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LE NEWSLETTER

March 15, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!  Today features my coverage of the
2007 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - there's something for everyone including lots of great pics!  I'm so happy to back in Toronto and back to the regular routine of things.  I love our city!

As found below, don't forget to vote for
DK Ibomeka as Best Male Vocalist for the National Jazz Awards.  Check out this opportunity to vote for DK Ibomeka!

Just a note: Don't you just LOVE that we can switch our phone #s now to ANY carrier and you're not locked into one until 'death do us part'?  I switched yesterday from Telus to Rogers - and no problems so far!  It's about time!

 

::2007 ST. MAARTEN HEINEKEN REGATTA::

Me?  Covering a regatta?  What did I know about regattas?  What IS a regatta?  Boats racing ... sailboats?  All these questions plagued me upon my acceptance to attend the 27th Heineken Regatta.  Regardless, it was a pleasure to return to one of my favourite islands, St. Maarten.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous too!

What I did discover what an entire sub-culture of people - sailors and boating enthusiasts to be exact.  They worked hard all day at sea and then partied hard all night - I have no idea how they do it!  I learned much more once there.  There's also coverage of some great concerts I attended while there as the regatta offers an entire party schedule as well with the closing party featuring
Stephen and Damian Marley.

St. Maarten is the smallest Island in the world to be shared by two sovereign governments-namely the Dutch and French. The Dutch side, with Philipsburg as its capital occupies the southern 17 square miles of this 37-square-mile island; St. Martin, a French dependency, occupies the northern half. The dual nationality adds variety to this most unique of island gems in the Caribbean Sea. Both Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin have maintained a peaceful coexistence for over 350 years, the longest of any two bordering nations, with euro, dollar and Netherlands Antilles guilder accepted as currency.  Another unique factor on the island is that the shopping is completely duty-free! 

I stayed on the Dutch side once again at the
Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino - a hive of activity in the centre of Maho with restaurants, clubs, casinos and beaches.

As usual, the people in St. Maarten extended a courteous and friendly hand to the many many tourists from all over the world - most in town for the regatta.  Met many Canadians while I was there too!  My first stop on my first night was to get some of the best ribs on the island, from Johnny Under the Tree!  He cooks under the trees where many travel to to wait their turn to get their ribs, chicken, mahi mahi.  Unbelievable as usual.  I also met Mary-Ann Tadros (from Brampton) who operates a store on the Maho strip called Bijoux - everything hip and cool in the store for only $15! 

Friday night was dinner in Philipsburg just before the party scheduled on the famous Boardwalk with many stages and an all out street party! 

Ziggi, the 26 year old phenomenon from Holland played on the Boardwalk in Philipsburg on Friday night - one of the more popular parties during the regatta.  I first heard Ziggi at Carnival last year and was impressed with his smooth flow.  He also incorporates styles such as Hip-Hop, Reggae and Dancehall combined with Gospel.  Ziggi's music can be purchased online at websites including www.yahoomusic.com, www.freerecordshop.nl, www.vanleest.nl

Over the years the regatta has grown out to be the biggest regatta in the Caribbean.  I was granted a day on Saturday on a media boat, captained by Bob McKean of the Simpson Bay Yacht Club with the crew of Joe and other journalists there for the regatta.  I wondered what kind of boat we would be on.  Would it be one of the boats in the race?  Would it be one of those boats with luxurious sails?  Nope.  But it was a great vessel nonetheless. 

It was an extremely choppy day at sea and we all ended up completely soaked!  Many thanks to Bob and Joe for risking such choppy waters to get us close to the action at the starting line!  You can't even imagine the swells of water - I just had no idea.  But the sailors were in their glory.  Each day had a different course and this day the course started off the coast of Simpson Bay and ended in Marigot. 

I know that it may just look like a series of pictures of boats but believe me, the action was intense and the crews worked hard, some seemingly almost toppling over to get ahead of their opponents.  The winds were high that day (23 knots), especially in comparison to the regatta of 2006, where there were low winds and the last day of racing had to be cancelled.  The sailors were in their glory as the edged each other out in the exciting race.  Just look at some of these beauties.

Shurwayne Winchester topped the Front de la Mer party in Marigot on Saturday March 3rd.  The 33-year-old Shurwayne, was born in Tobago and entered the world of soca in 1999 when he released his album “Rumor Riddims” which stayed on the top of the charts for seven months.  He was the hit of the Trinidad Carnival 2002. In 2005, Shurwayne received the “Song of the Year Award” at the annual Soca Awards held at the prestigious Queen’s Hall in Trinidad.

Thousands came out on Sunday night where the party was at Kim Sha Beach starting with the prize giving ceremony and ending with the performances by
Orange Grove and the completely fantastic concert by Stephen and Damian Marley, hosted by St. Maarten's own G Money.  You can only imagine the roar from the crowd as the Marleys brought some cool reggae standards originally performed by their father, the legendary Bob Marley.

I won't pretend to sound super informed of the ins and outs of 'regatta lingo' so I will leave that up to the experts at the Heineken Regatta as below.

27th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
Bernie Evans-Wong's Cal 40, Huey Too, is Named Boat of the Regatta


(March 2007) The 27th edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta concluded today in spectacular fashion as more than 200 boats in 20 divisions enjoyed classic Caribbean sailing conditions to wrap up a most memorable running of the annual event. Highlights of the regatta included the dominating performance of the Volvo 70, ABN AMRO ONE, Mike Sanderson's world-beating yacht, which put on a sailing clinic while regularly registering speeds of better than 20-knots; the addition of a first-ever fourth day of racing for the top race boats, which turned out to be a resounding success; and a Boat of the Regatta award to a design that was first introduced some 40 years ago.  For the full press release go HERE.  (Photo courtesy of the Heineken Regatta.)

27th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
Organizers Look Ahead to the 28th Running of the Great Festival of Caribbean Sailing (and Partying)

(March 2007) The 27th edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta concluded in fine fashion last evening with a prize-giving ceremony on Kim Sha Beach followed by musical entertainment by the band Orange Grove and the offspring of reggae legend Bob Marley-sons Damian Marley and Stephen Marley-who captivated the crowd of thousands of sailors and islanders with a set that included stirring renditions of many of their father's most memorable songs.  For the full press release go HERE.  (Photo courtesy of the Heineken Regatta.)

 

::OPPORTUNITY::

DK Ibomeka Earns Another Jazz Nomination

Source:  Wynchwood Productions

Awards season continues, with another nomination for DK Ibomeka.

We were excited to last week to let you know about DK Ibomeka being nominated as best male vocalist in the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards - now DK has another nomination under his belt. DK is now nominated as Best Male Vocalist in the
National Jazz Awards. DK Ibomeka is the only singer to be nominated for both of these awards!

We are asking for your support on this, so please vote for DK Ibomeka as Best Male Vocalist in the National Jazz Awards (Please vote even if you have voted for DK in the Smooth Jazz Awards - this is new and different competition!)

You can place your vote HERE!!

You can listen to audio clips of DK by visiting the links below (taken from his CD "Love Stories):

Dedicated To You (a MOJO Magazine playlist pick!)
Sugar In My Bowl
Interview
I'll Be Anybody

And here are a links to DK Ibomeka videos on YouTube (recoded LIVE in Hamburg Germany, November 2006):

Fine & Mellow
I Was Made To Love Her
I Put A Spell On You
Dedicated To You  


Background:

Jazz, Soul and Blues vocal sensation DK Ibomeka has been nominated as best male vocalist for the 2007 edition of the National Jazz Awards. This nomination comes at the end of a banner twelve months for DK, who saw the release of his critically acclaimed debut CD "Love Stories" in Canada and Europe in 2006. The disc gained strong airplay  across the country on Jazz  radio and drew an accolade from the UK's influential MOJO magazine, which choose his rendition of the classic ballad "Dedicated to You" for their December Playlist ("The cream spills over on this version of a Billy Eckstein-Sarah Vaughn duet by a Canuck jazz/R+B singer with Nigerian roots. Find it").  DK Ibomeka has also been nominated as Best Male Vocalist in the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards -  making him the only vocalist to be nominated for this honour by both awards programs.

DK Ibomeka completed his first European Tour in November 2006 and is in midst of his first Canadian tour, having opened for Colin James' Little Big band to enthusiastic audiences in central Canada in early February. DK is currently headlining a series of club dates in Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Calgary -  with more dates to announced soon (concert dates, music clips, videos and more can be found at dkibomeka.com)

To vote for DK Ibomeka as  Male Vocalist of the year in the National Jazz Awards please visit to the Awards web site at www.nationaljazzawards.com. Please place your vote now, as voting closes on March 25.

Does Your Band Have What It Takes? Then “Up Yours”

Source:  Universal Music Canada

(March 12, 2007) – Bands, performers and independent artists get ready to duke it out in Canada’s online music contest – “
Up Yours” which runs from March 7 – April 10, 2007. Yahoo! Canada and Universal Music Canada are teaming up to give independent musicians a shot at stardom by uploading videos or footage from a performance onto the “Up Yours” microsite www.upyourmusic.yahoo.ca. Yahoo! users can vote for their favourite band or video, the more votes a band has, the better shot they have at winning the grand prize. It’s that simple.  The grand prize includes $10,000.00 plus 30 hours of studio time at Metal Works; a Metal Works scholarship; music gear and the chance to score a deal with Universal Music Canada. The estimated value is of the Grand Prize is $35,000.00 but one can’t put a price tag on the publicity, promotion and star quality the group will get when they win this contest.

“There is no question that video and music have a huge presence online,” said Kerry Munro, General Manager of Yahoo! Canada. “We are thrilled to work with Universal Music Canada to showcase up-and-coming Canadian artists and include users in the process of choosing their favourite new band on the rise.”  Yahoo! reaches over 71 per cent of the Canadian online population each month. This contest will connect Yahoo! Canada users to independent music artists across the country opening up a new way for bands to reach fans and potential fans.  "Discovering Canadian musical talent is the essence of our industry and to diversify the process with partners Yahoo and the UP YOURS campaign is the most exciting of endeavours," commented Randy Lennox, President & CEO, Universal Music Canada. "Universal Music Canada looks forward to working with Yahoo and their many users on finding and promoting up-and-coming Canadian artists."  To register or vote for the band you like most or just read about the contest go to www.upyourmusic.yahoo.ca.

About Universal Music Canada

Universal Music Canada, a unit of Universal Music Group, is Canada's leading music organization maintaining a current market share of 37.8%. For further information on Universal Music Canada please visit www.umusic.ca.

About Yahoo! Canada

Yahoo! Canada Co. is a leading Internet destination that provides online products and services to meet the needs of Canadians and offers a range of tools and marketing solutions for businesses to connect with Internet users. Yahoo! Canada services Canadians in both English and in French through its sites, www.yahoo.ca and www.yahoo.qc Yahoo! Canada is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario.

::TOP STORIES::

The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance Star-Studded Gala

Source:  Jackie O. Asare,   4Sight Media Relations, Inc.,  Jackieo@4sightmedia.com.

(March 14, 2007) Philadelphia, PA -- After a near fatal car accident changed his life dramatically nearly 25 years ago,
Teddy Pendergrass, is using his voice to help improve the quality of life for survivors of spinal cord injuries (SCI).  The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance (TPA), a non-profit organization which helps people with SCI rebuild their lives, has announced an elaborate star-studded extravaganza - the premiere Black Music Month event, "Teddy 25 - A Celebration Of Life, Hope, and Possibilities" - to be held June 10th at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center.   Hosted by actress/comedienne, Mo'Nique, "Teddy 25" celebrates his life, music, and legacy honouring celebrities, industry executives, medical personnel, organizations, and personal friends & family who have contributed over the 25 years to his well-being. Patti La Belle, Ruben Studdard and Stephanie Mills are among the performers confirmed along with Teddy himself who will premiere a new song, written specifically for Teddy 25.   The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance will honour Whitney Houston, Arsenio Hall, Regis Philbin, Ashford & Simpson, Cathy Hughes (CEO & founder of TV One/Radio One), Mark P. May (CEO, Clear Channel), Donald Trump, Daniel Markus & Shep Gordon (managers), Bob Krasnow (CEO of Elektra/Asylum Records), and his long-time publicist Lisa Barbaris for their friendship and assistance through the years. 

Along with the honourees, invited celebrity guests include Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Eddie LeVert, Kindred, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jill Scott, Musiq, Vivian Green, Jaheim, and Usher to name a few. Proceeds from the black tie gala will be donated to The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance. As the first Black male solo artist to achieve five consecutive multi-platinum albums including a multiple of Grammy nominations, American Music Awards, and several other honours culmed from classics like "Come On And Go With Me," "Turn Off The Lights," and "Close The Door," Teddy Pendergrass has sustained a career that spans over three decades; first as a front man for the infamous Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, then as a successful solo artist. His sold out "ladies-only" arena tours are legendary.  For 25 years, Teddy has been an outspoken advocate for survivors of SCI, dedicating his time and talent, showing by example that there is life for people disabled by spinal cord injuries.  "Fortunately I am blessed to be able to continue to work and be productive as a performer." explains Teddy who after 19 years away from the stage returned in May of 2001 to a sold-out tour.

He established the non-profit organization, The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance (TPA), and partnered with The National Spinal Cord Injuries Association and other organizations to spread a message that there's life after a spinal cord injury. "I was on top of the world and felt utterly invincible, until one tragic evening in March 1982; an automobile accident caused my life to change drastically.  I became one of over 250,000 Americans living with a spinal cord injury (SCI)." shares Teddy.  "From personal experience I recognize a strong need for a coordinated outreach to individuals with SCI that will encourage them to reach their maximum potential and that's the mission of The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance.  It is important that those of us with SCI continue to LIVE and are given the right to LIVE as individuals in the way that we choose and that society recognizes that people with SCI are people, not conditions or diseases.  We all have challenges; a disability does not mean inability," explains Teddy. In 2005 Teddy Pendergrass was inducted into The SCI Hall Of Fame created to celebrate and honour those individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the quality of life and advancements for all individuals with spinal cord injuries. For more information on Teddy Pendergrass, SCI, and Teddy 25, please visit www.teddypendergrassalliance.org.

Canadian Music Week Began As Little More Than An Industry Support Group

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Pop Music Critic

(March 08, 2007) It could be likened, in the beginning, to a sort of support group for an industry that wasn't that much of an industry. When the annual music-business hangout we know as
Canadian Music Week first arrived in Toronto 25 years ago as the modest Record Conference, it was little more than a boozy "get to know ya" gathering for radio and record-label professionals who largely made a living pushing music imported from other countries upon their fellow Canadians.  Sure, we had our Guess Whos and April Wines and Anne Murrays, but even as one of every 25 Canadians purchased a copy of Vancouver lad Bryan Adams's Reckless the very next year, the general, national consensus would be one of uncertainty – Are we good enough? How many of these songs would I actually know if the CRTC didn't force them onto the radio? – and would remain so for a good time to come.  The 1990s were a boost to the ego, of course, as the Céline/Shania/Alanis axis stormed charts the planet over and multi-platinum success stories such as the Tragically Hip and Our Lady Peace were unleashed at home.

