20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
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June 7, 2007

This week offers us a special giveaway of Rihanna's latest CD!  If you can tell me what date Rihanna is coming to Toronto for an autograph signing (see Rihanna article below), then you could be a winner!  Enter HERE and don't forget your full name and address or you don't qualify. 

Kayte Burgess brought her great concert to the masses at Revival last night - check out pics in a couple of days in my PHOTO GALLERY.

DK Ibomeka comes back to us strong after his shows in Paris at Hugh's Room this Saturday, June 9th.  And how about a dose of the sounds of smooth jazz and steelband?  Eddie Bullen, Afropan, David Rudder and Demo Cates serve it up at Ivory N' Steel on June 24th. 

Added to the event line-up this week is a night for ladies only - how rare are those!  Check out the sultry details for
Girls Night Out on Saturday, June 16th.  So, mark your calendars now and check all details below! 

Ottawa Senators lose!  Damn - well maybe the Leafs next year! (smile)


DK Ibomeka Live At Hugh’s Room – Saturday, June 9

Source:  Wychwood Park Production

DK Ibomeka returns to Toronto for his first area show since his successful CD release concerts in Paris - where he was joined on stage by jazz and soul legend Pee Wee Ellis (James Brown, Van Morrison)  and his European big band tour with the Diva Jazz Orchestra.  DK Ibomeka - nominated as Male Vocalist of the Year at both the 2007 National Jazz Awards and the 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards - brings his passionate blend of Jazz, Soul and Blues back to Hugh’s Room for the first time since June 2006. 

DK will be accompanied by his quartet consisting of Michael Shand, Justin Abedin,  Russ Boswell and Roger Travossos.  Don’t miss DK Ibomeka at Hugh’s Room, Saturday, June 9 at 8:30 pm.   

Hugh’s Room
2261 Dundas St. West (South of Bloor)
Tel: (416) 531-6604
- to reserve your ticket
8:30 PM
$15 advance / $17 at the door

Girls Night Out – Saturday, June 16, 2007

Source: Ajahmae Live Entertainment

Ajahmae and Up From The Roots bring you the hot and sexy Girls Night Out!  Finally – a night that activates a woman’s mind, body and soul.  Ladies are looking for a night out that stimulates their obsessions – be it erotic poetry, laughter, good food and/or sexy men.  What more can a women ask for?  This show provides the comedic stylings of Jay Martin, the erotic poetry of Dwayne Morgan, the sexy vocal sounds of new R&B group UntitledTRIXX is at the turntables. 

A full dinner and after party joined by the men.  Food, erotic poetry, comedy and good music – and let’s not forget some rock hard eye candy for dessert. 
Girls Night Out will provide all a women wants for one night for the low price of only $35 dollars (advance tickets only). 

You don’t want to miss this! 

Club Paradise
220 Atwell Dr. (private event)
Doors open at 7pm for dinner and show to follow
VIP advance: $35 $40;  $40
at the door
$10 afterparty tickets - open to men
Tickets order line: 416-949-2766
Tickets on sale now at all Nappy locations*
www.Jaymartin.tv OR www.comedyclash.com

Ivory N’ Steel – Sunday, June 24, 2007

Source: www.eddiebullen.com

This exciting collaboration of Smooth Jazz and Steelband music returns to The Toronto Centre for the Arts this summer with another great line-up. Eddie Bullen & friends and the 25-member Afropan, present an evening of hot jazz and soca entitled Ivory N’ Steel with special guests David Rudder and Demo Cates in the George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, one show only, Sunday June 24, 2007 at 3:00 PM.  Last year Ivory N’ Steel rocked the Toronto Centre For The Arts and had hundreds of music lovers begging for more.  This year’s show will be even hotter, with David Rudder … “The Bob Marley of Soca”, and the seductive Demo Cates, lending their power to the island sounds of Afropan and the titillating tones of Eddie Bullen and his contemporary jazz flavoured with Caribbean and Latin rhythms.  Add to the mix surprise guests including young Quincy Bullen – recently described by Pride Magazine as ‘a Quintessential star in the making”, the best concert hall in Toronto, and this is one concert that you do not want to miss!

Eddie Bullen: Performer, songwriter, arranger and producer Eddie Bullen is, in every way, a standout amongst the latest generation of multi-talented artists. Eddie's lengthy career has yielded an abundance of awards and recognition for his outstanding talents. From his first album, 'Nocturnal Affair' to his most recent 'Desert Rain', Eddie gives his audience a taste of contemporary jazz, flavoured with Caribbean and Latin rhythms." Eddie Bullen keeps audiences in Canada and throughout the Caribbean on their feet and begging for more with his distinctive style. ‘His compositions are audacious and sexy, titillating the senses’ ( New York Daily News).  Since his move to Toronto in 1980 from Grenada , Bullen has worked with major Canadian artists like jazz singer Liberty Silver and pop star Dan Hill. He also composes and arranges for City TV, YTV, CBC, and TMN* the Movie Network. A three time nominee for Canadian Smooth Jazz awards, Eddie creates is in constant demand. Visit Eddie at www.eddiebullen.com.

The Afropan Steelband (Afropan) is Toronto 's oldest community steelband and by far the most successful. In 2003 they celebrated their 30th anniversary. From 1973 to 2006 Afropan, under the leadership of Earl La Pierre Sr., has won the best playing calypso competition at the Caribana Festival 26 out of the 34 occasions this competition has been held and has placed second on the 7other occasions.   Afropan is a musical orchestra of which the primary instrument is the steelpan. The steelpan (the pan) is a percussion musical instrument made from a steel drum. The steelband is an ensemble of steelpan instruments accompanied solely by an untuned percussion section. The family of steelpan instruments can generally be divided into four sections; soprano, alto, tenor and bass.

David Rudder: David was born in Belmont , Trinidad on May 6, 1953, and began his musical career at age 11, when he joined a group called The Solutions. In 1977, he joined the brass band Charlie's Roots.  Rudder has been musically influenced by the Shango and Pan yard that he grew up in as a young boy, although his musical tastes have often leaned towards jazz, and African drum beats. His first big break came when he was asked to fill in for Christopher "Tambu" Herbert, lead singer with Charlie's Roots, while on the band’s tour. Rudder stayed on as a co-lead singer, and built a reputation for his scintillating performances.  He established himself as one of the few band singers who wrote all his own songs. David has been featured in Rolling Stone Magazine, New York Times, The Village Voice, The LA Times, Newsweek Magazine, Billboard, The London Observer, The Jamaica Gleaner , Now, and Miami Herald. He has won several awards for his popular and often controversial songs, including Album of the Year at both the Caribbean Music Awards, as well as the Nafeita Awards.

Demo Cates: Cates has earned the respect of Jazz musicians at home and abroad with his visionary method and superlative talents. Grown and developed in Detroit Michigan but exposed and revered in Toronto , Cates is a mature Musician and Vocalist from Detroit who in his words, 'plays on emotions and allows the sax to translate inspiration in smooth and sensuous sounds.' The “7 Mile”, Latin and R&B Music inspired Detroit native, credits the Motown era as his constant source of motivation for his first band, The Fabulous Counts, a 4-piece band that opened for greats like Al Green and Stevie Wonder.

SUNDAY, JUNE 24, 2007
Toronto Centre for the Arts - George Weston Recital Hall
5040 Yonge Street
3:00 pm
Tickets: $40.00 and $35 orchestra and balcony; $30
To purchase tickets: call Ticketmaster at 416-872-1111
Visit www.ticketmaster.ca (keyword IVORY N STEEL)
Or visit The Toronto Centre For the Arts Box Office, 5040 Yonge Street


Rogers Stylus DJ Award Winners Announced

Source:  Stylus Group

**Please see photos in my

(June 5, 2007) TORONTO - Winners have been announced for the
2007 ROGERS STYLUS DJ AWARDS.  The second-ever Canadian awards, honouring urban music's best DJs, emcees, musicians and record labels, were co-hosted by nominated Toronto emcees Trixx (of FLOW 93.5 FM) and RG at Palais Royale Ballroom on Monday, June 4th in Toronto.  More than 400 DJ enthusiasts, industry leaders, top-name stars and supporters turned-out and celebrated Canada's best hip-hop DJs.  At the ceremony, 19 awards were presented.  (See complete listing of winners, attached.)     Toronto's Baby Yu, the big winner of the night, took home two awards for Toronto DJ of the Year and Club DJ of the Year—which was presented to him by top-notch recording artists Kardinal Offishall and Jully Black

New awards introduced this year were handed out to Si Vu Play for Female DJ of the Year; DJ Law for Mixtape DJ of the Year; Grouch for Underground DJ of the Year; and on-air radio teams Jester and Chief of CIUT Toronto, as well as Static and Professor Groove of CKUT Montreal, who tied for College Radio Show of the Year.   Untouched honorees who accepted awards for the second consecutive year were: DJ Kwake for Edmonton DJ of the Year; DJ Fin-S for Winnipeg DJ of the Year; DJ Plae Boi for Halifax DJ of the Year; and Dr Jay for Soca DJ of the Year.   The crowd roared with approval as Michee Mee and Trinity Chris presented Lindo P. with Reggae DJ of the Year.  Juno-award winning r&b singer Dru handed out Calgary DJ of the Year to Pump and awarded Drastik with Ottawa DJ of the Year, amongst eight city-to-city winners.  Team Canada (DR-1 and Grandtheft) walked the stage for the first-time to claim Montreal DJ of the Year.  

Three-time nominated Jr Flo, kicked-off the night and set the bar high with the first performance of the evening backed by his band The Symphony.  Nominated rapper Belly tore up the stage with a performance featuring American platinum-selling rapper KuruptAddictiv from Montreal rocked the house alongside surprise guest—internationally-known recording artist Papoose.    DJ Starting From Scratch, three-time winner for the 2006 awards—now Stylus Group member, was the official DJ and musical influence of the 2007 Stylus DJ Awards.  Two Hall of Fame awards were the highlight of the night’s special recognitions.    Killowatt Productions, the youngest of the Toronto DJ and Hip Hop-culture pioneers who emerged in the late 1970s and were one of the first sound crews that had both a female DJ and female emcee, and Dr. Soul “Len P”, who opened Club 747 in 1983 to introduce funk, r&b, hip-hop and soul to the Ottawa-Hull region and also started a weekly Sunday specifically for youth to DJ and break dance in Confederation Park, were the second-ever DJs Stylus DJ Awards Canadian Hall of Fame for their lifetime contribution to the urban music industry. 

The 2007 nominees were determined via a National online voting system, and winners were selected by a random committee of industry experts.    The uniquely Canadian-designed award replicates a miniature Technics 1200 turntable including needle, pitch control and record.   An exciting Yahoo! Canada After-Party on the waterfront patio of the Palais Royale Ballroom concluded the evening.  The event is co-presented by Rogers Music Store and the Nokia 5300 XpressMusic mobile phone.  Generous supporters also include: MuchVIBE, Flow 93.5FM, Sean John, Yahoo! Canada, Ortofon, American Audio, Pioneer, Capital Prophet, Universal Music, Sony BMG, Warner Music, Koch Entertainment, myTego Inc., TheCyberkrib.com, and Dose.ca.

2007 Stylus DJ Awards Winners

Sunday’s Awards at Pre-Party, Montana’s:
Club MC of the Year:
Scott Boogie
International Hip Hop Single of the Year:
Jim Jones – “We Fly High” – Koch Records
International R&B Single of the Year:
Justin Timberlake featuring T.I. – “My Love” – Sony BMG
Label Rep of the Year:
Jay Devonish – Koch

Monday’s Awards at Awards Show, Palais Royale Ballroom:
College Radio Show of the Year:
Static and Professor Groove – We Funk Radio – CKUT 90.3FM
Underground Hip Hop DJ of the Year:
Grouch (Toronto)
Female DJ of the Year:
Si Vu Play (Toronto)
Mixtape DJ of the Year:
Law (Toronto)
Reggae DJ of the Year:
Lindo P. (Toronto)
Soca DJ of the Year:
Dr. Jay (Toronto)
Club DJ of the Year:
Baby Yu (Toronto)
Radio Mixshow DJ of the Year:
Flipout and J-Swing – The Beat – Vancouver
Vancouver DJ of the Year:
Calgary DJ of the Year:
Edmonton DJ of the Year:
Winnipeg DJ of the Year:
Toronto DJ of the Year:
Baby Yu
Ottawa DJ of the Year:
Montreal DJ of the Year:
Team Canada (DR-1 and Grandtheft)
Halifax DJ of the Year:
Plae Boi
Canadian Hip Hop Single of the Year:
K-OS – “Sunday Morning” – EMI
Canadian R&B Single of the Year:
Nelly Furtado – “Say it Right” – Universal Music
Hall of Fame Recipients:
Killowatt Productions – Toronto
Dr. Soul “Len P” – Ottawa

Hi Five’s Tony Thompson Found Dead

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 4, 2007) *
Tony Thompson, a member of the 1990s R&B group Hi Five, was found dead Friday night of an apparent drug overdose, friends told the Waco Tribune-Herald. He was 31. Thompson’s body was discovered at around 10 p.m. outside of an apartment complex in his native Waco, Texas.  Immediately following the signing of Hi Five to Jive Records in 1990, the group found success with their multi-platinum self-titled debut album, which featured the hit singles “I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)," "I Can't Wait Another Minute," and "Just Another Girlfriend." Two years later, the group scored with hits "She's Playing Hard to Get" and "Quality Time." Thompson, who grew up in Oklahoma City, released a solo album, “Sexsational,” in 1995 following the breakup of Hi Five during the previous year. He reformed the band with four new members – including his little brother – in 2006 and released their album “The Return” on hisRihanna’s Umbrella Opens Up Over Hot 100

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 1, 2007) *
Rihanna took a monstrous jump from No. 42 to 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 this week, toting along her new single, “Umbrella,” the first release from her forthcoming album, “Good Girl Gone Bad.”  The Shop Boyz were right behind her with their 52-2 leap of “Party Like a Rockstar.” Both songs benefited from massive digital sales: ‘Umbrella” had 277,000 downloads while “Rockstar” racked up 173,000. Last week's Hot 100 No. 1, Maroon 5's "Makes Me Wonder," slips to No. 3 this week. T-Pain's "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')" featuring Yung Joc is down 2-4, while Daughtry's "Home" inches up 6-5. Justin Timberlake's "Summer Love" rises 9-6, followed by Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend," which is down 3-7. Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry" climbs 21-8 and is the chart's greatest digital gainer. Kelly Clarkson's "Never Again" rebounds 17-9 after her appearance last week on the "American Idol" finale, and Huey's "Pop, Lock & Drop It" rounds out the top 10, slipping from No. 8.

"Idol" winner Jordin Sparks has the Hot 100's top debut with "This Is My Now" at No. 15. At 74,500 downloads, it's the lowest first-week sales total for an "Idol" coronation song ever, although this year's release is the first to be digital only, accompanied by a multi-track EP. "Idol" runner-up Blake Lewis debuts at No. 18 with his version of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name." Also new to the Hot 100 this week are T.I.'s "Big Things Poppin' (Do It)" at No. 30, and Gwen Stefani's "4 in the Morning" at No. 76. "Buy U a Drank" remains No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for a fifth week. The top debut on that tally is Keyshia Cole's "Let It Go" featuring Missy Elliott and Lil' Kim.

