.' Everybody knows it.”  Late Registration, said West, was an important album for him because it “broke a lot of boundaries. “A lot of things that weren't done in hip-hop before. The images and the messages, it sounded like a score that needed a film to it.” But he promised he'd be back on the Grammy stage soon enough.  “The first thing I thought of was ‘All right, let's just go back to the studio. Give me something else to do.'  “Now it gives me another goal to go and work on Graduation (his next album) and show them ‘Yo, I really deserve this album of the year.' I'm gonna keep on delivering albums of the year that are so undeniable to the point where you finally let a rapper come up and accept this award.”


Michael Jackson's father Joe Jackson made a surprise stop backstage at the Grammys. The reason became obvious the moment he walked in wearing a black ball cap reading: “Hip hop boot camp” in silver glitter. He announced that he's starting a TV reality show in September looking for “world's best hip-hop artist.” His son, meanwhile, remains overseas. “I think he'll be there just as long as he's being treated like he wants to be. He'll come back,” Jackson said. “He's not in exile. He's just there getting away from some of the people he doesn't want to be around right now.”


Perhaps the most talked about performance at the Grammys was the pairing of Paul McCartney with hard rock outfit Linkin Park and rapper Jay-Z on the classic Yesterday. The members of Linkin Park were on Cloud 9 afterwards. “It was the most surreal, awesome, experience of my life,” Chester Bennington said backstage.  “Just the fact that he was into the idea was the best day of my life.” The performance started with a duet of Jay-Z and Linkin Park's Numb/Encore, which won a Grammy for best rap-song collaboration. They later started singing Yesterday when McCartney walked on stage. The band really wanted McCartney so they could tip their hats to DJ Danger Mouse who started the mash-up concept with his Grey album. It seamlessly blended together the Beatle's famous White album with Jay-Z's Black album. “We wanted to nod to that and do something that incorporated a Beatles sound,” said Rob Bourdon. The band pitched the idea and, to their surprise, all players agreed. “We could not believe it when he said he would actually do it,” said Bourdon.


All The Backstage Grammy Banter

By Jane Stevenson -- Toronto Sun

(Feb. 10, 2006) LOS ANGELES -- If you watched the Grammy Awards, here's what you didn't hear backstage in the print room, on the red carpet at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy shindig, or during rehearsals.

FLUSH WITH DISAPPOINTMENT: Talk about hoity-toity!

Pop-R&B diva Mariah Carey, who won three of eight Grammys she was up for, didn't make it into the print room backstage to talk to reporters, but she did make it into the bathroom adjacent to it.

Female print reporters were shaking their heads after Carey's bodyguards had the ladies room cleared so she could use it.

KANYE'S HIGHLIGHT? KANYE, OF COURSE: Outspoken rapper Kanye West was a gracious loser backstage.

It probably helped that he lost the coveted best album prize to pals U2, with whom he had previously toured.

"U2, those are my boys right there, and I already figured it was going to happen because of vote-splitting (between him and Mariah Carey)," West said.

But his generosity didn't extend to what he considered to be the highlight of the Grammys show.

"I would say this outfit that I have on right now," said West, pointing to his Yves St. Laurent-designed lavender tuxedo.

He also made fun of the Mexican reporter with a thick accent who asked the question, but quickly apologized and blamed his bad manners on booze.

"Excuse me, speak English?" West said. "I'm sorry. Excuse me. It's the drink. Bono had this wine back stage (imitates his Irish accent), 'It's just the best wine, Kanye!' "

THE NEW SLY: The notoriously reclusive Sly Stone's appearance -- sporting a white Mohawk -- during a tribute to his music drew gasps backstage, even from Grammy winner Keith Urban, who was up taking questions at the time.

"I think we just got upstaged," Urban said, joking. "The new Sly has been revealed. Fantastic! That is unbelievable. I'll have to answer your question while I'm standing stunned. Good Lord. Everything pales in comparison all of a sudden. I've forgotten your question, I was so blown away by that."

Maroon 5's Adam Levine, who participated in the Sly Stone tribute, put it more succinctly backstage: "Can you really argue with an unbelievable looking Mohawk?"

And Robert Randoph also defended Stone's outrageous look backstage: "I might be weird when I'm 63."

CELLPHONES OFF, DAMMIT!: Country music couple Faith Hill and Tim McGraw drew the biggest laughs backstage when McGraw grabbed the cellphone out of the hand of an Associated Press reporter talking in the front row.

"Hold on a second, my wife is answering a question," said McGraw to the mystery caller before handing the phone to Hill.

It turned out to be the reporter's editor.

"Hi, this is Faith Hill. Do you have a question? What did I think about Sly Stone? Amazing! What did I think about his look? I thought it was classic. And I think that we're going to try and pull that off, Tim and I."

THE DIRE FIGHTERS? FOO STRAITS?: The worst acceptance-speech gaff occured during the Grammy pre-telecast as engineer Bob Ludwig went up to accept for best surround-sound album for the 20th anniversary edition of Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms.

"I can't believe none of the Foos are here this year, but if they were, I know they'd be very happy, they're really hard-working guys and they do great work," said Ludwig before realizing his error.

"Oh, I'm sorry I've got the wrong guys. I'm talking about the Foo Fighters instead of Dire Straits. "Hey, what can I say? So, erase all of that, erase all of that."

Backstage, Ludwig explained that he was nominated in the same category twice, the second nomination being for Foo Fighters' In Your Honor.

"I just assumed somehow, that if one was going to win, it was going to be Foo Fighters, and when they announced Dire Straits, it didn't even register."

THE UNFORGETTABLE SMOKE: The biggest Grammy winners of the night, five-time winners U2, also provided one of the most powerful performances with a blistering duet with Mary J. Blige on One.

"It's a thrill to hear this girl sing," said Bono at the end of 90-minute rehearsals the day before at the Staples Centre. Still, earlier Bono had expressed some concern about the amount of smoke during their first song Vertigo.

"Can we sort out the fire engines please,"said the U2 frontman. "It's quite ridiculous."

Things obviously never got sorted because there was Spinal Tap-like smoke at one point during the live performance of Vertigo on Grammy night.

VOIGHT ON PREGNANT JOLIE: Jon Voight, who is estranged from pregnant daughter Angelina Jolie, wouldn't say if he has picked up a baby gift yet for her and father Brad Pitt.

"I'm not going to talk about that too much," said Voigt on the Davis red carpet. "I'm just going to leave that be. As you know it's a little bit tricky."

Still, Voight did comment on the frequency with which Brangelina appear on the covers of celebrity tabloids.

"Angie and Brad have caught the imagination of people for some reason," Voight said. "And they're the No. 1, I think, so you've got to expect that. Of course, it does get a little bit out of hand every once in a while, but I don't know, I'm always wishing the best for Angie."

Given the intense spotlight, Voight says the couple is managing "very well, considering everything, yes. They're trying to give attention to different causes and things like that and that's a very good thing to do with celebrity."

LITTLE FOO-FOO ON THE WAY: Dave Grohl, whose Foo Fighters went 0-for-3 on Grammy night, was in paternal mode as he stood on the red carpet at the Davis gathering.

"I don't expect to win one Grammy this year, not one, because I've got one of these coming," he said, pointing to his pregnant wife who is due in April. "So I don't need Grammys anymore, baby! I'm retiring. I'm going to write a children's book. Isn't that what you're supposed to do when you have kids? Or form a kid's band."

Grohl says he's playing plenty of Beatles and Mozart -- apparently The Beach Boys didn't go over well -- to the unborn child, and Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age gave Grohl this advice on the delivery day.

"Dude, just don't look! Just keep your eyes on your lady. Don't f---ing look!

THE SMELL OF KISS: Paul Stanley of KISS says he's involved in the creation of some new KISS fragrances.

"There's a line of KISS fragrances today, great, great perfume and colognes, having very little to do with the band but great attitude fragances," said Stanely on the Davis red carpet."They're unrepentently sexy and a little naughty."

Of his '70s rock band, Stanley says, "KISS is the virus that just keeps on giving. It will never stop."


Nickelback Leads 2006 Juno Nods

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Scott Deveau
 (Feb. 15, 2005) Multi-platinum rockers Nickelback racked up six Juno nominations Wednesday, with songstress Diana Krall and crooner Michael Bublé in a close second with five nods a piece. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences released the list of nominees for Canada's biggest music honours for 2006 in Toronto Wednesday night.  After diverging a little off the mainstream in 2005 by honouring artists like Feist, k-os, and Sarah Harmer, the Juno's seem to be once again situated firmly in the centre of mainstream Canadian music.  Nickelback, fresh off the release of its fourth album, All the Right Reasons, are up for Group of the Year, Rock Album of the Year, Jack Richardson Producer of the Year, Single of the Year ( Photograph), Juno Fan Choice and Album of the Year. Both Krall and Bublé are up against the West Coast rockers for Fan Choice, Artist of the Year, Album of the Year awards. Krall is also up in the Music DVD of the Year category and Vocal Jazz Album for Christmas. Bublé is also up for Pop Album of the Year and Single of the Year ( Home). Also receiving multiple nods were Canadian rock legend Neil Young, indie darlings Arcade Fire, Canadian Idol winner Kalan Porter and the internationally acclaimed Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Each received three nods a piece.  First-time Juno nominees receiving double nominations include: Bedouin Soundclash, Boom Desjardins, Divine Brown, Hedley, Jonas, Rex Goudie, Roberto Occhipinti and Russell Broom. Blue Rodeo, Christopher Mills, Garnet Armstrong, Jann Arden, Kathleen Edwards, k-os, Our Lady Peace, and Theory of a Deadman also received two nominations each.
 Rapper 50 Cent, the Black Eyed Peas, Coldplay, Gwen Stefani and American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson are up for the International Album of the Year award.  The Junos will be aired on CTV on Sunday, April 2, and will feature performances by Bedouin Soundclash, Black Eyed Peas, Broken Social Scene, Bryan Adams, Coldplay, Michael Bublé, and Nickelback among others. The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is a not-for-profit organization created to preserve and enhance the Canadian music and recording industries and to contribute toward higher artistic and industry standards.

Ice Cube Returns To The Mic

 Source: 5W Public Relations, Tracy Nguyen or Reggie Dance, or

 (Feb. 10, 2006) NEW YORK  -- Multi-Platinum and Award Winning Hip-Hop Superstar Ice Cube makes his highly anticipated return to the mic with the debut of his seventh solo LP, titled "Laugh Now, Cry Later." Following the release of his greatest hits collection in 2001, the West Coast's Greatest Rap Lyrist is back again, bringing forth his best musical work to date. "Laugh Now, Cry Later," which will be released by Ice Cube's independently owned label, Lench Mob Records, will hit shelves worldwide on June 6th. Boasting production from top level producers like Scott Storch, Swizz Beatz and Lil' Jon, and featuring guests Snoop Dogg and WC, Ice Cube looks to settle back into his position as Rap's Heavy Weight Champion, showcasing his creative and lyrical genius throughout 18 solid tracks. With the streets already talking about the buzz single & video "Chrome & Paint," which blends low-riders and the West Coast lifestyle, the album's first official single will be Scott Storch produced "Why We Thugs," which delves into social commentary about weapons, narcotics, politics and the ghettos of America over a heavy baseline.
 Always a true MC at heart, Ice Cube has spent this past year away from the big screen to create a well thought out and complete album which mixes rider music, club bangers and soon to be classics through his unique talent of cinematic storytelling. Regarded as one of the Most Important figures in rap history, Ice Cube began his career with the Notorious West Coast Gangsta Rap Group N.W.A a little over 15 years ago. At the height of the group's success, Ice Cube broke away to start his own solo career. His initial release, "Amerikkka's Most Wanted" (Priority, 1990) sold over a million copies. His sophomore solo effort, "Death Certificate" (Priority, 1991), a concept album about the fall and rise of the black man, debuted at #1 on the R&B Album chart, #2 on the Top 200 album chart and went on to sell over two million copies. His impressive musical career also includes the multi-platinum success of both his double album "War and Peace," and hit albums "Lethal Injection," "Bootlegs & B-Sides," and "The Predator." Ice Cube has sold over ten million albums to date.

Mart Kenney Dies In B.C. At Age 95 `True Pioneer' In Network Radio

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John McKay, Canadian Press

 (Feb. 10, 2006) The man once known as Canada's Big Band King for the swing orchestras he led in the 1930s and '40s has died.  Mart Kenney died Wednesday night at a retirement home in Mission, B.C., said his daughter Lisa Kenney. He was 95.  Kenney had been afflicted with Alzheimer's and vascular dementia. In addition he suffered a bad fall nearly two years ago, after which he was persuaded to move into the retirement home.  "He was Canada's Glenn Miller and he's the last of that era," said John Dimon, music producer and publisher of Music World magazine.  "A wonderful man. I mean he was so dignified and so talented and so gentle. He was just really first class."  Dimon, who used to book gigs for him, said he expects Kenney has been largely forgotten today, noting that his name has never come up at the Juno Awards.  "What more could this man have done to contribute to music during the war or during the '50s, the '60s?"  Veteran broadcaster and friend Lymon Potts said Kenney was Canada's most popular dance band leader, outliving all the North American old-timers. His death brings down the curtain on a music era, Potts said.  "More people danced to Mart's music than to that of any Canadian orchestra," he said.  "He was a true pioneer in Canadian network radio."  Potts conceded that Kenney is not remembered today as well as he should be.  Potts used to announce Kenney's broadcasts from the Brant Inn in Burlington, Ont., in the 1940s. "Everybody met their girlfriend or danced there, and this was a romantic era."  Debuting in Vancouver's Alexandra Ballroom in 1931, Mart and the Western Gentlemen quickly became known for their cross-country barnstorming, playing at such prestigious hotels as Chateau Lake Louise, Hotel Saskatchewan, Banff Springs, the Brant Inn and Toronto's Royal York.  The band broke new ground as one of the first Canadian bands to broadcast on Canadian, U.S. and international radio networks, and the broadcasts were soon identified with the phrase "sweet and low."  In 1938, Kenney's was the first homegrown band to record for RCA Victor. During World War II the band entertained troops and war workers in a series of Victory performances. The band's leading vocalist was Norma Locke, who eventually married Kenney. She died in 1990.  In 1946, Kenney — who played alto sax and clarinet — composed the song "We're Proud of Canada," and only a few years ago updated the lyrics to include issues of national unity. Also in '46 he opened The Ranch, his open-air nightclub near Woodbridge, Ont., which became a favourite Saturday night dance haunt for Toronto couples.  The Order of Canada recipient tried to retire in 1968, but fans persuaded him to return to the bandstand, where he specialized in conventions and club dates in the Vancouver area. The Mart Kenney Big Band was featured at Expo '86, and played such venues as the Canadian National Exhibition and Pacific National Exhibition.