But it's only really since the turn of the millennium and the rise of internationally acclaimed, organically embraced underground acts like the Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Death From Above 1979, Stars and Metric that Canada has felt confident in claiming a cool, multidimensional music scene on par with that of the United States or Britain. Although often criticized in some circles that recall its insular beginnings as a bit too much of an "industry" event, Canadian Music Week – whose present incarnation as both music festival and industry conference came into proper being in 1993 – deserves credit for helping nurture the thriving musical climate that exists in this country today. It was then, long-time president Neill Dixon recalls, that "we decided this shouldn't just be a boys' club for radio and records to pat each other on the back and hang out together. We decided it should be more about education and sort of give back to the next generation, so we decided we were going to let young students and musicians into the conference."  CMW's festival side likewise began filling downtown clubs with Canadian bands hoping to catch the ear of the industry professionals who might introduce their music to the rest of the country.

For the past four or five years, though, Canadian Music Week has increasingly taken on a more international character. Not so much in terms of the festival programming, which still tends to be an onslaught of domestic talent broken by the occasional high-profile import whose tour routing conveniently coincides with the first week of March, but in the number of talent seekers hopping on planes to visit Toronto from abroad during the last, embittered days of the Canadian winter.  "It's certainly a showcase for Canadian talent, but since Canadian talent has become so hot and so revered around the world there are more and more people coming here to see what the next big thing is," says Dixon. "We have 25 countries coming this year. They're out every night, basically scouting the clubs. "They're in from all over. It's unbelievable how many people have travelled to come to this thing. And they're here to do business, as well." These are indeed heady times for Canadian musicians. And the right Canadian musicians, too, not just the typical Loverboy/Honeymoon Suite/Nickelback corporate "export rock" or warbling songbirds for which our nation has traditionally been known abroad.

Britain's New Musical Express, for instance, recently dubbed Montreal's Arcade Fire – which has sold 750,000 copies worldwide of its indie debut, Funeral – "the best band in the world," while the band was treated last weekend to a 5,000-word splash in The New York Times Magazine expressing much the same sentiment.  Hundreds of thousands of 'Net-savvy music fans around the world, meanwhile, are well acquainted with the New Pornographers and Emily Haines and Tokyo Police Club and other rising artists who weren't typically nurtured by the Canadian majors in the past but who have, through events like CMW and North by Northeast and MusicWest, been introduced in bulk to the domestic community of wheeler-dealers and critics that first fomented their growing notoriety.  As much as we "insiders" like to bitch about such events, these are often the places where we first absorb and adopt our peers' enthusiasm for new sounds. There's always an awful lot of godawful stuff on the program, yes – this year's CMW roster is teeming with hilariously wretched band names (Four Day Hombre, Canteen Knockout, Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker) that usually signify hilariously wretched bands – but there's also always a discovery or two to be made. Canadian Music Week has experienced such an influx of international travellers betting their expense accounts on that fact, anyway, that organizers decided to set up an "International Marketplace" four years ago to facilitate hook-ups between Canadian labels and foreign executives eager to license their tunes.  While the layoff-stricken majors are crying doom and gloom, the indies are striking deals all over the place.  Thus, on its 25th anniversary, CMW finds itself less in the business of selling Canadians to Canadians, but satisfying the demand for Canadians from other points on the globe. "They're not coming here to sell stuff because we're only two per cent of the world market," says Dixon. "We're in the shadow of a 38-per-cent market. But we are disproportionately exporting talent to the size of our market. So that's why they're here. They're not here to sell us stuff, they're here to buy stuff."

Crème De La Crème For Quinn

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(March 11, 2007) For the first time in 49 years, Dubliner
Joe Burke, among the finest Irish bartenders this side of Eire, will have St. Patrick's Day off. The diminutive barkeep with the ready grin retired last month after 50 years of pulling pints and mixing cocktails around Toronto, most recently at publican Pat Quinn's P.J. O'Brien Irish Pub on Colborne St. But Burke slipped on his crisp, white barman's jacket to stand behind the glossy copper-topped bar at O'Brien one last time to make a layered cocktail he invented to honour Quinn for St. Patrick's Day. Quinn is something of a legend himself, having spent most of the mid-'60s booking British Invasion bands like the Dave Clark Five to play for Canadian teens. Among them was The Rolling Stones, whom Quinn hired for a show at London, Ont.'s now-gone Treasure Island Gardens in April 1965 – their first-ever Canadian gig. "All hell broke loose," Quinn recalls, ushering visitors over to the framed front page of the London Free Press on the pub wall. There are photos of stoic cops and screaming, sweaty kids. The headline refers to a "riot." "They wrecked the place," Quinn says of the crowd. "When Jagger started, the kids when berserk." By the fourth song, chairs were flying, the lights were up and the police arrived to shut the joint down. "I paid the Stones, but I probably lost five grand, which was a lot of money," Quinn muses. "I never got paid."

And what did the five members of the band get? "$3,000," says Quinn. Each? "For all of them." But Quinn is used to the ups and downs of business, especially the business of serving pints and spirits. His mother owned a pub in the village in County Leithrim, Ireland, where he was born. "We were the biggest pub, I don't want to boast," Quinn says, his Irish accent thickening when he talks about home. The enthusiasm on this side of the Atlantic for celebrating what Quinn calls "Patrick's Day" is very much a North American thing. "It's the folks away from home," he explains. In fact, it wasn't that long ago that March 17 was a "black day" in Ireland – a time like Christmas and Easter when the pubs were shuttered. So there's no green beer to be had there? Burke makes a face. "You give that to people you don't like," he says. No self-respecting son or daughter of Ireland would insult a glass of good beer with food colouring. If you do want to sip something green on Saturday to honour the saint and his day, try a Pat Quinn Cocktail instead. The drink mirrors the tricolour Irish flag – green for the Catholics, orange for the Protestants and the white for the peace between them.

You'll need to master a classic bartender's skill for this cocktail to make the layers. It requires a steady hand and some patience, but it's not difficult. The heaviest liqueur, crème de menthe, forms the base. Then, take a teaspoon or long-handled bar spoon, turn it so the back faces up and angle it down in the glass so the lip of the spoon barely touches the crème de menthe. Slowly pour the Baileys over the back of the spoon. It will form the middle layer. Then repeat with the Irish Mist. You should have three layers in all. Burke makes it look easy. With some practice, you will, too. Saints be praised.

For this drink, use a 3-oz sherry or 1 1/2-oz liqueur glass. For the smaller liqueur glass, cut the amounts to 1/2 oz of each liqueur.

The Pat Quinn Cocktail

3/4 oz green crème de menthe
3/4 oz Baileys Irish Cream
3/4 oz Irish Mist liqueur

Start with the Crème de Menthe. Layer Baileys next and finish with Irish Mist. Makes 1 drink.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Avril's Hit Song Conquers World

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Canadian Press

(March 09, 2007)
Avril Lavigne's preppy and poppy new single will be incomprehensible to some, but not because of her surprising cheerleader turn. The chorus to her boppy anthem "Girlfriend" has been recorded in eight different languages, including Mandarin and Japanese for her largest fan base in Asia. Lavigne's song is also available in Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese, but attempts at Hindi proved too difficult, says her manager, Terry McBride. "We tried Hindi twice but the diction and the meter of how you sing Hindi versus the Western rhythms just didn't match and we just couldn't pull it off," McBride said in an interview yesterday following a keynote address at Canadian Music Week. "The hardest one next to that was actually Portuguese." The former skater girl doesn't speak a second language, McBride said. In order to get the intonation and meter just right, she spent hours studying recordings by foreign language singers. Once Lavigne felt comfortable, she headed into the studio with a tutor and spent "a couple of hours nailing it," McBride said.

"It's not perfect, you don't want it to be perfect. You want it to be her interpretation of it," he said. Lavigne, who isn't slated to tour until next February, will have the option now of singing in Mandarin for a Chinese audience, said McBride, CEO of Nettwerk Music Group. Appealing to China and its massive market is of particular concern for those who manage the 22-year-old's career. McBride said analysis of online traffic suggests the largest chunk of her fans is in Beijing and two other Chinese cities. "Her consumption is greater in Asia than what it is in all of the Western Hemisphere combined," McBride told an audience earlier yesterday at the annual music industry conference. "And some of those cities outweigh some of the biggest countries as far as the demand of consumption." Lavigne's Japanese-flavoured single "Girlfriend" debuted at No. 1 on Japan's international and domestic charts, something McBride said was previously unheard of for an English-speaking artist.

Lavigne's music is also being marketed through a Japanese-style manga comic called Make 5 Wishes.  McBride said the episodic story, about the trials of a lonely teenage girl, features Lavigne as a recurring character and was put together with the help of writers from DC Comics and The Simpsons. The weekly stories will soon be available as two-minute clips that can be watched online or downloaded to cellphones and will feature otherwise unavailable Lavigne songs. McBride said he hopes kids will take images in the comic and make their own "sub-manga sites," which could help determine the storylines of later episodes. "If we do it right, we'll have millions of people consuming it on a weekly basis. That behaviour can be monetized," he said.

Holly Cole Hits A High Note

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Jazz Reporter

(March 08, 2007)
Holly Cole pronounces herself in "a state of delirium" when she takes the stage 30 minutes late for the first of two sold-out appearances at tony Joe's Pub in New York's East Village. It's not just a case of the jitters about the first public airing of her new album – which lands in stores on Tuesday – or the attendance of record-label execs scouting her for a U.S. distribution deal. The Toronto songstress has the flu, apparently. Though her trademark smoulder is huskier, she deftly croons and cavorts her way through the hour-long show, with standout renditions of "You're My Thrill" and "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries."  Then she slips backstage to nap before the second set. These respites are precious; the next day will begin with an all-day rehearsal and end with a 20-hour flight to Japan, where she'll do two shows a night for two weeks.  "It's a very corny phrase, but the show kinda must go on," says the effervescent singer seven weeks later. She's robust, relaxed and seated cross-legged on a sofa in the basement studio of her Annex home.  "You don't have the opportunity to really cancel things like that." Especially since the Joe's Pub gig was a one-time performance with the top-notch New York players with whom she recorded the self-titled disc. (Canadian musicians will accompany her on a national tour later this year.)

The record is a departure from Cole's previous work – more jazz than pop and less input from the Torontonians, pianist Aaron Davis and bass player David Piltch, who were integral components of her seven previous albums. She attributes the new direction to her co-producer Greg Cohen, a noted New York-based bassist-arranger who has worked with artists such as Tom Waits, Ornette Coleman and Jewel. They'd previously collaborated on her 1991 sophomore outing Blame It on My Youth. "Greg wanted to challenge me and he's the perfect person to do it, because I trust him so much. This record is a combination of people that are outstanding soloists and also great at ensemble playing, and that's hard to find. I'd heard of, but never met, the musicians in the band until they showed up in the studio. I was just going on faith." With a rhythm section bolstered by as many as five horns and occasional use of clarinets, flute and accordion, the instrumentalists provide a warm, distinctive encasement for Cole's dramatic interpretations. The nine players either swing big-band style – "Charade," "It's Alright With Me" – or offer spare, seductive accents – "I Will Wait For You," "Alley Cat Song."  They all recorded together in one room of a Brooklyn studio, with Cole in a booth, so she could change her vocals later. It was an option she attempted to exercise, even though Cohen was satisfied with the initial recordings.

"I did a bunch of vocal takes down here," she said, pointing to the microphone in her cozy home studio. "I spent hours on it. Days and days. And I made it perfect. And at the end I went, `The original is much better.' It's not absolutely shiny clean, but there's a sense of community about it." The 43-year-old Halifax native turned to Toronto's community of stellar players to record a tempered version of "Waters of March." The track features former Holly Cole Trio members Piltch and Davis and ace guitarist Kevin Breit.  "It's one of my favourite vocals that I've ever done. Often the words are underrated in that song. It is essentially a list of things. "Some are very mundane, like The foot, the ground ... The rest of a stump.' That's not so poetic, but what is, is stuff like A sudden stroke of night ... A truckload of bricks in the soft morning light. "Those images are so vivid; and having them in succession like that evokes a lot of emotion in me. We did it slower, because it allows me to phrase and to give pause, to actually absorb the words."  For the first time, Cole, who has covered an eclectic array of jazz standards and pop tunes since her 1990 debut, recorded a song she penned.  "Larger Than Life" is Cole Porteresque in its play on words – Some say the blue Atlantic/Is really quite gigantic. "I'd written a bunch of songs before, but this is the first one that I really felt could sit comfortably in there. When you're next to Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, they better be good."

But Cole says singing other people's material is also a challenge. "I have to find something within the song lyrically and musically that really speaks to me emotionally, or else it won't sound good. It doesn't matter to me if people know what I'm thinking when I'm singing, the point is that I find something that makes me vulnerable, something that is important and compelling to me.  "`My Foolish Heart' is my favourite jazz standard. To me that song is all about denial. The woman is saying This time it's love and she's just deceiving herself one more time.  "It doesn't matter if you don't think that. When I witness an artist who seems very vulnerable and seems moved by what they're doing, it doesn't matter what it is to them, it makes me feel that way.  "When I'm doing my job right, that's what I'm doing."

Visit thestar.com/entertainment to hear excerpts from Holly Cole's new CD.

Marques Houston Now A 'Veteran'

Source: Candice Smart, Jr. Publicist, The Courtney Barnes Group, Candice@cbgpr.com 

(March 9, 2007)  (Los Angeles)  -- Inevitably, there comes a time in every boy's life when he realizes he's a man.  For
Marques Houston, that time is now.  With his new album Veteran, he reveals his maturity to the world.  Gone are the days of pop-laced tracks and catering to the teen crowd.  He's moved on to the next phase of not only his music, but life.  Forget everything you think you know about the LA native, Marques Houston-child music artist (at the tender age of 11, he led the kid group Immature), adolescent actor (as goofy "Roger" on the '90s sitcom Sister, Sister) and novice solo performer (in 2003, he broke out on his own from IMX, the revamped older version of Immature, to embark on a solo career with his debut disc MH).  It's time to get to know Marques Houston, the man. Houston sees Veteran not as a reinvention of himself but simply as whom he's become.  "This album is gonna set the tone for who I am truly as a man and as an artist," he says emphatically.  "People feel because I've been in the spotlight since I was little, they know me, but they don't. I've been through so many trials and tribulations in my life and career, from losing my mother to lymphoma cancer to learning how to stay true to myself in this crazy business.  I'm ready to share who I am."

