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May 3, 2007

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  OK, so that's a celebration which means "The Fifth of May" in Spanish and is a national holiday in Mexico which is also widely celebrated in the United States - but hey, the weather is cooperating on this side of the country so it's all good! 

I have some really fun events listed below starting with
World Comedy Clash: Mother’s Day Edition with proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society next weekend.  Then for Victoria Day weekend and for those that love old skool, there's the Official Toronto WBLK Reunion Party featuring all of your favourite WBLK hosts from back in the day!  Get those tickets now as these events sell out - don't miss out!


World Comedy Clash: Mother’s Day Edition – May 12 – 13

Source: Ajahmae Live Entertainment and SFS Entertainment

Some of Toronto’s largest communities will expose their cultural differences on stage in a stand-up comedy clash: Trinidad, Jamaica, England, America, India, Barbados, Ghana, Uganda, Canada.  This hilarious satire of a friendly rivalry between these 9 countries is performing for two shows at the Panasonic Theatre May 12 and May 13, Mother’s Day weekendWorld Comedy Clash: Mother’s Day Edition will allow the audience to laugh as well as learn about the differences in these contrasting cultures through stand-up comedy.  “All styles are equally funny,” says Jay Martin / comedian / producer / founder, “Jamaican stand-up is more of a theatrical performance. It’s a more physical comedy while Trinidadian comics are more spontaneous with their humour.” 

Martin, who lost his mother 20 years ago, has dedicated this show to mothers across the Greater Toronto Area.  In honour of the memory of his mother, World Comedy Clash is donating proceeds to the
Canadian Cancer Society.  This show is appropriate for all ages. 

The performers include:

Marc Trinidad, Jean Paul,
Drew Thomas,
Jay Martin, Trey Anthony,
Paul Chouldry,
Junior Simpson,
Art Simeon,

The show will be hosted by Canadian-Jamaican
Jay Martin, who was recently named Toronto’s Best New Nubian Comedian.  “I also chose Mother’s Day for this show because it’s probably one of the saddest days of the year for mothers who have lost children and children who have lost their mothers.” says Martin. 

Founded in 2005, Mothers day Comedy Clash looks to be bigger, bolder and funnier than last year’s sold-out show.

Panasonic Theatre
651 Yonge Street (between Bloor and Wellesley)
7:00 pm
Tickets are Orchestra - $50.00, Balcony - $40.00
Tickets: call 416.872.1111 or visit www.ticketmaster.ca
All Nappy’s locations and Play De Record (357A Yonge St.)
For more information, please visit: www.comedyclash.com

The Official Toronto WBLK Reunion Party- Sunday, May 20

Source:  Consepshun Entertainment

For all of the true old school guru's … remember a radio station out of Buffalo NY that we all used to listen to during the 80's and 90's?  Do the names DJ Huk-her, Terri Davis, Al Wood, Debbie Simms and The Magic Man ring a bell?  What about a little segment from 10 pm 'til 2 am called the QUIET STORM? 

Join us on Victoria Day Long Weekend Sunday featuring all of your favourite WBLK hosts from back in the day: DJ Huk-her, Terri Davis, The Magic Man & Al Wood - (R.I.P. Break-a-Dawn) as well as a fashion show by Jane Pascale showcasing her designer swimwear line Adjua.  Music will be provided by DJ Quincy (Ebony Soundcrew), Carl Allen, DJ Wayne (Old School Request Party), The "Mailman" George Fynn and Reddy Fox.  The evening will be hosted by comedian Jay Martin.

SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2007
and GQ Henderson of MOVE aphrodisiac birthday bash
6 Degrees Night Club (formerly Berlin)

2335 Yonge Street (north of Eglinton)
Dress to impress
Doors open at 9:30 pm
Tickets: $20 in advance
Contact :  info@consepshun.com, eddie@gotoaparty.com or call 416-781-1695 ext. 3 to purchase tickets or see ticket outlet location on the flyer


Customer Service - A Thing of the Past?

Having just moved, I've had to purchase some small and some big items - both with the major inconvenience of poor customer service.  It seems that for the busy consumer that shops online or by phone like me, they certainly have not come close to perfecting the art of ensuring customer satisfaction.  For me, what's the point of going to the store if I cannot get it home.  Besides, online shopping often offers better prices. 

Example #1:  First, I had to order some furniture.  Excited about the prospect of owning some new pieces, I wanted to shop somewhere that I thought of as reliable.  How more reliable can  you get than Sears?  sigghhh  Or so I thought.  I order two pieces and picked the date of delivery online.  I confirmed the order and delivery the day before after booking 1/2 day off - because their drivers won't call when they are on their way to your destination to give you a heads up.  OK.  So I concede.  The night before the delivery is supposed to happen, I get a call from Sears saying that the furniture did not arrive in their warehouse from the manufacturer and they changed the delivery date. 

So, not only do I not have my furniture but now they want to change the delivery date at their discretion - more time off work. When I called to see if they could guarantee the delivery, they admitted they could not.  Whaaaa?  So, I cancelled the order.  No furniture.

Example #2: So, I tried to ease the pain by ordering a skin care line.  No problem - lots of 'freebies' with promises of a two day delivery.  Two weeks later, no skin care line.  When I called, they said it was back-ordered but if I changed my order, they promised me the two day delivery again.  So, I change the order.  One month later, no skin care line.  So, I cancelled the order with attitude from the person on the other end of the phone no less.

Example #3: Moving on.  IKEA - the store I love to hate.  I can't go in that store but hey, how difficult could it be to shop online?  I made the order fairly painlessly.  But no email confirmation, no quote on delivery, no nothing. What about delivery and how much is it?  I was told it's $129 for delivery.  But if I cancel my online order and order by phone, it would be faster.  How much faster?  Well, probably less than ... two weeks!  Whaaa?  But the happy ending is that the furniture arrived (only a four hour time frame) five days later.  Alas, the light at the end of the tunnel?  No, another disadvantage of shopping online - the stuff is too small for what I need!  (siggh)

It is apparent that customer service almost everywhere is lacking today - regardless of whether you pay top dollar or not.  Here's my tip: it doesn't take much to go that extra mile when providing a service.  It creates loyalty and that you're getting what you pay for.

And that's just my opinion.


Stylus Group Announces Nominees For 2007 Rogers Stylus DJ Awards

April 30, 2007) TORONTO – Today the Stylus Group, a Canadian organization formed to recognize, develop and represent the urban DJs of Canada, unveiled the nominees for the 2007 Rogers Stylus DJ Awards taking place on June 4th in Toronto.  Racking up three nominations each are: Baby Yu (Toronto), Court Jester (Toronto), Dr Jay (Toronto), Jr Flo (Toronto), Kwite Sane (Montreal), Law (Toronto), P Plus (Toronto), Quest (Montreal).  Following closely behind with two nominations each are: Baba Kahn (Toronto), Boogeymen (Toronto), Flipout (Vancouver), Grouch (Toronto), IV (Halifax), Lindo P (Toronto), Pump (Calgary), Ritz (Toronto), Spex (Toronto), and Team Canada (Montreal).  (To view a complete listing of the categories and nominees for the 2007 Rogers Stylus DJ Awards, see below or visit www.stylusgroup.ca).  

Thousands of industry leaders and DJ fans from across the country visited www.stylusgroup.ca to cast their vote online for their favourite DJ and select the nominees.  The 2007 winners will be determined by a random panel composed of industry experts.  The awards will celebrate and recognize achievements in 23 categories, including the following four new features: Best Female DJ, Best Mixtape DJ, College Radio Show of the Year, and Underground Hip Hop DJ of the Year.   

The highlight of the night’s special recognitions will be two Canadian Hall of Fame inductions.  Killowatt Productions , the youngest of the Toronto DJ and Hip Hop-culture pioneers who emerged in the late 1970s and were the only sound crew that had both a female DJ and female emcee, and Dr. Soul “Len P” , who opened Club 747 in 1983 to introduce Funk, R&B Hip Hop and Soul to the Ottawa-Hull region and started a weekly Sunday specifically for youth to DJ and break dance in Confederation Park, will be the admitted into the Stylus DJ Awards Canadian Hall of Fame for their lifetime contribution to the urban music industry.

The Stylus DJ Awards is Canada’s only national DJ awards show.  The awards were created in an effort to acknowledge the success of urban DJs, emcees, musicians and record labels for their strong influence on Canada’s music and entertainment industry, and for their contribution to pop culture.  It was the brainchild of Mike Zafiris, and the attention and level of success the awards show received last year, prompted its return again this year.  “The 2007 nominees are a great representation of some of Canada’s finest DJs and the world’s most respected talents,” says Mike Zafiris, founder of Flavor Record Pool and creator of the Stylus DJ Awards.  “I am very pleased to present a female category this year and excited for all the fresh up-and-comers!”

The 2007 Rogers Stylus DJ Awards will be hosted by Club MC of the Year nominees, RG and TrixxDJ Starting from Scratch, three-time winner from the 2006 awards, will be the official DJ of the 2007 Stylus DJ Awards.  The show will feature music supplied by Canada’s finest DJs, as well as exciting artist performances and surprise guest appearances that will be announced soon.  The event is co-presented by Rogers Music Store and the Nokia 5300 XpressMusic mobile phone.  Generous supporters also include: MuchVIBE, Flow 93.5FM, Sean John, Yahoo Canada, Ortofon, American Audio, Pioneer, Capital Prophet, Universal Music, Sony BMG, Warner Music, Koch Entertainment, myTego Inc., Cyberkrib, and Dose.ca.

The 2007 Rogers Stylus DJ Awards will take place on Monday, June 4th in Toronto at the Palais Royale Ballroom, 1601 Lakeshore Blvd. W.  Doors will open at 7 p.m. for nominees and performers to walk the Red Carpet and the Awards Show will commence at 8 p.m.  Tickets are available for $25 through Ticket Break via www.stylusgroup.ca and Play de Record in Toronto.

