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July 12, 2007

It's mid-summer and there's so many excellent events happening that those in Toronto should definitely check out this week - starting with Ivana Santilli tonight at Revival.  Then Kayte Burgess hits Harlem hard with tracks from her newest CD, Checked Baggage on Sunday night.  And as always, there is tons going on at World Rhythms at Harbourfront Centre this summer. 

Universal Canada shares the scoop on
Common with his new release, Finding Forever. 


Ivana Santilli Rocks Revival - Thursday, July 12

Canada's soulful siren - Ivana Santilli - is back, brought to us from nufunk.ca.  Joined by Quadrasonic DJs, Kid Conga and Alvaro C, you won't want to miss this night of heavy, hard-hitting talents that will rock the house of Revival on Thursday night.

Featuring Quadrasonic DJs, Kid Conga and Alvaro C
783 College St.
Doors open 9:00 pm; Show 10:00 pm
Tickets - $20 at door; $15 in advance at Soundscapes

Kayte Burgess Performs at Harlem – Sunday, July 15, 2007

Kayte Burgess gives an intimate performance of music from her second full length CD Checked Baggage at Harlem on Sunday, July 15th.

Checked Baggage saw Kayte criss-cross the continent from Toronto to Los Angeles to New York City to record nearly 50 tracks for this independent full-length release. Tracks feature collaborations with Ali Shaheed Muhammad (Tribe Called Quest), Joel Joseph and Adrian Eccleston (Nelly Furtado), 2Rude and Graph Nobel among others.

In Toronto , Kayte has backed up Lionel Ritchie (on Canadian Idol) and Al Green and opened for Divine Brown in addition to performing at dozens of profile concerts as a solo artist and as part of ensemble units over the last eight years.   

Dane Hartsell will perform an opening acoustic set at 10:00 pm and Kayte hits the stage at 11:00 pm. 

Come to Harlem on Sunday - a special night in more ways than one! 

Harbourfront Centre Announces World Routes 2007 - June 4 To September 3, 2007

Source:  Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront Centre is pleased to announce the dates for the
2007 Summer Festival season, as well as the dates for the festivals collectively known as World Routes 2007 presented by RBC. From June through September, Harbourfront Centre will be presenting top Canadian and International artists comprising all creative disciplines including music, dance, theatre, visual arts, readings and film each weekend. Visitors will also enjoy our 10-acre site once again for enriching family activities at multiple waterfront venues. All Summer Festivals are FREE admission.

Visitors to Harbourfront Centre can also experience the rich cultural diversity of each weekend's theme while enjoying rotating shopping and food selections at the International Marketplace and The World Café nestled alongside an expanded boardwalk.

World Rhythms
Harbourfront Centre unites the four corners of the globe together with the musical showcase of World Rhythms. Instruments and icons from around the world will be on hand to demonstrate and display how music is the universal language; also features food, dance and visual arts from around the world.  Sound is the source of this festival as the major regions of the world showcase their rhythms in this global musical mix. Instruments from the farthest reaches of the world, icons of the world music community, and a captivating demo of how percussive movement has charmed the world over - this festival leaves no stone unturned.


Honey Jams CD In Stores July 17

Source:  Universal Music Canada

(July 3, 2007)  (Toronto, ON) - Universal Music Canada has combined some of the best ladies in urban music on Honey Jams set for release July 17.  “HONEY JAM”, produced by PhemPhat Productions, is a long-running all-female talent showcase that has played a significant role in the discovery and subsequent success of notable Canadian female artists like Nelly Furtado, Jully Black, Graph Nobel, Melanie Durrant, Toya Alexis, current Canadian Idol sensation Martha Joy Lim and many more.  Over Honey Jam’s 10+ successful years, over 70 artists have performed live to capacity crowds.

This release celebrates the spirit of the HONEY JAM event by showcasing a collection of leading and up-coming women in music.  Chart-topping artists like Nelly Furtado, The Pussycat Dolls and Jully Black are all featured on this CD along with some new voices like Cory Lee, Denosh, Cali, Jenna and Sunshine State.  Several of the independent Canadian artists featured will also perform at the next HONEY JAM showcase which will take place on Sunday August 12 at the Mod Club Theatre in Toronto (see www.honeyjam.com).

Celebrating strong, talented women, this new compilation honours the long-standing tradition of the annual “Honey Jam event.  Promoting and supporting women’s charities is also part of the HONEY JAM tradition and in keeping with that a portion of proceeds will be donated by PhemPhat to YWCA Toronto.  “Honey Jams is synonymous with talent,” commented Randy Lennox, President & CEO, Universal Music Canada.  “Every year Ebonnie Rowe and her team show the entertainment industry exactly how rich the talent base is in Canada.  Universal Music Canada is proud to be involved for our 5th consecutive year.” 

Honey Jams
releases across Canada on Tuesday, July 17.

Citytv's Onley Next Lt.-Gov.

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Kerry Gillespie, Queen's Park Bureau, with files from Canadian Press

(July 10, 2007)
David Onley a reporter and host of Citytv has been appointed Ontario’s next lieutenant-governor.   Onley, who was stricken with polio as a child, was one of Canada’s first disabled on-air personalities and now, he says, will use his new role to further causes like access for the disabled.  The Lieutenant-Governor is the official representative of the Queen in the province of Ontario, signs legislation, meets foreign dignitaries and has a role in representing important causes.  "Given the reality of my disability, the whole issue of accessibility is going to be at the forefront of the mandate," he said in an interview on CP24. Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Onley last week to tell him the news and he released an official statement today.  “David Onley is a respected author, broadcaster and tireless champion for persons with disabilities,” Harper said in a press release. “Through this work, he has demonstrated the qualities needed for such an important position,” he said. Onley replaces Ontario’s current Lieutenant Governor James Bartleman, whose 4-year term ends July 31. Raised in Scarborough, Onley started at Citytv as a science and weather specialist in 1984. In an interview on Citytv, Onley said it was a "distinct privilege and a distinct blessing to have been given this vote of confidence by the prime minister.

However, Onley admitted he didn't jump at the opportunity to serve as lieutenant-governor. "Had my wife, Ruth, not supported it right from the very get-go ... I wouldn't have considered it." Onley is active in community organizations, notably the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons and was appointed to chair the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council at the Ontario Legislature in December, 2005.

Keith Sweat’s ‘Hotel’ Rates Well

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(July 6, 2007) *If anyone has made the act of begging into a melodic sound, it’s R&B singer
Keith Sweat. However, Sweat’s career has hardly been wanting.  After honing his skills in his hometown of New York, he was discovered in the mid-80s and released his debut album, “Make It Last Forever,’ in the fall of 1987, which featured the hits “I Want Her’ and the title track that catapulted him to R&B fame.  More than just a crooner, the singer has also been marked as one of the shapers of the early ‘90s New Jack Era. Sweat’s career sparked in the early ‘90s, but the singer has constantly and consistently stayed on the charts ever since and he is hard at work promoting his new project “Sweat Hotel.”  He is also finishing up a new untitled album, of which the early first single “How Deep Is Your Love” has had major radio spins. And, as though staying in the music curve isn’t enough, Sweat hosts his own syndicated radio show and continues to tour regularly.  “Basically I’ve got a radio show, I’ve got a new DVD (which was released June 12), and a new CD coming out in September 17th, so I’m just doing a whole lot of different things at the moment,” Sweat told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “The DVD is my live stuff; basically a live concert of the stuff I’ve done through the course of my career. The CD is basically new material I’ve got coming out.” The DVD project is called “Sweat Hotel [Live],” which has an accompanying CD. It’s a concept the singer came up with in relation to his full-service musical career. Taped before live, sold-out audiences in Atlanta and Dallas, the project also includes special guest appearances by Monica, Akon, Da Brat and Athena Cage, plus music from some of Sweat's most memorable songs.

Believing in his inventiveness, the “Sweat Hotel” concept went beyond the music world and had some fans expecting an actual posh and stylish hotel from the singer. Reports circulated that Sweat had a deal for a property called Hotel Sweat in Atlanta. However, the singer said the reports were false.  “Marketing is great, right? That was a good thing,” he said with his patented sly grin and explained that while he did not currently have plans to open a hotel, “you never know what’s in the making.” In the meantime, between his new disc and contemplating the hotel business, Sweat is staying on the airwaves with his slow jams radio show.  “On radio, I’m giving people what I’ve always given them,” he explained. “Radio is a form of entertainment. It allows me to talk to my listeners. What radio does for me is allow people to touch me where they can’t touch me on CD – they can touch me on the air, they can call me, they can question me, we can have conversations, we can have confessions. Radio opens up a lot of doors for a lot of dialog.”  “Keith Sweat Hotel” the radio show airs from 7pm – midnight in major markets like Miami and Detroit, broadcasting live from his Premiere Radio Networks studio in Atlanta. He keeps happily busy working on radio Sunday through Friday and doing shows and touring on the weekend. When EUR caught up with him last month, he was performing a show in Los Angeles as a tribute to Gerald Levert, who died in November 2006, and LSG – the group he formed with Levert and Johnny Gill ten years ago.

“It’s a tribute to Gerald, [and the promoters] thought it would be a good package if me and Johnny Gill were on the show,” he said. “So, in part, it’s a tribute to Gerald; we were like brothers.” The concert featured the two remaining LSG members with Gerald’s father, Eddie Levert, filling in. The singers were also scheduled to perform the tribute last night, opening night at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. Incidentally, another trio made up of solo R&B stars is coming on the horizon. In the tradition of LSG, the group is called TGT for Tyrese, Ginuwine, and Tank.  “I commend them on that,” Sweat said, flattered that another group of crooners have teamed up. “I think more artist should do things like that. There will never be another LSG. People might try to imitate that. I hope TGT builds their own format. I don’t want people to call them another LSG. I wish them luck. They’re great vocalists.” Not only will there never be another LSG, but there'll never be another vocalist like Gerald Levert, says Sweat.  “I miss him,” Sweat said of Levert. “Gerald is a legend. He’s given a whole lot to the industry. His music won’t be forgotten. The good thing about radio, music, movies, and TVs is that you can play those things back and the person will still seem like they’re here. Gerald’s memory will always lie within me, but anytime I really want to see him, I just push rewind and he’s right there.”

Michelle Pfeiffer Courts Hisses In Both Hairspray And Stardust

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Movie Critic

(July 08, 2007) HOLLYWOOD–
Michelle Pfeiffer turns 50 next April, a daunting age for many people. But the calendar has been uncommonly kind to her. Dressed in jeans and a casual black top, her blond hair and blue eyes as bright as ever, she looks not yet 40. She's as slim as she was in her heyday of the 1980s and 1990s, when she was garnering Oscar nominations (three to date) and appearing regularly on magazine lists of sexy celebrities. She's also enjoyed the time to pull off a disappearing act. Pfeiffer has been largely out of the public eye since her last onscreen movie role in White Oleander in 2002, with only a cartoon voice appearance in the intervening five years. That's an eternity in Hollywood, where the Next Big Thing can become yesterday's news about as quickly as cupcakes go stale. But Pfeiffer is returning with not one but two movies this summer, the comedy musical Hairspray (July 20) and the fantasy drama Stardust (Aug. 10), making it feel like she never left.

"It's good to be back!" she says, happily meeting the press at the junket for Hairspray, a movie she filmed in Toronto and Hamilton last summer. "I hadn't worked in a long time. Not because I decided not to; it just kind of worked out that way. I was going along with my business and before I knew it, it had been about four years. I thought maybe I should return and see if I still like it," Pfeiffer says.  Many actors returning from a spell away might be tempted to go for roles that would win audience favour. Not Pfeiffer: she courts hisses in both her new movies. In Hairspray, she's the beautiful-but-evil Velma Von Tussle, a manoeuvring 1960s Baltimore mom who wants her daughter to out-twist dance queen Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky). Velma even resorts to name calling about Tracy's weight. In Stardust, based on a Neil Gaiman graphic novel, Pfeiffer is Lamia, a real witch – and a downright ugly one at that. She plots to reacquire her youthful beauty through devious and terrible means. Was Pfeiffer trying to get in touch with her inner bitch? "Aha! I hope not .... I think it was just chance that those two happened."

She finds it interesting and challenging to play villains. For Hairspray, she worked out a scale of one to 10 with director Adam Shankman as to how mean she could be, one being just a little snippy and 10 being the Mom from Hell. "These are the kinds of conversations Adam and I would have: `Okay, just how really mean am I in this scene?'" Most of the time, it was level 10 meanness, including some of the nastiest fat-girl taunts ever heard outside of a schoolyard. Pfeiffer said that level of cruelty is "generally not in my comfort zone," but she learned to roll with it because the script called for it and Blonsky and the other cast members were able to laugh it off. "It was hard, I have to say. I had to work really hard to find any kind of humanity (in Velma). Because you have to. It doesn't matter what you're playing, you have to find the person under all of that.  "And Adam and I both agreed that that was something that we needed to do. And I couldn't have been as mean as I was if I didn't have all those sweet faces with such great senses of humour. Because we did laugh a lot. And the challenge was just keeping a straight face." As incredible as it seems for someone often considered the epitome of female perfection – there was even a clinical study that cited her – Pfeiffer said she felt like an outcast during her own high school years. At 5-foot-6, she was tall for her age.

"I was big and awkward and my teachers used to write on my report card: `Michelle is the biggest girl in class.' Like that was some compliment or something ... "But I think I grew quickly when I was younger and then I remember just stopping at some point, but I was bigger than all the boys, and I wanted to be one of the little petite girls ... in many ways it's those early years that form you and form your opinion of yourself. So I think underneath it all, I'm still that kind of big awkward girl who was beating up the boys." For most of this decade, Pfeiffer has concentrated on being a real mom during her time away from acting, looking after her two young children with husband David E. Kelley, the creator of Chicago Hope, The Practice and Boston Public. The first movie she made upon her return was a romantic comedy with Paul Rudd called I Could Never Be Your Woman, which is due out this fall. That was quickly followed by Stardust and then Hairspray. She admits it took her a while to get back into a groove. "It wasn't like getting back on a bike. It wasn't ... by the end of Stardust I felt like my engines were roaring again. And then I did Hairspray after." She gets to answer own question: Does she still enjoy acting? "I do, I do," she says, beaming. "I like it an awful lot."

Ed Mirvish, 92: 'Honest Ed'

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Staff Reporter

(July 11, 2007)
Edwin Mirvish, known universally as “Honest Ed,” died early this morning at St. Michael’s Hospital. He was 92. Although he first came into the public eye as the merchant king whose Bloor St. discount store is still thriving after nearly 60 years, Mirvish will probably be remembered best as the man who created the most successful theatrical empire in Canadian history. Mayor David Miller described Mirvish as “a local hero.” “For decades, Ed devoted his life to helping Torontonians and to making Toronto the great city it is,” Miller said. Mirvish was born on July 24, 1914 in Colonial Beach, Va. to David and Annie Mirvish. He was given the name Yehuda, but his cousin Frances persuaded the family to Americanize it to Edwin. Show business made its presence felt shortly after the infant’s birth, when he was circumcised by Rabbi Moses Reuben Yoelson, whose son went on to be known as Al Jolson. The Mirvishes moved to Toronto in 1923, where they lived above their downtown Dundas St. grocery store. Mirvish attended King Edward Public School and Central Tech High School but he was 15 when his father died and he dropped out of school to support his family. Mirvish married the former Anne Maklin of Hamilton in 1940 and they had one child, David.

Mirvish bought a series of stores on Bathurst St. in the 1940s that eventually became “Honest Ed’s,” the giant retail emporium. But even more importantly for this city, he saved the Royal Alexandra Theatre from demolition, buying the old theatre in 1963. As a result, he revitalized King St. W. and created a major outlet for professional theatre in this city.  He also oversaw the construction of The Princess of Wales Theatre in 1993. His efforts would help introduce Toronto audiences to blockbusters like The Lion King, Mamma Mia and Miss Saigon and he would continue contributing to the cultural life of Toronto until the end of his days. During his lifetime, he received honorary degrees from five Canadian universities and Tel Aviv University, and was inducted into the Canadian and American Business Halls of Fame, the Order of Ontario, the Order of Canada, and the Order of the British Empire. “It’s wonderful to go from Dundas St. to Buckingham Palace, but what is really wonderful is to be lucky enough to live in a country where this is possible,” Mirvish said in 1989 before he was presented the CBE by the Queen.

But in the hearts of Torontonians, he will remain the elfin figure who dispensed hundreds of free turkeys to the needy every Christmas, or footed the bill for a bash on his birthday every year to which thousands of happy partygoers flocked. “Whether it was his iconic landmark retail store that was responsible for breathing new life into the Bloor and Bathurst neighbourhood or his commitment to the performing arts, Ed’s passion for his city was second to none,” said Mayor Miller Wednesday. “His foresight also gave birth to the Entertainment District and helped revitalize the city’s live theatre industry bringing with it thousands of jobs and busloads of tourists flocking to see the latest great production.” “The lights may have dimmed on Ed’s life, but his spirit and legacy have been indelibly burned into the fabric of Toronto.” “He will be missed but never, ever forgotten,” said Miller. Mirvish would have been 93 this July 24, but for once, there won’t be a birthday party.  Edwin Mirvish is survived by his wife Anne, his son David and his sister Lorraine. Funeral plans will be announced shortly.

With reporting from John Spears and Canadian Press


Avril Lavigne Fires Back Over Plagiarism Claims

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Lee-Anne Goodman, Canadian Press

(July 09, 2007) 
Avril Lavigne is fighting back against claims she's a songwriting plagiarist. She takes particular aim at fellow Canadian songstress Chantal Kreviazuk's suggestion that the punk princess swiped one of her tunes for her new album, The Best Damn Thing. "Chantal's comments are damaging to my reputation and a clear defamation of my character and I am considering taking legal action," Lavigne wrote on her website (www.avrillavigne.com) late Friday. Kreviazuk's recent claims to Performing Songwriter magazine are nothing more than sour grapes, Lavigne says, resulting from unsuccessful songwriting collaborations between the two. "My decision to discontinue working with Chantal after co-writing together on my second record was simply based on the fact that we had no hits together. That is why her name is not on this record, despite her numerous attempts to be included, which were always denied. From my perspective, this is a clear case of bitterness." Lavigne also alleges that Kreviazuk e-mailed her after the magazine hit the stands to apologize for her suggestion that the song "Contagious" on Lavigne's latest hit album was hers.

"I forgive her but I have to put the truth out there so my fans are not confused by these false accusations," Lavigne wrote. Lavigne, repeatedly dogged by accusations she doesn't write her own songs, was equally miffed about being dragged into a legal battle to prove she wrote her chart-topping hit, "Girlfriend." A pair of U.S. songwriters allege her catchy single sounds suspiciously like a song called "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," released by the Rubinoos in 1979. The American song features the upbeat chorus: "Hey, hey, you, you, I wanna be your boyfriend," much like Lavigne's boppy refrain, which declares: "Hey, hey, you, you, I don't like your girlfriend." "I had never heard this song in my life and their claim is based on five words," Lavigne wrote. "All songs share similar lyrics and emotions. As humans we speak one language . . . simply put, I have been falsely accused of ripping their song off." Earlier this week, Lavigne's manager, Terry McBride, scoffed at the charges, calling the suit "baseless" and little more than a ``case of legal blackmail." "Avril's a great songwriter and she's proving it over and over and over again," McBride said from Vancouver, where he runs Nettwerk Music Group. "Avril's very, very sensible. She knows music well. If the chords had been similar, the melodies had been similar, lyrics had been similar . . . she would have gone, `OK, I can see their point.' But nothing's similar."

Lavigne, who grew up in Napanee, Ont., has also had to deflect accusations from the Matrix, the production team behind hits "Sk8er Boi" and "I'm With You." Songwriter Lauren Christie told Rolling Stone that Lavigne did little but "change a word here or there," but Lavigne has insisted they crafted the melodies and lyrics together. "Let it be crystal clear that I have not ripped anyone off or done anything wrong," Lavigne wrote on her website Friday. "I do not deserve this negative press and attention. I take pride in the songs that I write and appreciate the opportunities to work with some great writers and musicians."

Live Earth Message Lost In The Fumes

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vinay Menon

(July 09, 2007)  Is anybody else feeling guilty about not feeling much of anything while watching the
Live Earth concerts this weekend? More than 150 musical acts spread out across the planet – London, New York, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hamburg – to help save us from environmental catastrophe and ... nothing? Not one spark of inspiration during this 24-hour ecopalooza? Not one galvanizing moment during the exhaustive coverage? Not one rousing call to action during this tedious marathon of song and activism? ("Rousing" being the operative word.) Organizers claim more than 2 billion people watched the concerts on television, the Internet and elsewhere, a number that will surely "trigger a global movement to solve the climate crisis." Really? How might this happen? From watching Live Earth guru Al Gore raise his right hand and recite his seven-point pledge while encouraging us to do the same? From listening to Kevin Bacon ask if we're "ready to answer the call?" From watching a children's choir join Roger Waters on stage in T-shirts emblazoned with "2Gether We Stand?"

Here's another inconvenient truth: these concerts have become wretched clichés. We are getting inured to the world's most vexing problem by distracting celebrity activism. Wow, the planet is falling apart. But, hey, it couldn't be that bad since Ludacris is now singing "Pimpin` All Over the World." And what exactly did we learn between sets? That we should switch to energy-efficient lightbulbs? That we should check tire pressure to save gasoline? That we should unplug chargers when they're not charging? Forgive me, but did we really need to burn a sickening amount of fossil fuel flying rock stars to every continent – to say nothing of the environmental toll created at each venue by local traffic and a spike in consumption – to impart such mundane wisdom? As Bob Geldof, the force behind Live Aid and Live 8, said while dismissing Live Earth: "We are all f---ing conscious of global warming." Or as The Who's Roger Daltrey told a British paper: "The last thing the planet needs is a rock concert." (Organizers promised to use "carbon offsetting" – essentially, neutralizing the environmental burden you create by doing something positive, such as planting a tree. But isn't this a bit like buying somebody a hat after you've pulled out his hair?) Maybe this grousing is a by-product of Charity Concert Fatigue. Or maybe it's now impossible to ignore the hypocrisy of cultural luminaries who clearly do not practise what they preach from inside the energy-sucking confines of mansions and limos. At the London concert, Madonna wrote and performed a new song ("Hey You"). Hey us? Right, like we're the ones hurtling across the skies in private jets.