Cdn. Music Doc DVD/CD Planned

 By Karen Bliss for Lowdown

 (Jan. 30, 2006)
EMI Music Canada will release a DVD and companion CD based on "Shakin' All Over," the two-hour documentary about Canadian pop music in the '60s that airs tonight (Jan. 30) on CBC Television at 8 p.m. ET.  Sales will benefit the charity MusicCan, a national music education program implemented by the Canadian Academy Of Recording Arts & Sciences.  "It's going to have a life beyond the TV special," says noted Toronto music journalist Nicholas Jennings, who wrote the book "Before the Gold Rush -- Flashbacks To The Dawn Of The Canadian Sound" (Penguin Books), on which the film is based, and served as the writer and associate producer of "Shakin' All Over."  Details have yet to be worked out with EMI such as track listing and additional content, but Jennings says the DVD and CD should be out this year, "maybe the spring, maybe the summer."  Jennings, the former music critic for Maclean's magazine and current music editor for Inside Entertainment, conducted more than 60 interviews for the documentary and licensed as many songs.  He was also able to dig up such rare clips as David Clayton Thomas & The Shays on NBC's "Hullabaloo," Halifax garage band The Great Scots on "American Bandstand," Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell in separate performances on BBC's "In Concert," Murray McLauchlan at the Riverboat club, Bruce Cockburn on CBC's "Rock II," and Steppenwolf on "The Ed Sullivan Show."  "There's tons more that we edited for the TV show," says Jennings. "Would EMI want the DVD to feature full performances? I guess it all comes down to budget."  Many of those finer points "Shakin' All Over" producer Pierre Touchette of Montreal-based Amerimage-Spectra will be working out with EMI, namely vice-president of marketing Rob Brooks and director of catalogue marketing Warren Stewart. Jennings expects to have input as well.  Jennings has an existing relationship with EMI Music Canada stemming back to the late '90s when label president Deane Cameron hired him to write the company's anniversary tome, "EMI Music Canada -- Fifty Years Of Music 1949 to 1999" (Macmillan Canada), which came out in 2000.
 "Deane is a fan of 'Before The Gold Rush.' That's why he commissioned me to do the EMI history book, but beyond that, he also cares passionately about Canadian music history," says Jennings. "I really respect Deane because he has been a huge champion of Canadian music and heritage."  Both books are now out of print.  However, Jennings is hoping that "Before The Gold Rush," which came out in hard cover in 1997 and paperback in 1998, will get back into circulation. "A lot of people love the book and want it to be back in print. I was very lucky that it got into a lot of libraries before it went out of print. It's just a matter of do I find another publisher or do I publish it myself?" he says.  The idea for "Before The Gold Rush," -- initially titled "Yorkville Daze" which was deemed "too Toronto-centric" by Penguin, according to Jennings -- came to him in 1996 after he interviewed the five music veterans inducted into the Juno Awards' Canadian Music Hall Of Fame that year and found a common thread of Yorkville.  In separate interviews for his Maclean's magazine article, David Clayton-Thomas, Denny Doherty, John Kay, Domenic Troiano, Zal Yanovsky each brought up the Toronto district "as this looming presence" in their early careers.  Jennings had his own history with Yorkville, having worked part-time at the Riverboat club in the '70s while he was a journalism student at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, and witnessing show by the likes of Dan Hill, Colin Linden, Cockburn, Lightfoot, and McLauchlan.  He decided to write a book on the Yorkville and Yonge Street scenes before anyone else did.
 "I tried convince my publisher, Penguin Books, back when the book was published that people would love a CD too, but Penguin couldn't envision it; they couldn't see a way to make that happen," says Jennings. "I tried to involve some record labels and some people in the industry were very excited about the idea, but it never came to fruition."  From the time the book was published in 1997, Jennings was approached by many film and television producers to turn the book into a documentary or even a series. "None of those approaches led to anything because none of those producers could get the financing or a broadcast commitment," Jennings says.  That changed in 2001 when he was approached by Touchette, who worked for the TV production side of Amerimage-Spectra. Among its many entertainment ventures, the company has recorded performances at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, and more recently produced DVDs such as "Diana Krall - Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival" and "Creating The Lord of the Rings Symphony."  "He optioned the book and hired me to write the documentary," says Jennings.  Joining Touchette were producers Nick Orchard and Randolph Eustace-Walden and executive producer Luc Chatelain. The project also became a co-production between Amerimage-Spectra and Vancouver's Soapbox Productions. And Gary McGroarty (2000's documentary "Stand Up And Be Counted") was brought in as the director.  "Gary completely shared my passion for getting as much Canadian music from the '60s on the screen," says Jennings.  Touchette got a broadcast commitment from CBC Television and he and McGroarty were given access to the broadcaster's massive archives.  Initially, Jennings says CBC wanted the film to focus on who he calls the "Mount Rushmore of Canadian music" -- Young, Mitchell, Lightfoot and Cohen.
 "That's not really doing justice to the '60s and the wealth of music that this country produced, so we dug our heels in and started going into the archives," says Jennings. "There's not a lot of great material left from the '60s and most of what does exist resides in the CBC archives."  More than half the footage in "Shakin' All Over" is from the CBC.  With the mass of material they had assembled of Canadian music from the '60s, Jennings began talking with Ross Reynolds at CARAS, the organization that presents the Juno Awards, and with Graham Henderson of the Canadian Recordings Industry Association (CRIA) which represents the companies that create, manufacture and market sound recordings.  "CARAS was immediately interested because they are developing the Juno Hall Of Fame, and CARAS and CRIA both wanted to find a way to see this TV special made into a DVD," relays Jennings. "It's a challenge, of course, because the licensing of songs is incredibly expensive and this show has 60 of them, so CARAS wanted to play a role in this and it will wind up being a charitable project along the lines of a "Oh What A Feeling,'" he says, referring to the 1996 and 2001 box sets produced by CARAS to celebrate the 25th and 30th anniversary of the Juno Awards.  "The CARAS charity is (for) music in the schools which I'm very pleased about because I really see this documentary has a real educational role to play. It has that kind of value," says Jennings.  "Shakin' All Over" is the first of a planned three-part series Jennings is making with McGroarty on the history of Canadian pop music, tentatively titled "Maple Music."  "The format that was used for 'Shakin' All Over' will carry the series through," says Jennings. "The next part will begin in the early '70s and bring us up to the birth of music television in the mid '80s and the third will be the mid '80s to present."  CBC has been offered the entire series. Jennings is also developing two television performance specials on Canadian Celtic music acts Leahy and Natalie MacMaster. "Gary and I are the creative producers and Amerimage-Spectra will be the producer," he says.

Study: Little Rhyme Or Reason To Picking Hits

 Excerpt from - Barry A. Jeckell & Clover Hope, N.Y.

 (Feb. 10, 2006) If you think there is no rhyme or reason to what songs make the top music hits of the week, you may be partly right, researchers said yesterday (Feb. 9). They tried to find a way to predict which songs would be popular, and found it very difficult.  Researchers at Columbia University in New York used the Internet to create an artificial market for singles, all recorded by artists not on the current top 40 hit parade in the United States. They then persuaded more than 14,000 young Internet users to log onto the site and choose their favourites.  In a finding that may console losers in both the market and in contests such as this week's Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, they said the most popular songs were not always the songs that people thought were the best.  "The very best songs never do terribly but they can only do OK," Columbia sociologist Duncan Watts, who directed the study, said in a telephone interview. "The very worst songs never do brilliantly but they can also do OK."  While people do genuinely seem to like some songs better than others, their preferences change once they know what other people like, Watts and colleagues found. "The popular things become more popular and the less-popular things get less popular," Watts said.  People, it seems, do not entirely trust their own taste when it comes to music. The same may hold true for books and movies and may explain why the top sellers vastly outsell the rest, the researchers concluded in their report, published in the journal Science.  To judge quality, Watts and his team allowed their 14,000 mostly teenage volunteers to choose songs randomly. "If a lot of people independently vote for a song, we are going to call that quality," Watts said.
 "While listening to a song, they were asked to assign a rating from one star (I hate it) to five stars (I love it), after which they were given the opportunity to download the song," the researchers wrote.  "The music for the experiment comes from, a Web site where bands can create home pages and post their music for download."  Watts does not believe that people are consciously allowing themselves to be influenced. "They think they trust their own judgment," he said.  "What makes social influence difficult to understand is that we are often unaware of it. We always think we are voting without preferences. We don't think we like bad songs. We actually persuade ourselves that we think it's good and that we would think it was good even if our friends didn't like it."  And in the real world, marketing and other pressures add to the confusion, he said. Payola, for instance, occurred when radio disc jockeys were paid to play certain songs, which in turn influenced listeners both through repetition and by creating the impression that a song was already popular.   Watts believes the findings will hold true for other things such as books, movies and art. "People think they have opinions about modern art but nobody really knows anything about it," he said.   And perhaps most importantly, Watts said the experiment showed that the Internet can provide a useful way to study behaviour on a mass scale. Many social and psychological experiments are now done using university undergraduates who volunteer.   "Try putting 14,000 teenagers in a lab. That wasn't possible a few years ago," he said. "There are all sorts of interesting questions we can ask about how society makes choices or solves problems."

Q&A: James Taylor

 Excerpt from - Melinda Newman

 (Feb. 10, 2006) For more than 35 years, James Taylor has been making music that touches people to their core. With modern-day standards like "Fire and Rain," "Carolina in My Mind" and "Shower the People," Taylor has sold more than 35 million albums in the United States alone.  The singer/songwriter also gives generously of his time and wallet to support numerous causes, which include the Rainforest Foundation, the National Resources Defense Council, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and Vote for Change.  On Feb. 6, Taylor -- who was the Billboard Century Award honouree in 1998 -- was recognized for his considerable musical and philanthropic contributions as the 2006 MusiCares Person of the Year. Among the artists saluting him at the Los Angeles event, produced by the Recording Academy, were Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Dixie Chicks, Taj Mahal, Paul Simon, Alison Krauss and fellow Century Award recipient Randy Newman.  Prior to the event, Taylor admitted that after years of seeing his contemporaries receive honours, he is a bit undone at the prospect of all the attention. "I'll probably be in some kind of a state [at MusiCares]. I'm thinking of taking a bullhorn to the show and yelling at people onstage."  One result of the honour? Taylor joked that he will no longer be able to fuss that he has not gotten his due. "I can't complain about anything," he says. "It's been such an important part of my life, complaining; I don't know what I'll do with the spare time."  Undoubtedly, he will work on what he does best: a new tour and a new album. A few years ago, Taylor left Sony Music after more than two decades. He talked to Billboard about his future plans while on vacation on the East Coast.
 Q: You just finished another great year of touring. How do you keep it fresh after so many years?

 A: You learn how to pace yourself after a while and not to take on too much work. You sort of strike a delicate balance between being in good shape and fit and up for the show with your chops up, and going too far and getting tired of it and tired of the material and stuff. And it's really amazing how every night the presence of an enthusiastic audience and being onstage with great players just wakes you up and brings that out of you.
 That's the best thing about it. It's almost like there's another force operating that continues to be a real factor.
 Q: You are working on a special concept for the next tour. What can you tell us about it?

 A: I'm going to go out and essentially do solo work. Larry Goldings is going to play keyboards with me, at least to start with. We're going to play smallish theatres, houses of around 3,000, I think, performing arts centers and stuff. We'll do that in the first half of March, the first of April, the first half of May, and beyond that we'll see.  It's been a number of years since I worked solo. That's all I used to do, and that's how I started out. So it's nice to get back to that every once in a while.
 Q: Are you going to play new material?

 A: I've got four or five things started and near completion. Maybe I'll have something ready by March, but I wouldn't want to promise it.
 Q: In 2004, you successfully put out a Christmas album through Hallmark. What did you learn from that experience?

 A: I finished up my commitment to Sony [in 2002 with "October Road"], and it's a very changing, shifting kind of landscape in the record business these days, and I figured we'd keep our options open. [Taylor's manager] Gary [Borman] got this offer in from Hallmark, and I figured, "Sure, let's give it a try." It was an interesting experiment to work outside of the record company model, and it's definitely a way to go.  I think it was a positive experience. I had a certain amount of trepidation going into it, not knowing what it was going to be like, but the Hallmark people were clearly on their game and knew what they wanted with just a surprising level of organization. They kept us on track for a whole year ahead of time with deadlines for this and deadlines for that. It was very interesting to see how tight their business model was. It was great.
 Q: What are your thoughts on a new label home?

 A: I don't know. I'm assuming it's probably a good idea to find somebody to partner up with, but my feeling is that it's best to do it on a project-by-project basis at this point.   I was with Sony for, oh, close to 20 years, I guess, maybe longer. The thing about it is you can find yourself in a situation where you sign with one company and then five years later, you've delivered two of your five albums and you don't know anybody there. People [say], "I want a key man clause," but no one's going to accept that, it never works out that way.  So I think with the other way, when you make an album and get a certain of the way through the album on your own with your own money and your own production, you can then let a company take a look at it and go, "We like this, we know what we can do with this" or "We want to pass on this."   When it's your fourth album [on a contract] and you signed with a whole different crew, you just sort of deliver it out of thin air, they may take a look at it and say, "We don't know what to do with this thing" or "This isn't what we expected," so this is a much easier and straightforward and honest way to go at it.   Also, we're in state now where you can really get started at home and get into the project without needing a big company to bankroll you, so it's probably a good idea to do that, and that's how I anticipate we'll work on it, on a project-by-project basis.
 Q: What did you think when you heard you were to be honoured by MusiCares?

 A: It takes a while for things to sink in, but it turns out to be quite an honour. Quite the feather in my cap.
 Q: MusiCares has expanded its mission in the last few years with initiatives like the Emergency Financial Assistance Plan and by providing relief to musicians in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Have you had the opportunity to become familiar with the organization?

 A: I've had a chance to talk to a few people about it. I think it's a great opportunity for musicians and people in the business to directly help and do something positive for fellow musicians.

Is He Country Music's New Leading Man?

 Excerpt from - Katy Kroll
(Feb. 8, 2006) He's best known for playing such television characters as the quirky Chris in the Morning on "Northern Exposure" and Aidan on "Sex & the City," as well as the fish-out-of-water groom in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." But John Corbett has saddled up a more challenging role: rising country music star.  Corbett's upcoming self-titled album will be released April 4 on his own Fun Bone Records, which is distributed by Navarre.  Last week, the album's lead single, "Good to Go," entered Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart at No. 48. It now holds the record for the highest debut by a new artist on an independently distributed label during the Nielsen BDS era (1991-to-present).  It's a feat Corbett has been envisioning for years.   "It's not a new thing," he says. "It's not like I learned to play the guitar last year and just started writing songs and thought, 'Oh, I'm gonna make a record now.'"  Indeed, Corbett has been steeped in music since a very young age. His family owned a live music club that was just blocks away from West Virginia's Jamboree USA, the second oldest country music venue after the Grand Ole Opry, and Corbett later owned the Phoenix club in Seattle.   After years of casually singing and playing guitar with friends and at the Phoenix, he got his first true taste of the music industry when he was asked to be a presenter at the 2004 CMT Flameworthy Awards in Nashville.
 "That night I met all these interesting people," Corbett notes. "They just seemed like people I went to high school with. I just felt like you know what? I can fit right in here. It was a totally natural transition."  Soon after that, he spent almost a year in Music City recording his album, which features such well-known songwriters as Bernie Taupin and Hal Ketchum.  Although far from the first actor who has wanted to crossover into music, Corbett is certainly a trailblazer when it comes to making a full-time commitment to the endeavour.   "My road band left other bands to come do this," he says. "They said, 'What's gonna happen to us in two months when you get an offer for a movie?' I said, 'I'll take two years off from acting, I won't do one single thing. Let's see how far we can take this thing.' I thought that was a pretty good amount of time to give it 100% [and] to see where we ended up."  Even after taking some 20 years to dig his heels into Hollywood, Corbett thinks of himself as more of "a singer who's done some acting."  "If you put the two on a scale -- workin' on a movie or out ridin' around with my buddies playin' music every night, drinkin' beer and laughin' our asses off -- [acting is] not that tempting," he laughs. "I'm having the time of my life. It's a new hotel every night, a new restaurant, a new bunch of people in a new town who've never heard our songs before. I meet 'em all after [the show] and they take me to their local bar. I feel like I'm 17 years old."
 In the past six months, Corbett has opened for ZZ Top, Lisa Marie Presley and Charlie Daniels. He calls it a "tough gig," and acknowledges that a majority of those who come to his headlining shows are fans of his acting. But he sees that as an advantage.   "If we play a 600-seater, there's 579 women and maybe 18 dudes who were probably dragged along with their girlfriends or wives," he says. "By about the third song, I think they get used to the idea that the guy from 'Sex & the City' is singin'. Then they just start diggin' the music."  He also admits that already having a famous face has helped him get his foot in the door in other ways.   "I know how hard it is for new artists to get their songs played, so I can't really say it's tough workin' from the ground up 'cause I got a little leg up. I'll admit it's probably a little easier for me to get my record played than it is for [other] new artists [because] radio guys want to talk to me about 'Sex & the City' or 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding,'" he says.  So far, all signs point toward a new career path for Corbett, who has no qualms about putting acting on hold indefinitely.   "If I get lucky and in two years I can support me and four other dudes [in the band] by just playing music, that would be the greatest thing that could ever happen," he says. "I'm not saying I won't ever [act] again, but I'm like a kid in a candy store with a gun right now. Give me all that candy and the money!"

