20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5                                                                                                                                                                                                                         (416) 677-5883


March 29, 2007

Who needs a vacation?  Well, despite what many of you think that jetting to these Caribbean destinations is no work, I must vehemently disagree!  As a result, I am going away to
Bermuda on Friday until Monday - just four days of gloriousness and celebrating NOT working.  I am truly blessed!

Finally the transition to
Rogers from Telus is complete ... only took a couple of weeks but with the help of some bigwigs over at Rogers, my new phone is in tact and all systems are go! 


Sophisticate “The Private Party” - Saturday, April 14, 2007

Created on the premise that bigger is not always better and that intimacy and the personal touch are key, each
SOPHISTICATE “private party” caters to150 personally invited guests who enjoy a musical vibe that covers a broad spectrum of R&B, neo-soul, and old school ranging from Chaka Khan and Quincy Jones to Beyonce and Ne-Yo.  Our DJs are famous for playing the unexpected at any given moment….as long as it keeps the crowd moving.

The definition of a SOPHISTICATE

Entrance is by private invitation and VIP guest list only.  Contact info@consepshun.com  to get on the $10 VIP guest list. This event will be limited to 150 guests only.

Andy C and Consepshun Enterprises present
SOPHISTICATE the private party – Anniversary Edition
Tangerine Bar & Lounge
647 King Street West (King & Bathurst)
Style Code: chic, stylish, sophisticated
Hosted by: Andy C with special guest host Robert Jean of French Fellows
Musical Vibe: DJ Darrel Alize with MC Toney Williams


Russell Peters' Homecoming Tour Sells Out Across Canada!

Source: Sadharana Communications

(March 24, 2007) Within minutes, tickets for
Russell Peters' Homecoming Tour sold out across Canada.  New performances have been added to his tour including a third show in Vancouver on June 23rd at the Orpheum Theatre and a second show in Toronto is in the works. Tickets for the added show in Vancouver go on sale Monday, March 26 at 10:00 a.m. PST. Tickets for the Homecoming Tour sold at a rapid rate; over 1,500 presale tickets for American Express' Front Of The Line sold within the first 15 minutes.  The Air Canada Centre sold out of the 13,000 plus seats and there are only single seats left in Edmonton and Vancouver, plus a few seats left in Calgary. "We never expected the tickets to go so quickly. We added a third show in Vancouver and are working on adding a second show in Toronto to accommodate the overwhelming demand," states manager (and older brother) Clayton Peters.  "This is the first time that any comic has sold-out the ACC and the fact that it's a Canadian comic makes this even more of an achievement," adds Peters.

Russell Peters' response to the frantic demand for tickets; "[It's] pretty exciting and kind of humbling that the fans came out like that.  I mean, it's just me!  I'm that same kid from Brampton that I always was."  Having just completed a successful and frenzied tour of the "Motherland" (India), Peters performed in Dubai for the USO and the troops - including two days aboard the USS Eisenhower in the middle of the Indian Ocean .  "The response from the troops was great.  They really appreciated us visiting and doing shows for them." The Homecoming Tour consists of all-new material that Peters has been working on since the release of his eight-time platinum DVD/CD, Outsourced, in August 2006.

The tour starts at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton on June 14, and continues at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary on June 15 and June 16; the ACC in Toronto on June 18; and finally the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver on June 20, June 21 and now June 23.  Tickets for the additional Vancouver show go on sale Monday March 26th at 10:00 a.m. PST. Details for a second Toronto show are pending.  Peters performs in Montreal at Place des Arts in July during the Just for Laughs Festival. Tickets go on sale early April.

For more information, visit www.russellpeters.com.

Musiq Soulchild Debuts Atop Album Chart

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 22, 2007) *A potent spill of R&B and hip hop has taken place in the top tier of Billboard 200’s album chart, triggered by the No. 1 debut of
Musiq Soulchild’s new album “Luvanmusiq.” The Atlantic set, fuelled by the top 5 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs single “Buddy,” sold 149,000 copies in the United States according to Nielsen SoundScan.       Fellow R&B star Lloyd enters the Billboard 200 at No. 2 with his sophomore set, "Street Love" (The Inc.), which sold 144,000. Its lead single "You" has already topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The self-titled album of rapper Rich Boy bows at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart with 112,000 units.

The artist's breakthrough single, "Throw Some D's," currently sits at No. 27 on the Hot 100.  Following Daughtry's self-titled RCA debut at No. 4 is Akon's "Konvicted"  (SRC/Universal), which falls 4-5 with 71,000 (-6%). Other urban acts debuting in the top 10 include British R&B sensation Amy Winehouse with "Back to Black" (Universal) at No. 7, and 8Ball & MJG's "Ridin' High" (Bad Boy South) at No. 8.

The Rebirth Of Cool

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

(Mar. 24, 2007) When long-time jazz club the
Montreal Bistro shut its doors last July, a year after fellow jazz joint the Top o' the Senator went dark, a lot of fans felt the closings marked a downturn for jazz in Toronto. Nick Di Donato, on the other hand, felt it was the perfect time to get into the jazz business. That's why he and Patrick Taylor have opened a new and ambitious club, Live@Courthouse, which launched Thursday in the old sandstone-and-brick Greek revival courthouse building on Adelaide Street East near Church. "Many people said that looked like a terrible sign -- if venues close down, it means there's no market," says Mr. Di Donato of the two closings. "My feeling was, it's not a terrible sign, it's a window of opportunity." As president and CEO of the Liberty Entertainment Group, whose venues include the Phoenix Concert Theatre, the C Lounge nightclub and the Rosewater Supper Club, he felt he had a good sense of what would make a club in Toronto viable. "I had been thinking about doing something in the jazz format for a while," he says. "I really believe that it's all about the music, and if you don't have somebody who really understands the music, it's destined for failure." So he decided to call Mr. Taylor, who has directed the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival since co-founding it with Jim Galloway 21 years ago.

As it turned out, Mr. Taylor took a similar view of the city's jazz scene. "I don't think people understood why the Top o' the Senator closed, and why the Montreal Bistro closed," he says. "I know why. They were both doing good business, but the Senator restaurant downstairs wasn't doing as well after Phantom of the Opera closed, and the little club could not sustain the club and the restaurant. "As for the Montreal Bistro, they'd been there since 1982 and had nothing but year after year of rent escalations, to the point that the owners felt they were just working for the landlord. They were still doing business, but their rent was unaffordable." With Live@Courthouse, neither of those issues comes into play. For one thing, it's strictly a jazz club; there's a bar and a small kitchen, but the emphasis will be on music, not food. As for the rent, Mr. Taylor says Mr. Di Donato "made this realistic and affordable. He's my partner -- we're 50/50 on it -- but he owns the building. We're paying rent, but fair market value, and he's not going to, year after year, keep increasing the rent." Although Mr. Taylor likes to say that Live@Courthouse is merely continuing in the tradition of the Top o' the Senator and Montreal Bistro, the new club has a decidedly different feel than its predecessors. Instead of looking like a restaurant or bar, its cavernous ceiling, muted lighting and working fireplaces create an ambience that's somewhere between a concert hall and a private club.

Naturally, the raised bandstand is the club's focus, and the two clearly went all out to make it as musician friendly as possible. "It was built so I can accommodate everything up to a big band," says Mr. Taylor. The club's piano is a seven-and-a-half-foot Yamaha concert grand, and it fits comfortably on the stage, leaving more than enough room for drums, bass and horns. "The stage is oversized for the capacity, but that was fine because we had to fit the piano, and we knew that was going to draw the artists," adds Mr. Di Donato. "We want to provide them with the best equipment possible, and the best sound, so they'll want to come back." Although the club has so far announced only a limited number of bookings, plans are to offer live music five nights a week, Tuesdays through Saturdays, drawing from local, Canadian and international touring acts. (Next week, for instance, will see Bill King's Real Divas on Tuesday, Adi Braun on Wednesday and Roberta Gambarini, Thursday through Saturday.)  "Most of the artists here will have a two-night run," says Mr. Taylor. "Jazz is such a huge umbrella. We have to be cautious what style of jazz we bring in here. If the vocalists are what's popular here, maybe we'll see more vocalists here than we saw in the Bistro. . ." In particular, Mr. Taylor hopes to get a younger audience than that at the older clubs. "Our festival audience is who I'm after," he says. "Eighty-three per cent of our audience is from the GTA, and our average age is 38. If I looked around the Montreal Bistro, it was really 55 and up. I sure want that gang back, but I'm also going after a younger group." As for the relative health of the Toronto jazz scene, he's generally optimistic. "The Opal's doing well, the Rex has never been better, I'm hearing more and more about the Dominion on Queen," he says. "We still have the jazz scene in this city."

Interpretations: Celebrating The Music Of Earth Wind & Fire

Source: Sol2Sol Public Relations, Karen Lee , Maria Alamillo, SolSistahs@aol.com / JS Media, Juanita Stephens, Jsmediarel@aol.com

(March 27, 2007) Los Angeles - In celebration of Stax's 50th anniversary in 2007, Concord Records will release the first new album on the revitalized Stax imprint with the all-star project
Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth Wind & Fire.  This 10-song album (in-stores today, March 27) fits snugly into the legacy of Stax with first-rate artists including singer/songwriter Angie Stone (a 20+ years veteran of soul and hip hop who is also the New Stax label's first signee), self-contained sextet Mint Condition (among the last of the bands in contemporary Black music), Meshell Ndegeocello (a mercurial all-around singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist), Lalah Hathaway (the golden-voiced daughter of esteemed soul man Donny Hathaway) and the legendary Chaka Khan.  The project is rounded out by neo soul stalwarts Ledisi, Musiq, The Randy Watson Experience Featuring Bilal and Dwele who represent the evolution of soul music at its most illustrious and positive. "When we (Kalimba) took the concept to Concord," White shares, "they were very receptive and I felt confident that they would get behind the project and market it effectively.  I am honoured that this project was chosen as the one to re-launch a legendary record label for Black music."

The album's first single is an interpretation of "September" by platinum Contemporary Gospel artist Kirk Franklin, a man among the chosen few to successfully return more spiritual music to the secular airwaves.  Dedicated to the people of New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama, Franklin's rendition of "September" reinforces faith and fortitude using the seasons as a metaphor for the sunshine and rain of life.   It will impact at radio on January 22, 2007. "We believe that the artists participating on 'Interpretations' represent the integrity of the Stax legacy," stated Collin Stanback, Vice President of A&R for Stax Records.  "We're looking forward to continuing that legacy with our upcoming releases including our first signing, singer/songwriter/producer Angie Stone." The relevance of a project shining the light on Earth Wind & Fire as the springboard for bringing Stax back to life lies at the feet of the band's leader/founder, Maurice White. The Memphis native went to grade school with a young Booker T. Jones who was already recording for Stax as a teenager. Inspired by his friend's achievement, White traveled to Chicago to study music. After stints as a session drummer for Chess Records and member of jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis' world-renowned trio, White started the band Earth Wind & Fire that became an international music phenomenon with its timeless fusion of uplifting lyrics wedded to music woven from the tapestry of the complete African American diaspora.

Amazing Race To Delay Junos

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(March 28, 2007) TORONTO–Canada's premier music awards show will be pre-taped for much of the country when it airs this weekend, a controversial turn for the much-hyped
Junos that has raised the ire of industry critics who question CTV's commitment to homegrown talent. In most parts of the country, viewers will see a delayed version of the annual awards gala, to be hosted by pop superstar Nelly Furtado in Saskatoon. The unusual situation is all because of a two-hour episode of the hugely popular reality show The Amazing Race. CTV wants to simulcast CBS's broadcast of The Amazing Race, which airs at different times across the country. As a result, the Junos will air at 10 p.m. in Ontario and Quebec and as late as 11 p.m. in the Maritimes on the main network.

"It definitely sucks that the most important event in Canadian music and an important Canadian cultural event has to take a backseat to a cheesy reality television show," said Aaron Brophy, managing editor at Chart Magazine.  "CTV has put a lot of effort into the Junos in the past and tried to create a culture around it, and a gesture like this makes it look like they're sacrificing Canadian culture and their own hard work." CTV says bumping the Junos to accommodate The Amazing Race was the best way to ensure that the show would draw a substantial audience. Spokesperson Mike Cosentino notes that both programs share similar demographics and insists that the U.S. reality show – which draws more than two million Canadians weekly – provides an excellent lead-in for the homegrown music show. Two years ago it was Desperate Housewives that caused scheduling headaches for CTV. It ended up bumping the Junos show by a half hour in all time zones. This year's Junos will feature performances by Three Days Grace, Alexisonfire, k-os and the Tragically Hip.


Queen Of Soul Returns

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(March 28, 2007) Most of us can only fantasize about whom we'd like to see portraying us in the movies.
Aretha Franklin has it all figured out. "I need three people playing me," the Queen of Soul said in a recent phone interview from the dressing room in her luxury bus as it barrelled down the Interstate towards New York. Attendants hovered while she dressed for a big birthday weekend in the Big Apple – she turned 65 on Sunday – but Franklin was unfazed by the constant distractions. "I need one at age 10, one at age 25 and another at 40 or older. I'm thinking (Dreamgirls Oscar winner) Jennifer Hudson for the middle role and my favourite, Queen Latifah, for the older part. We just have to find the right child with the right voice for the younger Aretha." Franklin, who performs at Massey Hall Friday night with a 23-piece orchestra and chorus, is a little ahead of herself. The stage musical version of her 1999 autobiography Aretha: From These Roots, co-written with David Ritz, hasn't even gone into audition mode yet, though it's scheduled to open in Detroit, Franklin's hometown, on her birthday next year.

The movie project, which has apparently already been optioned, is way down the road. "With the stage project I have complete creative control," she explained. "I'm very hands-on about this show and everything that concerns my work." She's making this frantic dash to New York because she's hoping to check out directing, performing and production talent in some current Broadway musicals. Hairspray and Jersey Boys are high on her list. "It's exciting, selecting the key artists. I have several people in mind, but I'd rather not give anything away before the auditions in early May." Franklin refuses to fly and travels in a custom-built, 14-berth mobile monster, "with cream leather furniture and burgundy curtains, a big lounge area with a large, flat-screen TV, bookshelves, two bathrooms, but no queen-size bed for me." The Memphis-born gospel, soul and R&B star whose domain has remained unchallenged since the mid-1960s – she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987, and sang at both Jimmy Carter's and Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration ceremonies – has also been busy with a new studio recording, A Woman Falling Out Of Love, her first album since So Damn Happy in 2003. "It should have been out by now," said Franklin. "Everything's finished: the music, the artwork, the credits. But at the last minute we decided to go back into the studio for a couple of extra overdubs. It should be out sometime next month."

That's if her non-stop concert schedule allows. On a roll again after a decade-long retreat following the deaths in the late 1980s of her sister, brother and manager, the twice-married mother of four sons seems to be popping up everywhere. She performed a touching tribute to Atlantic Records founder and mentor, the late Ahmet Ertegun, at the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies and she'll open WrestleMania 23 in Detroit Sunday night with "America The Beautiful." Franklin also spends a lot of time checking out new pop/soul and rap artists. "Gospel music has never been in better shape," she enthused. "And thank the Lord hip-hop is alive and well. Chris Brown is my favourite – he's so creative, such a wonderful dancer." As for Friday night's show in Toronto, Franklin's promising "a bit of everything: the old hits, some songs from the new album, an aria or two, a couple of surprises.”I love Toronto. It's been a couple of years since I was there, and it's one of my favourite places, a city of parks, great shopping and great restaurants. "That's what I remember best – the food. I hope Mövenpick is still there."

Nelly Praises Timbaland, Britney

Source: By Jane Stevenson - Sun Media

(March 24, 2007) VICTORIA, B.C. - Nelly Furtado isn't surprised that Timbaland, the producer of her third and most successful album, Loose, has offered to work with the much-beleaguered Britney Spears on her post-rehab album.  Should there be one.  "Not at all -- that's so him," Furtado, 29, told Sun Media, a few hours before launching her the Canadian leg of her Get Loose tour this week.  "He turned me on to Kelly Clarkson's CD. He invited Celine Dion on his latest album. I think that's why we get along. 'Cause I'm the same way, where I'll work with whoever if I think they're good, and it doesn't matter what popular opinion says.  "It's kind of like if you think someone has talent or is interesting, you're going to work with them. And he's a bit of a rebel and he always likes to be one step ahead of the game, and he is obsessed with freshness and originality. So no -- no surprise that he wanted to work with Britney."  Should Timbaland land the producing gig with Spears and ask Furtado to sing a duet on the record, would she consider it?

"Oh, yeah, I would," said Furtado, herself the mother of a 31/2-year-old daughter.  Furtado says she empathizes with Spears for what she has been going through.  "First of all, when she became a mother, I really felt for her in those situations where she was being caught doing, like, illegal things in her car with child seats and stuff," Furtado says. "I felt bad for her because you could tell that she was under such pressure from the paparazzi that she was behaving in rash ways. So that's what made me feel for her.  "And I can sympathize 'cause I'm a mother too, and I know those first couple of years are difficult. You know, you're becoming a new person. She's a young mother.  "I can't imagine what it would be like to mature in the spotlight from the age of 13 to 20. Those are precious years and it would be really hard to grow up in the spotlight. Breakdown is inevitable in that situation."  One theory has been that Spears, who shaved her head before entering rehab, is suffering from post-partum depression and just hasn't been diagnosed.  "Oh, yeah, totally possible," said Furtado, who appeared with Timbaland on The View this week to sing Give It To Me off his new album Shock Value.  "Human beings can only deal with so much when you're only one person. You know, you need an escape -- and then a lot of people choose to escape into the mind."

Twin Sisters Become Unlikely Singing Stars In Islamic Republic

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Staff Reporter

(March 24, 2007) KHARTOUM, SUDAN–With their dimpled cheeks and pop-culture accessories, twins
Eman and Amany are shaking the music scene here while retaining approval from Islamic authorities. El Toumat, they call themselves, translated on YouTube as the Sudanese Twins. Their most popular video on the Web site shows them in identical diaphanous scarves and on each of their left hands, a pink fingerless glove. In bright, soprano voices they sing the '60s hit "Tawwal," about someone asking news of a beloved who left long ago and never returned. Their first big hit one year ago carries the more reverent sounding title "Al Ek Allah (Swear to God)."

"We want to be heard," the 23-year-old twins said almost in unison in an interview this week, "because we want Sudanese women to be heard." The identical sisters sit side-by-side at a home in North Khartoum, a quiet neighbourhood near the confluence of the White Nile and Blue Nile rivers. With them is their sister Hala, 27, visiting from her current home in Dallas, Tex. The home belongs to Al Suni Al Dawi, a 66-year-old oud player, former singing star and No. 1 Sudanese Twins supporter. All four take turns telling of the twins' rise to stardom and their prospects for an international breakthrough. "I come from Nuri," says Al Dawi, starting at the beginning. As a young man, he says, he moved from his native northern village to Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, to study mathematics and electrical engineering.  When he discovered he was also good at writing catchy melodies, he moved to Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, and from 1962 to 1963 wrote 65 songs for the country's top singers, including Ibrahim Awad and Salah El Badia.

"One day, a singer named Ibrahim Abu Daya came to me and asked if I could write him a song," Al Dawi recalls.  "We found that our voices were matching so we decided to sing together." Harmony is unknown in Sudanese music. The two men sang in unison and, although not related, called themselves the Capital Twins. "At first it was not easy," Al Dawi says. "People were used to listening to one voice. Nobody did two.  "Then people began to accept it and many singers began repeating our songs." Eman and Amany are the youngest of five daughters born in Khartoum to Mohammed Khairy, one of Sudan's most famous stage and film actors. In 1999, while still in high school, they and their sister Hala began singing as a trio at college festivals and on television shows. When Hala left for university, the twins also quit for a year, then decided to try as a duo. "That's when they started to become famous," says Hala with mock regret. "They are more popular because they are twins." After a show one night in 2001, a reviewer wrote of a similarity between the Khairy sisters and the Capital Twins, and suggested they get together. Although Daya has since died, the men at the time were still performing.

The girls' father knew Al Dawi and made an introduction. The sisters began to reprise Capital Twins material and Al Dawi began to write new songs for them. Their first album came out one year ago, their second at the end of 2006. Neither is available internationally but video clips uploaded by fans to YouTube are attracting a wider following. In the video for "Tawwal," Al Dawi sits opposite the twins at a Blue Nile Television studio and joins them on the chorus. He wrote the music to the song.  Poet Ali Shibaka, who wrote the words, sits next to Al Dawi in a white jalabya and turban. Next to the twins in dark glasses sits the sole instrumentalist, the blind Sudanese oud player Awad Ahmoody. The woman seated toward the back is the TV host. At one point the camera hovers on a poster of the Capital Twins. "At first we were not unique," says Eman of their early appearances. "We looked traditional. We were not a shock. We thought, `What should we do?'" The pink glove soon followed, igniting a fashion trend on Khartoum campuses. "Each time we try something new," says Amany.  "Sometimes we wear contacts, sometimes not. Sometimes we dress identically, sometimes not. Sometimes we wear hats, sometimes a scarf, and we wear a scarf in different ways, never the same."