Houston's influences from Marvin Gaye are quite apparent on Veteran. A departure from the lyrically explicit, bump-and-grind candidness heard over seductive grooves on his last disc Naked, Veteran expresses maturity through lyrics on far more tender subject matters and melodies for the hip adult.  With earlier projects, Marques admittedly catered to a younger audience.  This time around, he was "free in the studio" and recorded what he felt.  Since turning 25, he says, "I've made a transformation. I started feeling different, more in control of my life, more grown up. There's no going back now, I'm not a child anymore." Perhaps the most obvious sign of Houston's maturity is his view on relationships with women, as expressed on the lead single "Favorite Girl," a mid-tempo groove enriched with strings and an airy melody. Written about a former flame that remains close to his heart, the song attests to his new found understanding that a relationship isn't about self-gratification but partnership.  This insight is articulated on tracks like "Wonderful," which conveys general appreciation for a female companion, another ballad that manages to evoke tranquil emotion through a mid-tempo beat. "That's somewhat of where I am right now in my relationship," he confesses, "my girl is wonderful."  The track reunites Houston with hit songwriter Ne-Yo, who penned "That Girl" for him back in 2003.     Additional contributors include Bryan Michael Cox, Tank, Rufus Blaq, The Underdogs (Joe, Mario, Fantasia), and Adonis.  Veteran does offer of up-tempo tracks such as "Like This" featuring Young Joc.  Houston says that song came about from his love of "snap music," on which Joc currently has a lock.  Other guests include Shawna, the first lady of DTP (Ludacris' Disturbing the Peace), and friend/colleague Mya on "Hold N Back." But Marques still has a little bit of "nakedness," in him-he says the track "Kimberly," a Prince-esque song was inspired by his current squeeze, exposes his "freaky" side uncovered on Naked.  "That is still a part of me," he says sheepishly.

Though many artists boast of completing their albums in mere months, Houston took over a year and a half to finish Veteran.  "I like to take my time. I want my music to be timeless. When you play this album ten years from now, I want you to still love it."  And although he's no longer targeting the 21-and-under crowd, he's not worried about alienating his fans.  "Majority of my fans grew up with me and the younger ones just expect good music from TUG, and I promise to give that."   Houston has developed a knack for juggling multiple projects.  Veteran is being released on his own T.U.G./Universal Motown Record label, which includes a roster of artists (Omarion, Mila J etc).  He's also continued his acting career-he starred on his own television series Cuts for two seasons and co-starred with Omarion in the dance hit film You Got Served. And next year, he and Omarion will star in the horror flick Somebody Help Me produced by their company Rock Stars Entertainment. In the most fickle industry there is, Houston has remained.  He attributes his continued success to a great team and deep belief in God.  "I've seen a lot of artists come and go, a lot of one-hit wonders, and I just thank God that I'm not one of them.  Also, God has blessed me with great people in my corner, like Chris Stokes (manager and business partner) and the T.U.G. family."  And with a winning formula like that, it's no wonder he's become a Veteran.

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Official MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/marqueshouston

The Soulful Robin Thicke

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Entertainment Reporter

(March 09, 2007) He may have celebrity parents, but
Robin Thicke's musical ascent has been hard won. The son of actors Alan Thicke and Gloria Loring is a self-taught musician who started off in his teens writing songs for Brandy and Brian McKnight, then suffered a career-stalling 2002 record debut. But this week he has Billboard's No. 5 album and No. 1 R&B/Hip-Hop song courtesy of The Evolution of Robin Thicke, a collection of soulful songs showcasing his dreamy falsetto and that features Lil' Wayne and Pharrell. The Star caught up with the 29-year-old artist – amiable and battling laryngitis – in a Toronto hotel suite the day after his sold-out Mod Club gig.

Q:        Your bio describes the last two years of your life as "tumultuous." How so?

A:            The first album becoming a critical success, but commercial failure; then the label stopped sending cheques for me to record my new album, because they didn't believe in my marketability, so I was going into debt; and my wife (
Paula Patton) was doing sex scenes in Idlewild with (Outkast's Andre Benjamin) who had won album of the year. I was dealing with insecurities as an artist, as a man and as a lover.

Q:        What was the first sign that this album was blowing up?

A:            About six weeks ago I hit the Top 20 of album sales and simultaneously hit No. 1 on the Urban AC chart. Two weeks later, I set the record for the most spins ever on that format. Then every day I started getting good-news calls. Even though to the consumer it might seem like everything was good since the album came out in October, I was pretty much thinking, `I'm still dead in the water,' because the label wasn't spending any money on promotion.

Q:        How did you keep the faith?

A:            I was still really insecure, but New Year's Eve I did a show in Miami for a very cool, sexy crowd, the hippest of the hip and...

Q:        Who was there?

A:            Not to name drop, but let's just say T.I. was in the front row pumping it up and Lindsay Lohan did the countdown. Here I was at the hot hotel in Miami Beach and with my album still at No.95 and I said, `You know what, Rob? You have to let it go. Maybe you'll never be a star, but you love your music and these people are your friends and they support you even though you don't have a hit.' There was something kind of cleansing about coming to terms with that. A couple weeks later, I had a No.1 song.

Q:        Didn't your upbringing expose you to the challenges of showbiz?

A:            I don't think anything can prepare you for the insecurities of this business. I had to love myself before success found me. I wrote all these songs on my album about believing in myself. That's why it's called Evolution; it's not just some corny catchy phrase. I really evolved as a human being and learned be happy with myself even though I wasn't a big something.

Q:        How did you connect with Lil' Wayne?

A:            He remade "Shooter" from my first album and we shot a video for it. It became a video hit and he gave me so much credibility in the community.

Q:        What community is that?

A:            The hip-hop community. All the hip-hop heads go, `You're that dude with Lil' Wayne.' 'Cause they were like, `What is Lil' Wayne doing with a white boy? A real white boy, not a hip-hop white boy, but a white boy who looks like a white boy?

Q:        I guess your record company finally figured out your niche?

A:            It turns out that grown black women became my audience. I've been with a black woman for 10 years and I'm a very soulful human being. People have this tendency to (say) soul or urban ... because they just don't want to say `black' and `white'... People want to say, `You're blue-eyed soul, you're R&B' – you can call me whatever you want; I make music I love.

Q:        Are you interested in acting?

A:            I was never any good at it. I only did it so I could be around girls on the set and put a few bucks in my pocket when I was a teenager. My last role was as a pizza delivery boy on my dad's show Hope & Gloria. I was so nervous and embarrassed.

Q:        What's with all those liner-note photos of you smoking cigarettes?

A:            I've been smoking over 10 years and I just quit six days ago for the fourth time. This is the first time that smoking has affected my livelihood. ... I'm not going to let it get in the way of my dream.

Q:        What's the best part of your new success?

A:            I hear four or five times a week from people who say that "Angels" or "Lost Without U" is going to be their wedding song. To have sat at home ... making music and wondering, `Is anyone going to hear this? Is anyone going to feel what I feel?' Sometimes when I'd get the first line of a song, I'd just start crying, because I felt it in my heart. To know that I'm making other people cry and feel, I can't explain my gratitude.

Reggae/Dancehall Rapper Tafari Pulls A Triple For Illegal Tender

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(March 8, 2007) *The new John Singleton movie
Illegal Tender will feature three songs from reggae/dancehall rapper Tafari. Tafari is the son of veteran dancehall toaster Big Youth. Big Youth scored a large catalogue of hits on the Jamaican music charts in the 1970’s. Tafari’s songs that will be included in the movie Illega Tender are Darker Side, Jamaican Ting and Bad Bad Bad.  The film stars Rick Gonzales and Wanda de Jesus. According to wire reports, the film is scheduled to open in theatres this Spring. Before he took up permanent residence in the US, Tafari created ripples at events including Fully Loaded and Heineken Heat wave (which featured rapper 50 Cent).  He is optimistic of a breakthrough into the international market. Currently under the guidance of prolific and respected producer Tony ‘CD’ Kelly (whose credentials include the Buy Out, Grinding and Bookshelf rhythms), Tafari’s talent hasn’t gone unnoticed. Information obtained from industry contacts, have indicated that the Jamaican born rapper is being courted by high profile US-based labels. However, Tafari refuses to admit or deny the revelations.

Tafari’s latest single Rude Boy Warning, which is already creating a buzz in Miami, where he now resides, is currently making moves on the charts here in Jamaica. Said Tafari ‘I am bringing a new sound and something that’s fresh. What I am doing is Jamaican hip hop on another level’. With the success of hip hop in Jamaica more or less confined to North American rap stars, Tafari said he is confident that his work will take him to the international heights that he is aiming for. “Its not just Jamaica, it’s the world that’s going to be ready for what I am doing.  My music has its authentic flavour. You can’t tell that I am Jamaican unless you hear me speak,” said Tafari.   The 23 year old whose real name is Zambo Buchanan, made his recording debut in 2002 when he was featured on the collaboration Rude Boy (with Kip Rich) from the soundtrack vehicle from the movie of the same name. Later on he teamed up with Vybz Kartel and Jimmy Cozier for another collaborative effort.  Tafari attended Meadowbrook High before relocating to the US a few years ago.  Asked whether he got any form of advice from his father who had a successful music career, Tafari said ‘He taught me consciousness and righteousness.  He also taught me to stay focused because this is a very rough game’. Tafari’s my space can be seen on the internet at www.myspace.com/tafarigansta

Artists Honoured At Radio Music Awards

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -

(March 10, 2007) Ottawa - Canada’s hottest new music stars were honoured at the 10th
Annual Canadian Radio Music Awards on Saturday. The following were the winners in the nine categories recognizing emerging radio music stars in Canada:

Best New Group or Solo Artist (Mainstream A/C) of the Year: Tomi Swick - A Night Like This

Best New Group (Rock) of the Year: Neverending White Lights - The Grace

Best New Solo Artist (Rock) of the Year: City and Colour - Save Your Scissors

Best New Group or Solo Artist (Dance/Urban/Rhythmic) of the Year: George - Talk To Me

Best New Group (CHR) of the Year: Mobile - Out of My Head

Best Solo Artist (Hot A/C) of the Year: Tomi Swick - A Night Like This

Best New Group (Hot A/C) of the Year: Mobile - Out of My Head

Best New Solo Artist (CHR) of the Year: Rex Goudie - Run

Fans' Choice Award: Daniel Powter

Jamie Foxx, Mary J. Blige Take Best Album Honours At Soul Train Awards

Source:  Associated Press

(Mar. 11, 2007) PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Jamie Foxx and Mary J. Blige took best album honours Saturday at the 21st Anniversary
Soul Train Music Awards.  Foxx won best male album for "Unpredictable" while Blige won best female album for "The Breakthrough."  John Legend won best male single for "Save Room," and Gnarls Barkley won for best single in the category for group, band or duo for "Crazy."  "I want to thank Soul Train for appreciating my music and black music over the years," said Legend, who did not attend the show, via a television feed.  Jennifer Hudson, who last month won a best supporting actress Oscar for the movie musical "Dreamgirls," was given the Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year.  After receiving her award, Hudson reflected on her rapid rise to stardom after being an "American Idol" finalist a few years ago.  "I just can't believe I got the Sammy Davis Jr. award," said Hudson, who also performed during the show. "I'm standing on the same stage where I made the top 32 of 'American Idol."'  Jay-Z won the Michael Jackson award for best soul or rap video for "Show Me What You Got." The Isley Brothers Featuring Ronald Isley won best album for a group, band or duo for "Baby Makin' Music."

Ne-Yo was awarded best new soul or rap artist for "Sexy Love." Best soul or rap dance cut went to Webstar & Young B Featuring The Voice of Harlem for "Chicken Noodle Soup."  Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds was presented the Stevie Wonder Award for Outstanding Career Achievement in Song Writing.  "When you think of songwriting and where it comes from, you go to your space in your room and you write, and you try to write from the heart," Edmonds said.  Beyonce won best female single for "Irreplaceable" while best gospel album went to Kirk Franklin for "Sounds from the Storm, Volume 1."  LeToya and Omarion were co-hosts of the show at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, which was scheduled to be televised in syndication between March 17-25.  The Soul Train Music Awards are sponsored by the syndicated music show "Soul Train" and celebrate artists in R&B, hip-hop and gospel music.  Winners are determined by a group of radio-station professionals, talent managers and performers.

EMI Gospel Introduces Darlene McCoy

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 9, 2007) EMI Gospel President, Ken Pennell is finally ready to share his new urban inspirational artist with the world.
Darlene McCoy, an anointed singer-songwriter, signed with EMI Gospel back in 2004.  Since the initial signing, she's been on numerous gospel compilations most notably, the gold certified, WOW Gospel 2006 release. Darlene shined brightly on this collection among established artist such as, Donnie McClurkin, Mary Mary and Karen Clark-Sheard.  When asked how was the process in forming your record; Darlene's response was given from the heart of a true artist with convictions, "Every birth goes through a process, some processes are longer than others...it was important to me and my team that this record took on its own character and remained true to the vision God gave us for it in the beginning."  Atlanta's own Darlene McCoy now has one of the most anticipated inspirational albums to be released in 2007. The early buzz surrounding this project has been tremendous and steadily building throughout the industry, where most are asking, "Who is Darlene McCoy?" Some may recognize her passionate voice from the song entitled, "Fallen in Love" from Tyler Perry's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" Motion Picture Soundtrack released last year.