TSO Welcomes A Rising Star: JoAnn Falletta

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

 (Feb. 13, 2006) Every city has its peculiarities. One of Toronto's is how little American classical music is played here.  This is a glaring omission, as the
Toronto Symphony Orchestra demonstrated yesterday at Roy Thomson Hall in an all-American program that had its first airing on Saturday night.  On the podium was one of a small number of rising female stars. Manhattan native JoAnn Falletta is the current music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and a frequently lauded conductor for the budget Naxos label.  Falletta guided the Toronto Symphony in a well-crafted afternoon of favourites that showcased the enduring virtues of American symphonic music from the last century, most notably its muscular orchestrations and rhythmic drive.  We heard Leonard Bernstein's 1961 set of Symphonic Dances from the 1957 musical West Side Story, four dance movements from Aaron Copland's 1943 ballet score Rodeo and, in marked contrast, Samuel Barber's 1937 orchestral arrangement of his plaintive Adagio for Strings.  In mid-program the concert grand was rolled out for 22-year-old Windsor-born Darrett Zusko. Even though he is still studying music at the Juilliard School in New York, he gives recitals frequently.  Zusko sat down at the piano rather casually but, despite his insouciant manner, he gave a brilliant reading of the showy piano part in George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Yesterday marked the 82nd anniversary of its premiere at the hands of the king of big-band jazz, Paul Whiteman.  You can't get any more American than any of these works, and the Toronto Symphony was up to the many technical demands. Most of this music is deceptively simple-sounding but demands great precision from all the players involved.
 The brass and woodwind players were especially brilliant.  With a completely unaffected conducting style — and occasionally swinging her hips discreetly to the music — Falletta kept everything in order. She also paused to introduce the music to the audience twice during the afternoon, which was a welcome gesture.  If there are any complaints about yesterday's performances, it was that the string playing could have been more precise and a little bit louder.  The violins, violas and cellos were especially obvious in their mellowness in the program's opening piece, a fascinating "outtake" from John Adams's 1985 opera Nixon in China called The Chairman Dances (Foxtrot for Orchestra).  Adams is famous for his minimalist style, but this score is maximalist in its crafty use of layer upon layer of repeated note sequences and rhythms to create a rich aural tapestry.  It was another good reason to explore American classical music more often.

'Nothing But Love Spoken Here': Felton Pilate's New CD Release

 Source: Makeda Smith, JazzmynePR,

 (Feb. 13, 2006) Soulful crooner
Felton Pilate ( has been wowing audiences for decades as the lead vocalist for R&B funksters, ConFunkShun.   His silky falsetto highlights quiet storm slow jams the likes of “Straight From The Heart,”“ “(Let me Put) Love On Your Mind,” “All Up To You,” and “Baby I’m Hooked (Right Into Your Love).”  With the debut release of his solo CD “Nothing But Love Spoken Here,” on Escapi Urban Music, Pilate presents listeners with a 10 song set of pure unadulterated tributes to the emotion known as love.  Lush signature arrangements provide the melodic backdrops to songs that evoke sensual “ear- rotic” desires of the heart.  Warm, sweet and intimate, “Nothing But Love Spoken Here” is the backdrop for an evening of romance.  From the onset title track, “Nothing But Love Spoken Here,” Pilate whisks us away on a seductive voyage of love induced wonder.  Providing all the production, songwriting, most of the vocals and instrumental tracks, Pilates sets forth a showmanship of skill.  Titles like “Leading Different Lives” flow melancholy and forlorn, while “Devotion” rings with intense passion. “In Time” sways with the fervour of strong yearning but when A Taste of Honey’s Janice Marie Johnson duets with him on “Only For You” the sentiment of love rocks sweetest.  And on “Keepin’ You To Your Promise” originally penned for the Stylistics, Pilate simply soars.
 Pilate continues to tour with ConFunkShun.  With a background that includes, per his production efforts for M.C. Hammer, record sells in the millions and a slew of awards, he was recently selected as one of the celebrity judges for the new online music network, American Idol Underground . This one-of-a-kind event offers the opportunity for independent artists to have their music reviewed by Internet listeners as well as the celebrity judges, providing a platform to reach the masses like only American Idol can.  Having experienced the recent drama of Hurricane Rita, in his home of Houston, TX, Pilate has also launched the non-profit, Singing4TheSouth , a karoke-kommunity, Katrina relief-aid fund raising entity to benefit the American Red Cross, MusicCares, and other charities.  In fact, a portion of his CD sales proceeds of "Nothing But Love Spoken Here" derived either from or from will go directly to Singing4TheSouth.  "Though I had to evacuate, I still feel like the lucky one. Katrina equals pain, and music equals love. The challenge is on, and love is gonna win!" affirms Pilate.  “Nothng But Love Spoken Here” is a wonderful offering from an artist whose career has been a reflection of love.  With nothing but love being spoken, Pilate certainly makes us want to listen!  Visit Felton Pilate at and hear it for yourself. 

Art Garfunkel  - One Step Out Of The Shadows

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Brad Wheeler

 (Feb. 14, 2006) 'This is Art Garfunkel." The voice has a bit of melody to it, and mischief too. The reporter is mildly surprised that the man answered his own phone, and Garfunkel sensed it. He's having a little fun -- who would have expected the supposedly fussy former redhead to be playful?  Another thing: The singer, a celebrated willowy tenor, speaks with a rich, husky phone tone. Odd. Then, a little cough, away from the receiver, naturally -- the schooled Garfunkel (a bachelor of arts in art history, followed by a master's degree in mathematics) is civilized. "I'm feeling fine," he assures me, but he's not selling it too hard. "You'll never know the other stuff." Please, do tell.  Well, I'm not that fine," Garfunkel admits, not so grudgingly. "There's other stuff in the family, health stuff to worry about with my brother." And then with a dramatic sigh: "Ah, life remains full of light and shade." These days, there would seem to be more of the former than the latter. Garfunkel speaks from a three-bedroom Manhattan apartment on the Upper East Side, which he shares with his wife of 17 years, their 15-year-old son and, since October, a baby boy, born to them via a surrogate mother.  The 64-year-old recording artist is in the process of putting together a song order for a tour that brings him and a four-piece band to Massey Hall tomorrow. "I'm into the pleasure of the set list like never before," he says, spirits rising. "I used to use formulas: mixing up your up-tempos with your slow, mix your guitar-based things with your piano, be aware of when to serve up a hit and when you can go more esoteric. "But now I get into the fun of it," he continues. "Song by song, visualizing it. 'Well, if that first one works, then I'll take them to this one.' It's a trip you make, as a sequencer."
 The material to be performed draws heavily from the famous canon of Simon & Garfunkel, and the process of ordering it, it is suggested, is comparable to a baseball manager working out a batting line-up. "Exactly!" says the Queens, N.Y.-born sports fan. "I've got my long-ball hitter, and I'm saving him for third." It's anybody's guess which song is the most formidable slugger -- take your pick from pop music's Murderer's Row: The Sounds of Silence, Scarborough Fair/Canticle, Mrs. Robinson, The Boxer and Bridge Over Troubled Water.  Garfunkel gives no clues, but then that's not a startling development. He's a celebrity to be sure, but for all his recognition and fame, there's a lot we don't know about the man. "You're describing a guy who's a little under the radar," the singer announces, with an attractively theatrical flourish. "Is there a reticence in you?" Garfunkel continues, rephrasing the reporter's questions to himself. "Are you in that semi-shadow, personality-wise?  "I suppose the answer is yes. I'm a Columbia [University] college graduate who loves to read, and I'm my father's travelling salesman son who is contemplative," he assesses. "Now, these are funny words for the projecting arts of show business, which require the attitude of 'Everyone hush up and listen to Me.' You need that balls, boldness and ego to be the guy for the night." Garfunkel has been just one guy ever since he split with Simon in 1970, although the duo has reunited off and on since then, most notably for a free concert in Central Park in 1981 that attracted about 500,000 people and was televised and later packaged as an album and video.
 The performer does not think of himself as shy, but he has wrestled for many years with fame and the mindset it requires. According to Garfunkel, he has been pushed his whole life to "gear up" and not to be so understated. "I've slowly, slowly grown into that attitude, because of the fact that I observe that I sing nicely and I wish to share it."  The interview begins to move on, but Garfunkel is stuck on the thoughts of his public perception. "You left me with an interesting question there," he murmurs. "Because you challenged me to show up a little bit now. You make me want to do a bunch of Jay Leno shows and Oprahs, and open up and talk about the stickball I played as a kid. And the fact that I'm walking across Europe now, and the fact that I'm a constant book reader who keeps track of every one of the 964 books that I've read since I made Catch-22 with [director] Mike Nichols in Mexico. I had to sit on the set with all that downtime -- reading, reading." Thirty-seven years later, Garfunkel relaxes in his library, with all the books on shelves around him. If you haven't guessed already, he's a compulsive list maker. At his website (, you can peruse a roster of all those books, as well as a rundown of his favourite songs. (You can also read about his walk across the United States and his current trek across Europe, but that's another story.) On a song list dominated by early and classic rock 'n' roll, the Beatles' "stunningly sublime" ballad Here, There and Everywhere is No. 1. Of the 60 tunes, there are two Simon & Garfunkel selections: at No. 18, The Sounds of Silence from 1966; and, at No. 4, 1970's Bridge Over Troubled Water.  While Simon was the composer of the duo's material, Garfunkel is rightly proud of the records the pair made, and doesn't tire of singing or discussing them. "Oh, what a song," he sighs lovingly when asked about Bridge Over Troubled Water. To Garfunkel's frustration, the song is "haunted" by wrong stories that just won't go away. "The fiction is that Paul wrote it for me, and I rejected it," he says, with exasperation, "one of the many fights Simon and Garfunkel had."
 The truth, he says, was that Simon presented the song in his falsetto, replicating as close as possible the leaping high tenor notes that he saw as a perfect fit for his partner. Garfunkel loved the tune, but had a different notion. "I told him that I'd always loved his falsetto," Garfunkel recalls, "and that it would be a great song if he wanted to do it." A sensitive Simon was hurt by the apparent rebuff. "But I wrote it for you," he told his partner. To which, Garfunkel replied, "Cool, okay, then I'll take it." Asked to describe the role he played in all those hits, the singer describes himself as the team's editor and producer, as well as vocalist. He's so passionate about his craft, you wonder why he hasn't made a second career helping other songwriters and performers over the years. "I'm not that prolific," says the singer, who has released more than a dozen solo albums. "If I'm going to produce an artist I really like, I think Art Garfunkel needs the most help.  "He's a good singer who wants to have more popularity." And there it is. The silver-throated man who stayed partly in the shadows now wishes to produce himself. Ladies and gentleman, this is Art Garfunkel. Art Garfunkel plays Massey Hall in Toronto tomorrow at 8 p.m. (416-872-4255).
Troubled waters bridged
Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon butted heads and parted ways more than once over a long career and relationship, but the pair have apparently been on good terms since a two-month long reunion tour in late 1993. Asked to comment on Simon, Garfunkel had this to say: "I like him. He's a talented guy, he's a good guy. He works hard to be a decent fellow, and decent is a very important word. He's extremely interesting and he has a very fertile mind. Talk about people who will not let boredom into their lives -- Paul's a man whose mind demands what's interesting now, and now, and what about next hour? What's interesting? It makes him a live wire. "He can't pull punches on me, because I know when he developed those punches. I saw him put that act together way back when we were 15, and vice versa. We're old friends, and we got on really sweetly making the [reunion tour]. It was very pleasant and stress-free on stage and back stage. I found Paul -- who I don't hang out with too much -- to be a very benign papa, who still is one of our great writers."


OutKast's 'Idlewild' Due In April, Despite Trailer Info

Excerpt from - Barry A. Jeckell & Clover Hope, N.Y.

(Feb. 10, 2006) The highly anticipated Outkast soundtrack to the film "Idlewild" will not be out next week, despite what a trailer on the film's Web site says.   "New OutKast Album 'Idlewild' Available on LaFace Records, February 14th" is seen briefly at the tail end of the theatrical trailer that is online at   While the Atlanta-based hip-hop duo's own Web site says simply that the album is "coming soon," a spokesperson for the label tells that the disc will emerge in April, although an exact date has not been announced.  The set has already been bumped at least twice. As previously reported, the last move took it from the label's December release schedule to the first quarter of this year.  Clips of three unidentified songs are heard throughout the trailer, although the longest is likely "Idlewild Blues," sung by OutKast's Andre 3000 (aka Andre Benjamin), who stars in the film with cohort Big Boi. Online film information resource also lists the songs "Cock-a-Doodle-Do," "Foot on the Gas" and "The Train" as being part of the soundtrack.  Written and directed by Bryan Barber, "Idlewild" is set in the 1930s around the music and business of running a speakeasy. While it will fit the film's context, Big Boi told last year not to expect period music.   "It's hip-hop. It's OutKast. It is what we've been doing for years," he said. "Some songs have a little more piano or whatever, but the whole project was a natural progression from a double CD. It was like, where do we go from here?"  Recording artists Patti LaBelle, Macy Gray and Fishbone's Andre Moore also appear in "Idlewild," along with noted actors Terrence Howard, Faizon Love, Ben Vereen and Cicely Tyson, among others.

Avant 'Minutes' Away From Fourth Album

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Feb. 9, 2006)  R&B vocalist Avant will release his fourth album, "Director," March 21 via Magic Johnson Records/Geffen. First single "4 Minutes" can be streamed on the artist's Web site. The single rockets 79-44 this week on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. A video for the track was directed by Bryan Barber, who was behind the cameras for the upcoming OutKast film "Idlewild."  Although the track list for "Director" has yet to be confirmed, the album is tipped to feature production from Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins, Bryan Cox, the Underdogs and Steve Huff.  Since the release of 2003's "Private Room," Avant has appeared on the Lloyd Banks hit "Karma" and can presently be heard on the remix of the Pussycat Dolls' No. 1 Mainstream Top 40 single "Stickwitu."  "Private Room" debuted at No. 18 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 813,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Harper Offering Up Two 'Sides' In March

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Feb. 9, 2006)  Singer/songwriter Ben Harper will unveil 18 new songs spread across two discs on the new album "Both Sides of the Gun," due March 21 via Virgin. It will be Harper's first solo release since 2003's "Diamonds on the Inside," which debuted at No. 19 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 470,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.  A number of tracks on "Both Sides of the Gun" crackle with intensity and outrage over the political climate in the United States, particularly "Black Rain," the lyrics to which Harper posted last September on his official Web site. The cut lashes out at President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina, proclaiming, "Don't speak to us like we work for you / Selling false hope like some new dope we're addicted to / I'm not a desperate man but these are desperate times at hand / This generation is beyond your command."   The first disc delves into a variety of styles, from the swaggering, Black Crowes-style rocker "Get It Like You Like It" to the raw blues of "The Way You Found Me" and the slow-burning, largely instrumental jam "Serve Your Soul" that closes the side.  The second half of "Both Sides" is a much quieter, intimate affair. It opens with the wistful, string-addled ballad "Morning Yearning" and moving on to the Nick Drake-influenced solo guitar confessional "More Than Sorry" and the unabashedly sentimental closer "Happy Everafter in Your Eyes," an ode to Harper's wife, actress Laura Dern.  Harper is getting ready to return to the road, including a previously announced appearance at long-time pal Jack Johnson's Kokua Festival in April in Hawaii. The artist and his band the Innocent Criminals will also perform March 8 in Athens, Ga., the following day in Jacksonville, Fla., March 10 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and March 11 at the Langerado festival in Sunrise, Fla.