Rihanna To Sign Autographs In Toronto On June 14

Source:  Universal Urban

(June 5, 2007) Toronto, ON - Universal Music Canada and Best Buy arepleased to announce that on Thursday, June 14 multi-platinum selling artist Rihanna will greet 200 of her lucky fans at an autograph session at Best Buy (Bay & Dundas location) in Toronto.  Rihanna will sign copies of her highly anticipated third album Good Girl Gone Bad (SRP/Def Jam/Universal Music Canada) which is in stores today.  The autograph session will take place at 6:00 PM for the lucky first 200 fans in line at Best Buy who will be provided with wristbands on June 14.

Date:                     Thursday, June 14
Location:              Best Buy  (65 Dundas Street West at Bay St)
Time:                     6:00 PM
 own record label, N'Depth.

The singer had recently moved back to Waco from Dallas and was working on new material at the time of his death.  Speaking of Thompson's new material, if you go to his MySpace page (www.myspace.com/tonythompsonmusicpage) you can hear what he was working. One song that stands out is the incredibly groovealicious "Come Over."

B.C.'S Seth Rogen Is Adjusting To New Circumstances

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Special To The Star

(June 03, 2007)
Seth Rogen is on his last interview of the day and he's still laughing.  Calling from a beachside hotel in L.A. where he's holed up promoting Knocked Up, his new movie now in theatres, Rogen has a "I'll let you in on the joke" quality to him that makes him seem less like a movie star with six movies in the pipeline and more like a long-lost buddy.  It's no wonder audiences have taken to him so readily. Just three years ago, Rogen was billed as Eager Cameraman in Anchorman and starting this weekend, he's starring opposite Katherine Heigl in a comedy Variety has called "more explosively funny, more frequently, than nearly any other major studio release in recent memory."  The actor is taking advantage of his hot streak. In August, Sony is releasing Superbad, a comedy he co-wrote with Evan Goldberg when he was 13. A collaboration with Kristofer Brown – the family film Drillbit Taylor with Owen Wilson – is also awaiting release.  Rogen lent his tonsil power to two upcoming animated films (if you don't count his cameo in Shrek The Third): Horton Hears a Who and Kung Fu Panda. And he just finished Pineapple Express, a stoner action comedy he wrote and co-stars in alongside fellow Freaks and Geeks alum James Franco.

Tell him that Knocked Up might turn him into a sex symbol and he laughs a long, from-the-gut bellow that's part Beavis and Butt-Head and part Jolly Old St. Nick.  "I'm the anti-sex symbol," says Rogen, 25. "I'm the greatest birth control device in the history of the universe."  Rogen certainly delivers in Knocked Up. Conceived by the actor and mentor Judd Apatow as a follow-up to the 2005 hit The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the movie stars Rogen as a pot-smoking slacker.  During a club crawl with his pals, he meets an ambitious TV reporter (Heigl) out celebrating her recent promotion to news anchor. They hook up, she gets pregnant and they decided not only to have the baby but to give coupledom a shot.  There's plenty of raunch. But somehow Apatow and Rogen manage to balance jokes about crowning, morning sickness and abortion – or "shmashmortion" as the guys call it – with a large dose of emotional truth.  "I think we do purposely try to walk that fine line," says Rogen. "Sweetness and filth just go hand and hand.  "I always liked movies that had characters who behaved like me and my friends behaved but, at the same time, I liked movies that were emotionally resonant and had real-life issues to them. We just try to put those two different kinds of movies together."

Even though he's only 25, Rogen has a shocking amount of showbiz experience. He's been performing since he was 11, when he began landing commercials in his native Vancouver. At 13, he netted a series of stand-up gigs in the Yuk Yuk's chain. After high school, he moved to Los Angeles where he appeared at clubs there and was just 17 when Apatow happened upon his Freaks and Geeks audition tape and offered him a role.  After Freaks and Geeks was cancelled during its first season, Apatow created the series Undeclared He took Rogen along with him as both an actor and a writer. It only lasted a season, freeing Rogen up for other roles and, with The 40-Year-Old Virgin, he found himself in the middle of a $175 million hit. He played Cal, the stockroom manager who tries to talk Steve Carell's innocent into finally getting a girlfriend.  Although Rogen has settled down with his girlfriend of two years – aspiring filmmaker Lauren Miller – Knocked Up didn't foster thoughts of fatherhood.  "Holding all of those babies was freaky," says Rogen. "Those were, like, the first babies I've ever held in my life. I'm never the guy you ask to hold a baby. I'll drop him or cough bong smoke into his face.  "When kids hit 12, though, I'm okay with them. But, until then, it's like, `Get this thing out of my hands.'"  More to Rogen's liking were the Knocked Up scenes with his roommates Jay, Jonah, Jason and Martin who were played by Rogen's real-life pals Jay Baruchel (a fellow Canadian), Jonah Hill, Jason Segal and Martin Starr.  "It was a surreal experience," says Rogen, "to shoot scenes with your actual best friends who were playing your best friends and using their real names. That's as little as work can possibly feel like work, I have to say."


Cox Talks Dance, Duets And Dinah

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop & Jazz Critic

(June 03, 2007) From R&B songstress to dance maven to Broadway actor,
Deborah Cox keeps flexing her multi-talented muscles. Now the Florida-based Scarborough native has released an album of jazz, blues and big-band songs popularized by Dinah Washington. It's a definite risk, since she has little name recognition with the Diana Krall/Norah Jones crowd and her last disc comprised temple-throbbing remixes geared to tight T-shirt-wearing clubgoers. But eight years after "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here" spent a record-breaking 14 weeks at the top of Billboard's R&B singles chart, Cox apparently inspires enough confidence to get major label funding for her "labour of love." Destination Moon was recorded live with 40 musicians, even as the 32-year-old mother of two was recording songs for an R&B album due out next year. The Star spoke with the entertainer during her 10-day visit to promote the new record and perform at lat night's scheduled inauguration of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

Who is this album targeted to?

It's definitely for the mature audience: the people who love the classic records – Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan; the ones who can appreciate a good song; people who understand nostalgia.

I understand the artistic merit, but how confident are you about it gaining sales and radio play?

I think this record is going to build slowly and be influenced by word of mouth. I'm not leaning toward radio, or how we've promoted records in the past. I did this record purely out of passion and to expose people to a wonderful woman that has a great legacy of music that should be heard.

So, it's not that you don't think you can still compete with Beyoncé and the other young 'uns dominating the pop charts?

Absolutely not! I'm doing it because I can. R&B has been a staple of mine, and dance (music) has been an extension of who I am, jazz is as well. This is part of the package that is going to allow me to have longevity.

Back when he was heading up Arista Records, Clive Davis was credited with launching your career. Who is your guru now?

I'm sort of leaning on my own instincts. I'm following my heart and letting what inspires me dictate what I do.

With a Guyanese background, calypso, reggae and soca are a given, but jazz?

My parents were very musical: my father sang a lot of Nat King Cole and I remember my mother playing a lot of Dinah Washington and Brook Benton. Most of what was played in our household was jazz and soul. The calypso was more at the parties.

Why didn't you replicate "Baby, You've Got What It Takes" as a Washington-Benton style duet?

I wanted to, but some artists I approached did not want to do the duet, because they wanted to shy away from jazz. They were more interested in doing a duet on the (forthcoming) R&B album.

How much of Destination Moon was recorded live-off-the-floor?

I would say 90 per cent of it is the first take. I might have tweaked a few little ad-libs here and there, but really the spirit of it came out in the first take. The energy, the truth of what the song meant was in that first take.

There's no scatting on this record.

I take pride in saying I can scat, but that's for the Ella (Fitzgerald) record. Dinah didn't do a lot of scatting. She was really a gutsy soul singer.

What's your connection to Washington, who had a particularly turbulent personal life?

Sure, she struggled with her weight, she drank a lot, she was married seven times, she was very moody, but what I could relate to was her musical diversity. She did jazz and big band, but she was labelled the Queen of the Blues and she hated that. She didn't want to be pigeonholed and that's what I relate to the most.

So, we shouldn't call you "Deborah Cox: Dance Diva?"

No! That's just too limiting. I came into this business singing all different styles and acting and dancing, as well. I still want to maintain that. When I got signed with Arista I was put into this box of "the next Whitney" and it wasn't as much fun.

Rappers Converge For A War Of Words At Freestyle Event

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Reporter

(June 03, 2007) It's lyrical warfare. Rappers
Giancarlo Domingo, a.k.a. GC, and Ron Deez eye each other across the stage at the Opera House, preparing for a battle of wits as a woman wearing spiked heels and a bikini struts past them bearing a sign that reads "Round 1." GC grabs the mic and spits first:

"I guarantee that he ain't ill
He looks like the dude from D4L.
Hold it man, he want-a hold the mic
But he's so filthy I'm thinking he has lice."

"Ohhh," the crowd says, urging him to draw more blood. Three judges watch and listen as GC walks up to his opponent, getting the mic near Deez's face as Deez pretends to ignore the insults hurled his way. No insult was off-limits this past Thursday night at
Mic For Your Life, in which 16 freestyle rap battlers tried to land the deadliest punchline on their opponent. To the last man standing went $1,000 and an article in hip-hop paper Swag News"No one like you 'round here, you're like Vince Carter," the battle-tested J.R. Mint tells his opponent, Organic. "Your stupid gear is from the flea market." Organic picks that insult off in his rebuttal: "The flea market is where you bought your rap style." While relaxing at the Scarborough Town Centre a day before these epic rap battles, 22-year-old Pickering native GC described the event as "kinda like a schoolyard insult fest  "It's nothing personal at the end of the day. But I really hope they make me pissed off and tease me to death because that's when I think I'm at my best, when I'm mad."

GC was aiming to win so he could pay off some bills and pay for studio time to record a new album. His first album, Bout to Blow, was recorded on CD-R and self-distributed. He's anxious to make another. He first started writing rhymes when he was 13, but GC said he didn't take rapping seriously until he was 19.  Being Filipino and from Pickering, he thought he would never be marketable in an industry dominated with gangster images. Then Kanye West's CD College Dropout gave GC hope by deflating the notion that "to be a rap star you have to be some kind of gangster."  K-Cut, a Toronto hip-hop producer, said he organized the event because he feels rap music has been tainted by lyrics focused on cash and violence.  He wanted an event that brought hip-hop "back to the essence," he said. "You have your bling-bling and you have your gangster rap, but at the same time, rap and hip-hop are magical." The battle was also a chance for up-and-coming emcees to get their name out, just as rappers in 1980s New York promoted themselves through battles.

For some Torontonians, their first exposure to live battling is likely the BET channel's Freestyle Fridays, a popular feature on evening show 106 & Park that pitted the previous week's "champion" against a challenger. BET's own Mad Linx hosted last week's Cravefest-sponsored event, alongside Toronto's Bishop Brigante, who was the first Canadian to battle on 106 & Park and won three weeks straight. Battling was also glorified in 8 Mile, featuring rap star Marshall "Eminem" Mathers. But many of the emcees gathered Thursday night said battling and making songs for an album are separate entities.  "The battlewise aren't going to be the ones that make the best music," said Montreal's Prolific, a.k.a William Ridout, from Montreal. "This is a whole culture unto itself. The best freestyle rappers aren't really known, they're just kicking ass somewhere." Prolific, who placed eighth at Scribble Jam last year, one of the biggest battles in North America, took the bus in from Montreal confident he'd win, only to be cut down by J.R. Mint, Mic For Your Life's eventual champion. GC joined Prolific as an early casualty, but before the show had even started, he got in front of a TV camera and freestyled for the late night news. He said the night was still a success, since he made contacts with people in the hip-hop industry.  "These battle things, they don't really bother me," he said. "I still want to make another album."

Barber Sets Her Sights On Europe

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Reporter

(May 31, 2007) On a roll since she picked up two major prizes at February's East Coast Music Awards – recording of the year and best female solo recording for her debut 2006 album For All Time – Ontario-born-and-raised, Halifax-based singer-songwriter
Jill Barber can no longer play the wide-eyed ingénue with whom I shared a concert bill at Hamilton's now-defunct Staircase Theatre a couple of years ago. Back then she sang in a whisper, her eyes half closed, about love and obsession and heartache, experiences that her small frame and tender years could barely have sustained. Yet the sizeable audience seemed lost in her raw and romantic confessions, entranced by her sweet voice. And when the spell was broken and Barber stepped off stage, the crowd evaporated, like so many ghosts in a fog. Unknown to the larger world, she was already a formidable artist, and a tough act to follow. That was around the time Barber, who had followed a lover – now gone from her life – to Halifax three years earlier, released a little gem of a CD, just five songs produced at CBC Radio facilities there, called Oh Heart. Its plaintive, luminous melodies were irresistible, and with loads of Mother Corp. airplay, Barber's small offering became something of a cult hit.

Now, in the wake of her first full-length album – For All Time was recorded in Toronto by veteran producer and multi-instrumentalist Les Cooper, and contains musical contributions from Blue Rodeo's Baz Donovan and Jim Cuddy, as well as local cult hero, guitarist-singer Luke Doucet – Barber is courting serious offers to release the album in Britain and Europe, and to tour there in the fall. "We've already started building an infrastructure there," she said over the phone during a sound check at the Music Room, Halifax's most intimate venue, where Barber performed three sold-out concerts last week. "I've been there to meet people and make plans, and I feel very comfortable in Europe." Having found her heart's content in the Maritimes, Barber knows second opportunities rarely happen, and she's looking forward to expanding her musical horizons, but not before completing a welter of summer festival dates in Canada and a concert tomorrow night at Toronto's Mod Club, accompanied by Cooper on lap steel and electric guitar, and John Sheard on piano. "I love Halifax, I love the history and the music of this region, I love the ocean, and I felt at home here almost as soon as I arrived," Barber said. "Because we're off most of the major touring routes, the people in the Maritimes work hard at entertaining themselves. It's an inspiring environment for musicians ... not competitive, like Toronto. Artists here are supportive of each other, and extremely creative. I suppose because we're so far removed from the rest of Canada, musicians here can rise above the more petty aspects of the music business."

That's not meant to slight Toronto, she added quickly. "That's where I'm from, and my family is there. It's a very urban city, fast-paced, with lots of attitude. I'm comfortable in both places, but I've learned to be more laid back out here." An untrained musician whose elegant melodic ideas come from the sounds around her – "on the radio, in the air, in nature," she says – it took a Barber a year to write For All Time, which chronicles, though not sequentially, the cycle of a single relationship.  "I'm very deliberate," she explained. "I don't write songs that I toss aside. I have lots of little ideas bubbling around, but when a song starts forming it's locked in stone. "I obviously draw my inspiration from love, and I'm often described as a romantic. To me, music is a sensual thing ... we appreciate it with all our senses. And songs are a constant soundtrack to my life."

Deniece Williams: Covered In ‘Style’

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

(June 1, 2007) *Songbird
Deniece Williams was a staple on the popand R&B charts in the 1980s. Her hits “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” “Silly,” “Let’s Hear It For The Boy,” and her inspirational “Black Butterfly” have become music fan favourites.  Now the singer has put together a new disc with some of her personal favourites on her new album “Love, Niecy Style.” The disc boasts delicately handled covers of classic R&B hits of the past – all with the added style and charm of Williams. In addition to the ageless hits of other artists, the disc features a re-recording of her own “Cause You Love Me Baby,” and a brand new gem titled “The Only Thing I’m Missing Is You.”  Still, what separates Williams’ collection from other R&B ‘cover’ tunes is the diversity of her choices. “Love, Niecy Style” features remakes of the hits of legends such as Baby Washington, Donny Hathaway, Kool and the Gang, and Luther Vandross – whose untimely death sparked the project. “I first met Luther when we were both background singers. I was singing for Stevie Wonder and he was a background singer for Bette Midler,” she reminisced. Williams, along with who she called “the circle of singers,” were thoroughly impressed with Vandross’ talent and knew that he would soon make a name for himself.