"It's a bit patronizing for us 21-year-olds to try to start to change the world," Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders told Agence France-Presse, explaining why the band declined to be a part of Live Earth. "Especially when we're using enough power for 10 houses just for lighting. It'd be a bit hypocritical."  (You can tell a lot about a charity concert by the bands that are not on the bill. Where was Radiohead? U2? Coldplay?) Instead, Live Earth was entrusted to musicians who, for the most part, seemed to be going through the motions, pulling cheap tricks out of charity-concert hats from yesteryear but producing none of the magic. "Put all this energy in your heart and help us solve the climate crisis," Gore implored fans near the end of the New York concert. I sincerely hope the world listens. But, somehow, it sounded like hot air.

Musiq Soulchild Update

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com 

(July 9, 2007) *We recently had the chance to run into soul singer
Musiq Soulchild. The purpose of the interview was to promote his album "Luvanmusiq" and to let folks know how life is treating him on his new label, Atlantic Records. "I've been busy," said Musiq. "I've been working, trying to gather my band and to change labels over to Atlantic and that takes time within itself. And I've been working with other producers and it takes time to gel with outside producers. But at the time I've had to support myself so I've had to go out and perform and sing." These days an artist changing label is as common place as creased pant legs. It's an everyday scenario.  We asked the Philly born crooner what prompted his switch. "Kevin Liles used to be the president of Def Jam Records.  It was Def Jam/Def Soul at the time.  He was the one who originally signed me. And by him no longer being there, and still having a connection with my situation and wanting to help guide my career, he offered to have me over on his side of things.  So he spoke with LA Reid and Sean Carter and made things happen."

Musiq Soulchild told our Lee Bailey that he may have been involved in the first artist swap in record label history.  Musiq went to Atlantic and Fabolous moved over to Def Jam.  Leave it to Kevin Liles, LA Reid and Jay-Z to pull something like that off.   In case you don't recall, Loveanmusiq debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 (Top that Fabolous!).   Musiq Soulchild is currently in the midst of a summer tour that will see him land in Toronto, Ontario, Detroit, Michigan, Nashville, Tennessee, Newark, New Jersey Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Atlantic City, New Jersey, New Orleans, Louisiana in the month of July.   The tour will run until September, wrapping up at the Nokia Theater in Times Square NYC on September 15th.

Johnta Austin To Release Debut Album

Source: Tynicka Battle, ThinkTank Marketing, tynicka@thinktankmktg.com, www.thinktankmktg.com

(July 5, 2007)  (New York, NY)  -- As the singular most successful songwriter at work today - whose tunes have been brought to the top of the charts by Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, and at least 50 more artists over the last decade, including Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Simpson, Usher, Chris Brown, Toni Braxton, Tyrese, Enrique Iglesias, Aaliyah, Faith Evans, B2K, Ciara, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, and Mario - what do you deliver for an encore, after winning the Best R&B Song Grammy Award for the past two consecutive years?   In the case of 26-year old Atlanta native
Johnta (pronounced "John-tay") Austin, the highly anticipated arrival of his debut album OCEAN DRIVE on mega-producer Jermaine Dupri's So So Def/Island Urban Music label is the fulfillment of a dream that's lasted half a lifetime.   Set to arrive in stores September 4th, OCEAN DRIVE gets off to a fast start with the new single, "Video."  With a big up to the club scene, the infectious new single features Atlanta-based rapper DJ Unk.   Also guesting on the album is Jadakiss, on the soulful ode "Turn It Up," which earned big adds at radio back in late 2006 (and a popular video on BET, BET-J and VH1-Soul). 

Mary J. Blige joins on "Hood Love," described as the story of two people who "fight more than they get along…but at the end of the day, really love each other…"  Ms. Blige's "Be Without You" of last year brought Johnta one of his two Best R&B Song Grammy Awards.  Johnta's other Best R&B Song Grammy was courtesy of Mariah Carey's record-setting 2005 single, "We Belong Together."   In fact, Johnta and Mariah co-wrote all four U.S. chart hits from her phenomenal 12-million selling album The Emancipation of Mimi, including "Don't Forget About Us," "Shake It Off," and "It's Like That," as well as the Europe-only "Get Your Number" (featuring Dupri), and Ultra Platinum Edition bonus track "Makin' It Last All Night (What It Do)" - all six of which were produced by Dupri. With a groove that is reminiscent of the finely-crafted work of such soul icons as Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross and in more recent times, Al B. Sure, OCEAN DRIVE also boasts production work by Teddy Bishop ("A Mess") and Jazze Pha (the chill cut "Mutual").  The balance of the tracks are produced by Dupri. Over the past eight years, as many as 100 combined chart single hits and album tracks, by more than 50 artists, were written by Johnta Austin, one of the most prolific track records in contemporary music publishing.  In addition to the aforementioned hits by Mariah, Mary J., and Tyrese, a sampling of Johnta's biggest and best includes: "A Public Affair" (Jessica Simpson); "Get Gone" (Ideal); "Miss You" and "Come Over" (Aaliyah); "Just Be A Man" (Toni Braxton); "Let's Stay Home Tonight" (Anthony Hamilton, Raheem DeVaughn); "My Baby" (Jagged Edge/Bow Wow); "Like You" (Bow Wow/Ciara); "True Love" (Faith Evans); and "Excuse Me Miss" (Chris Brown). After working together on The Emancipation of Mimi, it was Jermaine Dupri's idea to present Johnta as a solo artist.  Taking time to ensure that Johnta's first album would reflect the span of his skills as a soulful vocalist, songwriter and producer, Dupri has supervised the creation of OCEAN DRIVE from inception to release

Congolese Beats Set To Get Afrofest Crowd Moving

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Goddard, Staff Reporter

(July 05, 2007) Some of Congolese music's biggest stars have teamedup this summer to tour, record and headline
Afro-fest this weekend at Queen's Park. Samba Mapangala and Orchestra Virunga will take the stage Sunday night at the 19th edition of North America's biggest free African music festival following another top-billed performer, the lushly melodic Cape Verdean singer Lura. "Every year people ask me, `Is there a group from Congo?'" says Afrofest musical director Nadine McNulty. "People want to dance. This is the group that will make them happy." Mapangala, who began his career in the capital, Kinshasa, in the early 1970s, assembled Orchestra Virunga in the early 1980s. The group quickly became one of the top bands in East Africa and helped spread the popular African dance music of the time – Rumba Congolese and soukous.   The band had several hits in the '80s before undergoing several line-up changes in the '90s.  Joining Mapangala, who now lives in Maryland, in the Afrofest incarnation of Orchestra Virunga are some African musician’s fans are sure to recognize: elder statesman of Congolese rhythm guitar Bopol Mansiamina; versatile bassist Miguel Yamba; Komba Bellow Mafwala on kit drums ; sax player Jimmy Mvondo; lead guitarist Caien Madoka; and backup vocalist Risa Risa. The band will also pick up a Toronto hand percussionist for the day, McNulty says.

Samba intends to go into the studio at summer's end to take advantage of the exceptional line-up. Lura replaces South Africa's Mahotella Queens. Other highlights include singer Ruth Mathiang from southern Sudan, Nya Soleil from Cameroon, Zale Seck from Senegal, and Nawal "Voice of the Comoros" from the Comoros Islands off Africa's southeast coast.  Afrofest runs Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10:30 p.m. on three stages. CBC Radio 1, with host Garvia Bailey, will broadcast the festival live from 5 to 6 p.m. Saturday. Radio CIUT 89.5 FM is carrying the entire festival live and CBC Radio 2 is recording the festival for a later broadcast on Canada Live. For more information visit musicafrica.org.

Folk Legend Shows No Sign Of Fading With Tour, Award, Upcoming Release

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Goddard, Staff Reporter

(July 05, 2007) QUEBEC CITY–The lights went up on
Bob Dylan slinging a Stratocaster guitar low on his hips, a sight not seen in Canada for more than three years. Beginning with "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," he and his band rocked through an opening set of five numbers from the 1960s and early '70s at the Coliseé arena Tuesday night, Dylan taking lead guitar solos on three of them. It was an inspiring sight – Dylan, at 66, again swivelling his legs, commanding the stage and stepping smartly to the microphone at the start of a five-date Canadian tour also taking him to Montreal last night, Ottawa tonight, and Casino Rama on Saturday and Sunday. Online chat sites report that he picked up the guitar again in Europe this spring without explanation, just as he never explained why in 2003 he switched to electric piano. Interviewed by Newsweek in 2004, all he said was that he liked the sound of the instrument and couldn't find anybody else to play it. At the Coliseé, Dylan returned to the keyboards for the sixth number, the recent "Rollin' and Tumblin'" and stayed there for the rest of the night, occasionally taking a harmonica solo.

His presence there proved less entertaining, and the show proved uneven in other ways. The group showed itself capable of remarkable tenderness midway into the show on "Simple Twist of Fate." And from his pre-fame Greenwich Village repertoire, Dylan to chilling effect resurrected "John Brown," about a young soldier returning from war so shot up his mother barely recognizes him. Two-thirds into the program, however, one song tended to run numbingly into the next and "Blowin' in the Wind" sounded so empty of its original purpose as to seem pointless. Dylan's career is at an odd phase. Fascination about him has rarely been stronger, and more than ever people are rushing to honour his accomplishments.  This month's The Walrus magazine features a fictional short story that puts Dylan in Muskoka. Last month, Bryan Ferry released a tribute album, Dylanesque. Yesterday, the Montreal Jazz Festival gave Dylan its Spirit Award for "musical innovation and ... influence," although he asked to receive it backstage, not during the concert. On Oct. 1, Sony Music plans to release a three-disc boxed set spanning his entire career titled simply Dylan. Online voting by fans at Dylan07.com will help select the 51 songs. On the same date, a one-disc "best of" compilation of 18 songs is also to be released.

On the other hand, Dylan's concerts lately have been missing the sheer joyfulness that characterized his shows for about 10 years starting in the early 1990s, when he taught himself lead guitar and traded licks with such likeable masters as Ron Sexton and Larry Campbell. The current band members look smart enough in their matching grey suits and black shirts, setting off Dylan in his white shirt, black hat and black suit, with a red stripe down the leg. They also play smartly and multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron, who went missing at Dylan's last Toronto show in November, shone on slide guitar, violin and banjo. But by comparison to the Sexton/Campbell era, the current line-up seems overly serious and not much fun. Dylan's voice is another problem. It has narrowed to little more than a croak. Still, Dylan remains endlessly creative in his phrasing, in the way he falls behind the beat and jumps out in front of it.  And to his credit, he also refuses to use backup singers as a cover, but the lack of vocal range subtracts from the band's overall musicality. Dylan wraps up the current North American leg of his so-called Never Ending Tour on July 28 in California and reopens it on Aug. 8 in Christchurch, New Zealand, before a swing through Australia.

A Jazz Legend Provides Festival With A Hometown Closing Note

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(July 6, 2007) Oliver Jones is no stranger to the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. The 73-year old pianist first played the festival in 1981, its second year, and has only missed a handful since. “It's my time of the year,” he says. “I normally try not to do any work during that period, and I get a chance to drop in and see a lot of old friends. I go to see about a half an hour of everyone that I want to see. It's a wonderful time of the year. I'm very, very proud of what our festival has accomplished.”  On Saturday night, Jones co-headlines the festival's closing gala with singer Susie Arioli, but it's hardly the first time he's closed out the festival. “I was trying to count,” he says over the phone as he rides back from a show in Quebec's Eastern Townships. “In the 20 years that I've played it, I've opened it 11 times, and I've closed it 10 times.” But given the choice, he says, he'd rather take the end spot. “I've always found it much more rewarding to close,” he says. “Especially the last time that I did the festival, which was three years ago with Oscar Peterson – that, more than any other concert, stands out, as far as I'm concerned.” His sense of pride in that performance is hardly surprising, though, considering his long relationship with Peterson. Jones grew up in the St-Henri district of Montreal, living just three doors away from Peterson's family. He studied piano with Peterson's sister Daisy, and has long cited Oscar as his greatest influence, happily pointing out that people in the neighbourhood used to refer to them as Big O and Little O.

But where Peterson's jazz star ascended early, Jones spent three decades playing in pop and calypso bands before making a name in jazz, thanks to a five-year residency at bassist Charles Biddle's club, Biddle's Jazz and Ribs. Officially, he's retired, but then, that retirement allegedly went into effect in 1999, and since then he's cut three albums, with a fourth in the works. That's part of the reason he's so happy to be playing this year's jazz festival. “We're going into the studio at the end of this month, to do another CD,” he says. “So six of the tunes I've written for the CD will have their premiere performance at the jazz festival this year. Hopefully, people will enjoy it, and then after that, remember to go out and buy some of the CDs.” He chuckles. “It's a wonderful way to see how the people enjoy the particular compositions, and to give the new CD a little publicity.” As a pianist, Jones has often been compared to Peterson, both because of their similar backgrounds and prodigious ability on the keyboard. Yet despite having technique honed by years of classical training, Jones has never been an especially flashy player, generally preferring ballads to chop-busting, up-tempo tunes. Some of that fondness for ballads no doubt comes from the amount of time he has put in backing up singers. As he explains, “Playing behind singers is an art in itself. You're there to complement them, and to inspire them to do greater things, and it's always a challenge.” Even now, despite the demand for his trio, Jones likes occasionally to slip back into the role of accompanist. “I'm just coming back right now – we're riding in the truck together – with my favourite singer, Miss Ranee Lee,” he says. Jones released an album of duets with Lee, Just You, Just Me, in 2005, and still makes time to perform with her. “We'll get a chance, probably this year, to do 10 concerts with Ranee and her husband, [guitarist] Richard Ring,” he says. “It gives me an opportunity to accompany for a change, instead of just doing the trio thing.”

Perhaps because of his experience as an accompanist, Jones takes a different view of playing ballads than many of his colleagues. He agrees that it's important to maintain a strong, flowing melodic line and to bring out the emotional undercurrents within the song. But that's only part of it. “Playing the piano, you have a whole orchestra in front of you, and it's important to find colours, different colours,” he says. “But most of the other players seem to have a different approach, especially today, with so many people doing modal playing.” But as Jones sees it, it's also essential to know the words to the song. “I know the words to all of the ballads that I play, and I think years ago, all of us did,” he says. “We thought much more about the lyrics, and it helped us musically.” He chuckles, and adds, “Of course, I think the lyrics back then made a lot more sense than they do today. “Actually, I think the big difference is, we lived those lyrics,” he continues. “I remember going into a class and talking to youngsters who were learning ballads and that, but had no idea of the words. I found it kind of strange. I thought of the beautiful ballads that they're doing, whether Stardust or Body and Soul or Lush Life, which have such poignant words to them, beautiful lyrics, and here they only know the melody. Whereas my generation, we lived those lyrics, and it was a complete part of the tune for us.” Naturally, Jones has quite a few favourites in his ballad book, but feels most strongly about the Billy Strayhorn composition Lush Life. “It's the only jazz tune that I know that you don't have to improvise on,” he says. “Everything that you need in a jazz piece is in Lush Life – beautiful melody, a wonderful chord structure. And you can play that just the way it was written.  “I think it was probably the most perfectly written jazz ballad there is, and very challenging still.” Oliver Jones performs at the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Montreal at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Regine Crespin, 80: French Diva

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(July 06, 2007) PARIS –
Regine Crespin, the French opera great who took her personal magnetism and soprano voice to the world's leading stages, died Thursday. She was 80. Crespin died at Paris hospital, her record company EMI said; no cause of death was given. With her luxurious voice, the seductive soprano stood out among opera singers as a leading lyrical artist. She sang on the top stages, from Paris, Vienna and Berlin to Covent Garden in London. She performed at the Metropolitan Opera for 25 years, unusual for a French artist. Crespin was "a great French voice" whose talent, generosity and humour made her the "grand (ambassador) of French culture,'' said President Nicolas Sarkozy. Born Feb. 23, 1927 in Marseille, southern France, Crespin came to singing late, taking her first lessons at age 16. She blossomed and went to Paris to study at the Music Conservatory, winning top prizes in singing, opera and comic opera.  She made her debut in 1948 in the Champagne town of Reims in the role of Charlotte in Massenet's "Werther." Other early roles were in Wagner's "Lohengrin" and "Tannhauser," and Bizet's ``Carmen.''

Crespin had her international debut in 1958 at Germany's Bayreuth Festival as Kundry in "Parsifal," then moved on to stages around the world. Her Met debut was in 1962. One of her best known roles was the Marschallin in Strauss' ``Der Rosenkavalier.'' "Regine Crespin was a diva," said French Culture Minister Christine Albanel. Crespin started teaching in 1976 at France's National High Conservatory for Music, and did so until 1992. A generous, open character and sensual aura added to Crespin's effortless singing style. In her candid autobiography, the singer recounts sometimes bawdy tales of backstage life, as well as her passion on stage. The book, originally published in 1982 as "La Vie et l'Amour d'une Femme" (The Life and Love of a Woman), the French name for a song by Schumann, was later revised and expanded in an English version published in 1997 as "On Stage, Off Stage: A Memoire.''

SambaSunda is a Spicy Cultural Mix

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Classical Music Critic

July 07, 2007) The clash of certain atoms can produce unexpected bursts of energy. In the same way, the clash of musical cultures has the power to produce new entities no one could have imagined before. Bollywood and Latin hip-hop are two popular examples of hybrid musical culture. But that's only the tip of the sonic iceberg. One that should be new to most Torontonians is a mix of dance floor and gamelan from Indonesia.  On Monday night, SambaSunda crashes the Latin-friendly doors of Lula Lounge with an infectious mix of tradition and modernity rooted in the old cultures of Java, yet influenced by Latin and North America as well.  SambaSunda's Toronto visit is part of Summerworld, a festival of forward-thinking world music evenings running to Thursday at Lula Lounge and Supermarket.  A gamelan band of one- to two-dozen players that germinated in the early 1990s under a variety of different names, SambaSunda has recorded prolifically, gained widespread popularity in Asia, and toured Europe and Australia.

But they are not a known quantity here. Their CDs are almost impossible to find. Even the latest, Rahwana's Cry, released in 2005, needs a determined, patient search. But word is spreading in these parts. The group played at Montreal's jazz festival last night, and upcoming shows include New York City and Chicago. Much of SambaSunda's creative work mirrors the efforts of the Indonesia College of Arts (known locally as STSI) in Bandung, Java, the group's hometown. Like many post-colonial nations, Indonesia has spent millions on schools and organizations to help preserve and perpetuate its diverse cultural heritage – and also to provide incubators in which artists can experiment with new forms and variations. Indonesia unites dozens of vastly different ethnic and religious groups – the biggest three being Javanese, Sundanese and Malay. Located in the mountains on the island of Java, Bandung shares much of its culture with the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta, a 175-km drive toward the Java Sea. The musical instruments of a gamelan orchestra cross the ethnic boundaries in Java.

Most of the members of SambaSunda teach at STSI-Bandung, which fosters a co-operative mindset. In an interview five years ago, the group's main founder, Pak Ismet Ruchimat, described how he and his fellow band members started out doing shows with "Top 40" pop tunes – including über pop-schlock hit "Endless Love" – that they reset for gongs, xylophones, flutes, strings, tambourines and drums. Ruchimat said having a solid background in the region's musical traditions meant the individual players didn't have to rehearse much before each live jam. They sit down (or stand) with their instrument of choice; one of them lays out the rhythmic parameters, another introduces the melody, and they are off, building steadily, inexorably, to a high-powered sonic ecstasy. Most of their pieces include yells and chants that intricately weave between rhythm and melody. Since their youthful Top 40 days, SambaSunda has also tried a bit of rock, and has repeatedly dipped its toes into the teeming waters of Latin salsa, before setting down into an energetic, whimsical, rhythmically inventive groove that emphasizes long, improvised sets. This is enough to blow the roof off the group's Toronto debut.

Just the facts:
WHAT: SambaSunda
WHERE: Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W.
WHEN: Monday @ 8 p.m. (doors @ 7 p.m.)
TICKETS: $15 adv. @ www.smallworldmusic.com or Soundscapes

Stephen Marley Confirmed for New York Reggae Concert

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(July 5, 2007)  *Reggae artiste, Stephen Marley, son of reggae icon Bob Marley is confirmed to perform at the 5th annual Irie Jamboree concert, slated to take place at Roy Wilkins Park, Queens, New York on Sunday, September 2nd.  The promoters were able to woo the Grammy winning producer, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist whose new album "Mind Control" contain tracks like 'Hey Baby' featuring Mos Def, 'Iron Bars’ featuring Julian Marley, Mr. Cheeks and Spragga Benz and 'The Traffic Jam' featuring Damian Marley. Stephen's album is doing well in Jamaica, Europe, and Canada and is generating just as much attention state side - enjoying multiple spins on urban radio stations and cable channels.  Louie Grant, of Irie Jamboree who helped to orchestrate the deal said, "Sunday, September 2 and will be another historic day for Irie Jamboree and for all the Caribbean nationals living here in the tri-state area. Anytime we are graced with the presence of a Marley is a very special occasion for us. Over the years, Stephen has consistently delivered quality music in a professional and creative manner, positively reflecting the best of Jamaica. I congratulate him for having the foresight to produce an album of the calibre of 'Mind Control.' I also applaud him as one of our reggae stalwarts who have kept the reggae flame burning internationally for Jamaica" Grant noted.

The promoters announced that the 'royal family of reggae' Morgan Heritage, singer Luciano, Da’Ville, Jovi Rockwell, Assasin, Anthony B, Beenieman, Mr. Vegas and Lady Saw are also confirmed for Irie Jamboree.  Last year's Irie Jamboree show featured performances from the likes of Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths, Capleton, Beenieman, Buju Banton and Baby Cham. It attracted a record twenty five thousand patrons. The event earned bragging rights earlier this year at the International Reggae & World Music Awards, copping the award for "Concert of the Year," beating out contenders Reggae Sumfest (Jamaica) and Welcome To Jamrock (Jamaica) amongst others.  Log on to www.iriejamboree.com or call 1-888-irie-nyc for updates.