For further information, please email info@stylusgroup.ca or visit www.stylusgroup.ca


Co-presented by Rogers Music Store and the Nokia 5300 XpressMusic mobile phone

Categories and Nominees

College Radio Show of the Year - presented by Sounds Distribution
Court Jester & Chief (Worldwide) CIUT, Toronto
Ev Starr and DTS (Masterplan Show) CIUT, Toronto
Grouch (Soundcheck) CHRY, Toronto
Law (Project Bounce) CIUT, Toronto
Ritz (Project Bounce) CIUT, Toronto
Static (We Funk Radio) CKUT, Montreal
Taktiks & Linx (Mixtape Masacre) CKLN, Toronto
Underground Hip Hop DJ of the Year - presented by Koch Entertainment
Grouch (Toronto)
IV (Halifax)
Law (Toronto)
Neoteric (Vancouver)
P Plus (Toronto)
Ritz (Toronto)
Serious (Toronto)
Female DJ of the Year
Dalia (Toronto)
GunznRozez – Tasha Rozez (Toronto)
Killa Jewelz (Montreal)
Mel Boogie (Toronto)
Peaches (Montreal)
Si Vu Play (Toronto)
Torus (Montreal)
Mixtape DJ of the Year - presented by Sean John
Arems (Vancouver)
Baby Yu (Toronto)
Glew (Toronto)
Jay B (Montreal)
Jr. Flo (Toronto)
Kwite Sane (Montreal)
Law (Toronto)
Pump (Calgary)
Rated R (Toronto)
Wristpect (Toronto)
Reggae DJ of the Year
Assassins Soundcrew (Montreal)
Black Reaction (Toronto)
Fire Kid Steenie (Toronto)
King Turbo (Toronto)
Lindo P. (Toronto)
Little Thunder (Montreal)
Spex (Toronto)
Soca DJ of the Year
Court Jester (Toronto)
D’Bandit (Toronto)
D’Enforcas (Toronto)
Dr. Jay (Toronto)
Soca Monarchs (Toronto)
Soca Sweetness (Toronto)
TnT Styles (Montreal)
Club DJ of the Year - presented by Rogers MusicStore & Nokia 5300 XpressMusic
4 Korners (Toronto)
Baba Kahn (Toronto)
Baby Yu (Toronto)
Boogeyme’n (Toronto)
Court Jester (Toronto)
Ill Kidz (Toronto)
Jr. Flo (Toronto)
Kwite Sane (Montreal)
Quest (Montreal)
Team Canada (Montreal)
Radio Mixshow DJ of the Year - presented by Pioneer
Boogeyme’n (Flow) Toronto
Don Smooth (K 103) Montreal
Dr. Jay (Flow) Toronto
Flipout and J-Swing (The Beat) Vancouver
P Plus (Flow) Toronto
Quest (Mix 96) Montreal
Spence Diamonds (Z103) Toronto
Spex (Flow) Toronto
Club MC of the Year
Chops Wunda (Montreal)
Kid Kut (Toronto)
Lindo P. (Toronto)
RG (Toronto)
Scott Boogie (Toronto)
T-Rexxx (Toronto)
Trixx (Toronto)
Vancouver DJ of the Year
Calgary DJ of the Year
Beat Matrix
Boom Shot
Smalltown DJs
Edmonton DJ of the Year
Harman B.
Winnipeg DJ of the Year
Toronto DJ of the Year
Baba Kahn
Baby Yu
Dr Jay
Jr Flo
P Plus
Ottawa DJ of the Year
Ebony and Ivory
Massive Vibes
Montreal DJ of the Year
GoonTribe – DJ Kidd & DJ Goldenchild
Kwite Sane
Skratch Bastid
Team Canada – DR-1 & Grandtheft
Halifax DJ of the Year
Plae Boi
RS Smooth
Canadian Hip Hop Single of the Year  presented by MuchVibe
Belly ft. Ginuwine – Pressure – Capital Prophet
Choclair – What I Do – Independent
Classified – Find Out – Urbnet
Daetona – Dialtone – Independent
Drake ft. Trey Songz – Replacement Girl – ATF
Kardinal Offishall ft Bedouin Soundclash – Last Standing Soldier – EMI
K-os – Sunday Morning – EMI   
Point Blank – Born and Raised in the Ghetto – Tiltrock Records
Canadian R&B Single of the Year   presented by MuchVibe
Addictiv ft. Pitbull – Little Game – Urban Heat Inc.
Big Black Lincoln – In The Hood – Capitol Hill Music
Carl Henry – Beautiful – Cesoul Music
E3 ft. Kardinal Offishall – Blunted – Independent
George – Talk to Me remix – HC Entertainment Group
Keshia Chante – 2 U – Sony BMG
Nelly Furtado – Say It Right – Universal Music
International Hip Hop Single of the Year
Chamillionaire – Ridin’ – Universal Music
Jay Z ft Chrisette Michele – Lost Ones – Universal Music
Jim Jones – We Fly High – Koch Records
Lupe Fiasco – Kick Push – Warner Music
Mims – This Is Why I’m Hot – EMI
Rich Boy – Throw Some D’s – Universal Music
International R&B Single of the Year
Akon ft. Snoop Dogg – I Wanna Love You – Universal Music
Beyonce – Irreplaceable – Sony BMG
Justin Timberlake ft T.I. – My Love – Sony BMG
Ne –Yo – Sexy Love – Universal Music
Omarion – Ice Box – Sony BMG
Timbaland ft Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake – Give It To Me – Universal Music
Label Rep of the Year
Carey Riley – SONY BMG
Jay Devonish – Koch
Jahmal Sang – EMI
Jody Laraya - Universal Music
Kevin “Ice” White – EMI
Spincycle – Warner Music
Hall of Fame Recipient
Killowatt Productions – Toronto   
Dr. Soul “Len P” – Ottawa

Strung Out Still Smooth

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(April 28, 2007) Strung Out Troubadours were the big winners, nailing two of their three nominations, Album of the Year and Duo of the Year, at last night's
Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. The collaboration between former Triumph singer/guitarist Rik Emmett and guitarist Dave Dunlop grew out of the public's response to Dunlop's guest appearances during Emmett's concerts. The pair's self-titled album, with "acoustic folk roots for serious guitar lovers," was acknowledged at the third annual gala event held in Hammerson Hall at The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. Carol Welsman took the Keyboardist/Pianist title for the second consecutive year, while husband-wife Marc Jordan and Amy Sky performed together, but won separate awards: he for Male Vocalist and she for Best Original Composition with Eddie Schwartz for "Everything Love Is."  "That was an amazing evening. Every year it gets bigger and more fun. The WAVE can't wait to do it all again next year," said awards co-chair Mary Kirk, music director of Hamilton-based smooth jazz radio station WAVE 94.7 FM.

Other winners included: Kellylee Evans (Female Vocalist), Warren Hill (Wind Instrumentalist), Johannes Linstead (Guitar), Nick Colionne (International Instrumentalist), Al Jarreau (International Vocalist) and WAVE 94.7 FM's Gary James (Broadcaster). The George Benson Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to 10-million-selling supergroup Spyro Gyra, led for three decades by saxist Jay Beckenstein.  The selections were made online by about 2000 jazz fans across the country.

Ricky Martin - Singer, Dancer, Humanitarian

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

(May 01, 2007) That
Ricky Martin sure knows how to throw a party.  From the moment he took the stage at the Air Canada Centre last night, the former teen heartthrob was an energetic, entertaining force. For most of the two-hour set, the singer's capable voice took a back seat to the tremendous physicality of his capoeira-style moves (replete with handstands and buoyed by six dancers); the technical wizardry of his massive stage (which included conveyer belts, trap doors and mesh screens); and the expertise of the muscular band backing him both electrically and acoustically. Then there was the body that is Ricky: often barefoot, buff in jeans and tank tops (though not leather pants) through half a dozen costume changes, or unveiled in all its nude, tattooed glory on gratuitous video clips. He sang mostly in Spanish, but addressed the crowd in English and delivered a frenetic version of his biggest American hit, "Livin' La Vida Loca." One of the sillier segments found him singing more than half of a ballad behind a screen, seemingly to tease the crowd through separation. They deserved it though, screaming to hoarseness whenever he moved a hip or arched a brow.

Then, just when you were ready to dismiss the 35-year-old Puerto Rico native as lightweight eye candy, he delivered a sombre five minute spiel on gratitude, faith and the pursuit of simplicity as an introduction to "Somos La Semilla (We Are the Seed), which he sang before a scrolling photo montage depicting poor, ill and war-torn people. Then, the entertainer, who came of age in Latin boy band Menudo (which is being revived) before debuting as a solo artist in 1991 and selling 55 million records worldwide, dedicated a song to the 12-year-old self that he says he left behind in the pursuit of fame and excellence. Martin has been flexing his political muscles of late, shilling for global charities and sending President George W. Bush a middle finger during a concert over the protracted war in Iraq. His live show is a reflection of his enduring showmanship and personal growth.

Latifah To Remake Steve Martin Comedy

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 27, 2007) *
Queen Latifah has signed on to executive produce and star in a remake of the Steve Martin-Lily Tomlin comedy, "All of Me," for New Line Cinema. The original 1984 film followed a dying spoiled heiress (Tomlin) whose soul ends up in the body of a successful lawyer (Martin). She controls the right side of his body while he controls the left, which causes friction and comedy. Latifah’s version is set in the world of politics, where a female Jesse Jackson-type finds herself in the body of a staunch conservative.  The Oscar-nominated actress will executive produce with her partner-manager Shakim Compere of Flavor Unit Entertainment. Adam Shankman will serve as producer with his Offspring Entertainment partner Jennifer Gibgot.

“All of Me” marks the third time the rapper-turned-actress is pairing with Shankman. Latifah is starring as Motormouth Maybelle in Shankman's adaptation of "Hairspray," which New Line releases in July. Their first collaboration was the 2003 hit comedy "Bringing Down the House," which also starred Martin.  New Line's been developing the "All of Me" remake for the past two years, according to Daily Variety, and had first hired scribes Brent Goldberg and David Wagner to write a modern take on the story with Wanda Sykes in the Tomlin role. "When New Line told us that they wanted to remake it with an African-American actress in the role, we said it's got to be Latifah," Gibgot told the Hollywood Reporter. "Adam adores her and thinks she's great with physical comedy, and as it happens, she wants to go back to doing physical comedy."

A Festival Where Colour Matters

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

(April 27, 2007) As the face of Toronto continues to change, so must its theatre experience. That's a big part of the raison d'être behind
Factory Theatre's CrossCurrents Festival. "Us coloured people get first dibs," says Nina Lee Aquino, producer of the sixth annual, 10-day event launching today.  "My priority is looking for actors of colour, dramaturges of colour, playwrights of colour." Colombian-born actor/writer/director Beatriz Pizano, whose latest work, The Communion, debuts Tuesday, says CrossCurrents offers a wonderful forum for theatre professionals of colour. Piano, who has acted in Toronto for 20 years, says it is only in recent years that people of various ethnicities have started to get more stage work. "I was trying to create work for myself just because casting was so hard. I worked tons in film and television, but when it came to theatre, it was almost impossible."  As important, she added, is reaching out to young people from diverse backgrounds and letting them know they have a role in Toronto's theatre scene.

"I have worked with young people and am trying to figure out why they don't want to see theatre. It's (because) they don't see their stories represented onstage. They don't see themselves onstage," Pizano says. Mainstream audiences are too often content with stories that portray people of colour in the stereotypical immigrant/identity struggle, Aquino says. The festival's aim is to move beyond those types of stories to present "more sophisticated themes" with fresh and startling new perspectives, she said. "That's what this festival is about, it's not `Come see (mainstream) stories onstage,' it's `Come see other stories onstage and learn more about the world around you,'" she added. "That's what I love about this festival, that it honours the differences, it doesn't try to change (them). We're just going to tell these stories and ... we'll let the colour of our skin speak for itself," Aquino said. For the first time, the Stratford Festival is co-sponsoring one of the productions, Who Beat Rocky? by Vancouver playwright C.E. Gatchalian.


Rihanna’s 'Umbrella' Scores Highest Rhythm Debut Ever

Source: Amina Elshahawi, ThinkTank Marketing, amina@thinktankmktg.com, www.thinktankmktg.com,

(April 27, 2007) (New York, NY) -- RIAA platinum, award-winning SRP/Def Jam recording artist - and newly signed CoverGirl spokesperson -
Rihanna celebrates the exclusive premiere of the video for her current single "Umbrella" (featuring JAY-Z).   CoverGirl is presenting Rihanna's exclusive video debut at www.thisisrihanna.com.  "Umbrella" was directed by Chris Applebaum, who shot Rihanna's "S.O.S. (Rescue Me)."    Rihanna scored her highest career debut at Rhythm Radio last week when "Umbrella" entered the R&R (Radio & Records) BDS Rhythmic chart at #31-bullet (the #2 Most Increased audience of the week, +1.2 million to a total of 4.9 million!). This week marks the song's official impact at radio.  "Umbrella" is the #1 most added at the Pop and Rhythm format, with over 110 pop stations on impact and over 50 Rhythm adds. The single has over 40 million in audience and over 5300 spins. "Umbrella" is the first single from Rihanna's eagerly awaited third album (in two years), Good Girl Gone Bad, set for June 5th release.