“He was incredible. We all knew that,” she said. “But his death caused me to think about my life and what I’m doing with it. I’m paying closer attention to that dash: the time I got here to the time we leave – that’s the most important thing; the legacy we all leave. Since then I’ve just been thinking about that dash.” One of the things Williams thought she would do to define her “dash” was to put together a new project. But she told EUR’s Lee Bailey that it wasn’t really coming together that easily.  “I didn’t want to record just anything. It had to be special,” she explained. “As a writer, you have to step back and think about your experiences, and then it comes out. I can’t force creativity. I was really waiting to get out the things that were in my heart and in my mind. For many years, it wouldn’t come out. I was living the experiences and some of it was very hard, like going through a divorce, for example, or your teenagers start acting up.” Then, just around the time Vandross passed, Williams had a breakthrough. “I started to write again. Life started to be fresh and I could handle the memories and I could write about what I’d been experiencing.”

With inspiration from Vandross’ work and his life, Williams set out to take on and take in some of the songs she’s always loved. And with this new disc, Williams’ dash is shaping into a highly anticipated exclamation point. She brought in an old friend to produce the project and began sifting through the songs and influences that had inspired her career. Bobby Eli, who worked with her on her mega hits “Gonna take A Miracle” and “Silly.” “We already had a relationship and I knew that he respected me as an artist and as a singer and he understood my voice,” she said. Then it was on to selecting the songs. Williams came up with a list of tracks that she had sung over and over from childhood to adulthood; song’s she’d hummed and belted while just hanging around the house. “I’ve been singing those songs for a long time because those are my peers that I respect and love and really love their music. ‘If You Really Love Me,’ I sang because I was 3 ½ years in  [the vocal group] Wonderlove with Stevie, so I knew that one by heart. That was my favourite and I had never heard anyone do that one, so I put my little twist on it.”

Williams’ rendition of memorable songs from childhood included on the disc also include Baby Washington’s “How Heartaches Are Made,” which features her good friend Stevie Wonder on the harmonica, Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” and her own "Cause You Love Me Baby” which was such a hit for her, that she’s re- recorded it for the new project.  “(Stevie) came down and of course he played his behind off,” she said. “It was incredible. It turned out just magical.”  Williams said after doing the set with Wonder that she played him her ‘If You Really Love Me’ version and got an approval from the legend. “I change it up a little bit; it’s more bluesy in the middle than his version, but it’s ‘Love, Niecy Style.’ It’s my version.” After all it’s titled “Love, Niecy Style” and all the tracks feature her own brand, plus a few of her good friends, such as Phillip Bailey on the Earth, Wind & Fire hit “Love’s Holiday.” The set also features a song very dear to Williams, penned by her friend Gwen Guthrie years ago when Williams was a background singer. “Gwen had just written this song and she played it. I remember saying, ‘That’s such a pretty song. I wish I could sing it.’ Years later I heard Gwen’s song, Angela Bofill did it – ‘This Time I’ll Be Sweeter.’ I decided I would do this song on this project and I started calling my folks in New York because I wanted to call Gwen and say, ‘I sure hope you like what I’m doing with it.”

Unfortunately, Williams would never find out, as Guthrie had died several years ago from breast cancer. “So when I went in the studio, I was really singing it for my friend. It really meant a lot to me and that happens to be one of my favourite songs on this project.” Classic favourites, Williams’ favourites, whatever they’re considered, are sure to be a fave for Niecy fans. To check out some of the tracks, visit her MySpace page at www.myspace.com/deniecewilliams. “Love, Niecy Style” is available at Amazon.com and iTunes. Meanwhile, fans in Los Angeles can see Niecey perform tunes from the new CD and some of her classics tomorrow night (06-02-07) at BB King's at City Walk in Universal City. And if you go to the show, wish her a happy birthday, which is Sun., June 3.

Stefani Makes A Clean Getaway At The ACC

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop & Jazz Critic

(May 31, 2007) Don't know why Paris Hilton acolytes are petitioning the Guvernator to spare her a jail term for probation violations when time in the clink seems to be the in thing. No less than style-maker
Gwen Stefani opened her show at the Air Canada Centre last night locked inside an albeit gilded cell clad in albeit fetching prison stripes.  The tie-in was a frenetic rendition of "The Sweet Escape," for which her recent album and tour are named. Accompanying her on the song was opening act Akon, the Senegalese rapper who credits his three-year stint in the pokey (for running a car theft ring) as the catalyst to pursue a music career.  Who'd figure that the capacity crowd of screaming tweens and teens (and chaperones) who adore Stefani's whimsical girl-power shtick would also lap up the shirt-baring, profanity-laced routine of the Atlanta hip-hopper, whose second album is called Konvicted (with a smash R.Kelly-esque paean to a stripper) and boasts a logo of crossed forearms with handcuffed/bejewelled wrists?  The tour recently lost U.S. cellphone provider Verizon as a sponsor after Akon was videotaped simulating sex with an underaged girl at a club show in Trinidad.

But Stefani hasn't given him the boot and the pair do have a few things in common: his nasal, sing-a-long hooks and her penchant for nonsense refrains – na na na na na na ("Rich Girl") – and their hardscrabble origins. Hers, of course, was the punk version in suburban Orange County.  But Stefani is definitely more accessible than, say Madonna, to whom she's most often compared. They have similar chameleonic images, but Stefani seems more playful and sexy, rather than deliberate and sexed-up. Weary-eyed in the close-ups more than halfway through a North America tour, the 37-year-old pop songstress and mom to a year-old son admitted to having an off day. "I was grumpy, like, 10 minutes ago, for no reason; just being a bitch, basically," she said in a confessional aside. However, as she noted, it's hard not to have a good time when scrambling across stage in bat wings for a cops and robbers scenario, or doffing a checked coatdress to reveal red sequined shorts.

There were plenty of costume changes from the fashion label boss, but she was rarely off stage, since layering facilitated most of them. The low point of the 90-minute set was the three consecutive ballads in the first half that resulted in a run to the restroom and refreshment stand. It's not that her voice couldn't carry the tunes, but the overwhelming six-piece band didn't give it a chance. Besides, she's a lot less fun in slo-mo. Stefani is at her best skipping saucily across stage with her Harajuku Girls sidekicks and showcasing her theatrical flair on uptempo songs such as "Wind It Up" and "Hollaback Girl," when she most resembles a fantasy land escapee.  Her character is a mashup of Alice in Wonderland naiveté, Barbie's glam, Miss Piggy's irreverence and Nancy Drew's resourcefulness – simply entertaining.

John Cook Debuts High On Billboard Charts

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Mona Austin

(May 30, 2007) Brooklyn native
John Cook, who some have heralded as the breakthrough rapper of the year, obviously has the recipe for tasty music.   "Heaven's Pen," on CCC Music / Alliant Music Group landed in the 10 at Number 8 (during the week of May 21) on Billboard's Top Gospel Chart, an overwhelming indication that Christian Rap music is a viable and genuine expression of Gospel music. Cook brings an all new perspective and presentation while delivering an age-old message - The Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He's your son, your brother, and your neighbour … a young man who has seen more than his share of tragedy and trauma.     Well-versed in urban-flavoured style, he grew up in the heyday of Hip Hop.  Witnessing both trials, and more importantly triumphs through God, John Cook found a way to give God glory for all He has done for him in today's language, for today's music.   He was able to discover that both his love of rap music and deeply rooted dedication to God's word could co-exist.

More than just a rapper, Cook has become an ambassador for the younger sect speaking the Gospel to them in their own language.   In the vein of the Psalms and Proverbs he brings forth wisdom and understanding to a young audience in desperate need for a more positive way.  A literal take on the meaning of Cook's album title, he took his divinely inspired lyrics to paper to create this exciting new body of work.   He reveals his love for God and his genuine desire to use his talent and voice to change the hearts of men and women. In a society that now seeks a spiritual, positive and inspirational voice, John Cook stands to be that very voice for the young people.  First featured on the CCC Music compilation CD, "God Conscious" Cook was heard on the hit single "I Got The Victory (The Devil Is A Liar)" and "Dreaming."  Cook is a mainstay at the Christian Cultural Center ministry in Brooklyn, NY.

Warner Plans Free Music Videos Online

Source: Reuters

(May 31, 2007) LONDON —
Warner Music, the world's fourth largest music group, is putting its archive of music video online and making it available free to fans. Warner, home to Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, will work with digital services provider Premium TV to create online TV sites or "digital hubs" that will be organized by artist, genre or label and funded by advertising. The move is part of the music industry's drive to generate revenue from new sources to offset the fall in CD sales and follows the explosion in popularity of online video. Warner said the platforms would show previously unseen footage and would eventually be available in different languages.

Revenue will be driven by advertising, but music fans will be able to download the videos for an additional fee and Warner will also examine syndicating the content to a third party. The deal includes plans to develop subscription-based services and a version to be used on mobile platforms.  "This major new proposition in online TV represents a key step in our continued transformation," Patrick Vien, chairman and chief executive of Warner Music International said.  "These unique digital hubs will further enable us to monetize our content across the myriad of ever-developing ways that people enjoy music."  Earlier this month, Warner said it expected to shift resources to boost its digital distribution of music and video after it posted a wider quarterly loss.

Bet J Explodes In June With A Sizzling Line-up Of Hot Originals

Source:  BET J

(June 1, 2007) WASHINGTON, DC – BET J, the adult complement to BET, announced a new slate of shows for June 2007 which includes Black Music Month specials, returning BET J favourites, and BET Awards-related specials to name a few.  The fresh menu of shows offers viewers a diverse mix of music and entertainment specials, as well as provocative spoken word and intimate, engaging profiles.  There is no doubt that the “Cool Like That” channel will raise the temperature and the level of programming for June 2007!     This June, BET J celebrates Black Music Month with a line-up of red-hot music specials featuring today’s music favourites.  Caribbean music lovers will savour the island vibes in the exotic music special, SOCA IN THE CITY featuring soca star Machel Montano’s electric performance from New York City's famed Madison Square Garden to premiere during BET J’s “Island Lime” Saturdays on June 9 at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. ET/PT

R&B crooner Musiq Soulchild is featured in the Black Music Month specials, MUSIQ SOULCHILD, MAKING OF THE VIDEO: TEACH ME which documents the making of his latest music video, and LUVAN’ MUSIQ which highlights the vocalist’s phenomenal music and performances premiering on Thursday, June 14 at 10:30 p.m. and Friday, June 22 at 11:00 a.m. respectively.    Viewers can also look to returning BET J favourites like the cool and funky LYRIC CAFÉ and the sultry REAL LIFE DIVAS which exude the Black experience.  LYRIC CAFÉ pays homage to the rich history of the spoken word and features a hot music line-up including Raheem DeVaughn, Anthony David and Kindred as they come together with today’s hottest spoken word artists to deliver episode after episode of beautifully blended musical performances and sonnets.  The first episode premieres on Thursday, June 14 at 10:00 p.m. and features musical guest, Musiq Soulchild and a special appearance by legendary musician Bootsy Collins.  

Regal and beautiful women reclaim the spotlight in BET J’s returning original series, REAL LIFE DIVAS, a show that profiles the dynamic lives and contributions of prominent African-American women, and the personal challenges and circumstances they overcame.  Starting Thursday, June 28 at 10:30 p.m., REAL LIFE DIVAS will roll out fresh, new episodes showcasing the Divas who make a difference- whether their influence was artistic, social or political.  The first episode will detail the phenomenal life of actress, comedienne and activist, Mo’Nique.   Also in June, BET J teams up with sister network, BET to honour the signature BET network special BET AWARDS ‘07.  Leading up to the BET AWARDS ’07 highly anticipated June 26 premiere, BET J will air BET Awards ancillary programming highlighting this year’s nominees, as well as the humanitarian & lifetime achievement honourees.  On Wednesday, June 13 at 9:30 p.m., BET J will air SOUL APPROVED: THE BET J NOMINATION SPECIAL showcasing R&B notables Brian McKnight, Elisabeth Withers, Eric Roberson, Gerald Levert and Musiq Soulchild, and the chance for one of them to be “soul approved” for a BET J Award nomination.

On Monday, June 18 at 9:00 p.m., the BET HUMANITARIAN AWARD RECIPIENT SPECIAL will detail the amazing life of Don Cheadle, the 2007 Humanitarian Award recipient, and his steadfast commitment to uplifting humanity and furthering philanthropy efforts.  The illustrious life, career and contributions of soul songstress Diana Ross is documented in the BET J award special, BET LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENT SPECIAL airing on Monday, June 18 at 9:30 p.m. 

Following is a more detailed programming schedule of BET J specials/shows for June 2007:

·         AMERICAN GANGSTER marathon:  Narrated by actor Ving Rhames and documenting America’s most notorious Black criminals’ infamous reign and fall, and the detrimental impact their actions had on their on communities through personal accounts and intimate interviews. Marathon episodes include up-close features of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, “Freeway” Ricky Ross, Lorenzo “Fat Cat” Nichols, Leroy “Nicky” Barnes, Troy and Dino Smith, and the Chamber Brothers: Billy Joe, Willie, Larry and Otis.   Sunday, June 3 at 8:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.; and Sunday, June 17 at 8:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.

·         SOCA IN THE CITY featuring soca performer Machel Montano.  Saturday, June 9 at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; and Saturday, June 30 at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

·         MUSIQ SOULCHILD, MAKING OF THE VIDEO: TEACH ME highlighting the making of Musiq Soulchild’s latest music video, “Teach Me”.  Thursday, June 14 at 10:30 p.m. and Wednesday, June 27 at 11:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.

·         LUVAN’ MUSIQ showcasing the music and memorable performances of Musiq Soulchild.  Friday, June 22 at 11:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, June 23 at 1:00 a.m.; and Sunday, June 24 at 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m.

·         LYRIC CAFÉ which pays homage to the rich history of the spoken word.  Episode 1 features spoken word artists Georgia Me, Abyss, Spinxx; music performance by Musiq Soulchild; and special appearance by Bootsy Collins.  Thursday, June 14 at 10:00 p.m.; Friday, June 15 at 1:30 a.m.; and Monday, June 18 at 1:00 a.m.  Episode 2 features spoken word artists CoCo Brown, Tommy Bottoms, Black Widow; and music performance by Christopher.  Thursday, June 21 at 10:00 p.m.; Friday, June 22 at 1:30 a.m.; and Monday, June 25 at 1:00 a.m.  Episode 3 features spoken word artists Phillippia, Amir Sulaiman, Queen Sheeba, Cola Rum; and music performance by Raheem Devaughn.  Thursday, June 28 at 10:00 p.m.; Friday, June 29 at 1:30 a.m.; and Monday, July 2 at 1:00 a.m.

·         SOUL APPROVED: THE BET J NOMINATION SPECIAL showcasing R&B artists most likely to receive the BET J Award.  Wednesday, June 13 at 9:30 p.m. and Wednesday, June 20 at 9:30 p.m.

·         BET HUMANITARIAN AWARD RECIPIENT SPECIAL honouring this year’s 2007 BET Humanitarian recipient.  Monday, June 18 at 9:00 p.m.

·         BET LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENT SPECIAL honouring this year’s 2007 Lifetime Achievement recipient.  Monday, June 18 at 9:30 p.m.