White Stripes Rock T.O. Daycare

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Karen Pinchin, Canadian Press

(July 06, 2007) Alt-rock duo the
White Stripes thrilled dozens of children at a Toronto day camp Thursday afternoon with an impromptu gig that had the youngsters clapping their hands and wriggling in time to the music. More than 65 children between the ages of five and 12 sat in a semi-circle on the floor to catch a five-song set by bandmates Jack White and Meg White. About 80 adults were allowed in the room, including some fans who talked their way through the door. "This is my fifth year here and something like this has never happened before," said 11-year-old Camille, waving his hands for emphasis. "When I saw them perform I was like, 'Wow, I really need to download these songs when I get home."' Adult fans who had heard about the show by word of mouth, text messages and on websites rushed to the downtown YMCA, where the show was held. Most were turned away by security, who said the concert was just for kids. Some 100 people, dressed in the band's red, white and black trademark colours, stood grumbling in a hall outside the auditorium and out on the street.

The daycamp show was just the latest in a series of last-minute gigs the Detroit duo has offered before their Canadian concerts. Each time, they've relied primarily on their Internet fansite to spread the word, giving as little as 20 minutes' notice for the unorthodox appearances. On Monday, the pair surprised Winnipeggers with a performance on a city bus and a downtown bridge. Over the weekend, a Saskatoon bowling alley was the unconventional stage for a 15-minute set and the previous weekend, it was a community centre in Edmonton where 100 fans were treated to a free show. But the 30-minute Toronto show was likely played before their youngest audience yet. "I'm positive that 90 per cent of these kids don't know who they are, but I think they really got a kick out of it," said Ian Campbell, who works for the daycamp. YMCA spokesman Jamie Slater said he thought it was a prank when the band's manager contacted him about the show Thursday morning. "At first I thought they were joking," said Slater. "Once I found out that they were serious, I asked them why they chose the Toronto YMCA, and their manager, Gabe, told me he searched the words 'Toronto' and 'fun' on the Internet." The band is touring Canada in support of their latest album, ``Icky Thump," and Slater said they asked to play for the camp because they wanted to reach a younger audience. One child was lucky enough to be called up to sing a part of the R&B song "I Believe I Can Fly." "I was very nervous," said eight-year-old Dylan. "I'll tell my brother I sang in a rock band and there was a band in the YMCA and that's all."

Marsalis And His Men Show Their Strength

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(July 9, 2007) One of the best things about the jazz festival environment is the audience, which isn't just large and enthusiastic, but frequently quite knowledgeable as well. When a group is performing for a roomful of aficionados, the musicians are less likely to pull their punches or play it safe, so the music is delivered at full strength. That certainly was the case when the
Branford Marsalis quartet took the Théâtre Maisonneuve in Montreal on Friday. At first, things were loose and jocular, as the musicians joked about the rented double bass Eric Revis was using (as Marsalis explained, "The airline wouldn't let him bring his own bass"). Pianist Joey Calderazzo seemed particularly amused by the instrument's C extension that jutted up from the headstock like some weird antenna, which prompted Marsalis to quip, Spinal Tap-style, that the bass "goes to 11." But when they stopped playing around and started playing, the mood was anything but frivolous. The four charged directly into ferocious assault on Jack Baker, with Marsalis' tenor sax taking on the urgency of late-period Coltrane as Calderazzo pounded modal chords and Jeff "Tain" Watts' drums exploded in a fury of polyrhythm. Marsalis' solo was particularly powerful, ripping through melodic possibilities at breakneck pace, his dark, resonant sound seemingly big enough to fill the hall without a microphone. But he was positively restrained compared to Watts, whose thunderous attack nearly shook the walls. Yet for all the power (and volume) in his playing, there was something genuinely lyrical about the solo, as if the drummer were determined to inject his own ideas about melody into the performance.

Perhaps that's why Marsalis' sudden segue into the gentle Hope didn't seem jarring. Within measures, the quartet went from gale force to a gentle shower, with Calderazzo bringing an almost classical touch to his unaccompanied solo, while Marsalis, this time on soprano, built his solo quietly and deliberately until it climaxed in a torrent of notes. And then, with barely enough pause for Marsalis to switch back to tenor, the four charged into the drum-powered, hard bop cadences of Vaudeville. Once the tune wrapped up, even the band seemed slightly dazed. "Now that was different," quipped Marsalis, and an audience member yelled, "Tain!" "Yeah, pretty much," agreed the bandleader. And so it went, for a full 90 minutes, as Marsalis and his men showed their strengths from every angle. They didn't play a lot of tunes - the set, with encore, included just seven songs - but what they played was uniformly stunning, from a witty run through the Thelonious Monk chestnut Think of One (with Calderazzo using Monk-style voicings on the head) to a gorgeously tuneful rendition of the ballad Fate (which, Marsalis explained, had been originally called Chickenballs by the band). They gave no quarter, and while that proved too much for a few in the audience, the bulk of the crowd ended up cheering like they couldn't bear to let the band go. Because the Marsalis quartet went on at 6 p.m., everything that followed ended up having to be measured by their standard, which was probably an unfair burden to put upon the Ravi Coltrane quartet, which gave a late show at the Spectrum. Then again, the tenor saxophonist is probably used to the burden of expectations, being the middle son of the late John Coltrane, perhaps the most influential tenor saxophonist in modern jazz.

There wasn't a great deal of the elder Coltrane's sound or approach in Ravi's playing, however. His tone is lighter and somewhat brighter, coloured by a fast, sweet vibrato, while his solos tend to avoid the sort of convoluted chord stacking that was his father's greatest legacy. Although there was no denying his facility, it wasn't as easy to appreciate how he deployed all that technique, as with his quirky take on the Monk tune Epistrophy, which somehow folded the opening 16-bar phrase into half the space. It probably would have helped if he were working with a stronger ensemble. Luis Perdomo is a solid accompanist but an uneven improviser, whose playing does little to challenge the saxophonist or ignite the rhythm section, although his fondness for Cuban rhythms was refreshing, and bassist Drew Gress appeared content to remain in the background. Only drummer E.J. Strickland seemed inclined to push his boss, but after the example of Watts' work with Marsalis, that push never seemed quite enough.

Love 'Em, Leave 'Em And Write A Song

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(July 10, 2007) How does the name "Maroon 4" grab you? North American tour dates for the red-hot pop quintet Maroon 5 were announced yesterday - the band plays Toronto's Air Canada on Oct. 4 and Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum, Nov. 3 - and if you ever plan to catch these L.A.-based chart-toppers, do it this fall because they won't be around forever. Singer Adam Levine, in town last month with his boys promoting their sophomore album It Won't Be Soon Before Long, admitted he wasn't necessarily committed to the band's future. "I certainly don't want to overstay my welcome," said the group's fashionable front man and chief songwriter. "The moment I see it becoming stagnant, I'll stop. I don't know if that will be in a year, two years or 10 years." Levine expresses interest in producing, making a solo album, even settling down and raising a family. That being said, the band, composed mostly of Levine's high-school chums, might not be history quite yet. "We're on our second record," he says, "so I'm not ready to throw in the towel right away." As with most all of Levine's sensitive, emotionally melodic compositions, the new tune Nothing Lasts Forever refers to the fragility of personal relationships. Not to say that the lyrics can't apply to business or creative associations as well. "It's true, nothing lasts forever," says the forthright 28-year-old. "If there's one thing that I've learned in life, it's that it's silly to make plans."

Breaking up may or may not be hard to do for Levine, but one thing is for certain: The high-voiced Hollywood babe magnet has a keen ability to convert his split-ups into songs - whopper, typhoid-catchy hit tunes such as the funky Makes Me Wonder from the new disc, or a whole album full of the like, as was the case with Songs About Jane, the band's triple-platinum 2002 debut (more than 300,000 copies sold in Canada), which drew its inspiration from Levine's ex-girlfriend. Asked now about "Jane," the narrow-faced, soft-spoken Levine says she's "great," she lives in New York and they're still friends. If Jane reads the tabloids, she would know about her ex's string of celebrity courtships. Names linked with Levine at one time or another include Jessica Simpson, Jessica Biel, Natalie Portman, Kirsten Dunst, model Kelly McGee and hard-court hottie Maria Sharapova. You wonder how much his li'l black book would go for on eBay. "Millions of dollars, I'm sure," says the This Love singer, his response soaked in sarcasm. At the end of our interview, I pepper Levine with a series of quick-hit questions. The queries are nutty, but the answers may prove prophetic. Asked who would win a pop-music basketball tournament involving Jurassic 5, Jackson 5 and Maroon 5, the tall Levine winces a bit before replying. "I would win easily," he says, "but the whole band situation I don't know. We would lose. But one-on-one, I think I could take them." How about your favourite colour? What about a certain shade of deep red? Levine blinks just once before replying, "Actually, I hate maroon." My, my. For the moment, the band is alive and well, but it does sound like Leavin' Levine's days with Maroon 5 are numbered.


Songs Of The Ancestors, Sounds Of The North

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Katherine Harding

(July 9, 2007) PANGNIRTUNG, NUNAVUT — Janice Kuluguqtuq was 14 when she began learning the songs of her ancestors with other Inuit girls on the playground of the tiny school in Pangnirtung.  In pairs, they would stand face-to-face, hold each other tight and create rhythms using their breath and vocal chords. The resulting sounds were of the Arctic: cracking ice, howling winds and even panting dogs. But it wasn't their mothers and grandmothers who first taught them this ancient Inuit art form known as throat-singing, Instead, their teacher was a friend who had picked it up more than 1,400 kilometres away while studying at Nunavut Sivuniksavut, a small postsecondary school for Inuit, in Ottawa. “You just never heard it growing up. It wasn't there,” Ms. Kuluguqtuq, now 19, recalled.

She estimates the majority of her female friends in this isolated Arctic village of more than 1,300 – located on Baffin Island, about 300 kilometres northeast of Iqaluit – now throat-sing, and most have plans to pass it on to their daughters. Throat-singing is a competitive game usually aimed at getting your opponent to laugh first. Traditionally, Inuit women would throat-sing to entertain themselves and their children when the men were off hunting. Like many other centuries-old Inuit games and traditions such as drum-dancing and ice-hopping, it was discouraged and sometimes banned in the Central and Eastern Arctic when missionaries arrived in the early 1900s. Some communities managed to hold on to their traditions, but others didn't.  However, many young Inuit in communities around the Arctic are proudly reclaiming these fledgling arts as a way to connect with their past and with nature. Many were performed last weekend all around Nunavut to mark Nunavut Day, a holiday to celebrate the signing of the land-claims deal in 1993, which eventually led to the creation of the massive territory six years later.

While the majority of Inuit women throat-sing as a hobby, there is a small but growing group of professional throat-singers in Canada's Far North. The most famous is likely Tanya Tagaq of Cambridge Bay, a community of 1,500 people on the southern coast of Victoria Island. She gained international fame when she began collaborating with Icelandic singer Björk in the early 2000s.  She learned throat-singing while a homesick arts student living in Halifax during her 20s. She began emulating tapes of throat-singing her mother had sent from Cambridge Bay. Ms. Tagaq has taken the traditional art form and woven it with modern musical forms, and even throat-sings by herself. Sylvia Cloutier is also a professional throat-singer, based in Iqaluit. Born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, Ms. Cloutier, who also owns a performing-arts company, has travelled the world with her tundra-inspired music. “When you are connected with a partner, it is so personal because it's like you are sharing the same breath. It's so fun to bond with other women,” Ms. Cloutier, who is in her early 30s, said during an interview at an Iqaluit café.  Like many other young Inuit women, she didn't learn the ancient art from her direct relatives, but instead from a group of female elders in Puvirnituq, a small community in Northern Quebec, during her late teens. She is the daughter of Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an environmental activist nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year.  Ms. Cloutier said there are currently no elders in Iqaluit teaching throat-singing, so she has taken to instructing young Inuit if asked.

“It's easier to teach if someone hears it first, experiences it first and then tries it. It's the indigenous way of learning,” she said. She has also taught throat-singing at Ottawa's Nunavut Sivuniksavut. Nunavut Culture Minister Louis Tapardjuk is pleased that throat-singing and other ancient customs are gaining in popularity, especially in a territory with an exploding population of Inuit youth – more than 60 per cent of Nunavut's 30,000 people are under 25.  About 85 per cent of the territory's population is Inuit, and the government is struggling with serious issues such as rampant substance abuse, family violence and the highest rates of suicide in Canada. “Back in the 1930s, back in the forties, Inuit culture in its entirety was a sin when the missionaries started coming up,” Mr. Tapardjuk said, adding that the continuing reclamation of some disappearing Inuit customs is encouraging. “We need our traditions to know ourselves.” His ministry doles out small grants to communities wanting to promote or teach traditional Inuit games and art forms. Meanwhile, in Pangnirtung, situated on the edge of a fjord off Cumberland Sound, Ms. Kuluguqtuq said she is eager to learn more about throat-singing. “When you want to learn it, you just want to go on and on,” she said. “It relaxes me. It makes me smile.”

Suzie Is Rockin' On

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Tim Lai, Entertainment Reporter

(July 10, 2007) A little over a month ago,
Suzie McNeil joined her first pre-show powwow for We Will Rock You during which the cast shared words of praise for the singer, who plays Oz. Before that, McNeil was always getting ready for the show during these sessions of encouragement.  Being in her first huddle, McNeil was the centre of attention. And it was here, after everyone had taken their turn singing her praises, that McNeil announced she'd be leaving the show in which she made her theatre debut to tour and promote her first album, Broken & Beautiful.  A hush fell, recalls Valerie Stanois, then screaming and then tears – both of joy, of course. The Toronto native who was going to set out as a solo headliner was enveloped by hugs. McNeil's last show as Oz, the rebellious rocker, will be Aug. 4, before Stanois takes on the attitude-filled role. After that, McNeil will continue her summer tour of Ontario before headlining cross-country dates starting in September.  "I can't do both, unfortunately," said McNeil, who was sad and excited during an interview inside the Canon Theatre. "Looking back now, it was the best idea (to do We Will Rock You)."  The 31-year-old, who ascended onto the public radar after a fourth-place finish on the 2005 reality show Rock Star: INXS, was quite apprehensive about joining the futuristic musical at first, having never really done theatre or choreography before. She knew it wasn't going to be a permanent role since her album debuted the same day as the opening of We Will Rock You on April 10, but McNeil said she's going to miss the character.

"There's a freedom, sexiness and lack of inhibition to her that I feel has infiltrated into me," she said before going to a rehearsal for her own show.  The transition to Stanois taking over the part will be very natural. Stanois, McNeil's understudy and an ensemble cast member, first appeared onstage as Oz five days after the show opened in April.  "You can't go, `They're totally different,' because we have the same foundation, but (Stanois and I) might just play (Oz) in a different way," said the effervescent performer. "From the first time I went on as Oz, I never felt any pressure." While excited for her biggest role so far in her young career – Stanois played Rizzo in the StageWest production of Grease – Stanois said the cast is going to miss McNeil's laughter and quirkiness. Before posing for a photograph, the pair appear as two close girlfriends, almost sisters even, as they joke about their escapades out on the town from the previous night.  McNeil will get some good pointers on showmanship when she opens for Aerosmith in Sarnia this Saturday. "He's so inspiring as a front person and I never say that," McNeil said of Steven Tyler. "He's just a firecracker."  When the legendary rock band needed an opening act, Marti Frederiksen, the producer of Broken & Beautiful and a close friend of the group, helped set the two up. McNeil is trying to find some more dates to tour with the "bad boys from Boston," but she's mainly gearing up to play 500-person club venues, which will be announced shortly.  She'll also be doing signings after the shows to connect with her growing fan base.

New Alicia Keys Album Due In October

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 11, 2007) *Alicia Keys fans can circle Oct. 23rd on the calendar to mark the scheduled arrival of her third J Records album, “As I Am.” According to Billboard.com, the project sports more of a rock and funk-edged feel than her previous releases. John Mayer and Floetry singer Marsha Ambrosius are among the guests on the album, while producers include Mark Batson, Kerry "Krucial" Brothers and Harold Lilly Jr. The singer-songwriter gave folks a taste of the new set at Saturday’s Live Earth concert in East Rutherford with a performance of “The Thing About Love,” one of three new songs written by longtime Pink collaborator Linda Perry.  Keys described her sessions with Perry as "not quite the same old thing. My roots are soul, hip-hop and jazz. She's rock but soulful as well."  Billboard was able to preview six new songs from “As I Am,” all of which show off the creative freedom that Keys says drives her entire collection.

"Being able to be so free with no expectations ... the results surpass whatever I could imagine," she tells Billboard. "I am thankful and blessed at how this music is coming out." In other Alicia Keys news, the artist has been added to the line-up of the fourth annual Turks & Caicos Music and Cultural Festival, to be held July 30 through Aug. 6 at Turtle Cove Marina on Providenciales. The bill already includes such talent as John Legend, India.Arie and Freddie Jackson. "We are thrilled that Alicia will be able to join us at this year's festival," said Ralph Higgs, director of tourism at the Turks & Caicos. "Alicia's incredible talent and inspiring spirit fit right into the collection of extraordinary artists already performing at the event. She is a world-renowned artist and traveler and we are very proud to welcome her to the Turks & Caicos Islands."  Other artists tapped to perform include Michael Bolton and Kenny Rogers. For a complete schedule of events and vacation packages, visit www.musicfestival.tc or call the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board at (649) 946-4970.

Arcade Fire, Feist Among Polaris Prize Nominees

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarski, Canadian Press

(July 10, 2007) TORONTO – The Montreal music scene continues to thrive, at least according to the list of nominees for this year's
Polaris Music Prize. Half of the 10 discs shortlisted for the $20,000 award come from Montreal acts, including Arcade Fire, Patrick Watson, the Dears, Miracle Fortress and the Besnard Lakes. Other nominees announced Tuesday include releases from Calgary's Feist, Halifax's Joel Plaskett, Sackville, N.B.'s Julie Doiron, Hamilton's Junior Boys, and Calgary's Chad VanGaalen. The award is meant to recognize Canada's best album based on creative quality, regardless of musical genre or sales figures, much like the esteemed Mercury Prize in the U.K. Plaskett said he was happy his disc is among the contenders, many of them from lesser-knowns who organizers say can expect to see a jump in record sales. "I'm thrilled, there's some great records in the category," said Plaskett, on hand for the announcement at a hip hotel patio bar also featuring 2006 nominee Cadence Weapon spinning records. Despite the strong Quebec presence, none of the nominated discs come from francophone acts, unlike last year's diverse line-up, notes CBC Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence.

"Compared to last year's list, which included an incredible balance of music styles, cultural diversity, and levels of success (Malajube, K'Naan, the Deadly Snakes, Sarah Harmer, Broken Social Scene, Metric, the New Pornographers, Cadence Weapon, Wolf Parade, and the eventual winner, Final Fantasy), this list seems quite ... narrow in scope," Lawrence, a member of the 2006 jury, blogs on the Radio 3 site. "Still an amazing list of records ... but ... seems kinda ... white." Montreal emerged as a hotbed of music buzz in recent years, buoyed by the international success of bands like Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade and the cross-over gains of francophone acts like Malajube and Les Breastfeeders. This year's shortlist was drawn up from submissions by more than 170 Canadian music journalists, broadcasters and bloggers who provided their top five picks. To be eligible, an album had to be released between June 1, 2006, and May 31, 2007. A jury of 11 people will pick the winner at a gala concert on Sept. 24. Last year's winner came from the violin-based act Final Fantasy, who beat out more well-known groups to snag the inaugural cheque as well as increased sales and concert bookings. The week after the win, Final Fantasy, basically the one-man project of musician Owen Pallett, saw record sales double for the disc "He Poos Clouds," manager Steven Himmelfarb said in a Polaris press release. Those behind 2006 nominees Harmer, Wolf Parade and Malajube said they also saw a jump in sales after their discs made the shortlist.


Quebec Singer Corneille Hopes To Tap New Audiences With First English Album

Source:  www.sympatico.ca

(July 2, 2007) MONTREAL (CP) - He's sold 1.7 million albums in French but now Quebec singer Corneille says he is looking to tap a new group of listeners from around the world with the launch of his first English language album. "The Birth of Cornelius" hits stores on Tuesday and is the third album for the German-born, Rwandan-raised singer-songwriter.  Corneille, 30, says singing in English will allow a completely new crowd to enjoy his work.  The album includes 12 songs that look at themes of love, happiness and sorrow. For the first time, Corneille looks through his music at a tragic time of his life growing up in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.  Corneille was the only member of his family to survive while his parents and other family members were killed. An orphan at 17, Corneille arrived in Montreal after living a short time in Germany.  "I've been through a lot and I've just started to truly and honestly learn from it and look at it for what it was, and learn some of the best lessons in life that anyone could ever learn," Corneille said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Prince Returns Home, Until Police Arrive

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(July 09, 2007)  MINNEAPOLIS –
Prince thrilled his hometown fans with three shows over 12 hours, stopping only when police shut him down early Sunday. The Minneapolis native first performed Saturday at a department store to promote his new cologne, cramming nine songs into a 45-minute set. He then played that night at the Target Center arena. He capped the night across the street with a return to First Avenue, the club he made famous in the movie Purple Rain. "Minneapolis, I am home," the Purple One declared after the first song at Macy's department store. Minnesota's governor and the Minneapolis mayor issued proclamations honouring Prince, and fans flew in from all over the country to see him. After the Target Center, Prince waited until nearly 2:45 a.m. before starting the First Avenue show, the first time he had played at the club since 1987. He was 15 songs and 70 minutes into a 24-song set when he announced from the stage: "The authorities say we gotta go. We always listen to the authorities. I promise I'll be back.''  The club is allowed to stay open till 3 a.m. as long as liquor isn't served after 2 a.m. Police Sgt. E.T. Nelson, watching from across the street as fans left the club, pointed to the many officers working overtime because of the event. More than 20 officers had worked to block off the streets surrounding the club and Target Center. "I think it's very arrogant of him to think he can hold us here like this," said Nelson. "The law is the law for anybody.'' First Avenue owner Byron Frank said the police talked with Prince's crew and did give the rocker a little extra time to wind it down. "It's very sad they had to do it, because everybody was having such a wonderful time," Frank said.