Last New Year's Eve they performed their first foreign concert in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. It proved such a hit they were immediately booked to play in neighbouring Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.  "They hope to make a U.S. tour," says Hala. "In the U.S. Sudanese community, everybody likes them." Visas might be a problem. The United States maintains a trade embargo against Sudan and Sudanese President Omar Bashir faces continued international outrage over the government-sponsored slaughter in Darfur state, events the U.N. calls "the world's worst humanitarian crisis." At home in Khartoum, far from the war, the twins continue to behave themselves.  Pop culture in the Islamic Republic of Sudan has its limits. In the 1990s, the government tried and failed to suppress music and dancing altogether. People kept doing both.  Now the atmosphere is more relaxed, with men and women attending mixed musical events and often dancing together. But when performing at weddings and graduation parties, the Sudanese Twins are careful to follow the government rule of no singing past 11 p.m.

Joss Stone On A Roll

Source:  By David Schmeichel - Sun Media

(Mar. 24, 2007) By this point,
Joss Stone should need no introduction at all, having already brought the R&B world to its knees at the tender age of 15.  But with the release this week of her third album -- Introducing Joss Stone -- the now-19-year-old soul sensation would be only too happy to make your acquaintance all over again.  "I was proud of the other two albums, but this is the first one where I'm proud of every single part," says the Grammy-winning U.K. native, who co-wrote all but one of the tracks on the disc.  "I want everyone to know that I'm trying to bring back real music. What people don't realize about the music they're listening to now is that none of those instruments are real. And half the time, none of the voices are real, either. They've sucked all of the soul out of music, and it's so sad. But we can fix it. We can put it back in, and that's what I'm trying to do."  A teenage English lass might seem an unlikely authority on "real" rock or soul music, but consider for a moment the trajectory of Stone's career. She first decided to become a singer after seeing a TV commercial for an Aretha Franklin compilation, then appeared on a BBC talent show at 14 with a cover of Donna Summer's On the Radio.  At her first record label audition in New York, she lent her larger-than-life pipes to a Gladys Knight tune, and she caught the attention of industry types in North America by recasting The White Stripes' Fell In Love With A Girl as a funky, sultry slow jam.

And since bursting on to the scene, she has found herself sharing stages with a number of her idols, among them Knight, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder and Melissa Etheridge, with whom she famously paid homage to Janis Joplin during a rousing duet on Piece Of My Heart. So it's surprising to hear that Stone -- known for exuding confidence beyond her years while performing -- still wrestles with a pretty crippling case of stage fright.  "When I know I have to do it (perform), I do it, but when the music stops and it's just me up there, it's scary," says the singer, whose trademark blond tresses are now brown with pink streaks. "And singing with those greats is even worse, because I feel like I'm being compared to them. But when I'm singing with someone of that stature, I'm learning. This is like school for me."  Stone got a chance to put some of her lessons to use while writing the tracks for the new album (on which both Common and Lauryn Hill appear) in the Caribbean last year. A number of the songs have to do with love gone bad, and Stone has already admitted they were written during what she calls a "f--k off" stage in her life.

"I realized the reason I was falling in love with these people was because of the music that was coming through them," says Stone, who was once linked to songwriter Beau Dozier. "I'm blinded by my love for music. I'm completely a slave to it, and for me, nobody can beat music."  While her love life might have its ups and downs, Stone has so far managed to avoid the tabloid glare that has dogged her contemporaries, save for a bizarre appearance at last month's Brit Awards, where she delivered a somewhat disjointed monologue in a faux American accent.  "I just don't have the time for that -- I work every day," says Stone, her lilting British accent once again intact. "But for those girls to go out and party all the time, I say go for it. If I had the time, I'd be right there with them!"

On The Road With It's Second CD, Bloc Party May Be Having Growing Pains

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(March 22, 2007) AUSTIN, TEX.–There's a lot of fun and positive exposure to be had for touring musicians in Texas at this time each year, but the rock `n' roll dream of "breaking" wide at
South by Southwest is, in most cases, just a dream. For the hardworking youngsters in London quartet Bloc Party, though, a whirlwind five gigs in four days at the Austin festival two years ago was just the tactic needed to turn the simmering transatlantic buzz over their debut album, Silent Alarm, into rapturous international press and the real North American record sales that so often elude Brit-pop hitmakers propelled across the pond on a tsunami of NME and Q magazine-kindled hype. "I think we maybe did too many shows, really, because we were pooped by the end of it. This time we're being a lot more considered," says frontman and guitarist Kele Okereke, who memorably opened Bloc Party's final SXSW appearance in 2005 – an electrifying 4 a.m. throwdown on the festival's closing night – with the greeting: "Hello, South by Southwest. Bloc Party is very tired." "We'd done shows in New York and L.A. prior to (the '05 show), but I think this is probably where we emerged onto the radar. It feels odd to be back. We're only doing one show this year and the record's already out, so I'm curious about how the gig's going to be attended. Will it be lots of industry people or will it be lots of fans? There'll be lots of fans there, hopefully." The soft-spoken Okereke, 25, is airing these thoughts on the sun-dappled steps outside his downtown Austin hotel, just a few hours before Bloc Party (headlining over Canadians the Dears and Apostle of Hustle) is to make a triumphant return to the 3,500-capacity outdoor amphitheatre behind Stubb's barbecue joint last Thursday.

In the end, the throngs of SXSW badge holders do, perhaps, dominate the crowd, and one can sense Okereke inwardly wincing when his question, "How many of you actually paid to get in here tonight?" meets with only scattered cheers up the hillside.  The band's typically anthemic and whipcrack-disciplined set nevertheless goes over like gangbusters with the "insider" mob, no doubt because the informed mass of musicians, media and industry folk attending the fest contains a strong contingent of Bloc Party fans. The searing show bodes well for those lucky enough to hold a ticket to this Sunday's sold-out gig at Toronto's Kool Haus. England lobs a lot of Next Big Things our way, but this crew seems up to the task of lasting rock stardom. With rock stardom comes backlash, of course. And as a frontman who delves unflinchingly into red-flag topics such as racism, recreational drug use and homosexuality on Bloc Party's just-released sophomore disc, A Weekend in the City, Okereke suffers the slings and arrows of sudden fortune much more so than bandmates Gordon Moakes, Russell Lissack and Matt Tong.

As if Brit headlines of the "Bloc Party drug horror!" variety and speculation over – to borrow a thought from U.K. newspaper The Guardian – Okereke's "confused sexuality" weren't enough, the band has also been enduring critical complaints that it either made too much of a musical left turn with A Weekend in the City's electronically enhanced take on Silent Alarm's rhythmically nimble guitar-rock or, alternatively, didn't go far enough into the weird.  "It wasn't too much of a `vision,'" says Okereke of the new album's genesis. "It was just important to me that the songs, that the album, felt cohesive, that the album had a start, a middle and an end – that thematically the whole thing tied in. Sonically, I don't think there was meant to be an overview. I just think we became a lot more confident as musicians, having made a record.  "Everyone comments on the fact that it's a lot more electronic than the last record. But it's absurd in the 21st century that such a big deal is being made about the fact that there are drum machines or synth sounds on the record. Most of the music I listen to now has programmed rhythms. You turn on any pop-radio station or any pop TV show and all the music on there has synthesizers and samples and drum machines. I don't think that's a bad thing.  The electronic influences on A Weekend in the City – loosely themed around the empty adventures and stolen moments of poignancy to be found during a weekend Bacchanal in modern, "vampiric" London – have indeed been a bit overstated, as the disc is generally just a softer, much less enervated and slightly more arena-attuned sequel to Silent Alarm.

Given his way, in fact, Okereke would happily have pushed the band even further into experimental territory. He speaks enthusiastically about his passion for the work of pop/hip-hop producer extraordinaire Timbaland, who has managed to crack the top of the charts on two sides of the Atlantic by bringing near avant-garde electronic production to the work of Missy Elliott, Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake. And he comes across as highly sincere in his claims to want to accurately and honestly reflect his own environment in song, not just lyrically but musically. "There are so many different, thriving scenes in London," he says. "Where I live in East London, you can't go to a club and not hear Madonna next to Joy Division next to Aphex Twin – there's a real playful sense of appreciation in London where you're constantly being exposed to different types of music, and I think that can't help but be reflected in our music. "It's very much a by-product of growing up in the MTV age, when you're constantly being bombarded with information. There's a lot of choice, and if you look at anyone's iPod you'll see it's not just rock or it's not just hip-hop. With all my friends, there's a range of things people listen to. I'm amazed that more bands aren't talking about Timbaland and amazed that more rock bands aren't finding inspiration in that sort of thing because it's the most interesting music being made right now." As it did throughout the year of worldwide touring that followed Silent Alarm's release, Bloc Party is now doggedly forging ahead in the development of material for its next album, even though A Weekend in the City has only been in stores since mid-February and the band looks to be on the road constantly until the end of 2007.

To some, it might be an exhausting work ethic, but Okereke sees no point in shutting off his creative valves when there's so much words and music waiting to bubble out of him. Intriguingly, it's Weekend's most un-Bloc Party-like track, the loop-bedecked "The Prayer," that he envisions as the starting point for the third album. "I don't need time off. It's how I express myself, so it's not something that fatigues me, it's something that I crave," he says. "There isn't time off for me. "The next record is going to be light years away from what we're doing now. The last song we wrote as a band was `The Prayer,' and that really, really opened up how we view writing songs as a band. So the next record, I think, is not going to sound like anything we've done yet. That's my aim, anyway."

Cece Winans: Being Fashion Forward

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Mar. 23, 2007) Gospel diva
CeCe Winans is getting into the fashion business. The multiple Grammy, Stellar and Dove Award winner has recently teamed up with noted Hollywood fashion stylist Roni Burks and the New York based firm Dream Design to launch a new clothing line, entitled Ashley Rose. Winans told The BV Newswire that her 20-year-old daughter was the inspiration for the line. "I decided to do this line with my daughter, Ashley [Love], because she has a great eye for fashion and she's a born leader," she revealed. "I believe there are a lot of young women who wants to be stylish without being so revealing. This line is for them." Family business have always worked well for Winans (legally known as Priscilla Winans-Love), who is a part of gospel music royalty -- one of the many stars to come out of Detroit's Winans dynasty. The 42-year old songstress enjoyed mainstream success when her and brother, BeBe Winans, formed the duo BeBe & CeCe and released their critically acclaimed, chart-topping 1988 album, 'Heaven.'

Since then, she has become a bona fide superstar in her own right; teaming with her gal pal Whitney Houston on the 'Waiting to Exhale' soundtrack; penning the inspirational memoir 'On A Positive Note' in 2000; and even endorsing Crest toothpaste products. The seven-time Grammy Award winner also helms her own record company, Wellspring Gospel, and hosts an annual women's conference in her hometown of Nashville every summer. "I'm doing a clothing line to fulfill a need that would allow women, young and more mature, to be stylish and breathe at the same time," she quipped about the forthcoming active wear line. "I don't feel clothes have to be tight to be fashionable." The line will cater to women aged 20-45. Distribution details for Ashley Rose are being solidified at press time. "I love the creative part of pulling a line together, but it's a very time consuming endeavour," she added. "I've been working on it for several years, now. It's hard work, but very rewarding."

With her fashion forward plans underway, Winans is currently on tour -- some overseas dates with gospel music sensation Donnie McClurkin -- promoting her latest release 'Purified,' which netted two Grammy Awards last month. In between her dates, she's recording a new album that should be in stores this fall, and has designs on rekindling the musical magic with her brother for a new BeBe & CeCe album to be released thereafter. Always a media darling, Winans will be featured on ABC's hit series 'Extreme Home Makeover' on April 1.

Captain Fantastic's Better Half

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(Mar. 24, 2007) Late last month, a gleaming limousine dropped off a designer-dressed duo –
David Furnish and his hubby Elton John – in front of the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, where they were to host the singer's 15th-annual Oscar party. The couple arrived an hour before their 620 fluffed and frocked guests were due to make sure everything – the shimmering silver-and-gold decor, the ivory-handled flatware, the cattleya orchid centerpieces and the Italian-themed menu (from the chef of Venice's Cipriani Hotel) – was perfect before the doors were flung open. When one holds the distinction as the world's most famous gay couple — not to mention one of the most successful A-list event organizers – not a single detail can be overlooked. And Furnish, the 44-year-old who hails from a middle-class neighbourhood in Scarborough, Ont. – admits he's just as particular as his famously fastidious better half. Case in point: For the past two years, the celebrity couple have been furtively planning Elton John's succession of 60th-birthday bashes (he turns 60 tomorrow). More than a week ago, they threw a star-studded, 1940s-themed fancy-dress party at London's Shoreditch Town Hall, where John and Furnish dressed in military gear and entertained guests ranging from Sir Paul McCartney and his designer daughter Stella, to heartthrobs Hugh Grant and Daniel Craig. The evening was capped off with EastEnders star Barbara Windsor bursting out of a huge cake dressed as a pink fairy to sing Happy Birthday. That, however, was just a pre-party for more lavish dos this week in New York, where John and Furnish will host another chi-chi party. (Britpop showman Robbie Williams is reported to have agreed to bare all there in a striptease from the film The Full Monty, singing You Can Leave Your Hat On.) Tomorrow, the birthday boy will also perform to a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden (coincidentally his 60th performance in the storied venue).

“It's exciting and fun,” Furnish says of hosting lavish balls, birthday bashes or fundraisers to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which to date has raised $130-million (U.S.). “And it's something we enjoy doing. Great teams of people work with us, and Elton and I have a standard in the way we like things to be done.” Their Oscar party – with guests such as American Idol's Simon Cowell, Sean (Diddy) Combs, Kid Rock, Jon Bon Jovi, Kiefer Sutherland, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne and Furnish's Toronto high-school mate, actor Eric McCormack – set a single-event Foundation record of $4.3-million. And their annual White Tie & Tiara balls, held at their home in the royal town of Windsor, routinely attract 600-plus guests of the likes of Kate Moss, Sting and the recently married Elizabeth Hurley – who was given away earlier this month by Elton John. On the phone, however, from the west London office of Rocket Pictures – a film and TV production company that Furnish and John co-chair – a relaxed and forthright Furnish recently explained that hosting exquisite parties for charity is only one of a myriad ways he keeps busy. The former Ogilvy & Mather advertising executive also writes for GQ and Interview magazines, often doing stories on his famous friends, such as Jude Law. Last year, John's and his production company also produced the hit stage musical Billy Elliot. And Furnish is now in the midst of trying to get a U.S. PG-13 classification for the latest Rocket Pictures film, shot in Toronto, It's a Boy Girl Thing, to be released in North America later this year. Rocket Pictures also has an animated feature with director Kelly Asbury ( Shrek 2) in production and a feature film based on Elton's life, called Rocket Man, written by Lee Hall, who penned the original film version of Billy Elliot (2000).

Unassuming and articulate, Furnish has worked hard to establish himself as something far more than Elton John's life partner. His work ethic has earned him some powerful friends, including former U.S. president Bill Clinton (who e-mailed him congratulations on his civil marriage to John in December, 2005) and an invitation to the wedding of Camilla Parker Bowles and Prince Charles (Furnish was invited on his own after John had to decline the royal invitation because of touring commitments). The impeccably groomed Furnish, with his high-wattage smile, knows celebrity secrets that would make toes curl. But he doesn't blab. And he has no patience for mean-spirited media whose raison d'être is to put celebrities' personal lives under a cruel microscope. For example, Furnish quit a few years back as contributing editor of Tatler magazine after an article appeared about his good pals, David and Victoria Beckham. “An editor asked me to approach Victoria to be on a [future] cover of Tatler in an issue benefiting the AIDS Foundation,” he explains. “When the new issue came out, there was a double-page spread about Rebecca Loos [David Beckham's alleged extramarital fling at the time], licking a chocolate éclair and talking about how great it is to have an affair with a married man. “I felt betrayed,” says Furnish, whose insightful documentary, Elton John: Tantrums & Tiaras was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award in 1997. “He would have known about the story before asking me to approach Victoria. He put me in a very difficult position. So I quit.” (Elton John and Furnish are the godparents of the Beckhams' two eldest sons, Brooklyn and Romeo).

And he views the largely dismissive reviews in Britain of It's a Boy Girl Thing (it was released there on Boxing Day) with the same tightly contained outrage. “It's a teen romantic comedy, and those films never tend to get great reviews, but we never pretended to do anything but make a commercially driven film,” says Furnish of the British-Canada co-production that stars Woodstock, Ont.'s Kevin Zeger ( Transamerica) and Samaire Armstrong ( The O.C., Entourage) about sworn rivals who swap bodies à la Freaky Friday. “But it's a film with a big heart and a lot of integrity, and teens loved it. Yes, many of the reviews were negative. And it pisses me off when it's unjustified, deliberately mean, and when it's factually incorrect. “Elton and I had a very good year in the press because of our civil partnership. Maybe [the press] felt we were getting too big for our boots and decided to smack us down again. I felt there was another agenda there. Let's say if it had been produced by Mr. Joe Smith, it would have been looked at in a different light.” Then Furnish's sunniness comes back. “But I can't complain about that, because the profile we have allows us to get the film launched, have a premiere that people are aware of. To be honest, the audience our film is targeted at don't read the newspaper critics anyway.”

It's been almost 14 years since Furnish, then 31, met John at a dinner held at the flamboyant singer's Windsor mansion, Woodside. At the time, Furnish had earned his stripes at Ogilvy & Mather as its youngest board member.  Three months after the fateful party, Furnish moved in with John – who is 15 years his senior – and shortly quit the ad firm. In 2005, the couple married in a civil ceremony, performed by the same registrar who presided over the union of Parker Bowles and Prince Charles at Windsor Town Hall, before adjourning to Woodside for a glittering, celebrity-laden bash, where the guests naturally included Furnish's mother and father, Gladys and Jack, and his two brothers, John and Peter. It's little wonder the U.K. newspaper The Observer a few years ago voted Elton and Furnish – who also own homes in Nice, Venice and Atlanta – the “top couple to pair up with on a Saturday night.” Furnish says he loves the variety of working in film and writing for magazines. His articles, he admits easily, are sniggered at by the gossip sheets. “From a British tabloid mentality – I'm definitely not their cup of tea,” he says, laughing. “But in everybody's life there have to be things that remain private. When someone genuinely tells you something off the record, then you should take a longer-term view. My loyalty to my interviews – many of whom I have relationships with – is far more important than scoring a big scoop. And I believe I can bring an intimacy to a piece. A different perspective.” He adds that one of his favourite interviews was with Isabella Rossellini, who opened up about the psychological struggle she had being the face of a major beauty company, Lancôme. “She was overwhelmed by the reverence she received in parts of the world. Treating her like a religious figure. It really bothered her.”

Furnish can relate because he sees his partner often grappling with the relentless media attention.  “People don't ask me for my autograph,” he says, laughing. “Elton, unfortunately, has an entirely different existence. He can't go anywhere without being recognized. People ask to say hello and shake his hand. But there are times in your life when you want to have quiet moments, and not have disruption,” says the graduate of Sir John A. Macdonald Collegiate in Agincourt. “And that is incredibly hard when you're famous.” In the near term, however, it doesn't sound like his and John's crazy schedule will abate one bit.  In June, Furnish is co-ordinating a big public concert for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in Ukraine, followed by an exhibition in Kiev of a portion of their private photography collection – one of the biggest in the world. Despite his worldly travels and chic circle of famous friends, Furnish says he still makes it a priority to keep in touch with his pals – and politics – back home. “When Stephen Harper was elected as the new Conservative Prime Minister and he talked about repealing gay marriage and putting it to a vote in the House of Commons – Elton and I talked about getting married in Canada to make a statement, for ideological and political reasons. “Fortunately and encouragingly, they voted to keep the legislation, which made me even prouder to be a Canadian than I already am,” says Furnish, who once struggled with his sexuality, only coming out of the closet after he'd moved to Britain. “For the time being, we consider our civil partnership enough. We both feel protected and that our relationship is properly recognized from a political, governmental and social level,” he adds. “After all, we've always been in a committed relationship anyway. And if you don't have commitment, and aren't a person of your word, then you shouldn't be in a relationship in the first place. A piece of paper wouldn't change that.”