BET J, a subsidiary of Viacom, Inc. (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B), is a sophisticated digital network infused with innovative and original programming featuring a unique mix of music, culture and style embracing the Black experience. It is the premiere destination for a multicultural audience delivering music from all genres along with movies, riveting talk, concerts and in-depth interview shows. BET J keeps viewers talking with exciting original programs such as: MY TWO CENTS, REAL LIFE DIVAS, THE BEST SHORTS and SOUL SESSIONS, and is currently viewed in over 26 million households and growing.


Luminato Duet Buoys Fest

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(June 04, 2007)
The Art of Jazz is learning the art of the jazz festival.  Pushing the second annual effort back two weeks and scoring a tie-in with a new arts festival meant bigger crowds at the five-day event, which wrapped up last night at the Distillery District. "I think word has spread," said Bonnie Lester, a co-founder of the non-profit organization geared to expanding the genre's audience in Canada. The group's inaugural celebration, planned in just six months, fell on a cool, rainy Victoria Day weekend last year. But a longer lead time, good weather and partnership with Luminato resulted in sell-out crowds of 450 at the ticketed all-star tributes to trumpeter Kenny Wheeler (Friday) and vocalese master Jon Hendricks (yesterday) and elbow-to elbow-traffic at three free outdoor stages. The initiative repeated its line-up of concerts, workshops and late-night jam sessions. Most of the artists stayed for the duration of the festival, making them accessible to fans and primed for unscheduled performances. The second floor AOJ studio became a hub for the musicians to talk shop and pose for pictures. "We're hardly ever in one spot long enough to really get to talk," explained vocalist Kevin Mahogany.

So, while AOJ organizers aim to educate audiences, the musicians were learning as well. After leaving the mainstage Saturday where she'd wowed a rapt audience with her big band, pianist Carla Bley, 69, noted as one of jazz's great arrangers, got an impromptu clinic from bebop legend, Barry Harris. "I can hardly play piano," she demurred afterwards. "He was talking about diminished chords." Harris, 77, who was honoured at last year's celebration, is the AOJ patriarch.  The renowned pianist/educator spent four months last fall rehearsing 250 Toronto students for a January concert as part of AOJ's youth outreach program.  On Saturday afternoon, some of those kids returned to sing with him, including several from C.W. Jefferys high school, where Jordan Manners was shot last month. Harris, who'd held several run-throughs at Jefferys, dedicated the performance to the slain 15-year-old. Then he segued back to music and it was 26-year-old Boston tap dancer Rocky Mendez's turn to be schooled. "All you little young cats like (Thelonious) Monk, but there's nobody like Bird (Charlie Parker) for syncopation," counselled Harris. Mendez struggled to execute a flourish to the bebop tune the masters murmured.  "I'm not supposed to hum a song you don't know; that's going to make you different from all the other tap cats," said Harris. "Yeah," said Mendez, still stamping his Nikes this way and that and muttering aloud about getting "a Charlie Parker collection."

Why Hasn't R. Kelly Gone To Trial?

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Ed Schwartz

(June 5, 2007) Our lives are drenched by the 24-hour flow of information. From all-news radio, metropolitan and community newspapers, TV of every stripe and numerous other sources, there is a never ending flow.  The advent and availability of personal computers and cable TV multiplied our information access a hundred fold. Maybe even more.  My preamble points to the breadth and depth of the news and information we're floating in because it means there is also more to forget. Some forgetting is going to happen. Even with a good memory we can't store it all.  Tooling around the Internet on my trusty PC steed, I stumbled upon a local story that most of us have long forgotten.  It's a five-year-old story of an alleged crime, the arrest of a famous and wealthy entertainer, and how justice has taken a five-year sabbatical. 

How has singer-songwriter
R. Kelly avoided the bar of justice for so long? Has the system been manipulated? Can lots of money and really good lawyering buy such a delay in the outcome of a criminal trial?

We live in Cook County. It's a fair question. Kelly was in a Cook County courtroom on a recent afternoon for a brief "status" hearing, but no trial date has yet been set. On and on the wheels of justice turn without stopping at R. Kelly. He continues to make and sell his music with record-breaking results, no pun intended. The bothersome issues here are several. Our criminal justice system is not supposed to bend or yield to the influence of the wealthy and influential. Kelly's legal team has kept him away from the bar of justice for over half of the last decade.  This doesn't happen every day. It shouldn't happen any day. A continuance in Cook County courts is nothing unusual. There are any number of acceptable explanations when one side or the other doesn't answer ready for trial.  But five years' worth of unpreparedness is a gross abuse of the system and the law. Is the chief judge asleep at the bench? R. Kelly's uncanny talent in avoiding trial should be ringing bells in the offices of Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine and Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans.  Unless they don't read a paper or watch the news, both must be aware of the manipulation of the dockets.  British Prime Minister William Gladstone's words from the 1800s best describe Kelly's avoidance of the law, "Justice delayed is justice denied."

Does Kelly think his child pornography charge is going to just go away? With Evans and Devine both asleep at the switch, Kelly has made millions of dollars with record sales and personal appearances.  How many accused criminals have been allowed to make Kelly's millions while awaiting trial? This man has more hubris than a platoon of Mr. America candidates. Soul Magazine quotes Kelly in a recent story: "My greatest competition is, well, me. I'm the Ali of today. I'm the Marvin Gaye of today. I'm the Bob Marley of today."  If that doesn't impress you, please let R. Kelly continue with his candid opinion of himself: This one sets off seismographs. Kelly says, "I'm the Martin Luther King, or all of the other greats that have come before us. And a lot of people are starting to realize that now." One wonders if Devine is one of those people. Why hasn't the prosecutor's office been able to bring Kelly and company to a courtroom ready for trial? A curious public, make that electorate, would like to know. Until Kelly's case is tried, he is allowed the presumption of innocence. In return, his posture should be one of humility and gratitude.  While the Cook County criminal justice system grinds along at snail speed, the Kelly cash registers are ringing like a Vegas casino on New Year's Eve.

So let's toss the ball of justice back into the front court of public attention.  How much longer will R. Kelly evade the inevitable? Will he get his manicured self into a courtroom before his indictment is transferred to a display case at the Chicago History Museum?  All law-abiding Chicagoans want to know. Well, at least I do. How about you?

Ed "Chicago Eddie" Schwartz, a native of the Southeast Side, is a former late-night radio personality in Chicago. He may be reached at chiguy46@aol.com.

McCartney Bets On Starbucks

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(June 05, 2007) It's impossible to imagine a single musician as a more powerful business force than
Paul McCartney, holding as he does one of the two surviving sets of keys to the Beatles franchise. So when Sir Paul recently became the first artist to cozy exclusively up to Starbucks' Hear Music label for today's release of his 21st solo album, Memory Almost Full, notice of the coffee chain's growing weight as a full-fledged, global "lifestyle" retailer was served. McCartney's decision to leave EMI, the label to which the Beatles signed in 1962, after all this time is certainly a shrewd marketing gambit.  Like most major labels, for one thing, EMI – despite its tireless annual output of repackaged Beatles material (last year's Cirque du Soleil-affiliated, mash-up project Love was the latest) – is having trouble selling records these days. But if there's one thing the majors and their friends in the similarly corporate-controlled mainstream radio business have also demonstrated in recent years, it's that they're not interested in pushing new music from older artists on the airwaves where it might actually get heard by the doting Boomer audience that still buys records. "Hey Jude"? No problem. It's out there thousands of times a day, all over the world, and probably playing on Q107 as I write this. Memory Almost Full's first single, "Dance Tonight"? Not so much of a presence, even though the Natalie Portman-starring video clip on YouTube had logged nearly 482,000 views online by yesterday evening. McCartney has, thus, gone where the ears are. By Starbucks' own tracking, 44 million customers pass through the doors of more than 10,000 locations around the world each week, and tomorrow each of those locations will play Memory Almost Full all day and night while stacks of CDs sit tantalizingly next to the biscotti on the front counter.

Starbucks estimates the new record will have had a captive audience of about six million people by the time the final doors are bolted at the end of the business day. There's no magic equation to predict what that will translate to in record sales, but it's probably safe to say they're probably better odds than one would find at, say, HMV. If Memory Almost Full does well (i.e. significantly better, saleswise, than 2005's Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard), there will be no bigger winner than Starbucks and Hear Music. It hasn't gone unnoticed by the industry that Hear Music has managed to lure an artist of McCartney's stature away from the major labels as its first direct signing, and it definitely won't go unnoticed if it manages to make a hit out of Memory Almost Full. Watch other musicians follow suit if the test project goes well. McCartney, for his part, isn't putting all of his eggs into one basket.  The "Dance Tonight" video's premiere on YouTube.com isn't the Cute Beatle's only sop to a younger generation. It's the first of his solo recordings to arrive simultaneously as a download on iTunes, with the rest of his solo catalogue to follow suit (still via EMI/Parlophone) in the months ahead and, if rumour holds true, the entire Beatles catalogue soon after that. McCartney also granted one of a handful of pre-release interviews to the reigning arbiters of indie-rock cool at PitchforkMedia.com. Lest we think Paul's getting a bit too cool for his own good at 64-going-on-65, though, he's hedged his bets nicely by taking some of his promotional duties in the complete, opposite direction: last week, an infomercial for Memory Almost Full began running on the Home Shopping Network.

Don Black, Jackson Browne Join Songwriters Hall

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Associated Press

(June 5 2007) NEW YORK – Writing a song that touches the hearts of millions is hard enough. Writing a warm and fuzzy ballad about one of nature's most despised animals – the rat – seemed to be an impossible task, even for Oscar-winning composer Don Black. Black, whose credits include many of the themes for the James Bond movies and his Academy Award-winning "Born Free," about a lion, was asked to write the title song for the 1972 horror movie Ben, about a lonely boy whose only friend is a rodent named Ben. "When it came to writing about a rat, I said, `You can't write about a rat.' I mean, I'm not going to use words like `cheese,' " laughed Black. "I thought the best thing to do is write about friendship." Black's approach worked – and the song "Ben," sung by a teenaged Michael Jackson, became one of pop music's most enduring and oddest classics. The song is one of the reasons why Black is being inducted into the
Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday. Other inductees include singer-songwriter Jackson Browne; Caribbean songwriter Irving Burgie, best known for Harry Belafonte's ``Day-O"; Michael Masser, whose hits include "Touch Me in the Morning" and "The Greatest Love of All"; and the songwriting team of Bobby Weinstein and the late Teddy Randazzo, behind songs such as ``Gonna Take a Miracle."

Previous inductee Dolly Parton will receive the Johnny Mercer award for her career achievements, while relative newcomer and Grammy-winner John Legend will receive the Hal David Starlight Award. Black's most famous songs also include "Diamonds are Forever" by Shirley Bassey, which Kanye West remade into the rap hit ``Diamonds." The reinvention of his song was "great fun," Black said. "That's the way you keep a song going. I thought he did a fantastic job. Obviously it isn't my world but it made me very trendy with my son. I started wearing bling," he joked. Black, who is also a Tony Award-winner, said that receiving the Songwriters Hall honour "means more to me than you can imagine. "When I was growing up in the east of London as a little boy, all my heroes were the people who are on this invitation," he said. Parton, who was inducted into the hall in 2001, said songwriting is the most important part of her career as an entertainer.

"I would always give up everything before I give up the writing, because it's really my way of expressing myself, and it's just a natural thing and the song just took me everywhere I've been so far," she said. "So it's very important. . . . To be honoured for it and recognized for it is a great great compliment." Parton's credits include "9 to 5," "I Will Always Love You," and the autobiographical "Coat of Many Colors." Parton estimates she has written over 3,000 songs and says she writes something every day. Still, she acknowledges that her songwriting talent is sometimes overshadowed by her colourful persona. "I've had people tell me . . . `People would take you so much more serious as a singer and writer if you didn't look like a whore,' " she says, laughing. "I say, it's looking like the whore that's the fun part, and I can't give that up, because it's all part of a package!"

Famous Voices Tell Cuban Story

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(June 06, 2007) Being a singer in Cuba is like being a hockey player in Canada. A Cuban who neither sings, nor dances, nor plays an instrument would be as rare as a Canadian who didn't skate or ski. For the chief role in
Vida!, a grandmother who is telling her story to her granddaughter, there had to be a big name. Vida!, which opened last night at Royal Alexandra Theatre, has two: Omara Portuondo and Ele Valdés. The elder of them, Portuondo, actually has one granddaughter. The fictional story of Vida! has parallels to her own life. Her mother was an upper-class Cuban. She was not expected to marry outside that class, but she did, eloping with a baseball player. Portuondo was born in the 1930s on Oct. 29. "I won't tell you the year," she says. At school she did sports and music along with academic subjects. She began her stage career as a dancer, performing with the famed Tropicana Club troupe as a "flower dancer." She and her sister Haydee formed a quartet with two other women and a director, Aida. They were called Cuarteto Las D'Aida.

"We made our first tour of the U.S. in 1951," she says. They stayed six months. The singing group lasted 15 years and Omara became known for bolero (the Cuban romantic style) singing. In 1967, she says, "I began a solo career." She was recording tracks in a studio in Havana in the 1980s when Ry Cooder recruited her as the only woman performer in the Buena Vista Social Club project. After that, everyone knew Omara Portuondo. "I started my professional career in 1972," says Ele Valdés, the lead singer and keyboard player of the Cuban rock/fusion band Sintesis. Her husband, Carlos Alfonso, is the leader of the band and both of their sons are singers.  "I've travelled all over the world with the group," says Valdés. Those travels have included Toronto, when the group was invited to play Harbourfront's Ritmo y Color festival. Their absorption of Afro-Cuban music has made them popular in places like Bahia, Brazil, where they headlined a festival of African-influenced musicians. Lizt Alfonso was especially pleased to have two Vidas so different in age, appearance and musical styles to alternate in the grandmother role.

Stage Show Review:  Best of the Best

By:  Natasha Von Castle / Photo: Dominique Raphael

(June 6, 2007) Memorial Day is a day dedicated to honouring the men and women who served their country in times of war.  It is traditionally an American holiday that is celebrated with pomp and style and sees to it that war veterans get the best treatment wherever they go.  Organizers of the concert series ‘The Best of the Best’ have taken this holiday, and added a Caribbean mix.  What they ended up with, is a long weekend that Reggae music fans from around the world look forward to as they are guaranteed to experience the Best of the Best in Reggae Music.  This well organized event held at the Bicentennial Park in Miami Florida, began at 12pm on Memorial Day Sunday (May 27th) to several thousand fans who had camped out for front row seats from the night before.  Fans, such as Latifah, camped out and endured a little rain in the morning because “I just want to get a piece of Akon”!   She was not disappointed as Akon, wearing a marina and loose jeans, took the stage by mid afternoon performing hits from his 2007 studio album “Konvicted”.  Fans screamed in delight, waving their national flags as he performed “Mama Africa”, at times cutting out his vocals so the audience of 30,000 could be heard.  Akon also performed “I Wanna Love You”, and was joined on stage for a special ‘live’ remix which featured Busta Rhymes and his hit single “Touch it Feel it”.