Curtis Talks About 'Curtis'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 5, 2007) *The EUR had the chance to throw a microphone in the face of
Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent.   His new album just was slated to hit stores in June, but was pushed to September 4th.   We just wanted to ask where his head was at when he was creating his upcoming offering "Curtis." "Actually the album is more personal than the previous two albums.  I used a little more of my own personal experience. "  How many times are we going to hear artists use that lame ol' cookie cutter description when comparing their new work to their old?  That is a sign Mr. Jackson is now extremely media savvy. However, he went on to amplify. "This album has a child's innocence.  I wrote from a perspective that was earlier than where I was at on 'Get Rich or Die Tryin'.  I wanted to put human emotions on there for people to enjoy when they're in that state of mind." This we gotta see.  Sounds like high concept coming from an individual known more for moving units than creativity. Not that there's anything wrong about an artists moving units, because that's where the money is, but can we please get somebody to show some skill?  50 Cent said he is trying to flex his creative muscle a bit, but it is hard.  "It's a task for me to create material that is sexual from a male perspective, while not being disrespectful." Hmm, we believe there's a term for people that are able to do that.  They're called lyricists.

Rocker Chrissie Hynde To Open Veggie Eatery

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(July 05, 2007) AKRON, Ohio – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee
Chrissie Hynde is opening a vegetarian restaurant here named VegeTerranean. Hynde, lead singer of the Pretenders and Akron native, will sing accompanied by an acoustic guitarist at a free concert at the grand opening of the upscale restaurant on Sept. 15. The restaurant will feature a blend of Mediterranean and vegetarian cuisine. No meat will be served. Hynde, who lives in England, has brought in a Canton restaurateur as a partner in the venture.

N’dour Protests; Kuti Celebrated At Music Fests

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 6, 2007) *Senegalese singer
Youssou N’Dour is scheduled to join a protest of the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region today during the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.  The performer is calling on fellow artists Quincy Jones and others to join a planned march.  "We get the impression that the conflict in Darfur has been put on the back-burner by those in power,” says N’Dour. "We have to show that people are outraged at how long it is taking to resolve this conflict that has killed 300,000 people."

*The music of legendary Afro beat pioneer
Fela Kuti of Nigeria was celebrated by his sons performing at the Festival international de jazz de Montreal this week, a decade after his death.  His youngest son Seun Kuti performed before some 100,000 fans late Tuesday, while Seun’s brother Femi took the stage before 2,000 people at a local hall.  Seun Kuti unleashed some of Fela Kuti's classic tunes -- a hybrid of jazz, soul, and Nigerian "yoruba" music, spiced with political rants.

Village People's Willis To Ride Again

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(July 09, 2007)  LOS ANGELES –
Victor Willis, the original policeman in the disco band The Village People, is planning his first performance in about 25 years after completing a drug treatment program earlier this year, his publicist said. Willis, 55, will appear at the House of Blues in Las Vegas on Aug. 31 in a show previewing his planned 2008 world tour, publicist Alice Wolf said Friday. His "Victor Willis Disco Dance Tour" is to begin in March and is expected to include concerts in the U.S., Australia, Britain, Japan, Norway, Germany and Canada, Wolf said. "He'll come out on his motorcycle" as the cop and perform Village People hits and his solo work, she said. Willis co-wrote hits such as "Y-M-C-A" and "In the Navy,'' Village People standards in the late 1970s. He left the band in 1980. He was arrested in San Francisco in March 2006 after police stopped his car and found cocaine and drug paraphernalia. He pleaded no contest to possessing drugs, was sentenced to three years of probation and entered a nine-month treatment program that he completed in April of this year, Wolf said. Willis was arrested in March after his girlfriend accused him of choking and threatening her, but prosecutors decided not to pursue charges.

Dr. Cornel West Addresses The True Significance Of Black Music

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 10, 2007) *At times when EURweb.com reporters and interviewers have a chance to speak with someone as accomplished in their respective field as
Dr. Cornel West is in his, you have to step up your game as far as questions are concerned.  It's like asking Earth, Wind and Fire about funk or Allen Iverson about the crossover dribble. Here's what the good doctor had to say when asked to describe the dualistic experience of Blacks in America and how that experience fuels the bottomless well of African American musical creativity.   "Black people have a double voice.  We have the European culture and we also have Africa which has been transfigured within a new world situation.  The music was all we had," said Dr. West.  "Especially when you take into consideration that we could not read or write for 246 years....So what were we gonna do? It started on the boat.  There were White people that witnessed Black people humming in minor and major keys that they couldn't even find in European books.  That's how deep it is.  And lets not even start talking about Churches.  We'll be here until next Easter. The fundamental rule of this thing has never been fully grasped.  By a lot of the scholars, but it's been grasped by the people themselves. Dr. West's all-star cast of collaborators including Prince, Jill Scott, KRS-One, M-1 of Dead Prez and many others come together for his upcoming CD release titled "Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations." The Hidden Beach Recordings project drops on August 14.

Timbaland Says Canadian Pop Star Nelly Furtado Engaged: People Magazine

Source: Canadian Press

(July 10, 2007) TORONTO (CP) - Canadian superstar
Nelly Furtado is engaged, her friend and music producer Timbaland has told People magazine.  The celebrity magazine reports that the U.S. hitmaker gave a one-word reply when asked if rumours of an impending wedding were true: "Yes."  The Victoria-bred Furtado was spotted brandishing a diamond on her left ring finger at the Concert for Diana in London last week, fuelling speculation that she's planning to get hitched.  The 28-year-old has been linked to Demacio (Demo) Castellon, a sound engineer who worked with Timbaland on Furtado's hit album "Loose."  Furtado, who has a three-year-old daughter, has largely kept her personal life out of the spotlight.  Her publicist has refused to comment on the reports.

Rap Legend's Son Found Dead In Apparent Suicide

Excerpt from www.thestar.com – Associated Press

(July 11, 2007) ATLANTA – The son of hip-hop legend
KRS-One was found dead in his apartment in an apparent suicide, authorities said Tuesday. Randy Hubbard Parker, 23, died of a gunshot wound to the head and the death was classified as a suicide, said Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office investigator Mark Guilbeau. Parker had suffered a long battle with depression, his mother, Simone G. Parker, said in a statement on Tuesday. He was found on Friday. Parker was a graphic designer and fashion entrepreneur seeking employment in Atlanta. His family said a private memorial service will be held on July 18, which would have been Parker's 24th birthday. A memorial service in New York, where Parker was born, is scheduled for August. KRS-One is a rap pioneer whose hits include "Criminal Minded,'' ``Black Cop," and "The Bridge is Over.''

Wu-Tang Clan ‘Diagrams’ Return

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 11, 2007) *The
Wu-Tang Clan will have a new album in stores this October, marking their first studio release since 2001’s gold-selling “Iron Flag.” Titled “The 8 Diagrams,” the album will feature a tribute to late member Ol’ Dirty Bastard (“Life Changes”), as well as the tracks "You Can't Stop Me Now," "We Got This," "Campfire" and "Thug World," which features System Of A Down bassist Shavo Odadjian, reports Billboard.com. Q-Tip makes an appearance on an as-yet-untitled track that may become the first single. The release from SRC Records features production – as always – from group member RZA, who says the crew has been performing on the road for the past year, but only began recording for the new set in April. Me personally, I wasn't ready until then," RZA tells Billboard. "I reached out when I knew I was 100% ready to do it, and everybody came to the table." In a departure for RZA, he hands over some of the production duties to a handful of major names he has chosen to keep under wraps, for now. "You will hear some unique sounding stuff and a vintage hip-hop spirit," he promises. RZA says he is also working with an ODB outtake that was originally recorded for the group's seminal album "Return to the 36 Chambers."  "I lost it, because the DJ who handled my equipment back then, we just got disconnected," he says. "He actually found the tape about eight months ago and flew out to California with it. The problem is, it doesn't sound all that great, because this was 1992 or 1993 when it was recorded. But ODB's performance is f*ckin' immaculate. So maybe I can find some software to restore it and put it on as a bonus track."

Chrisette Michele: The Real Long Island Sound

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 11, 2007) *Long Island, NY is a place that can stand on its own merits, and yet it plays set second fiddle to older, yet smaller, sister, NYC.  Perhaps that is what gives artists who come from its length that extra "umph".  Case in point,
Chrisette Michele.   "I never liked too much of it," says Michele.  "Culturally there was a lot of it around us, but we didn't have too many Hip-Hop and R&B CDs." OK, one can only respect that.  She reflects the rays of jazz onto an entire generation that may not have otherwise been interested, and she is on Def Jam, at one time the place for Hip-Hop. "I don't know.  We were always busy, we had a lot instruments, were always in choir or dance class.  There just wasn't a lot of it around."  Bailey asked Michele whether she was ever tempted to give it try since others in her circle were into Hip-Hop and R&B "There wasn't really too much pressure to listen to a certain type of music," said Michele.  "Especially when you're into the theatre or choir.  Like I said, it was in my culture but I just preferred other music.  I was definitely into alternative rock coming up.  I was definitely into jazz and I was definitely into gospel.  But Hip-Hop and R&B didn't play a major role in my upbringing." Singing, songwriting, composing and unique beauty are but a few of Michele's many blessings.  Her Def Jam debut is titled "I Am," just in case you haven't been touched by her.  "If I Had My Way" is old school turned new, and "Best of Me" is reminiscent of Rachelle Farrell's style.  The entire set has a de-angering/de-stressing effect.  Chrisette Michele has set the bar high with her first offering.  For MORE, visit her website or MySpace page.

T.I. Strives For Perfection

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 11, 2007) *
T.I. is a rap artist that has young ladies swooning, his mother smiling and his accountants counting.  When EURweb last spoke to the man with a plan, he was describing the difference between his on stage moniker (TI) and his wild side, Tip Harris.  "TI is the mild mannered, well-spoken, well dressed and I guess you can say astute person that you know to be a public figure," the rapper told us.  "Tip would be the person that T.I. had to grow out of in order to achieve these levels of success behaving the way I was behaving.  There's no way I could reach this level conducting myself in that manner.  There's just no place for it."   Being honest and taking personal responsibility are two traits that are not in abundance these days, but T.I. appears to have found where his were hiding.  It is no secret T.I. has an extensive criminal record.  “In order for me to understand that I had to sit down with myself and say, 'Ok, look around.  Who do you see on the level that you would like to be on?  How do you see them behaving?’” T.I. also admits that the reason why he is popular is because of the Tip Harris side of his personality.    "At the same time I have to ask 'What has gotten you here? What do people like about you?  What do people respect you for? What enables you to say this and people do it or wear this and people wear it?" The eternal struggle between good and evil continues on the album "T.I. vs TIP," released on July 3rd.   

Johnny Frigo, 90: Bassist And Violinist

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Entertainment Reporter

(July 05, 2007) CHICAGO (AP) –
Johnny Frigo, a versatile jazz violinist and bassist who toured with Jimmy Dorsey and wrote a jazz standard recorded by Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn, has died, his son said. He was 90. Frigo died early Wednesday at a Chicago hospital after battling cancer in recent years, said his son Rick Frigo. Johnny Frigo was born on Chicago's South Side and spent much of his career playing bass. After playing with the U.S. coast guard band at Ellis Island during the Second World War, he toured with clarinettist Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra. Around that time, Frigo wrote "Detour Ahead," a song that became a jazz standard recorded by Holiday and Vaughn, among others. He was in his late 60s or early 70s when he turned his attention to the violin, appearing twice on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. "Nobody played violin like him," said his son. "Chicago's a poorer place without him." Frigo was also a poet and artist with a keen sense of humour, his son said. When Carson asked him why he'd waited so long to launch his jazz violin career, he replied he didn't want there to be enough time for him to become a has-been, his son said.

George Melly, 80: Jazz Singer

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(July 05, 2007)  LONDON –
George Melly, a flamboyant, gravel-voiced jazz singer, critic and raconteur, died Thursday, his wife said. He was 80 years old. Though suffering from lung cancer and dementia, Melly continued performing nearly until the end. He gave his last concert on June 10. He died at home in London, Diana Melly said. Melly was noted for loud suits, louder ties and the image he cultivated of a hard-drinking throwback to the jazz age. After his navy service in World War II, Melly relished the life of a peripatetic musician. "Hard drinking and squalid digs, but absolutely no regrets," he once recalled. He gave up the musician's life in 1962 to concentrate on writing about surrealist art and working as a music and theatre critic. In 1974 he resumed his role as Good Time George and went back on the road with John Chilton's Feetwarmers. Melly is survived by his wife, his son Tom, his daughter Pandora, his stepdaughter Candy and his four grandchildren.  Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

Obituary: Will Schaefer, 78

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Dinesh Ramde, Associated Press

(July 5, 2007) MILWAUKEE —
Will H. Schaefer, a composer whose music accompanied hit television shows such as I Dream of Jeannie and The Flintstones, has died in California, a family friend said Wednesday. He was 78. Schaefer died of cancer Saturday in a nursing home in Cathedral City near Palm Springs, Calif., said Danny Flahive. The Wisconsin-native wrote background music, which is different from theme songs, for such TV shows as The Flying Nun, Hogan's Heroes, The AristoCats, The Jetsons, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He also composed and recorded music for more than 700 commercials, including ads for companies such as Ford, Chevrolet and Pillsbury. He also reworked the song It's a Small World for Disney to give it an international flavour corresponding to different rooms in the theme park ride. His professional accolades included three Clio Awards for his work on commercials. He also was nominated for an Emmy Award for his score to the Walt Disney TV movie The Skytrap, and for a Pulitzer Prize for his concert piece The Sound of America, commissioned for the 1976 bicentennial celebration. “He was brilliant. Even toward the end of his life, he was writing for a 100-piece orchestra of the Budapest symphony,” Flahive said. During the Korean War, Schaefer was the arranger and assistant conductor with the U.S. Fifth Army Band stationed at Fort Sheridan, Ill., where he wrote music for Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America. Schaefer was born in Kenosha, Wis., and had lived in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He divorced in 1984 after a 20-year marriage and did not have children.


Hairspray Homecoming For Movie Cast Members

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Reporter

(July 10, 2007) You can't stop the beat. The gala Toronto premiere of
Hairspray at the Elgin Theatre started more than 40 minutes late, thanks to the crowds who were lining Yonge St. to see their favourite celebrities like Zac Efron and Amanda Bynes, as well as people who are going to become their favourite celebrities, like Nikki Blonsky. There was a good-time vibe in the air, not just because of the movie itself, but because it was shot in Toronto last summer. The last time that happened here, it was for the Oscar-winning Chicago and the fact that the same two producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, are connected had everybody thinking positive thoughts. "I can't deny it," said Zadan on his way into the screening. "We think this city is good luck for us." Hairspray opens in theatres July 20. "There couldn't be any movies more different than Chicago and Hairspray," conceded Meron, "but they have two things in common: they're both great and they were both shot in Toronto."

Hairspray is based on the film by John Waters which tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a teen growing up in Baltimore in 1962, who not only triumphs over her city's racial prejudices, but gets the guy and winds up a star on the local TV teen dancefest. The Broadway musical was a giant hit, but that was no guarantee that the film version would be the same. For every Chicago, there's a whole horde of The Phantom of the Operas and The Producers waiting in the wings to prove how a Broadway hit can become a Hollywood flop.  But it looks like this one did it right. You could almost smell the positive assurance in the air as all the opening-night pieces fell into place.  It was exciting to see Toronto's premiere vocal coach,
Elaine Overholt, swanning down the red carpet with the same aplomb as the Hollywood stars, but it was even better to realize that all of the cast viewed last night as a joyous homecoming to the place where they had happily shot this film a year before. "I kept thinking of how special Toronto was to me," Efron said. "It was the first city I was ever on my own in, the first city where my mom didn't do my laundry. I became a man here. That's kinda cool."

Efron, the film's romantic hero, Link Larkin, admits that in those days before TV's High School Musical made him an object of adolescent hysteria, he just used to "set out and explore this city on my own. It was so beautiful and I loved doing it without anyone to have to explain myself to. Nobody knew me and that was very, very sweet." For young Nikki Blonsky, fresh out of high school when she was cast in the leading role of Tracy in this multi-million dollar film, Toronto will always be a place where "everybody welcomed me. Everybody said, `Hi there, come on and do your best.' Nobody was judging me. Everybody was hoping I'd make it happen and with that energy behind me, I knew I could." Elijah Kelley, cast as the dynamic Seaweed, immediately found Toronto to be "a place that was willing to let you be yourself, whatever form that took." While many of his co-workers kept to downtown, Kelley took off to neighbourhoods like Scarborough and discovered an environment where ,"everybody was willing to accept you for what you were," which, ultimately, is what Hairspray is all about. Teen star Bynes, who plays Penny, also admitted to having had "the most fantastic time in Toronto." Internet gossip has frequently linked her romantically to Toronto performer Josh Feldman, who was a dancer in the ensemble of the show and with whom she has supposedly been involved for more than a year.  There have been photos of them on holiday displayed online, as well as other proof of their relationship, but when Bynes was asked about this, she surprisingly said: "I'm not dating anyone."

Quebec Film Beats U.S. Blockbusters

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(July 06, 2007) On a weekend dominated by two summer blockbusters, a Quebec film called
Nitro has done the unthinkable by crashing the Top Five in Canada's box office. Directed by Alain Desrochers, Nitro's explosive opening weekend of almost $700,000 – making it the fifth most watched film in the country – is even more surprising considering it is only showing in la Belle Province. "We are very extremely happy. We knew that there was tough competition on the weekend with the opening with Live Free or Die Hard and Ratatouille. We actually beat them both in Quebec," said producer Pierre Even. "It's over all our expectations, the opening weekend. We're thrilled."  Having homegrown Quebec stars Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge and Lucie Laurier in the lead roles helped, Even said, noting "that's why we beat Bruce Willis."

The next question for the film – distributed by Alliance Vivafilm, a division of Alliance Atlantis – is could it have the same crossover appeal in English Canada as other Quebec hits like C.R.A.Z.Y. – which Even also produced – and past box-office winners like last year's Bon Cop, Bad Cop? With other summer blockbusters like the latest Harry Potter and The Bourne Ultimatum on the horizon, Even is hedging his bets as to whether Alliance – which strongly promoted Nitro throughout Quebec for the past nine months – will take the leap in the Anglo market. "With the success here in Quebec, maybe it's a good jump-start to cross over into English Canada. With Alliance, it's something we'll discuss in the coming weeks," Even said. Even sees a bright future for the Canadian film industry, noting an increasing amount of collaboration across the cultural divide between Quebec and the rest of Canada. He is co-producing Hank and Mike, which was shot in Toronto earlier this year, a "dark side of Easter" comedy expected to premiere next year. It stars Joe Mantegna and Chris Klein.

Negotiations are underway and those attached to the project are hoping to persuade the Toronto International Film Festival to premiere Hank and Mike in September, Even said. Along with East Coast filmmakers Lynne Wilson and Barbara Doran, Even is also co-producing another comedy, Surfing in Newfoundland, which he described as "a very cool project." But at a time "when things are happening" for Canada's film industry from coast to coast, the federal government is failing to respond with additional support, Even said. While the federal government recently renewed its commitment to the Feature Film Fund, the amount in the fund hasn't increased in seven years. "This industry ... is creating jobs, we're making good films, we're representing Canada all over the world. It's really an industry that is burgeoning and we need more support from the federal government," Even said.

'Sex And The City' To Be A Movie

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Reuters

(July 05, 2007) LOS ANGELES – The four women who spiced up Manhattan's singles scene for six years on the HBO television series "
Sex and the City" appear headed for a big-screen reunion after all. New Line Cinema, a corporate sibling of HBO under Time Warner Inc., is close to sealing a final deal to finance and distribute the long-stalled picture, a spokesman for the studio said today. The project is set to begin shooting in the fall with all four stars of the HBO hit – Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon – on board to reprise their roles. Longtime series executive producer Michael Patrick King will direct the film from his own script and serve as producer, along with Parker and series creator Darren Star. While no release date has been set, the movie presumably would arrive in theatres sometime next year. Plans for a movie were first revealed by HBO in early 2004, months before the show ended its six-season run. But the project stalled, according to show business newspaper Daily Variety, when Cattrall sought greater script control and a salary closer to that of Parker, who was more highly paid than her co-stars because she was a co-executive producer of the series.

Variety said Cattrall ultimately was won over with a sweetened offer that included a series deal with HBO. The New Line spokesman said it was not immediately clear whether any supporting cast members, such as Chris Noth, would join the film. "Sex and the City," based on the work of best-selling author Candace Bushnell, was the first cable series to win an Emmy for best comedy and starred Parker as a fashion-conscious New York columnist who writes about Manhattan's dating scene. The series co-starred Cattrall as the vixen-like public relations executive Samantha Jones; Nixon as hard-boiled lawyer Miranda Hobbes, juggling career with motherhood; and Davis as inveterate optimist Charlotte York, who married her own divorce lawyer after a long search for Mr. Right. While many television series over the years have been based on movies or made into feature films, it is rare for prime-time shows to make the transition to the big screen with most of their original cast members. Among the few that have done so are "Star Trek" – both the original series and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" – and "The X-Files."

Spielberg on Spielberg

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan

(July 06, 2007) The movie business has been very good to
Steven Spielberg, even if the film critics haven't always played along. With rare exception, reviewers have been sharply dismissive of the Spielberg oeuvre, which spans nearly four decades. Serious film-world respect has long been denied him, despite his track record as the most successful director in film history and his ongoing omniscient rank as the most powerful man in Hollywood. The industry has made some concessions. Spielberg has won the best-director Oscar on two occasions - for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan - though his name still evokes the stronger imagery of Jaws and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. To the serious cineaste, Spielberg will forever remain the king of the big, dumb movie blockbuster. It's possible the title still galls Spielberg, a man well known for his artistic pretensions. Why else would he cast François Truffaut in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? There must be some reason why the famously private director chose to participate in Spielberg on Spielberg (Monday, TCM at 8 p.m.), a new documentary in which the 61-year-old director provides a chronological recap of his own film catalogue - dating back to his first efforts on 8-mm. Save for a fatuous Biography profile several years ago, there have been few attempts to cover Spielberg's brilliant career, which makes Spielberg on Spielberg required viewing.