Click HERE to watch and DOWNLOAD FOR FREE Rihanna's New Video for "Umbrella" featuring Jay-Z! The video is directed by Chris Applebaum. In the meantime, click either of the links below to HEAR "Umbrella."

Umbrella featuring Jay-Z
WM Hi:
Rihanna enjoyed a tidal wave of industry acclaim in 2006 with her RIAA platinum second album A Girl Like Me, and its back-to-back #1 hits, "S.O.S." and "Unfaithful."  At the year-end Billboard Music Awards on December 4th, she took away four top honours, including FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR, FEMALE HOT 100 ARTIST OF THE YEAR, FEMALE POP 100 ARTIST OF THE YEAR, and HOT DANCE AIRPLAY SONG OF THE YEAR for "S.O.S."  She finished out the year as guest performer on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve spectacular.  In July 2007, 19-year old Rihanna will be seen in her first ads as a CoverGirl, joining the ranks of Queen Latifah, Molly Sims, Christie Brinkley and Keri Russell.  The long list of famous CoverGirl models (which began in 1961) also boasts Cheryl Tiegs, Rachel Hunter, Tyra Banks, and Niki Taylor.

"... her new single is "Umbrella," an icily elegant song built around that singularly inelegant word…Rihanna's voice, nimble and cool, is perfectly suited to this sort of thing.." - NY TIMES

Michael Bublé - Call Him Corny, He Won't Mind

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(April 29, 2007) Corny. Cheesy. Scary. These are the words
Michael Bublé employs to discuss how his girlfriend, actor Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) wound up singing on his new album. One does wonder, why would the popular retro crooner risk obliterating the memory of that duet with Nelly Furtado on 2005's It's Time with some Michael Bolton/Nicollette Sheridan-style schmaltz?  Well, Bublé avers, his girl can sing; besides, he didn't come up with the idea to include the Golden Globe winner (for Gideon's Daughter) on a remake of soul classic "Me & Mrs. Jones." "(Producer) David Foster thinks that she has such an incredible voice that he asked her to do it," Bublé told the Star in an interview earlier this year.  "At first, she said no. And I said, `You know what, David? I don't want to be corny. I think it's cheesy to do a duet with your partner.'  "But we listened to it after and said, 'Man, it's beautiful!' And it's kind of cool for her to be Mrs. Jones.  "I knew she could sing, 'cause when I met her she said that her favourite song on the album was (the Furtado collaboration) 'Quando, Quando, Quando.'

"I said, 'Yeah right, go ahead and sing it.' She sang it, and I said, 'Oh, my God, you can really sing, girl.' It's really scary how talented she is." Hmmm. These gushy revelations do make one wonder if there are plans for the comely Brit to become Mrs. Bublé. "I don't know," said the suddenly serious wisecracker. "I hope so. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself." And singing with his sweetie – who hits just a few dreamy notes near the end of the track – should not be equated with the desire to be a headline-making celebrity couple, said Bublé, who describes a low-key off the road existence in his native Vancouver, playing hockey and hanging out with his sister's young children. "Neither of us want our celebrity to overshadow our work. We don't go to a lot of the fancy parties and a lot of it cringes us out.  "I keep reading these magazines and seeing these TV shows, and it's like, `What the heck is this person famous for?' They don't sell records, their movies tank, they don't sell out their concerts, yet they're on the front of every tabloid. The currency of celebrity is worth more than it has ever been."

Though he eschews the publicity game and projects a boyish, happy-go-lucky demeanour, Bublé, 31, takes seriously the business of music. For months now, in anticipation of Tuesday's release of his third album Call Me Irresponsible, he's been monitoring Billboard's sales charts. "When It's Time came out two years ago and we did 92,000 copies that was good enough for No. 7," he says. "In the last four weeks the No. 1 record sold 60,000 copies. It's sad. If I could do 6 to 7 million again I would love that, but all I can do is make the best record I can." That meant utilizing the tried and true – production team of Foster and Humberto Gatica, The Great American Songbook, a big band – with a few gems from Leonard Cohen and Eric Clapton and a bolstered swagger. "The ballads I sang live off the floor with the orchestra and the strings. We traded in some instances the perfection, that slickness that David Foster brings, for raw emotion.  "David is a pop guy. He loves to synthesize s--t. But when we do a song with a big band, that's what it's going to be. It's enough to have swinging horns and a great rhythm section, we don't have to put that other stuff in.  "There's mistakes: some pitch things I'm sure and intonation things that weren't perfect; but I meant everything I sang." Parts of the album were recorded at Capitol Studios in California where the walls display photos of legends who have worked there, such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.

"You just hope you're doing it justice, because it's expensive. You're talking about $50,000 an hour with (the orchestra). You get your three takes and that's it. It's nerve-racking, but thrilling. "All my life I lived and breathed and studied this music: Cole Porter, Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, even (Harry) Connick. I knew so clearly who I wanted to be and how I wanted to sound." Bublé also co-wrote two songs, one more than his last record's successful "Home." "I don't know if I'm ever going to do the all original thing. I love reinterpreting these great standards. there's a reason why some of these songs are 90 years old and people still know them: they talk about things that are always going to be relevant: love and loneliness and betrayal. He concurs in his best Darth Vader voice that "Lost," penned with Jann Arden – "I watched the whole thing fall/And I never saw the writing on the wall" – reveals a "dark side."  "When I wrote it I was melancholy. I sat for the first time ever and wrote it on the piano and I don't play the piano so it was a long process of me sitting there punching out the chords. It's one of the deeper things that I've written." The upbeat "Everything," written with Foster's daughter Amy Foster-Gillies, appears to reflect his current state.

"When I was writing it, I did think about Emily and I would love to say cheesily that I just have one person in mind when I'm writing a song, but there's a formulaic thing that's happening there.  "I'm thinking is this a catchy hook? Have I written a great melody that people are going to go home and sing in the shower? "I told Amy I wanted `Everything' to talk about all of the things that just one person can be to you.  "Some of my favourite lines in the song are: And I can't believe I'm your man/And I get to kiss ya baby just because I can. Stupid little stuff that means something that I would actually say. "I told Bob Rock (who produced that tune) that I wanted it to not stray too far away from my personal style, but to have that great cross between a Norah Joneseque feel, but with a little John Mayerish kind of edge and a percussive feel of Jack Johnson. `Cause that's still in my world, but perhaps can get on a different format in radio."  His desire to make "music palatable for everyone" is paying off as Bublé sees the median age of his audiences fall. "When that first record came out it was a pretty aged group of people that would walk in the door. The second record brought the older folks, but also 13-year-olds.  "My favourite thing about what I do and especially live is that my audience is wonderfully eclectic. "You see young and old, and black and white, and yellow and red, and grey and gay and straight, all sitting in one place grooving. It's awesome." And with the recording industry in flux, he's banking on live performances to sustain him. "I'll just keep on being my jackass self onstage and really loving what I do and being sincere. I hope that's infectious."

Arden Loves To Please

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

(April 26, 2007) The more that's made of
Jann Arden's alternatively sad and funny stage routine, of the way she juxtaposes her melancholy, mid-tempo music with often outrageously funny banter, the easier it is to dismiss what a smart, honest and truly powerful songwriter she is. Few composers have mapped the terrain of loneliness and longing that comes with having grown up different and not so pretty in a conservative suburban community as well as Calgary's beloved musical export has done in the 20 years since she made her first mark as a recording artist. Arden reclaimed that territory last night with a well-paced, warm and generously inclusive performance, the second of four concerts at Massey Hall. But even she's inclined these days to make light of her special gifts. While praising the members of her exceptionally tasteful band for their mastery of "so many different kinds of music," she added: "All depressing ... but different.” No one in the audience – a devoted crew familiar with every brave and painful lyric – seemed to mind this self-deprecating aside. They were waiting for the funny bits between the lonesome hits, for Jann the comedy queen to clown her way to centre stage.

Arden did that effortlessly. She loves to please, and her sense of humour is as well-developed as her musical smarts. Wearing a bundle of black haute couture and high-heeled boots – and noticeably less corporeal than the last time she performed here – the comic seemed at times to mock the singer, to shatter gleefully the solemn spell created by such aching songs as the heartbreak ballads "Willing to Fall Down" and "Hanging By a Thread (When I Cry)," the wistful road rocker "Where No One Knows Me," and, of course, her trademark piece, "Insensitive.” After chatting up a man in the front row who was sitting alone beside three empty seats, Arden continued to endear herself to the crowd with brief glimpses of her desperate childhood in her parents' basement, impressions of her mother and father – "a non-person since his stroke" – making plans to visit ancestors in Kiev, and a hilarious story about a flying feminine pad at a high school dance. “I had to stop and ask myself if it's in my best interests to point that out," she said, staring at an imaginary spot on the floor. The line brought down the house, as did another routine in which Arden hauled two women – conspicuous after a security functionary had confiscated their camera – up onstage and sat them at a cloth-draped table, complete with a lit candle, and encouraged them to join in on a rousing rendition of the 1970s Carly Simon hit "You're So Vain," one of several period pieces from Cover Me, her current album, a collection of 1960s and '70s favourites. It was a perfect Jann Arden moment – personal, intimate, and utterly human.

Idol Chatter On Return Of The King

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(April 27, 2007) A technological feat that allowed Quebec diva
Céline Dion to sing alongside the late Elvis Presley had music and tech fans abuzz with wonder and speculation yesterday. Reaction was mixed as couch critics weighed in on the unusual televised duet, which saw an understated Dion and a realistic-looking Presley join voices on the American Idol stage to sing his 1968 hit "If I Can Dream" on Wednesday. "That Elvis/Céline thing was too ... creepy," wrote blogger Lady Starblade.  Others were mesmerized.  "It was the most magnificent thing I've ever seen in my life," 32-year-old Maddie wrote on her blog.  The bizarre pairing was for the live charity event Idol Gives Back, which has already raised more than $60 million (U.S.) for poverty relief.  Seeming to appear onstage in a crisp white suit, Presley seemed to interact and harmonize with Dion, in complementary black. The whole bit had been assembled on videotape previously, so no one in either audience saw Dion, much less had an Elvis sighting, at CBS-TV studios or at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where most of the evening's live music took place, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Presley's performance of W. Earl Brown's "If I Can Dream" came from his 1968 TV comeback special, which rejuvenated his career after it had been in the doldrums for years. With Photoshop-like technology, the 39-year-old Presley footage was morphed with recently taped shots featuring 39-year-old Dion, as though it were taking place at the same time as the rest of Wednesday's show. "When they filmed him from the back, it's a bit chunky, a bit like ... something off a game," said hologram expert Steve Wilson from London. In the 1968 special, Presley was in the same white suit but against a simple dark backdrop bearing his name in lights. It would have been fairly straightforward to cut out his silhouette and use a "green screen" to place him on the Idol set, said Wilson. He estimated such a job would run up to $100,000 (U.S.). An Idol spokesperson said only that an Elvis impersonator was used "at one point." Meanwhile, fans can download audio and video from the Idol Gives Back special on iTunes, with proceeds from sales donated to relief organizations. Performers include Kelly Clarkson; Gwen Stefani; Josh Groban; Carrie Underwood and others.