Miles Jaye: Checkin' Out Najee After Dark

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 23, 2007) The
Najee band was Kentrick Morris on drums, Myles Robertson on keyboards, Chuck "CJ" Johnson on guitar, Mark Kelly playing bass, Lomon on lead vocals and Dizzy Gillespie's nephew Butter on percussion.  The band was tight - I mean tight. Believe it or not, it was the first gig with Naj for some of the cats but they were hitting and they were tight. The little poem at the bottom of this piece was what I wrote leaning against the tree. When I was driving to the park that evening I remember asking myself 'I wonder if music is still enough - just music.' I wondered if the people would be satisfied with real music on a beautiful night in the park. Without picking on Simon or Paula, let's admit to our 21st Century appetite for Miami CSI, murders, autopsies, bounty hunters, interventions, mind numbing repetitious ratings ravenous TV news, and McMahon's head smashing, steel cage, tag team gladiators.   Even the Donald had to get a piece of the wrestling action, as if sparring with Rosie wasn't enough.

The Clear Channel smooth jazz format is all but defunct and the future of terrestrial radio is in serious question - satellite radio is the new flavour. Furthermore; the music business has been bombarded beyond recognition by technology and cut and run economics so I'm left to wonder if Najee will have to have dancers and fireworks and if his soprano sax keys will have to light up in multi-color neon to arouse the crowd. Najee is a veteran musician with true talent, legitimate training, years of performance experience on several continents and an old school passion for the music. I wondered if that would be enough. In high school he studied with Billy Taylor, Jimmy Heath and Frank Foster at the Harlem Jazzmobile. He also studied at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music and was a performance and composition major at Boston's, New England Conservatory of Music. So far this reads like the brilliant resume of an exceptional artist but remember I haven't mentioned any talent show wins as of yet.  O.K. so I had to take a swipe at A.I. A unique twist to Najee's story is that his brother, guitarist Fareed Haaq, also attended the New England Conservatory of Music and when they returned to New York City they were both asked to join the Chaka Khan tour. Fareed went on to produce seven of his brother's CDs. Najee boasts two platinum and four gold CDs to his credit; phenomenal for a jazz instrumentalist. Even possessing these stellar credentials I was left wondering if the groove would be enough on this night. Well, I found a tree in a good spot near the stage and gripped my boot heals in the dirt at it's base so I could lean.  By the time I got comfy and pulled out my pad and pen the poem was swirling around in my head.  The music filled the air like a fragrant summer breeze - remember it's Florida. The only interruption to the music was the sound of the crowd cheering. My faith in that simple but inexplicable connection between the sounds and the soul was restored. Najee was rocking it, no dancers, no fireworks, no neon and it was indeed a good night.

Miles Jaye Davis, like his namesake the legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, is one of music's most gifted, distinctive and dynamic artists. Miles laid the groundwork for excellence with his three highly acclaimed and successful CDs "Miles," "Irresistible" and "Strong" on Island Records. Miles is also an accomplished author. He has written a novel called "Margerette" and frequently pens articles like the one above for various media outlets including EURweb.com. For MORE on Miles Jaye Davis visit his website: www.milesjaye.com.

I was relaxing against a tree just past dark.
I was checking out Najee in Winter Park.
The park was filled with Black folks and White.
I had a feeling it would be a good night.

It was a cool March evening in Orlando.
I was just chillin' watching Najee's band go.
I felt the breeze in the air but I knew things were heating up.
The drummer was hitting so hard he had to stop and stand up.

That's right, I thought, take yourself a bow ...
'Cause a blind man could see, it's on now.
Najee's pacing and working the crowd; he's got 'em singing.
He held a note so long I think it must still be ringing.

I saw that one long note reach the sky.
It looked like a meteor passing by.
There's something magical about music and moonlight.
I had a real good feeling it would be a real good night.

Hella Soulful Rena Scott Has New CD

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

(March 22, 2007) On the sultry title track of her new independently released breakout recording Let Me Love You,
Rena Scott is right at home, singing soulfully about the first spark of romance. Yet the seductive invitation taps into something much deeper, reflecting the passion of her relationship to audiences worldwide over a fascinating musical lifetime.  Starting out at 12 in her native Detroit singing for the local Baptist congregation, Scott won her first talent contest at 13-where she performed with The Temptations--and was soon playing two or three gigs a night on the weekends at local R&B clubs, opening up for The Temps, Four Tops, The Originals and many other well known acts. She recorded her first record, "I Just Can't Forget That Boy," while still in high school.  When the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, also a native Detroiter, needed a third backup singer for a few gigs, the 18 year old got her million to one shot to sing onstage with her idol at the Pine Knob Ski Resort in Northern Michigan and, more importantly, in front of thousands at Carnegie Hall.  While Scott was busy over the years pursuing that goal, she wowed many thousands in other places-first nightclubs in Detroit and later Los Angeles, and then crowds of up to 50,000 people touring top R & B and Jazz festivals in the U.S. and Europe, such as the famous Montrose Jazz festival in Montrose Switzerland. She toured in the 80s with The Crusaders, sharing the stage with legends like George Benson and Natalie Cole. She came on board with founding Crusaders members Joe Sample, Wilton Felder and Stix Hooper after the departure of Randy Crawford, performing picture perfect renditions of their 1979 pop hit "Street Life" for audiences who sometimes didn't even speak English.

"What an incredible time that was, working with so many beloved legends and some of the best musicians in the world," she says. "It was great having people screaming for more, reaching out to connect emotionally despite the language barrier. They may not have known what the words meant, but they could feel it the music. I love it when it comes together, the music, the lights, the sound, the band, the crowd…Like my new song I wrote 'I Know It's Right,' you could just feel the magic.' Everything came together just right."  "The songs on Let Me Love You reflect my growth through experiences, and those that people I know have been through," Rena says. "All of these songs, 'A Love Thang,' 'Good To Me,' 'Plaything,' 'I'll Keep Coming Back,' tell the story of life and love, there are good times and bad times. Life is a onetime journey that should be filled with lots of love, these are the things I'm passionate about, and the things I'll continue to write and sing about."   Check out Rena's super soulful cuts at her MySpace page.   Buy Rena's CD Now at: Amazon.com

Musical Trio Sa-Ra Putting Rumours To Rest With May Release

Source: Evette Fergerson, Publicist, The Courtney Barnes Group, evette@cbgpr.com

(March 22, 2007) HOLLYWOOD, CA -- Despite rumours that Shafiq, Om'Mas and Taz of the musical trio
Sa-Ra have disbanded, the group known best for their work with Kanye West (they were signed to his G.O.O.D. Music label) is putting those rumours to rest with the May release of The Hollywood Recordings, the prequel to their forthcoming major label debut, on renowned indie Babygrande Records.  With high profile guest spots including Featuring Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, Bilal, J Dilla, Capone-N-Noreaga, Pharaohe Monch, Kurupt, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Lord Nes and more, The Hollywood Recordings defies categorization and represents Sa-Ra's complete vision, which encompasses more than just music. "We take the best of all doctrines, practices and sciences, and have developed our own style," Om'Mas explains. Taz adds, "Our music contains a deeper meaning, a real purpose."  "You look at James Brown, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Parliament -- all of the originals, the Gs of whatever they did -- people didn't get it at first," Shafiq says. "It wasn't until they made it cool. Then, when they made it cool, everybody was doing it. Our job is to make history, not to entertain. Our job is to change, add and contribute to what the greats have already contributed."

A product of South Central Los Angeles and the South Bronx, group founder Shafiq cut his teeth producing with Ice-T and Lord Finesse. Om'Mas was a quality mixer and engineer for a host of talent, including Ice-T, Foxy Brown, Mobb Deep and Jam Master Jay. While meeting with fellow South Central Los Angeles-based Taz in 1989, Shafiq realized that the three could make magic together, and formed Sa-Ra, meaning "offspring of the most powerful energy in the universe;" the name also means "children of the cosmos."  The group's subsequent production work with and for the likes of Dr. Dre, Kanye West, John Legend, Jurassic 5, Ice-T, Lord Finesse and others was accompanied by Sa-Ra releases: the Dark Matter And Pornography Mixtape and The Second Time Around. All of Sa-Ra's work is marked by a connection to your soul, your being. It's an intangible link to your inner self, making their output indispensable. It is something that cannot be ignored, as it cuts to the core of existence. Listen to Sa-Ra's latest single here: www.babygrande.net/sa-raexclusivemusic

Whitney Houston: Setting The Stage

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Mar. 23, 2007) Black America's favourite pop diva
Whitney Houston is staging a major comeback. According to published reports, the former chart-topping singer -- of formidable hit songs such as 'I Will Always Love You,' 'It's Not Right, But It's Okay,' and 'How Will I Know' -- is taking "the tentative steps toward reclaiming her once-flourishing career." Fox News's gossip guru Roger Friedman recently reported that Houston is venturing into a recording studio with in-demand writer-producer Johnta Austin. The protégée of hip-hop super-producer and new Island Def Jam president Jermaine Dupri, Austin won a Grammy Award for co-writing Mariah Carey's gargantuan comeback hit 'We Belong Together.' Other high-powered hit-makers such as R. Kelly and Diane Warren have been associated with the project, which is expected later this year.

While some reports indicated that Houston has started recording in New York City, sources tell The BV Newswire that she is expected to start officially working next week in Los Angeles, where she was reportedly going to rehab for substance abuse. This season, fans of the multiple Grammy Award winning chanteuse rejoiced at the fact that she appeared on the soundtrack for Tyler Perry's latest movie 'Daddy's Little Girls.' The song 'Family First' also features the voices of her family members, including pop music legend Dionne Warwick, gospel and soul music stalwart Cissy Houston and Houston's teenage daughter Bobbi Kristina. Music industry legend Clive Davis, who is credited with discovering Houston and shaping her stellar career, will oversee the yet to be titled comeback opus. "We are reviewing material right now," he recently commented to the 'New York Post.' "She looks radiant and is clearly together. She is talking enthusiastically and is articulate."  Platinum-plated R&B crooner Ne-Yo, who composed Beyonce's chart-topping hit single 'Irreplaceable,' is also in the Whitney mix.

The Arkansas native (legally known as Shaffer Smith) recently told MTV Radio Networks of his plans to work with the diva. "She's definitely recording; I've heard a few songs that she's cutting," he said. "Vocally, Whitney's back. Real talk. She's definitely back. I've done a few songs for her that her people have told me that they like. We just gotta find the time now to get in there and get'em done." A spokesperson for J Records --Houston's label -- remained mum when prodded for details about the recording process today, but Davis (who made Alicia Keys an international phenomenon over the past seven years) seems quite confident of the effort. "We are going to make a great album," he added. "In my opinion, the best singers in the world are Aretha (Franklin) and Whitney. That's not to knock Mariah. Mariah is a friend of mine, but I think Mariah would even say those two are the best."

Young Singer Captures Adult Audience

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Susan Visakowitz, N.Y.

(March 23, 2007) Do you remember your early teen years, before you had a driver's permit, when it was a bitter struggle to convince a parent or older sibling to drive you somewhere?  
Kelly Sweet doesn't have those memories.  When the singer was barely 14, her mother rented out the house they shared in Kanab, Utah, and set out driving young Kelly all across America, looking for every performance opportunity for her daughter she could find.  The painter and her progeny focused most of their efforts on two cruel bastions of broken dreams, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. But in Kelly Sweet's case, the gamble in both places paid off.  During the two years mom and daughter spent on the road, the budding starlet nabbed a gig opening for Kenny Loggins when his tour came through Vegas and was booked to sing the national anthem on three separate occasions for Los Angeles Lakers games.  Sweet had been traveling a musical path from a much earlier age, though. She grew up in a creative home, her first seven years spent in the idyllic environs of Cape Cod, Mass. Her father was a jazz pianist and she was surrounded by music from birth. She recalls singing along to everything from Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole to Whitney Houston, much of it at her father's side.

After her parents divorced, Sweet and her mother relocated to Kanab (population 5,000), but Sweet's interest in music didn't wane. She began classical training with a vocal coach at age 11 and by age 12 she was penning her first lyrics.  "Sting was a big influence on that side," Sweet says. "I learned a lot about writing from reading his lyrics. Paul Simon's, too."  The precocious vocalist was soon comfortable singing all sorts of styles, and never shied away from performing for audiences. This, combined with the freedom provided by home schooling, made the road trip with her mom possible.  "I was very lucky," Sweet says. "My mom was so supportive. She put her own career on hold for what ended up being almost five years for me to get to where I am today" –- signed to Razor & Tie and cracking the top 20 on the Hot Adult Contemporary chart with her single "Raincoat."  Sweet's success on tour led to a meeting with Grammy-nominated producer/songwriter Mark Portmann (Josh Groban, Celine Dion). The two immediately began work on a recording, which Sweet, 18, says was an "amazing experience. All these influences had built up in me through the years, and I finally had a chance to let them out and see my vision come to life."  During the sessions, Bruce Berman of Velour Entertainment happened to be working on other things at Portmann's house when, he says, "I heard Kelly's voice. I immediately got goose bumps. She hit this one note that just took me to another place and I was completely captivated," he recalls. Berman eventually signed on as Sweet's manager.  The first major task the crew tackled was getting Sweet signed, which turned out to be a more pleasant undertaking than expected. "We had three major labels bidding for her," says Berman. But he and Sweet ultimately settled on the independent label, Razor & Tie, because, as Berman explains, "They put on paper their commitment to the long haul and to rolling out this album the way Kelly and I had envisioned."

Sweet concurs, adding that teaming with a smaller label means she has more opportunity for "creative freedom. I knew my voice would be heard."  The arrangement seems to be working for all interested parties. "Raincoat," a gentle, enchanting number about burgeoning hope, steadily climbed the AC tally for weeks. Her debut album, "We Are One," hit stores March 6.  Sweet says she hopes to fashion her career after Barbra Streisand's: "She's been around for a long time and has sung all different types of music. To me she represents a true artist."  As for her patient, road-tested mom, Sweet says, "She's thrilled. She's finally back in the house in Kanab, painting again."

T.I. Stretches Out With Eminem, Timbaland, Wyclef

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(March 22, 2007) Atlanta rapper
T.I. tries a little bit of everything on his upcoming album "T.I. vs. T.I.P.," due July 3 via Grand Hustle/Atlantic. The set will feature guest turns by Eminem, Justin Timberlake, R. Kelly, Nelly, Akon and Lil' Wayne as well as production from Timbaland, Scott Storch, Mannie Fresh, Wyclef Jean and Just Blaze, among others. A single should hit radio by early April.  Billboard.com previewed 14 songs in contention to make the final album out of the more than 60 that have been recorded. Among the single contenders are the Mannie Fresh-produced "Big Things Poppin'," where T.I. proclaims, "I made it from the bottom to the top / where I oughta be," and "Show It to Me," a club track that will feature Nelly. "When you barely had flow, I had crack for the ho's," T.I. raps.  Among the more surprising cuts are the three produced by Wyclef; the artists wrote eight songs during just three days of collaboration.

"You Know What It Is" sports a dubby thump behind the sound of a gun being cocked, with T.I. boasting, "Had the album of the year, n***a / Grammy or not." "Shorty Got a Gun" has an almost Latin melody and a lot going on production wise, while "Pass the Dutchie" nicks lines from the chorus of Musical Youth's hit of the same name, with a melody not unlike Wyclef's own "Gone Till November."  R. Kelly will be featured on the jovial "Life of the Party," while Lil' Wayne utilizes his trademark Southern drawl to great effect on the sparse, Donny Hathaway-name checking "Yeah." The album is also tipped to feature the Runners-produced club track "Don't You Wanna Get High," Scott Storch's "It's OK" and "Tell 'Em I Said That," marked by a spiralling synth line and production by Danja Handz.  However, arguably the most interesting track is the Grand Hustle-trumpeting "Hip-Hop," a Just Blaze production marked by a chopped-up rock guitar riff and loud, '80s drums. It is not yet clear if the song will appear on "T.I. vs. T.I.P." The Eminem tracks will be put to tape in the coming days in Detroit, while Timbaland and Timbalake are earmarked to contribute in the next few weeks as well.

Throughout, T.I. raps in two personas: that of himself, and of his alter ego, T.I.P. "It's basically a battle within myself," the artist told Billboard in December. "There's not nobody out there doing what I do as well as I do it, so I see myself as worthy competition for myself."  The upcoming album is the follow-up to 2006's "King," which has sold 1.6 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. T.I. is also making another foray into film acting with the Nov. 2 release of "American Gangster," alongside Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. In addition, the rapper's Grand Hustle Films is developing two projects: "For Sale" and "Random Check," the latter centered around airport security.

Valentino Goes Back To The Drawing Board For New CD

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Mariel Concepcion, N.Y.

(March 23, 2007) Having your album leak days before it is set to hit stores might be a major setback for any artist, but not for
Bobby Valentino. After his intended sophomore release leaked last year, the R&B singer decided to go back to the studio and record an entirely new album. Now, with "Special Occasion," (DTP/Island Def Jam) due May 8, Valentino says the delay provided extra time for him to give fans more "hot records."  "I'm not somebody that just does a couple good songs," the 25-year-old Atlanta native tells Billboard.com. "I wanted people to know I have a lot of hot records. So, I went back in and gave them a whole new album, and for those people who wanted to hear those Internet songs, they got that too."  Like his 2005 self-titled debut, Valentino kept guest appearances to a minimum on "Occasion," collaborating with only Fabolous and Timbaland. The latter produced first single "Anonymous" and a track titled "Rear View" ("And I ain't talking about a booty," Valentino asserts), which is slated to be the next single. Other producers on the album include Tim & Bob, Dre & Vidal, Sean Garrett, Rodney Jerkins and the Insomniacs.  Along with promoting "Special Occasion," Valentino is working on branding his Bobby V jeans line, inspired by the second single from his first album, "Tell Me," in which he croons, "How did you get that in those jeans?" "I love women," says Valentino about his decision to launch the collection. "I just want to see all the beautiful women walking in the Bobby V jeans, and I want them to have a good fit no matter what size they are."

Valentino also recently recorded a song with French R&B singer Leslie, titled "Accorde Moi," which is featured on her "L'Amour En Vol" album. "She said I was one of her favourite artists, so [they] reached out to me," says Valentino. "I liked the song so I made it happen." But don't expect to hear the singer belt out in the language of love. "She's singing in French and I'm singing in English," Valentino clarifies.  The R&B singer hopes to hit Hollywood next, but not for a re-audition for "American Idol," from which he was booted off during season one. Though he claims his stint with AI was a "good experience," Valentino wants to head west to follow in his mentor Ludacris' footsteps, and audition for movie roles. "I just want to get my acting up; I'm ready to do it," he says. "And I know when I get focused, it's going to happen for me."  Finally, As for the rap album by his alter ego, BV, which he originally planned on launching as a bonus disc alongside "Occasion," Valentino says it will materialize sometime next year.

What's A Hit Now?

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - By Michele Henry

(March 25, 2007)  If video killed the radio star, why do we care about the "radio hit"?  Back in the day when families crowded `round the transistor to hear the latest single from Frankie Valli, the term had great significance. To the listener a "radio hit" meant popularity. But in today's multi-platform, iPod-infiltrated world, the "radio hit" tells a whole different story, according to Alan Cross.  "There can be the `download hit,' the `ringtone hit,' the hit from hearing a song on TV, in commercials. There are all these different aspects of how a song gets to the public," says Cross, the program director for local rock station 102.1 The Edge.  Anyone can use modern technology to "create their own radio," so there's less dependence on traditional means of finding out what's out there, Cross adds.  Take Arcade Fire, for instance. The much-hyped indie rock band released a new single last month, but it was not a "radio hit" in the first few weeks. Last week, with the album Neon Bible reigning at No. 1 in the national sales chart, all the hoopla in the world couldn't get the single "Keep the Car Running" beyond 256 spins on air, good for No. 19 on the Nielsen BDS national airplay chart.

Al Mair, for one, thinks it's a shame that radio isn't jumping on all of the international excitement about Arcade Fire. The publisher of Applaud magazine, says he sees radio tending to play only mainstream, familiar tracks. "We don't have the diversity of music on the radio we had 10 years ago," he says. "Now, it's boring radio." Paul Tuch, director of Canadian operations with Neilsen BDS, which tracks video and radio airplay, suggests that radio listeners tune in to hear familiar music. "Do under-35-year-olds listen to the radio to find out what's cool any more?" he asks. "The cool bands are discovered outside of radio now." So neither radio plays nor album sales mean huge mainstream success – if there is a mainstream. Arcade Fire had the No. 2 album in the U.S., selling under 50,000 albums, Cross says. Last week Neil Young's album reached No. 1 in Canada with only 10,000 albums sold.  As radio caters to ever more specific tastes, "There's an infinite variety of streaming styles, fashions and trends (and) the idea of consensus as to what is popular has taken a huge beating," Cross says.