Running 90 minutes, with no commercials, the special focuses solely on Spielberg, filmed from three angles and intercut with moments from his films. The program was produced and directed by Time magazine film critic Richard Schickel, who has essayed earlier profiles on Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen. Employing the identical format, Schickel is the unseen, unheard off-camera interviewer, who again elicits a previously unseen side of a movie icon. In this instance, it's Spielberg's belief that movies were his manifest destiny. In Spielberg's view, there was simply no other choice but to become a director. There is some ego on display in Spielberg on Spielberg, though much of it is backed up with the clips of his earliest works. In his own words, he describes himself as a child obsessed with film, even in grade school. He won his first award for a war film, Escape to Nowhere, when he was 13. As he tells it, he never looked back. A few years later, he made his professional debut with a 24-minute short called Amblin'. The breezy Spielberg style is clearly evident in the footage shown. The film caught the attention of Hollywood executives, who signed him to a seven-year contract as a TV director. While still in his teens, he was shooting episodes of Marcus Welby: M.D. and directing Joan Crawford in the pilot episode of Night Gallery. Spielberg reveals that television taught him an early hard lesson: "A director in television loses control the second he walks off the soundstage. ... I realized my next goal was to make movies, and at some point have control over the movies I make."

His creative autonomy came with Duel, a 1971 TV-movie starring Dennis Weaver as a man in a Plymouth Valiant being terrorized by an 18-wheeler. The theme was repeated four years later when he directed the film version of Jaws, based on a bestseller by Peter Benchley. It still seems to rankle him that he was the second choice to direct the movie. Jaws led to E.T. and Close Encounters, which in turn led to Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Color Purple, which Spielberg claims was "my first grown-up film." The program conveniently skips past several of Spielberg's most notable screen misses - namely, Hook, Always, Twilight Zone: The Movie -- but he does admit to excess with his most momentous flop - the 1979 epic 1941, which he describes now as "too loud, too much." Spielberg has never deigned to provide commentary on a single DVD release, which makes Spielberg on Spielberg a TV event, of sorts. While it's far from a critical analysis, he makes an affable interview subject and the program reveals him to be in a reflective mood in his late-career years. At this point, it appears he's no longer worried about gaining respect. He just wants people to like him.

German Film Board Backs Cruise's Anti-Hitler Film

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Erik Kirschbaum, Reuters

(July 5, 2007) BERLIN — Germany's film board will grant subsidies worth4.8 million euros ($6.5-million U.S.) for a controversial new film in which
Tom Cruise plays a German hero executed for trying to kill Hitler, officials said on Thursday. Despite a row about the film's thwarted efforts to use a memorial site where the Nazis shot Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the government-backed Federal Film Board (FFA) endorsed the funding, two Berlin officials who were informed about Wednesday's decision told Reuters. “The Cruise film will get 4.8 million euros,” one of the officials said. The subsidies are available to any film as long as a German-based producer is involved and certain percentages of the costs fall in Germany. The FFA grant, from a new 60 million euro annual subsidy budget, exceeds the total cost of most German films.  One of the officials said the FFA backing should allay fears that Germany is fundamentally opposed to Cruise playing Stauffenberg because of the actor's links to Scientology.

The government regards Scientology as a cult masquerading as a religion to make money, a view its leaders reject. Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung has said the filmmakers cannot shoot at any military sites as long as Cruise plays the lead role, and Stauffenberg's eldest son had said he does not want Cruise to portray his father. However the Finance Ministry, which controls state properties, has said filming is generally banned at the “Bendlerblock” — the site of the conspirators' execution and now a national shrine within the Defence Ministry complex — because of a bad experience with a German filmmaker. Valkyrie — named after the plot's codename — is due to begin filming at locations in Berlin on July 18. The film is being directed by Bryan Singer and due for release in 2008. Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators were shot after failing to kill Hitler with a briefcase bomb on July 20, 1944. A spokeswoman for the FFA declined to confirm the subsidies, but said the board had agreed some grants on Wednesday.

Gosling, Weaver Join List Of Celeb-Filled Screenings

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(July 06, 2007) New films featuring Canadian Ryan Gosling, Sigourney Weaver and a host of other major names will up the celebrity wattage at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, while also demonstrating how much Hollywood continues to look to TIFF as a publicity launching pad for its more mature (i.e. non-blockbuster) releases. Specifically, TIFF listed a handful of films yesterday scheduled for its Special Presentations program, which usually includes movies coming to the festival with a retinue of Hollywood publicists staking out upscale Toronto hotel rooms, mid-tier film execs shaking hands at VIP parties and special tickets being given out to the right people. Among the films is Lars and the Real Girl, which stars Gosling as an unassuming Midwestern young man, destined to spend his days in an office cubicle leading a dull existence - until he finds a life-sized doll, "a stunning Danish-Brazilian missionary from the tropics named Bianca," according to the festival's synopsis, which then turns into the girl of Gosling's dreams. It's a romantic comedy, and it stars Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson. Nancy Oliver, a writer and producer of the TV series Six Feet Under, wrote the script. Another star vehicle is The Girl in the Park, the directorial debut of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Auburn, featuring Weaver as a woman living through the trauma of losing her three-year-old daughter, who disappeared in Central Park 15 years earlier.  But then Weaver's character meets a troubled young woman, played by Kate Bosworth (Lois Lane in Superman Returns), whom she brings into her life. Expect plot twists and the obvious question of whether the young woman is really the long-lost daughter.

Danny Glover stars in the John Sayles-directed Honeydripper, about an owner of a downtrodden juke joint in Alabama and a young guitar picker who electrifies the bar with newfangled rock 'n' roll music. The film is billed as capturing that pivotal time when the blues became rock, yet critics will no doubt scrutinize it for any misstep in authenticity. But Sayles has significant independent-cinema cred from his previous films such Casa de los babys and City of Hope, which may placate some doubters. Also on the festival's list yesterday was Then She Found Me, the directorial debut of actor Helen Hunt, who also stars as a schoolteacher who faces divorce and the emergence of her lost birth mother, played by Bette Midler.  The film also stars Matthew Broderick as Hunt's ex-husband and Colin Firth as her new flame. Finally, there is Romulus, My Father, an Australian film based on Raimond Gaita's memoir about the harsh adversities faced by a couple in bringing up their son in 1960s Australia. Already generating strong word of mouth, the film stars the stunning Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) and was adapted to the screen by poet-playwright Nick Drake. The latest teaser from TIFF comes a week after it announced that No Country for Old Men, the latest Coen Brothers film starring Tommy Lee Jones as a sheriff caught in a blitz of drug violence, will also be in the Special Presentations program. Still, the most high-profile film announced so far is undoubtedly the premiere of Elizabeth: The Golden Age, a gala presentation starring Cate Blanchett in her return as Queen Elizabeth I.

Blair Underwood Wraps Directorial Debut

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com 

(July 9, 2007) *Actor Blair Underwood has nothing but positive things to say about his first-ever directing experience, which comes courtesy of the feature film, “The Bridge To Nowhere.” "We only had 18 days to shoot a pretty large film with no sets, so that was the challenge,” the filmmaker tells columnists Marilyn Beck & Stacy Jenel Smith. “We'd hit it and quit it and keep on steppin'! It has its pros and cons, but sometimes what happens spontaneously is even better." Ving Rhames, Danny Masterson and Bijou Phillips star in the project, which had to be shot guerrilla style and on a shoestring budget. "Each one of those actors brought their A game, and it wasn't for the pay day," Underwood says. "They all responded to the script and story and just wanted to work with people they like and respect." In the movie, Rhames "plays a sort of Godfather to these four Caucasian friends from the north side of Pittsburgh," says Underwood. "Their lives are at a dead end so they create a high end escort service .

They become pimps, for lack of a better word. I'm fascinated by the effects of human behaviour on the psyche, how it affects the soul. There are consequences to every action, and we track these characters to see how each one is dramatically affected by this decision." While working post-production on “Bridge to Nowhere,” Underwood is also busy shooting HBO's upcoming series "In Treatment."  "This is very exciting," he says of the show that chronicles hourly sessions with a psychologist (Gabriel Byrne) and his patients. It's a nine-week limited nightly serial, something we don't have on American TV You watch four characters in therapy each week . The Monday night character in his Monday appointment. I play a fighter pilot who bombed an Islamic school of kids. My character is on each Tuesday night. . Another character is on Wednesday and Thursday, then each Friday night Gabriel Byrne's character goes to his own therapist, played by Dianne Weist."

Taraji (& Ced) 'Talk' About New Film

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(July 11, 2007) *A new film hitting theatres this weekend in New York and LA is sure to give folks something to talk about. The movie, “Talk to Me,” opening nationwide on August 3, features and all-star cast, including Don Cheadle, Mike Epps, Martin Sheen, Vondie Curtis Hall, Taraji Henson, and Cedric the Entertainer.  “Talk to Me” chronicles the story of Washington D.C. radio personality Ralph "Petey" Greene (played by Cheadle), an ex-con who became a popular talk show host and community activist in the 1960s and takes a dramatic look at community radio at a very volatile time in American history. Henson, who has a long resume of film and television, made her biggest mark in the 2005 Oscar-nominated film “Hustle & Flow” and once again gives a stellar performance in the film as the fictional Vernell Watson, Greene’s girlfriend. “She’s a composite character, just a combination of many strong women that he had in his life,” Henson said of her character. “[But] she was so well written.”

Henson admitted that, although she’s a DC native, she was not familiar with the infamous Waldo "Petey" Greene Jr. “This whole story was new to me.” Incidentally, Henson wasn’t the only cast member who didn’t know the story of the radio legend. As it turned out, Cedric the Entertainer developed his own idea of what his character, Bob “Nighthawk” Terry was like. But unlike Henson’s character, Nighthawk is a real person. “I didn’t know about any of these guys,” Ced said. “I read the script and I was interested in it mainly because of Don’s involvement, but I thought it was very interesting. I didn’t even know it was a true story until two days before I shot. I had already added my own interpretation of who the guy was. It was great to find out that. I thought the story was important and significant, but it was even more exciting to find out it was true.” The bio-pic is important and significant as the height of Greene’s career was during a very tumultuous time in the nation’s history; a moment in time in which he became a reluctant hero.    I think it was a reflection of what was going on at the time,” Henson said of how the radio personality took on an important role in the civil rights movement of the ‘60s. “That period in history, to me, was the time to be alive. Also what happened at that time is that we lost every great leader that was the voice of the people.” Henson added that the film was more than just another great role. She learned a lot about history and how leaders of that time period really touched the lives of people.

“I knew Martin Luther King was important,” she said, “but there were millions of people, regular people like us, that would have died for him. That’s amazing that one person can touch so many people – and I’m not talking about just in America, I’m talking about the world!” Henson herself plays a pretty important role of empowerment in the film, too. As Greene’s girlfriend, Vernell goes through some rather tough times. But Henson takes it in stride. The actress said that dealing with a man and his issues isn’t anything new to women in general.  “Hasn’t every woman stayed in a situation maybe longer than they should have?” she asked. “Women love unconditionally. We know no other way. We can get knocked in the head, run over by a car, catch HIV and still find it in our hearts to love. We can be cheated on by a man and still stick it out with him for another 20 years. But sometimes we fall into the trap of enabling a man, but everyone has their ceiling. I think Vernell finally reached it. And that’s what’s beautiful about that turning point in the film. That’s when she became the woman she needed to be because he became the man that she needed him to be.” Henson is no stranger in playing a supporting role of a pressured leading man. Her role in “Hustle & Flow” had her believing in the dreams of her pimp boyfriend, played by Terence Howard. And interestingly, Howard was one of the reasons she was attached to “Talk to Me.”

“Terence Howard was attached at first,” she explained. “It was Terence, myself, and Don Cheadle. Terence calls me shortly after ‘Hustle & Flow’ and says I have to read it. I read it and said, ‘Are you kidding me. This is my role.’ Somehow Terence fell out. And when he fell out, I had to fight for the job.” Fortunately for moviegoers, Henson saved her spot in the cast. And now, the actress is fighting to get her own project green-lighted. She, along with her manager, is producing a comedy especially for Henson. While comedy might be a surprising take for fans of the actress, she actually started out doing comedic acting. “Even though I bring humour to every character that I portray, {I’m] not considered a comedic actress unless the movie is considered a comedy. I’m a comedian, but I keep getting these dramatic roles, which is actually really good. If I would have broke as a comedic actress, I would have had to prove myself so it kind of worked out the way it’s supposed to,” she said. For more on “Talk to Me,” check the film’s website. And stay on the lookout for Henson’s next film projects “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons” with Brad Pitt, and “Not Easily Broken,” directed by Bill Duke. She's also been added to the cast of ABC's "Boston Legal." 

Clooney Likely At Film Fest

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(July 11, 2007) Has
George Clooney suffered enough to be credible as a guy on the verge of a meltdown? Clooney may not look sad or tired as he struts the red carpet at Roy Thomson Hall in September for the North American premiere of Michael Clayton at the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs Sept. 6 to 15. But according to director Tony Gilroy, who cast Clooney in the title role, he didn't want Clooney to look every inch the relaxed, carefree self-confident star, also known as Hollywood's most eligible bachelor. The character, a top lawyer in a high-pressure New York law firm, specializes in doing dirty jobs – and as the movie opens, the stress is getting to him. Shattered and exhausted or not, Clooney can be counted on to crank up Toronto's movie-star mania. The festival announced yesterday that Clooney's newest movie will be part of this year's gala program. Coming here direct from its world premiere in Venice, Michael Clayton will have its North American premiere in Toronto, which Warner Brothers will use to promote its fall theatrical release. Given that the criteria for gala selection almost always includes a guarantee of a personal appearance by the star, it's a safe bet that Clooney will join the parade of celebrities coming to Toronto.

According to TIFF co-director Noah Cowan, many of this year's strongest U.S. films, including this one, suggest a return to the 1970s and its mood of paranoia.  Clooney's role is an in-house law-firm fixer. It's a nasty way of life and he'd like to escape, but given his mounting debt and impending divorce, the guy is trapped. As the plot thickens, he gets into a battle with a fiery litigator played by Tilda Swinton – and finds evidence of shocking white-collar crime.  This movie marks the directing debut of Gilroy, who wrote The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy. In an interview with London's The Daily Mail, Gilroy recently explained there's a sadness in Clooney that can't be faked. "George is 46, and he didn't make it when he was 22," says Gilroy.  Before ER made him a TV star, Clooney spent years being not very successful. Gilroy says Clooney still has the scars to prove it and that made him right for the part. One more gala and six films picked for this Special Presentations section were also announced.

Rendition: Will get the gala treatment, stars Reese Witherspoon as Isabella El-Ibrahim, the American wife of an Egyptian chemical engineer who disappears on a flight from South Africa to Washington. Witherspoon won an Oscar as country singer June Carter in Walk the Line (a 2005 TIFF gala). And the cast includes two other Oscar winners – Meryl Streep and Alan Arkin. The director, Gavin Hood, became a TIFF audience favourite the same year with Tsotsi, a South African film that went on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

The Brave One: Directed by Neil Jordan, is a thriller with Jodie Foster as a radio host who becomes the victim of a brutal attack.

Nothing is Private: Marks the directing debut of Alan Ball, who created the series Six Feet Under. Based on the book Towelhead, the movie examines the gap between the political and the personal.

Nightwatching: The U.K./Poland/Canada/The Netherlands film from British cult director Peter Greenaway is a biopic about Rembrandt, telling a seamy story behind his most famous painting.

Before the Rains: A tale of sexual intrigue set in 1930s India.

Reservation Road: Directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) features Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo as two fathers drawn together by the death of a child.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A film about a Paris magazine editor who suffers a stroke. It earned the Best Director prize at Cannes for Julian Schnabel.


Aisha Tyler Dives Into ‘Black Water’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 10, 2007) *Actress Aisha Tyler, last seen as ADA Taryn Campbell on TV’s “Boston Legal,” has been cast opposite Laurence Fishburne in the independent film, “Black Water Transit.”  Set in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, the movie centres on the divergent agendas of criminals, police officers and lawyers as they deal with illegal firearms and a double homicide.   A criminal, played by Karl Urban, attempts to get his family's illegal gun collection to a safe haven. Tyler will play a police detective named Casey Spandau.   Tyler, a 36-year-old San Francisco native, will next be seen in "Balls of Fury."



Second To None

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(July 07, 2007) There's definitely a second wind these days at
Second City. The venerable comedy troupe is branching out in more directions than you can imagine, with TV and film development deals, multi-city touring projects and complex training programs filling up an already-crowded agenda. But, as always with comedy, it's what's on the stage that counts – and there's a pair of Toronto-based projects preparing to make their debut that prove the 47-year-old company is as young as ever. First, at 9 p.m. this Tuesday, CBC debuts a new series called The Second City's Next Comedy Legend, while over in their digs on Mercer St., they're preparing their latest Mainstage Toronto show, Facebook of Revelations, for a July 19opening. "It's about as busy as things have ever been," says CEO Andrew Alexander from his Chicago office, "and, frankly, compared to what it was like a few years ago, it's a giant relief." Flashback to 2003, the summer of SARS and the seemingly unending tourist drain. It was a time when Second City was not only having trouble scraping up audiences, but also discovering their spacious new home at 56 Blue Jays Way was more of a curse than a blessing, leaving them with high overhead and half-empty houses.

There was a time, in fact, when it looked like Second City might cease operations in Toronto – an unthinkable prospect after a history that had launched local alumni like Dan Aykroyd, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Gilda Radner, John Candy and many more. But the canny Alexander moved to smaller headquarters across the street, leaving the former venue to become the Diesel Playhouse, where it's currently playing to SRO crowds with Evil Dead: The Musical. A series of hit revues put the company back on the map (as well as in the black) and it was time to start thinking of expansion. "We realized that when it came to TV," said Alexander, "reality shows were here to stay, so why fight them? But we also knew that, with our name on it, we had to be offering something different." And so Alexander and company set out on a nationwide hunt for new comic talent, auditioning more than 3,700 hopefuls, starting with a series of cattle-call auditions. This may sound a bit familiar, but don't you dare call their new show Second City Idol, or else you'll raise Alexander's ire. "We're not taking a format that somebody else has already set and then just copying it," he insists firmly. "We're definitely giving it our own spin."

And that they are. The host is WWE diva Trish Stratus and the three judges (Joe Flaherty, Elvira Kurt and Mick Napier) have more professional aplomb and people skills than most of their peers on comparable pop-music programs. "We add an element of irony to the whole judging process," adds Alexander, "which takes away a lot of the cruelty you find on other shows." There's also an added level of enjoyable interaction, with four "comic mentors" helping to give the Second City wannabes some useful advice. And since that quartet (Matt Baram, Paul Bates, Anand Rajaram and Naomi Snieckus) are all recent veterans of Second City mainstage shows, they know of what they speak. If you want even more fun, then you can look forward to special "Guest Appearances" by comic icons that run the gamut from Dave Thomas to Andrea Martin. Having gone from coast to coast, did Alexander find the auditioners in a given city shared one particular trait more than any other?  "Yeah," he mutters with a bit of puzzlement. "Everybody in Calgary was really anxious to take their clothes off." Back home on Mercer St., however, everybody's clothes are well and truly on, even though they're starting to sweat a bit with the anticipation of an opening night not that far off. Facebook of Revelations is the 60th mainstage show in the Toronto history of Second City and, even at this late date, given the peculiarities of improvisational comedy, it's hard for anyone to pin down specifics about what the final product will be like. "I am getting a strong idea, however," volunteers director Bruce Pirrie, "that this one is about relationships." Considering the heavily political/social thrust of their last two shows (Bird Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Tip of the Melting Iceberg), that does mark a definite change –which the cast members also feel. "We're going to a lot of places we haven't been recently," says veteran cast member Lauren Ash, "evoking the kind of emotions we haven't dealt with in a while. "But that doesn't mean we're not still about making you laugh. One of my favourite bits is playing a woman who's obsessed with the idea of killing her boss, which I find a real hoot." And Jim Annan, while also concurring with the personal nature of the work, also believes it "has been the most fun experience I've ever had here. Everyone's bursting with ideas and it seems like we've created a lot of this on the fly. "The legendarily tricky Second City titles are not only funny in themselves (I still cherish 1992's `Ontario, Yours To Recover'), but they also provide a key into what the ultimate meaning of the revue winds up being." Is that the case here with Facebook of Revelations? Are they just riffing on the so-current Internet networking craze, or is there something more behind the joke? "Well," begins director Pirrie dryly, "they had to explain what Facebook was to me. I'm from Orillia, where we're all still on dial-up.

Then he gets serious. "Everybody wants to reach out and meet somebody.  "There are so many single people living in Toronto that it's affecting the real estate market. Single-person condos are the biggest mode of living in the city, which is skewing the whole demographic of Toronto." "I like Facebook," volunteers Ash, "because it keeps adding layers to what you know about people. More and more keeps coming to the surface. And the biblical reference? That's cool as well." Annan feels that "every time I do a show here, I learn something new about myself and other people, too. All that and you also get to improvise and get paid for it. Wow!" Alexander, the man behind the Second City empire, looks at everything he's currently got in play – the TV programs, the stage shows, the movie deals – and sums it up: "This is a good time to be funny because things in the world are bad enough that you have to laugh at them, but not so bad that it's impossible to laugh at them."

The Second City's Next Comedy Legend begins airing this Tuesday, July 10 at 9:00 PM on CBC TV.