Ray Chew: Passionate And Prepared To Blaze His Own Trail In Music

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Darryl Yates

(April 27, 2007) *If there was a word to describe the essence of
Ray Chew, it would be ‘prepared.’  He’s been involved in music ever since he was five years old, he’s worked with everyone from Dionne Warwick to Alicia Keys, and he’s worked with all genres, from Gospel to Hip Hop and R&B.   He would be the first to tell you that anything worth having is worth working for and that’s what he’s spent the balance of his life doing, working hard. Inspired by legends such as the known musical perfectionist, Quincy Jones, Chew attributes most of his success to his undeniable work ethic:  “One of the main things that happened to me when I was five years old was that I was born into a real learning environment…my mother recognized that I had talent, but you know, talent ain’t enough, talent is never enough. You have to have talent plus attain skills,” he says.  “So read music and be more proficient at your instrument…but if someone has got a real talent like writing songs, and hearing music and coming up with ideas…well you can’t teach that…you take that then marry it with a real work ethic…that’s what prepares people to be professionals.”

His mother’s recognition of his raw talent led to him being accepted into a special school at 5 years old.  That began his journey…his instrument of choice, the piano.  But would talent and training be enough to take him to the highest heights in his music career?    That question calls to mind one more term that can be used to describe Chew: ‘passionate.’ His talent and training, coupled with his deep passion for music led to that aforementioned undeniable work ethic, which has taken him places he never would’ve imagined.  He’s gained a great deal of respect for his tireless approach to honing his craft.  And it takes one to know one.  He acknowledges an industry cohort that takes a similar approach to her career, Alicia Keys: “What I like about her is her professional work ethic, which I saw happen at a very early stage in her career. When she got signed to J-Records, I got a call to come in and organize her showcase, I’ve been apart of her team ever since. I got to see her as a young artist develop, but she had a great foundation and a great work ethic, she would do interviews all day, acting class, and then do eight hour band rehearsal and then, after the rehearsal, she’d say ‘come on Ray, let’s go and play.’” The affiliation with Keys alone would certainly keep one busy, but that’s just one side of his multifaceted career ... and life for that matter.  He was just selected, for the second year, to spearhead the music for the illustrious 2007 BET awards, he’s the music director for the venerable “Showtime at the Apollo,” and he’s a family man and devout believer. When discussing how he balances his career and his family, Chew says:

“One of the most important things to me is being a dad. I spend a lot of time with my daughters, and I’ll drive anywhere to pick them up and take them where they need to go. My wife is real important to me. My wife is also in the business, she’s the international marketing guru around the world and she has a long history. We could spend an hour talking about what she does. We came together as an entity within ourselves. I’m enjoying the ride that I am on. I’m having a good time, I’m doing what my values are telling me to. My values are telling me that I’m not putting things ahead of my family and ahead of my core beliefs. I’m a Jesus believer, and that’s what I do, Jesus saved me and I believe he can save others, and that’s my testimony.” Having accomplished so much already, what’s next for Ray Chew?  “My goals right now, along with producing movies for TV, I’m scoring music for films, so I’m working on some MTV projects right now, and we got some Paramount pictures stuff ahead. I won’t speak on specific ones yet. I’m gonna win an Oscar and a Grammy for my composition, so I’m looking ahead right there. Not because the Oscar is my goal, the Oscar is the end result and the by product of the fruits of my labour. I work very hard and earnestly, and not just doing jobs, what I ‘do,’ and I’m very proud of my work ethic” he said. Chew seemed to have a light that illuminated the conversation with knowledge and wisdom as he spoke.  He offered these final words ‘to grow on:’

“I remember the first time I was chased (in) the park by some boys. My mother opened the door and saw me running and saw them, then closed the door.”  From that point he learned that he had to deal with the world head on. “Don’t run from a challenge, don’t run from a problem. I like to meet a challenge, straight up and head on, and that’s why I feel I have a lot to contribute not only to the music industry, but also the world” he said.  “I’ve seen a lot of really good musicians and singers that just can’t seem to make it in the industry. Now making it is relative. When I say make it, first of all make a steady living at it so that you could support yourself or family. Step number two, see if you can graduate try to dream ahead of where you are at ... dream further, dream upward and then see a star, shoot for it and go on and grab it, that’s success.. If you do that one time, you feel like ‘man I did something,’ and then when you get there, its time to look at another star and dream ahead.”  For MORE on Ray Chew, visit his website: www.raychew.com or his MySpace page: www.myspace.com/raychew281. You can hear him crooning his super smooth cut "Bringin' It" at either location.

“Any kind of success, which is relative, is the combination of opportunity and preparation. I’ve had years in the field, years of study all before…so everything that I’ve done has prepared me for my next step.” ~ Ray Chew 

Still Classic After All These Years

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Geoff Chapman, Jazz Columnist

(April 26, 2007)
Arlene Smith is one crafty veteran, owner-operator of a classic jazz voice that is most at home singing classic jazz songs. When you learn she cut her jazz teeth in the early 1950s with Steve Garrick's big band in Montreal when she was just 15, you have to wonder how she's preserved that distinctively warm, expressive sound. She releases her new CD Two for the Road at Opal next Thursday, a rare chance for connoisseurs of fine singing to enjoy her and disc-mate Mark Eisenman on piano plus bassist Steve Wallace. Her third album (following Until Today and Stirred Not Shakin') offers 16 songbook specials including lesser-known delights such as Cole Porter's "Down in the Depths on the Ninetieth Floor." Of particular note are the appealing "But Not for Me," an elegant "Some Other Time," a wry "Everything Happens to Me" and a marvellous "When The World Was Young." Eisenman has an immaculate idea of piano accompaniment and he perfectly complements the way Smith gets inside a song, projecting its emotional meaning. The recording came about when jazz lovers John and Patti Loach heard Smith sing in Toronto's Le Select Bistro and suggested the project. It happened in the Loach studio.

"I've always wanted to do a duo, and it was like a private jam session," she said from her Roseneath, Ont., home on Rice Lake. Plenty has happened between blossoming in Montreal and singing hereabouts and at Ontario jazz festivals. As she confesses in her liner notes, she used to learn by listening, scribbling the words to songs in stores where recordings could be sampled. Smith, whose comrades in Garrick's band included trumpeter Guido Basso, didn't grow up in a musical family. But she recalls singing at a Quebec lodge at 8, being entered in talent shows and entertaining at school dances with ditties made popular by swing stylists Kay Starr and Teresa Brewer.  At 12, however, she heard Stan Kenton's band, whose singers included Anita O'Day and June Christie. "That's when I decided I'd like to sing something cool."  At 18 she moved to New York intending to study at the Juilliard School. Instead she met pianist Ellis Larkins, they married and ran their business from Beefsteak Charlies on 52nd Street, performing mainly in East Side clubs including sessions with legends Vic Dickenson and Clark Terry.

That marriage ended but she remarried, halting her singing to run a real estate business and raise huskies.  She moved back to Quebec in 1973. Tragedy struck the following year, when she lost her son Ellis Jr. and husband in a motorcycle accident. She went back to Montreal, "where I started to express my grief. Then I met (pianist) Oliver Jones, who was returning home after eight years in Puerto Rico. We needed to get back our jazz chops, and we used to practise at Tiffanys." Smith began singing and working at the L'Air du Temps jazz club while she helped start another venue, La Voute at Sherbrooke and Guy – "there were some wonderful years." Guitarist Reg Schwager suggested she try Toronto, so she did from 1985, starting work with vibist Peter Appleyard and playing all the clubs, including long-gone George's and Basin St., while keeping a day job managing a fashion house. "Now I sing when I can, but I don't often find venues where what I sing will be appreciated." But she still loves it, her favourites Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald, Mark Murphy and Kurt Elling – and still keeps in tune at Roseneath alongside bass Rick Homme and pianist Shelagh Purcell.

Just the facts
Who: Arlene Smith
Where: Opal Jazz Lounge, 472 Queen W.
When: May 3 at 8 p.m.

Rogers Pitches For Pay Audio, Hoping Ears Will Tune To Web

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Grant Robertson

(April 26, 2007) One of Canada's biggest broadcasters is placing a bet that the future of radio isn't necessarily in radios.

Rogers Communications Inc. may learn in the next month if it will get permission to start a pay audio service aimed at listeners outside of conventional radio, which could eventually be used to stream music to cellphones and Internet receivers in cars. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission began poring over the proposal in March. It is the latest step in Rogers' strategy to bundle services for its cellphone, cable and Internet businesses. Rogers, which operates 51 AM and FM stations across the country, wants to create a 30-channel pay audio network, with a variety of music and talk formats. Much of the content will be original, but the company also plans to mix in conventional programs.

Rogers Communications

If approved, the new business would face stiff competition in the rapidly fragmenting world of radio. It would battle commercial radio, satellite radio, streaming audio on the Internet and music downloads on phones. It would also fight for a piece of the pay audio market offered by services such as Max Trax and Galaxie, which are carried on cable and are often used in restaurants, bars and retail outlets. Rogers officials say the company doesn't want to limit itself to any one of those markets with the proposed service. "It's going to be about content that's going to be available on a number of different platforms whether its some kind of receiver in your car, some kind of receiver you're carrying around with you, or some kind of receiver in your house," said Alain Strati, vice-president of regulatory affairs for Rogers Media. "It's the same thing with satellite radio. It's called satellite radio, but it doesn't have to come from there." Satellite radio providers XM and Sirius have negotiated deals to put their channels on cellphones in Canada, including those on the Rogers network, in an effort to expand their monthly subscribers, who pay about $15 a month. Meanwhile, Internet radio services are trying to position themselves for the day when wireless Web access is readily available in cars.

Pay radio can be a tough market, though. Satellite radio companies have spent heavily to attract customers with exclusive content. Rogers estimates its pay audio service will be profitable in its second year, and will post more than $2-million in revenue by its fifth year. The idea has faced opposition from the CBC, which owns the 45-channel Galaxie service and also holds a 40-per-cent stake in Sirius Canada. The public broadcaster argues Rogers' proposal to include talk and news programming is a threat to its satellite radio operation.  Other companies have contemplated similar ideas before. CHUM Ltd. considered launching a subscription service in 2005, but never pursued it. A decision on the Rogers proposal could be made by June.

CD Music Sales Plummet

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

(April 27, 2007)
Sales of CDs and music DVDs in Canada in the first quarter of this year fell by an unprecedented 35 per cent – to $68.7 million from $105.6 million in the same period in 2006 – the most drastic decline in "physical" music sales of any country in the world, according to figures released yesterday by the Canadian Record Industry Association. Unit sales for the same period were down 30 per cent, to 7.1 million from 10.2 million in 2006. "There was no sign at Christmas that our early 2007 sales would be as bad as this," association president Graham Henderson told the Star.  "This is the largest ever annual decline in Canada's music market. It's like the Wild West up here." While hard-copy sales were expected to diminish because of the shift to digital formats – they fell by 12 per cent in 2006 over the previous year – the corresponding increase in legal digital downloads reported in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and Japan has not occurred in Canada, where free file sharing and other unpaid downloading are still considered legal by many users, and law enforcement lacks the resources to police digital piracy, Henderson said. Based on research conducted last year, conservative estimates are that 1.3 billion unauthorized downloads occur in this country each year. It's estimated there were 20 million legitimate downloads in 2006.