Underground Rappers Want World Moving To Their Rhythm

Excerpt from

(March 25, 2007) Right now, Rhythmicru's plan for aural global domination goes something like this: first Toronto, then Taiwan. After that, the world.  The local rap collective has been on the scene for almost seven years and after four releases, the group is hoping that 2007 is the year that this underground crew – known for its exuberant live show – breaks far and wide. By the end of this year, the band plans to release two new records and one of its members is going to release a solo album. As well, next month it tours Taiwan, where one member, Andre Flak, alias D-Ray, is currently laying the groundwork.  This group doesn't just have respect in the local rap scene, it's working to build that scene, through its Heads Connect residency at the Rivoli. (The show coming this Saturday is the last before crossing the ocean.)"There used to be a night called In Divine Style at the Hooch, which was kind of like a local night that brought a lot of people together," says Rhythmicru's Cale Sampson. "It kind of petered out, so we started Heads Connect as a kind of thing where other groups can come together in one venue, and try to bring each other's audience with them." While the guys insist Toronto's hip-hop talent is excellent, it really doesn't have the commercial appeal or support of other similar-sized cities, and particularly from the underground perspective, it definitely requires a lot of hustle.

"The struggle in the city for us has been having to create our own kind of infrastructure," says Paul Aloisi, a.k.a. TheSnowyOwl. "There's only one reason to do it in Toronto, and that's for the love. There's not much commercial success. But looking at people who had that kind of success, it's because they haven't stopped." He says Rhythmicru has used Heads Connect as a show-swap opportunity where other groups touring across Canada play in exchange for the same treatment when Rhythmicru hits their towns.  The group is releasing a Heads Connect compilation sometime this summer.  "It's got a lot of the Rhythmicru extended family on it. Like More or Les, The Wordburglar, Graph Nobel, Shad K and a lot of others," says Flak on the line from Taiwan. Flak is the main producer of the group and the other thing that he's sitting on is Supertoke Mixtape Volume 2, the follow-up to last year's excellent Volume 1. It's expected out in the fall.  "I'm really excited about this upcoming year. The thing that's different from our other recordings is that we've never done it like this. If you want to get any traction, you've got to always be releasing stuff and right now, I'm sitting on a lot of great material and I can't wait until it all comes out," says Flak. "As well, with this tour of Taiwan, we're finally going try and break beyond our borders."

Flak says in Taiwan, hip-hop is still in a nascent stage, and it's very fresh there.  The group was invited to play Spring Scream festival and Flak also plans to record with musicians there.  Sampson is likewise stoked about the future. His solo album is also almost set and features appearances and production from The Rascalz' Red 1 and DJ Kemo. "It's going to be called Finally because you don't know how many people have been asking me `when is your solo album going to come out.'" As Jay-Z said, you can't knock the hustle, and the Rhythmicru boys are hoping that their barrage of new material and their consistent work ethic can help them rise above the din.

Christina Does It By The Book

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop Music Critic

(March 26, 2007) The word "professional" can be either a compliment or a diss when applied to pop music, and thus it works perfectly in the context of
Christina Aguilera's career. There's no knockin' the plucky little ex-Mouseketeer's outsized vocal abilities, her unerring knack for hitting her stage marks or the drive that's kept the 26-year-old belter near the top of the charts long ago vacated by chief "rival" Britney Spears through three albums and two rather radical makeovers since 1999. There is nevertheless something quite arid and unappealing about her music, which consistently fails to project much in the way of real soul despite Aguilera's assumption of every growling, ululating R&B-vocalist cliché on a nearly line-by-line basis as she sings.  In performance at the Air Canada Centre last night, a sense of workmanlike detachment persisted during every torch song, bedroom come-on, high-concept dance number and teary paean to the strength of Aguilera's mother. "Let's have fun tonight!" she crowed at the beginning of the 90-minute set, but the way it came out – with the clenched-teeth sunniness of a hostess working her fifth Vegas floor show of the day – made one wonder if it was an exhortation to the crowd or Christina herself. Fortunately, while still a bit of a cold fish in evident onstage charisma, Aguilera's made great strides in confidence, costumes and choreography since her last tour in 2002, when she was easily upstaged by Justin Timberlake (this year she brought lip-synching semi-strippers the Pussycat Dolls to make sure it didn't happen again).

This, at least, meant that although the purportedly "daring" neo-jazz and soul material from last year's double-disc Back to Basics album and the few old-school X-Tina hits were all rendered in the same shade of casino-circuit grey by Aguilera's unsubtle howl and the disinterested, talk-show-band noodling of her large backing band, there was always something to look at. Aguilera's comely wardrobe of revealing gowns and short shorts was chief among the attractions, but she and her skilled troupe of dancers had a number of inspired set pieces to cavort in. "Dirrty" was preceded by a mini-circus of fire dancers, stilt walkers and trapeze artists. "Nasty Naughty Boy" found one brave young gent lashed to a knife-thrower's bullseye and tickled with whips by Aguilera and her female dancers.  All of these trappings easily distracted from Aguilera's tendency to over-sing every note, but not from the sterile quality of the performance – which kept most attendees sitting cross-legged in their seats. When Aguilera deigned to grab a few fans' hands every now and then, one got the vibe she couldn't wait to run backstage for another misting of Purell.

Edge Donates Axe To Katrina Relief

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(March 26, 2007) LOS ANGELES –
The Edge is donating his favourite instrument to an auction benefiting Music Rising, a charity the U2 guitarist co-founded to replace musical equipment lost or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. He's logged thousands of hours of stage and studio time on the 1975 Gibson Les Paul. The 45-year-old musician has used the guitar throughout his years with U2. "I wanted to give something really significant that would really mean a lot for me to give. It deserved something that I would miss," The Edge told The Associated Press by phone from France. The Icons of Music auction, administered by Julien's Auctions, features 196 rock-related items, including a saxophone signed by former President Clinton, a guitar that belonged to Jimi Hendrix and an original Elvis Presley recording contract. An exhibit of auction highlights will travel from Los Angeles to Dublin, Ireland, and London before the sale ends April 21 with an event at Manhattan's Hard Rock Cafe. Fans may bid online or in person. The Edge's guitar was expected to fetch between $60,000 to $80,000, according to the auction Web site.

Bandmates Adam Clayton donated a bass guitar, Larry Mullen gave a pair of tom-tom drums and Bono donated a pair of Emporio Armani sunglasses. "It's some great poetry to ask the people like myself, who've earned a good living from rock 'n' roll, to donate items to an auction that would help protect and stave off the decline of the music culture in the Gulf Coast," he said. New Orleans is the soul of American music, so the Irish rocker said he felt compelled to help after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He created Music Rising in 2005 with record producer Bob Ezrin and Gibson chairman Henry Juszkiewicz. "One of the good things about globalization is it has created a single international music community, and I feel very much part of it," he said. "So this doesn't seem like it's someone else's problem. It's really our problem, too.'' The Edge, whose real name is David Evans, first discovered the area's rich musical culture as a young member of U2. He was intoxicated by the city's jazz funerals, where scores of musicians parade down the street in colourful costumes covered with flowers and feathers. "Jazz came out of New Orleans, and that was the forerunner of everything," he said. "You mix jazz with European rhythms, and that's rock 'n' roll really. You can make the argument that it all started on the streets of New Orleans with the jazz funerals.''

Mika's Cartoon Motion

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - David Friend, Canadian Press

(March 27, 2007) Pop singer
Mika decks out his concert venues with balloons, confetti, clowns and all things reminiscent of a 6-year-old's birthday party. "What I try to do is take reality and just hype it up to a level where it makes it more livable," explains the 23-year-old newcomer who exploded onto the music scene earlier this year. Tall and lanky, Mika wears a bright orange hooded sweatshirt and his long curly hair sways in every direction as he talks about his debut album, Life in Cartoon Motion, which entered Canada's SoundScan charts at number 2. Helped by massive hype and reviews comparing him to legends Elton John, David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, Mika has already logged a five-week stay at No. 1 with his single "Grace Kelly" in the U.K. where his album also took the top spot. For Mika, all of this attention marks a sharp turnaround in a life full of instability.

Born Mica Penniman, the middle of five children, in Beirut, Lebanon, his family fled the war-torn country and moved to Paris before uprooting once again for London. Mika has said the shifts made it difficult for him to fit in. He found himself the target of constant harassment in elementary school, which led his mother to briefly pull him from classes. He began to dabble in theatre and take singing lessons, which eventually led him to enrol in London's prestigious Royal College of Music. He left the college to pursue dreams of a music career, but found that most labels wanted to mould him into a marketable product. Frustrated by one producer in particular, he penned "Grace Kelly," an upbeat ditty where he begs for some semblance of an acceptable identity and asks "Why don't you like me?" But "Grace Kelly" ended up being the track that convinced a label to invest in Mika's plans. The song leads off an album rife with energy that, if it wasn't for the lyrics, might sound optimistic.

Underneath, Mika is constantly skewering social conventions, such as in "Billy Brown," a song about a married man that leaves his wife to be with another man, or "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)," a cheeky ode to overweight women. "I love the idea that you can take that underdog and put it up on a throne and praise it for just 3 1/2 minutes because no one ever does," Mika said. "I suppose it's just my way of dealing with things. Dress up your demons in Technicolored frills and they become so much more livable." The singer is touring across North America, decorating concert halls everywhere. As the ringleader of his shows, Mika says he crafts each night different from the last, and has done everything from unveiling his band dressed in animal costumes to showering the audience in lollipops. At a recent Toronto show the spectacle got underway as the crowd filed into the auditorium, welcomed by a man on stilts. A clown crafted balloon shapes while screens showed projected cartoon images of characters Mika creates in his songs. All of this before he even hit the stage. He likens the concert experience to his "obsession with this box of illusion," a theme which he says is tied to the Victorian-era miniature theatre models he has collected since he was 11. "I come from a background in theatre and opera where people work for a minimum of six months for an illusion that lasts only about two hours. As far as live (shows are) concerned, you've got to set the scene."

Timberlake Extends 'FutureSex' Tour Into September

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Katie Hasty, N.Y.

(March 27, 2007)  Just as he prepares to finish the first leg of his North American tour,
Justin Timberlake has announced a new slew of dates in support of his latest Jive album, "FutureSex/LoveSounds." Timberlake has once again tapped producer/collaborator Timbaland as a special guest for the trek, which begins Aug. 6 in his home state Tennessee at the FedExForum in Memphis.  The performances will continue to feature his 14-piece band on a 360-degree view rotating stage. Beforehand, Timberlake will tour Europe for the first half of the summer, which includes a quartet of dates at London's new 02 Arena.  Timberlake is also featured alongside Nelly Furtado on Timbaland's new single, "Give It to Me," from the latter's upcoming album, "Shock Value."

Here are Justin Timberlake's tour dates:

Aug. 6: Memphis, Tenn. (FedExForum)
Aug. 7: Atlanta (Gwinnett Center)
Aug. 10: Boston (TD Banknorth Garden)
Aug. 13: East Rutherford, N.J. (Continental Airlines Arena)
Aug. 15: New York (Madison Square Garden)
Aug. 18: Montreal (Bell Centre)
Aug. 20: Toronto (Air Canada Centre)
Aug. 25: Winnipeg (MTS Centre)
Sept. 1: Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay)
Sept. 5: Vancouver (GM Place)
Sept. 7: Portland, Ore. (Rose Garden)
Sept. 8: Tacoma, Wash. (Tacoma Dome)
Sept. 10: Sacramento, Calif. (ARCO Arena)
Sept. 12: San Jose, Calif. (HP Pavilion)
Sept. 16: Los Angeles (Staples Center)

Generatin' A Rasta Vibration: Meet Bermuda's Collie Buddz

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

(March 23, 2007) Born in New Orleans, raised on the isle of Bermuda with intermittent stays in urban Toronto,
Colin Harper is not an easy youth to pin down geographically.  His musical alter ego Collie Buddz however, is one of the most firmly grounded voices you may ever encounter. Incorporating influences from hip-hop to soca, Collie's music nevertheless has a rock-solid foundation in reggae - and its power to connect ghetto reality with the highest heights of human aspiration - that is a rarity even in Jamaica.  Born in 1981, at the dawn of the turbulent era signalled by the twin omens of Bob Marley's passing and Ronald Reagan's election, Collie was immersed in the sound system culture of Bermuda aka "The Rock" since the age of 6.  "I used to come home from primary school and my brother would always be on the turntables, playin his new 45's an' I'd just be there vibesin'." The evolution of dancehall and sound-clash culture into a movement of it's own in the late 80s and early 90s set the backdrop for young Collie's discovery of his own sonic identity, and the dancehall kings of that generation - Buju Banton, Bounty Killer and Beenie Man served as his primary influences. "Back when Beenie and Bounty used to war lyrically, seeing clashes wit' Kilimanjaro an all the sound-man an' everyt'ing…the whole music scene for me took on a new meaning. Clash thing an' lyrical war became a part of my daily life from early out."

The daily operation of trading lyrics in schoolyard clashes quickly gave way to more serious combat as "…people startin sayin 'Ay, Buddz got some lyrics!' From an early age, some of the local sounds on the island wanted to get me on dubplate," says Collie, who stepped into the first of many vocal booths at age 16 to voice customized dubs for some Bermudian sounds.  "Sounds was always trying to buss local artists in Bermuda." Consistent encouragement from the various soundmen and engineers he encountered on those dub excursions led Collie to maintain a musical focus and eventually trek to Florida for a degree in audio engineering, a path that ended behind the boards of his own Bermudian studio, jointly run with his older brother (Smokey) and Sneek Success from one of Bermuda's founding sounds, 'Newclear Weapon'. Building riddims for other artists only expanded his love for writing and voicing his own lyrics however. "I used to make these beats an' none of the tunes came out how I pictured an artist sittin' on de riddim, so I decided to start to get in the booth myself again and spit some lyrics. Unless my brother engineerin' for me, I'm runnin from the board to the booth, back to the board!" Like boot camp for a one-man army, that experience molded the signature vocal style that defines Collie Buddz - a songwriter who can lay his own riddim, sing the hook and chat on the verse. "I build de riddim first and while I'm building it I don't try an' think about lyrics 'cause I'm tryin' to focus on the riddim, yunno? I make it sound as best I can and then for a day or two I rest my ears then start de writing process. I come up wif a melody firs' and get that down, then start with the lyrics." The skill with which he compartmentalizes multiple roles in the studio also extends to his easy movement between styles.

VIDEO: "Come Around"
AUDIO: "Come Around"

A falsetto that combines the singsong lover's rock appeal of a carnival crooner like Rupee with the deeper emotional catch of Bob Marley or Sizzla, Collie's voice sits with equal comfort over the jump-up pace of ragga-soca, 4/4 hip-hop beats or an achingly slow one drop. Most strikingly on tunes like "My Everything" he finds both the drive of dancehall and the bluesy edge of roots in a frenetic polyrhythm built around the Latin horns of David Bowie's "Let's Dance," an up-tempo track that could be just as home in a Trinidad carnival as a UK discothèque. "Some tunes I create are just to show that I could do anything I put my mind to," he explains "to show the versatility of my style." For many artists such versatility can be a curse and only a select few can maintain a distinctive voice when so many styles come so easy. But on tracks like "Moving On," the layers of competing influences seem less like contradictions and more like necessary stages in the development of a larger persona, something like the succession of roles from pimp, to preacher, to something like a revolutionary that formed Malcolm X. Instead of pulling the song apart, the warring elements are all somehow essential to a larger vision reflected in his lyrics: "Feel like me cyan move an' trap in a cage / still searchin' for the words to put 'pon the page…" It's that discovery of timeless roots even within the sweatiest dancehall track that marks the culmination of Collie's growth.  "Nowadays when I go to put on a CD, its old tune: Alton Ellis, The Meditations, The Heptones, Skattalites, Jacob Miller, Eric Monty Morris; love the rockers music. From that I start to teach myself some of the history of this music, that's where I started to come a little more versatile with the singin'…the foundation just straight reality, yunno. I like dancehall, but de foundation and conscious tune really what me love."

"COLLIE BUDDZ" in stores JUNE 5th from SONY

Akon: Unleashing Something 'Wicked'

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Mar. 27, 2007) Senegalese singing sensation
Akon is ready to spread his wings -- in a major way. The chart-topping, hip-pop soul singer has launched his own label, entitled Kon Live, to be distributed by Geffen Records -- home of platinum-plated hitmakers Mary J. Blige, Stacey "Fergie" Ferguson, Macy Gray and Black Eyed Peas. Kicking off his label, the 'Locked Up' singer will release the debut album from Jamaican sister duo Brick & Lace, titled 'Love Is Wicked.'  Comprised of sisters Nyanda and Nailah Thorbourne, Brick & Lace has been credited as penning songs for the likes of Janet Jackson, and Paris Hilton. A label rep has confirmed to The BV Newswire that the duo recently wrote songs for Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls for her upcoming solo project.

They are hoping the winning streak rubs off on their own endeavour, which they wrote or co-wrote every song for. The opus, due out June 26, will feature collaborations with will.i.am, Tony "CD" Kelly , Cool & Dre, Lenky, Full Force, and celebrated record company executive Ron Fair.  And of course Akon -- who is regarded as the group's "third member." The video for Brick & Lace's first single 'Never Never' will premiere last week online, and the actual song will be available FOR FREE on iTunes -- for an entire week -- starting March 27. Audiences will get to see what the girls have to offer live as they head out on the road with Gwen Stefani and Akon this spring. The tour kicks off April 21 in Las Vegas and wraps up June 23 in Irvine, California.  (pictured left to right: Nailah Thorbourne, Akon, Nyanda Thorbourne)

Beenie Man Dropped from Virgin Records?

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(March 22, 2007)  *Rumours have been circulating here in Jamaica that dancehall star
Beenie Man has been dropped from the Virgin Records roster. Beenie Man had signed a five album deal with Virgin in 1998 based on the strength of the inescapable song Who Am I (Zim Zimmer) which was a hit on several Billboard charts. To date only four albums from the deal have been released.  A source close to Beenie Man's former management team, Shocking Vibes Productions, told this writer that Beenie Man no longer had a contract with Virgin. 'Beenie Man was signed to Virgin through Shocking Vibes. Now that he is no longer with Shocking Vibes, the contract is no longer valid', said the source.  When contacted for a comment, Beenie Man said 'I left Virgin, they never dropped me. I have no contract with Virgin. Virgin has merged with Universal EMI so there is no more Virgin'. When asked about the last album on the deal with Virgin, Beenie Man said 'I am going to release my album on MAFIA House Productions.'

 Beenie Man's last album for Virgin Records was 2006's Undisputed. The album debuted at number one on Billboard's Reggae album chart. Considered a commercial flop, the disc has to date sold 61,240 units according to Nielsen Soundscan. His most commercially viable release for Virgin was the album Art & Life which contained the Billboard charting single Girls Dem Sugar with R&B singer Mya. Art & Life which won a Grammy award for Best Reggae album, has to date sold 404,932 units.  The album Back to Basics which was released in 2004, sold 165,311 to date, while the 2002 release Tropical Storm which featured the hit single Feel it Boy with Janet Jackson, has so far netted
282,976 copies.

LightSnake: A Digital Answer To Musician's Recording Blues

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Mar. 22, 2007) It's a measure of how far technology has come in only five years that the cost of converting the analog signal you get from an electric guitar into a digital one has fallen a jaw-dropping amount. Five years ago you needed a box costing about $1,000, with complex components inside. Today, however, all you need is a cable, one that can cost as little as $50. The cable is called
LightSnake, from SoundTech Professional Audio, and it allows music aficionados to record high-quality sound directly to their computers. At one end of LightSnake is a USB connection, at the other is a quarter-inch standard plug. In the three metres between, there is enough high-tech hardware to convert an analog signal, such as that from an electric guitar or a keyboard, into a digital signal. Music, unlike photography, is difficult to digitize, and musicians are a lot fussier than photographers with the fruit of their labours; there is no such thing as "snapshot quality" among musicians. As a result, it has taken longer to develop digital music gadgetry.

SoundTech calls the LightSnake a "sound card on a cable" that lets you record audio from your guitar, bass, keyboard or other instrument directly on to your computer. Plug the cable into an instrument and the USB into a suitable port on the computer. It's totally plug-and-play; no additional drivers are required for any Windows-based computer from Windows 98 through XP, or for any Macintosh system after OS 9. The embedded analog-to-digital converter is a modest 16-bit affair and features a 48-kHz sampling rate. The Host Side Data Loss (HSDL) noise reduction function is designed to prevent unwanted noise when converting the audio signal to digital format and saving to your computer. Using LightSnake on a Windows-based machine is possible since the operating system includes Windows Sound Recorder software, but if you want to turn your guitar noise into something that sounds a little more like music you'll want to invest in some more robust sound-editing software. LightSnake comes with a demo DVD (inexplicably called Volume 2) on which there are several 30-day sample software packages from Sony, including ACID Music Studio, Cinescore, DVD Architect and Sound Forge. Mac users, on the other hand, will already have GarageBand on their computers and will be spared the nonsense of having to shop for extra software. LightSnake is a step forward in a difficult business, but its major achievements are convenience and price. And as far as price is concerned, $49.95 can make your instrument play a different song entirely.