Some of the additional ‘Best’ Artists who graced the stage were Shaggy, putting on an outstanding, high energy show, performing hits such as ‘It Wasn’t Me’ from his self titled album “Shaggy”.  He also performed songs from 2005’s album, “Clothes Drop” which fans adored.  Before leaving the stage, Shaggy gave his fans a climax performing his 2007 hit, ‘Church Heathen’.  At times he allowed the riddim to run from the live band, and listened to the crowd sing the words to the song!  Continuing with the best was Barrington Levy whose classic ‘Too Experienced’ rocked young and older alike, even though the song is 20 plus years old.  The crowd favourite had to be Buju Banton!  Like a King stepping to this throne, Buju displayed vocal royalty with every song.  His fans, who themselves were royal subjects, sang every lyric to every song, not letting their King down!  Dressed in an all white suit, Buju sang to the crowd, danced with the crowd, and spoke to the crowd – Buju was awesome!  One fan, who traveled from Manchester, UK to see the show, said, “Every time I hear his music I get goose bumps.  This year I travelled from England to hear him perform live – he is incredible”! Buju performed hits such as “Lovers Choice”, “45”, and “Shiloh” from albums ‘Til Shiloh’, ‘Inner Heights’ and ‘Friends of Mine’.  He performed his massive hit “Driver A” from his same titled album which had fans in a frenzy.  Other artists who took the stage included Bounty Killer who had no problem speaking about his personal issues with his ex and her husband, Da’Ville, whose luxurious voice wowed the ladies, Digi-Cell Rising Stars contestant from 2006, Christopher Martin and newly signed artist to the Gargamel Record label, New Kid.

In between live artist performances, the crowd was kept entertained by rotating hosts, and sound systems such as Afrique Sound System from New York.  Reggae celebrities included Winston “Weepow” Powell from The Immortal Stone Love Sound, Tony Matterhorn, ‘John John’, son of the Legendary music man King Jammy, and members of the Chin family, owners of the VP Record Label.  Other celebrities included boxing champ Lennox Lewis and defensive back Chris Chambers from the Miami Dolphins.   Memorial Day 2007 was the perfect day.  It honoured War veterans, and it honoured the best in Reggae entertainment; The Best of the Best.  In the words of one fan leaving the venue “we’ll do it again next year”!  Comments?  Send them to:  natashavoncastle@yahoo.com.

Mann Oh Mann Have They Grown

Source: Mona Austin

(June 6, 2007)
Dave and Tamela Mann are so overtaken by their whirlwind career growth that when the script for their first motion picture, “Meet the Browns” arrived on May 30 they hardly realized they too have “arrived.”  Major award winning leading ladies Angela Bassett and Jenifer Hudson will co-star in the film version of the 2004 stage play that “urban-Shakespeare,” Tyler Perry monogrammed for the couple to reciprocate their loyalty since beginning to work with him in the mid-nineties.  Filming for the flick begins in July for a targeted release date of February 2008. At the same time, they have freshly released solo work, Mrs.  Mann’s CD/DVD Tamela Mann the Live Experience and Mr. Mann’s CD debut, Mr. Brown’s Good Ol’ Time Church.  This summer the “Meet the Browns” television sitcom will begin airing. It’s enough to make anyone’s head swirl. And perhaps enough to tilt a Tyler Perry film into blockbuster status. The Mann’s have not only jetted to the top beside Perry, but partially helped fuel the large commercial success of the Madea franchise.  A noted shot-caller, who ascended from homelessness to wealth, Perry recognized the winning combination early on and gave them his blessing as recurring characters in several of his popular stage plays.

Their movie is the first production in which the taut pair star sans Mable Simmons. Were it not for Kirk Franklin’s discovery (they were members of The Family) of their singing talent in the small East Texas town of Fort Worth/Mansfield locals might still be getting fitted for their glasses by Tamela (a former Optometrist) and Dave (a former hairdresser) would be laying hair weave tracks instead of music tracks.  Fate wrote a different story however, and now they are up in the big leagues getting their turn at bat.   Both of their projects were produced on TillyMann Records, their very own label.  Tamela’s first album, “Gotta Keep Movin” which is the same music performed on the “Live” DVD charted high on Billboard.  They have strategically branded themselves as a couple and as individuals for maximum exposure. The loving couple parent four children ages 17-21 who they were preparing to take to the largest water park in the country, located in Southern Texas when we spoke.  They have plans to host a couple’s retreat in the future. On stage they are an inseparable father and daughter as “The Browns” and offstage as husband and wife, The Mann’s married for 19 years “without separation” (emphasis added by Mrs. Mann.) 

Meet the Manns—without hideous leisure suits for the Mister or worrying for the Missus-- out of character and down home in an intimate conversation about their thriving careers, parenting and marriage:

Mona Austin: Tamela, how/when did the acting bug bite you?  I know you, Mr. Mann, were acting prior to becoming a part of a Tyler Perry cast (in David Talbert’s He Say, She Sya But What Does God Say?), but Tamela, when did the acting bug bite you and had you thought about acting before?

Tamela Mann: It hadn’t ever really hit me.  But how it kinda hit me was we were getting ready for the very first show with Tyler, which was “I Can Do Bad All By Myslef” and one of the other characters decided to leave and go do something else.  Tyler told me ‘I’ll have you acting before it’s all over with.’  I said ‘I’ll sing all day for you, but I’m not an actress.’  He said, ‘Okay, we’ll see.’  This particular position came up where he switched it from an uncle to an aunt, which moved me from being Mr. Brown’s wife to [be] Cora, which is Madea’s daughter.

MA: There must be something about you that brings about surprises because in “Madea’s Class Reunion” it was surprising to find out that Mr. Brown was your father.

DM: That wasn’t actually planned in the script.  It just kinda happened one night and it worked, and we kept it.

MA: Would you say that working with Mr. Perry is easy or challenging overall-- he says himself that he is quite demanding.

DM:  The deal is, he challenges you to do you. . .Like for me, he says, ‘Here’s the skeleton of the play, fill the blanks in.’

MA: So are you saying your everyday personality is similar to Mr. Brown’s?  (Laughter.)

DM: Nooo.

TM: Let me answer that—no!  For one, he can’t walk around me looking like that.

A lot of the humor being with him is an everyday thing.  It’s a blast being his wife.  He’s very easy.

MA:  A lot of times people say when you’re married, it’s not good to work together, so has it been a help or a hindrance in your marital relationship working so closely together?

TM:  It’s been a help  for both of us.  For me I can answer and say I prayed and it’s what I asked God for in a husband because I wanted someone that worked with me (and I actually made this request known to God) because I didn’t want to try to explain what I did while I was gone, why I was coming in late, you know things of that nature.  By God giving me what I asked for it makes it easy.

…We started in the industry together so it’s all we know.

TM:  We were singin’ in a group as teenagers so it’s like we’ve grown together

DM: She wanted a thug so she got me.  Know what I’m sayin’ (Jokingly.)

TM:  It’s really easy working with him.  He coaches me. . .He helped me out the most teaching me different things on acting.

DM:  . . .one day once she had it down real good, I just decided to start doing something else and started going the opposite way and she said, ‘Why are you doing this!’  I said because when you get on that stage there are gonna be so many other distractions you’re gonna have to e able to concentrate on what you’re doing. And just deal withnthis event when they’re acting crazy out there.. . .She will tell me sometimes That’s too much.

TM: We balance each other out.

MA: How does that balance transfer over into your parenting?

DM: One key thing parents have to give their kids is time.  Once you’ve made it, it’s easy to give them stuff.

(Note: The Mann’s are in the middle of packing for a 4-day family trip to a resort in Southern Texas that houses the world’s largest water park.)

TM: When we’re home, we’re home. . . On the norm we try to do things where you have your business time and you have your family time. So we know how to separate the two.  When we go to dinner, let’s not answer the telephone.  It got to the point where we went out to dinner and he got a phone call and they (the children look at him like, what you doing?) And you could tell--

MA: That was their time.  They drew the line with their look.

TM: Yep.  And also we have to learn to stand together and not be divided meaning, the decision is both of our decision--We try to come to a happy medium.

DM:  (Interjection) And you know what else?  BEAT ‘EM!

MA: Do you believe in corporal punishment, spanking children?  The Bible does say, ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child.’

DM:  I don’t think everything warrants a whooping.

TM: (Diving in.)  They need a whoopin’.

DM:  . . .One time I got real creative.  I got a couple of garbage bags and took ‘em for a ride and said, “Hey walk home and fill this up and I’ll see you at the house.’  And that did it.

MA: Fill it up with what?

TM: Trash.  He made ‘em do community service.

MA:  That’s actually a great idea.

TM: And it was hot too!

MA: That was probably what they hated the most.

TM:  What happened to my daughter was that her friends saw her.  They were blowing at her and everything.

MA: I think I read that you are considering if you will be in the next grouping of Tyler Perry plays.  Are you at a turning point in your career or what’s the status?

DM: We just got off tour with one of Tyler’s plays called What’s Done in the Dark and we’d been touring with that since August. So we’re taking a break and we’ll start back up in September.

MA: Did you ever imagine you would be this big?

TM: No Ma’am… Not necessarily to this magnitude.  God has been faithful and words can not express what God has done for us.  But one thing I can tell the people is all things are possible if you just believe.

To find out more about this dynamic couple and their numerous endeavors or to purchase their latest projectsd go to daveandtamelamann.com and myspace/daveandtamelamann.


Hip-Hop Remix To Song By 'American Idol' Carrie Underwood

Source: Mad Thinkah Productions, MadThinkah@gmail.com, 646.496.9737

(May 31, 2007) NEW YORK --
Carrie Underwood's hit single, "Before He Cheats", has been remixed by up and coming rapper Articulate.  The unofficial remix features two additional verses by Articulate, and has been receiving much praise since it leaked online late last week. When asked about why he decided to remix the track, Articulate states, "I am a rapper who thinks outside of the box, and I listen to all kinds of music. I was a fan of the song ["Before He Cheats"] for many reasons, and I definitely envisioned it being a tight collaboration. Also, no one in Hip-Hop now is really pushing the boundaries of the genre and thinking outside of the box, so I wanted to go left a little bit. I never envisioned it achieving this much success." The "Before He Cheats" remix can be heard and downloaded free of charge at Articulate's MySpace, www.myspace.com/ItsArtic.   It will also be featured on his upcoming mixtape, Slave for this Dollar, hosted by Sneek from www.HipHopGame.com.

New Wayne Wonder Coming

Source: Nick Baily / nbaily@shorefire.com, Maggie Poulos / mpoulos@shorefire.com), http://www.shorefire.com

(June 1, 2007) VP Records will release international dancehall reggae sensation
Wayne Wonder's newest album 'Foreva' this summer.  A follow-up to his 2003 smash release 'No Holding Back', 'Foreva' features the single "Again" and includes an infectious reggae remake of the Thompson Twins 1984 classic "Hold Me Now" produced by No Doubt's Tony Kanal.  Wayne Wonder is world renowned for his buttery vocals, driving beats and impossibly catchy hooks and 'Foreva' is poised to be the soundtrack for the summer of 2007 -- it's guaranteed to be heard blasting out of car windows, dominating the airwaves and pulsating through nightclubs all over the globe.   A household name in Jamaica for nearly 15 years, 2002 saw Wayne Wonder's first ever #1 mainstream US hit with the romantic single "No Letting Go" -- released by Atlantic Records.  "No Letting Go" was a crossover hit and catapulted Wonder into the stratosphere with a 2003 appearance on Saturday Night Live, a Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album, a peak chart position at #11 on the Billboard's Top 200, and non-stop airplay on Urban and Pop radio stations nationwide.    To check out Wayne Wonder and listen to "Again" click here:  http://www.waynewonder.com.

‘Aunt Jackie’ Rapper Signed By Jermaine Dupri

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 4, 2007)  *
Jermaine Dupri has signed Harlem rapper Jason Fox to Island Urban Music. The 21-year-old is currently a YouTube sensation after filming a homemade video for his old-school throwback song, “Aunt Jackie.”   The video, which has received over 150,000 plays on his Myspace page and nearly 400,000 views on YouTube, features Fox and other rappers in the song doing the Aunt Jackie dance on a Harlem street corner. [See footage below.]   "I think we’re seeing the life of hip-hop coming back with songs like ‘Aunt Jackie," said Jermaine Dupri. "It's the kids acting like kids used to act when I was growing up, and I love it because, to me, hip-hop has been ‘too-cool-for-school’ lately. It’s time for a change."  The song has been officially serviced to radio and a new professional music video is in the pipeline, reports allhiphop.com.


HBFF Announces Opening And Closing Films

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 4, 2007)  *The
Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) has announced its opening and closing night films for its 8th annual event.   Director Gary Hardwick (“Bring It On,” “The Brothers” and “Deliver Us From Eva”) will open the HBFF 2007 with his movie “Universal Remote” on June 5th at 7 p.m. at the Fine Arts Theatre (8556 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills). Following the screening, the Official Opening Night Gala after-party will take place at Beverly Hills’ The Camden House, hosted by V100 Morning Show personality Cliff Winston featuring DJ Smooth Mellow-Dee and complimentary pour by Hennessey.   “Universal Remote” follows two losers who get a unique TV set transporting them to a place in the subconscious of modern society. Slackers are caught in this world and must find the Universal Remote, the key to getting back home. On their journey, they travel through some of the strangest and funniest shows and films ever made.  The festival wraps on Sunday, June 10th, 7:00 p.m. at the Fine Arts Theatre with the Closing Night Gala featuring the HBFF Filmmaker & Storyteller Awards and the world premiere screening of “Stompin’.” 

Set on a modern day college campus, “Stompin’” is a tragic tale of two African-American brothers divided by jealousy at home and by fraternity on campus. When we meet our brothers, Jason and Ryan Jackson, the rift between them has reached a boiling point and causes devastating changes in both young men’s lives. HBFF 2007 continues its legacy as one of the premiere black film festivals showcasing indie films from some of the most talented, established and up-and-coming filmmakers of color during its 8th Anniversary presentation, June 5 – 10, 2007, in Beverly Hills.  A record-breaking 122 films are scheduled to unspool, including 30 features, 64 shorts, 16 documentaries, 8 student films, 2 animated shorts and 2 music videos, from seven countries including Spain, Cameroon. South Africa, Haiti, Nigeria, the UK, and the United States.   Some of this year's conference speakers include Roger M. Bobb, Supervising Producer, The Tyler Perry Company;  Michael Schultz, Director, “Cooley High,” 'Woman Thou Art Loosed” and now producing the multimedia '”Blokhedz'” series; Antwone Fisher, Screenwriter, “Antwone Fisher;” and  Preston Whitmore, Filmmaker, “The Walking Dead,” “Fled,” “Lockdown,” “Civil Brand,” and “Crossover.” For more information on HBFF 2007 visit the Web site at http://www.hbff.org.

It's Not The Oscars, But It Had Its Moments

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(June 04, 2007) UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.– There were plenty of crude jokes at last night's
MTV Movie Awards, including one host Sarah Silverman cracked at Paris Hilton's expense that didn't leave Hilton smiling (we can't repeat it here, but it involved the word penises). When the focus finally turned to movies, MTV's irreverent mix of honours included prizes for Best Kiss, Best Fight and Best Villain. Jack Nicholson was the winning villain, capturing the Golden Popcorn trophy for his mobster role in The Departed. The fight prize went to Gerard Butler, who battled "The Uber Immortal" in the epic 300. Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen won Best Kiss for their smooch in Talladega Nights: The Battle of Ricky Bobby. They reprised the moment after accepting their award, culminating in a roll-around-on-the-floor make out session. Cohen also won a Golden Popcorn for Best Comedic Performance for his role in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

"Unfortunately, Borat can't be here tonight," Cohen joked. "He's been feeling the pressures of fame and had to check himself into rehab." In another light moment, Canadian comic Mike Myers took the stage to accept his MTV Generation Award, honouring his body of work, with an Austin Powers-style dance number. The live program was punctuated by a performance by Rihanna and Jay Z, who paired up on her new song "Umbrella." Despite striking out with critics, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest did well, claiming Best Movie and Best Performance for star Johnny Depp. Jaden Smith took Best Breakthrough Performance for co-starring with dad Will in The Pursuit of HappynessTransformers was declared Best Summer Movie You Haven't Seen.