The Bad Plus Delivers With Indie Rock Twist

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Feb. 10, 2006) While promotional material is known for exaggerating reality, it seemed plausible that The Bad Plus could be "the loudest jazz trio" in history since they're also noted for covers of Nirvana ("Smells Like Teen Spirit") and Blondie ("Heart of Glass") and a strong following among the indie rock set.  But earplugs weren't needed for the Minneapolis-based group's Wednesday night show at Revival where they kicked off the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival's 20th anniversary season — just an open mind.  The Bad Plus certainly had the appearance of a conventional jazz trio: Reid Anderson on upright bass, David King on drums and Ethan Iverson on piano (in shirt and tie, no less) when they began with "Let Our Garden Grow," a tune harmonically based on George and Ira Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm."  However, with Anderson's understated bass lines firmly holding the centre, Iverson's frisky piano and King's frantic, abrasive drums quickly veered off on dissonant flights showcasing their rock sensibilities. And they ended that song as they would all that followed, not with a bang or flourish, but with gentle straight-ahead strokes.  The trio's hour-long show included mainly selections from their latest disc Suspicious Activity?, such as the madcap "The Empire Strikes Backwards" and the techno-laced "Anthem for the Earnest," as well as a grooving interpretation of Björk's "Human Behaviour."  The audience seemed thoroughly entertained, particularly by spokesman King's story-behind-the-songs banter, such as the explanation for "Rhinoceros is my Profession" about a matador confronted by a rhino: "We don't believe in killing bulls for sport."  The line-up of the seven-concert series is designed to showcase the diversity of jazz and finally fulfill Toronto Downtown Jazz's mandate to present concerts year-round, outside of the festival, which runs June 23 to July 3.  The series continues at Revival Feb. 15 with saxophonist Chris Potter; Feb. 22 features guitarist Charlie Hunter at the El Mocambo; big band Cubanismo! is at the Opera House March 6; while the Glenn Gould Studio will stage pianist Randy Weston March 10, trombonist Russ Little April 3 and vocalist Diane Schuur April 26. Tickets are $24.50 to $39.50 and available through Ticketmaster.

Oprah Signs 3-Year Deal With XM Satellite Radio

Source: Associated Press

(Feb. 10, 2006) New York — Oprah Winfrey has signed a three-year, $55 million deal with XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. to launch a new radio channel beginning in September, Winfrey and XM announced Thursday. The new channel, "Oprah & Friends," will air programming on fitness, health and self-improvement topics with personalities that appear on Winfrey's TV program, "The Oprah Winfrey Show," as well as in O, The Oprah Magazine. It will also feature a weekly radio show with Winfrey and Gayle King. The $55 million deal is a far cry from the $600 million, five-year deal that rival satellite radio broadcaster Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. has with morning shock jock Howard Stern. XM also has signed other big programming contracts, including an 11-year, $650 million deal for Major League Baseball. Winfrey's new channel on XM will feature personalities that appear on her show and in her magazine including Bob Greene, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Nate Berkus. XM and Sirius are locked in a fierce competition to sign up programming and new subscribers as they both strive to reach profitability. Each service costs about $13 a month and offers dozens of channels of commercial-free music as well as other channels of talk and news. XM, which is based in Washington, D.C., is the larger of the two, with more than 6 million subscribers, while the New York-based Sirius has more than 3 million.

Fugees Rock 8,000 In Hollywood Reunion Concert

Excerpt from

(Feb. 10, 2006)  *About 8,000 Fugees fans were given free tickets from Los Angeles radio stations to see them perform live at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, Monday’s concert began with Wyclef taking the stage first with a 10-minute freestyle rap, part of which was recited in Spanish and French.         Lauren Hill, always the fashion plate, wore a waist-length fur jacket, while Pras Michel was described as wearing a “peach summer jacket.” Both joined Wyclef on stage as the backing band began to play.        The crew ripped into a 20-minute version of “Zealot,” which targets fake MCs, then flowed into “Ready or Not,” “Fu-Gee-La” and their new single "Take It Easy."  The group led fans in a sing-along to the Spanish classic "Guantanamera" and Mya's "Ghetto Superstar" before performing their biggest-selling hit, "Killing Me Softly." Wyclef took command of the evening, jumping offstage to get the audience pumped and climbing up a light tower to perform. The Hollywood Reporter says: “Although Hill is the most beloved of the three performers, it is Wyclef's energy that fuels this ship. The Fugees have not lost a step and are a welcome re-addition to a genre dominated too long by gangsta rap.”

Marley Home To Be Declared National Monument

Excerpt from

(Feb. 10, 2006) *The Jamaican home of reggae pioneer Bob Marley will be declared a national monument in honour of the late singer’s work in promoting his home country throughout the world. The announcement comes 25 years following Marley’s death of cancer in 1981.  His home has since become the Tuff Gong International music studio, but remains a major tourist attraction in the Jamaican capital Kingston.  Despite Marley’s global fame, government officials continue to decline requests for the late artist to be named a “national hero.” The title has only been given to seven Jamaicans, including civil rights leader Marcus Garvey and former Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante.  Marley, who was behind songs such as “Get Up Stand Up” and “One Love,” was given the Order of Merit, Jamaica's third-highest honour, a month before his death in Miami at age 36.

Earth Wind & Fire Set Spring Tour Dates

Excerpt from

(Feb. 10, 2006)  *R&B legends Earth, Wind & Fire are ready to promote their latest album “Illumination” on a string of North American concerts beginning Feb. 25 in Albuquerque and ending March 26 in Corpus Christi, TX. "Illumination," released in September, features a large array of guest performers, including Outkast's Big Boi and The Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am. The set entered The Billboard 200 album chart at No. 32 last year, the highest debut position in the group's history.  Here is the itinerary for the Earth, Wind & Fire tour:

February 2006
25 - Albuquerque, NM - Sandia Casino
March 2006
3, 4 - Rama, Ontario - Casino Rama
10 - Washington, DC - Dar Constitution Hall
17 - Boca Raton, FL - Mizner Park Amphitheatre
18 - Orlando, FL - Universal Orlando
20 - Sarasota, FL - Van Wezel Performing Arts Center
22 - Clearwater, FL - Ruth Eckerd Hall
25 - Kinder, LA - Coushatta Casino
26 - Corpus Christi, TX - American Bank Center Arena

Motown Promotes Thug Past Of New Artist

Excerpt from

(Feb. 9, 2006)  *Motown has sent out a press release promoting the fact that its new female rap artist Penelope Jones is “a convicted felon who served 33 months in federal prison for drug conspiracy.”  The release also plugs her Feb. 18 appearance on Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted,” during an episode dedicated to tracking down the murderer of her brother Tony.  Jones says in the release: “Growing up with my family was chaotic because (her mother, aunts and uncles) were all hustlin’ at one time or another.  According to the statement, Jones received her GED while in prison, completed college courses and eventually became a certified personal fitness instructor. The press release, however, does not mention an album release date.

Apollo Theater Offers Press Peek At Makeover

Excerpt from

(Feb. 9, 2006)  *The Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc. will unveil its new 1940s-style auditorium seats as part of the ongoing restoration of the legendary Harlem venue.   An exclusive media preview on Monday (Feb 13) will introduce the theatre’s new seats as well as a presentation of the newly restored 125th Street terracotta facade - which includes a new burnished steel, a new box office, a state-of-the-art digital marquee and a restored vestibule with plasma screens. There will also be a special announcement regarding the Apollo Theatre’s agenda for 2006. "With the introduction of new auditorium seats and our ground breaking facade restoration, we have strengthened the theatre’s role as a cultural and tourism attraction, as well as an economic anchor in Northern Manhattan and New York City in general which adds value to our role as a partner in the community," said Ms. Jonelle Procope, President of The Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc. "The restoration and building improvements of the Apollo Theater is an on-going process and we want all of our supporters from donors to the public to our friends in the media to be a part of our new beginnings every step of the way."  The new and improved auditorium features widened seats designed for extra comfort and improved accessibility for patrons. Aisle lighting has also been added as well as permanent seating positions for persons with disabilities, as a part of the Apollo's commitment to ensuring convenient access and comfort to all patrons. The seating capacity also includes an additional row of seating in the lower mezzanine of the auditorium.  The 1940's-style Apollo marquee has been restored to reflect its classic features, but includes high-tech, programmable LED visuals. The Apollo has also transitioned back to its classic logo style.


Harrison Ford: The Reluctant Hero Speaks Up

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Geoff Pevere

 (Feb. 10, 2006) By many accounts, you'll never see Harrison Ford working harder as an actor than when he's doing what he's come to Toronto to do: meet the press. The man who has been called the world's most famous actor is also famously disinclined to discuss his craft. However, on this bracingly chilly morning, Ford is playing the game with something approaching enthusiasm. Call it calm professionalism. Already, he's made a public appearance to field questions following a preview screening of his new thriller Firewall, and when he sat down for 20 minutes with the Star, the trim, 63-year-old former carpenter, dressed casually in an open collar, comes equipped with the necessary tools for the job: a full pot of coffee, a pair of sunglasses and a flatteringly natty goatee.
 Q: The plot of Firewall is about a man protecting his family from bad guys who enter his home and take everybody hostage. In another day and age, it probably would have been a western. You began your career taking bit parts on western movies and TV shows, and your roles in both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies strongly resemble displaced cowboy heroes. Do you have any affinity for westerns? Would you like to make one?

 A: The only western I've ever done was kind of a television thing called The Frisco Kid, and I've been looking for a western ever since. I just haven't found one that I thought was as strong as I wanted. I worked for years trying to develop one with the writer Jim Harrison but we never got it where we wanted it to be.  It's really hard to get a western made these days because the industry isn't too keen on period pieces. In fact, I'm going to be making a film called Manhunt which is about the capture of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, and I'm playing a cavalry officer. It takes place during the Civil War, so it's not quite the context of the westward expansion but it is an interesting period of time.
 But a western would be nice to do. It would be very nice. I like the simplicity of the moral construction that you find in westerns. I think it's really interesting, but I'm not sure that the audience now has a relationship to that period of time and an interest that we did.
 Q: You've worked with an array of filmmakers over the years, some of them quite temperamentally and artistically distinct from one another. Are there any with whom you'd say you have particularly special affinity?

 A: It would be hard to do what I do without having an affinity for the people I'm working with. It's one of things that you try and establish: common ground. And you do that in particular through the work on the script, or I do. But I would have to mention nearly everyone I've worked for. In my career I've been lucky enough to work with some terrific directors more than one time. (Alan J.) Pakula twice, (Mike) Nichols twice, Phil Noyce twice, Peter Weir two times, Spielberg two times — no, three times, (George) Lucas three times, (Francis Ford) Coppola twice. It's hard to imagine how you'd do it, especially in a leading-man role when you really have to carry the weight, to do it without having some comfort with the director.
 Q: Your career began in the late 1960s, when the old studio system was on its last legs. How would you say the industry has changed since you started?

 A: I'm developing things now, whereas I had never done that before. It used to be that the studios were in the development business and most of my material came at some stage of development from the studios. And now I'm doing that myself. So I'm developing things which are different, a little different, to what I have been doing lately. There's one which is called Diary of an Economic Hitman which is a political thriller, another called "Untitled Project" now, which is about the drug business in which I play a supporting role of a chemist that discovers the cure for a disease that afflicts the family that are the centrepiece of the film.
 Q: Do you miss the old studio system at all?

 A: I was under a seven-year contract, which started at $150 a week and had I stayed with it for seven years I would have made $1,200 a week. So, happily, I got out of that after about a year and a half.  But it was a weird time because it was the late sixties, and these studio executives at the time were persisting in ideas that were more appropriate to the forties and early fifties. They just had no connection to the reality of the world that we were living in.  So that was uncomfortable for me because they were trying to create movie stars. They would do that by sending me to the studio barbershop with a picture of Elvis Presley and telling me come back with that haircut. And of course any time they told me to do something like that I resisted wildly and I finally exhausted their patience and they let me go.
 Q: The 1970s was the decade when you really came into your own as a star. That's now being looked back upon as a golden era for Hollywood production. Do you agree with that view?

 A: I don't have a historian's point of view. I was working there at the time and I really just concerned myself with what I was doing and I really didn't have an overview of it. I think there were some really good films that came out of that period of time and there were some really awful films that came out of that period of time. And I was in some of each, I think.
 Q: But have the movies changed since then? Or has the audience?

 A: I think the most profound change has been the high-quality home theatre and the possibility of seeing a film very nearly after it's released at home. Which is fine but it doesn't allow you to participate in the community experience of going into a room with a bunch of strangers in the dark, sitting there with real good projection, real good sound and feeling some common human emotion. That, to me, is the ultimate opportunity for us who make movies: to have them seen. And that is becoming a less and less popular way of seeing movies. I think it's going to have an enormous effect on what we all do.
 Q: Everybody must talk to you about Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Are there any films you wish people were more familiar with?

 A: One film I think is really a remarkable film that hasn't really got much attention is Presumed Innocent, based on a Scott Turow book and directed by Alan Pakula. A really well-constructed film. A really interesting film. That's one.
 Q: Before Star Wars, you'd been supporting a faltering acting career with carpentry work. The success of that movie must have pulled your world inside out.

 A: Yeah, sure. I mean the first and most important thing is that I went to work. Star Wars was a huge success, I was to some degree validated by that success and I went out to do a couple of projects immediately afterwards to try and get my price up and to try and solidify my billing position. That's just pure business that I took care of right away.  So I did two films. I did Hanover Street and I did Force 10 From Navarone with Robert Shaw. My life changed radically in that because the film had such visibility I became suddenly the target of tabloid interest. I became recognizable on the streets ... just changed the circumstances of my life. It didn't change my life.
 Q: You were also a father. Did fame change your role as a parent?

 A: I must admit that I'm sorry that I was away as much as I was during that period of time from home because my kids were growing up. And that time that I lost with them is irretrievable and I wish that I had not worked as much at that time.
 Q: You built your own home in Wyoming. Do you still take any solace from carpentry?

 A: I'm not really into carpentry any more. I appreciate that it was a wonderful thing in my life and helped me make a living. And I really liked the work when I was doing it but I've lost my chops. Tool skills really have to be maintained and I've been away from it for a while.
 Q: I know you're not terribly fond of overexposing yourself to the press. Is this process painful?

 A: No, it's not painful. I'm really grateful that we have this opportunity to bring attention to the film. I'll tell you what. Despite the whole mechanism of the celebrity industry, which services people's interest in people who are quote-unquote celebrities, I think that people only have a certain amount of interest in anybody and you can blow through that interest very quickly if you don't pull back from every opportunity to expose yourself in the press. So I am not available to the press unless I have something to bring to people's attention. I stay away from it as much as possible.
 Q: Are you now, or have you ever been, an avid moviegoer?

 A: No. I never was an avid moviegoer. I respect very much the history of film and people who have gone before and I respect the work of people who are in the industry now. I just can't get myself to do it as much as I should. I see few films, actually.
 Q: If it wasn't movies, and if you liked carpentry so much, why'd you get into acting in the first place?

 A: I wanted to do a job where I worked with different groups of people on different kinds of problems. And to get a chance to explore the lives of different kinds of people, work hard for a discrete period of time and do it again with different groups of people and different problems and a different story. That to me was the attraction of being an actor. And then, as I began to have more experience, I came up with more discrete ambitions for myself, more particular ambitions.
 Q: And were there any actors who were particularly inspirational to you? Whom you watched closely?

 A: No, not really. One of the things I always took to be a self-evident truth was that you cannot copy someone else's success. You figure out how to do it for yourself. And any attempt to walk in somebody else's shoes, you're going to end up with a less significant experience. So I have to figure out how to do it for myself.
 Q: When you meet the public, as you did last night in Toronto at a screening of Firewall, what's the most surprising thing people want to know about you?

 A: I don't know if I can actually think of anything that's surprising. It tends to be a variation on several different themes. `Did you do all your own stunts?' `How did you like working with (Firewall co-stars) Virginia Madsen or Paul Bettany?' Or whoever particularly interests the questioner. `When is Indiana Jones 4 going to come out?'
 Q: To what extent does a responsibility to please your audience figure into the choices you make?

 A: First of all, I consider from the very beginning that I want to make a film that people will go and see. That judgement probably keeps me from doing a lot of things that I might otherwise enjoy doing. But this is my business. And when people don't go to the theatre to see a film my business suffers. So I try, if I'm going to do a film like K-19, to come back with something that's more user-friendly. But from time to time I like doing different kinds of genres and work for different segments of the audience.
 Q: One of the films you made that was initially a failure with critics and audience alike has since come to be considered a classic of its kind. Tell me about Blade Runner. I know you've said you had real difficulty making the film and working with director Ridley Scott, but have your feelings about the film changed over the years as its reputation has grown?