SoundTech has also embedded its USB technology into the LightSnake Podcasting Kit. It includes a USB-to-microphone LightSnake cable, Sony ACID XMC software, a tripod microphone desk stand and a high-quality dynamic microphone, which is the heart of this package. Fans of podcasting, essentially recording your own radio show, will be able to produce a better-than-average sounding program, or even record some music. Sony's ACID XMC recording software ($49.99 retail) is the slimmer version of the heavyweight ACID Music Studio, and it's quite enough for talk podcasting and rudimentary recording of a budding band's music. A one-year subscription to Sony's ACIDplanet Prozone is included and offers users a hosting service for their podcasts. Yes, of course podcasting can be done a lot more cheaply using microphones and cables you can get for less than $10 from the bargain bin at Harry's Computers on the corner. But if you want real sound quality -- in podcasting, there's a huge difference between simply creating a podcast and creating one with professional quality -- you will still need software to edit the finished product. And that's where the LightSnake Podcasting Kit shines. For Jack Kapica's full review, go to the Personal Tech section of globetechnology.com


McCartney Is First Artist On New Starbucks Label

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -

(Mar. 22, 2007) Seattle --
Sir Paul McCartney was introduced yesterday as the first artist signed to Starbucks Corp.'s new record label. The former Beatle made an appearance via a video feed from London at the company's annual meeting. The world's largest specialty-coffee retailer announced earlier this month that it was partnering with Concord Music Group to launch the Los Angeles-based Hear Music label.  The McCartney announcement is another big step for Seattle-based Starbucks's attempts to spin part of its consumer appeal into the entertainment business. The international coffee-house chain already has produced and sold some albums, markets books, and helped develop a feature-length movie.

Line-up Unveiled For T.O.'S Art Of Jazz Festival

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

(Mar. 23, 2007) Toronto — Following on the success of last year's inaugural event, the
Art of Jazz organization has announced the line-up for it's second annual Art of Jazz Celebration, scheduled for May 30 through June 3 at Toronto's Distillery District. As before, the event will focus on two tribute concerts. The first, on June , will honour Canadian-born trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, and will feature bassist Dave Holland, trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, saxophonist Lee Konitz, drummer Joe LaBarbera, multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson and singer Norma Winstone. The second showcase, on June 2 pays homage to bebop singer Jon Hendricks, and will feature Lambert, Hendricks & Ross Redux, a tribute to the legendary vocal group.

Streisand Live Album Chronicles Hit Tour

Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(March 23, 2007)
Barbra Streisand's hit fall tour will be chronicled onthe appropriately named album "Live in Concert 2006," due May 8 via Columbia. The double-disc, 23-track collection was recorded on the tour's Oct. 4 opening night at Philadelphia's Wachovia Center and at New York's famed Madison Square Garden.  Beyond Streisand staples such as "The Way We Were," "Funny Girl" and "People," the album features three collaborations with opening act Il Divo: "Evergreen," "The Music of the Night" and "Somewhere."  The tour grossed more than $92 million, according to Billboard Boxscore, setting house gross records in 14 of the 16 arenas it played.

Think Young

Excerpt from

(March 25, 2007)  That Neil Young's live album from 1971 went No. 1 here is no surprise; Young's a local boy (or close enough) and the show was local, too. But the album debuted at No. 6 in the U.S. If you don't count the 1995 CD Mirror Ball (whose sales were goosed by the presence of musical co-stars Pearl Jam) this is the loftiest ranking for a Young album since – believe it or not – 1972's Harvest. It's not that the U.S. public has fallen back in love with Young, just that many younger people have stopped buying albums, lessening the competition faced by old folks' faves. And the album does hark back to what people regard as the prime of Young's career. Consistency, of course, is not exactly Young's middle name (oddly enough, it's Percival). But it's the high points that matter in an artist's career and we're so happy with the new disc that we're forgiving him for Trans. And Re-ac-tor. And Arc and Weld. And Everybody's Rockin'. And American Dream. And ...


Whatever Happened to Freddie “Boom-Boom” Washington?

Source: Kam Williams

(Mar. 23, 2007) Born in New York City on September 4, 1953,
Lawrence Hilton Jacobs was the fifth of nine children hailing from a family with West Indian heritage. He began auditioning for acting gigs while still attending the High School of Art and Design, and after graduation, he supported himself by taking a series of menial jobs, honing his skills at Al Fann’s Theatrical School and with the Negro Ensemble Company.   Later heading to Hollywood, Lawrence appeared in a handful of feature films, Death Wish, Claudine, The Gambler, and Cooley High, before landing the role of a lifetime in 1975 as Freddie “Boom-Boom” Washington on a new TV series called Welcome Back, Kotter. Though fated to be associated with that lovable character forever, he has, nonetheless, gone on to enjoy an enduring career, evidenced by a resume’ which boasts over 50 big screen and television credits, plus work as a director, as a scriptwriter, as a composer, and as a producer.    Here, he talks about his latest movie, Sublime, recently released on DVD, a thought-provoking, sci-fi thriller, where he plays a man with suspicious motivations who goes by the name of Mandingo.

KW:     Hi Laurence. The first thing I want to ask you is whether you remember my cousin, Maurice Sneed, an actor who came up around the same time as you.

LHJ:       Oh, man, to death! Are you kidding me? What a small world man! I haven’t seen Maurice in a million years.

KW:     I can’t wait to tell him that we spoke, although we all call him Brother. That was his nickname as a kid. 

LHJ:       Here’s just a little interesting piece of trivia. See if you can find a movie called Youngblood. It was made in 1978. Maurice and I did that movie together. It’s a street gang movie.

KW:     I’ll check it out. Weren’t you also in the Chicago production of What the Wine Sellers Buy back in the Seventies with him? If so, I might have met you when he brought me backstage to meet the rest of the cast.

LHJ:       No, I only did that play with the New York company. I think every black actor did Wine Sellers at some point in their career back then. But say “hi” to Maurice for me

KW:     Will do. Is it true that you did an assortment of odd jobs after high school?

LHJ:       Yeah, I had a lot of jobs, because I wanted to be an actor, and I had this bad habit of wanting to eat regularly. So, I had to make some money somewhere. I was everything from a stock worker in an Alexander’s department store to flower delivery person to a messenger to a grocery clerk to a gas station attendant. I even worked in Macy’s dusting off fur coats for two weeks. 

KW:     How old were you when you got bit by the acting bug?

LHJ:       Early, just like your cousin. Sneed was around 13 or 14 when he started. We were both out of New York. I bounced around then, trying to get work while still going to school, which is a little tough. And then, when I became 18, I just started studying with the Al Fann Theatrical Ensemble and with the Negro Ensemble Company. Work started to flourish from that, eventually.

KW:     What was one of the early productions you remember appearing in?

LHJ:       Al Fann had a famous play back then called King Heroin which everyone who came to the ensemble did. In the late Sixties and early Seventies, as you know, the heroin epidemic was exploding. I also did Cora’s Second Cousin, The Dean, and The Exterminator, where I played a guy who lands in purgatory where he gets put on trial by the bugs for trying to kill them.   

KW:     You made your screen debut in Death Wish, the original vigilante movie. Did you die in that flick?

LHJ:       Yep, I was killed, shot by Bronson [star Charles Bronson] with a gun. It’s kind of funny, because when we were doing that scene over by the Hudson River, which took two days to shoot, it was so cold I couldn’t believe it. And then some of the spray from his blank gun hit me in the face, man. I just sprung back from it, and the director thought I was overacting, but it had burned my face.   

KW:            People forget that even shooting blanks is potentially lethal. I remember how the actor Jon-Erik Hexum accidentally killed himself on a movie set with a blank.

LHJ:       Yeah, he put the gun to his head and he took himself out, which is a drag, man.

KW:     Would you say that Cooley High was your breakout role?

LHJ:       Oh, big time! Yet, it’s funny how these things can overlap. Back in those days, when a movie came out, it might stay in theatres for a year or even longer. So, I had done Claudine and Cooley High, and then Welcome Back, Kotter. And they were all out at the same time. So, I was all over the place.  

KW:     What was it like to have that degree of fame all of a sudden?

LHJ:       It was like an explosion. You just don’t get ready for it. I don’t even know how you can, because you just don’t expect it. For me, up until that point, you would do a gig, and then you’d go out and try to find the next job. So, I had no idea what affect something blockbustering would have. To me, it was just a job that I was trying to do the best I could. We had shot the first five shows before it went on the air. Then, it was this firecracker hit, and people were recognizing me, so it was just nuts. It was overwhelming, insane, wonderful and scary all at the same time. It’s really peculiar that people see you on television and then think they have a personal relationship with you. So, they want to touch you, and grab you, and sit down and have lunch with you. It’s strange, and you never get used to that. 

KW:     I guess they know who you are, but they don’t really know you. Did you have a hard time handling that aspect of fame?

LHJ:       You learn to roll with it. I’ll talk to anybody and everybody. I learned that from Jack Albertson years ago. When he was doing Chico and the Man with Freddie Prinze, we were doing Kotter right next-door to them. We all used to hang out on the lot together. And Jack, Red Foxx and Scatman Crothers were like the elder statesmen, telling us the vaudeville stories from their early days. But Jack is the one that told me, “Larry, you should talk to everybody, that’s how you learn life.” It was a simple thing to say, but I got it. It’s also a way of keeping yourself down-to-earth, so you don’t think of yourself as all that.

KW:     Tell me a little about this new sci-fi thriller Sublime. I watched it, I liked it, but I still need someone to explain it all to me.

LHJ:       What was happening is that you were taken on a journey with a man who was going through his own early midlife crisis. He was re-examining his self-worth when, by accident or misfortune, he had the wrong operation performed on him in the hospital. This made him think further about who he really was, but being under sedation he had hallucinations which blurred the line between what was real and what was not real, as we sometimes experience in our nightmares or in our subconscious.      

KW:     Into which genre of film does Sublime fit? I found it sort of hard to pigeonhole.

LHJ:       They classify this movie under the horror/sci-fi banner, but I saw it as a psychological drama about a heightened reality, which can be horrific in itself. But this isn’t a slasher flick or anything like that. 

KW:     Was playing a character like Mandingo new to you?

LHJ:       Yeah, I’d never this kind of role before. I’d never done a person absolutely committed to trying to scare the hell out of you. That’s all this guy wanted to do. And he has no remorse. He’s pretty out there, man. 

KW:     Do you have any plans to direct again?

LHJ:       Yes, I just set up a pickup scene for a movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker that’s untitled for the moment. That was a long, long day, like an 18-hour shoot. There were a lot of action sequences we had to cover in a day, but we did it. That’s being edited as we speak. That was my sixth time directing. But yeah, I want to direct a lot more, especially feature films as opposed to television. With a film, you get a chance to tell a story the way you envision it and how you feel it. It’s pretty exciting to bring the collaborators and components together, and then to pull off the images to achieve the effect that you’re going for. When you make a film, you’re creating the illusion of a natural experience. But everything is created on purpose. If I want you to be scared, I’m trying to scare you. If I want you to cry, I’m trying to make you sad. If I want you to laugh, I’m trying make you laugh. So, how I get you there is what makes it interesting, because I also want it to feel seamless, and not forced. That kind of constant experimentation is just fun to explore, and I love it.       

KW:     What do you attribute your having an enduring career to?

LHJ:       It’s been interesting that a diversity of roles have come my way, and that I’ve had the opportunity to do them. To me, it’s about going for a good role that has something to say, and that’s a challenge. I’ve been lucky enough to play everything from a homeless guy to this crazy male nurse. 

KW:     He’s not a stalker, but Jimmy Bayan, this friend of mine in L.A. always wants me to ask celebs where they live.

LHJ:       I live in the Hollywood area. The same, old tired Hollywood.

KW:     What advice do you have for aspiring young actors?

LHJ:                Anybody who wants to go into any business, I always say that you have to make a commitment to yourself to make it a part of your nature like the air you breathe. I don’t mean that lightly. It’s hard. You have to do the work, and a lot of it is going to be during your own personal downtime. And you have to be interested in it. You can never study enough, and you can never learn enough.

KW:     Well, thanks for a great interview, Lawrence. 

LHJ:       You’re welcome, I appreciate it.

Howard, Mac Take ‘Pride’: Inspirational Film Opens Today

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

(March 23, 2007) *The inspirational sport drama is clearly a time-tested theme that audiences never seem to get enough of. It invokes emotions such as fortitude and determination in the quest for victory. It is a feel-good formula. The new film “
Pride” is no exception.  The latest film to join these ranks, “Pride” is inspired by the true events surrounding Jim Ellis who started a swim team for troubled teens in Philly. The film, starring Academy Award nominee Terrance Howard and actor-comedian Bernie Mac, opens nationwide today. The story centers on Ellis, played by Howard, a former swimmer, who coaches a group of talented African American teens from the Philadelphia Department of Recreation to the statewide championship with his formula of PDR – pride, determination, resilience.  While there are less serious and even funny quips throughout the film, the inspirational drama remains an important concept. Howard agreed that it’s very important to tell these stories, even if we've heard them before. And in addition, he told reporters, the triumphs of African Americans in particular should be told.

“For a long period of time, it was thought that that didn’t sell,” he said of having soldiering and prevailing black characters. “We believe in what we see, so seeing the example of Jim Ellis, it gives me a little more belief in myself. And the statistics show that almost one out of three African Americans can’t swim,” he continued. “We have three times the death rate from drowning as all other ethnicities. That’s a horrible figure to live with. And it’s because we don’t have the facilities in the inner cities. We need that, not just in the sense of having prestige, but in the sense of saving lives.” Bernie Mac plays Elston, the rec department maintenance man who also is inspired by Ellis. “I saw Elston, when his life started leaving him; his home, his marriage. That’s where his bitterness began. It wasn’t personal towards Jim. He felt useless. All of a sudden he had nothing. But when Jim brought life back into PDR, you see how he took pride again. He cut his hair, he changed his clothes,” he said. Like Howard, Mac also took to heart the lessons learned from the film, particularly because they were familiar lessons he’d learned from his coaches growing up. In fact, the actor said that he built his character on mentors he’d had as a kid. “I knew Elston in so many ways,” he said. “[He was] those dudes at the South Town YMCA, the coaches, where I was a gym rat. That was my Jim Ellis, that was my Elston. I just took a little bit from each one of those guys. I’d reflect back to when I was playing sports. I just took a page out of all those gentlemen’s notebooks who helped me in my career.” In almost the same vein, Howard revealed that his portrayal of Ellis was an amalgamation also.

“I only had a month and a half with Jim Ellis, so I asked Jim who were some of his heroes,” Howard explained. “[He named] Reggie Jackson, Thurgood Marshall, and Jim Brown. Having those references – because none of us are like ourselves, we are like a collection of the people that we like –I decided to gravitate toward the people that he gravitated to, and therefore I would have more of his spirit without imitating him.” Becoming the characters was also a fun transition for the two actors, who confessed that they are certainly fans of the ‘70s. “That was my favourite time,” Howard reminisced. “I wanted to grow an afro, but my daddy kept cutting my hair.” He said that what he like most about filming, was the fact that he could step into that era everyday.  “I looked forward to getting dressed every day on that set,” he said. Mac shared a number of memories he had from that time and agreed that doing a film based in that time was great fun for him, too. “I’m from the ‘70s,” he proudly said. “The ‘70s was a great beginning for me. It was a development stage for me. It was great music, great times, racism, problems, communities, real neighbours. It brought back my life. The style, the clothes, the ‘fro, the respect. All those things I grew up with. Great memories, you know? The ‘70s was groovy. It had shortcomings, but it had a lot of promises.” Promise, determination, and resilience were not just echoes of the film, but a way of life in training for it. Howard, who recreationally swims, told reporters that getting into competition shape for the film was certainly a feat. “I had to really get in shape because it’s hard to move that water out of the way,” he said. “It was a matter of getting comfortable with the water. We get in there thinking that we’re gonna fight it and move it. No, you gain momentum through slow acceleration and that’s what you don’t realize initially.” He also said that training to swim and working a little with the real life Jim Ellis taught him more than just how to glide through the water. He continued: “The hardest thing was to get in there and gently persuade the water around you. That plays into Jim’s vocal pattern, his nature. He has a very calm persuasive way of leading you into a wonderful place. It’s therapeutic listening to him. That’s what he teaches. He teaches you to become one with the water and you feel powerful.” The powerful story, also starring Kimberly Elise and Tom Arnold, comes to life on screen today. For more on the film, visit the website at: www.pridefilm.com.

'I Wanted The Heroic Side Of Politics'

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Val Ross

(Mar. 22, 2007) After the Toronto International Film Festival screening of
Amazing Grace last fall, the line-up in the ladies' room got to talking. "Hmph," said one moviegoer. "That was a white man's story." "Well, it was the British end of the story," another woman said. "But -- yes. A white man's story." This month, the 200th anniversary of the British Parliament's vote to abolish the African slave trade is the peg for the release tomorrow of director Michael Apted's epic about the abolitionist William Wilberforce and his dogged political manoeuvring to end the traffic in human beings. Scholars, such as Adam Hochschild, author of the Gelber Prize-winning Bury the Chains, now acknowledge that the English politician's efforts were only one part of a far-flung movement involving Quakers, sugar-boycotting housewives, petition-signers and, most significantly, Africans themselves. Slaves rebelled. Slaves ran away. And some, activists such as the best-selling 18th-century author Olaudah Equiano, took their cause to the cities of Europe. Yet Equiano is virtually the only black presence in Amazing Grace, and musician-turned-actor Youssou N'Dour makes only a cameo appearance in that role. But Apted is visibly vexed to hear that audiences think his film is "a white man's story." And he glowers at the mention of Hochschild's book, which came out when his film was in production.

"That was a weird book, very annoying for me to read," says the director, interviewed over breakfast at his Toronto hotel. "He [Hochschild] said the history of the abolition of the slave trade was totally biased in favour of Wilberforce and then he wrote a book totally biased against Wilberforce. It had an agenda." Slim and handsome at 66, Apted is testy about many things, in a game and charming way. He doesn't like Toronto's weather. Born in working-class London, he long ago abandoned the cold for California, where he currently heads the Directors Guild of America. In his DGA role, he's annoyed by runaway Canadian film productions. He's even more annoyed by U.S. and British politics. And political apathy. In fact, his belief that "politics do matter" was one of his motives for doing the Wilberforce film: "It's something I've wanted to do a film about for years. In my own tiny way, I wanted to restore some dignity, some understanding of the political process," he says. When the Amazing Grace project first came to him, it was a simple biopic. He had it refashioned into an account of alliances, determination and moral charisma. In reality, the small, slender, soft-spoken Wilberforce was nothing like the tall and glorious Ioan Gruffudd, who plays him in the film. "Why make him handsome and heroic? It is always the issue when you spend $30-million on a film," Apted explains crossly. "Besides, I wanted the heroic side of politics."

A resident of California since doing Coal Miner's Daughter in 1980, he calls the current political scene "pretty bleak." Politics in Wilberforce's time was corrupt, too, he says. "But they were people were trying to create a better society, working for child-labour laws and abolition." Many of those great reformers were Christians. "What I find so nauseating is people today don't try to negotiate between the religious and the secular," says Apted. "Wilberforce knew that you could not get anywhere unless you got down off your moral high horse." Living in America, Apted resists the religious tide. But his brother back in England, a policeman for 30 years, is now a priest and, says Apted, is "dying to see the film." Apted began his career in the 1960s, working on English TV docs such as the Up series, which has checked in on a group of English people every seven years from grade school to last fall's 49 Up. He's also tried his hand at drama and escapism. He even did a James Bond flick (The World Is Not Enough). From 007 to Seven Up -- what do they have in common? Apted suggests all his work has a documentary element, even Bond: "Some of us thought the setting, the Azerbaijan oil fields, was more interesting than the other stuff going on."

His work also betrays a deeply English fascination with class. Where most people might attribute the surprising popularity of the TV series Rome, for which Apted directed three episodes, to its delicious wickedness, Apted says, "I thought the element of class structure was handled well." Which raises again the odd absence of slaves from his anti-slavery film. "What I did not want to do was, as you suggest, have token blacks all the way through! To have black people making cameos would have been insulting. Also, I only had $25-million to spend, so I didn't want to do some cheapo job on the plantations. "I'm not saying it was the right decision," he says more quietly. "But it's not one I regret."

Kimberly Elise: The Pride Interview With Kam Williams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Kam Williams

(March 22, 2007) *Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 17, 1967,
Kimberly Elise Trammel studied acting at the University of Minnesota, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in communications before continuing her studies at the American Film Institute. Though she made her screen debut in 1996 in Set It Off, Kimberly first caught the public’s eye with her work in Beloved. Subsequent appearances in films like Bait and John Q served to establish her name further until her breakout role arrived as the abuse victim in the center of Woman, Thou Art Loosed. Since that unforgettable performance, the attractive actress has appeared on the big screen in the Manchurian Candidate and Diary of a Mad Black Woman. On TV, she stars on the CBS crime drama Close to Home, where she plays prosecutor Maureen Scofield. Here’s she talks about her latest feature film, Pride, where she appears opposite Terrence Howard as Sue Davis. The inspirational bio-pic recounts the efforts of real-life role model Jim Ellis to found an African-American swimming team in a disadvantaged Philly neighbourhood back in the Seventies.