Henderson and others in the Canadian music industry painted a grim picture of the state of the musical nation. Sales of CDs and music DVDs in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2007 have fallen by about 20 per cent, he said. "But in the U.S., the percentage of music revenue attributable to legal digital downloads is 17 per cent. In Canada it's 6 per cent." That's bad news for the Canadian record industry. And it comes after an almost unbroken string of declines since the popular spread in this country of unauthorized file-swapping technology, and the proliferation in recent years of CD and music DVD counterfeiting.  Digital music sales are not replacing lost CD and DVD sales as they are in countries with aggressive copyright protection laws banning file sharing, and punitive enforcement policies. "There's mass confusion in the (Canadian) marketplace about whether downloading is even illegal," Henderson said.  "Successive federal governments have been in a state of paralysis for the past decade over copyright reform that would explicitly outlaw the unauthorized use of music and punish offenders," he said.  "Musicians themselves, who are working for less than ever, are in a state of denial over the rights and wrongs of downloading and music property rights. And law agencies don't have the money, manpower or political backing to take action." With the release of its report yesterday, the association is calling on the federal government to update the Copyright Act, and to protect artists and other creators of intellectual property from the unauthorized use of their work on the Internet, Henderson said. The initiative is supported by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and organizations representing music and book publishers and the software and movie industries.

Morissette's Twin A Musician With Spirit

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(April 26, 2007) He calls her Lanny. She calls him Imre. He's a world-travelling yoga instructor and serene musician whose albums feature the ancient Sanskrit language of India. She recently made a wacky My Humps video. Imre is the middle name of
Wade Morissette, twin of Alanis, a pop star whom you already know. Brother Wade beat his sister out of the womb by 12 minutes, but lags far behind when it comes to CD sales and celebrity recognition. Now, the gap closes, if only slightly. Wade Morissette has signed on with the Nettwerk label for the release of his forthcoming Strong as Diamonds album, a pleasant synthesis of uplifting choral chant, soulful spirituality, mild Western pop and soothing Eastern exotica. Imagine James Taylor in a jodhpuri acting as Gandhi's interpreter.

“It's definitely an East meets West kind of thing,” Morissette explains from Ottawa, his hometown. “People in the mainstream can relate to the melodies and the English aspect of the music, but it's a little more unique because of the Sanskrit element.” Morissette, a 32-year-old yogi often photographed wearing no shoes, makes his way to Toronto this weekend for Yoga: The Conference and Show, where he'll perform a concert, as well as holding workshops and leading a free “trance dance.” By his own estimate, he'll sell somewhere between 150 and 200 CDs – commendable commerce, but nowhere close to the brisk trade done by mega-selling sis. The spiritually motivated Morissette is not envious of Alanis's chart-topping triumphs, describing his own schedule of yoga conferences, retreats and workshops as “full and rich.” Not that he has disdain for the star's life. “I think about touring globally and playing in front of 20,000 people,” he admits. “I could be happy with that.” The twins share what Morissette calls a “psychic connection thing,” but don't work together musically, other than to offer feedback and moral support. “We're very close,” he says, “but we're also very individual when it comes to the creative process.”

So, no nutty video, like Alanis's My Humps send-up? “We actually talked about making a video, set in a yoga class, with people falling all over each other,” Morissette says with a chuckle. Morissette, who grew his hair and travelled to India at the age of 18 (right around the time his sister was achieving her first pop success), has been in Vancouver for 13 years. Sometimes his famous sibling seeks out his yoga instruction. You wonder what goes on between the two. Cathartic chanting? Deep meditation? “It's different each time,” Morissette says. “Sometimes it's eating nachos and going to a movie.”

Stars Performer - Amy Millan

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Reporter

(April 28, 2007) Her Stars may be burning ever brighter, but for a local girl like
Amy Millan, it just doesn't get much better than this.  The singer-songwriter is playing Massey Hall next Friday, when she will handle opening duties for Ron Sexsmith.  "I grew up in Toronto, so the magic of Massey Hall has kept me on my toes for the last couple of months," Millan says. "It is going to be a huge excitement for me. I love Ron, and I've just been a huge fan for a long time." Or maybe Millan – who joined the solo artist circle with her album Honey from the Tombs last summer – is just happy to be home.  These days, most of her time has been spent jetting around the country – she spent six weeks in Vancouver recording the new Stars album, followed by a six-day pit stop in Montreal.  "(The recording) is great. We're all finished tracking, so we're getting ready to mix the record here with a fella called Joe Chiccarelli, who's fantastic, and then we let it hit the streets in September." The new record is going to be called In Our Bedroom After The War, and Millan figures the band will be touring for much of the year after it comes out.

But before living on the bus, she's got a string of Ontario dates and then a bunch of stops on the folk festival circuit – which she says was her Machiavellian motive all along.  "That was my whole plan putting out the record, so I could do folk festivals for the rest of my life," she says. "They didn't really fit into the Stars business," Millan adds. "I like to do rock festivals, but my first time going to a folk festival was the Edmonton Folk Festival. (Sibling musicians) Jenny Whiteley and Dan Whiteley were playing there and I got a `kin pass' – which is what you get if you are friends or related to the band – so it was exactly like being an artist. There's dogs and children, it's a great atmosphere, and this year I'm going to go to the Yukon for the first time. I'm playing at Dawson City, which is really incredible." Dan Whiteley remains a friend and is featured prominently on her record – which is comprised of seven people, bigger than Stars, a bit ironic when you consider it's a solo venture.. But Millan is pretty forthright about the supposed differences between being a solo artist and her day gig in a band.  "These are the spins that the press does, like this being a side project," she says. "It's all these sorts of terms that people use to try to understand what it is – but really, it's all just art.  "People don't say, `Oh, I had a kid and now I'm having a side-kid.' You know what I mean? It's my side-child that I don't love as much as my first child. But it doesn't work like that, in our mind. We're just making music."

She adds, "Like the idea of it being a solo project ... I play with, like, seven people, so this idea that it's a solo project is so far from the truth.  "It's my name, because I'm the person responsible for writing the songs, but it takes a village to make a record. It takes a lot of people and we're just lucky enough to be surrounded by a community of fantastic musicians." Millan says she's firmly focused on the Stars until probably next summer, when she plans to record her next solo record. She has about nine or 10 songs already set, and two of them – "Bury This" and "Low Sale" – are already part of her live repertoire.

Neil Peart - Closer to the Heart

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop Music Critic

(April 28, 2007) Although he's been the man responsible for putting thoughtful words into Geddy Lee's mouth for the past three decades,
Neil Peart has rarely spoken publicly. A simple, human desire for privacy is no doubt the main reason, particularly in the wake of the horrific period at the end of the 1990s when the Rush drummer lost both his wife and 19-year-old daughter within the space of 10 months.  But given the amount of writing done by Peart, who has authored four autobiographical travelogues – The Masked Rider, Traveling Music, Ghost Rider and the more recent Roadshow: Landscape With Drums – over the past decade and religiously maintains the content at his NeilPeart.net website, perhaps the man would just prefer to air his thoughts in a different manner. True to form, he's mulling over his laptop, cigarette in hand, and attempting to finish up a review of the latest Dave Eggers novel for the "Bubba's Book Club" section of the site when this writer arrives one Monday morning at a Port Lands rehearsal space. That's where Peart has been whipping himself into shape for Rush's upcoming world tour. One of the virtuoso drummer's legendary 'kits practically glows on a raised dais behind him.

The lengthy road swing – Rush won't hit Toronto until a pair of dates at the Air Canada Centre on Sept. 19 and 22 – follows this coming Tuesday's release of Snakes & Arrows, the trio's first album of new material since 2002's Vapor Trails.  Co-produced with 36-year-old young Turk Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver), it's a muscular, wholly contemporary sounding update on the classic Rush formula of elevated musicianship, metal anthemics and lyrical food for thougSht, the latter honing in this time on matters of love but mainly of faith.  "There was no concept of Nick being the young guy at all. We were just kindred spirits equally enthused about the work we were doing," says Peart, who like bandmates Lee and Alex Lifeson is 54 and appreciates the occasional kick in the ass from an outside observer in the studio. "We always like to have somebody else's spirit, really – not just their voice or opinion but somebody else's overlook on things. Somebody to encourage us, to prod us, with arrangement ideas, performance ideas.  "That's what happened with Nick. We know how to arrange a song and we know how to record it and produce it. We could do it ourselves, but we know it's better if we don't."

The band was, in fact, slightly awed at the precociousness Raskulinecz exhibited in the studio. Peart credits the producer, a lifetime Rush fan who would air-drum his ideas to Peart, with pushing the trio's already renowned playing to new levels ("I wouldn't ask you if I didn't think you could do it" was a favourite expression) and refusing to let it repeat past glories. He was a vigorous enough taskmaster, in any case, that Peart is forced to concede, "I've got nice blood blisters all over my fingers right now from trying to emulate that performance." Peart's words, meanwhile, came from some of the usual, rarefied sources – Richard Dawkins and evolutionary psychology are current inspirations – but also in large part from his experiences touring the back roads of America and Europe by motorcycle during Rush's 30th-anniversary tour in 2004. It was on his rides through various Bible Belts, chronicled in print in Roadshow, that Peart realized he could no longer "stay neutral" on the topic of religion, he says. Snakes & Arrows addresses some of his conclusions in tunes like "Armor and Sword" and "The Way the Wind Blows," which ponder the perversion of faith into oppression and war, and the telling "Faithless," which rejects adherence to higher powers in favour of a humanist allegiance to one's own "moral compass." "It came from travelling through all these back roads and small towns and seeing these church signs everywhere," says Peart. "Some of them are amusing, like: `If you give the devil a ride, pretty soon he'll want to drive.' That's fantastic. But other ones were just so presumptuous with these big crosses and scripture. What makes you think that's okay? I tried to imagine going by one with the crescent and star saying, `There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.' Or one with the Star of David saying, `That carpenter wasn't our messiah.' It makes me laugh, in a way, but in another, this is so f--ked up.

"It's so arrogant and that's what I can't get over. So I was trying to weigh all that .... I didn't want to make enemies gratuitously, but I decided I had to say something because if I didn't I was just allowing that to happen. It's worth speaking out despite the vilification and stuff that might come back at you. If you're not speaking for reason, you're speaking for unreason." For all the prose he's mined over the years from his touring experiences, however, Peart remains only a grudging participant in the process. When Rush hits the road, it hits it hard – the Snakes & Arrows tour kicks off in Atlanta in June and wraps on Oct. 29 in Helsinki – and this has always been an odd source of inner conflict for a drummer's drummer blessed with playing in one of the world's most vaunted live bands. To keep things interesting, though, he promises Rush feels somewhat "liberated" from its catalogue after doing a pure greatest-hits tour three years ago, and will this time be honing in on new material and "old songs that we haven't played for years or that we've never played." One such gem from 1979 is in the works, although he won't say which. "I've written before that I first quit touring in 1989 and I've been quitting touring ever since," laughs Peart. "No, I don't find it rewarding at all. It's arduous and repetitive, but it's part of the job. I love rehearsing. What we're doing right now I love, learning the songs and the three of us playing together and getting in lockstep with the band and such. All of that's great and the first couple of shows are great, but then it's six months of my life. I don't get my life back until November."

"What does a band do? A band plays live. To me, that's fundamental and one thing that's kept me from quitting all this time because it seems obvious to me that if we stop playing live, we stop growing. It's not real. For us to be a real band, I just accept that it's what I have to do. Nobody's job is heaven – I look around all the time and I feel grateful to have that choice ...  "I know there are a lot of bands from our generation slogging around clubs and state fairs just to make a living and we can choose every few years to do a tour of huge venues and travel by bus or motorcycle, so I'm not being cynical about it.  "But I spent last year at home writing a book ... and writing new songs and that's the good stuff. What we just did – the three of us going away together and working together and creating new material – that's the ultimate part of the job.  "Going out and doing the same thing over and over again, how can that be great unless you're so shallow that you feed off that?"