 A: I don't dislike the film. I think it's a really interesting, moody kind of movie. And the experience, although it was somewhat difficult, because it was 50 nights of shooting on the backlot of Burbank, and it had a lot of rain and Ridley and I didn't agree on everything all the way through, was a little difficult. But it was a wonderful experience and I have since made peace with it. And with Ridley.

No Ordinary Superstar - John Abraham

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Aparita Bhandari, Special To The Star

 (Feb. 15, 2006) Mumbai, India—The white mailbox outside the modest apartment building simply reads: "Abraham" in bold capital letters.  Bollywood superstar
John Abraham's celebrity status requires a certain level of anonymity. Yet he seems to enjoy the attention (screen stars here are all but mobbed by fans) because he knows the transitory nature of the business.  It's a level of attention that shows no signs of waning. Abraham has a movie in Indian theatres now. His newest, Taxi Number 9211, is slated to open worldwide, including Toronto's Albion and Woodbine Cinemas, Feb. 24.  "One day I was riding my (motorcycle)," Abraham recalls. "I was in a bit of a hurry, so I swerved in front of a car. It caught up with me at the light. I had my helmet on. The guys in the car looked at me and said, `Apne aap ko John Abraham samajhta hai.' (He thinks he's John Abraham.) For a second I wasn't sure how to react. I think it's the biggest compliment."  Abraham's love for motorcycles has resonated with fans since his 2004 hit Dhoom (Bang), which was panned by Indian film critics but became a fan favourite for its The Fast and The Furious-type bike-racing sequences.  The biker image is far removed from Abraham's role as a Gandhian idealist in Deepa Mehta's Water that opened last year's Toronto International Film Festival. Mehta recently announced that Abraham will be in her next film, based on the 1914 Komagata Maru incident that saw a shipload of Sikhs stranded on the coast of Vancouver because of an immigration barrier.  But Abraham, 34, is better known in this part of the world for his potboiler-style masala films. Mehta's mother suggested him for the role after watching his performance in his 2003 movie debut (Body), which got more ink for the long, steamy scenes between Abraham and co-star, real-life girlfriend Bipasha Basu, than the pair's acting abilities.
 Today, Abraham is one of the most in-demand Bollywood actors. Promotional trailers for Taxi Number 9211 (9211 is the numeric way of saying nau do gyarah, a Hindi phrase that means to make a quick exit or give someone the slip), play constantly on TV.  As for his personal life, Abraham — who was recently voted "most desirable Indian man" in a TV station poll — and Basu (voted "most desirable Indian woman" in the same poll) are India's Brangelina-type celebrity couple.  Lounging by the bay windows of one of his two apartments in Mumbai, the city at the hub of the Hindi film industry, Abraham enjoys a relaxed Saturday morning. Dressed in jeans and a grey top, he sips a glass of tea. The fashionable stubble on his face isn't so long that it hides the dimpled smile adored by his large contingent of female fans.  With three movie projects on the go, Abraham's schedule is hectic. But he manages to find time to pick up some commercial work. He was, and continues to be, one of the most popular Indian male models. Two days before his interview with the Star, he was shooting a Clinic commercial shampoo on a river in the Alleppey district in Kerala.  "Alleppey is called the Venice of India, but I think it's prettier than Venice," he says, the dimples back. "My father is from Kerala. My mother is Iranian. My father saw my mother playing basketball at the YMCA. And five years later I was born. I grew up in Mumbai. I am a Bombay boy."  After finishing his MBA, Abraham started out in advertising as a media planner. When a male model didn't show up for a shoot one day, Abraham's boss asked him to fill in. In 1999, Abraham participated in Gladrags Manhunt — a national male model contest — and was the first runner-up.  As with some models before him, Bollywood pursued Abraham. He loves the change from what he calls the "Zoolander kingdom," after the 2001 Ben Stiller film about the mental midgets of the modelling world.
 Yet, despite appearing in more than a dozen films as a lead character, Abraham hasn't received much critical acclaim, until Zinda. He's happy with the reviews, but they are only important to a certain extent, says Abraham.  "It gives a different perspective to the performance. Criticism is something you have to accept very graciously. And for me everything is a positive, considering the fact that people have always thought that models, especially male models, can't act," he says with a grin.  For Abraham, 36 days spent shooting Kabul Express in Afghanistan has been the most exhilarating experience of his career. The script, by veteran war documentary journalist Kabir Khan about two Indian journalists in post-Taliban Afghanistan, intrigued him.  "It's the extreme opposite of my commercial films," he says. "But it's my favourite film thus far.... Afghanis are the nicest people on the planet. And for them, after God, it's Hindi movies. They know more about me that I do myself. There's even a John Abraham haircutting salon!"  All the adulation hasn't changed him, says Abraham. He's still middle class at heart.  "I still believe there are 100 paise in a rupee or 100 cents in a dollar. I am concerned how much fuel I consume every month. I balance my own (financial) sheets ... I don't think you can get more middle class than that."  Abraham is not a Bollywood actor who dreams of going Hollywood. Instead, he hopes to see Indian movies go global.  "If China can do it, then why not India?" he asks. "Indians make up a billion people. And there are many more outside of India who watch Indian movies ... that's one-sixth of the world population. That's amazing. It's a big deal.  "I just hope I don't grow old before it happens."


Ontario Extends Tax Credit For Foreign Films

Source: Canadian Press

(Feb. 10, 2006) Ontario is extending a tax credit for foreign film productions in an effort to get more pictures rolling in the province.  Culture Minister Madeleine Meilleur announced today that the 18 per cent tax credit for foreign productions is being extended for another year, until March 31, 2007.  Meilleur says this will ensure Ontario remains competitive and can boost the number of movies and television programs filmed in the province.  Meilleur says the film and television industry brought $934 million to Ontario's economy in the past year.  The province increased the tax credit for foreign films to 18 per cent from 11 per cent in December 2004.  At that time, the province also announced an increase in the tax credit for domestic productions to 30 per cent from 20 per cent for five years.  The change came after complaints from Ontario film companies that the province was losing productions to British Columbia, Quebec and the United States because of low film tax credits and the high Canadian dollar.  "We are taking action to ensure that Ontario remains a competitive environment in which our film and television industry can thrive," Meilleur said in a speech to members of the industry.

Foreign Films Keep Ontario Tax Break A Little Longer

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle MacDonald

(Feb. 10, 2006) Toronto -- Ontario is extending a tax credit for foreign film productions in an effort to get more pictures rolling in the province. Culture Minister Madeleine Meilleur announced today that the 18 per cent tax credit for foreign productions is being extended for another year, until March 31, 2007. Meilleur says this will ensure Ontario remains competitive and can boost the number of movies and television programs filmed in the province. Meilleur says the film and television industry brought $934-million to Ontario's economy in the past year. The change came after complaints from Ontario film companies that the province was losing productions to British Columbia, Quebec and the United States because of lower film tax credits and the high Canadian dollar. CP

Vardalos Ready For Big Fat Second Wedding

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle MacDonald

(Feb. 10, 2006) Toronto — Winnipeg's favourite daughter, Nia Vardalos, is planning a sequel feature film to her runaway hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. "I've understood the desire for a sequel, because I hear it all the time from my family and everyone I run into at Starbucks," Vardalos quipped in a recent interview with Variety. The magazine also reported that the actress/writer has also reunited professionally with Tom Hanks (whose Playtone Pictures produced her breakout film). This time, however, Vardalos has been recruited by Universal Pictures to write a film, Talk of the Town, starring Hanks as a man forced into a career change when he least expects it. The trade magazine said Vardalos has also signed a deal with Revolution Studios to rewrite a romantic comedy, I Hate Valentine's Day, in which she will star.

Chappelle Tells Life Story On ‘Actors Studio’

Excerpt from

(Feb. 13, 2006) *Comedian
Dave Chappelle chain-smoked his way through a two-hour interview for Bravo’s “Inside the Actors Studio,” which was taped late last year and finally broadcast on Sunday (Feb. 12).   During the appearance, host James Lipton attempted to steer clear of the controversy surrounding Chappelle’s departure from his Comedy Central series “Chappelle’s Show” and a $50 million deal with the network. When the comic mentioned his sudden trip to Africa in the midst of the drama, Lipton tried his best to keep the conversation within the show’s platform boundaries –the guest’s career journey and sources of inspiration. Going against his own rules, Lipton graciously allowed Chappelle to smoke during the interview. Repeating much of what he said on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Chappelle said his getaway to Africa was to escape the Hollywood lifestyle, which he described as “a little sick.” He said the more fame he acquired, the less he enjoyed it. In Africa, he said he found serenity and anonymity to re-evaluate his career.

New Montreal Film Festival Fizzles Into Oblivion

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Feb. 14, 2006) And now there are two. The newest of Montreal's three large film festivals will not be held again this year. The organizers of last fall's inaugural, money-losing New Montreal Film Festival officially pulled the plug on what they once hoped would become a festival to rival Toronto's -- and one so large that it would entice the two other Montreal festivals to either join with it or slip into the background. Instead, the new festival lost $850,000 last fall, and its organizers more or less declared it a failure. Now, the city is back to two: the well-regarded, smaller and artier Festival du nouveau cinéma de Montréal and the commercially minded World Film Festival. The latter already sees itself as Montreal's major international festival, although it has fallen out with Telefilm Canada and Quebec's La Société de développement des entreprises culturelles. The two agencies pulled $1-million in funding last year because of a worsening relationship with World Film Festival organizer Serge Losique, and instead backed the new festival. Yet organizers of the new festival had continually hoped it would merge with the niche Festival du nouveau cinéma. After the new festival's disastrous inaugural run, its main organizer, L'Équipe Spectra, which also runs the Montreal jazz festival, said it would pull its support if the new festival couldn't merge with the smaller one. It couldn't. In fact, heading toward Spectra's mid-January deadline, little to no serious discussions were held between the two festivals. "In the light of the current situation and given our experience last year, we wanted at all costs to avoid having Montreal again project an incoherent image internationally with the holding of various competing festivals," Spectra's president, Alain Simard, said in a press release. Does anyone expect there to be another try, possibly by new organizers proposing yet another new and bigger Montreal festival? "I really don't see that happening," one Telefilm official said.

Fox, Fields Appear In Black Hair Documentary

Excerpt from

(Feb. 15, 2006) *
Vivica A. Fox, Kim Fields and Ella Joyce are among the celebrities who appear in the documentary “My Nappy Roots: A Journey Through Black Hair-itage,” a film exploring the feelings black women have about their hair. The project, from executive producer and director Regina Kimbell, takes an unprecedented look at the love/hate relationship and conflicting emotions black women have about "mane-taining" their esteem in a society that does not value natural black hair as the traditional beauty standard. The film also unveils how black women today embrace and celebrate the uniqueness that is their hair. The film’s sponsor, SoftSheen-Carson, will present a New York screening at the Directors Guild Theater, 110 West 57th Street, on March 29. The reception will be held from 5:00-6:30 p.m. followed by the screening and discussion from 6:30-9:30 p.m.  As a component of the film's screening, SoftSheen-Carson will begin the conversation for heart-felt dialogue among women; inviting them to share their "hair stories" and experiences with each other around the world through it's Our History. My Hairstory! promotion. From Jan. 15 through Feb. 28, consumers will be invited to tell their "hair story" and send their submissions to Our History. My Hairstory Contest, P.O. Box 1940, Eglin, Illinois 60121-1940. Five finalists will win an all-expense paid trip to the New York screening of the film to compete for the grand prize trip for four to Senegal, West Africa where our hairstory began.   Consumers can receive a free 20-minute DVD preview of the film when they purchase Optimum Care Relaxer in January and February.


Canadian TV? Watch U.S. Cable

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Simon Houpt

 (Feb. 13, 2006) One of the most welcoming places right now in Canadian TV is on the eighth floor of the Paramount building in midtown Manhattan. Just over a year ago,
Laura Michalchyshyn left Alliance Atlantis, where she oversaw four dramatic cable channels, for the post of executive vice-president of programming and marketing for the Sundance Channel. Founded in 1996 by Robert Redford, Michalchyshyn's boss, the channel broadcasts independent film and international TV series to more than 23 million U.S. homes. Almost immediately after Michalchyshyn arrived, so did some of the most talked-about Canadian programs and films. Next week brings Citizen Black, the documentary on the rise and fall of Conrad Black. The Avi Lewis/Naomi Klein doc The Take is on the schedule. A couple of weeks ago, Don McKellar's comic feature Childstar made its debut. The second season of Slings & Arrows, which Michalchyshyn helped develop at Alliance Atlantis, will premiere on Sundance this Sunday night. When she arrived down here, Michalchyshyn says, there were tapes of Slings & Arrows in the office, "but I don't think it had really been seriously considered," partly because the channel was not yet programming much series TV. But she's spearheading a sharp increase in that sort of programming, from about 5 per cent last year to perhaps 25 per cent next. After Sundance picked up Slings & Arrows in August, the New York Times cooed that it was "charming and complex and lovely." And though Sundance has no idea how many viewers tuned in because it doesn't subscribe to the Nielsen rating service, Michalchyshyn says Slings & Arrows provoked such favourable viewer response that she led the channel into financially supporting for its third season, instead of merely paying a post-production pickup license fee. Not surprisingly, producers who worked with her in Canada are bombarding her with pitches. "Some days, there are more e-mails in my in-basket from Canadian producers than my American comrades," says Michalchyshyn, sitting in a small boardroom at Sundance decorated with Redford memorabilia. "There's an ongoing joke. When I bring a series to a meeting, a tape or a DVD, my staff go, 'Is it Canadian?!' "
 The Sundance Channel isn't the only place in town to have discovered Canadian programming. For years, the various Degrassi series have been hugely successful for Nickelodeon; the channel recently picked up the CTV series Whistler. But there's lots more blowing down from the north. The U.S. women's channel Oxygen picked up Naked Josh and Show Me Yours, which aired on Showcase. Da Vinci's Inquest is performing well in syndication. And BBC America had a hit last year with Trailer Park Boys. For Michalchyshyn, the shows help break through the bland and homogeneous clutter of the U.S. TV landscape: all those unfunny sitcoms, procedurals and reality shows. "When you talk to network programmers," she adds, "they'd say, 'Well our audience doesn't want accents or subtitles,' and I think that's how channels like Sundance Channel survive and thrive, and people come to us looking for that difference. "Redford said he loved the fact that I was coming from a place where we had to look outside of our country, because of the fact that we embrace programming from around the world, whether it's Australia, the U.K., France, Italy." Programmers are not the only ones looking outside of Canada; producers are, too. Facing drastic cuts in funding from the government and other sources over the last few years, they've worked harder to cobble together the shortfalls with patchwork quilts of cash from around the world. "Whether it's in the factual, dramatic, comedic or even lifestyle reality genres, they're looking outside of what was, I would say, a pretty secure funding system, where you got 100 per cent of your financing out of Canada previously," Michalchyshyn says. "That's not happening any more. You're getting 60, maybe 70 per cent from your broadcast license, government funding and tax credits, and the rest from outside sources." "What that means is they're making internationally resonant programming," she says. "I look at the success of some of the programs -- Trailer Park Boys, Corner Gas, This Hour Has 22 Minutes -- those are some of the most successful programs ever in the Canadian television landscape, and though they might be a sliver of a Canadian geographic place or moment in time, they speak to a larger community. Trailer Park Boys could happen in the middle of Iowa, Wisconsin, anywhere, and the references -- though I think they're very specifically Halifax-based -- I think are communal. "There's a lot of shows now on U.S. television that I watch -- like My Name is Earl -- and I think, someone on that writing team must have been watching Trailer Park Boys or Corner Gas."  Niv Fichman, a principal of Rhombus Media, which produces Slings & Arrows, sounds a cautionary note for those who hope Canadian programs are destined to take over U.S. airwaves. Years ago, Rhombus produced programming for the U.S. channels Bravo and A&E, before those stations moved from a focus on performing arts to cheaper and more mainstream entertainment. Similarly, the U.S. pay channel Showtime used to buy Canadian series such as My Life as a Dog, The Outer Limits and Ray Bradbury Theater before dropping them for slicker American shows. "American cable is kind of built on the back of Canadian programming," Fichman says. "When channels are starting out, they can get Canadian programming, which is high in quality and very similar in terms of culture, for a lot less money, and they can eventually move up the ranks as they get more and more subscribers." "Sundance is at that place right now; they're not Bravo yet. But I'm sure they will be, eventually."