KAM WILLIAMS: How would you describe your character’s motivation in this movie?

KIMBERLY ELISE: My character, Sue, is a councilwoman in the community, and also the older sister and guardian of one of the young swimmers. And my fight is for the community, also. I want great things to happen there, for it to turn around, so all the kids can get a good education, and come back and continue to build it up. I don’t really get the swimming thing, at first. I’m much more traditional, and believe in getting a good education to be able to go out into the world and make a difference. But I come around, eventually, and see the value in it. I become one of the team’s biggest supporters, and help take the team very far.

KW: What attracted you to this project?

KE: I think it’s always nice to have a film where the underdog comes out on top, doing their best, and surpasses everybody’s expectations. Especially when it has characters you really care about, individuals you get to know and want good things to happen for. And when they do happen, you leave the theatre feeling good, and thinking about those people you met and what happened to them. And to know that Jim Ellis is a real coach and that this stuff really happened, makes those feelings even stronger.

KW: What did you think of Sue’s relationship with Jim?

KE: At first, I don’t really get what he’s doing. I don’t completely trust him. So, I’m really protective of these kids, especially my brother, and our community. And I don’t want the kids to be distracted by pipe dreams. I feel that if that’s what he’s bringing in, that’s not going to help them. That’s my initial opposition to him, but eventually I see he has a great heart, that he has great intentions, that he’s genuine, and that he’s the real deal. He can teach these kids to swim and to blow everybody’s mind.

To see full interview by Kam Williams, go

Virginia Madsen Is The New Face Of Middle-Aged Achievement

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(Mar. 22, 2007) In the years before landing her Oscar-nominated role in the sleeper hit Sideways,
Virginia Madsen was on the brink of anonymity -- not a good thing for a middle-aged Hollywood actor. But rather than cry the blues, hit the clubs or shave her head, Madsen -- a single mother of 12-year-old son, Jack -- decided she had to give herself a mental overhaul. Her strategy was simple. Rather than admit defeat she would start preparing for eventual success. "I knew I had a lot to do personally before I could attain success," says Madsen, a straight talker with a gusty laugh. "So I made a really conscious choice, actually many choices, to get myself out of the rut of being unsuccessful. "I took a personal inventory of my own life. I looked at myself as a corporation and tried to figure out who needed to be fired. To assess what was going wrong with the company." Her salvation, she says with a laugh now, rests in her son, Pilates, yoga, a decent diet, a 77-year-old trainer named Joe, rock-solid support of her family (her brother is actor Michael Madsen) and an unwavering faith (the word is tattooed on her ankle) that she would somehow come out at the top of Hollywood's food chain. And be ready for it.

In Toronto to help launch More Magazine, a new addition to Canadian newsstands that celebrates women over 40, Madsen says she's lent her face to the cover of the magazine because it delves into meatier articles on issues that matter to thinking, mature women. "It's more interesting to me to read a magazine like this, it's more inspiring, because it reflects my lifestyle," she says. "I frankly don't care what chick hates the other chick, and which chick is in rehab." At 45, Madsen is beautiful, and hardly done up. Her long blond curls are now a strawberry blond, and straight. She wears no jewellery. Not a ring, a watch or an earring, and only a smidge of lipstick. She is curled like a cat in a sofa at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, wearing dark jeans, a simple black sweater and closed-toe black stiletto heels. All class and refreshingly brass, the Chicago-born actress (her dad Cal was a firefighter and mom, Elaine, a film producer and poet) is not at all afraid to talk about what's wrong with the young women -- like the Britneys and Anna Nicole Smith -- whom the world seems to get a kick out of watching implode. "Everyone just wants to make fun of them, and that's what I find really sad," says Madsen. "The shaming of them.

"I know some of them set themselves up, by doing things like exposing themselves [the no-underwear episodes], which is just bizarre to me. But that's addiction. That's a drug-addict behaviour and the so-called magical thinking. "Their decline is so difficult to watch because . . . these are young women who are falling apart in bits and pieces right in front of us. And everyone's going, ha, ha. And I'm like, hey man, these are really young girls, now stop that." Madsen, who home-schools her son after despairing of the public-school system in the United States, points a finger at the seeming lack of role models in these young women's lives. "I don't know why anyone was surprised when Anna Nicole died. They have no adults in the room. There's no role models. There's no adult decision-making, and when children have no boundaries that's when accidents happen. This is what's not really being talked about -- the nature of addiction and the lack of parental guidance." Then she breaks off, and laughs at the fact she just delivered a sermon. "And that's my opinion. Next week's discussion will be . . . God, that was so preachy. But I just get so aggravated by it all." Before her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations three years ago for her turn as Maya in Sideways, Madsen says she was lucky to be working once a year. After the breakout success of the little road-trip film through California wine country, her life flipped on its ear.

The first thing she did was sit her son (his father is actor Antonio Sabato Jr.) down for a wee chat. "I had a long talk with him because I knew I was going to work a lot. And he was never used to me working," says Madsen, who was married in the late eighties to Danny Huston (son of the famous director, John) "At the time, he was only 9, but he'd seen me struggle in lots of ways. So I told him, you know I'm going to be travelling a lot? And he was like, 'Yes mom, I'm so proud of you.' And that meant a lot." When Jack was small, Madsen moved to what she describes as an Edward Scissorhands-esque suburban neighbourhood, Thousand Oaks, about 50 miles outside Hollywood. She did it for the schools (turned out to be a flop) and so that her son could be within walking distance of her ex, but still good friend, Sabato. "I actually almost bought the house across the street, but then I thought, I don't know if his girlfriend -- who is really cool -- would really like that," chuckles Madsen, who just finished five weeks of press for two films, The Number 23 (with Jim Carrey) and The Astronaut Farmer (with Billy Bob Thornton).

Her next project? A comedy with Matthew Broderick that begins shooting soon in New York and Chicago. These days, Madsen is in a comfortable place. "I don't really think I became a grown-up, in the best sense of the word, until I was 40. Women, especially, don't have to be labelled by a number any more. Forty is when you come of age. Not when you're 22. There's just a lot you need to do in your 20s and 30s before you get there. "There was a wonderful year with Sideways and Desperate Housewives. They made it chic to be 40 -- and cool," she says with a sly smile, riding the stiletto up over another tattoo -- a blue rose. And one she regrets. Faith she likes.

The Action Movie As Political Primer

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Jason Anderson

(Mar. 25, 2007) Hollywood stars have an unfortunate habit of following up Oscar-nominated performances with roles in forgettable multiplex fillers. So while it might seem that
Mark Wahlberg is pulling a Norbit or a Catwoman by going from The Departed to this weekend's Shooter, the 35-year-old actor has instead made another in a series of smart career moves that includes executive-producing the HBO hit Entourage (based on his own days of carousing) and establishing a canny balance between commercial choices and more personal ones. Shooter qualifies as both. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), the film stars the former rapper and Calvin Klein underwear model as Bob Lee Swagger, a Marine Corps marksman who's framed by shadowy government operatives in an attempt on the President's life. The movie may have the blustery trappings of a typical action flick but it boasts a politically subversive streak -- between the big explosions come references to Abu Ghraib prison abuses and missing WMDs. In an interview in Toronto last week, Wahlberg says he pushed to do the script over another project he'd planned with Fuqua. "The Shooter script had been kicking around for quite some time," says Wahlberg, looking comfortable in a well-pressed black suit. "I read it and I said, 'Guys, I really like the movie we're gonna make, but why aren't we making this one?' They read it again and agreed. It had a lot to say and it was extremely entertaining. It's one of my prouder moments."

Again, that might sound strange from a guy who just worked with Martin Scorsese. But he knows Shooter is unique: It's an action movie with a brain. "I'm definitely attracted to that kind of film but they don't really make them that often," he says. "So you just sift through the stuff they're willing to make, which is usually not that good and not that interesting." In one scene, his character Swagger explains that he was deceived because his higher-ups knew they could press his "patriot button." The line reflects the suspicion felt by many Americans -- and one that's startling to hear stated in a mainstream studio movie -- that their government has abused their willingness to defend their country and its values. Wahlberg agrees that it's a key to his character. "Like myself, you certainly want to believe we're out there doing the right thing," he says. "Unfortunately, it's not always what it seems." He admits Shooter has a not-so-hidden agenda. "It's great because young people are going to want to come and see me kick ass like in other movies that I've done," he says. "But it's also going to raise some questions for them and they're not stupid. The people who are still oblivious, whatever you can do to wake them up and shine a light is great. The election's coming up again and it's been seven long years." Changing what could have been a rote action movie into something more relevant to life outside the multiplex speaks to the care and savvy with which Wahlberg has conducted his career in recent years. After his breakthrough performances in The Basketball Diaries and Boogie Nights, it looked as if he was taking the easy route to the A-list. Yet he soon found that the safe choices weren't so satisfying. "After Planet of the Apes and The Truth About Charlie, I was a little down," Wahlberg says. "The kinds of things that were coming my way were not the kinds of movies I like to see. I was feeling like, 'Well, it's a business and I get it -- I'll make a couple more, then I'll find other things that I'm interested in doing.' But I waited a little while and then good things started coming my way. Now I have this charged passion -- I feel like I've got a couple more cracks at doing something good."

He's used his pull to do things like co-produce a forthcoming movie by his friend James Gray, who directed The Yards, a little-seen 2000 drama that features one of Wahlberg's strongest performances. His cachet also got a major boost when Entourage -- which initially smacked of movie-star self-indulgence -- became one of TV's coolest properties. "Talk about being in the zone," Wahlberg says of the team behind the show, which starts its fourth season in April. "They've hit their stride." Even so, his lifestyle now is not much like the one enjoyed by Vincent Chase, his Entourage alter ego. "My life is drastically different now," says Wahlberg. "It's boring! But it's perfect for me -- I got out at the right time. I've got two beautiful children and a beautiful personal life that the paparazzi don't try to invade." However -- as he adds with a touch of the bad-boy attitude that was his forte -- "the set [of Entourage] is as fun as it looks. People always say, 'Oh, the movie business is so glamorous.' No, I'm always in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of guys trying to kick my ass. These guys are in Hollywood with all the hottest women in the world having all the fun that it looks like."


HBO To Explore Life Of Bluesman Robert Johnson

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 22, 2007) *HBO Films has tapped “Ray” screenwriter James L. White to pen the screenplay for a movie that will detail the life of blues legend
Robert Johnson. The as-yet-untitled film will explore Johnson’s life as seen through the eyes of his son Claud, reports Variety. Raised by his religious grandfather, Claud Johnson was taught that his father’s music came from the devil. For years, he fought court battles to be acknowledged as the musician's son.  Claud Johnson will serve as a consultant on the HBO film. Sources tell the trade that the project will have a structure similar to "Citizen Kane," depicting the life and times of the musician through his eyes and those of others.  HBO Films hasn't yet decided whether it would release the Johnson movie theatrically or on the pay network.  Born in Mississippi, Robert Johnson was known as King of the Delta Blues for his innovative guitar playing and vocal phrasing. He died in 1938 at the age of 27 and has been posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and recognized as the grandfather of many musical genres.

Van Peebles In ‘Sarcasms’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 22, 2007) *
Mario Van Peebles joins Timothy Hutton, Mira Sorvino, Dana Delany and Stockard Channing in the ensemble drama "Multiple Sarcasms," set in 1979 New York City. The story follows a man stumbling through a series of midlife missteps and deciding to write a play based on his relationships with the women in his life. Just as the play becomes wildly successful, his real life collapses. The $2.5 million film is financed by Seattle-area investors and directed by Brooks Branch. Shooting will take place in New York.

Paula Patton: Big Pimping

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Mar. 23, 2007) Is
Paula Patton ready for the pimp game? No one knows for sure, but the breakout beauty -- one of the best things that came out of last summer's box office clunker 'Idlewild,' -- will surely have her work cut out for her in the new urban drama 'This Wednesday.' She's set to star as female pimp in the Christine Crokos-helmed vehicle, inspired by the true story of a female pimp in Atlanta. "Wednesday" will be expanded from Crokos' 2001 short 'Heroine Helen,' about the same character. Patton, also known for the lead role opposite Denzel Washington in 'déjà vu,' will portray the titled character Wednesday, the "trick baby" of a pimp father and hooker mother. With her best friend's support, she struggles to survive on the harsh streets of Philadelphia. Shooting is expected to begin late this year in Philadelphia, and Patton's husband, rising blue-eyed neo soul singer Robin Thicke, is reportedly in negotiations to score the film. According to 'The Hollywood Reporter,' the film will be produced by Lauren Lloyd through her company Lloyd Entertainment. Lloyd's previous producing credits include 'Cellular and 'Mermaids.'

Mike Epps: Ready To Join The Ranks

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Mar. 23, 2007) Wondering what
Mike Epps has been up to? The beloved comedic actor is readying a spot to join the ranks of Hollywood's leading men. The 36-year-old Gary, Indiana native, who cracked us up in the sleeper hit 'Next Friday' and 'All About the Benjamins' is gearing up three major releases this year. Epps will star opposite Don Cheadle in his dramatic debut, Focus Features' 'Talk To Me,' which is due out in theatres June 20. The Kasi Lemmons-directed drama is a biopic based on the life of radio pioneer Ralph "Petey" Greene. In Sept., Epps will be seen in 'Resident Evil: Extinction,' the third horror/action film in the wildly successful Resident Evil trilogy. And keeping up his comedic chops, he'll co-star with Martin Lawrence in 'The Better Man,' -- described as a feel-good comedy about a performer's from Los Angeles to reunite with his family in the Deep South. Epps will also appear in 'The Grand,' an improvisational comedy centered around a handful of actors involved in an actual poker tournament. Woody Harrelson, Dennis Farina and Cheryl Hines also appear.

Shooter Director Started With Music Videos

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(March 23, 2007) NEW YORK–Since
Antoine Fuqua's first hit music video over a decade ago, the director has been hard to pin down. When all that was known about Fuqua was his name, some imagined someone else entirely. "All of a sudden, there was this hot new French director," Fuqua, who directs Shooter, which opens today, remembers with a smile. "You should have seen their faces when I walked in the door." He hails far from Paris: the hard neighbourhoods of Pittsburgh. After an early career shooting music videos for Prince, Coolio and Usher among others, Fuqua made his first feature, the 1998 Chow Yun-Fat action movie Replacement Killers. Since breaking through in 2001 with Training Day, which won Denzel Washington an Oscar, he's been reluctant to be pigeonholed by urban dramas. He made the Bruce Willis action film Tears of the Sun, the demystified take on the Knights of the Round Table in King Arthur, which starred Clive Owen; and directed the Martin Scorsese-produced blues documentary Lightning in a Bottle. "In the process of making movies, I think that's my statement: colour doesn't matter when it comes to storytelling," says the 41-year-old black filmmaker. "When I first started directing features, I got a lot of urban stuff thrown at me. And I just didn't want to do it, for better or worse. I just kind of felt, `Well, why do I have to do that?' My contribution to the industry, I want it to be more than that." For his next project, Fuqua is in the early stages of planning a much-anticipated biopic on Notorious B.I.G.

50 Cent To Star In New Drag-Racing Film

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 23, 2007) *Rapper
50 Cent will follow up his acting debut in Universal’s “Get Rich or Die Trying” with a heist film set in the world of underground clubs and illegal car racing. “Live Bet,” also from Universal Pictures, will be directed by filmmaker Alejandro Lozano and produced by two of Mexico's up-and-coming producers, Billy and Fernando Rovzar, founders of Lemon Films. "It was important to bring together the whole team," Billy Rovzar said. "It's amazing that a studio like Universal is betting on Mexican talent. We were blown away and flattered, but we know we will deliver.” Lozano is currently rewriting the script “to give the characters more soul," Lozano told Daily Variety. "I didn't want to make a film that just stayed an action film."  The original script was set in New York. The rewrite adds several locations, including Las Vegas and Philadelphia. Universal hopes to begin shooting by late summer.

O.G. Crip Monster Kody To Narrate Biopic

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 23, 2007) *Sanyika Shakur, born 43 years ago as
Kody Scott, will tell the story of his life as an Eight Trey Gangster Crip in a new biopic entitled, “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.” Shakur, also known as Monster, will be portrayed in the film by Bay Area rapper Saafir, while former Death Row artist Lady of Rage will play his mother. Audio clips of Shakur interviews throughout the years will serve as the film’s narration.  Gang member-turned-filmmaker Billy Wright will direct the picture, which began production on March 20 in Los Angeles. "In the realm of hip hop culture, Kody is an iconic figure," says Wright. "He is the ‘American Gangster’ of our generation. As a personal friend of Kody's, this is a project we envisioned years ago.  I owe it to him to not only complete it but to continue to give him a voice.   Earlier this month, Shakur was arrested in Los Angeles after appearing on the LAPD’s and FBI’s list of "Top 10 Most Wanted Gang Members." After an anonymous tip, police caught up with him on March 7 and took him into custody for allegedly breaking into a man's home in December and beating him in order to steal his car.  The former gangster is also the best-selling author of “Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member,” which was written while he was serving time in prison.


Todd Bridges: Feeling The ‘Hate’

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

(March 26, 2007)  *One of TV’s favourite stars is returning to the small screen.
Todd Bridges, of “Diff’rent Strokes” fame is guest starring tonight on Chris Rock's CW Network hit show “Everybody Hates Chris” and bringing the rather quirky corner store merchant and war veteran Monk to the cast.   “Monk’s character is kind of crazy. He’s a little bit touched and goes in and out of delusions,” Bridges said of the role that he created. “I decided to go completely all the way with the character. In any given time he’ll go from one mood to the next. In one minute, I could be fine and then you say a trigger word and I go into my Vietnam days where everybody’s going to get it.”  The actor and comedian said that his recurring character’s unpredictable behaviour, doesn’t throw off the show’s storylines or the other actors, though. He chalks that up to the talent and professionalism of the cast and crew.

“[They’re] the best to work with. They’re all very, very happy and extraordinary actors and actresses,” he said, naming Tichina Arnold, who plays Chris’ mom and young actor Tyler James, who plays Chris. “Everybody’s brilliant. You work on some shows and you can’t wait to get home, but you work and this show and you’re having such a good time you love it and you want to stay and work extra. Everybody’s so good, so talented and so nice.”  The crew loves Todd, too. Even though he modestly recalled that he didn’t think he would get the gig on the show, the producers and show creator/executive producer/narrator Chris Rock loved him.  “I didn’t think I was going to get it. I’ve never been on a black show in my life. I’ve never gotten called for any of ‘em,” he said. “I think Chris Rock and the producers liked me. They saw that I could do what needed to be done.”  Bridges is guesting on tonight’s episode – “Everybody Hates Baseball.” In the episode Chris is torn when he has to choose between going to a baseball game with his father and going to the movies with Tasha.  “Because Monk was abandoned at an early age, he wants Chris to go to the baseball game with his father because his dad [invited] him and that’s a good thing.” Bridges expanded.

The episode, one of seven that Bridges guest stars in, airs tonight, March 26, on the CW at 8/7c, and also guest stars another TV veteran Jackee Harry. And in the meantime, the actor, motivator, and father of two continues to work on industry projects.  “Some things just keep getting better,” he told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “I’m working like crazy. I’ve been doing my own stuff, too, but I’ve been working on a lot of shows.”  Bridges said that he is ultimately hoping to get his own show for a full-time return to television “We’re working on a show right now and we’re getting pretty close,” he said.  He is also set to release a movie called “Big Balling” and he’s working on a book about his life, chronicling his story of fame, his fall, his fight with drugs and alcohol, and his comeback.  “I still do a lot of speaking engagements to help people realize what they should be doing and what they shouldn’t be doing – trying to help people get off drugs and alcohol,” he added.  Bridges is now 14 years sober and said that the key to his success has been realizing the God has a plan for him and going to support meetings. In addition, he said that staying busy working has also helped – something he’s clearly doing.  “It was difficult in the beginning,” he explained. “Now I just work and do what I gotta do to stay sober. I don’t fool around with it. I never want to do that again.”  “Everybody Hates Chris” airs Mondays, 8/7c on the CW. For more on the show, visit www.cwtv.com.