Darlene's music has been described as refreshing, encouraging, and timely. Her music ministers to the spirit while lifting the hearts of the listener. Everyone who has had the pleasure of hearing early samples from her debut release has unanimously agreed that it's exactly what the world needs to hear now.  Her pastor, Bishop Eddie L. Long, Senior Pastor of New Birth Cathedral in metro Atlanta has stated the following about his daughter in the Gospel, "Darlene has the mandate to lead the Church and the secular world into worship. God has charged her to be a voice singing in the wilderness of this world, outside of the normal means of ministry."   With the full backing of her label EMI Gospel, they're prepared to release her self titled debut album, on May 8, 2007.  The album is executive produced by EMI Gospel President, Ken Pennell, music mogul-film producer, Dallas Austin and Robert McCoy. The debut will feature production from music heavyweights like Dallas Austin, Fred Jerkins, Tommy Sims, PAJAM and newcomer Antonio Neal. Staying true to Darlene's analogy earlier, her first born album was conceived in her spirit, developed in her soul and pretty soon we'll all be able to enjoy the songs of her labour. (via Press Release)   For MORE visit her MySpace page: www.myspace.com/darlenemccoy

Bizzy Bone Back With 'Walk In My Shoes' Campaign

Source:   Toxcina King, The Platinum Group, (323) 692-9599, prfuture@msn.com, www.theplatinumgrouppr.com

(March 12, 2007) Los Angeles, CA. (The Platinum Group) -- It has been said that one of the best ways to understand another person's point of view is to walk a mile in their shoes. It's no secret that in 2004, Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum recording artist Bizzy Bone, suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, voluntarily began life living on the streets, giving up all his money and material wealth, and embarked on a journey that changed his life forever.   For several months, Bizzy walked on foot, trying to get from his hometown of Columbus to Cleveland. After many miles and blisters on his feet, Bizzy could walk no more. It was a long, hard road for him and not all the critics have been kind in his absence. Many were puzzled and confused at the bizarre behaviour and sightings of Bizzy sleeping in bus stations and on the streets.    Much speculation has surfaced about this drastic turn of events. However, now clean and focused, Bizzy explains, "Wandering in my desolate state, I had an overwhelming desire to surrender myself. My journey then became spiritual and my relationship with God was personal, between me and him."    As a twist of faith would have it, it was through poverty and the renunciation of his ego, that Bizzy crossed a spiritual threshold that turned his journey around to where he is now using his celebrity status to address the plight of the homeless crisis.         "I walked for a purpose. I walked for people who have no home, fame, fortune, or glory. I walked for those people who didn't care whether or not I am a Grammy Award winner or sold millions of records. I walked for the people who have no one to turn to in their time of need. I walked for the real soul survivors," said Bizzy.   While traveling on foot through Ohio, Bizzy said, "I've learned more about life from the homeless, who are the ultimate survivors than I have anywhere else. I admire them. I've learned a lot about respect because I've seen and lived their struggles first hand. When I realized I could be useful in communicating what I had learned, I thought maybe it would inspire other people to educate themselves on this issue and do some good."    Later this year, Bizzy plans to create a revolution in public awareness with his "Walk In My Shoes" outreach campaign that will address this growing problem by forming alliances and partnerships with non-profit homeless organizations serving various regions, beginning with Columbus Ohio.   "Many people don't know this about me, but outside music, my focus has always been to help the homeless and less fortunate, said Bizzy."  Bizzy also said, "This new program will be like the one me and my manager Kanardo, did a few years ago. Twice, within the same year, we rented a private location and gave away more than 1000 dinners that included, fresh turkeys, dressing, vegetables, bread, juices, fruit and desserts to homeless families in the Columbus area. During the Christmas holidays, we did the same thing but on a much larger scale. Not only did we give away food, but shoes as well as clothing and toys to the kids."   Today, Bizzy is busy with a new lease on life and his career. In addition to his advocacy plans, he just inked a major deal with Virgin Records of America and After Platinum Records. His label debut, "A Song For You" is due for a 2007 release. Imperial Records, the urban label and artist development unit of Caroline/EMI music will assist in marketing and promoting the new album.    With his solid team of music industry veterans that includes his managers, Kanardo Davis and Nena Jackson, along with Ernie Romero, CEO of After Platinum Records and the production force of After Platinum Records, Bizzy's says there's little danger that he will ever go back to his old ways. "I'm working with professionals who understand the nature of this business, people that I respect and trust. Our aim is about success in whatever we do and together we will achieve those goals because this is how we roll."

Davis, who has been managing Bizzy for 11 years, throughout all his trials and tribulations said, "Working with Bizzy is truly an amazing experience. Watching him make music in the studio is like witnessing Picasso painting a masterpiece. He is a prodigy in his own right. Whenever one is in Bizzy's presence he has the magical ability to fill your heart and lungs with love and laughter. He believes his mission in life is not only to make beautiful music but also to give to those less fortunate. Both on and off stage, Bizzy exemplifies the true essence of family, love and happiness. He is an inspiration to us all, to love thy neighbour and live life to the fullest."   Jackson, the latest addition to Bizzy's team is a veteran manager, who is well known amongst industry colleagues and professionals for her unique and diverse range of skills collected from her hands-on supervision and guidance of several artists' careers. "Now, into my second project with Bizzy, I understand some things that the world may still be confused about. Bizzy is a genius. He knows exactly what he is doing and everything has a spiritual purpose. Although several independent projects surfaced when Bizzy struggled to keep his head above water, I believe that this will be Bizzy's best solo project ever. He took his time to work on this album and now the old Bizzy Bone is back, with a new flavour and a new attitude," said Jackson.    Romero, CEO of After Platinum Records said about his relationship with Bizzy, "I feel very fortunate for the opportunity to create music with such an unbelievably, brilliant artist and all the more fortunate to share a friendship with such a remarkable human being. Bizzy is a guy who's seen more hard times than most people can even imagine, yet against all odds, he has overcome these adversities while keeping his faith and positive outlook on life. I think it is great Bizzy is using his celebrity status to help people less fortunate and who better to help and inspire these people than someone that has already taken a walk in their shoes."     When asked about whether or not Bizzy and the group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony will ever reunite Bizzy explains, "I know some fans out there are waiting for that to happen, but we'll just have to see what the future holds. I love those guys, we made great music together, but everything in life must change, nothing stays the same. I'm going in a different direction, they are too and I wish nothing but success for all of them in their future endeavours."

Throughout his career, Bizzy's personal life has always served as source material for songs and he's had plenty to draw from past experiences.  Even in his darkest and most disturbing moments, as real and as painful as they might be, Bizzy is still standing strong like the warrior he is. He stands on his unshakeable faith and truth that with God, and spiritual awareness, anyone can make it through the storms of life.    "Working on the Walk in My Shoes campaign is a great experience," Bizzy said. "Encouragement, comfort and hope runs all through this project. There are so many people who have nothing, while others take so much for granted. I think we owe it to ourselves to look at life as a gift and try to enjoy every minute. People need to hear and see that life is worth living and that even when times are tough, we have a God of hope, who believes in us, and love us unconditionally. I can't wait to drop some knowledge of what I've learned on the fans who understand where I'm coming from."  To hear sample music and the latest news on Bizzy, visit his my-space page at http://www.myspace.com/bizzybone.

ABOUT AFTER PLATINUM:  Headquartered in Phoenix Arizona, Ernie Romero is the CEO of After Platinum Records and has been involved with bands and individual talent for many years. With many record labels not even willing to give the artist a listen, the After Platinum approach is to cover as many genres of music as possible. In the tradition of great record labels of the past, After Platinum encourages and expects its artist to live up to their title as "artists" and be as original and innovative as possible. The After Platinum production team has had its tracks laced with vocals of some of hip-hops biggest stars including, DMX, Trina, Chris Note'z and of course Bizzy, along with many others. Additionally, After Platinum has also created music with members of the great funk bands from the past including, Sly & The Family Stone and the Bar-Kays. www.afterplatinum.com.

ABOUT VIRGIN RECORDS:  Virgin Records began in the early 1970's as a small, independent label based in London. Today, Virgin Records is part of EMI, the third largest music company in the world. A wide array of artists call Virgin their recording home, including: Rolling Stones, Dem Franchize Boyz, Janet Jackson, Lenny Kravitz, Big Boi, Sleepy Brown, Richard Ashcroft, Beenie Man, Ben Harper, Boz Scaggs, Blue Man Group, Blur, Chemical Brothers, David Bryne, D'Angelo, Daft Punk, Fatboy Slim, Perry Farrell, Gang Starr, Gorillaz, Massive Attack, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Tina Turner, Joss Stone, Young Capone and Yanni. The growth of Virgin Records in the United States reflects the maverick philosophy which has characterized the entire Virgin organization since its humble beginning over a quarter century age a devotion to seeking and embracing artists who possess the talent, vision, and passion to create something new. www.virginrecords.com.

ABOUT IMPERIAL RECORDS:  Imperial was formerly famous for the recording of early rhythm & blues and rock & roll artist. In June 2006, EMI re-activated the Imperial Records imprint and announced that it will be the full-service Urban Music division of Caroline Distribution, part of Virgin Records. The revived Imperial offers promotions, marketing and digital services for the independent urban music market. Imperial also provides additional resources for developing urban artists within EMI's major labels including Capitol Records and Virgin Records which merged in January 2007 into the Capitol Music Group.

ABOUT THE PLATINUM GROUP: As a full-service public relations firm, we measure our success by media results.  We are dedicated to promoting each clients' business or service as if it were our own, and in doing so, we don't stop until we get results that extend far beyond our clients' expectations. We generate successful media attention for every client we represent by offering a wide range of services. www.theplatinumgrouppr.com.

Marsalis Shoots Straight From The Lip

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Jazz Reporter

(March 12, 2007) NEW YORK–Wynton Marsalis is at a loss for words. It's only a few seconds, but silence is not what you expect from jazz's outspoken and charismatic ambassador, better known for what he says than what he plays. Nor was it his typical mien during the Star's brief afternoon backstage visit to the trumpeter-composer's dressing room at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Manhattan headquarters. Wearing jeans, sneakers and a New Orleans sweatshirt, horn to his lips, he was warming up for sound check for that night's performance with Willie Nelson. He responded to queries about his role as artistic director of the renowned arts organization and leader of its orchestra (making its Massey Hall debut with a sold-out show on Wednesday) in a subdued drone, but was fired up when the conversation turned to his controversial new album. Now that the topic is Hurricane Katrina, the 45-year-old Louisiana native just shakes his head. He has said that watching the devastation unfold on TV from his Manhattan apartment in 2005 was "like somebody violated your momma."

Marsalis, who spearheaded several fundraising shows in the aftermath, is frustrated by the stalled recovery efforts. "We did a whole plan for the cultural revival of (New Orleans), but I don't know what the mayor and them are doing ..." he says finally.  "I can't effect change, except in terms of morale, which I'm always willing to do: play concerts, talk about the situation, raise attention. But in terms of actually getting houses built, or getting laws changed, or running organizations that will get people who are displaced the type of funding or support they need ..." Helplessness is an unfamiliar position for the former child prodigy who made his recording debut in 1980. Marsalis is an award-winning jazz and classical player with more than 50 albums to his name, but he's primarily acclaimed as an arts advocate and educator, most notably as frontman for Jazz at Lincoln Center, which began as three concerts in 1987. Today, it's the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to jazz, with hundreds of annual events, including educational programs for infants to adults, concerts, composer commissions and tours.  But Marsalis's leadership of the institution has been criticized as much as it has been celebrated.

In the early years, the composition and repertoire of the Center's popular 15-person orchestra saw him labelled ageist and anti-white.  "The band is selected by merit like a sporting team and it's very difficult to get in," he says about why the group has never had a female member.  "From a traditional standpoint, we don't have the same roll call of great women in our music that we have men. We're encouraged by the fact that we have a lot of girls who play in the Essentially Ellington (high school) program," he pointed out. "We don't have a policy like we won't hire a woman, or an older person; there's been various charges alleged at different times in the history of the organization," Marsalis added. "Jazz comes from such a heritage of combating discrimination – musicians of course were discriminated against because of race – so we certainly don't want to be perceived as a part of that, but not at the sacrifice of the quality of what we're doing." However, he defiantly adds, "I'm not selecting my band based on who complains about who's not in the band."

That's the unapologetic attitude that fuels the detractors, and the musician shrugs it off. "That's part of being in a democratic society; I like spirited debating." He's triggered that anew with last week's release of From the Plantation to the Penitentiary.  Recorded with his quintet and featuring a young female singer, the disc deals with socio-political issues, such as misogyny and homelessness. It has received mixed reviews. Though similar in stance to 1985's Black Codes and 1997's Pulitzer Prize-winning Blood on the Fields, this record has more pointed vocals, including a spoken-word performance by Marsalis. On "Where Y'All At?" he rhymes: ``The left and the right got the country sinkin'./ Knock-ed the scales from Justice hand and set her eyes a-blinkin'.'' Critics are divided about whether his lyrics are too preachy, or not strident enough; and if they enhance the music or detract from it. Either way, the barrage of publicity has given Marsalis a fresh opportunity to speak his mind. And besides the post-Katrina bureaucratic bumbling, his most frequent target du jour is rap music.  "Under no circumstances have I ever been a party to any of that or liked it. One thing I'm most proud of is being on the record about that," he said. "I love black people too much to sit back and say, `Yeah, we're niggers,' or `Yeah, you should kill another brother,' or `You're real 'cause you went to jail,' or `Our women are bitches.'

"That's why we are constantly trying to be a part of educating our youth and uplifting our culture." The words rush out now. With a distinctive bite. And louder. But it's time to go. Willie Nelson awaits.  What do he and country music icons have on tap? Marsalis smiles as he relaxes into his chair and reaches for his horn. "We're going to be doing what we always do: swinging and playing the blues."

A Soul Man In The Making

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler


Undiscovered
James Morrison
Polydor/Universal
***½

(Mar. 13, 07) He's hot, he's (somewhat) sexy, he's very much alive -- he's
James Morrison, England's latest blue-eyed soul-singing export. Morrison's husked croon (Stevie Wonder catches a throat infection from Terence Trent D'Arby) is enough to marvel at on its own. But that's not enough for his record label, which bills him as the "whole package" -- part of an extravagant campaign that dramatizes Morrison's hard-scrabble upbringing, promotes his "shaggy good looks" and "boyish sex appeal," and plays up an artist's unblinking integrity. And, again, the scratchy pipes are not enough. No, there must be the sad story of a poor baby with a case of whooping cough so severe as to leave a young Morrison with scarred vocal cords.  Imagine the schoolyard taunts he must have endured: "Hey look at that bloke with the shaggy good looks and boyish sex appeal," the other kids would point and yell. "He sings like Rod Stewart or something!" Somehow Morrison endured. The title of his album (released last year in the U.K.) is no longer applicable; Morrison is Undiscovered no longer. Debuting at No. 1 on the British charts, the disc has sold over 600,000 copies. Now with the album's North American release, Morrison is set to be discovered all over again.

"I was sure I was born and raised to be my own man," sings Morrison, brought up by a single mother who battled depression and debt. "I was sure I was never going to need a helping hand."  Billed as a singer-songwriter, Morrison does receive assistance -- capable hands of professional songwriters and music arrangers who surround the voice superbly. First track Under the Influence has a funky piano roll to it, with a soul-pop chorus that Ray Charles would have hugged himself over, if he had written it. You Give Me Something is more in a romantic vein, with strings supporting a classy melody. On This Boy (a letter of forgiveness to mum), Morrison channels Otis Redding, but doesn't capture the man's ferocity. So few do. Morrison agrees with Louis Armstrong about it being a Wonderful World, but he can't quite feel it at the moment.  "But who am I to dream," he asks. "Dreams are for fools, they let you down."  This would seem at odds with Morrison's back story -- if a young white man with scruffed-up vocal cords can't dream of being a pop sensation and a world-class soul singer, who can? James Morrison plays Toronto's Mod Club Theatre on April 5.