Touring Still Gives B.B. King A Thrill

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

(May 01, 2007) Blues legend
B.B. King says he's not one for farewells. But as the guitar great embarks on an extensive Canadian tour, it seems that King's retirement is all that people around him seem to be talking about. "Every time I play some place, people are saying it's my last time," King says by phone from Vancouver in the early days of a 16-city cross-Canada tour. "I feel fine, but maybe they know something I don't." If Canadian fans are worried, it's only because the 81-year-old has been on a bit of a farewell tour of late overseas. Last year, King declared a trip to Europe as likely his last, and similarly suggested that a visit to Brazil would stand as his send-off to South America.

Now that he's begun one of the biggest Canadian tours of his lengthy career, can he fault Canadian fans for fearing this could be their last chance to see the legend perform live? Touring has become a bit more difficult in his old age, he admits. King's current tours generally run two to three weeks and are followed by a respite at his Las Vegas home. "I notice I'm getting older," says King, whose 1970 crossover single "The Thrill Is Gone" remains his biggest hit. "Maybe my steps are a little shorter than they once were." He's also been "a little sickly" of late. In January, a fever put him in hospital.  "I really was in bad shape," says a soft-spoken King, who has also lived with diabetes for nearly 30 years. "But the third day ... I started flirting with the nurses so they threw me out." Nevertheless, the drive to perform persists, says King, who opened the Canadian leg of his North American tour in Victoria last Thursday. The show reportedly saw him mug for the audience while seated in a chair throughout his performance, tossing banter and gold-coloured chains to an adoring crowd.

Reminiscing about his career, King admits he's become a bit weary of farewells himself, lamenting that several talented contemporaries have recently died, such as friend and fellow blues guitarist Robert Lockwood Jr. "I see so many of my friends and acquaintances and people that I don't know that are dropping out now. Losing so many, it seems to me at this time that I'm about the oldest one that's still out here," he says. "They're all leaving me, it seems like." Still, he says he gets a thrill from touring and meeting with devoted fans in person. This year marks his 60th anniversary of performing live, and he says he can't imagine a day when he'll stop. A lot has changed since the musical phenom first hit the road in his 20s. King's most staggering run came in 1946, when he staged 342 one-nighters, a feat he still proudly brings up. His current tour is a much tamer affair. King says his only woman now is a six-string called Lucille, and his cross-country ride is a luxury tour bus he bought in Canada. King's tour arrives in Toronto on May 11 and wraps May 19 in Saint John, N.B.

The Faces Of Tori Amos

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

(May 01, 2007) If
Tori Amos has a reputation for eccentricity, it will be solidified with the arrival of her ninth studio album, American Doll Posse, in stores today.  Not only has the singer/songwriter/keyboardist recorded the songs as four distinct female characters (Isabel, Clyde, Pip, Santa) besides herself, but each one will have her own blog and take turns opening for Amos on her upcoming tour. "I've been confusing people from the beginning," the forthright entertainer said during a visit to Toronto yesterday. Since her 1992 debut, Little Earthquakes, Amos's whimsical approach and quivering vocals have sold more than 12 million records. The trappings of her new record seem gimmicky, but the 23 songs exude political and moral strength with their feminist explorations. The classically trained pianist and North Carolina native is a savvy entrepreneur who owns her merchandise company, is a partner in the firm that manages her, and recorded American Doll Posse in the state-of-the-art studio at the Cornwall, England compound where she resides with her husband and daughter.

Q:        What is the source of your tremendous well of compositions?

A:            My grandfather was part eastern Cherokee and he had such influence on me till I was 9, when he died. He was a great storyteller and he would encourage me to listen to the myths and the stories of the Indian people. He said, "You understand musical keys, but there are story keys, so when you go back into the keys, then you're able to go to the root of a chord." I'm not the one doing it, it's a co-creation.

Q:        What compelled you to explore this idea of the "dismembered feminine?"

A:            The female types in Christianity – from the point of view of the minister's daughter – were amputated: mother Mary not having her sexuality and Magdalene not having her spirituality. This drives me to tell the story of the complexity of woman. Female sexuality is breaking my heart now: to rebel, women are demeaning themselves.

Q:        Often in pop, image is used to obscure lack of talent and substance; why risk taking the focus off your lyrics and message with these different characters?

A:            Everything's an image. As you become older as a woman you recognize that. The red-headed girl at the piano? It's not the only choice, if I'm honest with you, I could have made. There are many sides to the women I know that are much more complex. Their boyfriends look at them thinking they know (them), and I'm sitting there thinking, if I were a guy I'd be stealing her from you. I've always thought Johnny Depp may know how a woman tastes, but I know how she thinks. We're the same age, Johnny Depp and I.

Q:        What age is that?

A:            43. And isn't it interesting that we, as woman at 43, our place in the industry is very different than men at 43. There are not a lot of (female) heartthrobs at 43. And there's something in me that felt for the first time since being a mom I wake up happy in my skin. I think I needed to become a beached whale – get so big and create this life – and by giving birth I recognize what my body as woman could do without any shame or any kind of idea that sexuality isn't sacred.

Q:        How has having a child informed your work?

A:            When (my daughter) was a toddler ... I was investigating the nurturing side of woman. I'd been a warrior for so long, I had no problem addressing things with the anger side of myself; but the compassionate side and the side that doesn't put yourself first was not something I knew too much about. As Tash has gotten independent – she's 6 1/2 now – I could pick up the tomahawk again and address certain issues for women.

Q:        Were you concerned about the possibility of backlash for taking President Bush to task with "Yo George"?

A:            Well, my name is Tori and "inflamma-Tori" is what I do. I've never been America's sweetheart, ever. I love my dad, but he is a Republican and we don't agree.

Meet Liv Warfield From Oregon

Source: HPR, SashaB310@aol.com, www.heliopr.com

(May 2, 2007)
Liv Warfield is one of the most promising voices in indie soul music today. Her triumphant debut album, Embrace Me, is a compelling overload, combining warm, seductive vocals and vintage R&B with a funky new-age twist.    Her music is a celebration of love and life; a powerful package of brilliant songwriting and flawless harmonizing. But Liv's greatness lies in her simplicity.  She still has that demure mid-western charm about herself and a unique vulnerability that paints a picture of a young woman with an old soul full of timeless, liberated melodies.  "Ascending from a family history of extraordinary talent arises a self-trained singer, songwriter, performer, arranger and co-producer, Liv Warfield. Warfield is R&B's purest new musician since Sade.

Out of an era dominated by the R&B synthesizer, over sampled hip-hop production and a distinctly bohemian neo-soul movement, emerges a fundamentally pure artist that defies the modern trends of her genre and embodies a global art form through her cross-categorical appeal.  A singer who organically blends classic soul, electric rock, sultry rhythm and straight-up sexy blues like Tina Turner-and it's only the beginning. Artistic genius flows through the veins of this Peoria-born songstress and close relative of the late comedian Richard Pryor. 

It is through Warfield's lyrical clarity, her vocal conviction and the brilliance of her timeless arrangements, where she eclipses her contemporaries. Her succinct and purposeful songwriting, inspired by the "message music" of Curtis Mayfield, fuses her gospel-guided sensibilities with secular lyrics that are sultry without sacrificing her foundation of moral authority."  -- CD Baby

Liv, who is the cousin of legendary comedian
Richard Pryor, didn't inherit her love of music by way of genetics, Sunday morning church choir participation or school band rehearsals, although she did play the violin for 13 years, Liv was a track star who longed to sing. Born and raised in Peoria, Illinois to a family of prideful, standout athletes Liv kept her emotions, talents and dreams to herself and lived vicariously through her musical hero's such as Jill Scott, Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Sarah Vaughn, Sade and Mary J. Blige.   "All of these women have strong voices and there is something in each of them that I see in myself.  They were not afraid to be vulnerable and didn't put on fronts.  They were raw, pure and intense."

Check out Liv's music at her MySpace page, HERE.

We Remember Platters Singer Zola Taylor

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 2, 2007) *
Zola Taylor, the lone female singer in 50s group “The Platters,” has died in Riverside County, Calif. from complications of pneumonia, her nephew, Alfie Robinson, told AP Tuesday. She was 69.  Taylor was also among the three women who claimed to be pop idol Frankie Lymon's widow.  Halle Berry portrayed Taylor in the 1998 movie about the court battle, titled “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.”  The singer, who harmonized with the Platters on such hits as “The Great Pretender,” had been bedridden following several strokes and died at Parkview Community Hospital.  It was founding Platters member Herb Reed who recruited Taylor, the sister of Cornell Gunter of the Coasters, after catching her rehearsing with a girl group in 1955.  He said she had the charisma and vocal chops the R&B group needed. The all-male outfit had just signed with Mercury after their single "Only You" became a No. 1 hit and their manager thought a female voice would be the perfect addition to soften their sound. "She was a very pretty young lady and what a great, great smile," Reed told The Associated Press. "And she had this baby voice that everyone liked. …We were the first Afro-American group to have a girl singer. That was the talk of the nation. All of the sudden, other groups started looking for girls."

The beginning of the end for the Platters came just after 1959 when four of the male members were arrested in Cincinnati. Reed said he had been out of touch with Taylor since the early 1960s. In the 1980s, Taylor and two other women all claimed to be Lymon's widow and fought over his royalties. Lymon, a 50s teen heartthrob with such hits as "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?," had died of a drug overdose in 1968 at age 25. The courts eventually sided with one of the other women.  Robinson, Taylor's closest known living relative, said his aunt continued touring with other lesser-known acts until 1996 and wed two other times. Her last husband died in 1982, he said. She had no children.

Introducing Poison Pen

Source: Hustle

Bed Stuy’s own
Poison Pen is not new to the New York hip-hop scene, to say the least. The Brooklynite made his first appearance in 1996 at the first online radio station 88HipHop.com, before tearing through the streets as the undefeated champ of the NYC MC battle circuit. After participating in the Blaze Battle, Pen decided to retire in 1999 and later host the most popular lyricist competition to date, Da Cypha Emcee Battles featured throughout NYC. Although he retired as a battle MC, he then when on to form the indie rap group, known as Stronghold. The group gained respect as a classic collaboration of real hip-hop artists including members such as legendary underground MC’s, Immortal Technique and Breez Evaflowin. He received his first distribution deal through Landspeed Records in 2000, for his debut single  “Top of the Food Chain.” 

The hard hitting single lead to Pen being sought after by Rockstar Games for inclusion of his unique vocal talents in their top-selling video games, “The Warriors” and “Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.” After participating in some of the most influential video games of our culture, he then went on to collaborate with hip-hop purists MF Doom, Rass Kas, Littles as well as hit making production team, The Beatminerz. These consistent appearances with notable artists and producers have allowed Pen to maintain a large fan base, without dropping a solo album of his own, which is unheard of in the current fickle state of the music industry. Pen’s undeniable musical talents in combination with his charismatic personality have also taken him to the big screen with an appearance in the feature film, “Dave Chapelle's Block Party”. He has also been highlighted in the “VH1 Hip Hop Honors” as well as securing his presence on MTV in hit shows “The Shop” and DFX.