Two Acclaimed CBC Dramas To Be Cancelled

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Val Ross With files from John Doyle

 (Feb. 13, 2006) Today CBC is expected to announce the death of two of its most critically acclaimed TV dramas ever.  Cancellation of This is Wonderland, co-written by playwrights George F. Walker and Dani Romain, was already half-anticipated by its cast, including Cara Pifko, who stars as the wide-eyed, idealistic lawyer Alice De Raey. Last week, she told The Globe and Mail's Kamal Al-Solaylee that she had no idea if the series would go into production for season four: "We don't know if it's on break or finished."  Although Wonderland won three 2005 Geminis, its oddball, slightly frenetic mix of seedy courtroom characters and idealistic legalists failed to attract more than 650,000 viewers at peak. This may have struck CBC brass as anemic. (For comparison, CTV's Corner Gas reaps weekly audiences of more than one million.)  The other departure is Da Vinci's City Hall, this season's Da Vinci's Inquest spinoff. In its various incarnations, Da Vinci has been hailed by critics, won a clutch of broadcasting awards, is running in syndication in almost 50 countries and has been picked up in the U.S. But the CBC has decided not to renew.  "I found out late Thursday afternoon, and took Friday to get hold of the cast," said series creator and executive producer Chris Haddock, reached by cellphone as he was disembarking from the ferry docks in Vancouver. "They're very disappointed, but grateful we had a great eight-year-long run. My only regret is that I won't be able to see these people regularly." Haddock remains committed to his creation -- Dominic Da Vinci, the shambling but crafty mayor of Vancouver and his endless manoeuvrings against the city's bone-headed police chief. There are plans for a TV movie based on Da Vinci's fictional city hall, and Haddock can see doing more as "an annual event."
 Both Wonderland and Da Vinci predate the appointment just under a year ago of vice-president of CBC English-language television, Richard Stursberg. The two dramas had been championed by CBC's former head of English-language television, Slawko Klymkiw, whose job is now being filled by Kirstine Layfield, a veteran Alliance-Atlantic programming executive. Industry observers suspect that the newcomers want to put their own stamp on next season's drama.  Ratings for both series had suffered from the CBC lockout last fall and the delayed start to the new fall season. Competing U.S. network shows airing in the same time slots drew off Canadian viewers' loyalties before this year's CBC season got under way. And at first this fall, Da Vinci's City Hall was up against both the Fox/Global hit House and My Name is Earl. (NBC has since moved this hit to a Thursday spot.)  The Canadian cancellations leave two holes in CBC's prime-time schedule. However, one of those spots may filled by another Haddock Entertainment series. Last fall, Haddock premiered a two-hour movie, Intelligence, about organized crime and cops with shifting loyalties. Written by Chris Haddock, Intelligence featured Da Vinci veterans such as Ian Tracey and Matt Frewer (of the U.K. cult series Max Headroom). CBC has ordered 13 episodes for a series from Intelligence.


Daytime Emmy Award Nominees Announced

Excerpt from

(Feb. 10, 2006)  *CBS daytime drama “The Young and the Restless” earned a leading 18 Daytime Emmy nominations on Wednesday, including best soap opera, however, none of its stars were nominated in the lead acting categories.   “Y&R” teen actor Bryton McClure earned a nomination for “Outstanding Younger Actor” for his role as Devon Hamilton. He’ll go up in the category against his co-star Michael Graziadei, who plays Daniel Romalotti.  The nominations were announced live on Wednesday’s airing of “The View.” Beforehand, “View” co-host Star Jones Reynolds was concerned about the embarrassment of possibly not being nominated.   “There is nothing more humiliating than sitting here in all this hair and makeup and not getting nominated," she said.   Turns out she had nothing to worry about. “The View” was nominated for best talk show, along with “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” (which received 11 nods overall), “Live with Regis & Kelly” and “Dr. Phil.”   Oprah Winfrey’s hairstylist Andre Walker and Tyra Banks’ hair dressers Kiyah Wright and Terese Broadnax each picked up nominations. Oprah’s lighting team and makeup artist Reggie Wells were also nominated. 


Toronto Playwright's Work Examines Political Crisis, Starting With Own Family's History In Chile

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

 (Feb. 13, 2006) Many plays have a lengthy journey from the moment an author conceives them to the moment when they finally wind up on the stage, but few are as well-travelled as
Rosa Laborde's Léo, opening tomorrow night at the Tarragon Theatre.  From Ottawa, to Chile, to Bangkok, to Toronto: that's the path Laborde's story about relationships in a time of political crisis had to travel in order to reach its predestined shape.  "At my age," says the 27-year-old actor-writer from her home in Toronto's west end, "you start to feel that you finally understand the world and all sorts of things come together: politics and family, and personal elements you never really thought about before."  In Laborde's case, it involved combining her family's involvement with revolutionary politics in their native Chile with her ongoing examination of interpersonal dynamics.  "I'm obsessed with the world around us and the way it affects everything we do, especially the way we connect with each other. My writing always has been, and always will be, about relationships and how they're influenced by society."  That might sound like a lofty claim for such a young author to make, but Laborde has been working at her craft for many years now.  Her involvement with theatre began at the age of 4 in her native Ottawa, when "my mother built me a stage in the basement with curtains that opened. I'd take the neighbourhood children and get us all dancing together along to Cyndi Lauper."  She kept the passion for drama until early adolescence and then stopped abruptly because "of the desire to be cool, the desire to be really experiencing things, instead of pretending them."  But after a few years, she was drawn back in. While at Glebe Collegiate, she answered an audition call for a go-go dancer in a production of Woody Allen's Play It Again, Sam "because it sounded like fun."  The teacher in charge cast her instead in a leading role and told her "you are supposed to be doing theatre; you have a gift."  She plunged into the world of high school drama, winning lots of competitions, but continuing to write as well, mainly short stories and poetry. "I looked on writing and acting as two lovely parallel lines that never intersected."  Laborde then went to England to study at the Oxford School of Drama. During those years "I stopped writing. I didn't know it at the time, but later on I realized a piece of me was missing.  "I didn't really understand the meaning of drive, how your mind has to move, how you really have to want something."
 What brought it home to her was a visit to Chile with her mother and grandmother, who hadn't been there since shortly after the 1973 assassination of Salvador Allende in the coup that put a fascist dictatorship into power.  "Their experience became really important to me. They were exiled when my mother was only 17, but she had already been heavily involved in marches and protests against the dictatorship. My grandmother was even more of an activist. She remembers being tear-gassed many times and would have been killed if she hadn't fled to Canada. She was only allowed to go back after many years.  "As I went around the country, I kept expecting more of an acknowledgement of what had happened, but under the dictatorship nothing was allowed to come out. That's when I understood what it meant to be Chilean."  And that discovery made her realize that "I cannot, and should not, ever stop writing."  Her first produced play, The Source, was done at Rhubarb in 2002; she acted in it as well. "It was an incredible experience, but that's when I learned why parallel lines never intersect! I got to be right in the centre of the fire as it fell apart and I said to myself `There has got to be a better way to do this!' I will never act in one of my plays, ever again."  Next, she scored a hit at the 2003 Fringe with her savage comedy about addictions, Sugar. "I wanted to have it both ways. To write a fun summer play that would give an audience pleasure, but still tell them about how f--ked up we are and all the various vices we use to hide from ourselves."  By now, Laborde was ready to write something bigger and the inspiration came to her in a strange place.  "I was volunteering in the slums of Bangkok for a few months, and I suddenly started to realize what my mother and grandmother had been fighting for in Chile so many years ago. What their hopes were, what their dreams were. A world that would be more supportive for everyone.  "I started to realize this was never going to happen. There was so much wealth and so much poverty in Bangkok, and I couldn't really help anyone. I couldn't make it better beyond being there.  Her voice grows more emotional. "But I also wanted to live comfortably and that inner war broke me. You know what it's like here in Canada. We just need to go to Ikea and get that thing and everything will be great; I love my duvet and thank God there's a Starbucks in my neighbourhood."  Laborde sighs softly. "I thought of my mother and the death of hope at such a young age. That's what Léo is about and why I set it in Chile in the time when Allende was killed. It's in no way an autobiographical play, but it has absolutely beautiful little pieces of my family in it.  "It's an offering to so many of the people who suffered so much."

Rising Star Stays Grounded - Martha MacIsaac

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

 (Feb. 15, 2006) If you're tired of the antics of Lindsay Lohan and her ilk, then you really ought to meet
Martha MacIsaac, who knows what being a rising star is really all about.  This 21 year-old native of P.E.I. doesn't crash cars, close down discos or get into highly publicized feuds. Far from it.  She spent her teen years playing the title role in the popular TV series Emily of New Moon and, recently, she's been a proud member of the Soulpepper Theatre Company, where she's delivered two of the best performances on a Toronto stage in recent memory.  Sorry, Lindsay; no contest.  The young woman who sits demurely in one of the offices at Soulpepper's new facility in the Distillery District is still a bit stunned by it all.  "I'm the luckiest girl in Toronto. That's the only thing I'm absolutely sure of. I've been so blessed and so lucky in my career that it still blows my mind sometimes when I think about it."  She received rave reviews last summer as the doomed Hedwig, racing towards blindness and death in Ibsen's The Wild Duck, more than holding her own against some of the most stellar names in Canadian theatre.  The amazing thing was that — except for her appearance as Wendy in the 2000 Ross Petty panto of Peter Pan — it was her first professional leading role in a major stage production.  "I literally didn't know anything about the theatre," MacIsaac confesses with a blush. "I hadn't read any plays except the Shakespeare you do in high school. And certainly no Ibsen!"  Besides earning unqualified praise from the local press, Mac- Isaac was declared "an assured young actress who has the stuff of stage stardom" by Associated Press critic Michael Kucherawa, who dropped in from N.Y. for a visit.
 How did she do it? "I knew that I loved that character," she says. "I tried to understand her, even though what she had to go through wasn't like anything in my life."  And that life, until a few years ago, was lived exclusively on Prince Edward Island, where she was born in 1984. Her career started at 4, when she played Elvis Presley to entertain nursing home residents. A stint as one of the "children of Avonlea" in the ever-popular Anne of Green Gables at Confederation Centre followed at age 6.  Music festivals and local theatre were next and then, in 1998, MacIsaac was cast in the title role of the TV series Emily of New Moon, based on the trilogy of Lucy Maud Montgomery.  The Salter Street Films/CBC co-production ran for four seasons and the media circus surrounding MacIsaac grew quite heady.  But throughout it all, she kept her perspective. "I have three older sisters and if I ever got a big head," she giggles, "they'd be the first ones to tell me to smarten up.  "And my parents saw to it that I always lived a normal life. Sure, when you're in a small town, your fame seems bigger and I was the star of P.E.I. for a while, but everything ends, doesn't it?" she asks, a bit wistfully.  MacIsaac's reality training came in handy when Emily stopped filming in 2000.  "I remember that," she sighs. "I was in Grade 10 and I wanted to move to Toronto right away and continue acting. My parents thought I should stay with them and continue school in Charlottetown and so I did," she says. "But as soon as I graduated high school, I was on the first plane to Toronto."
 The next chapter in her career was to prove a valuable lesson.  "I didn't work for a year. At all. I was awkward looking and I still had braces. Nobody wanted to hire anybody for TV who had braces.... And then, out of the blue, my agent told me I had an audition for Soulpepper the next day."  Her eyes widen with horror. "I was terrified by theatre in Toronto. The Wild Duck was the first audition for a play I ever had!"  But she impressed artistic director Albert Schultz and the play's director, Laszlo Marton, enough for them to give her the chance to play Hedwig, despite her lack of stage experience.  "All summer long," she recalls, "I kept saying to myself, `This is the best theatre school in the world!' I would just take in what Brent (Carver) and Bill (Webster) and Joe (Ziegler) were doing and try to learn as much as I could. They treated me like an equal, but they showed me the ropes as well."  Schultz watched how adeptly she handled those ropes, because a short time later, he offered her the plum role of Emily in Thornton Wilder's Our Town, which was to be the gala opening attraction of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts.  "I had total confidence in her," insists Schultz. "I've never met anyone so young who was so balanced, so centred."  Emily dies during the play and returns as a spirit for the final act, which MacIsaac says "is excruciating. Every time, my heart breaks for her, when she realizes too late that you have to appreciate everything, because the little moments in your life are big moments too and they're all wonderful."  Right now, all the moments in MacIsaac's life — big and little — are looking pretty special, but she confesses to one burning desire. After dying in her last two roles, "I would like to stay alive until the end of the play," she smiles, "that's my ambition."


Don Lewis, 70: Stratford Festival Veteran

Source: Canadian Press

(Feb. 10, 2006) STRATFORD — Don Lewis, a character actor who first performed at the Stratford Festival in 1960 and also worked as a propmaker and designer, died suddenly Thursday of a heart attack. He was 70.  His stage name was Lewis Gordon, but when he worked as a designer, he used his family name, Don Lewis.  "Don Lewis was one of the most beloved character actors in the Stratford Festival's long history," artistic director Richard Monette said in a statement.  "He was also an artist and he brought to his characterizations the same detail he brought to his acting. He was generous of his time, supported the younger actors and had an indefatigable sense of humour. He will be missed by all who knew him."  Born in Toronto, Lewis graduated from the Ontario College of Art, then went on to appear in almost 100 productions over 34 seasons. His roles included Falstaff in Henry IV, Touchstone in As You Like It and Gremio in The Taming of the Shrew.  Lewis also performed at Theatre Calgary, the Shaw Festival and other theatres, and worked in design at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto.  A private funeral will be held in Harrington, Ont.

James Earl Jones To Return To The Stage

Excerpt from

(Feb. 10, 2006) *James Earl Jones will return to the stage for the first time since an illness forced his departure from Broadway’s “On Golden Pond” last summer. The veteran actor is due to portray Thurgood Marshall in George Stevens Jr.'s “Thurgood” at the Westport Playhouse, according to Variety's Army Archerd. No dates have been announced for “Thurgood,” which follows the man who became the first African American to win a case before the Supreme Court and the first African American to be appointed to the Supreme Court. He retired from the High Court in 1991 and passed away on January 24, 1993.   Jones, 74, received rave reviews for his turn with Leslie Uggams in “On Golden Pond,” which opened on April 7.  His run ended abruptly two months later when he began suffering from pneumonia and had to drop out of the production. The play, in turn, took a hit at the box office and eventually closed.