Starbucks Launches Record Label

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

(March 12, 2007)  SEATTLE – Starbucks Corp.'s push into entertainment moved further from the coffeehouse shelves Monday as the company launched a record label based on its existing Hear Music brand. The world's largest specialty coffee retailer said it would partner with Concord Music Group, which controls several other labels and helped Starbucks sell the Grammy-winning "Genius Loves Company," an album of Ray Charles duets. Now, rather than basically lending the Starbucks brand to an album, the Los Angeles-based Hear Music label will sign its own artists and sell records through Starbucks stores and other retailers. "We're not setting this up so that Starbucks stores would have any advantage over other retailers," said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment. Officials refused to say whether the label had signed any artists, but said they would welcome both emerging and established musicians. Seattle-based Starbucks has been extending its brand beyond the world of coffee in recent years to embrace music, books and even a movie, "Akeelah and the Bee.''

The company also has opened four hybrid Hear Music Coffeehouses, where customers can purchase music from thousands of titles and burn the selections to CDs, and it has a branded page at Apple Inc.'s online iTunes store. Starbucks' brand strategy, however, has been publicly debated in recent weeks, following a leaked memo from Chairman Howard Schultz that lamented a loss of authenticity as Starbucks expanded to some 13,000 stores worldwide. In the e-mail to top Starbucks executives, Schultz said various changes over the years have led to "the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and what some might call the commoditization of our brand.'' Some may now question whether launching a record label is the right move for Starbucks, said Dan Geiman, an analyst with McAdams Wright Ragen. But music always has been close to what Starbucks sees as the identity of its brand, even though it remains a relatively small business, generally about 1 per cent of all sales, he said. "I think it's going to be kind of viewed as something that's going to detract from the experience and gets away from their core. But I don't necessarily think that's the case," Geiman said. The record label expansion is sure to prompt more questions about whether Starbucks will begin offering digital downloading stations at its stores, Geiman said. Lombard said the company was focused mainly on the success of its iTunes page.

Starbucks and Concord said the label "advocates creative control for artists and encourages musicians to stretch and take risks.'' Recording artists also should like the idea of a built-in audience in Starbucks stores, particularly at a time when digital downloading has created "a stressful time for the music industry," said Glen Barros, president of Concord Music Group. "This is a pretty powerful new platform, when you can reach 44 million customers per week through Starbucks' stores," Barros said. Lombard will lead management of the new label, working with Barros and reporting to a management committee made up of officials from both companies. Starbucks shares fell 24 cents, or 0.8 per cent, to close at $30.07 Monday on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The shares added 5 cents in after-hours trading.

Rock's Hall Of Fame Welcomes Rappers

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

(March 13, 2007) NEW YORK – Instead of guitars, there were turntables. Scratches replaced soaring riffs. An induction speech was read off a Blackberry. The hip-hop era arrived Monday at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were the first hip-hop act to be inducted into the Rock Hall, joining other acts that represented a wide swath of artists: college rock favourites R.E.M., punk rock poet Patti Smith, rockers Van Halen and '60s girl group The Ronettes. Jay-Z, the recently unretired rapper and Def Jam Records president, noted how far rap has come since the days when Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five exposed the world to gritty stories about the streets of New York on songs like The Message. "Thirty years later rappers have become rock stars, movie stars, leaders, educators, philanthropists, even CEOs," he said, reading his induction speech from his Blackberry. "None of this would have been possible without the work of these men.'' Backstage, Grandmaster Flash talked about how hard-fought hip-hop's now universal acceptance had been. "There were some that called it a fad. They called it a flash of brilliance, excuse my pun. I think the significance of going into this organization is it's the final place for corporate respect," he said. "They all finally accepted and embraced this wonderful culture we call hip-hop."

But while it was most certainly accepted, the embrace was not as warm as it could have been; the rappers got perhaps the most reserved ovation of the night, with an almost lukewarm response to their somewhat haphazard medley performance. The night's biggest ovation may have been for the woman who swore she'd never make it in: Patti Smith. The bohemian poet straddled the hippie and punk eras, with her album Horses setting a standard for literate rock. At the induction ceremony, she performed her biggest hit, Because the Night, co-written with Bruce Springsteen, and the Rolling Stones' classic Gimme Shelter. Passed over in previous years, an emotional Smith remembered friends and family who didn't live to see the day – and jokingly recalled an argument with her husband, MC5's Fred "Sonic" Smith, shortly before he died. He told her she would get into the hall and that she would feel guilty because he would not make it – even though he was more deserving. He asked her when she did make the hall to "please accept it like a lady and not to say any curse words." (She obliged). She also remembered her mother asking her on her deathbed if she had made it into the hall yet. When Smith told her she hadn't, her mother said: "When you do, sing your mother's favourite song, the one I like to vacuum to."

So Smith did, dedicating to her mother one of her most fiery songs, 1977's Rock 'n' Roll N-----. If the absence of her late loved ones made Smith's induction bittersweet, the absence of most of Van Halen's founding members was downright sour. Eddie Van Halen, who went to rehab last week, was a no-show, as was his brother Alex. Former lead singer David Lee Roth, who sung such hits as Jump and Panama, with the band, boycotted in a dispute over what song he would sing. The only two who were present were Sammy Hagar and bassist Michael Anthony. Velvet Revolver performed two of the band's hits before Hagar and Anthony performed with the night's house band, led by Paul Shaffer. Hagar said he wished his bandmates could be there, but "it's out of our control.'' "It's hard for Mike and I to be up here to do this, but you couldn't have kept me away from this with a shotgun," Hagar said. There was a happy reunion, though, for R.E.M., as they welcomed back drummer Bill Berry, who left the band in 1997 after suffering an aneurysm onstage two years earlier. Out of Athens, Ga., R.E.M. largely invented the college radio scene in the 1980s with songs like Radio Free Europe. They became mainstream stars with hits like Losing My Religion and Everybody Hurts. Singer Michael Stipe said his late grandmother once grabbed him by the arm and said what R.E.M. means to her is "'remember every moment.' And this is a moment I shall never forget."

With jewellery dangling from his hair, a moustachioed Keith Richards inducted the Ronettes, the New York City girl group who sang pop symphonies like Be My Baby and Baby I Love You. He recalled hearing them the first time on a tour together in England. "They could sing all their way right through a wall of sound," Richards said. "They didn't need anything. They touched my heart right there and then and they touch it still." Lead singer Ronnie Spector thanked a list of people from Cher to Springsteen to her publicist – but made no mention of ex-husband Phil Spector, the producer whose gigantic "wall of sound" is synonymous with the act. The snub was underscored when she gave a special thank you "to our FIRST producer," then cleared her throat. Ronnie Spector had an acrimonious split with the legendary music man decades ago. His trial for the murder of an actress at his suburban Los Angeles mansion is due to start next week. After the Ronettes sang a trio of their hits, Shaffer came to the microphone to read a note from Phil Spector, who said, "I wish them all the happiness and good fortune the world has to offer." Two of rock's most influential figures – and members of its hall – received tributes: Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton honoured James Brown, while hall officials remembered one of the institution's founders, record executive Ahmet Ertegun. Both died in December. One of the evening's highlights came as Aretha Franklin, one of Ertgun's greatest artists at Atlantic, sang the first million-seller she made with Ertegun, I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).

MUSIC TIDBITS

Garcia Marquez Bestows Medal On Cuban Singer

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(March 9, 2007) HAVANA – Colombian writer
Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Friday presented Cuban singer Pablo Milanes with a medal from the Casa de las Americas for his contributions to Latin American culture. The Nobel laureate in literature, who turned 80 earlier this week, joked that it was the first time he had bestowed a medal on a younger person, the official National Information Agency known as AIN reported. Based in Cuba, Casa de las Americas represents music, literature and other fine arts throughout Latin America. Writers, musicians and artists from countries across the region often are called upon to present colleagues with the Haydee Santamaria Medal from Casa de las Americas. Garcia Marquez has a long friendship with ailing 80-year-old Cuban leader Fidel Castro, but AIN did not say if he had visited his fellow octogenarian, or even when he arrived on the island. Earlier news reports from Colombia indicated Garcia Marquez may have spent his birthday on Tuesday in Cuba. But reports about the awards ceremony Friday were the first official confirmation that he was here. International news media based on the island were not invited to the awards ceremony, which was showed later on state television. AIN reported that Garcia Marquez planned to return to Colombia soon afterward. Milanes, an internationally acclaimed folk singer who wrote the seminal Latin America love song "Yolanda," described the awards ceremony as "exceptional.'' He said he was especially moved to have a medal named after his late mentor Santamaria, a rebel fighter also known for her contributions to Cuban culture after the 1959 revolution.

Brad Delp, Boston Lead Singer: 55

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(March 9, 2007) ATKINSON, N.H. –
Brad Delp, the lead singer for Boston, a huge rock sensation in the 1970s, was found dead Friday in his home, police said. He was 55. Atkinson police responded to a call for help at 1:20 p.m. EST and found Delp dead. Police Lt. William Baldwin said in a statement the death was "untimely" and there was no indication of foul play. Delp apparently was alone at the time of his death, Baldwin said. The cause of his death remained under investigation by the Atkinson police and the New Hampshire Medical Examiner's office. Police said an incident report would not be available until Monday. Delp sang vocals on Boston's 1976 hits "More than a Feeling" and "Long-time." He also sang on Boston's most recent album, ``Corporate America," released in 2002. He joined the band in the early 1970s after meeting Tom Scholz, an MIT student interested in experimental methods of recording music, the group's official website said. The band enjoyed its greatest success and influence during its first decade. The band's last appearance was in November 2006 at Boston's Symphony Hall. On Friday night, the website was taken down and replaced with the statement: "We just lost the nicest guy in rock and roll." A call to the Swampscott, Mass., home of Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau was not immediately returned Friday night.

Bono To Helm Vanity Fair’s Africa Issue

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 8, 2007) *The editor of
Vanity Fair will hand his duties to U2 frontman and humanitarian Bono for the magazine’s Africa-themed July issue; marking the first time in the publication’s history that a guest editor has called the shots. "We've talked about doing a special issue on Africa for awhile now, and of course Bono came to mind during those discussions," said Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter in a statement. "He's very knowledgeable and passionate on the subject, and he'll be an authentic guest editor." Bono will oversee the issue, on newsstands in early June, on behalf of his Project RED campaign, which enlists corporations to donate the proceeds of products made under the RED brand to humanitarian efforts in Africa. "As guest editor, I want Africa to appear (as) an adventure, not a burden, and put faces and personalities to the statistics we read elsewhere," said the 46-year-old Ireland native. Bono served as guest editor of The Independent newspaper in London last May. His issue featured stories on HIV/AIDS in Africa, poverty and global warming to highlight the Project RED venture. "Five thousand Africans die every day of a preventable, treatable disease (HIV/AIDS). If Graydon, his team, and I succeed, the reader will care more about the daily squandering of these noble, entrepreneurial, optimistic lives ... people who are familiar to us in every other way than circumstance," Bono said.

::FILM NEWS::

Chris Rock Gets Serious

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(March 9, 2007) NEW YORK – In
Chris Rock's new film, he plays a moustachioed, bespectacled banker. He's often funny, but just as often serious and self-examining. It's a realistic film adapted from the 1972 French classic "Chloe in the Afternoon.'' In short, it's a long way from "Pootie Tang.'' "I Think I Love My Wife," which opens in theatres March 16, is Rock's second time directing. The first: 2003's "Head of State,'' a farce in which an alderman suddenly becomes a presidential candidate. "If I did `Head of State' tomorrow, it would be more like `All the President's Men,'" says Rock. "It would be that tone, with jokes.'' Finding the right tone in movies has been challenging for the 42-year-old Rock. Many of his films – from the underrated "Pootie Tang" to the Farrelly brother's "Osmosis Jones" – have been absurdist. "I'm in ANOTHER place as far as films are concerned," Rock, in his trademark emphasis, says of the aesthetic shift. "I wish I had gotten here awhile back.''

Rock's brilliant standup act – for which he's won Emmys – has always been grounded firmly in reality. "I Think I Love My Wife'' draws from his standup material, which has often dealt with relationships and a reluctant acceptance of married life. "Those are the choices in life: You can be married and bored or single and lonely," Rock said in his 2004 HBO special "Never Scared.'' "Ain't no happiness nowhere.'' In "I Think I Love My Wife," Rock plays a married man with children whose fidelity is tested when an attractive old acquaintance begins dropping by his office (Kerry Washington). There are definite gags (including a heavily advertised one involving Viagra), but much of the basic plot is taken from Eric Rohmer's movie – one of his six moral tales. "I know it sounds silly. People are like, `Chris Rock and Eric Rohmer?' But if you study his movies and then you study my standup, they kind of go together," says Rock. "We immediately said (`Chloe in the Afternoon') was like a great house with no furniture – no funny furniture, only serious furniture.'' Rock co-wrote the script with his friend and frequent collaborator, comedian Louis C.K., who has honed an act known for its ruthless honesty about married life. Louis C.K. believes this is a new direction for Rock.

"I do think there are people that will go, `Why is Chris Rock doing that?'" he says. "But it's actually a lot closer to who he is as a person and as an artist than any other film he's made before. People who are always expecting big (Adam) Sandler-like comedies out him – they're barking up the wrong tree. That's not true to his voice.'' Rock has long spoken of his deep admiration for another Brooklyn standup turned filmmaker: Woody Allen. It's not hard to see many parallels between a typical Woody Allen movie and "I Think I Love My Wife," a romantic comedy set in New York. Rock used Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters" as a reference, but acknowledges his film is "so not on his level." Of his identification with Allen, Rock says: "I'm a nerd. I'm a little guy. ... the last guy you'd expect in a romantic movie.'' Of course, Hollywood is often unreceptive to change. Rock says the film was "definitely hard to get made" and that while most of his movie ideas sell before a script has been finished, he says ``nobody jumped" at this idea. He manoeuvred the complications of international film rights to get approval for the adaptation, and wrote the script on spec without a deal in place. Once the screenplay was completed, studios were still unconvinced.

Rock summarizes their reaction: "You? Grown-up? Got anything where you're a kid?'' "Guys play characters that won't grow up and something catastrophic happens and they have to grow up to save the day – that's pretty much what today's comedy is about," says Rock. ``Nobody wants to make movies about grown-ups.'' In the end, Fox Searchlight picked up "I Think I Love My Wife'' (made for about $11 million) for distribution. That Rock's film landed at a boutique division specializing in independent movies is a barometer of his new direction. "It's just part of the business. Whatever you do, if it's successful, you can do THAT again," says the actor-comedian. ``Hopefully people will say, `Oh, this is what he should have been doing all along.' Hopefully.'' Rock lives in Brooklyn – not far away from his childhood home of Bedford-Stuyvesant – with his two young children and wife (Malaak Compton) of 10 years. How did she feel about a movie based on a bored husband? "She was a little scared at first, but when she realized it was a remake, she was cool with it. It made it less personal," says Rock, who assures he's "very happy" in his family life.