Idol Torn Apart By The Sanjaya Schism

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vinay Menon

(March 27, 2007) Okay, it was funny at first. Really. But now that
Sanjaya Malakar has infiltrated the Top 10 on American Idol (Fox, CTV, 8 tonight), the only smiling face in my house belongs to one Captain Morgan. Come to think of it, if Sanjaya donned a fake moustache and red pirate's hat, he would be a dead ringer for the rum mascot. Especially during last week's "performance" of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me."  American Idol always finds new ways to divide viewers. This season, it's those who admire the vaguely feral Sanjaya (The Fanjayas) versus those who do not (The Humans With Hearing). The Fanjayas have created websites, launched voting campaigns and made the pilgrimage to all relevant message boards to heap spelling-challenged praise on their grinning messiah: "Sanjaya is so dreemie!" Included in their ranks is 13-year-old Ashley Ferl, who attended last week's show and bawled as Sanjaya burbled. Those were tears of joy. Different from the salty streams that soaked my cheeks when Sanjaya attempted to belt out the chillingly suitable lyric, "YOU GOT ME SO I CAN'T SLEEP AT NIGHT!"

He's in the Top 10? So he'll be on tour this summer? Wow. Organizers might consider renting a second bus. You know, so they can transport Sanjaya's giant comb, eyebrow whacker and vats of teeth whitener. Just how bad is Sanjaya? Put it this way: I would rather watch Scott Savol sing Henry Mancini in drag. I would rather pay to see Chicken Little in the mosh pit with Limp Bizkit. I would rather listen to a buzzard regurgitate its prey as William Hung vogues in the background. (Warning: hackneyed segue just ahead.) Speaking of food, one Idol viewer is so feverishly distraught by the warbling spectre that is Sanjaya Malakar, she's decided to take drastic action. "Until the day that Sanjaya is no longer on American Idol, I will be going on a hunger strike," wrote "J" on her MySpace page 11 days ago. "This means I will refuse to eat anything until American Idol voters wise up, and stop voting Sanjaya through each week." Do you know what this means? If Sanjaya continues to defy all laws of the universe and – gulp – wins this thing, we could have our first* Idol-related fatality! (*Does not include the inevitable rash of suicides.) Okay, so there are The Fanjayas and The Humans With Hearing. But included in this latter group is an offshoot known as The Mischievous Haters, a subversive sect that's determined to sabotage Idol by throwing its support behind the least talented.

The website VoteForTheWorst.com is encouraging its followers to cast proverbial ballots for Sanjaya. Shock jock Howard Stern has begged his listeners to do the same. Will it work? We'll find out tomorrow night. Or next week. Or ... let's not go there. Other theories relating to Sanjaya's rise and rise include his popularity with tween girls, his popularity on the East Coast, his popularity with older women, his popularity with the unpopular, and his popularity with Indians, since he's the first Idol finalist with desi blood (50 per cent). Some commentators, including Stern, have speculated that Sanjaya is also getting thousands of votes from the subcontinent, possibly in blocks from call centres. What? Or to use the Hindi, Kya?  Leaving aside the obvious – time zone differences, exorbitant long-distance charges, tinge of racism – this theory smells suspiciously like a grassy knoll in Bombay.

The important thing, I guess, is that Sanjaya isn't prone to hyperbole. "Being able to have Diana Ross mentor you is like having Van Gogh teach you how to paint," he said two weeks ago. Dude, if Vincent Van Gogh was in the same area code as you he would cut off his other ear. Seconds later, Sanjaya bounced around in his Baby Gap wardrobe and hairdo that screamed recent electrocution, butchering his way through Ross's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." There sure ain't. Because if there was, I would be climbing up that mountain right now with a backpack full of earplugs. Noted Randy: "That song was almost unlistenable to me."  You know it's bad when Randy uses a word that sounds made up but isn't. True, Sanjaya is only 17 years old. And, yes, he does seem like a sweet enough kid. So a part of me feels just terrible about today's dispatch. But then another part puts that first part in a headlock and forces it to listen to Sanjaya's rendition of "Steppin' Out With My Baby." Stop smiling, Captain Morgan. Just pour me another drink.  This is getting serious.


Corrine Bailey Rae: Coming To A Small Screen Near You

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Mar. 27, 2007) On April 3, British soul singer
Corrine Bailey Rae will release her very first long form DVD. Entitled 'Live in London & New York,' the disc includes Bailey Rae's Live At St. Luke's performance, which was shot in London for the BBC, and four promotional videos plus a bonus CD capturing her sold-out performance at New York's Webster Hall last fall. This week, Bailey Rae's video for 'Trouble Sleeping' had its world premiere on VH1 Soul -- the channel responsible for breaking her last year -- and is currently in a "Soul Spotlight" rotation.  The video for 'Trouble Sleeping' will be included on the DVD as are the videos for 'Put Your Records On' and 'Like A Star' -- the first two singles from her self-titled debut album, which has sold three million copies worldwide and is certified platinum in the states.  The recent NAACP Image Award winner (for "Outstanding New Artist") will embark on a North American tour with platinum selling neo-soul music wunderking John Legend this spring.


Please Don't Feed The Cast

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo, Toronto Star

(March 22, 2007) Leave the toast and the confetti at home, but do bring your feather boa, dahling. That's the best advice if you're heading to the CanStage production of
The Rocky Horror Show, which begins tomorrow with a special midnight preview at the Bluma Appel Theatre, including a live DJ and costume prizes awarded by celebrity judges. A week later, on March 30, the Bloor Cinema will host one of its regular midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where Excited Mental State, a "shadow" cast of Rocky Horror fanatics, will act out the roles onstage. With two related shows in town, it's easy to get confused, so we've laid out appropriate etiquette for attending CanStage's more "civilized" theatrical version. While fans are known to dress up, shout and throw things at the screen during showings of the 1975 cult hit movie, there's a different set of rules of audience interaction when it comes to stage performance.

Rule No. 1: Don't throw anything at the stage. As TimeWarp, the official U.K. Rocky Horror fan club, explains on its website, "It's very bad etiquette to throw anything onstage, not to mention dangerous for the actors." In fact, CanStage bans throwing in general inside the theatre, including from the balcony.

No Food: Although foodstuffs have long been among cherished RHPS props, particularly rice for hurling during the wedding scene and dry toast to lob when Frank-N-Furter proposes his toast "to absent friends," CanStage forbids any food in the theatre.

Other No-Nos: Strictly on the forbidden list are confetti (see wedding scene, above); water guns (at the movie, these are used to simulate rain during the storm scene); cards (hurled when Frank-N-Furter sings the lyric "Cards for sorrow, cards for pain"); and toilet paper rolls (thrown when the character Dr. Scott makes his first appearance).

Bring These Instead: CanStage does encourage newspapers (to keep your head "dry" during the rainstorm); rubber gloves (to be snapped like Frank-N-Furter's during the creation scene); noisemakers (to join onstage party guests in applauding Frank's creation); bells (to be rung when Frank sings the lyric "Did you hear a bell ring?").

Dress Up: You're encouraged to put on your feather boas, fishnet stockings, garters, corsets and high heels. If that's a little too risqué, you could always dress as a Transylvanian: black pants, black jacket, any brightly coloured shirt, a bowtie and party hat would do the trick.

Do the Time Warp: It's just a jump to the left, then a step to the right ... well, you'll see. But CanStage asks that you not do the dance onstage, on your seat or blocking anyone else's view. Boo hoo.

Shout Out: Yes, you're allowed to yell things at the actors, although the U.K.'s TimeWarp recommends not shouting during songs or the final death scenes. CanStage asks that you not "shush" people talking back to the performers: "Join in!"

Happy To Be Back In `Real World Of Theatre'

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

(March 22, 2007) The Senate's loss was our gain. Their mandatory retirement age of 75 forced stage legend
Viola Léger to give up her seat in the chamber of "sober second thought" in 2005, but she sprang right back into dramatic life again and has been acting up a storm ever since. "I'm glad I went through it," says Léger of her four-year senatorial stint, "but I'm also glad it's over and I could return to the real world of the theatre." She opens tomorrow night for Théâtre Français de Toronto at the Berkeley St. Theatre in Grace & Gloria, a play whose origins are every bit as varied and interesting as those of Léger herself. The comedy-drama by Tom Ziegler opened off-Broadway in 1996 starring Estelle Parsons and Lucie Arnaz and made into a 1998 TV movie with Gena Rowlands and Diane Lane.

It tells of troubled career-woman Gloria who moves to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to serve as a caregiver to feisty 90-year-Grace, who is nearing her final days. The New York Times called it "a sentimental crowd-pleaser," and it seems like an odd choice for Michel Tremblay to translate or the intense Acadian Léger to appear in. But the suggestion that it's a "sweet" play brings a vehement denial from Léger. "For me, it's far from being sweet. It's a tough play for the two actresses who are doing it. We're in front of life and death, both of us. And we're each struggling to live in our own way. "Sure, there's a danger of making it sweet and sentimental. I think sometimes people are ill at ease in front of old age. They kneel down to it and talk softly. They don't realize that we have a tough fight to do."

The 76-year-old Léger is a walking illustration for the vitality of our older citizens, but she takes issue at the way her peers are thought of today. "Years ago, it was an honour to have older people beside you. It meant wisdom, respect. Today, we talk about Alzheimer's and degeneration. We're going to have to rediscover the value of age." Léger is renowned as one of the greatest actors in francophone theatre in this country, but she came to her performing career relatively late in life. Born in 1930, she trained initially as a theatre educator in Moncton and Boston, then spent many years as a drama teacher in New Brunswick before going to Paris to study further with the famous Jacques Lecoq. She returned to Canada in 1971 to be greeted by her long-time friend, Antonine Maillet, who wanted her to bring to life her series of monologues about an Acadian charwoman named La Sagouine. Over the next 35 years, Léger was to play the part more than 1,500 times, earning international acclaim. "The character does not change over the years and the words do not change," she notes sagely. "I am only an interpreter, but I change and so the production does as well."

"Some things that were on the front seat when I began doing the show have moved to the back and some other more interesting things have climbed up to the front. That's just how it is." She added Grace & Gloria to her repertoire in 1999, in an award-winning Montreal run and then, one day in 2001, she received a startling phone call. "It was the Bureau de Nomination," she recalls, "and they said the Prime Minister wanted to name me a senator." "I looked at the phone, giggled and said, `Wrong number.'" But they persisted, and Léger finally accepted the office. "I realized that I could represent the artists, the minorities, all those people who had no voice." She reflects on her four years in Ottawa with mixed feelings. "I learned how big this country is, how complex it is and politics can be interesting, but it's not theatre. Oh yes, the other senators would say to me, `We're actors, too,' and I'd say, `Yes, you are – very bad actors.' That fake part of politics was the big struggle for me." Léger was thrilled to return to theatre when her time was done because "theatre is unique, it is for the moment, it is two people talking to each other and how come it is still all going on is a mystery to me. "But it's not my job to understand it, just to keep doing it as long as I can."

Hot Musical Lands In T.O.'s Lap, So Why Haven't We Said Yes Yet?

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

(March 26, 2007) The biggest hit on Broadway is coming to Toronto – the only questions are where and when. The Star has learned that Aubrey Dan and his Dancap Productions have snared the rights to
Jersey Boys, the 2006 Tony Award winner for Best Musical. The show's director, Scarborough native Des McAnuff, made it official in an interview yesterday. "Sergio Trujillo (the show's choreographer, also from Toronto) and I are looking forward to our mutual homecoming, bringing this incredible show back to our city." McAnuff had come to town to check out the Main Stage Theatre of the Toronto Centre for the Arts as a possible venue for the show and pronounced it "such a beautiful theatre. It's big, but it has a certain intimacy to it as well. Jersey Boys would work very, very well there." And to that end, Dan has offered the Toronto Centre for the Arts in North York a guaranteed six-month minimum rental offer for the Main Stage, starting in July 2008. But at a meeting Friday, the centre's board deferred a decision until its May 15 session to give it time to prepare a "risk assessment report" to determine whether to accept the Dancap proposal. It's hard to see what's so risky about the proposition.

Unlike The Producers, which was solid in Manhattan, but wobbled on the road, Jersey Boys is demonstrating that it's not only gold in Gotham (where it hasn't had an empty seat since it opened in October 2005) but works just as well in the hinterlands. The story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, the hit pop group from the 1960s and '70s, known for songs like "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Sherry" and "Walk Like a Man," has proved dynamite with blue-collar audiences as well as more traditional theatregoers. The San Francisco run is playing to virtual capacity after four months and the Chicago engagement, which doesn't even start until October, has already sold out for the first 12 weeks. Dan is offering a rental fee to the centre of $720,000 for six months and that doesn't even begin to factor in the benefits such a run would bring to restaurants and merchants in the area. This would all come as welcome news to the City of Toronto, which has poured millions of dollars into the centre over the years, trying to keep it solvent, with its current annual contribution running to $1.3 million. (The Toronto Centre for the Arts was opened as the Ford Theatre by Garth Drabinsky and Livent in 1993, where it was the home of megamusicals like Show Boat, Ragtime, Sunset Boulevard and Fosse. But when Livent went bankrupt in 1998, the city was left holding a very large bag.) While the centre's two smaller theatres – the Studio and the Recital Hall – are frequently used, the 1,730-seat Main Stage remains problematic. Centre executive manager Stan Shortt said last year that the Main Stage was used "about 135 nights a year," but the centre's website currently shows only eight events scheduled there between now and the fall.

(Shortt did not reply to our request for an interview.) With rare exceptions, most recent uses of the Main Stage have been one-night events, usually put on by various ethnic communities. "I'm not anxious to dispossess those clients," insists Dan, "and I'm willing to offer them the theatre on Monday nights and during the days when we're not using the theatre." McAnuff is surprised at the relative non-use of the theatre since the demise of Livent. "Theatres like this don't grow on trees. It's important to take care of them. It's a shame to see taxpayers bailing out a theatre that's dark close to 250 nights a years, when it could be bringing in revenue with a guaranteed hit like this. "This space was a great destination for theatre once," said McAnuff, "and it ought to be once again. There's plenty of space in the facility to serve the community well. I just think everybody has to figure out how to work things out. Aubrey Dan has a real vision and passion for the theatre and I hope people help him get what he needs to make it all come true." Although Dan still sees July 2008 and the centre as the ideal time and place to produce Jersey Boys in Toronto, he won't be stopped if the board rejects his offer.  He's prepared to go to the Elgin in January 2009, if necessary. McAnuff is happy no matter where or when it happens. "I'm just very much looking forward to doing Jersey Boys in Toronto."


Tarragon Trumpets 2007-08 Season

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Kamal Al-Solaylee

(Mar. 22, 2007) The stage is set for stories of "generosity, revenge, guilt, parenthood, grief, politics and forgiveness" in the 2007-08
Tarragon Theatre season, announced yesterday. Launching the Toronto theatre company's season in September is Benevolence, a world premiere from Morris Panych, the prolific Vancouver playwright and director whose recent Tarragon credits include The Dishwashers and Earshot. Making a return to the Tarragon for the first time in more than a decade is the Halifax-based Daniel MacIvor, whose How It Works receives its Toronto premiere in November. Winnipeg playwright Maureen Hunter makes her Tarragon debut in January with Wild Mouth, a war drama set in the Prairies in 1917. Younger playwrights are also well represented in the new season. The world premiere of the fast-rising Hannah Moscovitch's East of Berlin begins at the Extra Space in October, while the North American debut of Brendan Gall's Alias Godot is slated for April. Greg Nelson's The Fall, a story about the double life of an activist judge, opens in March. The only non-Canadian entry in the line-up is Democracy, by the British playwright Michael Frayn. This award-winning drama from 2003 traces an East German spy's infiltration of the 1969 government of Willy Brandt, chancellor of West Germany. It opens in March. For more information, please visit http://www.tarragontheatre.com.


Moving Tribute To Dance Master

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Dance Writer

National Ballet of Canada mixed program
(out of 4)
Choreography by Eliot Feld, Jerome Robbins, Glen Tetley
Until Sunday at the Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W.
416 (or 1-866) 345-9595

(March 23, 2007) Like most elegiac works, Glen Tetley's
Voluntaries is both a celebration and a lament. He created the ballet in 1973 in tribute to John Cranko, following the Stuttgart Ballet artistic director's sudden death.  Originally the National Ballet of Canada programmed Voluntaries as a salute to Tetley on his 80th birthday. Sadly, but poignantly, Voluntaries is now a memorial to Tetley following his death on Jan. 26.  A large, bright pointillist orb hangs above the dancers, like the light of a genius that shines, and then grows cold and blue. Nehemiah Kish and Tanya Howard, as the lead couple, began crouched, she curved under him, until she slowly unfolded and stretched upward as he lifted her high like an offering to the gods.  Francis Poulenc's Concerto in G minor for Organ, Strings and Timpani fits the liturgical theme of Voluntaries. As the music begins to sound more and more like a dirge, six pairs of dancers surround the first couple. They swoop and soar, legs and arms extended to an extreme, almost like a cross. As performed on Wednesday, this profoundly moving dance expressed the ballet's indebtedness and love for Tetley, their artistic associate after the death of Erik Bruhn in 1986.

The tribute to Tetley follows another sublime piece, Jerome Robbins' Opus 19/The Dreamer, danced to the sensitive playing of solo violinist James Ehnes in Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major. Guillaume Côté was the Dreamer, and played him with a boyish wonder and vigorous leaps straight up in the air. His partner Xiao Nan Yu was the dreamer's spirit guide perhaps, ethereally leading him through another sphere. Robbins brought an American flair to this modern but classical music.  Had it come at the end instead of the beginning, Eliot Feld's A Footstep of Air, set to Beethoven's interpretations of Scottish and Irish songs, could've been comic relief. In goofy pastoral costumes, the men and women cavorted to airs such as "Sally in Our Alley." Bridgett Zehr was the very image of "The Mischief Woman" and Kish did his best to dignify the role of a shepherd using a long crook like a pole vaulter. Piotr Stanczyk got the spirit of the thing as a rollicking Scottish Charlie.


Leafs Blow By Hurricanes

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Kevin McGran, Sports Reporter

(March 28, 2007) The
Leafs had a comfortable lead heading into the third period and the out-of-town scoreboard was working in their favour, for a change. It was almost too much for coach Paul Maurice to take. "There's a whole superstition, you have to understand," said Maurice. "I walked out for the third period, and Florida was beating Tampa Bay, so I couldn't look at the scoreboard. That would be the death of Florida. "That, and given Friday night, (the blown 4-1 lead against Buffalo), we weren't joking around on the bench." But they were having fun on the ice, posting a laugher of a 6-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on a night where everything went their way.  Florida beat Tampa, Montreal beat the Rangers and the Devils beat the Islanders. That moved the Leafs into 10th spot, three points shy of the sixth-place Rangers.

That blown 4-1 lead in Buffalo three games ago is not so much haunting the Leafs' psyche as it is motivating the club. "I think Friday night's third period has us wanting to win so bad," said Maurice. "You want to win. You want to close the deal. Maybe, hopefully, the price that we paid that night will be the difference in the end. "We've come out and our last two third periods have been pretty good." The Leafs have now won three of their last four. Perhaps more importantly, they've reeled off six wins in a row at home. Earlier in the season it seemed like they couldn't win in the Air Canada Centre, now they can't lose. "There was no epiphany," said Maurice. "There was no great moment where we just took off. For whatever reason, you can almost feel it in the locker room going out there." "When you're playing good at home it makes you a more confident group," said Mats Sundin. The 19,559 fans in attendance showed their appreciation for a solid effort that saw all four lines and the defence contribute goals, chasing Cam Ward from the Carolina net.

"We came out real focused, real hard; we got physical, we got in there early, we finished our checks," said Chad Kilger, who got two goals, one on that blistering slapshot of his. "We're healthy, we haven't been healthy in a while. We got four solid lines and six solid D." Hal Gill made a 100-foot tape-to-tape pass to Yanic Perreault, who scored on a breakaway for his 500th career point. "Because they're so aggressive and have their D jumping in, you're going to get some outlet passes and some quick counters, and we did," said Maurice. "We countered very quickly off turnovers and off their attack." Boyd Devereaux scored 43 seconds into the contest, the quickest goal by a Leaf this season. Pavel Kubina and Alexei Ponikarovsky also scored. Eric Staal was the lone Hurricane to beat Andrew Raycroft. "Their top two lines were pretty powerful, so we needed (Mats) Sundin's line and (Matt) Stajan's line to play against them. If they cancelled each other out, the next two lines are going to decide the game for you and that's basically what happened," said Maurice. "Without being disrespectful, the bottom half of the line-up wins the game." If there was a down side for the Leafs, it was Kyle Wellwood. He didn't play the third period because his abdominal injury was acting up, but Maurice said it was more a precautionary move.

The Leafs have 14 goals in their last three games, none from Sundin. The captain has one goal in 13 games, remaining one shy of Darryl Sittler's club record (389) for most goals as a Leaf. Raycroft, meanwhile, made 26 saves for his 35th win, two shy of Ed Belfour's club record for single-season wins.