Jada Pinkett Smith, Eva Mendes Are ‘The Women’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 1, 2007) *A 2007 update will be given to a 1939 film about the most viciously catty group of wealthy Caucasian characters ever to hit the big screen. George Cukor’s “
The Women,” starring such screen legends as Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell and Joan Fontaine, will be remade by director Diane English with a multi-cultural cast that includes Jada Pinkett Smith, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Debra Messing and Candice Bergen.   In the original 1939 film set in the world of rich Manhattan socialites, a snobby housewife brags about her loyal husband to her friends at the department store nail salon, only to find out through salon gossip that he’s cheating on her with the clerk at the perfume counter. English has been trying to remake this film for 10 years before Picturehouse, Inferno Entertainment and soap makers Dove agreed to finance it for under $20 million. The sheer bitchiness of the characters in the original has scared off a number of actresses sought for potential remakes, reports Variety. Attempts were made at MGM before the title sold with the MGM library to Ted Turner. The current version took root right after Turner bought New Line and set up "The Women" as a star/producing pairing of Julia Roberts and Ryan, with James L. Brooks planning to direct. English signed on to write the script shortly thereafter, at a time when she was the hottest writer on television thanks to "Murphy Brown." English became attached as the project's director in 2001 and will reteam with that sitcom's star, Bergen in the remake. Shooting is scheduled to begin on Aug. 6.

John Amos To Take Rival Gangs On Middle Passage

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(June 4, 2007) *Actor
John Amos is producing and directing a new documentary that will chronicle his next project – a field trip for rival gang bangers that places them in the shackles of their ancestors on the Amistad. Columnists Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith are reporting that the “Men in Trees” star hopes the experience, titled the Amistad America Project, will allow gangsters to view their destructive lifestyle through the prism of their global history. "Amistad America is launching its vessel this month (June 21) to sail from Halifax, Nova Scotia to England in conjunction with Great Britain's 200-year commemoration of the abolition of slavery," Amos tells the columnists. "Once it reaches England, Captain Pinkney -- the first African-American to solo circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat -- will take command and sail the boat to slave ports on the West Coast of Africa, Barbados and various other ports.  "Can you imagine the impact it would have on, say, four young men from conflicting gangs, like two Bloods and two Crips, who have been involved in a negative lifestyle, to take them on the Amistad to let them realize the history they're involved with and the historical opportunity that's been given to them? Let them get exposed to what their ancestors went through so they can have a better appreciation and realize the obligation they have to try and live a good life and fulfill their potential as human beings. Amistad America is totally receptive to it, and I've already spoken to a couple of other organizations. It's a terribly exciting project."


Tyler Perry - In The 'House'

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

(June 6, 2007) *
Tyler Perry has officially become an entertainment industry triple threat. After growing as a storyteller with his stage plays, then adapting them to film and making himself a major motion picture player, Perry has now taken on television with his TBS sitcom "House of Payne." The show, premiering tonight on TBS, stars Allen Payne as CJ Payne (and no, the show name was not inspired by the veteran actor) who has to move his family into his uncle and aunt's home, creating a multigenerational living space and lots of opportunities for chaos. "It's a story about CJ, this fireman who has to move in with his aunt and uncle because his wife, who's addicted to drugs, has burned down the house," Perry explained further. "The show is a throw-back to 'The Jeffersons' and 'Sanford and Son'. It's a really great show. I think [people] will be in love with these characters." Perry continued that his new show is old school in the fact that while it's a light-hearted comedy; this family will not run away from some very serious issues.

"We haven't seen this type of sitcom in years because back in the day, even on shows like 'Good Times,' they would deal with some serious subject matter - they had an opportunity to have some dramatic scenes inside the comedy. As of late, you don't see these types of shows anymore; everything's is campy and funny and silly. While this show is funny, we still deal with some very serious issues at the same time." Perry shared with EUR's Lee Bailey that even with his rise in the Hollywood ranks; he struggled a bit in getting the show on TV in part because of the issues. The playwright/filmmaker even said that he doesn't really feel like he's really part of the Hollywood crowd - not yet anyway. "I don't feel like I'm in," he said. "Part of that is because I'm here in Atlanta. I have very good ties. Even being in here in Atlanta, I still feel like I'm outside of it. It's still that same guerrilla marketing; it's still that grit; it's still that same way of storytelling. I won't change any of that because that's what works." "House of Payne" took some of that good old fashioned grass roots work to get its gig on the TBS network, too. "I was trying to do it with the major networks," he said. "They were giving me the blues. They wanted to change everything, they didn't want to hire the actors I wanted to hire so I walked away from the deal right before we were to shoot the show. I came down to Atlanta and taped my own episodes and tested them in 10 markets. The ratings were so high in those ten that TBS said they wanted to buy 100 of 'em."

In just the first three episodes, the show takes on drug abuse and addiction, and that's why the family moves in. Perry said that doing a comedy that covers very serious topics means a very delicate balancing act by the writers and the actors. "It's easy to find humour in a lot of stuff, but when we go to the dramatic places, we really go there," he said. Perry will continue to go into those dramatic places. With the show launched, he is now working on his next film called "Why Did I Get Married," starring Janet Jackson, Jill Scott, Malik Yoba, and Michael Jai White, to name a few. Perry also stars in the film, after taking a break in his last big screen venture, "Daddy's Little Girls." The film expects to open this November and is yet another stage play big screen adaptation. This time, Perry takes on the trials of marriage. "It's about four couples that do a vacation every year and we've all been friends since college. All these secrets are revealed in these marriages and you're not sure if they're going to make it. It's about the sanctity of marriage and how to hold on or not." While this venture doesn't quite go along the story lines of Perry's famous Madea franchise, he told Bailey that it continues in his themes. "I think if you look at [all my films], they all have the same underlying theme of forgiveness, faith, love in God. That formula, that theme, that's what runs through all of them." "House of Payne" premieres tonight, June 6, on TBS at 9 PM Eastern/Pacific, with a special guest appearance by Madea. For more on the
show and the cast, check out www.tbs.com/shows/houseofpayne.   

'Through With Grey's,' Kate Walsh Says

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(June 04, 2007) Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd has likely said her last goodbyes at Seattle Grace Hospital. Actress
Kate Walsh, who will star in her own spin-off series, "Private Practice," this fall, says her character has no loose ends to tie up with the angst-ridden doctors on "Grey's Anatomy." "I think I'm finished with 'Grey's'," she said today during a visit to Toronto to promote her new show. "My work is kind of done there ... I had come to Seattle to save my marriage, that didn't work. There's really nothing left for me there except the job." And the job, of course, isn't enough. After being turned down for the position of hospital chief on the "Grey's Anatomy" season finale, Addison was unceremoniously told she needed a new life. Next month, she'll get one, as Walsh starts shooting "Private Practice," which was introduced to viewers during a special two-hour episode of "Grey's" earlier this year. The brainchild of "Grey's" creator Shonda Rhimes, the show is set at a private medical facility in Los Angeles and co-stars Tim Daly of "Wings" fame and Amy Brenneman of the longtime drama ``Judging Amy."

The pilot episode received mixed reviews, and Walsh admits she had "a little trepidation" about leaving a show as successful as ``Grey's." Still, she says she loves the character of Addison and is excited to see her evolve. And, like many "Grey's Anatomy" stars, she has effusive praise for – and complete trust in – Rhimes. "She feels very passionate about writing for people – men and women – in their 30s and 40s who are, like: 'Now what?' 'What do we do? We're living lives that are unlike our parents in most every way. Or we tried to have the life that our parents had or emulate that, but it didn't quite work out so now what do we do?"' Walsh, 39, seems to closely identify with those questions. Although she's drop-dead gorgeous, she's previously lamented that her romantic life is not where she thought it would be at this stage in her life. But those worries seem to have evaporated of late. A few weeks ago, when ABC announced it was picking up "Private Practice" as part of its Wednesday night line-up (the show will air in Canada on CTV), Walsh had some news of her own: she's engaged to studio executive Alex Young. That, and the spin-off make for a moment the actress is ready to embrace. "In times of faith in my life, I always thought everything would happen at once, and then of course there are times you're like 'no I'm going to die alone in a box on the street."' "I strangely felt very ready for all of this, if that's possible."

Jericho May Rise Again

Source: Associated Press

(June 6, 2007) LOS ANGELES — Fans trumpeting the cause of CBS's cancelled drama
Jericho have the network's ear. CBS, deluged with calls, messages and shipments of nuts signifying viewer displeasure, is reconsidering its decision, a source close to the production said Tuesday. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. A decision on whether to bring the show back, probably for a midseason run, is imminent, the source said. “We are tired of the networks (not just CBS) tossing aside quality programming,” was the message carried by jericholives.com, one of several websites protesting against the cancellation.

“Enough! We're going to fight for this one.” Clarke Ingram, a Jericho fan from Pittsburgh, Pa., and a spokesman for jericholives, said he is optimistic CBS will find a way to revive the drama about a Kansas town isolated by a nuclear terrorist attack. “People would paint this as teenagers in tinfoil hats” rallying behind the show, said Ingram, 50, an operations manager for two radio stations. “That's not what this is. These are educated professionals.” The show's daring premise, its writing and acting make the case for its survival, he said. Several factors could work in the show's favour: It appealed to the young adult viewers sought by advertisers and was one of CBS's most popular shows streamed online, indicating an audience beyond that measured by traditional ratings. CBS may also be considering the dent that a long hiatus put in the show's viewership, the same scheduling misstep that hurt ABC's Lost and NBC's Heroes. The network apparently has been impressed by the display of viewer passion, which included the delivery of more than 20,000 kilograms of peanuts to its New York City offices. In the season finale, a character replies “Nuts!” to a demand that the beleaguered town of Jericho surrender. There has already been one positive outcome: CBS is donating the protest peanuts to charities.


U.S. Shows To Dominate CTV Fall Schedule

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(June 04, 2007)
CTV has announced its fall television line-up, a prime-time schedule abundant with big American blockbusters and new shows the private broadcaster is hoping will be the hits of next season. Sixteen of the 20 highest-rated shows on television are returning to the network, including "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," "Lost" and "Criminal Minds." Seven new shows are joining the roster. They include the highly anticipated "Grey's" spin-off, "Private Practice," starring Kate Walsh; "Dirty Sexy Money," starring Peter Krause and Canadian acting legend Donald Sutherland; and "Gossip Girl," based on the series of novels about spoiled New York socialites . The network hand-picked the new shows from the recent trade screenings in Los Angeles. Susanne Boyce, CTV president of programming, says that if a show is big, TV viewers can find it on CTV. She says CTV has a ``bullet-proof" line-up already that has been made even stronger by the fall schedule. Leading CTV's slate of returning Canadian programs is "Corner Gas," "Degrassi: The Next Generation," "Whistler" and "Robson Arms."

Sam Waterston negotiating for ‘Law & Order' promotion

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Lynn Elber, Associated Press

(June 5, 2007) LOS ANGELES —
Sam Waterston may be a getting a Law & Order promotion. The actor is negotiating to step in as the show's New York district attorney, replacing co-star Fred Thompson, a source close to the production said Monday. Thompson, a former U.S. senator, is weighing a presidential run and asked to be released from the NBC drama. The source was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Waterston, who's been with Law & Order for 13 years, plays executive assistant district attorney Jack McCoy. His character would take over from district attorney Arthur Branch (Thompson) when the show returns in midseason, the source said. The story line and McCoy's replacement have yet to be determined. NBC and series creator and executive producer Dick Wolf declined comment Monday, as did Waterston's representative. Cast changes are part of the Law & Order history, with a variety of actors playing prosecutors and police detectives. NBC had announced that Jeremy Sisto ( Six Feet Under) was joining the drama as a detective when the show begins its 18th year. Sisto is replacing Milena Govich, who played Detective Nina Cassady. There's also a larger shake-up in the Law & Order family, with next season's Law & Order: Criminal Intent to be seen first on the USA cable channel before it airs on NBC. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will remain on NBC with the original series.

‘Cosby’ Vet Tempestt Bledsoe Back On TV

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

(June 6, 2007) *So far,
Tempestt Bledsoe is the only non-Latin cast member of a new made-for-TV romantic comedy destined for the Oxygen network. Titled “Husband for Hire,” the movie stars Nadine Velazquez ("My Name Is Earl") as a Latina businesswoman who must find a mate quickly or forfeit her inheritance.  Actor Mark Consuelos, the husband of “Live with Regis and Kelly” host Kelly Ripa, will play the man who accepts her offer. Mario Lopez and Erik Estrada have also been cast in the project, produced by Tim Perrell's Process Media, reports Variety.  Bledsoe, 33, was most recently seen guest starring in the TV series “South of Nowhere” on The N, and on Lifetime’s “Strong Medicine” in 2006. “Husband for Hire” is scheduled to premiere on Oxygen in the fourth quarter.


A Raw Take On Racial Identity

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Kate Taylor

Back Home
Directed by Alicia Talbot
Created and performed by Aaron Fa'Aoso, Buddy Dannoun, Leo Tanoi and Shannon Williams
At the Queen Street Mental Health Centre in Toronto

(June 6, 2007) It sounds like a recipe for something earnest, dull, potentially sentimental and probably very fake. Led by director Alicia Talbot, the members of
Australia's Urban Theatre Projects go out into the diverse communities of Sydney's suburbs and ask residents to act as expert advisers in the creation of theatre that will be true to their lives. The results, to judge from the remarkable play the company is performing on the Queen Street grounds of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health as part of the Luminato festival, are the very opposite: hard, raw and real. Back Home rejoices in the kind of true naturalism that theatre has been seeking on and off since the 19th century. Its only plot is the reunion of four buddies in a backyard; its characters speak the expletive-studded vernacular of angry young urban men as they drift in and out of the scene, joking, goading, pushing and very occasionally reflecting. For the audience, the combination of idiom, accent and Queen Street traffic can obscure the details of their dialogue, but that only heightens the impression that we are merely eavesdropping on their party. Their 90-minute encounter, admittedly compressed in the interests of drama, is preternaturally observant of male competitiveness while it exposes the racial tensions that run underneath their friendship. The four men, who simply share the names of the actors who play the roles, represent four different cultural groups in Australian society, none of them from the white majority. Buddy Dannoun, the host and a budding DJ, is a second-generation Lebanese immigrant full of political anger at the world and sorrow over the disintegration of his marriage. Leo Tanoi is also an immigrant, the child of Pacific Islanders trying to walk the straight and narrow so he can perform his functions as a youth worker in his unhappily displaced community. Aaron Fa'Aoso, home for a brief visit, is a member of the country's historic black community who has left Australia to try his luck in L.A. Shannon Williams is the only original Australian, a descendent of the people who were there before 1788: He's aboriginal.