Someone's Laughing All The Way To The Bank, For Real

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - William Trudeau Burrill, Entertainment Reporter

 (Feb. 10, 2006) Winning $25,000 is nothing to laugh at.  Which is tricky because you have to come up with something to laugh about before you can claim the big prize in the First Annual Great Canadian Laugh Off at Yuk Yuk's downtown flagship club on Sunday.  I know all about the Great Canadian Laugh Off because, to get a truly inside feel for the contest, I managed to weasel myself in as a contestant. I made my stand-up debut last Monday, the first night of the competition.  Yuk Yuk's head honcho Mark Breslin went out of his way to make the contest equitable, creating only two rules: you have to speak English and you can't be a mime. Not even an English-speaking mime.  The contest continues tonight and Saturday with shows at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. The final is Sunday at 8:30 p.m.  The contestants are not all seasoned professionals. Some have competed because they won regional Yuk Yuk's contests. Some are rank amateurs. Some are definitely ranker than others.  I joined contestants from Vancouver to Nova Scotia. The $25,000 prize attracted financially frenzied funny folks from Florida, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New York and even Van Wert, Ohio. One contestant flew all the way from Sydney, Australia.  When the eight finalists laugh it off for fortune and possibly even fame, the Grand Finals celebrity judges will include Eddie Brill, talent booker for The Late Show With David Letterman; Bruce Hills, boss of the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal; Ed Robinson, president of The Comedy Network; Millan Currie Sharples, producer of several comedy shows, including Comedy Now, and Pam Thomas, co-producer of Kids In The Hall
 I was sweating Monday night before they called me because I was going up fourth and I wanted to go last when everybody — including maybe even a few of the judges — was a little bit hammered. The first few acts had been very bland and very clean. Clean as in no profanity. I began to panic. I ran to the last booth where Mark Breslin always sits. "Mark," I almost screamed. "Can I say sh-t!?"  Sensing my panic, Mark leaned close and said soothingly, "You can say sh-t, Bill. Say sh-t a lot."  My second problem — what to do with my hands — was also solved because I carried on stage with me my prized Ovation Advent Semi-Electric guitar which I planned to use to close off the set in a big way — by treating the audience to a tender rendition of a song I wrote when I was 13 called "Don't Send Me No Sh-t In The Mail."  "It's the first song I ever wrote," I told the crowd, "And I just never wrote a better one."  I told a bunch of stories and, honestly, the audience never stop laughing. I was on such a roll I didn't get time to sing my song. Just as I was about to close the mike died and the MC came onstage saying "Time's up!"  I swear this is true: a minor riot ensued. People screamed and yelled and berated the MC for not letting me finish. The crowd laughed and pounded my back all the way back to my seat.  I think I did amazingly well in my first ever attempt at stand-up. Seriously, I came within three points of making it to the podium. Out of a possible 400, four judges gave me 342. Third place scored 345, second 349 and first was in the 360s. I actually beat four real comics, all Americans, including one very funny fellow who drove all the way from Atlanta.  The Great Canadian Laugh Off continues tonight and Saturday, with the final Sunday at Yuk Yuk's, 224 Richmond St. W. The winner performs Wed. to Feb. 19. (416-967-6425)

Welcome To Canada's Cultural Capital . . . Cape Dorset

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - James Adams
 (Feb. 14, 2006) Cape Dorset, an island hamlet of about 1,100 people off the southwestern shore of Baffin Island, is "Canada's most artistic municipality," according to a statistical study released yesterday in Toronto. Certainly Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver have more artists, but tiny Cape Dorset has the most artists -- primarily Inuit carvers and printmakers -- as a percentage of its active labour force. Using data from the 2001 census, Hill Strategies Research Inc. discovered that of a total working population of 485 individuals in Cape Dorset, 110, or 22.7 per cent, were working as artists. That's almost 30 times the national average of 0.8 per cent and more than double the country's second-most-artistic municipality, British Columbia's Squamish-Lillooet, between Vancouver and Whistler, according to the study Hill Strategies prepared for the Canada Council, Canadian Heritage and the Ontario Arts Council. Researcher Kelly Hill thought that Cape Dorset would do well in the survey, "but not so strongly as it did. The fact that it's so much more concentrated with artists than any other municipality -- that did surprise me. Like most people in the South, we don't associate the North with being an artistic Mecca.
 But if we step back a bit, Inuit art is the best-known face of Canadian art on the international stage," he said. "Almost every hotel has Inuit art somewhere if they cater to an American or international clientele. The inukshuk is the symbol for the 2010 Winter Olympics in B.C., geographical appropriateness aside." Historical circumstances, of course, explain much of Cape Dorset's high standing. The notion of prints and carvings as saleable objects is a relatively recent one for the Inuit, certainly no more than 55 years old, and the result of a concerted effort by enterprising whites like the late James Houston to establish a broad-based income supplement to such traditional Inuit activities as hunting, fishing and trapping. Cape Dorset, now part of Nunavut, has been a hotbed of artistic activity since the late 1950s and remains the home of two of the most internationally acclaimed Inuit artists, printmaker Kenojuak Ashevak and carver Ohito Ashoona. Next month, Hill Strategies will release its list of the most artistic communities with total populations of more than 50,000. Ninety-two such municipalities have been analyzed, Hill said, but even the one with the highest artistic concentration places only 28th in the ranking that put Cape Dorset at the top.

Shaman Of The Sofa

 Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Sarah Milroy

 (Feb. 14, 2006) VANCOUVER — At the press opening for Brian Jungen's outstanding new exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery last week, a reporter was asking the show's curator, Daina Augaitis, for some help in fleshing out a sidebar for her forthcoming Jungen review. Who were the other native art stars in Canada that one could name, she asked, her pencil poised? Augaitis hedged, and finally answered that she thought such categories did a disservice to aboriginal artists. What was the point of such pigeonholing if not to delimit the scope of their accomplishments? Jungen, she implied, is a major contemporary artist of the 21st century, a citizen in global culture. He deserves that wide stage. White artists routinely assume for themselves that claim to universality. She had a point, and yet beside us rose the 20-foot (6-metre) teepee made from skinned black-leather sofas from The Brick discount furniture store, a structure saturated with irony that Jungen and his colleagues had erected in the traditional way, without the aid of the gallery's mechanical lift. During the week before the opening, the artist could evidently be found in the gallery, bowie knife in hand, scraping down the hides (removing the foam lining) and extracting their wooden armatures in order to reconfigure the lumber as supporting staves. Everything had been recycled and reconfigured from available materials at hand and, in the process, those materials had undergone an almost magical-seeming transformation. You can't get any more aboriginal than that. Also, teepees come from the prairies. Jungen is half Swiss, half Dane-zaa, from northern British Columbia. What is he doing erecting a teepee if not to provoke such essentialist presumptions about his ethnicity as a force shaping his production? Of course, Jungen is playing with precisely that. This work is not best understood as native art (I can understand Augaitis's reluctance; this has been the media's prevailing view), but rather as a hybrid art arising from the friction between white culture and aboriginal culture. Like a number of artists who have been most successful in the white mainstream (one thinks of Carl Beam and Bill Reid), Jungen comes from a mixed background, and his work can be seen as expressing equally both sides of the cultural divide.
 In this new work, for example, the animal of the hunt (that most essential commodity in a hunter/gatherer society) is reimagined as a consumer good (the sofa). From the anthropological standpoint, they function the same way in the society -- as sought-after objects required for subsistence -- and Jungen helps us to hear the rhyme between them. His now famous masks, fashioned from cut-up Nike sneakers and ingeniously reconfigured, are the result of a similar move. Here, the mask, an object imbued with power from the spiritual realm, is made from dismembered Nike shoes, similarly imbued, in contemporary consumer culture, with transformative powers, or so their multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns would have us believe. The power of the mask and the power of the brand are conflated into one tight package, the sacred and the secular fused together. Perhaps the most magnificent of Jungen's accomplishments so far, though, is his series of whale skeletons fashioned from dismembered white plastic lawn chairs. These reflect his indisputable brilliance at understanding and manipulating form -- his ability to see materials in new ways -- that calls to mind the sculptural improvisations of Picasso, who famously fashioned a bull's head from the conjoining of a bicycle seat and a set of handle bars (along with a thousand other dazzling manoeuvres). In these enormous whale-skeleton sculptures -- and the show includes three of them, suspended dramatically in midair -- Jungen marries contradictory signifiers in an ingenious way. The whale is the ultimate sign of the freedom and magnificence of nature, endangered by commerce and environmental degradation. Perhaps it even serves here as a stand-in for beleaguered indigenous culture, likewise commodified for the tourist industry. The plastic lawn chair, on the other hand, is the paradigmatic mass-produced consumer product. In myriad shipping containers, it, too, roves the seas; manufactured in China, these endlessly replicated commodities travel outward to Bahrain, Berlin and Santa Barbara. Into one concise visual idea, then, Jungen has packed a bundle of meaning, creating objects that comment on the displacement of the natural by the synthetic, while also invoking the awe-inspiring scale of global commerce and our place within it.
 The show offers other, smaller-scale pleasures, like the superb gouache Bush Capsule Study (2000), in which Jungen explores the Haida-like ovoid shapes to be found in moulded plastic furniture (in this case reformatted as a kind of igloo). His series of cartoon drawings of Indian braves from the mid-1990s reveal a raunchy and irreverent take on aboriginal identity, deftly drawn. But so far, Jungen seems to be at his best when he works the seam between native and white cultures. Some of his other projects in the show -- such as his metal screen-printed replicas of Air Jordan shoe boxes (among other things, a homage to Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes), or his Arts and Crafts Book Depository/Capp Street Project (a homage to Gordon Matta-Clark and the arts and crafts movement architects of Gamble House, Charles and Henry Greene) -- feel conceptually laboured and visually dry, largely without the pleasurable visual surprise and ingenuity to be found in the other work. These seem like ideas that work better on the page than they do in three dimensions. The exception to this are his Modern Sculptures, a suite of blob-like shapes that are silver and quilted like the skin of a soccer ball. Nike swooshes are found here and there scattered across their shiny surfaces, along with the odd bar code, and their presence leads us to consider the "brand" at issue: modern minimalist sculpture, beginning with Constantin Brancusi (whose work The Kiss is loosely quoted in one) and running through to the biomorphic abstractions of, say, Anish Kapoor, working today. These creations also seem to borrow something from the grotesqueries of Vancouver sculptor Liz Magor, a mistress of the ever-so-faintly horrific. Intriguing and hard to pin down, they satisfy endless speculation -- the works of a major artist in his prime, at home and at play in the history of modern art. The Brian Jungen exhibition is on view at the Vancouver Art Gallery until April 30 (604-662-4700).

Easygoing Eddie Griffin Expounds on Everything

 Excerpt from -
By Kam Williams
 (Feb. 15, 2006) *Born in Kansas City, Missouri on July 15, 1968, Eddie Griffin's stand-up career began when he accepted a dare to take the stage on amateur night at a local comedy club. Developing an irreverent style of humour reminiscent of legends like Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor, Griffin gained national exposure opening for Andrew Dice Clay on a 22-city tour and also in impromptu performances at L.A.’s Comic Store. Over the course of a burgeoning career, he has built his ever-growing fan base on the strength of memorable work in such films as Undercover Brother, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo 1 & 2, My Baby’s Daddy, Double Take, Scary Movie 3, House Party 3 and Armageddon. On the small screen, he’s had his own sitcom, Malcolm and Eddie, and he’s appeared on a variety of specials and other series, including Chappelle’s Show, HBO's Def Comedy Jam, Roc and Punk’d. Here, the irrepressibly profane funnyman discusses not only Date Movie, his latest movie, a spoof of the romantic comedy genre, but weighs in on everything from Christianity to profanity to mating with midgets to his fellow-comedian, Dave Chappelle.
Kam Williams: Hey, Eddie thanks for the interview. I’m not sure you’re allowed to smoke here.
Eddie Griffin: Well, I’m gonna smoke. So, if you’re one of them freak non-smokers, now’s the time to run. Get the f*ck out with that Nazi s*it. 
KW: Are you aware of the Surgeon General’s report that second-hand smoke can kill?
EG: Shut up. If you’re mother-f*cking immune system is so weak that second-hand smoke could kill you, go die.
KW: Fair enough. I heard that in your new stand-up act, you joke about mating with midgets. Is that going too far?
EG: Hey, man, there’s nothing like a midget. If you get a chance, f*ck one. Midgets need love, too.
KW: I write for a lot of family-oriented outlets. Have you ever thought of substituting clean words for dirty ones.
EG: Hell no, man, that ain’t how I was raised. You have to be yourself. You know what I’m saying? You were probably raised Christian. Me, I grew up in the projects. My mother would come home and call me motherf*cker.
KW: So, you’ve internalized that?
EG: That’s just how we talked to each other. So, of course, I’m gonna be myself. And I AM a motherf*cker. I f*ck mothers, soon-to-be mothers, already mothers, I’m a motherf*cker.
KW: Well, I was raised Christian. But I’m just wondering whether this whole interview is going to be dirty.
EG: Oh damn, I hate to hear that. Here we go. Come on, tell me all the rules of engagement, and the morally-sound s*it. Don’t force your religion on me. This is America. We have a choice of religion, and I choose none.
KW: What have you got against Christianity?
EG: It’s a slick game. When we was in Africa, we had all the land, all the gold, all the diamonds. They had all the Bibles. Now we got all the Bibles. They got all the land, all the gold, all the Bibles. Somebody got game. And now there’s tithing. God needs 10%. I didn’t know God was broke. What, is God on food stamps? I ain’t never seen a tube that goes up to heaven, sucking all the cash to God. Somebody’s running a slick-ass game. Kill Jesus and then you sell crosses. And putting Jesus on a bumper stickers and s*it. I’m a thinking motherf*cker. Moving on. Back to the movie.
KW: Okay, tell me a little about your character in Date Movie, Frank.
EG: I play this old dude, with caterpillars for eyebrows.
KW: How did you prepare for the role?
EG: I did a lot of research. I watched everything De Niro did to get ready for the role.
KW: Do you have a favourite date movie?
EG: Yeah, Scarface. There’s nothing like taking a woman to see Scarface. It gets the panties off quick. [laughs]
KW: Is Date Movie misogynistic?
EG: I have yet to see the film, so I don’t know if it’s misogynistic or not.
KW: Are you at all worried that it might be?
EG: Me, myself, I don’t get into that. It’s a comedy. We’re not trying to build a Space Shuttle or save a country. This is just something entertainment, something for you to enjoy. I think people read into it too much, like we’re here trying to make a point. It’s called “Date Movie,” not “Hi, I’m Going to Save Your Daughter from the Misogynistic Men across America.”
KW: Have you arrived at a point in your career where you don’t have to do stand-up anymore?
EG: No. S*it, as long as I’m breathing, I’m gonna be on that mike. That’s my first love.
KW: Do you think being on stage helps you keep an edge?
EG: Hell yeah, that keeps you sharp. Never give up what got you there in the first place. It keeps you funny. You watch the ones that give up doing stand-up, their movies start becoming bland, non-funny, suck. [laughs] You know what I mean?
KW: Yep. What’s so great about stand-up?
EG: I like the peoples. It’s like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. You’re living or dying on your next word. Every motherf*cking line, you’re taking a chance. That’s what makes it exciting. It gets your d*ck hard.
KW: Do you ever have an off-night?
EG: Hell no! Eddie’s always on. I’m a studier of the art. I never go on stage and f*ck around. I always bring my A-game, because you never know what a person had to sacrifice to buy a ticket that night. They might have not bought their children some shoes for school because they need a laugh. So, you can’t come out and just f*ck they $20 off. I don’t have any off-nights, because I can’t afford to f*ck up.
KW: How do you study stand-up comedy?
EG: It’s a science, man. Every comedian is a psychology major, naturally. You have to know the human condition to get that many people to all respond at the same time to the same subject.
KW: I guess that helps you with acting, too.
EG: You’re goddamned right. Yes indeedy. You gotta understand humanity in order to portray it. [chuckles]
KW: What’s your process for joke-writing?
EG: I never wrote a joke in my life. I just get on stage and let it flow. You’re either funny or you’re not funny. God cursed me with a gift called ”retarded.” S*it just be going through my head and comedy, for me, is therapy. If I wasn’t doing stand-up, I’d probably be in a mental institution somewhere, talking to myself. “Hi.” “Hi, how’re you doing?” You understand me?
KW: Yeah, how do you deal with hecklers?
EG: I don’t get hecklers that often, because they pretty much know to leave me the f*ck alone. I’m too quick and my tongue’s too slick to be f*cked with.
KW: When did you first know you were funny?
EG: Let’s see? When I came out of my mother’s vagina. The doctor smacked me on the ass, I turned around and asked, “What the f*ck’s your problem. This ain’t Brokeback Mountain.” You been in a nice, warm, dark p*ssy, then you come out and all these lights in your f*cking face and some white dude you don’t even know. You understand?
KW: Yep. Speaking of Brokeback Mountain which is up for the most Academy Awards. What did you think of last year’s crop of movies?
EG: The Oscars have never been about comedies, but it was a great year for comedies. You had Wedding Crashers, rated R. Finally, somebody’s listening. There ARE adults that want adult films with “motherf*cker” and “f*ck” in it. You know what I mean?
KW: Yep.
EG: Not all these bland-ass comedies. What kind of s*it is that?
KW: You’ve worked with Dave Chappelle. Do you have any insights you can share on his situation?
EG: [breathes deeply, and sighs] Let me put it like this. Dave is a very close friend of mind. There is nothing wrong with Mr. Chappelle. Dave is fine. Alright? Dave makes his own choices. Obviously, there was something going on at Comedy Central. If it’s the #1 show on the network, why you wanna fix a wheel that ain’t broke? Leave it the f*ck alone. That’s my take on it.
KW: But why walk out on all that money?
EG: The guy’s got nuts to say, “F*ck your $60 million. I said I want creative control Kiss my black ass! I’m going to Africa.” From what I hear, the show’s coming back.
KW: Did he get creative control?
EG: He had creative control from Jump Street. That’s why I’m asking, why you wanna fix what ain’t broke? Them corporate suits show up with some “comedy genius” from behind a desk whose saying, “I can help the show.” Yeah, you can f*ck it up. Sit back and let the money flow, motherf*cker. Let the money flow.
KW: Tell me a little about your upcoming animated movie, Bunyan and the Babe, where you play an ox.
EG: That was fun as a motherf*cker. I ain’t never did no s*it like that, the voiceover stuff. And when I finally seen the CGI [computer generated image] of the blue ox, I look just like the motherf*cker. I’m looking at the ox, it’s got my nose, chin and s*it. It even had the ni**a's grill. I was like, “These motherf*ckers are good.”
KW: Thanks for the frank, forthcoming interview, Eddie.