Doc, Burnett A Formidable Jays Duo

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Griffin

(March 28, 2007) DUNEDIN, Fla.–
Roy Halladay is only four or five years older than a lot of these Jays' minor-league guys who were gawking at him yesterday, but whenever he goes to the Englebert Complex to pitch for Syracuse it's like a god has descended in their midst.  For his final spring outing, the young prospects' beacon of hope came in from the majors to face a team of Devil Rays minor-leaguers all anxious to face the Cy guy and hit a line drive somewhere, showing their own bosses they deserve another look. Or at least they could call home and tell their folks. It didn't happen for too many of them, as the Doctor was in, pitching 6  2/3 shutout innings, allowing five hits, with a walk and eight strikeouts. He's ready.  Maybe the Halladay aura was enhanced by his perfect, white baseball pants in the midst of minor-league grey. Maybe it was Halladay's spiffy MLB-issued jersey with the blue trim under the arms, contrasted with the hand-me-down blacks of the 100 or so minor-league guys.

Such is his clout that when Doc secured the second out of the seventh inning on a strikeout and trotted off the field, indicating the inning was over ... it was over. Even the umpires played along. In fact, Halladay's spring is over, other than his usual throwing in the privacy of the Knology Park bullpen, lifting and running. "Anxious, more than anything," Halladay said of his emotions heading to the opener in Detroit. "There's a lot to do, just getting ready, starting the scouting. At least I'll be busy. If you're just sitting around doing nothing, it's definitely tougher, but, yeah, I'm anxious to get going." For the first time in Halladay's six years as the mound horse, he leaves camp
with A.J. Burnett, a healthy starting partner sharing the load of expectation in being a potential ace to lead the team to the post-season for the first time since 1993.  The former Marlin was signed to a huge contract prior to '06, armed with a repertoire of pitches just as electric as Halladay's, but cursed with a brain and body that sometimes get short-circuited. This year, he seems healthy, wealthy and ... well, in the words of Mr. Loaf, two out of three ain't bad.

"To have a couple of guys, especially him (Burnett) being healthy and throwing well, the way he's been throwing ... it's always nice going out to pitch knowing if you don't win that day, you've got a guy coming behind you that's pretty good," Halladay said. "That's very comforting. You always want to win on your day, but it's a nice feeling." Face it. It's been virtually impossible for one great starting pitcher to carry a team to a championship. It usually takes at least two. With Halladay and Burnett raring to go, if the dynamic Jays' duo can combine for 37-plus wins and if one other guy can step up ... The number 37 is the most wins in club history by a Jays tandem. That two-man win total was accomplished in the first World Series year, '92, by Jack Morris (21) and Juan Guzman (16). The next-best Jays pitching combo was Roger Clemens (20) and Pat Hentgen (16) in '97 and Halladay (22) and Kelvim Escobar (13) in '03.  When Halladay was asked earlier in the spring what pitching pair he most admired as an observer, during his own career, he named the Yankees' Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte from earlier in this decade. They combined for 38 wins in '03. Halladay has turned his attention northward to the Motor City. The early forecast for Monday is 11 C. He's not concerned. "Honestly, I think it's harder throwing in heat, conditioning-wise," Halladay said. "For me, it always seems easier to go to cold weather. "The hard part's when you go to Texas and it's 8,000 degrees. Going to colder weather is usually easier." Halladay is so focused, he doesn't notice the cold. If Burnett ever gets that way and stays healthy, these guys will challenge the club record for wins by two starters.


Jones Makes Mark At World Swimming

Source:  Daily News Wire Services, Associated Press

(Mar. 26, 2007) Michael Phelps wants to change the sport of swimming.
Cullen Jones might just beat him to it.  Jones, of Newark, N.J., became the rare black swimmer to claim a world championship, joining Phelps, Neil Walker and Jason Lezak on a U.S. team that just missed setting another world record while winning the 400-meter freestyle relay yesterday in Melbourne, Australia.  "Obviously, he's a role model to a lot of athletes," said Lezak, who has become something of a mentor to Jones, 23. "It's a tough job. He's got a whole community on his shoulders."  Said Jones: "It's definitely great to be one of the first African-Americans to win a world championship. For me, this is a great step."  At these worlds, Phelps plans to take part in the same eight events that he swam at the 2004 Athens Olympics, where he won six golds and two bronze medals.  This morning, he qualified second in the 200 free. The defending world champion put up a time of 1:47.52, just behind Dutch rival Pieter van den Hoogenband (1:47.36).  On the first night of swimming at the world championships, the Australians won the women's 400 freestyle relay when Jodie Henry rallied to overtake American Kara Lynn Joyce; South Korean Park Tae-hwan came from behind to knock off Aussie favourite Grant Hackett in the men's 400 free, and French world recordholder Laure Manaudou cruised to an easy win in the women's 400 free.

Pele Film

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 28, 2007) *Brazilian soccer legend
Pele has signed with the William Morris Agency in a move to help bring his life story to the big screen. The new deal also calls for WMA to help create global marketing and business opportunities for the three-time World Cup winner. "We look forward to helping him develop his already global brand throughout the entertainment and sports communities," said William Morris president Dave Wirtschafter. Pele was declared a national treasure by Brazil, and was once responsible for a 48-hour ceasefire during a civil war in Nigeria so that people could watch him play.


Sidney Poitier: Distinguished Gentleman

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Mar. 27, 2007) For a man who just celebrated his 80th birthday a few weeks ago,
Sidney Poitier is having the best year ever.  And it's only late March. Thanks --in a very large part -- to the very public admiration of media mogul Oprah Winfrey, the first black male Academy Award winner achieved a career first and landed on the top of the 'New York Times' bestseller's list with his seven year old inspirational memoir 'The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography.' And it was just recently announced that the cinematic trailblazer is among a group of internationally acclaimed leaders and achievers who will be honoured for their lifetime accomplishments with the 28th Annual Common Wealth Awards of Distinguished Service. Veteran broadcast journalist Cokie Roberts, British novelist Ian McEwan, and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, and Poitier, will all receive a shared prize of $200,000 at the Common Wealth Awards ceremony April 28 at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Common Wealth Awards of Distinguished Service were first presented in 1979 by the Common Wealth Trust, created under the will of the late Ralph Hayes, an influential business executive and philanthropist. Hayes conceived the awards to reward and encourage the best of human performance worldwide. In their 28-year history, the Common Wealth Awards have conferred $4 million in prize money to 161 honourees of international renown. The awards are funded by the Common Wealth Trust.  Past winners include human rights leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former statesman Henry Kissinger and author Toni Morrison, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, children's television icon, the late Fred "Mister" Rogers, actress Meryl Streep; television journalist Walter Cronkite; and World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee.

Tyler Stuck Hard To Her Arts Vision

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(March 25, 2007)  For 13 years, Barbara Tyler had the toughest job in any Canadian art museum.  As executive director of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, she faced continual obstruction and hostility from the gallery's founder, Robert McMichael. Yet she remained determined to create a great public institution that would transcend its origins as a private hobby and showcase the development of 20th-century Canadian art, from the Group of Seven to the present. Noreen Taylor, the current chair of the McMichael's board of trustees, says Tyler had arrived at the gallery at a pivotal point in its development: "Director of a young institution, Barbara had the opportunity to shape the vision of the McMichael into the national icon it is today." Tyler first came to Canada in 1969, a plain-spoken, no-frills, rangy, gum-chewing Texan who loved a good steak and a chili cook-off. A naturalized Canadian, Tyler was hired by the McMichael in 1986 as only its second executive director, and she retired at the start of 2000 to return to the United States. She died after a seven-year struggle with breast cancer on March 19 at her retirement haven of Patagonia, Ariz., at the age of 69, with her longtime companion Marion Ritchie at her side. The funeral is scheduled to take place today.  She was predeceased by Robert McMichael in November 2003. With his wife Signe, he had given his collection of some 200 art works to the province in 1965 along with their log home Tapawingo in Kleinburg, but insisted on trying to control the collection as it grew to more than 5,700 pieces through tax-receipted donations.

Tyler expanded the gallery's programs and its marketing and retail operations, and improved its conservation, storage, and archiving, as well as its school outreach. Always forward-thinking, she led the development of the award-winning website Art2Life: The Canadian Century, which presented 100 years of Canadian art history to a national and international audience (as of press time, the site was no longer active). One of the gallery's most successful touring exhibitions, Carr, O'Keeffe, Kahlo: Places of Their Own, was put together on her watch.  During her tenure, the size of the collection was also significantly increased through the receipt of the long-term loan of important archival works from the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative in Cape Dorset. She made sure important conceptual works like John McEwen's "Babylon" (an outdoor metal sculpture featuring wolves and giant letters) and Gerald McMaster's "Bases Stolen from the Cleveland Indians" (made of baseball bats) were accepted into the collection – pieces to which Robert McMichael objected strenuously.  In 1996, McMichael sued the province for allegedly breaching the agreement under which he made his donation. As he saw it, the province had expanded to more than a dozen the original four-person board (which votes on what art to acquire), thereby doing away with his and his wife's veto over what to add to the collection. Tyler prepared briefs for the defence and appeared in court to patiently explain the difference between the duties and obligations of a public collection versus a quirky private one. The province lost, but the judge's decision, which would have paralyzed the gallery, was overturned in 1997.  When she left Canada, Tyler told the Star: "It's been difficult, very difficult. He'll never believe that I had a lot of sympathy with his position, but you can't communicate with him.

"I still believe we're following the vision he established. We're not doing anything different. I have absolute faith in what we're doing." After Tyler's departure as director, the McMichaels got the Conservative government of Premier Mike Harris to pass legislation to impose their limited vision of Canadian art on the gallery and sell off all contemporary work – but these measures were never implemented.  Barbara Tyler obtained a Master's degree in history from Texas Christian University, and started her career at the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art in Fort Worth, Tex., where she developed her research and curatorial skills. She came to Canada to work for Parks Canada in the historic sites planning department, moving on to direct public programs at the Museum of Man in Ottawa. In 1979, she became policy and planning director of the National Museums Corporation. She was assistant director of programs for the Glenbow museum in Calgary before coming to the McMichael. After her tenure as president of the Canadian Museums Association in the early '90s, she was one of five recipients of the Governor General's distinguished service medal and, in 1995, was named a Fellow of the Canadian Museums Association, a lifetime honour held by only 25 people.

America Has A Black Miss USA

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(March 26, 2007) *The
Miss USA tiara has seen some rough days in the past 12 months. But it all came to an end Friday as the crown waived buh-bye to the sex scandals, club hopping and rehab stint endured under the reign of Tara Conner and found itself atop the coiffed hairdo of Rachel Smith, a bi-racial journalism grad from Clarksville, Tennessee who beat out 50 other contestants to win the annual competition.  "I'm speechless at this point, I really am," said the 21-year-old alumnus of Nashville’s Belmont University after the pageant, which included contestants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.   In the final stretch of the competition at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre, Smith edged out African American finalist Meagan Yvonne Tandy of California; Cara Renee Gorges of Kansas; Helen Salas of Nevada; and Danielle Lacourse of Rhode Island, who was named the first runner-up.  

When asked whether she was ready to take over for Conner, Smith admitted it would "be a little bit of a challenge," but quickly added she was up to the task. "I'm excited to see what this year will hold," she said.  Smith also praised the way Conner handled her various challenges.  "I definitely learned a lot," Smith said of Conner's tenure as Miss USA.  Asked how she would behave during her reign, Smith said: "I'm going to be honest and open."  The 5-foot, 11-inch tall daughter of African American and Caucasian parentage was a “military brat” who was born in Panama and raised in Clarksville after her parents were reassigned to Fort Campbell.    While studying at Belmont, she served an eight-month internship at Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions in Chicago. In January 2007, Winfrey chose her to volunteer for one month at her newly-opened Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

Still Crossing The Line - George Carlin

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(Mar. 26, 2007) The real
George Carlin isn't like a Rick Moranis imitation of Carlin. There are no exaggerated, hippie ruminations, no "did you ever think about this, maaaaan," no long and winding diatribes on the hypocrisy of this and the social injustice of that. Nor has Carlin, nearing 70 and with 50 years of show business under his belt, become a craggy old guy looking to shock a journalist with an incest joke (even if he has shocked some audiences with a few). No, Carlin is serious, pointed, a little meticulous with his words, as he bends the conversation to what he has learned over the years about comedy as a craft. Carlin can't trot out his greatest hits like an aging rock star. He can't deliver such timeless routines as his Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television monologue from the early seventies, or a great bit about praying to Joe Pesci rather than God, because Pesci at least "looks like a guy who can get things done." Even Carlin, who forever has been labelled the successor to Lenny Bruce, can't rest on his past acclaim. "I have no interest in that."

Carlin says in his instantly recognizable baritone, explaining that from his home in Venice, Calif., he continues to collect new material on what's wrong with the world, preparing for about 80 dates a year, including a stop in Toronto on March 31. "The thing that must be understood is that what I essentially do is write." (He has been stressing this point for years.) "I pick up stuff that interests me, things about the culture mostly and language, or observations that interest me. And I keep files of notes and material that's partly done and partly written. . . . I keep track of these over the years, and add to them, and become familiar with them." Yet this stewing method is partly why Carlin hasn't used the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act as a fount of new material. Of course, he has mentioned the war a little, such as skewering the calls from leaders and businessmen, after the Sept. 11 attacks, urging us to keep buying big-ticket items, otherwise "the terrorists win." Carlin would rather focus on larger, timeless themes, and then test the lines of decency surrounding those: "For me the lines are -- and perhaps this is true of society, not just for me -- religion of course, the flag and blind patriotism. But a nice one that I enjoy poking at all the time is children and parents and family life. And my take on children and people who have too many of them. I like to find out what makes them [audiences] squirm a little and go after that." On the other hand, Carlin knows that his audience is a fairly predictable breed, left-leaning, "not a cross-section of Kansas or Arkansas," he says. "But I've noticed that whereas once a critical remark about Bush or war was greeted with a great deal of silence and a few brave souls applauding, that has swung drastically."

Carlin has learned how to get audiences to accept jokes deliberately aimed at undermining their beliefs. He particularly learned this lesson mid-career, and it seems to mark a departure from his earlier, faster, more frenetic style to his slower drawl today. "In 1992, I learned the value of silence in an audience. Up until that time, I'd suffered from the usual comedians' enslavement of 'We gotta have laughs, silence is deadly, and once the silence starts, they'll smell the fear.' I noticed [this] in 1992, because I did some very long set pieces that had a more serious tone to them. "One was called The Planet Is Fine, the People Are Fucked. It was about how environmentalism is again being played [up] by selfish people who want to improve their own habitat and keep their place nice. It has nothing to do with the planet. 'The poor planet! Look at what we are doing to the planet!' And I was saying that the planet is going to be fine. It's going to shake us off like a bad case of fleas, and we'll be gone. "And so a lot of stuff that built up within that piece were quiet moments. What I learned from that was that my job, and maybe most comedians' job, is not just to get laughs and entertain, but also to engage the imagination. Just to get them taking a trip with you, along through something you've thought out and you've managed to make fairly interesting to listen to and contemplate." This has always been an aspect of Carlin's work at its best: Rebellion with a purpose and with Carlin outlining why. Not surprisingly, it started when he was young, growing up in the upper Manhattan neighbourhood of Morningside Heights, which Carlin and the other kids would call West Harlem to sound tough. Dominated by Columbia University, the neighbourhood actually isn't as tough as some of the surrounding blocks. Nevertheless, "I was a rebel. I was kicked out of three schools. I was kicked out of the choir, the altar boys, the Boy Scouts and summer camp. And I left the Air Force early because that, too, was not working out.

"I was the neighbourhood cutup. A lot of the kids in my neighbourhood were very quick verbally. They were mostly Irish kids, and many of them had that Irish gift, whatever that is. You had to be fast on your verbal feet in the neighbourhood. "So whatever I got genetically from my father and mother -- which was considerable -- was reinforced around the neighbourhood, and because of my own need for what I now interpret as a need for attention and approval by being funny." Still, Carlin's style, despite the shock value, has always had a certain decorum. Take the incest jokes. The punchlines are succinct, graphic and disturbing. (Carlin could no doubt write a whole routine around a journalist calling a trio of jokes "disturbing," but there you have it.) Yet the whole routine is based on the long set-up Carlin gives each joke, piling warning upon warning that he is about to offend and about to cross "a line." When the actual jokes come, they are sudden releases of tension. And even if many don't laugh, Carlin knows the routine works: "I often tell young comedians that if it's not going over well, it's not you, it's the audience -- because if the material worked before, then the material works." George Carlin performs at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall on March 31 (416-872-4255).


8 Ways to Lasting Weight Loss

By Tatum Rebelle, eDiets Contributor

The first things many women do when they want to lose weight is dramatically cut their calories and make a list of off-limit foods. Even with the best intentions, doing this is actually slowing down your metabolism and creating cravings. This results in more stored fat, and the eventual binge when cravings are finally too strong to ignore.  Then there is the sense of failure and frustration due to feeling like you have fallen off the wagon. Determined to do better next time, the cycle begins all over again. Yo-yo dieting is a way of life for millions of Americans -- even though there is more than a 90-percent failure rate.  Nutrition is the leading contributor to weight loss. It is imperative that you stay conscious of what goes into your body. The quality of food you eat is directly reflected in your body’s appearance, as well as your overall health. No amount of exercise can counterbalance a poor diet. Eating healthy does not require deprivation of your favourite foods, but rather moderation of foods that do not promote health and weight loss. When the bulk of your diet is made up of various whole grains, vegetables and fruits, there is no need to count calories or worry about getting adequate nutrients. These fresh foods are lower in calories and higher in nutrients than overly processed foods or high-fat meat and dairy products.

Here are some recommendations for lasting weight loss:

1. Do not drastically cut calories. They are your body’s energy and necessary for it to function efficiently. What you can do is limit the empty calories. These come from foods with little or no nutrients. If some of the leading ingredients are flour, high fructose corn syrup, sugar or partially hydrogenated oils, you can bet the food does not support your health or weight loss.

2. Keep junk foods out of sight, and out of mind. When ice cream is in the freezer or potato chips are calling to you from the pantry, they are hard to ignore. Keep healthy snacks that satisfy your cravings close by. If you have a sweet tooth, strawberries should do the trick. If you crave crunchy or salty foods, keep carrots or a variety of nuts in stock.

3. Do not drink your calories. Soda, juice, coffee filled with creamer and alcohol can contain a ton of calories. By sticking to tea and water you can cut hundreds of calories each day. By simple cutting out a couple high-calorie beverages daily, you can lose several pounds.

4. Make fitness a priority. If exercise is something that's done only when you have the time, chances are that it will not happen very often. Make fitness a priority and schedule it on your calendar like you would a lunch date or a doctor’s appointment. Find what works best for you and stick to it. The best time might be first thing in the morning before the kids wake up, or in the afternoon when they nap. You may find that exercising with your child works best. Whatever time of day or type of exercise you choose, it is important to be consistent. Make it a priority and a habit.

5. Every little bit counts. Getting in shape does not require a daily two-hour commitment at the gym. Something as simple as an afternoon walk around the neighbourhood with the stroller, or squatting and lunging as you hold your baby can make a big difference.

6. Change your mindset. Developing a positive attitude towards weight loss and health is absolutely necessary if you want to be successful. It has been proven over and over again that the mind and body work closely together. When your mind is saying exercise is a miserable chore, that's most likely what it will feel like every time you do. When your thoughts dwell on the excess weight, your body is carrying with it a hopeless attitude that will undoubtedly make the pounds harder to lose. Many people find that positive affirmations help. When you exercise, tell yourself that you are becoming a thinner and healthier person. The more you do this and believe it, the more likely it is to actually be true. As you are eating your balanced diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, don't think about the junk food you are missing out on. Instead, think of how fit you are becoming by feeding your body what it needs to become its best.

7. Find inspiration that works for you. Some may want to lose the weight so they can fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes. Others may want to get healthy to reduce their risk of heart disease and diabetes so they have a better chance of being around longer for their children. Still others may need a role model or visual picture of someone they want to emulate. Motivations for getting in shape are unique. Figure yours out and use it to keep you going.

8. Get help. Fitness and nutrition can seem overwhelming at times. Using online resources and hiring a fitness coach can be very beneficial. Having a personal trainer who is knowledgeable about postpartum exercise will provide safe and effective workouts, as well as hold you accountable to regular exercise.

It only takes minor lifestyle adjustments to have a noticeable impact on both your physique and your health. You can do things as simple as changing breakfast from white bread toast with margarine to whole grain toast with a thin spread of natural peanut butter. Adding as little as 5-10 minutes a day of physical activity to your daily routine can facilitate gains in weight loss and improve health. Most of our daily routine is simply habit. Creating new habits takes just a little bit of time, and can be completely life changing.

Tatum Rebelle is the owner of Total Mommy Fitness and a certified personal trainer. She is certified in prenatal and postnatal fitness by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as well as other health and wellness specialties. She's previously been a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Scottsdale, AZ and Dallas, TX and Fit for Life in Fort Worth.


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Sonya Friedman

"The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others."