Rock, who hosted the Oscars two years ago, has also brought family life to the small screen with his acclaimed TV series ``Everybody Hates Chris," which is based on his childhood. The "Saturday Night Live" alumnus has played several dramatic supporting roles in the past (``Nurse Betty,'' "New Jack City''), but it's clear Rock believes "I Think I Love My Wife" opens a new chapter for him. "I don't see myself writing any other movies that aren't in this kind of tone, this real tone," he says. "You live and you learn. You grow.''

EUR Film Review: Premium

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(March 9, 2007) *Charli Reynolds (Zoe Saldana), a successful shrink, is putting the finishing touches on her planned fairytale wedding to Ed (Hill Harper), an attorney with a flourishing law practice.  But with less than two days to go till the big day when they're supposed to exchange vows, she crosses paths with Cool (Dorian Missick) whose mom, Marva (Tonya Pinkins), has been hired to cater the affair. Cool just happens to be Charli's ex-fiancé, and the two haven't spoken to each other in three years. He doesn't take the news of her impending nuptials very well, because he never got over being dumped by this love of his life. It is easy to see why Charli had ended their relationship, since not only had he behaved inconsiderately towards her, but he had never held a steady job. You see, Cool's an aspiring actor who has had a hard time finding employment, between being routinely rejected by casting directors for not being what they considered "black enough" and his own refusing to take demeaning roles portraying offensive stereotypes.

As a consequence, he's unable to support himself, and still lives at home with his mother. Cool is very lucky that her boyfriend, Phil (Frankie Faison), owns a gas station and gave him a job pumping gas. Yet, the fledgling thespian has even proven to be totally unreliable in this endeavour. So, one wouldn't think that Charli would see any reason to reconsider this jive playa, except for the fact that females in films always seem to be attracted to such bad boys.

For full review by Kam Williams, go HERE.

Sprockets Kids' Film Fest Turns 10

Excerpt from www.thestar.com

(March 14, 2007) The Toronto International Film Festival's onscreen offspring is growing up in a hurry.  The
Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children is 10 years old this year and bursting out all over, with 98 films in this year's program in 25 languages from 28 countries.  The annual festival, which gives kids aged 3 to 17 a chance to see movies from around the world, also stages school programs and workshops on filmmaking, as well as giving kids a chance to make their own films and form juries to analyze movies and award prizes.  This year's festival runs April 13 to 22. Most weekend screenings are at Canada Square and Isabel Bader theatres, with opening and closing galas at the Winter Garden. School programs are at Sheppard Grande and Canada Square. Weekend screenings are open to the public, with weekdays reserved for school programs.  The North American premiere of the animated aquatic adventure The Reef, a U.S.A./South Korea production about bravery and a young fish who stands up to a bullying shark, is the opening gala.  Another animated feature, The Ugly Duckling and Me, inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen classic, closes the festival.  In between are 37 other features and 59 shorts from Canada and around the world. Languages other than English include Kiswahili, Tamashek, Danish, Krio, Dolpo, Flemish, Quechua and Arabic.

The festival will celebrate the Degrassi TV series franchise with a discussion session involving creator Linda Schuyler, key cast members and clips from past shows April 14 at the Winter Garden.  The Canadian retrospective includes four award-winning films from previous festivals: The Impossible Elephant, I Was a Rat, The Mysterious Miss C. and A Passage to Ottawa.  The Reel Rascals program showcases films for children 3 to 6 with audio subtitles for those too young to read. Industry professionals conduct film-craft workshops that give older kids hands-on experience making films. This year, there is a workshop for teachers who want to learn how to conduct filmmaking workshops on their own. On April 13, the Toronto film festival group is launching ReelLearning.ca, an interactive website to help educators promote film literacy.  The Special Delivery program teaches kids how to make films. An April 17 showcase will screen films made by young people at last year's Sprockets festival.  For program details, locations and ticket prices, click on sprockets.ca or call 416-968-FILM.

FILM TIDBITS

Will Smith To Produce Film About Rags-To-Riches Chef

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 8, 2007) *
Jeff Henderson, the one-time convicted felon who is now the executive chef at the Café Bellagio in Las Vegas, will have his story turned into a feature film by Will Smith, it was announced Wednesday. The actor will produce a movie based on Henderson’s memoir "Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, From Cocaine to Foie Gras," which was optioned by Columbia Pictures. It is unclear if Smith will also star in the picture. Henderson, who recently told his story on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” learned his way around the kitchen while in prison for dealing crack cocaine. The film “Cooked,” will chronicle “Chef Jeff’s” life transformation.  Smith will produce with James Lassiter, his production partner in Overbrook Entertainment, and with Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal of production company Escape Artists. The foursome also produced "The Pursuit of Happyness," another rags-to-riches story which earned Smith a best actor Oscar nomination and has grossed nearly $288 million worldwide. Lassiter praised Henderson as "truly inspiring." He added, "After meeting him, I knew we had to turn his story into a movie."

Photo Of Disney’s First Black Princess Unveiled

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 12, 2007) *More details and a photograph of Walt Disney’s first black princess character have been released by the company.  As reported Friday, “The Frog Princess” is set in the city of New Orleans and features the first African American princess in the company’s history.  The fairytale's heroine Maddy, who looks a little like actress Wendy Raquel Robinson, will soon take her place alongside Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Mulan and others among Disney royalty. The feature-length musical will take place in the city’s French Quarter and feature among its highlights a "soulful singing alligator" and voodoo magic.  Animators are going old-school with the production by relying solely on hand drawings rather than on the computer-generated imagery that has become the industry standard. The finished product will, therefore, look more like Disney’s traditional “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Pinocchio” musicals. “The Frog Princess” is scheduled for release in 2009.

Hughes Bros. Target Mafia Hit Man

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 13, 2007) *Filmmaking twins
Allen and Albert Hughes have chosen the story of a mafia hit man for their latest project. A book written about the late Richard “Ice Man” Kuklinski, famously profiled in an HBO special several years ago, will be adapted for the big screen by producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Jason Blum and directed by the Hughes Bros.  Kuklinski was a contract killer for the Gambino crime family, but managed to keep his profession a secret from his wife and three children in New Jersey. The six-foot-four, 300-pound murderer claims to have killed as many as 200 people before he was sentenced to two life sentences.  Prior to his death in prison, Kuklinski bragged about his misdeeds and gave interviews to several writers. One of them, Philip Carlo, authored the book "The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer," upon which the film will be based.  The Hughes brothers are expected to next direct "Kung Fu," a feature version of the classic TV series for Warner Bros. Pictures.

Curtis-Hall, Washington Live In ‘Cracktown’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 14, 2007)*
Vondie Curtis-Hall joins Lara Flynn Boyle and Shannyn Sossamon as newcomers to the cast of "Life Is Hot in Cracktown," an indie drug-addiction drama based on a 1993 collection of short stories by writer, Buddy Giovinazzo.  Hall will play a veteran cop, while Boyle is set to portray a cruel whore and Sossamon a woman faced with the challenges of raising her sick child and supporting a husband who runs a drug-infested tenement building.  Kerry Washington who opens this Friday opposite Chris Rock in “I Think I Love My Wife,” has already been cast as a transgender co-worker of a transvestite prostitute played by Mark Webber.  Additionally, Thomas Ian Nicholas ("American Pie") will play a rookie cop, Tony Plana ("Ugly Betty") an alcoholic, and Edoardo Ballerini ("The Sopranos") an abusive boyfriend.

::TV NEWS::

Latifah, Foxx Lend ‘Support’ To HBO

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

(March 9, 2007) *With the television movie “
Life Support,” HBO is bringing the topic of HIV back to the forefront. In particular, the movie – premiering Saturday - focuses on the virus’ growth in the African American community and black females in particular.  Inspired by a true story, “Life Support” follows the life of an HIV-positive Brooklyn mother named Ana Willis who overcame addiction and used her life experience to become an activist against AIDS and ignorance.  The film has been chosen as the closing night film at the Sundance Film Festival and HBO is teaming up with the NBA and global organizations for a national outreach of the film – screening it across the country.  Queen Latifah stars as Ana, and executive produces the film along with Jamie Foxx. The film was written and directed by Nelson George, whose sister inspired the film. “The point of the film is to really talk about the one thing we don’t want to talk about in the black community…sexuality and how we get down,” George said of the film’s focus. “They’re not talking about it, they’re not getting tested, which is why we have the numbers we have today. It’s why the film exists.”

However, HIV/AIDS is only the surface topic of what the film takes on. George goes even further into the topic, where it hits home – with our mothers, sisters, daughters, etc – African American women; a faction he calls “the invisible group.” “Overwhelmingly it’s been straight women – black women, Hispanic women – getting the virus,” he said. “There’s a new group that’s getting it in big numbers. It’s no longer a gay disease in this country. It’s a straight woman’s disease, a minority woman’s disease, and because of that, there are constituencies in this country who aren’t paid attention to too often in the mainstream anyway. So when you compound that – having a virus [too] that most people act like you disappeared, you have a double negative. That’s why the film is kind of a breakthrough. It’s about giving a voice to people who don’t have a voice.” That voice comes from the story of his sister who contracted the virus from her husband, an intravenous drug user. She has made it her duty to speak out about the disease and the importance of getting tested. “The majority of those becoming HIV positive today are women,” she said. “Like a lot of married women who have never had sex with anybody else, but their husbands. Of course they don’t believe in getting tested because they’re married. I’m living it. I got it from having unprotected sex with my husband. It’s a part of my life everyday.” George says that he took dynamics of his own family, particularly his sister Andrea Williams, as well as the community to shape the characters in the film. And while Latifah takes on some of Williams’ story, she explained that Ana is strictly just based on George’s sister. For instance, Latifah’s character is also a drug user, while Williams is not. The actress did spend time with Williams to create the character and prepare for the role, although, she said that the character is definitely no stranger.

“I grew up in this; I grew up in this area and I experienced some of the same things in some of the same places. The character was never really far from me and that’s part of what attracted me to the role,” she said. “[Williams and I] did talk a lot and had really real conversations about all kinds of things like human experiences and how life can take you down different paths. I needed to share her experience, but also, the character isn’t exactly who she is. I had room to make it my own.” Along with Latifah, Foxx added that he too feels the entire African American community is, or at least should be connected to the film. He told reporters that he was in support of the film because it deals not only with the disease, but it illustrates having the strength to go beyond it. “What’s beautiful about the movie is that, yes, it’s a movie about HIV, but when you see it, it deals with HIV right off the bat and then it deals with life. You still have a family to raise; still have problems to deal with. People need information on how to live their life after. When you see Queen Latifah and everyone portray these characters its like, ‘This is part of my life, not all of my life.’” Foxx, who also lent his musical talents to the film, continued: “To me, what also drew me to the film was not just the HIV/AIDS aspect of it, but the relationship aspects of it. We’re talking about people; people who’ve had their feelings hurt; people who are trying to forgive; and people who can’t forgive. There are so many different themes that weave through this film.” Those themes are woven by the stories George created from some real life experiences of his family. He confirmed that the film is a statement about HIV/AIDS, but also a story.

“My mission ultimately was to make a film about black women,” he explained. “I thought this was a great opportunity to have three or four powerful black women stories. We’re talking about a virus affecting the black female community, and it’s my mission to talk about that community not to have a male interpreter. The whole film comes out of that desire to let black women speak.” “Life Support,” also starring Wendell Pierce, Gloria Reuben, Tony Rock, and Tracee Ellis Ross, airs Saturday, March 10 on HBO, with an encore broadcast on March 11 4:25 am.  For more info on “Life Support” and the backstory, check the HBO website at http://www.hbo.com/films/lifesupport/.  For information on AIDS support check the Black AIDS Institute at www.blackaids.org or for services, the National Minority AIDS Council at www.nmac.org.

Spielberg Wannabes Pin Their Cinematic Hopes On New Reality Show 'On The Lot'

Source:  By Lee-Anne Goodman

(Mar. 11, 2007) TORONTO (CP) - The darkened venue was hushed and security was tight as a handful of select Canadian filmmakers with dreams of "American Idol"-style stardom showed up to talk to talent scouts for the new Mark Burnett-Steven Spielberg reality show "
On The Lot."  One by one, 17 filmmakers went in for their chats at the city's downtown Masonic Temple late last week and emerged a half-hour later, utterly unsure of whether they'd nailed their interviews or were destined to spend weeks waiting by their phones for calls that will never come.  Another 10 faced the same experience in Vancouver - in all, 27 Canadians chosen of the 4,000 Canucks who made submissions to the "On The Lot" producers. Only 16 of the 12,000 filmmakers who entered the contest worldwide will make it to the series, premiering this spring on CTV and Fox.  "I've loved everyone so far," said talent producer Holly Gardner of the Canadians she'd interviewed in Toronto. "They've all been great filmmakers, so it's going to be a tough choice."

Gardner was vague on what exactly she was looking for: dynamic personalities who will ensure "On the Lot" becomes must-see TV during the lazy, hazy days of summer, or simply brilliant filmmakers.  "We're just looking for the best filmmaker, but we're also looking for someone who will be able to step up to the plate, and if they are the one who wins this development deal, they'll be able to charge it head on, confidently, and do a great job at it."  At least one of the Canadian hopefuls, Adrian Langley of Ottawa, said the questions in his interview seemed more concerned with personality.  "It wasn't what I expected," said the 32-year-old Langley, who submitted his political thriller "Whiteout," set in his hometown of Ottawa, for consideration. "It was very informal. It didn't have much to do with the show at all; it was more about personality."

Sean Cisterna, 29, of Orangeville, Ont., west of Toronto, said he too was surprised by what awaited him when he arrived for his interview.  "I certainly was nervous walking in here today," Cisterna said of the Masonic Temple, a onetime concert venue that's now home to CTV's ETalk Daily.  "I expected to see this old guy in a suit at the end of a long table and when I opened the door, Holly Gardner was there to greet me and she was this peppy young Californian and it was great; it put my mind right at ease."  Cisterna's submission, the short film "Open House," tells the story of a Toronto real estate agent who has trouble giving up his dreams of an acting career.  "On The Lot," billed as a search for the next great filmmaker, gives the 16 rookies the chance to compete for a US$1 million development deal with Spielberg's Dreamworks. A host and judging panel for the series will be announced in the coming weeks.