Hunger, passion, talent and dedication to real hip-hop are the ingredients, which have allowed Poison Pen to remain relevant in the game. His latest venture is his unofficial first solo album, titled "Pick Your Poison: The Mark Of The East," available in the spring on Fontana/Universal records, which is presented by Immortal Technique. Pen is currently on a national tour, and he frequently tours in Hungary, Amsterdam, and Norway, which has allowed him to maintain a strong following abroad. In addition to being the new poster child of true hip-hop artistry, Pen also is an accomplished journalist and has a blog on the industry website, HipHopGame.com. Pen’s journal of his life currently maintains the most hits of any of the postings on the informative site. Long awaited, and long overdue, the man with the Poison Pen will finally get his chance to make his “mark” on the mainstream. The lead single on the upcoming album is entitled “Stoopid.” One would be to stand in his way.

Diana Krall Is Easing Her Way Into Touring Again

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

(May 2, 2007) New York City is a big and busy place, and it's not unusual for there to be a certain amount of background noise on a telephone call. But as jazz star
Diana Krall speaks from her Manhattan apartment, the sound in the background isn't cars honking or people talking, but the quiet gurgle of a contented baby. “I'm feeding my little boy,” she explains. “Sitting here with my little boy.” Frank, the little boy in question, is one of the twins Krall and her husband, rock Renaissance man Elvis Costello, had in December, and while being a mother has definitely changed her life, it hasn't affected her attitude toward making music. “I toured right up until my seventh month,” she says. “I promoted an album until I was seven months pregnant. With twins. I kept very active and busy, more than, my doctor said, any other patient with twins that he's ever had.”

That's not to say there weren't some anxious moments. At one point during that tour, she experienced some unexpected contractions, and was whisked off to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.  Although she's grateful for the care she got — “The woman there was very kind to me,” she says — that's not why she will be playing a benefit for the Mount Sinai Auxiliary's “Healthy Babies” pledge drive. “Because it's for such a good cause,” she says, as if the answer were self-evident. “I just did a Children's Hospital benefit in Washington, D.C., and I do a lot of work for our hospital in Vancouver. Now that I have children, it's something I can do by playing the piano that is a very wonderful thing. It helps parents, it helps raise awareness, and it also helps the hospital. So it's a lovely way for me to help.” It's also a nice way for her to get back into her old routine of roadwork after taking six months' maternity leave. “It's not like I've been slacking off, or leaving it because I'm uninspired,” she says.  “I've been very busy with my family, and … it feels good. I'm very much in the moment, and I'm loving my life right now.”

Still, six months without playing piano is, she says, “the longest I've ever been away from music,” and it has left her both eager to play and a touch anxious about getting back up to speed.  “I'm going to tour June through September and, once I start up in June again, I'm really busy. So I'm getting prepared. I'm doing smaller gigs between now and then, just to get [back in shape].” Making music is both a physical and mental activity, and Krall admits that she could feel the effects of her time off when she started rehearsing again. “I was in Vancouver, and I called my friend Russ Botten — I don't know if you know, he's a really good bass player in Vancouver — and we played for an afternoon,” she says. “It felt pretty good, but it didn't feel great, you know? Like my head knew where I wanted to go, but my fingers didn't.” Krall, though, understands that she is her toughest critic.  “People are very kind to me, and I'm very hard on myself,” she explains. “Like recently, we played in Washington, and after the gig I just kind of looked at [drummer] Jeff Hamilton, and went, ‘Oh, I don't know.' And he said, ‘You did really great.' “But it was really fun. It's about feel, and we sounded pretty good. Apparently.” As readily as she jokes about being hard on herself, she's utterly serious about her recordings. It drives her nuts, for instance, that some people think she does her singing from within a vocal booth. “That's so wrong,” she says, audibly peeved. “I was not in a booth, and I keep saying this, because I record really organically, I'm right in the room with the band.”

It's a sticking point for her because she thinks that recording live with a band is crucial to getting a genuinely improvisational feel. She cites bassist John Clayton, of the Clayton/ Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. “He says the importance of the way I do it, as opposed to a lot of singers who just record the [instrumental] tracks first and then come in and sing, is that I drive the band and the band drives me, or the band drives me and I drive the band. It's not in any particular order. But we all feed off each other.” Then there's the little matter of her success, the fact that she's one of the few jazz artists in the world whose albums make the top 10 on the pop charts. “What do I say?” she asks. “I don't apologize for it, nor do I boast about it. I just feel very fortunate, you know? It's allowed me to play music, and to play with the people who were my mentors.” And while that success, along with her 2003 marriage to Costello, has made her more of a household name than most jazz musicians, she hasn't found celebrity to be much of a burden. “The only thing I've really had to work hard on in the whole deal was doing interviews,” she says. “Because I'm such a shy person, and I prefer to just play music, I found doing the press part more difficult. But I'm more comfortable in myself now, so I'm enjoying it more.” She pauses a moment. “I don't know if I'm enjoying it …” she corrects, and laughs heartily. “But I'm more at peace with it, I guess.”

In The Key Of Life: Pianist Practises A New Tune

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

(April 26, 2007) 
Benny Green's young lion days are well behind him, but when the Star caught up with the noted pianist by phone in advance of this weekend's Toronto appearances he sounded as giddy as an ingénue. The source of this infectious zest wasn't readily apparent. Green's last record was 2004's Bluebird and though he was just named music director for the Monterey Jazz Festival's 2008 tour, he said music wasn't his current raison d'être. "I used to practise quite diligently and I wouldn't say that I do as much these days," Green said. "Not because I think I have anything together per se, but my priorities manifest away from the piano, as well as with the piano."

What gives? “I’m so in love, I'm focusing my time away from playing the piano on just being with my sweetheart and just trying to serve her better as a friend." The lyrics to one of those sappy Sammy Cahn standards he plays so well could probably sum it up better, but: Green's gonzo over a girl! The 44-year-old tunesmith has moved from New York to Portland, Ore., for bassist/singer Belinda Underwood, with whom he's been "friends a year and half and living together seven months.” And he now finds himself "working in the garden, taking care of pets, things that are just so far removed from my whole lifestyle in the past 24 years of living in New York City in this little cubicle of an apartment practising the piano all day. "I'm stepping outside of myself a bit and just trying to serve the environment a little more.” There were times when my life was devoted to serving music, but I've had a big shift over the years to realizing that music serves our lives: one's art is a reflection of one's humanity and life comes first."

But fans who turn out for his three-night solo stint at Opal Jazz Lounge starting tonight shouldn't find him deficient. “Whenever I have a chance to sit down and play I feel more emotional and spiritual substance to draw upon by not having my focus just be pressing down some white and black keys. Hopefully, I'm just speaking truthfully from my heart.” The New York-born, California-raised, classically trained pianist cut his teeth with deans such as singer Betty Carter, drummer Art Blakey and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. In 1993, Oscar Peterson selected him as the first recipient of the Glenn Gould International Protégé Prize in Music. But there were some drawbacks to the big record company contracts and wide exposure that followed, said Green, who has recorded a dozen albums. "I found myself getting a little swept up in reading reviews, which I haven't done for about 10 years now, and it was just sort of a big ego trip. "Whether I was thinking I was great, or thinking I was small, either way, I was thinking about me and not about serving the music and serving the audience, which is where I feel it's at for someone who is privileged to have an opportunity to travel, or to record music as an offering to people," he said.

"In loving another person, I've been tuning in more to loving myself. I've really tried to turn down the volume of that well-rehearsed impulse to critique myself, and I try to tune in more to how grateful I am to have all four limbs, good health and the freedom of expression that I can actually choose my own notes when I play."


Lennon, Cole Highlight Toronto Jazz Fest

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

(April 25, 2007) Toronto — Jazz fans began turning their thoughts to summer yesterday when the
TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival announced its 2007 schedule. Shows by the festival's three biggest names -- Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck and Keith Jarrett -- were announced weeks ago, but a press conference yesterday fleshed out the 10-day schedule. Beginning with a June 20 "preview" show by R&B revivalist James Hunter, the festival boasts a number of soul stars and sidemen, including singer Mavis Staples, saxophonist David (Fathead) Newman, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and trombonist Fred Wesley. Holly Cole is perhaps the biggest name among the festival's jazz singers. Among the others are Nat King Cole sibling Freddie Cole and Kellylee Evans. Closing out the festival on July 1 is Sean Lennon, who, as the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, is famous for many things -- but jazz, so far, isn't one of them.

White Stripes' Canadian Tour To Include Iqaluit

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(April 27, 2007) Toronto — Indie blues-rockers the
White Stripes have got a hankering for Canada. The group, originally from Detroit, will be performing in all 10 provinces, as well as Nunavut, the Yukon and Northwest Territories this summer. Starting in Burnaby, B.C., on June 24, the band will hit Yellowknife, Iqaluit and Thunder Bay, among its many Canadian stops, before finishing in St. John's on July 16. It's an unusual itinerary for such a major act. But as guitarist Jack White said on the band's website, "Having never done a full tour of Canada, [we] thought it was high time to go whole hog. We want to take this tour to the far reaches of the Canadian landscape. From the ocean to the permafrost." The group will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with its July 10 gig in Glace Bay, N.S.

Kanye, Rod And Lily Added To Diana Concert Lineup

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com

(April 27, 2007) London -- Kanye West, Rod Stewart and Lily Allen have been added to the line-up of artists for a summer concert in memory of
Diana, Princess of Wales. The July 1 show at Wembley Stadium also includes Duran Duran, Elton John, Joss Stone and Pharrell Williams. Princes William and Harry have planned the concert as a tribute to their mother, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997. It marks her 46th birthday on July 1 as well as the 10th anniversary of her death. The concert will also include a performance by the English National Ballet and songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber, organizers said Thursday. The concert will benefit charities Diana supported. AP

New Orleans Jazz Fest Honours Ed Bradley

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 30, 2007) *The spirit of late CBS journalist
Ed Bradley was alive and kicking on Friday during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which honoured the late music lover with an opening day jazz funeral procession, complete with two brass bands. Bradley, who died in November, had wanted to be remembered at the festival with a "second line" parade, so-called because bystanders fall in to form a second line of paraders.   "He put it in his will. He wanted a second line and a New Orleans brass band and Quint Davis to put it all together," said his widow, Patricia Blanchet, according to AP. Davis, the festival producer, introduced performer Jimmy Buffett as the person responsible for first bringing Bradley to the festival in the 1980s, and the first to invite him onstage and hand him a tambourine. "Bless you Father for bringing us a really bad tambourine player but a great friend," Buffett said Friday, while also taking credit for giving Bradley the nickname "Teddy Badly." About 45 of Bradley's friends participating in the parade wore small green pins bearing the name "Teddy." During the event, Davis unveiled two portraits of Bradley painted on large pieces of wood — one a larger-than-life picture of his face, the other showing Bradley in a golf cart that he used to drive to get from stage to stage at the festival. The portraits were included in the festival's annual "ancestors" exhibit featuring likenesses of people important to the festival and its musical legacy. Choked with emotion, Davis said: "We are happy to be sad and say, `You will always be here at Jazz Fest.'"

Vancouver Jazz Fest Offers Eclectic Lineup

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

(April 30, 2007) From such mainstream stars as Sonny Rollins and Norah Jones to avant-garde acts like the Peggy Lee Band and Dylan van der Schyff's Bande X, this year's
Vancouver International Jazz Festival will offer an impressively broad range of jazz and jazz-related music. Kicking off June 22 with a performance by tenor sax legend Rollins, the festival - now in its 22nd year - will include performances by such big names trumpeter Chris Botti (June 24), singer Holly Cole (June 23), saxophonist Joshua Redman (June 26), pianist Oliver Jones (June 24), and the Bad Plus (June 26), as well as Jones and her Handsome Band (June 28). Less in the mainstream - but no less anticipated - are shows by drummer van der Shyff (June 22 with Bande X, June 24 with saxophonist John Butcher and bassist Torsten Muller), cellist Peggy Lee (solo on June 26, and with her band June 27) and guitarist Eugene Chadbourne (June 22). Somewhere in the middle lies the Urban Groove series, which runs the gamut from post-rockers Tortoise (June 27) to jam giant Derek Trucks (June 24). The festival runs through July 1.