The Most Handsome Man On The CBC

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - R.M. Vaughan

(July 06, 2007) Late in her life, the great Bette Davis stooped to denounce the poor work habits of contemporary film stars. Back in her day, when actors were actors, she made three or four movies a year - not one every four years. Kids today.  Carlo Rota is no Bette Davis (although one bets he could do a mean impersonation), but he does share her old-school work ethic, not to mention her inky, swimming-pool eyes.  Since the early nineties, Rota has starred in every Canadian television show you love, many small Canadian films you would love if you ever saw, plus all those syndicated, B-budget American dramas we make in Toronto to keep our actors fed and watered. From sombre Street Legal to the cheesy delights of Relic Hunter, Rota has proved his versatility - he can do comedy, he can do mystery, he can kill aliens.  What a difference a couple of casting calls make. This fall, Rota finds himself in the enviable position of returning to central roles in two zeitgeist-defining shows - 24 and Little Mosque on the Prairie. If only he could forgive himself for Forever Knight.

Yours is a heavy burden. You're the first handsome man on CBC Television since Bruno Gerussi.

Yes, it's a burden I and the CBC have acknowledged, and I'm trying to bear it as best I can. It's difficult, but one makes sacrifices. Acting is a hard calling.

Have you been bumped off 24 yet?

No! Miraculously, I made it through the whole season, and in the season finale, the one definite cliffhanger is that Morris, my character, has somehow made Chloe pregnant.

There's more than one way?

Well, through the natural way, of course, or some highly sophisticated way, involving sporting equipment and elastic bands.

The things you people get up to.

You have no idea. Now, I haven't heard for sure that I'm back next year, and one never knows with 24 - they tend to kill people off. Really, I won't know till the middle of the summer. But the ending of the last season is built into the next season.

Since the War on Terror has no end, the show could go on forever too.

Oh, yes. They've had the same format for the last six seasons, and the thinking is that it's starting to wear thin, so they're going to change things up.

When they do kill you off, I hope it's in your contract that you die spectacularly.

I have suggested that to the producers, that I don't want to go quietly. I want fireworks, some heroic ending, with lots of children crying over my grave.

You're Italian-Canadian-British, so you've played just about every ethnicity. That must be a great gift, but I suspect it's kept you from getting lead roles in mainstream productions.

In a way, yes. There was always a struggle for me to not be seen only in a certain light. One of the problems is that I look a lot differently than I sound. When people think of Englishmen in North America, they don't think of someone like me, they think of Julian Sands. I'm a man with an English accent, who's lost his hair and who looks Mediterranean. So, either I was playing despicable human beings, or I was somebody from the future. I used to ask, why can't I play the doctor? It makes for fun when I renew my work visa.

I think the success of Little Mosque has less to do with the supposed novelty of its premise and more to do with the fact that it's really a classic comedy - Green Acres with hijabs.

It definitely is like an old-style comedy. My sister says it reminds her of an English comedy from the 1960s. As we progress into the second season, there's going to be an effort to increase the comedic elements and spend less time showing the audience what the Islamic characters are about. But there is definitely a sweetness to the show that's from another era.

Your cooking show, The Great Canadian Food Show, ran for five years. That's a sweet gig - getting paid to eat.

It was a great chance to see the country, because we went from province to province. I really felt that I'd truly become a Canadian after I did that show.

You are working for the CBC!

No, I'm being serious.

You can tell me - some of the food must have been less than savoury.

There were a couple of episodes that, well ... we had this signal if something wasn't going down well, if I was not feeling celebratory about the food. I would say, "Have you seen Willy?" and we'd stop filming.

That's too easy. I am not touching that one. You are a motorcyclist, but now that you're such a valuable commodity, are you allowed to ride your bike?

There's no "please joyfully ride your motorcycle at high speeds during the shooting of our show" clause in my agreement, believe me - but it's a very difficult habit to give up.

Telma Hopkins: Reviving the Next Generation of Roots

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Deardra Shuler

(July 10, 2007) *Telma Hopkins participated as a guest on my radio show “Topically Yours,” on BlakeRadio.com, Rainbow Soul.  We talked about her role on Roots: The Second Generation, an award winning mini-series due to air Sunday, July 8th through Sunday, July 15th as part of TV One’s 30th Anniversary’s telecast of Alex Haley’s popular book “Roots.”  A marathon showing of the first six parts will run from noon to midnight on Saturday, July 14th.  After it runs one night, the same episode will air the following day at noon. Cast members such as Leslie Uggams, LaVar Burton, Ben Vereen, Lou Gossett, Jr., Lynn Moody, et al, will host segments and talk about how “Roots” impacted their lives.  Roots followed the generations of a slave family from Africa in the 1700s through the Civil War up until Haley traced his roots back to Africa.  The epic program which won an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Peabody Award aired 30 years ago.  During that time, the saga had a stunning impact and touched the conscious of America.    “Roots” was my first acting job,” stated Telma. “I was primarily a singer.  My agent introduced me to black casting director, Rubin Cannon, who was casting the film.  I had already seen the first Roots.  Cannon asked me to read for the sequel “Roots: The Second Generation.”  I had never auditioned before and was scared.   I got the role,” remarked the comedic actress.  “People began tracing their families. My sister attempted to do our family tree and traced my grandmother’s side of the family but it became hard to trace both sides of the family so we never completed it,” explained Telma who was born in Louisville, Kentucky and later moved to Detroit as a child.

“Detroit had cars and music and lots of talent contests.  I auditioned for Motown but was too young. My group was sent to Golden World Studio.  The studio hired us that day and we started singing background.  Tony Orlando wanted to put a singing group together and heard about my group. He called me but I was working with Isaac Hayes. At the time I wasn’t interested.  It took a lot for Tony to get me to leave Isaac.  Tony was very persistent and finally he convinced me to try it.  I told him if he took me and my best friend, Joyce to Europe I would do it.  Our first tour was in Europe and Joyce and I became Dawn.  We were billed as Tony Orlando and Dawn,” reminisced the singer/actress.  Their song “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” became a hit.   “Yellow Ribbon” was really about a guy in prison who wanted to know whether his lady would take him back so he told her to tie a yellow ribbon around an oak tree to give him a sign he could come home,” explained Hopkins.  “The song became popular with soldiers.  It took on a life of its own.  It became synonymous with bringing the boys home during Viet Nam.  And now we are engaged in the Iraq war. This is another war that is taking kids from their families.  There is something wrong with that because these young people don’t know if they will return.  Some are young parents.  What happens to all those fatherless/motherless babies?  This war is an endless quagmire with no end in sight.  We just keep sending our kids into this bottomless pit,” remarked the former star of “Bosom Buddy,” “Gimme A Break” and “Family Matters.”  “Singing was great but I like the normalcy of acting,” claimed the daredevil who actually rode a bike across a high wire.  “Singing kept me on the road and I missed events in my son’s life.  That was heartbreaking.  Acting is stable and I can come home every night.  “I did the “Odd Couple” before I did “Bosom Buddies.  Tom Hanks starred in that show.   “I had a sense of humour as a child.  My grandmother would tell me stop being so silly and be more serious.  After I got my first comedic role and made money, grandmother bragged to everyone,” chuckled Telma, who played Aunt Rachel and show mom to Bryton McClure who played her son on “Family Matters.” “I’m proud of Bryton,” said Hopkins about her former TV son who recently won an Emmy for his role on “The Young & The Restless” soap opera.  “He is a good actor and singer who still calls me his pretend Mommy,” said Telma proudly. 

Ms. Hopkins has appeared on “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” “ER, ” “Suddenly Susan,” “Any Day Now” and “Half and Half.”  A humanitarian Telma brought awareness about arthritis through her association with “Act On Arthritis,” an organization that informs the public about the disease.  She works with AIDS babies and via her association with the PTA, reminds parents to get involved in their children’s education.  “There is so many ways to help. Sometimes you think you can’t do enough. I mentored a young boy and I saw the difference I made in his life,” remarked Telma who is presently working on producing a spiritually based talk show hosted by women of color and representing diverse women of all ages.  The talented actress does voice over work and is looking forward to producing artistic projects.  “I advise viewers to check out www.tvoneonline.com or http://www.tv-one.tv for information about the upcoming Roots series,” suggested Telma. “Roots” and its sequel “Roots: The Next Generation” is a piece of our history that will never get lost.  “Roots” should make us proud, serve to motive us and reminds us to stand strong because we are survivors.”

Stage Legends Advise TV Contestants

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(July 10, 2007)
Chita Rivera and Joel Grey, two of Broadway's most recognized "triple sensations," had some words of advice Monday for contestants in a CBC-TV reality show. "You don't become a triple sensation (singer, actor and dancer) just waking up in the morning," said Grey, participating with Rivera in a master class for 12 young finalists in the show "Triple Sensation" debuting this fall. "Nobody does that. They may have beginnings of talent, but that's got to be nurtured, moulded and directed." Rivera agreed, crediting her teachers for giving her the mentorship she needed to succeed and persevere in show business. "I had luck on my side. Not only great teachers, but my first audition, which I will tell the kids about, was purely by accident and it turned my life around from ballet to Broadway," Rivera said. The two stars visited the National Ballet School studios in Toronto to impress upon the contestants that a successful career in the performing arts will be the result of hard work, no matter who gets a leg up by winning the TV competition.

The finalists, ranging in age from 16 to 24, earned their spots on the show in a national talent search. CBC has not named them or said where they're from. During the month-long master class they're receiving training in vocal performance, dance and Shakespeare, as well as circus and clown technique, stage combat and improvisation, from high-profile teachers including comedian Joe Flaherty (SCTV) and Stratford Festival actress Diane D'Aquila. The winner of the title of Canada's Triple Sensation will receive a $150,000 scholarship prize. "Part of the process of any actor is the mentorship from other actors, and you can't have any more profound mentorship, for even a few hours, than having two people like Chita and Joel, who have graced the stages of the world for the last 50 years," said impresario
Garth Drabinsky, the show's producer. Drabinsky said the program will show audiences the struggles that young actors face in committing themselves to a life in the theatre. Rivera is a two-time Tony award-winning performer who was Anita in the original Broadway production of "West Side Story." Joel Grey won Tony and Academy Awards for his performance in the original Broadway and film versions of Cabaret.

Sponsors Drop Ads From Controversial BET Series

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(July 10, 2007) LOS ANGELES – At least two companies have pulled ads from the debut of BET's "
Hot Ghetto Mess," a series that critics say puts black stereotypes on display but the channel calls "a blend of tough love and social commentary.'' State Farm Insurance Cos. and Home Depot asked BET to drop their ads from the series debuting July 25, trade paper The Hollywood Reporter said Tuesday. Viacom Corp.-owned BET confirmed that sponsors asked to be removed from the show but declined to specify the companies involved. Other advertisers remain in place and there are no plans to change the series at this point, the channel said Tuesday. "Hot Ghetto Mess," also called "HGM," combines viewer-submitted home videos and BET-produced man-on-the-street interviews that the channel said in a release are intended to challenge and inspire "viewers to improve themselves and their communities.''

"Is my goal to discuss these issues in a format and context that makes people who don't watch the channel comfortable or do it in a way that engages the 18- to 34-year-old viewer and makes them really think about these things?" Reginald Hudlin, BET entertainment president, told the Hollywood Reporter. The six-episode series is hosted by comedian Charlie Murphy (``Chappelle's Show''). It's based on a Web site that features photos of men and women, mostly black, with extreme hairstyles and clothing typically linked to hip-hop fashion. Hotghettomess.com was created by Jam Donaldson, 34, a black lawyer who's also an executive producer on the BET show, the Hollywood Reporter said. On the site, Donaldson calls for a "new era of self-examination.'' On TV, "Hot Ghetto Mess" includes people of all ethnicities, a network spokeswoman said. But the show and the web site have drawn accusations of being demeaning to blacks from critics including What About Our Daughters, a blog and audio podcast that focuses on how black women are depicted in popular culture. The blog called for advertisers featured on a BET Web page promoting "Hot Ghetto Mess" to withdraw support of BET and its properties, and said it would complain to companies that sponsor the series. "This is just a latest in a prolonged and consistent pattern of BET profiting off of promoting images that malign and degrade African Americans," a posting on What About Our Daughters said of ``Hot Ghetto Mess.''

Strike Fears Create Real TV Drama

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem, TV Critic

(July 11, 2007) LOS ANGELES, Calif.– And so it begins ... The annual U.S. fall season preview hosted by the
Television Critics Association is off and running here, a welcome return to relative civilization, having moved this year to the more conveniently situated L.A. hotel, the Beverly Hilton, from its former home in Pasadena. But TCA is the best venue for generating advance buzz about their new fall programming, which in this highly competitive climate is becoming exponentially essential. But the hottest TV drama of this season won't be found on any network or cable schedule: the looming shadow of a possible industry-wide strike, starting with the Writers Guild, whose contract expires in October, followed by the Screen Actors and Directors Guilds, who have almost a year to go. Unlike the recent, largely ineffectual Canadian industry action, a three-pronged American strike would have a devastating impact, as it did back in 1988, when the writers traded in their typewriters and word processors for protest placards and walked off the job for almost six months. The last time a strike was even threatened, seven years ago, the result was a season of rushed, half-baked series and a glut of writer/actor/director-proof reality programming from which we have yet to fully recover.

Things have not yet reached that point, though the studios are already drawing up their battle plans, rushing production and stockpiling episodes, intractably unwilling to share with the unions any additional profit percentage from DVD sales and new media platforms. It should make for some spirited party patter at the upcoming annual TCA Writers Guild reception.  Some trends have already started to emerge – though this too is business as usual, in that whatever worked last year has been copied ad nauseum, and everything that failed has been avoided. So say goodbye, for the most part, to the serialized drama, and hello to a resurgence of genre programming, à la Heroes, one of the few undisputed hits of last season. There are contemporary remakes of Flash Gordon, Jekyll & Hyde, The Wizard of Oz and Bionic Woman, a mid-season series spin-off of the Terminator film franchise (The Sarah Connor Chronicles), a spin-off of the new Doctor Who (Torchwood), a spin-off of Heroes itself (Origins) ...  Getting back to relative reality, there are a couple of very promising cop shows, including one with Holly Hunter (Saving Grace) – though apparently that one has an angel in it – and another set in post-Katrina New Orleans (K-Ville). But the best new cop drama is Life, the story of an L.A. officer (Damien Lewis) who serves 12 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, is cleared and exonerated, scores a major cash settlement from the LAPD ... and promptly rejoins the force as a detective. It's Monk meets House meets Burke's Law, and absolutely not to be missed.

Comedy seems to be recovering nicely from its post-Friends/Seinfeld/Frasier malais, with the return of Kelsey Grammer as a blustery news anchor busted back from the big leagues for swearing on-air. There he is reunited with his fractious former co-anchor, played by Patricia Heaton, who finally has someone substantial to bounce off of, having wasted nine years blowing Ray Romano off the screen. The show also benefits greatly from Fred Willard as a sexist sportscasters, and, behind the scenes, master sitcom director Jim Burrows, who has also signed on as a co-producer. One potentially alarming trend – imported English actors who, following Hugh Laurie's House, are effectively masquerading as Americans (Life's Lewis, Journeyman's Kevin McKidd, and Bionic Woman Michelle Reilly, for starters).  This used to be our job. Apparently, Brits are the new Canadians. On the other hand, Americans will soon be laughing out of the other side of their borders. Next week the U.S. superstation, WGN, will hold a breakfast launch for the distinctly Canadian comedy phenomenon, Corner Gas. Put that in your tea and stir it.


So You Think You Can Sing Hymns?

Source: Reuters News Agency

(July 9, 2007) NEW DELHI – A new reality television contest of hymn-singing pop idols is aiming to bring spirituality to young Indians influenced by liberal Western lifestyles and stressed by increasing work pressures. Producers of
Swaradhiraj or "supreme ruler of musical notes" - which is expected to be aired in October - say contestants will sing spiritual songs of any religion. Instead of prizes of cash or cars normally offered to winners of India's numerous singing reality shows, the winner will get a paid pilgrimage to a holy site of their choice and the chance to record an album of devotional songs. "Youth today are going to discotheques. They are drinking too much, smoking too much and being influenced by Western media," said Arvind Joshi, an official from Aastha, India's largest spirituality television channel, which will air the show.  "So we are trying to make them start thinking in the right direction." A booming economy has brought prosperity to many of India's urban areas, creating a burgeoning middle class. But it has also led to more stressful lifestyles, where a faster pace of life has left many urbanites working long hours and with little time to relax. This has resulted in a proliferation of faith-based TV stations offering talk shows, astrological programs and classes on yoga and alternative medicine as a soothing alternative to 24-hour news channels and soap operas. A survey in January found Indians have become more religious in the past five years, partly because of the stress of urban living, with as many as 93 per cent believing in God.


Paul Sportelli And Jay Turvey Created A New Musical That Tells A Timeless Love Story

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

July 08, 2007) There are musicals and then there are musicals. Let the commercial theatre search for the next Jersey Boys or Wicked. Those are all well and good in their own way. But when one of Canada's largest classical festivals puts its considerable resources to bear toward the creation of a new piece of musical theatre, the odds are that that it's going to be something out of the ordinary. And that's what everybody at the Shaw Festival hopes is going to happen with Tristan, the new show by Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey that starts previews on Thursday, prior to an opening on July 28. After all, events like this don't happen very often. You could count the completely original musicals presented over the years by Shaw and Stratford on one hand and still have fingers left to wiggle. So obviously, Tristan is a major investment, not just financially, but artistically and emotionally as well. On the surface, it's not anybody's idea of your slam-dunk smasheroo, guaranteed to make a million bucks and pack `em in at the box office, but then, neither was Spring Awakening, which just walked off with all the Tonys this past June. Maybe the way to win the hit musical game is not to play it at all. That's certainly the route that Sportelli and Turvey have taken with Tristan. It's based on a 1902 short story by Thomas Mann, set in a sanitarium in the German Alps.

While they are both being treated for tuberculosis, a brooding poet (Spinell) becomes attracted to a happily married woman (Gabrielle) who has sacrificed her great talent as a pianist to serve her family. The two of them become hopelessly entwined, with Gabrielle's playing of the famous aria from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde proving the flash point for a series of emotional explosions. It's a work with the depth that you'd expect from Sportelli and Turvey, but stylistically it initially seems light years away from their usual fare. These are the men, after all, behind the alt-pop music group the jaypaul project and the composer/lyricists of the mordantly jazzy score that won them a Dora for Little Mercy's First Murder.   What drew them to this strange story? They both agreed that the scene where Gabrielle finally plays the piano "leapt off the page" to them as something they had to theatricalize. But what they see underneath that moment is slightly different. "For me it's about reawakening," asserts Turvey, "rediscovery." "While for me," insists Sportelli, "it's about the power of music, the power of art, to change lives." As to the assertion that it's wildly different from what they had written before, Sportelli believes that "your style grows out of what you're writing. That's what informs your work." After their initial impulse to do the show, Turvey laughs that "we worked like crazy and (three months later) we had organized a reading of it down at Shaw."

Jackie Maxwell, Shaw's artistic director, was there and liked what she heard. She worked with the authors that winter and then they did two more workshops. Next came a public reading at Shaw in 2005, followed by a lengthy session at Tarragon in which they tore the show apart and examined it yet again. Finally Maxwell announced it for this season, with Eda Holmes as the director and that's when the real work began. The two people who are playing the leading roles, Jeff Madden and Glynis Ranney, have been with the show from the first reading in 2003 and their feelings haven't changed. "What struck me immediately," recalls Ranney, "was the power of the music and the great passion that came alive through it. And I continue to be amazed by it four years later." "It's the complexity that appeals to me," finds Madden, "the struggle between what your heart wants and what your brain says is right. The morality of choice." Working so closely on a new musical can be an ulcer-making proposition for the collaborators, but in the case of Sportelli and Turvey, the potential for tension is even greater, because they're partners in life as well as in art. "Yes," admits Sportelli with a rueful laugh, "we're living with it 24 hours a day. There are times when we actually say `Okay, let's not work on Tristan now,' and half the time we wind up breaking the rule." "Sometimes it just slips into your brain," is how Turvey describes it. "The two of us will just be sitting there having dinner and then along comes an idea for a lyric." They both admit that spontaneity is the key and that, in Sportelli's words, "rarely do we sit down together and ask `Now what do we want to write today?'" Despite the ultimately serious intent of Tristan, Turvey admits that some of his most enjoyable moments in the process have been "in taking people that Mann only wrote four or five sentences about and turning them into amusing comic characters that help lighten the whole work."

Sportelli also wants to make it clear that there's a difference between a serious and a solemn musical. "I enjoy art that can exist on many levels. If I'm just in the mood to be entertained and have someone tell me a story for a couple of hours, fine. But, if into that experience the author can drop some truly serious ideas that's even better. A piece of art should be flexible enough, plastic enough, for that to happen." Turvey's vision is a bit more intense. "I'm hoping we can provide moments of transcendence, flashes of feeling that the audience can recognize and take home with them." It's obvious these men are playing for higher stakes than normal and it's inspiring that the Shaw Festival has had the courage to stick with them every step of the way,  Whether or not Tristan turns out to be the thing of beauty its creators are hoping for still remains to be seen, but in the often heartbreaking battle that constitutes the history of musical theatre in this country, a certain kind of victory has already been won.


Toronto Councillors Move To Prop Up Theatre

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Jennifer Lewington

(July 06, 2007) A revered alternative theatre received a financial lifeline from city hall yesterday as councillors agreed to buy the home of Theatre Passe Muraille for $1.2-million. The decision of the economic development committee came after brief discussion and no opposition. Councillors appeared ready to set aside concerns about the city's continuing fiscal woes in favour of rescuing an incubator for Canadian playwrights and actors and whose most recent success was housing the development of the Broadway hit The Drowsy Chaperone. If the plan is approved by council, the city will pay $1.2-million for the Queen and Bathurst area heritage building owned by the 39-year-old theatre company, wiping out its $500,000 deficit. Theatre Passe Muraille would lease the space for a nominal $2 a year and pay $20,000 annually toward upkeep. The purchase is to be financed by dipping into city capital reserves raided earlier this year to balance the operating budget. A better-than-expected year-end surplus of $12-million will boost those reserves, now at just $30-million, as the city heads into 2008 with budget pressures close to $600-million. Some councillors questioned the move. "We can't be crying poor and do things like this and refuse to cut anything internally," said Councillor Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore), a former budget committee member.