: Did you get enough?
KW: More than enough.
EG: I want to make sure you got good stuff you can use, like “motherf*cker!” [laughs hysterically]


Chris Bosh: Raptor All-Star

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter

 (Feb. 10, 2006) CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Sam Mitchell's impressions of Chris Bosh have grown in much the same way the prodigious talents of the Raptor power forward have.  The first time he saw the spindly rookie play, Mitchell was impressed with the kid's heart and desire; the first day he got to coach him he figured the sky was the limit for the immensely talented Texan.  So it is only logical to Mitchell and to Bosh and to anyone who has seen the 21-year-old play with any regularity that the next step would be to join the greats of the NBA today — a mission Bosh accomplished yesterday when he was named to the Eastern Conference all-star team for the celebration of excellence Feb. 19 in Houston.  "I always wanted to be an all-star," Bosh said at the team hotel here last night. "Everything's happened so fast, I never put a time frame on it.  "This time last year I felt I could be an all-star as early as the next season."  Bosh said he's been dreaming of being an all-star even before he entered the league but didn't realize he could make it until he saw how successful he was in the first two years of his career.  "Everything in my basketball career has happened fast, faster than I expected," he said.  But others aren't the least bit surprised he's joined Detroit's Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, Vince Carter of the New Jersey Nets and Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics as Eastern Conference backups.  "The first day I got here, I knew Chris Bosh was a guy you could start building around," Mitchell said yesterday afternoon. "It's talent, man. He can just do things physically that a lot of guys can't do who are his size."  And while Mitchell's assessment of Bosh as his coach is one thing, he figured long before that there was something special about the native of Dallas, who Toronto took with the fourth pick in the 2003 draft.  "My last year of playing, we played against him and you could just tell then," said the coach. "The thing you were impressed with was he took a beating his rookie year but he played every game. He played hurt, tired, he kept dragging himself out and that told you right there he had heart.  "We were sitting on the bench going, `Man, this young kid's going to be all right, he's still out there battling, getting tossed around hurting and he's still out there.’” Aside from his on-court talent — turning himself into a 50 per cent shooter with 20-foot range, becoming an 80 per cent free-throw shooter and a guy who can average nearly 20 points and 10 boards a game — it is Bosh's mental development that has allowed him to so rapidly ascend.
 Either by displaying more raw emotion as he has this season, including his first ejection as a pro, or admonishing teammates publicly or privately, Bosh has taken on the role of leader on a team starved for one.  "He's got ... a quiet fire about him," said teammate Darrick Martin. "You guys saw it ... when he got kicked out, he definitely does have it. We joked about it with him in the locker room because that's the first real outward example of it that you saw. But we see it in the locker room and practice and it was good to see."  What also is good to see, especially on a team that struggles as often as the 17-32 Raptors, is that Bosh is more than willing to take the big shot at the big moment.  "I have to feel that nobody can stop me scoring, that nobody can keep me off the boards," said Bosh. "Every person should feel that way. First of all, it gives me confidence, and when things get down, I still have that mental state that I missed shots, but he didn't stop me."  Becoming just the third Raptor to play in the all-star game (Vince Carter made four appearances, Antonio Davis one), Bosh is going to be surrounded by the game's best players and strongest personalities when the teams arrive in Houston next weekend. And aside from the physical similarities, it's a certainty that Bosh will be compared to another all-star, Minnesota's Kevin Garnett.  "There are things about him that he does remind me of KG ... his demeanour," said Mitchell, a former teammate and mentor of Garnett's. "People don't understand, off the court Kevin is quiet, but on the court he's a different guy and that's what I used to tell Chris all the time, `You have to become that.'  "(Garnett) just plays with such a passion and Chris is developing that."

Canadian Silver In Skiing Sprint

 Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jim Byers, Sports Reporter

  (Feb. 14, 2006) TURIN, Italy – Another medal and another win for the women’s hockey team. But a tough loss at the curling rink.  Canada picked up its third medal of the Turin Winter Olympics today with a silver finish in a fabulously entertaining women’s cross-country sprint event.
Sara Renner of Canmore, Alta. and Beckie Scott of Vermilion, Alta. combined for a terrific race in nearby Pragelato Plan and lost a close one to Sweden, which came from behind to win the gold.  That’s one gold, one silver and one bronze for Canada at the Turin Games.  The Canadian women’s hockey team, meanwhile, continued its march to the finals. The women beat Sweden 8-1 to move to 3-0 after the preliminary round. They have wrapped up first place in Group A and are scheduled to play the second place finisher in Group B in one of the semifinals. Finland (2-0) and the U.S. (2-0) meet later today to decide the winner of Group B - Canada will play the loser of that game on Friday.  The day after skier Allison Forsyth had a nasty spill in downhill training and tore her anterior cruciate ligament, Calgary luger Canadian Meaghan Simister today was injured in another scary crash and was taken away from the track in an ambulance. A Canadian team spokesman says doctors found bruises, but no broken bones.  The news wasn’t good on the curling front. Brad Gushue allowed Sweden to steal two in the 10th end to tie, then was too light on his final rock in the 11th and extra end. That gave the Swedes an 8-7 win and put Canada’s men’s squad at 1-1 for the tournament.  Shannon Kleibrink and the Canadian women’s curling squad rebounded from an opening day loss to Sweden by smoking the U.S. 11-5 today. They’ll tangle with the Russians later today.  The big news came early in nearby Pragelato Plan. Scott and Renner were in first place after the first two of six rounds.
 Renner had trouble with a broken ski pole late in the third round and a Norwegian coach kindly slipped her a new one, but she fell back to the fourth spot. Scott, straining every muscle in her body, skied like a demon in the fourth round and put Canada back into the lead.  Sweden came on strong at the end and defeated Canada, but only by 6/10ths of a second. "It’s not the best thing to happen but at the same time you can’t give up," Renner told the CBC.  Scott and Renner finished second in a sprint relay at a World Cup event in Canmore earlier this year. This is the first time in the Olympics for the team sprint, in which one skier does a 1.1-kilometre loop, then tags their partner, who races the same course. The process is repeated three times.  The victorious Swedes posted a time of 16:36.9, while the second-place Canadians clocked in at 16:37.5 in a dramatic finish. Finland won the bronze with a time of 16:39.2.  One can speculate that Canada would’ve won if Renner not had problems with her ski pole. But the fact remains the Canadians fought hard in a race where things seemed to conspire against them.  "I said to Sara when we were finishing our warm-up today, 'We’ve come a long way, baby,' " Scott said. "We’ve been around a long time.  "This might be one of the last sprint relays we ever do together," added Scott, who has said the Turin Games are likely her last Olympics.  "In a way, to finish it with an Olympic medal it’s well, I’m not going to say it’s surreal. We promised each other we wouldn’t get too fruity at the end of this."  It’s been tough slogging over the years for Canada’s cross-country team, which in the past suffered from a lack of funding.  "We have taken the school of hard knocks for a while,” Renner said. “This is something that’s great. We can enjoy it together. We have been medal contenders in this event, and to actually do it at the Olympic Games is something that in 20 years we can have a reunion and reminisce.”
 Scott was a potential medallist in the women’s 15 km pursuit on Sunday but finished a disappointing sixth. Today’s result should put her in a much better mood for her later events, including Thursday’s 10 km event. She also has to be considered a favourite in the women’s 5km sprint on Feb. 22.  Elsewhere, the men’s hockey team holds its first practice on Italian soil tonight, after which executive director Wayne Gretzky will address the media in a highly anticipated press conference that should attract dozens of journalists.  The Canadian men will play Italy Wednesday in their first Olympic hockey contest.  On the hills, it may not translate into success tomorrow, but Kelly Vanderbeek of Kitchener today came first in the final training run for Wednesday’s women’s downhill. Some of the Austrians took it easy on the final run, hoping to rest up for the big day tomorrow.  In the men’s combined, Manuel Osborne-Paradis of North Vancouver was the fastest of the four Canadians and sits in eighth position after the downhill portion of the program. Two slalom events will be held later, and the winner will be the racer with the fastest time in all three events.  Francois Bourque of New Richmond, Que., was 16th after the downhill, while Calgary’s John Kucera was 23rd and Ryan Semple of Mont-Tremblant, Que., 35th.  Later today, Jeff Buttle of Barrie and Emmanuel Sandhu of Richmond Hill will compete in the men’s figure skating short program.

Canada Powers Into Semis

 Source: Canadian Press

 (Feb. 14, 2006) TURIN, Italy — After a third straight blow-out victory in the
Olympic women’s hockey tournament, Canada refused to apologize for being really good.  Gillian Apps scored three goals, Danielle Goyette added two more and the Canadians finished an overwhelming run through the preliminary round, routing Sweden 8-1 on Tuesday.  The game was much tougher than Canada’s opening matches against Italy and Russia, which it won by a combined 28-0, but coach Melody Davidson’s club still looks headed for a likely championship match against the U.S. on Monday, with Finland, a 7-3 loser to the Americans on Tuesday night, next up for Canada in Friday's semifinal round.  With its vast advantage in goal differential, Canada will be the home team in the gold medal game if its wins its semifinal match. Some Canadian fans back home — and motormouth U.S. defender Angela Ruggiero — accused the Canadian team of running up the score against Italy and Russia.  The Canadians deny any intimations of bad sportsmanship, but forward Hayley Wickenheiser warned they won’t show much mercy.  “This is the Olympics, and it matters," Wickenheiser said. "If there was no goal differential that mattered, we would probably dump the puck in and sit back. But it makes a mockery at the same time when you just sit back. Fans don’t want to see that. ... If I was watching (the U.S.) scoring so many goals, I might wonder, too, but differential does matter."  Being the home team means the Canadians would get the last line change during the gold medal match. Their opponent would have to make substitutions first, and Canada would be able to respond.
 Apps, the 22-year-old granddaughter of Toronto Maple Leafs legend Syl Apps, scored three of Canada’s first four goals in another easy win for the defending Olympic champions. Kim St. Pierre made seven saves for Canada.  "Sweden is more physical than what we’ve faced so far," Apps said. "It was good to get that test before the last two games. I think we’re ready for the biggest games yet."  Ylva Lindberg scored late in the second period for Sweden (2-1), which also reached the semifinals as the second seed from Group A. The Swedes, who won bronze in Salt Lake City four years ago, sensed their predicament against Canada and rested top goalie Kim Martin for the semifinal match on Friday.  Still, Tuesday’s game marked the first time in the tournament when things weren’t easy for Canada. St. Pierre was forced to make a stunning stick save late in the first period, and Maria Rooth clanged a shot off the post shortly before the buzzer with Sweden trailing 3-0.  Sweden finally scored late in the second period when Lindberg’s shot deflected off Goyette and rolled past a screened St. Pierre during a power play, ending Canada’s string of 33 unanswered goals at the Olympics.  But that just made the Canadians mad, with Katie Weatherston and Jayna Hefford scoring to take a 7-1 lead into the third period. Goyette, the 40-year-old three-time Olympian who carried Canada’s flag in the opening ceremony, then added another goal.

Nike Debuts First Kobe Ad Since Sexual Assault Trial

 Excerpt from

 (Feb. 10, 2006) *During last night’s NBA games, Nike debuted a new commercial featuring Kobe Bryant, marking the athlete’s first televised spot for the company since his sexual assault trial. The spot, which coincides with Saturday’s release of the Zoom Kobe I sneaker, features Bryant shooting foul shots and running through other drills while saying in voiceover, “Love me or hate me, it’s one or the other. Always has been. Hate my game, my swagger. Hate my fadeaway, my hunger. Hate that I'm a veteran. A champion. Hate that. Hate it with all your heart. And hate that I'm loved, for the exact same reasons."  The Los Angeles Lakers player signed an endorsement deal with the sneaker conglomerate in the summer of 2003. But weeks later, a Colorado woman accused him of rape – and all plans to run spots featuring the athlete were shelved indefinitely. The new ad, Nike admits, was released to capitalize on the increased attention surrounding Bryant, sparked by his recent 81-point game – the second-highest total in NBA history.  "Kobe's inclusion in marketing and promotional material is an acknowledgment of his elevated level of sports performance," Nike said in a statement. When asked how he thinks viewers will receive the ad, Bryant told the Associated Press: “I expect the same reaction I normally get — some people will like it and some people won't. It’s truthful. I think it's important to do ads that are not as we know ads are usually done. This one is one that is true to form. It is real, it is honest. We're not selling an image. It's not like we're trying to polish my image or clean it up."


Tight Triceps In Minutes A Day

By Joyce Vedral, eFitness Guest Columnist

(Feb. 13, 2006) Say goodbye to flag-waving arms. More specifically, the triceps. The triceps is the muscle group located between the elbow and the armpit. The part of the arm, when neglected, waves like a flag in the wind when we ladies raise our arm.  Indeed, the triceps are neglected. For women, it's the most neglected muscle in the body since natural daily life does not require a woman to use it the way men do in heavy lifting, and other things that men naturally do on a daily basis.  Take a look at my triceps! Why, I can even hold up my body using them! Soon you will be able to do that too and the best part, they will no longer wave like a flag.  And there's good news. The triceps are one of the fastest muscles to show results if... and this is a big if, you exercise it the right way–by challenging your triceps from completely different angles. I've developed a way to work the triceps in minutes day. Here are two exercises to get you started.  How long will it take to see results? You'll see changes in three weeks, and it keeps getting better after that. Start light, and keep raising your weights as the weights you are using get too easy.

Floor Dips:

Start position: Lie on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you and your arms at your sides, close to your body, elbows bent.

Movement: Raise yourself up by unbending your elbows until you cannot go any further and your hip-butt areas is completely off the floor. At this point flex your triceps as hard as possible (your triceps will be completely supporting your body). Return to start and repeat the movement until you have done 12 repetitions. Without resting, move to the next exercise.

Double arm overhead Extension:

Start position: Stand with your feet a natural width apart and holding a dumbbell in both hands. Raise the dumbbell straight up above your head, holding it between your locked fingers and crossed thumbs.

Movement: Keeping your elbows close to your head and feeling the stretch in your triceps muscles as you go lower the dumbbell behind you until you cannot go any further. Flexing your triceps as hard as possible, return to start position. Repeat the movement until you have done 12 repetitions. Repeat both exercises two more times.


Motivational Note: Do It. Just Do It!

 By Willie Jolley, Visit
 Most people "have not" because they "ask not, seek not and knock not" and then they wonder "why not!" Most people have the abilities but have such negative thinking that they never try and therefore never achieve that which is possible for their lives. Simply put, most people suffer from "stinking thinking!" They don't think they can and therefore they do not try. In life you may not hit all your targets you aim for, but you are 100% sure not to hit the ones you never attempt. You must get rid of "stinking thinking" and just take action! If you really want to be a millionaire then you must start by getting a new attitude, making a commitment to really go after your goals, and then moving on those goals, take action. So let's get busy and DO IT NOW!!