Many of the Canadian filmmakers said they were attracted to the competition due to Spielberg's involvement. In media interviews after their chats with Gardner, they all discussed in passionate detail their favourite Spielberg movies, with the gut-wrenching opening sequence of "Saving Private Ryan" mentioned more than any other.  "If I could make something that was 10 per cent of that opening scene of 'Saving Private Ryan,' I'd retire, ride my snowboard and my mountain bike and that would be that," said Mark Adam, 43, a longtime film industry veteran who submitted a scene from his feature film, "Steel Toes," to the "On The Lot" producers.  Gardner agreed that the Spielberg factor was a big draw for many of the applicants.  "He's definitely why we got such a big response," she said. "He isn't watching all 12,000 submissions, of course, but he is very involved, he's always around, he has seen many of the really good films, and he has nothing but good things to say."  Adam already seemed to be dreaming of a Tinseltown lunch with Spielberg as he leaned back in his chair and put on a pair of shades despite the darkness of the studio.  "I pedalled, I skated as fast as I could, I tried to look for the pass, I stepped up to the plate, I gave 110 per cent," he joked of his interview.

TV TIDBITS

Nas & Kelis Confirmed For MTV Reality Show

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 9, 2007) *It was up in the air for a while, but MTV is confirming that rapper
Nas and his wife, singer Kelis, will star in their own reality television series for the music channel. Titled Mr. and Mrs. Jones, the show will focus on both artists as they prepare for an upcoming tour.  "This is a show featuring two people whose dynamics are entirely their own,” said a rep for MTV. “He tends to be very quiet and she knows exactly what he needs when he needs it. While other shows have focused more on the domestic side, we are taking a much stronger view and catching up to them when their tour begins."  It is unclear whether cameras were rolling when Kelis was arrested in Miami last week after allegedly interfering with an undercover police operation.

Ice Cube Gets ‘Hood’ With New Reality Show

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 14, 2007) *A&E has signed a deal with
Ice Cube to produce a new reality series that will follow former criminals as they attempt to help people in similar circumstances turn their lives around. Titled “Good in the Hood,” each hour-long program will spotlight a reformed gang member, drug dealer or robber who hopes to inspire the positive transformation of a relative, friend or stranger.  Rob Sharenow, senior VP of non-fiction and alternative programming for A&E, tells Variety:  "One of the most powerful elements in the show is the personal connection of the two subjects." People who are still in thrall to drugs or violence "are more apt to respond to someone who has walked in their shoes."  Ice Cube will introduce each segment, and "plans to be very involved" in the show, says Sharenow, because "he comes from very difficult beginnings, growing up in a bad neighbourhood in South Central L.A. He transformed his own life."   In a statement, Ice Cube said, "This show is a way to demonstrate what is going on in a positive way in the urban community."

::THEATRE NEWS::

This Old House Holds Up Well

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Theatre Critic

House
(out of 4)
By Daniel MacIvor. Directed by Daniel Brooks. Until Apr. 1 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.
416-975-8555.

(March 09, 2007) To borrow a phrase from Stephen Sondheim, I'm sorry-grateful. Last night,
House opened at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. It's the final production in the glorious 20-year history of da da kamera, the partnership between Daniel MacIvor and Sherrie Johnson that has been responsible for so many fine works of theatre that to merely enumerate them would take up the rest of the space available to me. Let's just say that without them, our theatre would have been a considerably poorer place and House is a good indication why. First produced in 1991, it's neither as complex nor as dazzling as some of the later MacIvor solo pieces, but it shows that from the very start, he knew what he was doing when it came to presenting us individuals who definitely dwell on the dark side of the moon. This time around, he's called Victor and he's quite a piece of work. With his Nova Scotia accent, tacky sports jacket and self-important swagger, he's any one of an million guys you'd cross the street to avoid.

But Victor knows that and he'd follow you, because he's got stories to tell, mainly about his tedious job, his loveless marriage and his feeble attempts at self-improvement and you'll see a soul in agony behind a frozen smile, with laugh that contains more than just a hint of the death rattle. Daniel Brooks, MacIvor's frequent collaborator, has once again helped him shape both the piece and the performance with a sure, subtle hand. Kimberly Purtell's lighting is design is not as flashy as some of those she did for later MacIvor shows, but it works wondrously well. Once again, you have to marvel at the sheer force of presence MacIvor brings onto the stage, even more impressive when you realize he's playing such a loser. He allows himself the odd sly comic bit of updating ("I'm glad you didn't stay home to watch a television program about a cranky doctor.") but most of the experience is pretty much as it was 17 years ago – which is just fine. We're a lot richer for the shows that da da kamera has given us over the years, but we're also poorer for the fact that MacIvor will never perform them again. "In my end is my beginning," wrote T.S. Eliot in Four Quartets. Let's hope the same is true for MacIvor and the finish of one glorious chapter in his career will be followed immediately by the start of an even better one.
 

Suzie McNeil Makes Stage Debut In Queen Musical And Releases Album All In One Day

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Pop Culture Writer

(March 10, 2007) April 10 is going to be pretty special for
Suzie McNeil. As if making her theatrical debut playing Oz in We Will Rock You isn't enough, her album Broken & Beautiful is released the same day.  "It's my big day. Big day ... I can't wait." I last talked to McNeil a year-and-a-half ago when she, as the last woman contestant, had just been voted off reality show Rock Star: INXS and moved from the Rock Star mansion to the L.A. motel where I happened to be staying.  "That seems like a lifetime ago," she says on the phone from the Canon Theatre, where she's in the middle of rehearsals for the Queen musical. "I was messed up then. Not in reality." Since then the 28-year-old Toronto native has toured with Pink, recorded duets with INXS and Clay Aiken (the latter of which makes her laugh) and finished her own record. She's also been in Afghanistan for three weeks entertaining the Canadian troops.  "They warned us before we left that it was going to be intense and potentially a life-changing experience, and it was," she says. "It was like the movie cliché where we get off the Herc plane and it was like tah-tah-tah-tah-tah. It sounds a bit naïve, but there was real war happening. You see it in the news, but when you're there and you're touching the sand it's pretty intense ...

"The main base has rocket attacks all the time and it was scary. It's not comfortable. It's cold at night and hot during the day. The sewage flows into this lake they call Emerald Lake, and if the wind blows, the whole base smells like crap. It's hard living." And then fresh out of the war zone and still jet-lagged, she was off to audition for We Will Rock You. She thinks it was her rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" on Rock Star that made the casting people take notice. But she credits someone else with getting her cast.  "I would say, from my perspective, it was definitely (Queen guitarist) Brian May who sealed the deal.  "The song my character is singing is a song (`No-One But You [Only the Good Die Young]') he wrote after Freddie Mercury died; he wrote it for Freddie and it's absolutely gorgeous. There isn't going to be a dry eye in the house. It's the one serious, slow ballad in a funny show.  "And as I was leaving, he said to me, `I've never really gotten shivers from anyone singing that before,' and I thought, `Hmmm ...'"  McNeil, who says rehearsing for a stage production has been a "big learning curve," is happy to have a steady job to go to for a while.  "Rock Star was emotionally harder, such high stakes involved and it was the unknown. (We Will Rock You) is hard physically, but it's a job. It is a joy, actually ... "I needed that. It's been a roller coaster for a year-and-a half. I've been kind of living out of a suitcase, I've been touring a lot. I've been up and down, there's been crazy political career things, album releases. Tough. And I was like, `I just need to go home and know every day waking up what I'm doing.'  "There's something to be said for that."

Betting The Bank On Song And Dance

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Entertainment Columnist

(March 10, 2007) Stagestruck Toronto investment tycoon Aubrey Dan is gambling millions on mounting a challenge to David Mirvish for Toronto's commercial theatre audience, the Toronto Star has learned. Through his fledging company
Dancap Productions Inc., Dan is in the final stages of putting together a razzle-dazzle 2007-2008 season designed to give him a slice of this city's high-end box office. Sources say Dan has reached agreement with New York producers for the rights to three high-profile, touring Broadway musicals, although some details may need to be fine-tuned before contracts are signed. The shows:

·  The Drowsy Chaperone, which began as a Toronto fringe show before becoming an award-winning Broadway hit, would open its North American tour in Toronto in the early fall at the Elgin Theatre in late September after the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.

·  The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which has been crisscrossing the U.S. for a year, will probably visit Toronto in early 2008.

·  Avenue Q, the Tony-winning show with amusingly dirty-mouthed puppets, expected to arrive in Toronto in mid-summer 2008 after starting its long-delayed tour in Los Angeles in September 2007.

Dan is Mirvish's first serious competitor for domination of the Toronto market to emerge since the fall of Garth Drabinsky's Livent company in 1998. Dancap has provisional holds on a number of timeslots at the 1,500-seat Elgin, according to theatre manager Brett Randall. "Aubrey Dan may want to spread his shows around to different theatres," says Randall.  "I think this is going to be an exciting development for a lot of people in the Toronto theatre community.  ``But until he's ready to announce his plans, I really can't divulge any details." Theatre circles are also abuzz with reports that Dan may use the Toronto Centre for the Arts at Yonge St. and Sheppard Ave. Under one possible scenario, Dan could rent the theatre for one or more of his shows.  But in the past he has also had discussions with the board of the centre about a long-term arrangement under which he would become its first outside operator since Drabinsky. (Dancap's office has been set up across the street from the centre.)

The largest of its three auditoriums – where Drabinsky staged Showboat and Ragtime – has about 1,750 seats. Dan, the 44-year-old president of Dancap Private Equity Inc., founded in 2000, is the son of pharmaceutical tycoon Leslie Dan, ranked by Canadian Business magazine as one of the 30 wealthiest people in Canada. Dan did not return my calls, but certain notable figures in the theatre world have been advised to clear their calendars for Monday, April 23, in order to be present when Dan makes a major announcement. His enthusiasm for the theatre business was evidently not deterred by a series of money-losing ventures he undertook in collaboration with Canadian Stage, starting with Urinetown in the summer of 2003 (on which Dan lost most of his $1.5 million investment) and last year's dismal revival of Hair. After a series of conflicts with artistic producer Martin Bragg, Dan decided to go his own way as a producer, and lured veteran CanStage theatre executive Paul Shaw away to become head of Dancap Productions – with the task of shopping for shows Dan could present in Toronto. "Over the years we have had a lot of competitors," David Mirvish said yesterday, "and that could be a good thing if it raises awareness of theatre in the city." It was Mirvish, who gambled by putting The Drowsy Chaperone into his subscription season in 2001 when it was an untried fringe show.

So it is ironic he should miss out on bringing it back after its Broadway triumph.  But it would have been a problem for Mirvish to offer it to subscribers who had already had it on their subscription series so recently. Unlike Mirvish, Dan does not have the security of more than 40,000 subscribers.  But he is expected to market his season as a package, with each show running three or four weeks. It's a big risk, though, because he will face weekly costs of more than $700,000.  That includes about $300,000 a week he will have to guarantee the New York producers, plus about $50,000 a week to rent a Toronto theatre, plus an advertising budget of about $150,000 a week, plus taxes and other costs. Avenue Q – which upset Wicked in 2004 when it won the Tony for Best Musical – went to Las Vegas as part of an exclusive deal that ruled out any other North American production. But instead of running for five years or more, the Vegas production closed after one mediocre year – making possible a belated tour. "It may be exciting for Toronto to have so much going on in commercial theatre," says veteran producer Ronald Andrew, who runs the Canadian arm of Live Nation (owners of the Panasonic Theatre).  "But the real question is going to be whether it is possible for this city to support all these shows. ``We'll see."

Live Nation Selling Theatres

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

(March 14, 2007) L.A.-based entertainment giant
Live Nation is in the process of selling off its theatre properties, including Toronto's Canon and Panasonic theatres. But two shows set to begin in Toronto – Mirvish Productions' We Will Rock You and a remounted production of Menopause Out Loud – are expected to go on as scheduled. Live Nation, in response to recent losses, announced it would divest itself of 13 theatre properties to focus on its "core business" of live music and entertainment, said John Vlautin, vice-president of communications. The company, which earned an estimated $2.8 billion (U.S.) in 2005, owns a range of theatre and live entertainment venues across North America and Europe. "I can confirm the Panasonic and the Canon Theatre ... are up for sale as part of our theatre group," Vlautin said.

We Will Rock You, based on the music of rock group Queen, is set to make its debut at the Canon, with four weeks of previews beginning tonight. The official opening is set for April 10. Mirvish Productions spokesperson John Karastamatis said that the sale of the theatre will have no impact on the show. "Mirvish Productions has a long-term management agreement with the Canon Theatre, which will survive any sale or change of ownership," he said. Karastamatis noted that advance sales for the futuristic fantasy musical – written by Ben Elton and Queen – have been strong, with the first four weeks of previews virtually sold out. Sales for subsequent weeks are also very solid, he added. A new production of Menopause Out Loud, which recently completed a successful run at the Capital Event Theatre, is slated to begin a new run at the Panasonic Theatre, recently vacated by the Blue Man Group, on March 23. "Menopause Out Loud has a contract in place with the Panasonic Theatre ... any change of hands at Live Nation venues will not affect Menopause Out Loud in Toronto," said producer Alan Glist, co-founder of GFour Productions.

::DANCE NEWS::

Troy Sexton Is The Only Canadian To Ever Make Noise With The Stomp Troupe

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

(March 13, 2007) Profile of a typical Stomper: loves rhythm, can dance and drum, but is not necessarily a dancer or a drummer; has a distinctive look, high energy and lots of physical stamina; can live out of a suitcase, loves to party, stays up late, is an extrovert.  The only Canadian to ever make the grade is 23-year-old Troy Sexton, who has been performing non-stop with Stomp in London and on the European tour since he was 19. When the show opens today for a week at the Elgin Theatre, Sexton will be banging and stomping for the first time in his hometown. A drummer from the age of 10 and a break dancer from 14, Sexton saw Stomp in New York, where the show has been running for 13 years, when he was in Grade 10. "I told my brother, I said, `I have to be in that show. I'm going to be in that show before I'm 20.'" He was.  "Stompers seem to be a breed of people," says the tattooed and pierced performer. "We're all loud, we're all crazy, we all look messed up and everyone seems to get along because everyone's a nut." It might be taking some effort for Sexton to sit still at a boardroom table in the King St. W. offices of Mirvish Productions, but accustomed as he is to being a spokesperson for his cast, he doesn't show it. The show that began on the streets of Brighton, England, in 1991 is a long-running phenomenon that has outlasted imitators and draws repeat crowds wherever it is performed: to date, more than 350 cities.  Creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas still keep a sharp eye on the four different companies: the New York and the North American touring groups plus the London company (in its fifth year on the West End) and the European travelling cast. Stomp has generated a DVD and an IMAX show.