Budget chief Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East) called the deal "a low-risk, sound investment thing to do" as it will not add to the budget. But she conceded the city may be criticized for the deal given its own financial woes. "Definitely, we have a budget problem," she said. "But we do have a good credit rating ... and we can continue to city build." Chief financial officer Joe Pennachetti said he is "very concerned" about the low level of the capital reserve, but added "it is up to council to decide what to use the capital reserve funds for." Yesterday, though, councillors focused on the benefits. "It's a tremendously important theatre for a whole series of reasons," said Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), who appeared before the committee to support the recommendation of city staff. "But it is also an important step for the city to start paying attention to some of the supporting cast in our cult landscape," he said. Within minutes, the proposal won unanimous approval, including from critics of the city's finances. "I don't think the purchase of the building was totally necessary," said Councillor Case Ootes (Ward 29, Toronto-Danforth). "But we certainly want to make sure we continue to foster artistic groups within the city." After the vote, the head of the theatre's board called it a "no-lose situation" all around. "We won't lose and the city won't lose on a building that will only appreciate in value," said Shelley Black. "Without theatres like ours there would not be an opportunity for Canadian stories to be told."

Paul Sportelli And Jay Turvey Created A New Musical That Tells A Timeless Love Story

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

(July 08, 2007) There are musicals and then there are musicals. Let the commercial theatre search for the next Jersey Boys or Wicked. Those are all well and good in their own way. But when one of Canada's largest classical festivals puts its considerable resources to bear toward the creation of a new piece of musical theatre, the odds are that that it's going to be something out of the ordinary. And that's what everybody at the Shaw Festival hopes is going to happen with
Tristan, the new show by Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey that starts previews on Thursday, prior to an opening on July 28. After all, events like this don't happen very often. You could count the completely original musicals presented over the years by Shaw and Stratford on one hand and still have fingers left to wiggle. So obviously, Tristan is a major investment, not just financially, but artistically and emotionally as well. On the surface, it's not anybody's idea of your slam-dunk smasheroo, guaranteed to make a million bucks and pack `em in at the box office, but then, neither was Spring Awakening, which just walked off with all the Tonys this past June. Maybe the way to win the hit musical game is not to play it at all. That's certainly the route that Sportelli and Turvey have taken with Tristan. It's based on a 1902 short story by Thomas Mann, set in a sanitarium in the German Alps.

While they are both being treated for tuberculosis, a brooding poet (Spinell) becomes attracted to a happily married woman (Gabrielle) who has sacrificed her great talent as a pianist to serve her family. The two of them become hopelessly entwined, with Gabrielle's playing of the famous aria from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde proving the flash point for a series of emotional explosions. It's a work with the depth that you'd expect from Sportelli and Turvey, but stylistically it initially seems light years away from their usual fare. These are the men, after all, behind the alt-pop music group the jaypaul project and the composer/lyricists of the mordantly jazzy score that won them a Dora for Little Mercy's First Murder.   What drew them to this strange story? They both agreed that the scene where Gabrielle finally plays the piano "leapt off the page" to them as something they had to theatricalize. But what they see underneath that moment is slightly different. "For me it's about reawakening," asserts Turvey, "rediscovery." "While for me," insists Sportelli, "it's about the power of music, the power of art, to change lives." As to the assertion that it's wildly different from what they had written before, Sportelli believes that "your style grows out of what you're writing. That's what informs your work." After their initial impulse to do the show, Turvey laughs that "we worked like crazy and (three months later) we had organized a reading of it down at Shaw."

Jackie Maxwell, Shaw's artistic director, was there and liked what she heard. She worked with the authors that winter and then they did two more workshops. Next came a public reading at Shaw in 2005, followed by a lengthy session at Tarragon in which they tore the show apart and examined it yet again. Finally Maxwell announced it for this season, with Eda Holmes as the director and that's when the real work began. The two people who are playing the leading roles, Jeff Madden and Glynis Ranney, have been with the show from the first reading in 2003 and their feelings haven't changed. "What struck me immediately," recalls Ranney, "was the power of the music and the great passion that came alive through it. And I continue to be amazed by it four years later." "It's the complexity that appeals to me," finds Madden, "the struggle between what your heart wants and what your brain says is right. The morality of choice." Working so closely on a new musical can be an ulcer-making proposition for the collaborators, but in the case of Sportelli and Turvey, the potential for tension is even greater, because they're partners in life as well as in art. "Yes," admits Sportelli with a rueful laugh, "we're living with it 24 hours a day. There are times when we actually say `Okay, let's not work on Tristan now,' and half the time we wind up breaking the rule." "Sometimes it just slips into your brain," is how Turvey describes it. "The two of us will just be sitting there having dinner and then along comes an idea for a lyric." They both admit that spontaneity is the key and that, in Sportelli's words, "rarely do we sit down together and ask `Now what do we want to write today?'" Despite the ultimately serious intent of Tristan, Turvey admits that some of his most enjoyable moments in the process have been "in taking people that Mann only wrote four or five sentences about and turning them into amusing comic characters that help lighten the whole work."

Sportelli also wants to make it clear that there's a difference between a serious and a solemn musical. "I enjoy art that can exist on many levels. If I'm just in the mood to be entertained and have someone tell me a story for a couple of hours, fine. But, if into that experience the author can drop some truly serious ideas that's even better. A piece of art should be flexible enough, plastic enough, for that to happen." Turvey's vision is a bit more intense. "I'm hoping we can provide moments of transcendence, flashes of feeling that the audience can recognize and take home with them." It's obvious these men are playing for higher stakes than normal and it's inspiring that the Shaw Festival has had the courage to stick with them every step of the way,  Whether or not Tristan turns out to be the thing of beauty its creators are hoping for still remains to be seen, but in the often heartbreaking battle that constitutes the history of musical theatre in this country, a certain kind of victory has already been won.

Theatre World Pays Affectionate Tribute To Acting Giant

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Cassandra Szklarski, Canadian Press

(July 10, 2007) STRATFORD, ONT. — Theatre legend
William Hutt was remembered as a man of great love and generosity at a funeral service yesterday that saw actors and directors pay tribute to the Stratford Festival icon. Widely considered one of the world's finest Shakespearean actors, Mr. Hutt's passing drew testaments from actors Albert Schultz, Martha Henry and Peter Hutt at a church filled with the music of horns and timpani drums, and adorned with a floral bouquet stuffed into a martini glass in honour of the actor's favourite drink. Robin Phillips, former artistic director of the Stratford Festival, spoke of the acting giant's legacy. "William Hutt has answered his final call," Mr. Phillips told about 450 people crowded into St. James Anglican Church as others stood outside. "Today his ovation rings through the heavens." Mr. Hutt died June 27 at 87 after being diagnosed with leukemia. His distinguished career included celebrated turns as Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest and the title character in King Lear; James Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night; and Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.

So robust was the 6-foot-1 actor with the booming voice that nephew Peter Hutt said he always believed his uncle would never die. "There was something of the sweet fragrance of immortality about Bill, a foreverness," Mr. Hutt, also a stage actor, told the congregation. "Were it not for his 87 years, he just might have been able to thwart [death's] advances. However, he confronted her head-on and they tussled beneath the sheets into eternity. Dear Bill did not go gently into that good night." Mr. Schultz described a man who changed his life, noting that Mr. Hutt's influence extended far beyond the stage. "He moved me so many times to such deep laughter and such deep tears as an actor, as he did many of us, and that legacy will never be matched, Mr. Schultz said. "But it is his legacy as a man that taught me more. His generosity and his capacity for love. His love for this town, his love for this festival." Stratford artistic director Richard Monette called Mr. Hutt a friend and mentor who gave much to Canadian theatre, but was also generous with audiences and his friends. Mr. Monette said he admired the actor for his dedication to the craft, but also for his service to the country, noting Mr. Hutt was a member of the 7th Canadian Field Ambulance from 1941 to 1946. Mr. Monette said he would also remember the laughter and Mr. Hutt's fondness for martinis. "He would make them his very specific way and he would tell stories," he recalled.  "He liked them very dry, stirred, not shaken, no ice, straight up, with just a little bit of lemon zest."


Bash'd! Will Entertain, Maybe Even Change You

Excerpt from www.thestar.com  -

(Highly recommended)
At the Factory Theatre Mainspace, 125 Bathurst St.
Next show: Today at 1:45 p.m.

(July 07, 2007) BASH'd! is brilliant. It takes a certain kind of genius to turn rapping – with its penchant for homophobia – into the framework for a blow-you-away saga of gay love and death. Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow wrote and perform this hour-long piece of dynamite, with Aaron Macri providing the insinuating musical grooves.  Craddock and Cuckow rock the stage as two gay gangsta angels who doff their wings to tell us the story of small-town Dylan and how he came to the big city to hook up with street-wise Jack.  They fall for each other, get married, but don't live happily ever after, because one night Jack gets gay-bashed and Dylan goes crazy looking for revenge.  In the course of one hour, this show makes you giddy with laughter, puts a lump in your throat and may even wind up radicalizing you, whether you're str8 or gay. The language is tough and the message is tougher, but this is a show you don't dare miss.


At 13, Toronto's Alys Shee Is A Dancing Phenom

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Erin Kobayashi, Living Reporter

(July 06, 2007) NEW YORK–
Alys Shee is dancing on Broadway. The 13-year-old Canadian ballet student is literally performing smack in the centre of Times Square. Momentarily airborne during a grand jeté, a photographer snaps her picture. She looks like an angel floating through the air. Her grandmother named her Alys (pronounced Alice), taken from a novel about a 14th-century nun. Dressed in a white leotard and tights, Alys looks as pure as her namesake.  The character in the book was eventually burned at stake. This Alys is also on fire. Tourists stop and watch. Some take out their cameras and contribute to the Times Square flash. A little boy tries to imitate her. Within minutes, Alys has become a full-blown tourist attraction. "Don't forget to smile, Alys!" her mother, Melanie Simpson, shouts. "Point those feet!" It would be easy to mistake Simpson for a stage mom, considering the location. The crowd soon leaves but Alys continues to jump. Sixteen times, to be exact, until she is satisfied with the placement of her fingers to her very pointed toes. Her perfectionism is typical for a dancer.  "I tend to wake up when I dance," she says. It's around 11 p.m.. She has been up since 6:45 a.m. and has been in dance class all day.

This summer, Alys was accepted into New York City's prestigious
American Ballet Theatre summer intensive program. One of six Canadians, the only one from Toronto.  New York was Alys's dream, although her mother sees it as a reality check. "All of these girls are at the tops of their schools," Simpson says, "and, when they come here, they are with all of the girls who are at the tops of their schools."  When she's home, Alys studies six days a week, four hours a day under Nadia Veselova Tencer at the Academy of Ballet and Jazz.  Here in New York, Alys lives with four other female students in a one-bedroom East Village apartment. The girls' mothers take turns supervising the dancers during the six-week program. Alys has been accepted into every program she has ever applied to. This year she received partial scholarships to other summer schools in the U.S., but she chose New York. "I really felt that if I were to go anywhere in the entire world, it would be New York City," she says, "I just love it here." Everything about it. Even the ugly parts. "I like just how it's all concrete." For serious ballet dancers, it is standard to leave home at an early age to study full-time. Last year, Alys attended the Washington School of Ballet and lived with her aunt. In Times Square, Alys observes the Fly Guys, a break dance group whose members can spin on their heads. The photographer urges her to join them. Alys improvises, turning around until the crowd applauds. Instead of throwing roses, a hat is passed around and loose change is tossed into it.

Ballet is an expensive passion and it has put a financial strain on Alys's family. Her lessons, summer programs and equipment cost about $12,000 a year. Simpson, 40, owns Mel's Montreal Delicatessen on Bloor St. W. and her husband, Chiu Shee, 45, works for the Toronto Transit Commission.  "My family, my sisters and brothers and everyone, has chipped in to make this a reality for her because that's a lot of money," Simpson says. The cost of the American Ballet Theatre summer intensive program is $2,800 (U.S.). Their share of the apartment rent is $1,800. Adding to the bill are private lessons once a week with Evelyn Hart. The famed Canadian dancer calls Alys "an extraordinary, extraordinary talent to come along."  Alys, Hart says, has three ballet requirements "in spades:" talent, desire and – the most unforgiving – physique. Long limbs, slim figure and a flat-chest are considered ideal. Simpson anticipates Alys will grow to 5 feet, 7 1/2 inches, using a complicated calculation based on the height of family members. "That would be absolutely perfect," Hart says. Now a teenager (she celebrated her 13th birthday on Wednesday), Alys is 5-foot-1, and underweight for her age, at 69 pounds. But she eats whatever she wants. After her Times Square photo shoot, she requests ice cream. "When I'm older, I'd like to go to Europe," she says in an ice-cream parlour. Simpson looks devastated. "I'll take you with me," Alys tells her mother.
B-Boys Bring Their Moves

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Reporter

July 08, 2007) Mike Smith, a.k.a. Tricky Troublez, promises explosions before getting on stage. He's not talking about fiery blasts in the sky, but the moves he's about to twist, turn and contort out of his lanky yet muscular frame. And then, the response.  Watch out for his signature move. As he riles up the crowd and his competitors with agile footwork and freezes (holding his body upside down), the buzz is rising to a crescendo. With palms planted on the platform, he flips onto his head and starts to turn. And spin. And the spinning gets faster. While Smith says the head spin, a move done well only by a handful of people in Toronto, is a firecracker with the audience, B-boys take a closer look. "To the untrained eyes, there's a lot of little small things that a lot of people don't really catch," says Smith, a 21-year-old member of the Floor Assassins Malitia crew. "They're looking for the big moves, the flips, the dynamic stuff, but the dancers are looking for the small, detailed stuff, the stylistic movements."

Pop, Lock and Load yet again brought some of Toronto's fiercest B-boys and curious onlookers. Since its inception in 2004, it's evolved into one of the biggest breakdance competitions in Canada, growing steadily each year. One major change this year is that the battles take place between duos instead of crews because many were unable to attend due to work and travel. Under the scorching sun yesterday at Harbourfront Centre, 48 B-boys, in 24 pairs, took another step toward mainstream acceptance and a $1,000 cash first prize. "In some places, some people still take (hip-hop) as violent act and people don't even consider it a dance in the dance world," said Corrie Daniels, a.k.a. Benzo, 30, the host of the event and a founder of the well-known Bag of Trix crew. "There are very intricate steps and a lot of the steps date back way, way before ballet was even in existence." With B-boys, B-girls and poppers going deep on TV hits like So You Think You Can Dance?, this tangent of hip-hop culture is making inroads. It was a hodgepodge of a few hundred people – including toddlers and a grandmother – clapping and cheering. Some even did their own moves on a packed lawn by the stage, moving to old-school hip-hop, funk and DJ scratching.

Competing in a show like this takes a toll on the body even though the movements appear fluid and spontaneous. Benzo asked the crowd how many could lift their own body weight and spin on one hand. Not many.  "After most practices, I come out with sprained wrists or my neck is sprained. I'm spraining something every practice," said Jim Cartasano, a.k.a. Nastic, a member of the Maximum Efficiency Crew, who wowed the crowd with a number of freezes. Even at 25, Cartasano is considered part of the mid-generation of Toronto B-boys.  He says he's intimidated by the moves the new generation of dancers, such as Smith, are doing by mixing styles.  The three B-boys see a lot more story-telling in the steps now, just as the crews battled in the Bronx during the 1960s and 1970s.  Pop, Lock and Load goes into its elimination rounds and finals starting at 5:30 p.m. today at the Toronto Star Stage at Habourfront Centre.


Forget The Masks And Beads

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Stephanie Nolen

(July 6, 2007) JOHANNESBURG — There was drilling and pounding, and acres of bubble wrap being hauled out of crates. The air was pungent with the smell of fresh paint. Crews at the Johannesburg Art Gallery were in a dignified frenzy late last week, installing the most important exhibit the South African gallery has ever shown. And in the middle of the chaos, Simon Njami materialized, the curator from central casting in a black turtleneck, a black wool scarf with fringe draped just so and, bien sûr, very dark glasses, although it was dim in the hall. “Good morning,” he purred, with 48 hours to go before the grand opening, and then turned on one stylish heel to lead the way through the semi-assembled shape of his masterpiece. Few have done more for African contemporary art than Njami, a Cameroonian-born critic who founded the influential Paris-based journal Revue Noire and who conceived this show, back in 2000, as a way to shake the developed world out of its belief that African art consists of carved wooden masks, woven baskets and beads. There is not, let it be noted, a solitary bead to be found among the hundreds of works that make up the exhibition Africa Remix. There is, however, plenty of video, some sound installations and a piece that incorporates Chinese calendars, razor wire, miles of cable and an inflatable sex doll.

The show has, in the past three years, toured from the Centre Pompidou in Paris all the way to the Mori Art Museum in Japan, breaking attendance records all along the way. But Africa Remix had never come to Africa – most of these works had never been seen in Africa. In fact, a large show of contemporary art like this has never been held anywhere on the continent before. It took some painful fundraising, but Remix is now here, in one of the cities that can claim the title of continental cultural capital. Njami walked through a room or two before halting in front of Zoulikha Bouabdellah's Dansons, a cheeky video loop of the artist's midriff, as she ties on red, white and blue scarves decorated with a belly dancer's spangles – and then starts to roll and shimmy to the tune of La Marseillaise. Bouabdellah was born in Moscow to Algerian parents, and lives in France. “Is she French? African? I'm sure you take the point,” Njami said – that purr again. It's a recurring theme both in the works in the show and in debates about it: Who gets to decide who is African? Is Njami himself – who grew up in Geneva, lives in Paris and teaches in San Diego – an African? Of the 85 artists exhibited here, a third are working or living outside of Africa; some were born in the diaspora. Do they count? In whose eyes? For many of the artists – a dozen of whom flew to Jo'burg for the Remix opening here – the question is highly charged. “When people make [contemporary] art, they can't perceive it as being African – they say ‘it's not really African,'” said fiery Fernando Alvim, an Angolan with three large, insouciant canvases in the show. “People are thinking that Africa doesn't need sophisticated processes of art and culture” – he threw his hands in the air – “yet America has deep problems of poverty but it has the Guggenheim!”

Remix involves a staggering array of media – from large-format photographs to multimedia futuristic cities painstakingly constructed by Democratic Republic of Congo's Bodys Isek Kingelez to a show highlight, The Room of Tears by Cameroonian Bili Bidjocka. The room has 30 centimetres of water on the floor and a scattering of concrete stepping stones. Video screens along the wall show loops of pained faces muttering indistinguishably. As people viewing the piece walk through the piece, their footsteps trigger different sounds. Although it is organized around three themes (Identity and History, Body and Soul, and City and Land), Remix lacks an overall coherence. In his desire to show the breadth of contemporary art by African artists, Njami may have inadvertently fallen prey to one of his own critiques, lumping it all together just because it is “African” – when in truth the line drawings of William Kentridge of South Africa have little in common with the projector-and-mirror creation Dancing with the Moon of Goddy Leye of Cameroon. In the end, what ties the show together is a strong flavour of irony and a subtle sense of being observed. Fernando Alvim mocks this explicitly, with a large canvas bearing the words “We are all post exotics” and a mirror that reflects the observer. Other works are more subtle: The Egyptian artist Ghada Amer shows Beauty and the Lovers, where the human figures on the canvas only slowly become discernible beneath the tangle of embroidery thread laid atop them – playing with how things appear depending on the vantage point from which they are viewed. Njami, making his rounds through the exhibition, stopped in front of an enormous, curvaceous body imagined for Osama bin Laden, naked but for his turban and his beard, splayed on a patchwork American flag overlaid with Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Great American Nude, by the Sudanese artist Hassan Musa (inspired by La fille allongée by 18th-century French painter François Boucher) is about Africans looking at America, but with a sly poke. The America of flags, Harleys and pornographic terrorists, of course, is no less accurate than an Africa “of people with bones in their noses.” Njami, being a Parisian curator, quoted Jean-Paul Sartre on the subject. “It's the shock of being seen.”

Yet the intended target for this shock is not just the developed world; Njami aims Remix just as much at Africans. “You have a lot of preconceived ideas in Africa about Africa. Very few Africans travel within Africa – they know very little.” That curiosity may account for the mob scene two days later, when the show opened. The Johannesburg Art Gallery was, during its construction in the apartheid years, located beside a park in a graceful corner of the heart of the city – but when the white rulers fled with their money from the inner city at the dawn of democracy, downtown became the territory of street hawkers, illegal immigrants from across the continent and gangsters. So the sidewalk barbers and broom peddlers looked on in astonishment on the last Sunday in June as lines of Mercedes Benz SUVs battled to get into the gallery parking lot; eventually most people just gave up and left their cars in the gridlock, pouring in the gallery doors. Inside, there were laudatory speeches by the heavyweights from the new black cultural elite gave speeches and toasted each other while township mamas with their babies tied on their backs mingled with wide-eyed, blue-haired ladies from the old gallery-going crowd and curious children surreptitiously reached out to finger the art. Half of the works were invisible behind the throng, but everywhere, there was an electric conversation – “Did you see … ?” The gallery's curator, Clive Kellner, looked sweaty and ecstatic. He first saw the show in Europe and vowed he would get it to Jo'burg – but he has an annual exhibitions budget of $4,200, while bringing the show here cost nearly $1-million. Kellner threw himself into a frenzy of fundraising. Njami, meanwhile, had always intended for Remix to be exhibited in Africa, but found that was easier said than done.

“From the beginning, I knew I wanted the show to tour three countries in Africa – one in the north, one in the central [region] and one in the south – but this is a show that is a bit expensive and complicated. You need a big building, a crew, infrastructure and money – conditions that only [Johannesburg] could fulfill,” Njami said. There were political considerations, too – a museum in Cairo wanted the show, for example, but he rejected it because the curator is a political appointee of President Hosni Mubarak and, Njami said, he views glorification of the president as his chief task. For Kellner, there is a transformative value in having the show here in Johannesburg: The gallery has recruited a raft of unemployed young people to train as guides, provided art education to the builders who put in place the exhibition space (and invited them all to the opening) and mounted a large educational program to bring local school groups to the show with a tailor-made set of educational materials. “There's a much bigger cultural process at work,” he said. As Njami muttered as the last works were uncrated, it's about time. “If you want to understand African art history, you go to London, Paris and New York. It would be a pity for our grandkids to [have to] go to London, Paris and New York to understand what is being produced now.”