As they act out their grievances on each other, their explosive reunion doesn't offer any particular solution to their social isolation and anger, but is by turns entertaining and moving. There is one scene that is rather typical of the way this deceptively loose atmosphere can suddenly produce powerful theatre: Aaron is bouncing around the yard shadow-boxing, giving his invisible opponent a battering of rights and lefts until gradually he starts to take it on the chin. As he enacts his own brutal beating, a seemingly casual piece of play turns into genuine comedy, and the rest now join in, playing the roles of the enthusiastic trainers pushing him back into the ring, The show reaches its climax when the men, fuelled by beer, dope and Bob Marley anthems, begin to strip away the veneer of assimilation, literally taking off their clothes. Tanoi, who quickly pulled off the geeky wool vest of the office worker at the start of the evening, now reappears, without comment, in a sarong. In the play's startling conclusion, Williams, also without explanation, removes his shirt, applies body paint and enacts an aboriginal performance that includes an eerily accurate imitation of a kangaroo. You can read a message about racial identity into this, an antidote for the men's sorrow crafted from cultural pride, but no one is preaching or speechifying here. By evening's end, they aren't even talking. Back Home continues through Sunday. A bus ride to the show, including commentary about the original native settlements of Toronto, departs from the York Quay Centre at Harbourfront Centre at 7:15 each evening.

Taking Cue From Philip Akin, Stratford's Othello Forsakes Grandeur In Favour Of Emotional Honesty

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

(out of 4)
By William Shakespeare. Directed by David Latham. Until Sept. 22 at the Tom Patterson Theatre. 1-800-567-1600

(June 03, 2007) STRATFORD–Sometimes the man and the moment come together. On Saturday afternoon,
Philip Akin became the first black Canadian to play the role of Othello at the Stratford Festival. A historic occasion, marked by a solid and emotionally honest production of Shakespeare's tragedy. One can lament the fact that it took 55 seasons to get to this point and that Akin's predecessors in the part included two African-Americans and three actors in blackface, including an Israeli performer whose cry of "Vife? I haff no vife," still echoes through the halls of infamy here. But that's the past and what's visible today on the stage of the Tom Patterson Theatre for all to see is a clean and clear look at Othello with an all-Canadian cast. Director David Latham has imposed no artificial period or interpretation on the script: He simply puts it up there with a solid cast of actors to do it justice. We follow rapt as the malignant Iago stirs his master Othello into a frenzy of jealousy that destroys the lives of a half-dozen people. The end result is an often gripping piece of theatre which is only lacking one thing: the poetic grandeur that is part of Othello's magic. It holds you, it moves you, but it never reaches the stratosphere.

There are times you feel you could be watching a new TV show called CSI: Cyprus, written in blank verse. But that quibble aside, you will find much to cherish here. Akin is a lean, saturnine Othello with a battle-scarred countenance that makes him slightly forbidding. You believe him both as a warrior and as a man who adores his newfound wife Desdemona with a great passion. Where he falls down is as the poetic spinner of tales whose verbal felicity is enough to charm politicians and make women fall in love with him. Akin has every quality Othello needs except that grand sweeping voice that men like James Earl Jones have used in the role. But Latham seems to have sensed this and built his whole production around Akin. Nobody else rants or raves, but they all speak with crystal clarity and a total sense of what their lines mean. This method lets Jonathan Goad offer us a marvellously low-key Iago, a pure sociopath in action. Instead of sneering his venomous asides to the audience, he barely whispers them and the result is twice as chilling. I defy you to take your eyes off Goad when he's on stage, and what makes his supremacy even more effective is that he's usually doing nothing but thinking and plotting. But what is more thrilling than seeing thought in action? There's a warm, sincere Desdemona from Claire Jullien who escapes being the simpering victim we often encounter and Lucy Peacock is calmly restrained as Emilia, with sadness behind her eyes letting one suspect she knew what her husband Iago was capable of all along.

A solid, dashing Cassio from Jeffrey Wetsch and a believable Roderigo from Gordon S. Miller fill things out nicely, as do the simple but appropriate costumes of Carolyn M. Smith. This Othello doesn't scale the ultimate heights of tragedy that the play demands, but it brings us further up the slopes than any production I've seen in recent years.  For that, a sincere thank you to David Latham, Jonathan Goad and – it goes without saying – Philip Akin.

Beyond Stratford and Shaw

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

May 31, 2007) "Winter is gloves and homburg, winter is cold cement," wrote lyricist Sheldom Harnick. "Summer is Sigmund Romberg in a music tent." Well, nobody wears a homburg anymore, hardly anyone listens to Sigmund Romberg and there are very few giant tents left anywhere. But that doesn't mean there can't be summer theatre. Even if you put aside Stratford, Shaw and the Dream in High Park, there is still a wide assortment of theatres throughout the province offering professional entertainment. Because of limitations of time and space, the Star doesn't review or report on individual summer theatres, but they're still a vital part of our seasonal culture and hopefully this list will encourage you to do some exploring on your own.

4th Line Theatre, Millbrook, 4thlinetheatre.on.ca 1-800-814-0055. The theatre is outdoors and the work is always Canadian. The season begins with Schoolhouse by Leanna Brodie, a look at one-room education in 1938.

A.C.T. Productions, Brampton, rosetheatre.ca 905-874-2800. Shakespeare, musicals and contemporary dramas share the stage with Macbeth, As You Like It, I Love You You're Perfect Now Change and I am My Own Wife.

Blyth Festival, blythfestival.com 1-877-862-5984. This is one of Canada's most highly regarded summer theatres, with a long-standing tradition of developing Canadian work. This season features a revival of last summer's smash hit The Ballad of Stompin' Tom about Canadian music icon Tom Connors, as well as four new plays.

Century Church Theatre, Hillsburgh, centurychurchtheatre.com 519-855-4586. Fun is definitely on the bill here, with a series of comedies like Move Over, Mrs. Markham and Key for Two, as well as a series of Broadway revues and evenings devoted to ragtime music.

Drayton Entertainment: Six theatres in Drayton, Grand Bend, Penetanguishene, St Jacobs, draytonentertainment.com 1-888-449-4463. This is the 500-pound gorilla of Ontario's summer theatres, with six separate venues. Alex Mustakas is the man behind this megalopolis, which includes musicals written by everybody from Andrew Lloyd Webber to Leslie Arden.

Globus Theatre, Bobcagyeon, globustheatre.com 1-800-304-7897. It looks like this is the home of smaller comedies, with shows like Art, Educating Rita, Talking Heads and Kitchen Witches on the menu.

Lighthouse Festival Theatre, Port Dover, lighthousetheatre.com 1-888-779-7703. A pair of Norm Foster comedies share the bill with a country and an R&B revue.

Port Hope Festival Theatre, phft.ca 1-800-434-5092. Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, still more Norm Foster and that one-woman favourite, Shirley Valentine highlight the bill here.

Port Stanley Festival Theatre, psft.on.ca 519-782-4353. British sex farces, a revival of Two Pianos, Four Hands and the ubiquitous Norm Foster all feature.

Red Barn Theatre, Jackson's Point, redbarntheatre.ca 1-888-733-2276. Morris Panych and Noel Coward share the bill with a pair of musical revues at this venue, which bills itself as "Canada's Longest Running Professional Theatre."

Showboat Festival Theatre, Port Colborne, roselawncentre.com

1-888-870-8181. More Noel Coward here, as well as a retro revival of Canadian Bernard Slade's megahit, Same Time, Next Year. Toss in a piece of Canadiana about a thief who stole $400k in gold from the Winnipeg airport in 1966 and you've got a season.

Theatre By The Bay, Barrie, theatrebythebay.com 705-735-9243. It used to be the home to outdoor Shakespeare, but this theatre company has come inside and switched to the C&W musical revue about truckers, Pump Boys and Dinettes.

Theatre Collingwood, theatrecollingwood.com 1-866-382-2200. Stephen Sondheim, Rod Beattie, Neil Simon and Jones and Schmidt all unite in this eclectic but commercially pleasing season.

Theatre Muskoka: three theatres in Gravenhurst, Huntesville, and Parry Sound, theatremuskoka.ca

1-888-929-0299. This triumvirate of playhouses united in a decades-long tradition of presenting entertaining commercial theatre.

Thousand Islands Playhouse, Gananoque, 1000islandsplayhouse.com 1-866-382-7020. A varied playbill – from Mieko Ouchi's life of Vivaldi (The Red Priest) to Anne & Gilbert, the new hit Canadian musical that takes everyone's favourite redhead to the next step in her life.

Upper Canada Playhouse, Morrisburg, uppercanadaplayhouse.com 613-543-3713. Farce is the master here, with both Canadian and British exercises in door-slamming mirth on display.

Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia, victoriaplayhousepetrolia.com 1-800-717-7694. Nuns in Las Vegas (Nunsensations!) and laughter from around the world (Norm Foster and Ray Cooney).


Mixed Program Stirs Delight

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

The Four Seasons & Polyphonia & Wolf's Court
(out of 4)
Choreography by James Kudelka, Christopher Wheeldon and Matjash Mrozewski. Until June 9 at the Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W.

(June 04, 2007) Nothing like a mixed program to show off the depth of good dancing within the National Ballet of Canada. And nothing like Christopher Wheeldon's
Polyphonia to test the mettle of a ballet dancer.  Made for New York City Ballet in 2001, the dance has been performed by more than a dozen classical companies. Simple in structure, Polyphonia (a Renaissance musical style), puts eight dancers through a devilishly difficult series of 10 short dances. Andrew Burashko plays the piano pieces of composer György Ligeti, which vary widely in style, mood and tempo. The first, Désordre, employs a trick with timing to give a sense of things out of whack. The dancers must often move at lightning speed through some highly inventive steps and formations. They also have to use their imaginations, interpreting these 10 playlets. Bridgett Zehr was perfectly matched with Patrick Lavoie in Arc-en-ciel, a dance like a slow-motion movie. Lavoie manipulated Zehr into some strangely beautiful lifts, using her legs like the points of a compass or walking her across the stage so they made some bizarre three-legged contraption.  Greta Hodgkinson and Aleksandar Antonijevic were as one in a pas de deux set to a waltz. Hodgkinson, Chan Hon Goh and Tina Pereira were a delightfully playful trio, followed by Antonijevic and Zdenek Konvalina in a wisecracking duet. Christopher Body and Chan Hon Goh danced to a wedding song, a pas de deux that becomes a solo when the man suddenly leaves.

Polyphonia is a very hard act to follow when 20 dancers take the stage in Matjash Mrozewski's new work, Wolf's Court. In the levels above the orchestra seats, a viewer could see a large map covering the floor, depicting the world as understood in the time of the great European voyages of discovery and conquest.  Polished steel rods doubling as pins stuck into the map begin to appear as Ryan Boorne and Xiao Nan Yu dance a duet in which he appears to be restraining her with the rod. Meanwhile, light, airy classical ballet sequences are gorgeously unfolding. Then all the pins are stuck in rows and the dancers take their places. The piece ends with a tender pas de deux for Body and Je-an Salas.  Mood changing was the theme that united all three works on the program, which began with James Kudelka's sublime The Four Seasons, set to Antonio Vivaldi's divine baroque music. Boorne, who has just announced his retirement, danced the lead role of The Man with convincing verve. He performed best in the Winter section, looking agonized despite his boyish looks as Richard Landry, like a messenger of death, hounded him. Heather Ogden's Summer was pure bliss. Everyone gets to be a star in this stunning piece. The Four Seasons, just as much as Polyphonia, is a contemporary masterpiece.

Vida! A Singular Sensation

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(out of 4)
Choreography by Lizt Alfonso
Until June 17 at The Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W.416-872-1212

(June 06, 2007)
Vida! has legs. The Cuban-Canadian production featuring the lithe and limber dancers of Lizt Alfonso's Danza Cuba is a dance show that works as a musical. Not only does Vida! feature one of the best chorus lines this side of Broadway, but it has a killer band and a singer who is a national treasure, Omara Portuondo. A tricky conceit – a life told in memories from grandmother to granddaughter – is the storyline that connects the production numbers. Past and present coexist on stage, with the stunning Maysabel Pintado slinking in and out of the crowd, as Death. The story begins in the 1930s, with Vida remembering a birthday party when she was a little girl, and runs through Cuba's tumultuous 20th-century history.  Alfonso's choreography, responding to Cuba's myriad musical styles, happily sustains this epic tale. As an opener, more than a dozen dancers in colourful flamenco dresses dance in a souped-up Spanish classical style as Portuondo sings Pork eso yo soy cubano.

Vida remembers how her aunt would berate her servant: and six girls come onstage dressed as Spanish ladies and their maids, clacking in flamenco shoes or flat sandals.  Afro-Cuban and traditional son music intermingle with the changing times and moods of Vida!  Ele Valdés, who alternates in the grandmother role, carries a sombre coming-of-age scene singing the African song "Ayabba." The next Vida is Yudisley Martínez, who falls in love with a young man at a street dance. As the only male dancer in the show, Vadim Larramendi has a rooster's role to fill, as he handles Martínez in a sultry pas de deux that is part ballet, part paso doble and part sex.  Grown up and left alone with a child, Vida becomes a teacher. In a scene depicting workers on a commune, Idmaray Benitez leads the jeans-clad chorus line.  They rise on to the tips of their high-heeled flamenco shoes, doing little ballet steps on point – an apt image for the spirit of Vida!


Visa Denial Brings Winnie Mandela To Tears

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Michael Valpy

(June 6, 2007) TORONTO —
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela learned she had been denied entry to Canada just hours before she was to be driven to Johannesburg's OR Tambo International airport to fly to Toronto to give a speech at a fundraising event Tuesday night. The controversial 70-year-old South African political activist — who applied four weeks ago for a visa — was sitting in her house in the Orlando section of Soweto dressed all in pink and putting the final touches on her speech. Her luggage was packed neatly beside her. Two assistants came through the door after visiting the Canadian High Commission in Pretoria and told her they and Ms. Mandela's daughter, Zindziswa (Zinzi), had been granted visas. But Ms. Mandela had not. People in the house said she burst into tears. A spokesperson for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in Ottawa said people convicted of serious crimes are not given visas to enter Canada. The spokesperson did not explain why Ms. Mandela learned only hours before her departure that she would be denied admission. In 1991, Ms. Mandela — the divorced wife of South Africa's first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela — was convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault in connection with the death of 14-year-old James Seipei, known as Stompie Moeketsi. Her six-year jail sentence was reduced to a fine on appeal.

In 2004, she was convicted of fraud and given a suspended sentence after an appeal court ruled her crime was not committed for personal gain. Just prior to her sentencing, she resigned her parliamentary seat and all leadership positions with South Africa's ruling African National Congress. Questioned outside the House of Commons yesterday about Ms. Mandela being denied a visa, Opposition Leader Stéphane Dion acknowledged her "problems in the past," but said the government still needed to justify and explain why they now were preventing her from entering the country. Ms. Mandela was admitted to the United States three weeks ago to be honoured in New York for her work with AIDS sufferers. Ms. Mandela had been invited to speak at a fundraiser gala — titled A Night in Soweto — for Toronto's MusicaNoir, a company that presents contemporary classical music by composers from Africa and its diaspora communities. An opera, The Passion of Winnie (Part 1), created by South African expatriates Warren Wilensky, a filmmaker, and Bongani Ndodana-Breen, a composer and MusicaNoir's artistic director, debuts Friday as part of Toronto's Luminato arts festival. Mr. Ndodana-Breen said the opera follows Ms. Mandela's life through her growing up, her graduation as one of South Africa's first black social workers, her romantic encounter with Mr. Mandela just prior to his conviction for treason by South Africa's apartheid court and sentence to life imprisonment in 1962, and her emergence as a major force in the anti-apartheid struggle.