Cresswell and McNicholas have rolled out a new show called Lost and Found Orchestra and are working on a spectacle for Las Vegas. Over the years, Stomp's content has altered little. The crowd-pleasing percussive numbers have the enduring appeal of a Radio City Rockettes routine: the Zippo lighters flipping to a catchy beat, the brooms pounding out an explosive rhythm, the harnessed Stompers banging pots and pans on the back wall of the set.  "We try to inspire each other every night to make it interesting," says Sexton, claiming the show has a 25 per cent margin for improvisation. "We try to throw different things at each other, do something so the others can react." After nearly four years of living in hotels with only short breaks between tours, Sexton is going to take six months off to explore other acting and musical opportunities, and do some of the things he missed by going straight from high school into show business. Stompers are encouraged, he says, to develop their talents and are welcomed back to the show with new energy and artistic capabilities.

His fellow cast members come from Norway, England, the U.S., Denmark and Hawaii. Each troupe consists of 12 members who rotate so everyone gets two shows off during an eight-show run. "The injury rate is high," he says and the work as demanding as that of a professional athlete.  At least two women perform in each of the casts. Nothing in Stomp is gender-specific, but the directors ensure that each show presents a range of characters you might find in any modern metropolis hanging out and making noise together. Looks to the contrary, they range in age from early 20s to mid-40s. The show is character-driven: Sexton has played three roles, including Sarge, a kind of ringleader who engages the audience. "The show doesn't work without the audience. They're the ninth cast member. We try to suck them in with the quiet numbers and blow them away with the loud ones, and make them feel like they're part of the show."

::SPORTS NEWS::

Canada Has Drawn Its Cricket Strength From Just About Every Corner Of The Globe

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk

(March 12, 2007)  The captain of the Canadian team at cricket's World Cup was born in Campbell River, B.C., and he's got the passport to prove it.  But John Davison, truth be told, is as Canadian as a kangaroo. He's got an Australian accent. He has lived in Sydney for most of his life, ever since his parents, who came to the northland on a teaching exchange, returned Down Under when baby John was a couple of months old. The only other place he's lived for an extended period is Melbourne, Oz's second city, where he spent eight years playing professionally. If he was getting paid handsomely to play for a country that is his only as a birthplace, you could call him a mercenary. But, while many of the players from cricket's powers are millionaires – the countries for whom cricket means the world are offering their athletes substantial cash incentives for success in the West Indies this month and next – Canada's team is a relative pauper. Short on homegrown, homebred players in a sport that isn't exactly mainstream in North America, Canada takes what it can get to field a competitive cricket squad, tenuous links to the maple leaf included.  Asked the other day if Davison happened to know the name of Canada's prime minister, he chuckled: "He's probably changed since the last time I heard."

Asked who the prime minister was last time he heard, Davison allowed a lengthy silence to pass for a polite no comment.  Surely Davison, who is 36 years old and has been playing for Canada since he was 29, has picked up the tune and the words to the national anthem? "I don't want to sing it to you, but I know how it goes," he said. "O Canada? Our home and native land? That it?" Fair enough. Davison, to his credit, can't be accused of posing as something he isn't for the sake of political correctness. "I'd consider myself to be Australian," said Davison. "But if you look at the Canadian team, there's probably only one guy on this team who speaks like a Canadian and is born and bred Canadian, Kevin Sandher (the bowler who was born and lives in Vancouver). So I feel as Canadian as any of the other guys, I'd imagine." Which is, of course, not very Canadian. "I suppose so, yeah," said Davison.  Canada's 15-man World Cup roster, which opens the tournament against Kenya in St. Lucia on Wednesday, is a diverse assemblage to say the least.  Name a traditional cricket hotbed – India, Pakistan, the West Indies, England, Australia and New Zealand – and Canada has a player who learned the game on that hotbed's pitches. Most of the players make their residence in Canada (although the team must travel extensively to find competitive matches).

And if the diversity has its downsides – it is difficult, for instance, to get everyone to agree on a common team meal – the mix of backgrounds has its competitive advantages, said Andy Pick, the Canadian coach who is a product of England's system. "In some respects, it's an advantage to have a multitude of backgrounds," said Pick. "On any given day, depending on what the pitch is like, and the opposition, we have people who have been used to playing that sort of cricket. Different countries play cricket in different ways. Certain parts of the world are adept and have certain talents. There's spin bowling from the sub-continent. The West Indies generally play fast bowling. And Australia and New Zealand a mixture of both." How far away is Canada from fielding a line-up of home-grown, home-trained players?  Pick, who is the only salaried employee of the Canadian Cricket Association, says it's a matter of money. The national cricket team doesn't get a dime from the federal government. They make do with a stipend from the International Cricket Council, and on fundraising. And they make personal sacrifices in the name of the game.

"It definitely costs the players money to play for Canada," said Pick. Pick is optimistic, though, that federal funding is in cricket's future; that a national developmental program for the best under-15 cricketers will feed a program for the best under-19 cricketers, which will in turn provide prospects for the rosters of World Cups to come. Competing against, say, the Australians, the World Cup favourites and beneficiaries of one of the world's great examples of a well-funded high-performance sporting infrastructure, cannot be cheap. "It's going to be very difficult for that to happen," said Pick, "but I think if the funding's there and we can put the structure in place, then it is definitely possible." Until then, Pick is charged with melding players who have learned the game on five different continents, which isn't without its challenges.  In Pick's native England, for instance, the game is played on grass and discussed alongside brass taps; much is made of the British cricketer's love of the pub.  But Canada's team has within its roster players from more pious cultures. Some don't drink alcohol as a matter of faith.  "There's nothing that says just because two of your guys are drinking Coke and three of them are drinking orange juice that you still can't get together in a pub and have a laugh and a joke," Pick said.  "The other thing is, appreciating the fact that people don't have to drink to go in a pub and they don't have to drink to sit around in a bar.

"I think that's why it works so well, because people who are living in Canada are accustomed to living in a very multicultural society. And that carries through to the team." Canada's conquering hockey heroes have handed down no end of patriotic hyperbole over the years. Davison and Pick see themselves as Canadian while they're wearing a Canada jersey. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm 100 per cent Canadian while I'm coaching the Canadian team," said Pick. "Nothing would give me more pleasure than to beat England ... It's personal pride that drives me, which is then translated into the pride of the national team. If the national team does well, I'm happy for them, and for myself.  "Once the guys go out on the field, I don't think you try any harder because you're playing for Canada or you're playing for whoever. I think you go out from a personal point of view – in any sort of sport when you're pitting yourself against somebody else – you don't want to come second.  "You want to come first, whatever shirt you've got on."

SPORTS TIDBITS

Emmitt Smith Hired As ESPN Analyst

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 13, 2007) *“Dancing With the Stars” champ
Emmitt Smith has quickstepped his way into a plush new gig as a studio analyst for sports cable channel ESPN. The NFL’s all-time leading rusher and winner of the ballroom dance competition on ABC will now work for its Disney sister station as a commentator on “NFL Countdown” and “Monday Night Countdown,” as well as ESPN Radio and ESPN.com, the network announced Monday. "I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge and insight of football with the fans of the NFL," Smith said in a statement. "I am excited to be joining the ESPN family, particularly the highly respected Countdown crews." Smith will take a seat next to Chris Berman, analysts Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson and Ron Jaworski, and reporter Chris Mortensen on “NFL Countdown.”  The Dallas Cowboys veteran will join Berman, Jackson, Mortensen and analyst Steve Young for the “Monday Night Countdown” show each week from the site of the “Monday Night Football” match up.

::OTHER NEWS::

Comedian Richard Jeni Dead Of Gunshot Wound

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(March 11, 2007) WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Richard Jeni, a stand-up comedian who played to sold-out crowds, was a regular on the Tonight Show and appeared in movies, died of a gunshot wound in an apparent suicide, police said Sunday. Police found the 49-year-old comedian alive but gravely injured in a West Hollywood home when they responded to a call Saturday morning from Jeni's girlfriend, Los Angeles Police Officer Norma Eisenman said. Eisenman said the caller told police: "My boyfriend shot himself in the face.'' Jeni died at a nearby hospital. Eisenman said suicide had not been officially confirmed and the investigation was continuing. An autopsy on Jeni would be done Monday, said Lt. Fred Corral from the investigation division of the coroner's office. Jeni regularly toured the country with a stand-up act and had starred in several HBO comedy specials, most recently A Big Steaming Pile of Me during the 2005-06 season.

Another HBO special, Platypus Man, won a Cable ACE award for best stand-up comedy special, and formed the basis for his UPN sitcom of the same name, which ran for one season. Jeni's movie credits included The Mask, in which he played Jim Carrey's best friend, The Aristocrats, National Lampoon's Dad's Week Off, and An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn. He had guest appearances in the TV shows Everybody Hates Chris, Married: With Children, and updated versions of the game shows Hollywood Squares and Match Game. Frazer Smith, stand-up comedian who often opened for Jeni and the emcee at the Ice House, where Jeni often performed, said young comedians looked up to him. "He was probably one of the best stand-up comedians in the last 50 years," said Smith. "He had tons and tons of material. He was looked up to by all the young comedians, a total pro.'' The Brooklyn-born comic first received national attention in 1990 with the Showtime special Richard Jeni: Boy From New York City. Two years later, his Crazy From the Heat special attracted the highest ratings in Showtime's history. Jeni became a frequent guest on The Tonight Show during Johnny Carson's reign and continued to appear after Jay Leno took over as host. He also wrote comic material for the 2005 Academy Awards, which was hosted by his friend Chris Rock.

OTHER TIDBITS

Canwest Gets Alliance, But The Boss Keeps The Oscars

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Grant Robertson


(Mar. 9, 2007) They say in Hollywood that you can't buy an Oscar, and it appears they're right. CanWest Global Communications Corp. and Goldman Sachs & Co. are paying $2.3-billion for
Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc., but Michael MacMillan gets to keep all the hardware, including the company's Academy Award from its involvement in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine. Details of the January deal were included in a shareholder circular filed Thursday, which states the Alliance CEO will hand over the reins to CanWest, but gets to keep “all trophies, prizes and awards.”  The documents say Alliance's decision to sell came after CTVglobemedia purchased rival broadcaster CHUM Ltd., which it believed would spark more industry consolidation. On Dec. 11, Mr. MacMillan sought permission from the executive committee to contact “a limited number” of strategic buyers.  After increased trading was noticed in Alliance shares over the next week, the special committee believed rumours of a deal had gotten out and asked the company to disclose the potential sale on Dec. 20. CBS Corp., a partner in Alliance's production of the TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, raised issues about a change in the partnership resulting from a sale, but authorized discussions with CanWest and New York investment bank Goldman Sachs, the documents say.

::FITNESS NEWS::

Getting the Most Out of the Treadmill

By Lorra Kristene Garrick, eDiets Contributor

Do you hold onto the treadmill while walking? The top excuses:
 

·    "I’ll fall off if I let go!" Slow down…

·    "My trainer says it’s OK." I once asked a trainer why he allowed his able-bodied client to hold on, despite three weeks of training. His response: "She’s scared." Beware of trainers who fail to empower you.

·    "I’ll lose my balance." Slow down and stop using your arms as anchors. Balancing is part of exercise.

·    "I’ve always done it this way." It’s never too late to break a sabotaging habit.

·    "My doctor told me to do it." Shame on him or her for not telling you that holding on increases blood pressure and causes poor posture.

·    "The machine keeps telling me to hold on for heart rate." Select another program. Hold on for heart rate, but then let go after the number appears!

·    "But I’m sweating!" Many variables affect sweat: room ventilation, weight, body chemistry, even mental state.

·    "I’m old!" If ever there were a reason NOT to hold on, this is it!

"If the rails on the treadmill are positioned too low, holding on will encourage forward posture (especially for tall people), which exacerbates the slumping position most of us develop with aging," says Kelli Calabrese, MS, CSCS, exercise physiologist and certified personal trainer. "Grasping the rails does not promote natural walking biomechanics."  This also applies to shorter people.  Some people grip the front bar, yanking forward with each step. Others grasp the side rails, shoulders bobbing up and down, body weight subtracted from the tread. And clinging on with one hand creates unequal stresses to the body.  "Holding on and walking at top speeds is dangerous because of the ballistic hip rotation, over-striding and forward posture. It can lead to serious neck, back and knee injuries," Calabrese says. Standing straight while gripping won’t correct the situation.

Some people don leather gloves for increased gripping traction, then proceed with their fake walking, legs wistfully moving through mere motions. But they’re tricked into believing they’re working hard because the settings are high: 4 mph, 12 percent incline!  In the actual world, legs, knees, hips and back work in unison to support your full weight as you ambulate. Holding on, even lightly, takes valuable work away from your musculoskeletal and nervous systems.  The calorie readout is triggered by the program setting, not the person on the machine! Walking hands-off burns about 20 percent more calories for the same length of time.  "I’ve seen people increase the treadmill's elevation to augment the workload, then hold the handrails and lean back, defeating the entire purpose of the elevation," Calabrese says.  The leaning back is at the same angle as the incline, literally cancelling out its effect. Leaning forward won’t correct this; you’d be pulling forward. People set the speed at an unrealistic pace for the elevation. Would you really walk 3.5 or 4 mph outdoors up a 15-percent hiking trail?

Begin at a slower speed and let go. If you prefer a high incline, start slowly. This pace should be similar to an outdoor uphill hiking pace. Any discomfort in your lower back means those muscles are working for the first time!  Try this: Set the pace or incline at a challenging level, and walk hands-off for only a few minutes. Then slow down or lower the incline and continue hands off for a few minutes to catch your breath. Alternate between these more demanding intervals and easier "recovery" intervals.  Regardless of your fitness level, weight or age, you must release your hands and walk the natural way. After all, haven’t you been doing this since age 1?

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note - It's Difficult to Let Go

By: Jewel Diamond Taylor

It's difficult to let go of; a marriage, a child, a job, an addiction, a business, your home, the past or your dreams and goals. Letting go is sometimes necessary for growth, your sanity, peace of mind and health. There's a fine line between persistence and insistence. There's a fine line between having faith or being foolish. Letting go doesn't always mean you gave up. Sometimes life doesn't turn right --- it turns left and you must learn how to regroup or re-invent yourself, increase your faith and let go of old baggage. I can remember all too well how I used to try to hold on to; people, my pain, my past, projects and dreams. But I needed to let go. It didn't mean I gave up. I matured. I released. I grew to understand the wisdom of many teachers. Bishop T. D. Jakes offers us some insight about letting go. He says, "There are people who can walk away from you. And, hear me when I tell you this. When people can walk away from you, let them walk. I don't want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. I mean hang up the phone. When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left. The Bible said that, "came out from us that it might be made manifest that they were not for us. For had they been for us, no doubt they would have continued with us." [1 John 2:19] People leave you because ---- click here to read the entire message. We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.