Tobacco Firms Admit 'Glory Days' Of Print Ads Are Over

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(July 5, 2007) There's probably not going to be a deluge of cigarette advertisements in the nation's magazines and newspapers following last week's Supreme Court ruling upholding the
1997 Tobacco Act. The spectre of a spate of advertising was raised in some quarters last Thursday when the judges, in their 9-0 ruling, declared that Canada's tobacco companies can advertise in magazines and newspapers where 85 per cent of the readership is 18 years of age and older, as well as bars and via direct mail to selected adults, including Internet websites. But the companies already had that right under the 1997 legislation, and at least with respect to print media, the companies chose not to exercise it because, finding the law too vague, they decided to mount the court challenge that was finally decided last week. While they did so, the companies shifted their advertising dollars into the sponsorship of sporting and cultural events and point-of-sale display ads. However, such sponsorship was banned outright in October, 2003, while the point-of-sale gambit has been steadily eroding, province by province, since 2002 when Saskatchewan became the first province to ban retail tobacco displays in convenience stores, gas bars and the like.

No one denies that there's going to be a return to cigarette advertising in some Canadian magazines. As Robert Cunningham, senior counsel for the Canadian Cancer Society, observes, Canada's big three tobacconists - Rothmans Benson & Hedges, Imperial Tobacco and JTI-Macdonald - and their ad agencies are nothing if not resourceful. "Whenever or wherever there's an opening, they'll exploit things."

However, says Simon Potter, a Montreal lawyer representing the tobacco companies, "whatever advertising does come back will be very limited," and won't mark a return to the "glory days" of the 1950s or 1960s when Canadian periodicals like Chatelaine and Maclean's were awash in cigarette ads.  In part, this is because last week's court decision also upheld the extant restrictions on such ads - that is, they can't promote a lifestyle; they can't be misleading; they can't be "appealing to use," especially by young persons. Moreover, having not done print advertising for so long, the tobacco companies are going to be "asking very hard questions ... on the arithmetic," Potter said, of buying ads and the rate of return they expect from such buys. Sunni Boot, a prominent Toronto media buyer, said advertising companies face "a huge creative challenge" in coming up with ads and advertising campaigns for tobacco. "The challenge is, 'What do I say about this product that's still within the intent and the reality of the legislation?'" Of course, surmounting difficulties is what advertising agencies do every day, an ad executive who requested anonymity observed yesterday. Placement and content restrictions on tobacco ads "are challenging - but there are plenty of other ways, potentially, to use newspapers and print to talk about the product, to show the package and deal with its rational attributes rather than emotionally or appealing to youth.... It may not be a terribly sexy kind of advertising. It's not going to be the kind of advertising they were used to doing in the past. It's going to be a pretty big adjustment for them. But if it's all about putting a name out there, it can be done."

That said, Boot noted that advertisers and magazines are going to have to be judicious about the placement of those ads. "The world has done a complete 360 on smoking ... there's a social-pariah aspect to it now." For instance, a magazine dealing with hunting and fishing may feel it could take such ads without offending the majority of its readers, but a more family-oriented one "might be resistant. I mean, you can just see readers writing in, 'My daughter reads Flare...." Indeed, companies such as The Globe and Mail and Rogers Consumer Publishing now have policies not to take tobacco advertising and yesterday a representative of Rogers, which, in fact, publishes Flare as well as Chatelaine (Canada's most successful magazine with total estimated revenue in 2006 of $56.3-million), Maclean's, Hello! and Canadian Business, said the company was "not going to reopen the debate on carrying such ads based on last week's court decision."

Valentino Celebrates 45 Years In Fashion With Gala

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Daniela Petroff, Associated Press

(July 08, 2007) ROME – It was a Midsummer Night's Dream that even Shakespeare would have a hard time matching. A thousand guests – many of the ladies in
Valentino's best – sipped flutes of sparkling wine, as they strolled past the priceless marble sculptures of the Galleria Borghese museum, on their way to a gala ball set up under a tent in the adjacent park. "I love you, all of you very much," an emotional Valentino said in his toast during Saturday night's event, which culminated two days of celebrations marking the designer's 45 years in fashion. Rome hadn't seen such a bright red carpet in decades, probably since the "Dolce Vita" 1960s, which coincided with the beginning of the 75-year-old designer's career, as golden boy of the international jet-set. Leave it to Valentino to gather in the same room Mick Jagger – in town for a Rolling Stones concert – the widow of the late shah of Iran, Farah Pahlavi, and Princess Caroline of Monaco and family on their way to a Mediterranean cruise on their private yacht. Among top models at the gala were Elle MacPherson and Claudia Schiffer. Actresses on hand included Uma Thurmon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Hudson. Designers Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Donatella Versace and Tom Ford also attended, as did the fashion world's most revered and at times dreaded fashion editor, Vogue America's Anna Wintour.

And the list goes on and on. Schiffer flaunted a gown in Valentino's trademark flaming red. Hathaway was in a black Valentino with white embroidery, while the Oscar winning actress Hudson was in Valentino brown. "Valentino is a sweet man, a fantastic couturier, and I just hope he goes on designing for a very long time," said Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, a longtime friend, as she walked the red carpet in a vintage Valentino red gown. The evening's setting, by Dante Ferretti, evoked the Orient with lacquered red and black walls with gilded decorations framing the 78 tables adorned with center pieces made up of roses, hydrangeas and orchids. Waiters in guru jackets served the fish based menu on 3,500 delicate green porcelain plates, while an orchestra played high society music from the 1940s. Pop star Annie Lennox offered the highlight with a surprise performance. Friday evening, Valentino served up another gala evening in a temple in the Roman Forum, for 500 guests including former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Acrobats wearing Valentino gowns danced above the ruins, as lighting of different colors transformed the Colosseum, symbol of Imperial Rome. Earlier Saturday, Valentino offered a brand new winter couture wardrobe of 61 outfits to a star-studded audience gathered in a former medieval convent near the Vatican. It was his first show in 17 years in the city where he began his climb to the top of the fashion ladder. Since the early 1990s Valentino has spent his fashion time between Paris and Milan. Friday the designer opened a retrospective exhibit of his style in the glass and stone venue by Richard Meier, which encases one of ancient Rome's most sacred monuments, the Ara Pacis. The exhibit, part of which can be seen from the street, is open until the end of October 2007. To mark his 45th anniversary, Valentino launched a new perfume that will be on the market in the fall, Rock 'n' Rose Couture. Toasting his longtime friend, Valentino's business partner Giancarlo Giammetti recalled their first years in Rome as two penniless young men with a dream. "Fame and fortune have not changed him. He is still the same little guy I met 45 years ago," Giammetti said.

Book Discounts On The Way

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Marina Strauss

(July 10, 2007) About a month ago, Steve Budnarchuk and other booksellers met with publishers to express their concerns about the high price of U.S.-produced books sold in Canada. The retailer's research showed that those books were about 30 per cent more expensive here than in U.S. stores, largely because of outdated exchange rates used to calculate Canadian prices. Consumers weren't happy. “In some markets, consumers have been complaining about the price and, realistically, some of the prices are still poor,” said Mr. Budnarchuk, co-owner of Audreys Books in Edmonton and past president of the Canadian Booksellers Association. “The price discrepancy is just too high.” The meeting seems to have been productive. Last week, some major publishers that distribute U.S. books began to offer retailers 5 per cent discounts to take into account the soaring loonie. That's on top of publisher reductions of up to 20 per cent last year. It doesn't solve all the problems, but it's a start, Mr. Budnarchuk said in an interview Tuesday. He and other booksellers will try to pass on the savings to consumers. They want to lower their prices so that they're just 20-per-cent higher than U.S. rates, he said. Despite a loonie that has surged to more than 95 cents (U.S.) over the past four months, Canadian consumers aren't reaping much of the benefit in the form of lower prices, a recent BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. study found. Book retailing has been one of the victims of a Canadian dollar that has jumped about 50 per cent against the greenback over the past five years.

Indigo Books & Music Inc., the country's largest book retailer, plans to “imminently” pass on savings in the form of discounts or promotions, spokesman Neil Murphy said. He couldn't say exactly when the company, which also runs Chapters superstores, will implement the price cuts because negotiations are still continuing with publishers. “It's a very big issue for us and it's certainly something we keep an eye on.” Already, Indigo has seen a 6-per-cent decline in the price of U.S.-published books, driven by the strong loonie, it reported recently. The move will not effect the coming Harry Potter book, which will be issued on July 21, because it is being published in Canada. The BMO study found that Harry Potter fans will pay 13-per-cent more than their American counterparts for the last instalment in the popular book series. Random House of Canada, the largest publisher of U.S. books, will give booksellers a 5-per-cent discount on U.S. books until the end of the year, said president Brad Martin. But it will be up to retailers to reprice the books because Random House's U.S. warehouses aren't equipped to do it, he said. As a result, booksellers may lower their prices by about 10 per cent from the current sticker price, because of retail mark-ups.

Penguin Group (Canada) will drop prices of new fall U.S. titles by 5 per cent, as well as prices of bestselling backlist books such as Kim Edward's The Memory Keeper's Daughter, said president David Davidar. Penguin will begin to review its pricing on U.S. titles quarterly to reflect the volatile exchange rates, he added. Some of the highest prices are among backlist books – older books that were originally priced when the Canadian dollar was much weaker, Mr. Budnarchuk said. Some of those books are as much as 50 per cent higher than the same book in a U.S. store. But he also noted that under Canadian law, domestic book distributors can charge no more than 10 per cent above the difference in the exchange rate for U.S. books sold here. Otherwise they can lose their exclusive right to sell the books. The sticker price may have been set months earlier.

Dion's Gamble On Culture

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Val Ross

(July 11, 2007) Normally an oppressed-looking demographic, Canadian writers - at least, those eight senior literary types faces drinking beer in the lounge of Toronto's Drake Hotel late last week - were in an unaccustomed state of cheer. They'd just had an in-person session with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, and he'd told them something they wanted to hear: A Liberal government would reverse the Conservative government's $11.8-million cut to cultural diplomacy, and add another $11-million to promote and tour Canadian artists abroad. "The meeting with Dion was a huge relief," said Susan Swan, chair of the Writers Union of Canada. "We got a feeling of being on the same page with a politician after months of trying to have a dialogue with the Harper government." The Liberal leader is on a charm offensive with Canadian artists and arts leaders and has had face time with artists and leaders from the music industry, theatre, museums and dance in Montreal, Winnipeg and Toronto. He is gambling that culture matters to urban voters. Whether or not that's true, "it's a weak spot for this Conservative government," says Peter C. Newman, one of the writers at the Drake. "With globalization, we've lost the battle for economic independence, but cultural nationalism is our saving grace."

This time, however, the Liberals aren't chanting old mantras about "We need Canadian culture to tell Canadian stories." Dion has a more pragmatic formulation: "The way to be strong economically is to be creative." He also argues that the cuts have undermined Canada's international image: "Compare this to what other governments are spending - the Germans through their Goethe Institutes, the French through their Alliances Françaises," Dion says. "To cut this [cultural diplomacy] is beyond understanding." Since the Harper government assumed power last year, the foreign service has become more narrowly focused, or "instrumentally minded," as staffers put it.  Gone is most discretionary money for embassies and posts to host book-promotion readings and concerts, contact local media, buy blocks of tickets, top up performers' fees, help with tour logistics and generally prime new markets. However, there is money to promote Canada's multicultural image, advance the war on terror, and leverage big names into useful political connections. Next month, the Canadian high commission in London is throwing a party to salute the world premiere of Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad at Stratford-Upon-Avon.

But Atwood is one of those most alarmed by the cuts, which she first heard about while attending a party at the American embassy during the Festival Amérique in Paris. Why was she at the U.S. embassy? "Though Canada was the festival's featured country," explains Atwood, "we had no money." Things have become more dire since then, staff at the Canadian embassy in Paris complain privately. In Berlin it's worse. The new $90-million Canadian embassy that opened in 2005 was built with concert hall and exhibition spaces. Much of the time they appear to be empty. Canadians in London recall when the high commission would make concert recording space available for artists such as pianist Angela Hewitt, and then throw black-tie receptions for local cultural leaders - such as the novelist Ian McEwan, who had mentioned Hewitt in his novel Saturday. "The cuts have hammered the life out of Canada House," says Judy Harquail, former tour director for Les grands ballets Canadiens. "The public face of Canada has taken a huge hit." Staff at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International trade rightly point out that the Arts Promotion Program budget to help artists tour has remained untouched at $4.4-million. But the Liberals hope to score points with Dion's promise to more than triple that.  Of course, Liberal promises of support for culture are just promises. But with Canadian cultural exports (including advertising services and film production) totalling almost $5-billion a year, Dion's pragmatic arguments may win new voters, and won't alienate artists already angry with Ottawa. "Dion sees culture and the arts as part and parcel of a creative, innovative society," says the Writers Union's Swan. "Now he just has to get himself elected."


Jane Magazine Prepares To Fold After 10 Years

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com

(July 10, 2007) Toronto — U.S. women's magazine
Jane is out of business, Fashion Week Daily reported yesterday. The August issue of the 10-year-old publication will be its last, the report said, with parent company Condé Nast Publications telling staffers about the closing when they returned to work from the July 4 holiday. The New York-based magazine was founded in September, 1997, by Jane Pratt, best known as the founding editor of nineties-era teen mag Sassy. Since August, 2005, Jane had been edited by Brandon Holley.


Allen Takes Demotion In Stride

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

Jul 06, 2007) Damon Allen ended his silence yesterday. The Toronto Argonauts veteran quarterback spoke openly about his demotion to No. 3 on the club's depth chart, three days after the team announced that backup Michael Bishop would start tomorrow night in Hamilton against the archrival Tiger-Cats. As reporters gathered around him at the Argos' practice facility in Mississauga, pro football's career passing leader apologized for refusing to speak earlier this week, saying he needed a few days to come to grips with going from the club's starter to No. 3 behind Bishop and former NFLer Mike McMahon in the span of less than a week. "I needed a few days to digest it all," he said. "I've always been the type of person to look at a situation before throwing in my two cents worth. "I appreciate the Argos making this decision early ... it's unfortunate because I would've liked that to have happened the first week. I'm disappointed ... what I control is what I do on the field and obviously it wasn't enough. But my dedication to this team and to winning remain the same." And so does Allen's belief that he can still be an effective starting quarterback.

"Those few days when I digested the situation, I didn't question my skill level at all," he said. "Am I still out of the picture? I don't believe I am.  "I believe my name will be called." Allen's self-imposed silence on his demotion suggested to many that the 23-year CFL veteran was bitterly angry with the move and not the least bit interested in serving as a mentor to Bishop, a six-year veteran who is nearly 13 years Allen's junior. "As far as being a mentor, I've been doing that my whole career," he said. "You don't necessarily have to be a backup to be a mentor.  "The quarterback position is a unique position ... we deal with the same challenges and have the same excitement that the game brings." Argos head coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons wasn't the least bit surprised to hear Allen is handling his demotion with professionalism. "When we talked earlier this week, he was very mature about this topic," Clemons said. "Today is another day in the life of Damon Allen."

Canada Ousted From Soccer Tourney

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Morgan Campbell, Sports Reporter

Jul 09, 2007)  EDMONTON– With 17 minutes left and their team trailing Congo by two goals, the members of team Canada faced a desperate situation and a quick decision. Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic had just received a red card for putting his hands on the ball outside the 18-yard box. Out of substitutions, Canada would have to replace him with one of the 10 remaining players on the field, so they huddled up. Andrea Lombardo didn't want the job. He wanted to score. Same with David Edgar and Marcus Haber. Finally Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault, a midfielder, thrust his hand forward and asked for Begovic's jersey and gloves. He'd never played goal in an organized game, but he made five saves last night in a tournament-ending 2-0 loss to Congo. When he stopped a free kick just seconds after taking over in goal, even Congo's fans cheered him. Beaulieu-Bourgault's selflessness punctuated what players and coaches called their best game of the tournament. After looking sluggish against Chile and Austria, they committed to offence against Congo. But after several near misses Canada became the only team to finish the first round without a goal, and the only host team in tournament history ever held scoreless.

"I was disappointed that we didn't score all tournament but I was proud of how we played today," midfielder Jaime Peters said. "We played with a lot of passion. If we could have played like that all three games we probably would have got a result." They needed more than a result last night. They needed five goals. Ninety minutes before kickoff, both teams lined the same railing along the concourse at the stadium's south end, watching Mexico play New Zealand. When Mexico scored their third goal, both teams had seen enough. The Congolese team headed toward the stairs. Toronto's Andrea Lombardo peered down his nose at his opponents as they filed past. About the same time Gambia pulled ahead of Portugal 2-1, securing second place in group D, and making Canada's task more daunting. Portugal's loss meant that Canada needed to win by three goals to reach round two. Canada played like they planned to erase that entire deficit in the first half. Tosaint Ricketts' header off a seventh minute corner kick sailed over the goal, and he hit the side of the net after taking a pass from Lombardo 14 minutes later. Four minutes before halftime, Peters' pass across an open goalmouth found no one. Lombardo says converting just once would have changed the game. "We were on a roll and they would have had to push bodies forward because they needed a win to get through," he said. A Congolese diplomat in the press box yesterday said there are only about 100 Congolese natives living in Canada. If that's true, most of them came to the game, wrapped in flags and chanting. Twenty-six minutes into the game those rain-soaked fans broke out in song when Ermejea Ngakosso tapped the ball past Begovic from just outside the six-yard box.  In the 61st minute striker Gracia Ikouma took the ball at the top of the 18-yard box, spun between a pair of Canadian defenders and slipped the ball beneath a sprawling Begovic for the second goal.

Will Power Reigns In The Rain

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rick Matusmoto, Staff Reporter

Jul 09, 2007) Will Power was just singing in the rain. The 25-year-old Australian had no difficulty handling the slick conditions that prevailed through much of yesterday's Toronto Grand Prix to score his second victory of the Champ Car season. Power took the checkered flag three seconds ahead of runner-up Neel Jani of Switzerland as he finished the 73-lap race in one hour, 45 minutes and 58.568 seconds at an average speed of 116.73 km/h. Englishman Justin Wilson was third. The rain, which played havoc with the undercard Formula Atlantic race earlier in the day, returned about 40 minutes into the Champ Car event. "When it was wet I drove like hell to get to the front," said Power. "I knew there was going to be a bit of mayhem throughout the race. Once I got to the front, every restart I tried to pull into as big a gap as I could in the first couple of corners and then drive mistake-free." Power had solid fourth- and third-place finishes in the rain earlier this season and became the first Australian to win the pole at the Surfers Paradise race, two hours south of his hometown, last season, also in inclement weather. But he said he has no particular secret to success in the rain. "You have to drive with common sense. Driving ballsy doesn't get you anywhere. You end up in the wall," said Power.  Actually, the chaos began on the first lap of the race when the track was still dry. Four of the field's 17 cars, including Scarborough native Paul Tracy, didn't make it around the first lap as the result of two incidents. In the end, only eight cars were running.

Power's performance was in sharp contract to the way the rest of the weekend had gone for Team Australia. "It was a tough weekend and I was really frustrated Saturday night," Power said. "I was really down. But we had a good strategy going into the race, whether it was wet or dry, and it turned out to be a very good weekend." Power had been assessed a penalty for blocking Bruno Junqueira during Friday's provisional qualifying and the Aussie admitted the Brazilian got him back yesterday. "Yeah, I got blocked by Junqueira, but it was probably a little payback for qualifying," he said, drawing a laugh from the media. Power caused more laughter when he described his view of the first-lap contact between his Team Australia teammate, Simon Pagenaud, and Quebec native Alex Tagliani that knocked the front wing off Pagenaud's car. The wing ended up under Tracy's car, forcing him from the race. "I saw his wing slide in front of me and I'm thinking: Is that my wing? But I didn't touch anyone," Power said. With just four laps remaining, pole-sitter Sebastien Bourdais was speared from behind by Robert Doornbos and sent into the tire barrier.  The two had battled it out both on and off the track last week in Mont-Tremblant, Que., where Doornbos emerged with the win, but was berated by Bourdais, who accused him of blocking. Surprisingly, however, Bourdais took yesterday's incident in stride and accepted the Dutchman's hand of apology. "Robert made a small mistake and it unfortunately had big consequences for everyone," Bourdais said. "I don't think he did it on purpose." Doornbos was able to continue the race despite the contact and finished sixth, while Bourdais was ninth.  That, combined with Power's victory, vaulted Doornbos into the championship lead with 164 points, while the Aussie moved into second spot at 162 points, one more than Bourdais.


Hill Traded

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(July 6, 2007) *NBA star
Grant Hill ahs been traded from the Orlando Magic to the Phoenix Suns, his agent said Thursday. The 34-year-old husband of R&B star Tamia was considering retirement or returning to Orlando for another season following his recently completed seven-year, $93 million contract. Agent Lon Babby said the seven-time All-Star agreed to a two-year deal worth about $1.8 million for the first year, with a second-year player option for about $2 million.

Venus Williams Wins Fourth Wimbledon Title

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com 

(July 9, 2007) *
Venus Williams found herself in familiar territory Saturday as the ladies singles champion at Wimbledon – beating 18th seed Marion Bartoli of France 6-4 6-1. "It's been a long road back and I've had some tough losses but I've brought it together here and beaten some of the best players in the world, including Marion," said Williams, a 23 seed who missed the Australian Open in January with a wrist injury. With Williams up 3-0 in the first set, Bartoli, 22, took an injury time out to have her bandaged foot re-strapped. Immediately afterwards Williams also requested at time out to receive treatment to her groin.  With her thigh freshly strapped, Williams returned with seemingly less bite, allowing Bartoli to make a run. But Venus soon regained control and went on to capture her sixth grand slam title.