The opera's narrative includes Ms. Mandela's controversial endorsement of the practice of necklacing — filling car tires with gasoline, putting them around the necks of police informers and setting them alight — but stops in 1986 before the death of Stompie Moeketsi, a supposed informer. Ms. Mandela was accused by her bodyguard of ordering him to kidnap and kill the teenager. Two years after Mr. Mandela's 1990 release from prison, he separated from Ms. Mandela. The couple divorced in 1996. Ms. Mandela remained popular among many ANC radicals, and she was elected president of the ANC Women's League. But she was not liked by the ANC hierarchy and the successor to her former husband as president, Thabo Mbeki. Journalists who called the South African High Commission in Ottawa for information were passed to the answering machine of someone named Serge who didn't call back.

With files from Kamal Al-Solaylee in Toronto and Gloria Galloway in Ottawa

Pinsent, O'hara Among The Stars To Be Inducted Into Canada's Walk Of Fame

Source:  By Lee-Anne Goodman
, Canadian Press

(June 5, 2007) TORONTO (CP) - Eugene Levy is starting his Oscar campaign early.  "I mean how about
Gordon Pinsent in 'Away From Her?' How about that?" said Levy, who's hosting the festivities this weekend as Pinsent and several other Canadian celebs are welcomed to Canada's Walk of Fame. "I was honestly just blown away. I'm starting the Oscar buzz for Gordon Pinsent. In fact, I'm not even starting it - it's already started."  Pinsent, for his part, has been typically humble - but exceedingly grateful - about all the praise coming his way since Sarah Polley's "Away From Her" went into mainstream release last month to be greeted with almost universal raves from publications as prestigious as The New Yorker and the Los Angeles Times.  "It's excellent, the whole thing is excellent," a beaming Pinsent, dressed head to toe in white, said in a recent interview at his downtown Toronto condo. "It's certainly the highlight, I would think, of the whole career."

But despite Levy's intended crusade, a modest Pinsent says Oscar glory isn't likely in the cards for him.  "I'll be at the Oscars to support Julie Christie; I think the Lionsgate people are going to push her for all it's worth, and if I'm somewhere in the group, fine. That's OK with me."  The native Newfoundlander, who turns 77 next month, says he's never had any desire to retire. His dogged determination to keep working has resulted in the role of a lifetime in Grant, the distraught husband who watches his wife of 45 years succumb to Alzheimer's disease and fall for another man.  "I've ignored the whole idea of retirement and things of that nature - that doesn't happen unless you're wheeled in or on a gurney," he says. "I've kept it going. There's something about hanging on for this lengthy amount of time ... it's certainly good for the soul to be able to keep going and to get the recognition."

Pinsent says he's delighted to be joining a roster of six other Canadians being inducted into the Walk of Fame this year: Catherine O'Hara, Lloyd Robertson, Rick Hansen, Jill Hennessy, Nickelback and Johnny Bower. Legendary film producer Ivan Reitman will also be on hand to take part in the festivities after missing the party a few years ago when he was officially inducted.  Ever the gentleman, Pinsent says he's honoured to be in the company of such esteemed stars - including the post-grunge quartet Nickelback.  "Nickelback! Look at that! I must have told them somewhere along the line to put my favourite show people on the list," he says.  Levy, who was himself inducted last year, says helping honour the stars this year is particularly meaningful for him.  "The great thing is that I know a few people. I went to school with Ivan Reitman and worked with Catherine so much over the years that it keeps it in the family for me," he says over coffee at the downtown Windsor Arms Hotel.  Levy, who next appears on the silver screen in the next "American Pie" movie, says he couldn't be happier to see O'Hara getting a spot on the Walk of Fame, adding the pair are currently working on a project.  "We're talking about writing something together," he says. "It's a little early to talk about, but we have a germ of an idea that we think is interesting and we're trying to flesh it out. Every chance I get to work with Catherine, it's a kick - she's so amazingly talented and funny and we sort of work the same way. So it's something I'm excited about."

Shipboard Romance

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Heather Greenwood Davis, Special To The Star

(January 25, 2007) St. John's, Antigua–
Tor Baker, 32, is drumming his fingers against the mahogany pews in St. John's Cathedral. His caramel-coloured leather shoes are alternately tapping and rocking (toe-heel-toe) as he stands in an off-white suit about three metres from the spot where he was supposed to say "I do" to the love of his life an hour ago.  His bride is late.  But if he's anxious – and he is –it can't be that he doubts she will show.  After a year and a half of planning the meticulous details of this wedding, he knows that the chances are slim to none that Michelle Grant, 33, isn't going to attend.  What is more likely on his mind, is the same thing that is on the minds of many of the guests who are frequently checking their watches and shifting to take in the harbour view at the back of the church: "Will the ship we came in on leave without us?" Baker and Grant are one of thousands of couples who opt, each year, to add another level of excitement to their destination wedding by turning it into a multi-day affair.

Instead of simply flying in to and out of Antigua for their nuptials, the Toronto couple convinced 40 friends and family members to join them on an eight-night, five-island Royal Caribbean cruise aboard the
Radiance of the Seas. They would tie the knot on a Tuesday at noon during the second port of call.  Long before meeting Baker, Grant had seen another couple do something similar and had fallen in love with the idea.  "It was absolutely beautiful," she recalls of those St. Thomas nuptials. "I always wanted a beach wedding and I felt like with a cruise we would be able to maximize the amount of islands we'd be able to get to." It's one of the reasons the popularity of cruise ship weddings is growing, says Valerie Brizuela, marketing manager for cruise line wedding planner Imagine VIP (www.imaginevip.com).  "We do approximately 3,000 weddings a year," she says. The company works with most of the major cruise lines in the world and has seen an increase of 500 weddings a year since 2004. Brizuela says the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

"The more people know about it, the more popular it becomes," she says. "People are realizing they are throwing away 35 grand to get married in their hometown and it's over in four hours. Or they can spend $10,000, get married in an exotic locale and have a great time for a week." That $10,000 U.S. ($11,792 Canadian) figure would include the approximately $3,000 U.S. ($3,537 Canadian) cost of a simple wedding (flowers, an officiant, cake, champagne, music, a co-ordinator and use of a photographer for an hour) and still leave you plenty of money to cover the travel costs of the bride and groom, she adds. You can upgrade packages from that base price and have the company arrange as much, or little, of the day as you want. Baker and Grant opted not to use the cruise line's service and instead did all of the planning themselves. The stress and fatigue of organizing a church wedding and beachside reception from thousands of miles away on an eight hour in-dock timetable had Grant wishing that she had gone the planner route instead.  Especially when her best-laid plans hit a bump: The car carrying the bridesmaids, groomsmen, photographer and a CD of music with the songs for their first dances got lost en route to the reception at The Jolly Roger Beach Resort. By the time the car arrived, there was barely time for some quick photos before a nerve-wracking race back to the ship.  "That was something," Grant says wryly.

But not every unexpected occurrence was a negative one. "There were a few people that came from the ship that we hadn't even met," says Baker of the ceremony which was walking distance from the docks. "They heard about it over the announcements and they popped by to see. They said it was the best wedding they ever went to." Strangers sent them a bottle of champagne. Other passengers stopped them in the days that followed to swap emails so they could send them photos or gifts.  And then there are the memories.  At the end of the day, as the couple made their way up the dock to the ship, cheering passengers crowded the balconies and the captain ordered the ship's horns to blow.  "Someone yelled out "kiss her" so I did," Baker recalls smiling, "and the whole place erupted."  It was the sort of thing they could never have organized. "Even though it didn't turn out as planned, it was beautiful," says Michelle smiling. "It had everything we wanted."

And best of all, when it was over, they still had six days left on board to recover.   

For more information on Royal Caribbean weddings, visit www.royalcaribbean.com/home, check the "all about cruising'' menu which has a pulldown list with "weddings.''    For information and tips on planning a wedding in Antigua visit www.antigua-barbuda.org

Heather Greenwood Davis is a freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Saturdays. Her attendance at the wedding was subsidized by Royal Caribbean. Reach her at

Heritage Minister Refuses To Budge On Extra Funding For Festivals

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Karine Fortin, Canadian Press

(June 4, 2007) OTTAWA — Just because her government refuses to accelerate funding to help summer festivals doesn't mean
Heritage Minister Bev Oda plans to give the events a pass. In an interview with The Canadian Press, Ms. Oda said she has every intention of taking in the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival and the Montreal International Jazz Festival this summer and expects to be well received by the Montreal organizers who have been critical of her over the last few weeks. “If the objective is that people have a good time, I don't see why I should be excluded,” Ms. Oda said on Monday. “I hope that, on the contrary, they show me why these festivals are wonderful and important rather than suggest that I don't attend.” Ms. Oda was reacting to comments by Quebec Tourism Minister Raymond Bachand, who said last week that Conservative ministers would do well not to attend Quebec festivals if the federal government didn't offer up more money. Despite protests from the opposition and industry, the Conservative government has been inflexible on a new program to fund festivals that set aside $60-million over two years. Ms. Oda repeated the government line that civil servants will take their time to ensure organizers meet eligibility criteria and that money wouldn't be doled out until the fall.

She also explained the program would apply to small and medium-sized festivals as well as larger events such as Just for Laughs and the Jazz Festival which have benefited from public funding. But Ms. Oda's firm stance hasn't silenced her critics, who say pushing the program back until the fall is absurd. Opposition MPs and festival organizers say 80 per cent of cultural events take place in the summer and the much-needed funding will come too late for them. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities adopted a resolution at its meeting in Calgary over the weekend calling on the government to provide the funding as soon as possible.  Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay added his voice to those who say the money is needed immediately.

Gore Vidal Still Firing At 81

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner, Publishing Reporter

(June 06, 2007) You can add presidential impersonator to the long list of talents possessed by
Gore Vidal, the 81-year-old American literary lion whose impressive CV ranges from authoring novels, dramas, screenplays and essays to running for political office to acting in the occasional movie and making cameo appearances as himself on The Simpsons. Although in a wheelchair during an interview yesterday at the Four Seasons Hotel, his voice gradually weakening over the course of 45 minutes, Vidal gleefully assumed the character of George W. Bush, in the process mustering up a Texas drawl to mock the U.S. president's supposed rationale for taking on Saddam Hussein and invading Iraq. "He trahd to kill mah Daddy," mimicked Vidal, his face becoming animated with exaggerated vehemence.

"I'm gonna git 'im. I'm a wartime president, unnerstand? And I can do anythang I want. I can pick an enemy or a pre-emptive war, anytime I want. "This is the way he talks," continues Vidal, sliding back out of character. "This is the way he thinks." At a later point in the conversation, the legendary writer expands his repertoire with a jowl-jiggling send-up of Richard Nixon. Vidal, in Toronto for a public talk last night as part of the Grano Series and another tonight at the Elgin Theatre for the Luminato Festival, enjoys a well-deserved reputation as the staunchest, longest-standing critic of his country's imperial aspirations. Writers like Cullen Murphy of Vanity Fair now speculate in book-length form whether the U.S. is the "new Rome." But Vidal – as he is quick to point out – "started that 50 years ago." And, in his estimation, the decline has been precipitous under the current Oval Office holder. "Our day is over. And everybody knows it," Vidal says. "It's as if Bush deliberately set out to wreck everything that he could find because he doesn't understand anything, so ignorance holds sway.

"We are a failed power. I don't take any great joy in that because we achieved our failure at the cost to the constitution and the Bill of Rights, which is a pretty big price to pay." Is Bush the worst president in U.S. history, as many pundits are now contending?  "I don't think there's any competition from anyone else," is Vidal's matter-of-fact assessment. "If we had a Congress, (Bush) would have been impeached 10 times over. He has committed high and treasonable acts against the state. The founding fathers would not have allowed this thing to go this far. They would have just thrown him out." It seems a safe bet Vidal will share his views on these and other subjects at the Elgin, but he isn't tipping his hand. "I improvise," he says. "What's the point of pulling a stale text out and reading it?" Certainly, Vidal's autobiography – outlined in the two memoirs Palimpsest and Point to Point Navigation – is an expansively ample canvas for extemporaneous musing.  Raised in Washington, D.C., where his grandfather served as a U.S. senator and his father was a ranking government official in the 1930s, Vidal has crossed paths with everyone from Amelia Earhart to Princess Grace and Federico Fellini to Tennessee Williams. Many, including close friends Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and the late Johnny Carson, visited Vidal and his long-time partner, Howard Auster, who died in 2003, at their villa overlooking Italy's Amalfi coast. Vidal had hoped to add Fidel Castro to the list, but the Cuban leader took ill just before Vidal's trip to Havana at the end of last year. Not that it was a wasted venture for Vidal, who has been living in Los Angeles full-time since 2003. "Very enlightening it was," he says of Cuba. "It was nice to be in a fairly happy country. I'm not used to that."


Lovitz Inks Lifelong Deal To Perform At Club

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(May 31, 2007) LOS ANGELES –
Jon Lovitz has made a lifelong commitment – to the Laugh Factory. The comic announced Wednesday that he has signed a contract to appear at the Sunset Strip club every Wednesday night for the rest of his life. "Or, if he's in New York to do a movie or something, he can appear at the Laugh Factory there. But he's committed to every Wednesday night," club owner Jamie Masada said. Lovitz said he's expecting a long run. "Who knows? I could become the Don Ho of Los Angeles," he said. ``God knows I've got enough Hawaiian shirts." As part of the deal, the 49-year-old Saturday Night Live alum will also write a Laugh Factory blog giving advice to up-and-coming comedians. "His contract is very lucrative," Masada quipped. "If he lives to be 100 years old, I'll owe him part of the club."

David Alan Grier Joins Comedy Central

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 31, 2007) *Comedian
David Alan Grier is behind a new magazine-show parody that will join a number of freshman programs premiering this fall on Comedy Central, the network announced Tuesday. Titled "David Alan Grier's Chocolate News," the series will feature sketch players who double as correspondents covering urban-flavoured topics in pop culture, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Not even an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” could help Grier’s last stab at TV, NBC’s “Thank God You’re Here.” The NBC comedy program premiered on April 9 and featured celebs acting blindly in improvised skits with Grier as the host. After poor reviews, the show was officially cancelled on May 14. Also on Comedy Central’s 2007-08 slate is "The Watch List," which premiered as an original series on Comedy Central's Web site and features material from up-and-coming Middle Eastern-American comedians performing what the network described as "edgy, intelligent, race-based comedy."

Ottawa Writer Wins Trillium

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner, Publishing Reporter

(June 05, 2007) Mark Frutkin's
Fabrizio's Return, a novel set in 17th- and 18th-century Italy, topped a field that included past winner Dionne Brand to claim the 2006 Trillium Book Award. It was the 20th year for the Ontario prize, presented yesterday at the UofT's Hart House. A prize was also awarded for poetry, as well as two French-language awards. In accepting the winner's $20,000 share, Frutkin cited both Franz Kafka and Groucho Marx. In quoting the latter, the Ottawa writer said, "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." Fabrizio's Return, previously shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize, was chosen ahead of Anar Ali's Baby Khaki's Wings, Dionne Brand's Inventory, Bernice Eisenstein's I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors, Charlotte Gray's Reluctant Genius and Wayne Johnston's The Custodian of Paradise. The $10,000 poetry prize went to Ken Babstock's Airstream Land Yacht, topping Adam Dickinson's Kingdom, Phylum and Anita Lahey's Out to Dry in Cape Breton. Babstock is also one of this year's three Canadian nominees for the prestigious $50,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, to be announced tomorrow. The French-Language Book Award was shared between Daniel Castillo Durante's La passion des nomades and Paul Savoie's Crac, with the two authors splitting the $20,000 reward. Françoise Lepage's Poupeska won the $10,000 Francophone Children's Award. Introduced this year, the prize will alternate annually with an award for French-language poetry.