Robin Thicke Adds Dates To ‘Evolution’ Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 1, 2007) *Having just gone platinum with his latest album, "The Evolution of Robin Thicke," the R&B star has decided to keep the momentum going by booking a new round of shows on his U.S. tour.
The singer is scheduled to play a number of club gigs and radio shows across the country throughout the month. In June, he’s due to join Jill Scott and Chaka Khan for a gig at New York City's Radio City Music Hall; and will perform at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans in July. [See details below.]
The son of actor Alan Thicke and singer/soap star Gloria Loring, Thicke recently performed his No. 1 urban/adult contemporary radio hit “Lost Without U” on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and is scheduled to belt the tune tomorrow night on "American Idol." 

Snoop’s Smoking Irks Canadian Officials

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 2, 2007) *No, Canada has not become the third country to ban
Snoop Dogg. However the city of Lethbridge in Alberta is now re-evaluating its concert regulations after the rapper allegedly smoked marijuana on stage during a performance. The infraction reportedly took place during a show in January. According to police, he not only smoked openly in violation of the law, but he encouraged audience members to light up as well.   "We saw it as a real affront to our community,” said Lethbridge mayor Bob Tarleck. “We saw that as a group of entertainers who thought that they could come in and just ignore - totally ignore - the rules of our community." The city is now proposing that a financial bond be collected from performers - a deposit that will only be returned if they behave onstage.   Snoop was recently denied visas to the UK and Australia because of previous criminal convictions.


At 28, Sarah Polley Starts Over

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com

(April 28, 2007) When the Cellophane dress appeared,
Sarah Polley finally said no. This kind of thing is pretty common when an actress is playing the fame game: She finds herself at a publicity / fashion shoot with a pushy stylist and a glossy photographer who want to squeeze her into glam clothes. In Polley's case, it happened a few weeks ago, when she was posing for Elle magazine to promote her latest film, Away From Her. Unlike many actresses, Polley, 28, has refused to do these kinds of shoots since she was 16. “I couldn't see how the desire to express ideas in films was connected to selling clothes,” she says. “For me it was like an idea born in outer space.” In most magazine photos, she looks the way she does this April afternoon at lunch in Toronto's Little Italy: She wears jeans, a nice jacket, minimal makeup, no-fuss hair. Since she is impossibly fine-boned and wide-eyed and luminous (her skin actually seems to reflect more light than the average person's), that's usually enough. But Away From Her, which opens next Friday, isn't just another movie Polley is contracted to promote. It's her debut feature as a writer and director. It's based on an Alice Munro short story, and after seven months of nudging, Polley enticed the reclusive Julie Christie into starring. So to get the word out, she broke her own rule and undertook a five-month media siege – chatting up her film in “the most shameless, awful, upsetting way,” she says, laughing – culminating in the Elle shoot, where she found herself “being quite literally hustled into these dresses.”

Until the stylist brought out a Dolce & Gabbana number made of grey, transparent Cellophane, that is, and Polley put her foot down. “The stylist was actually begging, ‘Just one for us, we won't use it in the magazine, just one for you because you're going to look so fabulous,' ” Polley mock-gushes. “This conversation happened six times in two hours. They wouldn't let it go. And the photographer barged in while I was changing even though I said I'd like the door closed. I thought, ‘This is what models go through.' I guess every actress is expected to be a model now.” Weirder still, she wasn't even there as an actress, but as a director. You don't see stylists pulling that trip on, say, Michael Bay. “Absolutely not,” Polley says. “But they would on Sofia Coppola, and they did on me. My guard was just down enough to let it happen. I haven't seen the photos, but I think they'll haunt me a bit when they come out. It was a good reminder, though. Sometimes at 16 you're way smarter than you are later.” Polley has been preternaturally smart throughout her career, which began when she was four. As a child actor on the television series Road to Avonlea, she already had those old-soul eyes. As an adult, she has a thrumming stillness that appeals to the art-house directors she admires, including Atom Egoyan ( The Sweet Hereafter), Hal Hartley ( No Such Thing) and Wim Wenders ( Don't Come Knocking, in which her angelic character was named Sky).

In May she'll serve on the jury at the Cannes Film Festival; she was also on the jury at the last Sundance, where Away From Her – in which an adoring husband (Gordon Pinsent) watches his vibrant wife (Christie) disappear into Alzheimer's disease — received the kind of ecstatic reception filmmakers dream of. At lunch, Polley unabashedly eats all the mozzarella off her Caprese salad, leaving a plate half-littered with naked, pale tomatoes. She has a reputation for being ultraserious, humourless even, scoffing at Hollywood films and talking politics to reporters — but in fact, she laughs at herself easily. Asked about adapting a screenplay, she answers, “The usual self-loathing doesn't come into play when it's an Alice Munro story.” Asked about her upcoming projects, she replies, “I'm doing a film called Mr. Nobody with Jared Leto. It's directed by Jaco van Dormael, who did Toto the Hero.” Then she adds, deadpan, “He's my favourite Belgian director.” Next, she'll play daughter to U.S. president John Adams (Paul Giamatti) in a six-part HBO miniseries based on David McCullough's bestselling biography, directed by Tom Hooper (whose Elizabeth I starred Helen Mirren, and won a slew of awards). “It's the biggest production I've ever seen,” Polley says. “It's so elaborate, it's almost hilarious. I went into the lunchroom on the set in Virginia, and there were 500 people in there. Technically, Hooper is one of the best directors working. I'm so excited to watch him.” It's a nice change after years of feeling ambivalent about acting, she says: “A lot of my experiences as a child actor were not great. It was like a prison for me. I had a lot of responsibility; I was exposed to things I felt unequipped to handle well. As a child, it's a complicated thing to be forming your own identity while your job is to pretend you're somebody else. Especially for a girl, having generally older men constantly congratulating you for becoming who they want you to be.”

Polley credits her parents – Michael, an actor; and Diane, an actress and casting director, who died of cancer when Polley was 11 – for encouraging her outspokenness. “My parents weren't perfect, but one of the really great things about them was, we were never expected to be nice little children,” she says. “It was not going to win you any points to be sweet or play by the rules. If you started a ruckus because something was unfair at school, that might get you points, or if you were funny, a little bit shocking or nervy. Being out of kilter with society in some way, a bit of a rebel – that was thought of as a necessary part of being a citizen, being in a dialogue with the world.” And she thanks her husband of three years, David Wharnsby, a film editor (he worked on Away From Her), for renewing her love of film. “To meet somebody who really knew and loved it, to have something that was oppressing to me become magical, it's such a gift,” she says.  She calls marriage in general, “a lot more interesting even than I thought it would be. When you have someone who's sticking with you, it's a real opportunity to get to know things that are uncomfortable about yourself. And to know somebody else that intimately is such an amazing privilege. I've known David since I was 20, and I feel like I've become who I am in that time. I'm not sure I would have had the strength or confidence to make a film if it wasn't for him.” Both Polley's writing and directing in Away From Her are confident, unafraid of subtleties and silences. She never doubts that her smallish story is enough. “In a first feature, there is this temptation to do cartwheels, to make sure everyone sees every facet of your skill set,” she says. “But it's not about you any more; it's about the story you're telling.”

Still, there were a few moments during the shoot when she held her breath. Christie and Pinsent play avid cross-country skiers, but neither had skied before. “During their lessons, they'd take really hard falls, and I'd wonder, ‘Is this worth it?' ” Polley says. “But Julie got really into it. The instructors wanted to teach her the safety stuff first, but she'd put the skis on and instantly be a speck in the distance. Terrifying.” Then there was the crane shot, the camera looking down at Christie lying on her back in a wintry glade. “The crew had to dig a trench in the middle of the woods in 10 feet of snow to put the crane track in, and they had about 30 minutes to do it, because we only had the crane for one day, and they'd already had to disassemble it from our last shot on a frozen lake,” Polley says. So in the middle of this hushed, snow-angel moment, she couldn't shake the horrible vision of a crane toppling onto Julie Christie. “For such an intimate, character-driven movie, there seemed to be a lot of physical danger,” she says, laughing ruefully.  Undaunted, Polley is working on two new scripts. (She writes at a desk in her bedroom, looking out over the street, “because it's important to me to see things go by. To remember that what I'm writing about is not the centre of the world.”) She wants to buy a place up north; she plans to have children “definitely but not immediately.” She looks happy. “I'm in a good place right now,” she says. “I haven't always been, but at this moment I'm really comfortable with what I don't know. It was weird for me to be in my 20s, but doing my job for 20 years. To be 28 and at the beginning of something, figuring out what it is to be a filmmaker – that feels like where I should be. It's a relief.

“What's hilarious is, as an actress, I probably have three or four good years left,” she continues. “I'm glad to have another profession lined up where I can have some control over my lifespan. When I was 23, someone actually said to me, ‘You know, you're not 18 any more' – 23! I get shocked anew every time I hear how prevalent that is in the film industry.” Not in her film: Pinsent is 76; Christie, 66; their co-star, Olympia Dukakis, 75. Polley is still working out her relationship to fame. “For me it's always been a visceral fear, the idea of walking on the street and somebody knows who I am and I know nothing about them. That feels like such a strange, unequal relationship. I can understand people wanting a lot of money – you can get stuff.” She laughs. “I don't know what you get out of fame, exactly. I guess you get acknowledgment, affirmation that you exist, that you're approved of, worthy. These are things we're all seeking.  “But generally, when there was intense tabloid interest in people, I felt they were getting what they deserved. Recently, though, with the whole Britney Spears thing, for the first time I found myself quite upset by it. Here's this little girl who was forced to be this sex symbol painted with a virgin brush – how confusing was that when she was probably trying to figure herself out? Now she's clearly troubled, as anybody would be, and harassed. It's the first time I haven't felt, ‘Whatever, she walked into it.' All of a sudden it's not so funny to me any more.” But if anyone can sniff out something worthy in self-promotion, it's Polley. Back at the beginning of this publicity blitz, she thought that her fascination with Away From Her's story sprang from her new marriage. “Being at the beginning of it, I was really interested in what happens down the line,” she says. But just the other day, she ran into a former co-star from Avonlea, and they got to talking about how their mothers both died of cancer when they were young.  “I suddenly realized that watching my father lose my mother, the love of his life, was a central emotional experience in my life,” Polley says. “I went, ‘Oh, I guess that's a huge part of [ Away From Her].' It had never occurred to me that my obsession with Grant, who for me is the centre of the film, is that I was interested in what it means for a man to lose his wife. “The promotion process is strange,” she sums up. “But if you try your hardest not to become a broken record, there's a possibility to open new pathways into what you think.” No Cellophane required.

Valenti Was A True Hollywood Hero

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Washington Post

(April 27, 2007) WASHINGTON–
Jack Valenti, a onetime confidant of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson who spent nearly four decades as Hollywood's chief Washington lobbyist and helped devise the American "G" to "X'' movie-rating system, died yesterday at his home in Washington of complications from a stroke in March. He was 85. As president of the Motion Picture Association of America from 1966 to 2004, Valenti represented such powerful studios as Disney, Sony, Warner Bros., Paramount and Universal as well as several leading independent producers.  With an instinctive showman's flair – notably his grandiloquent speaking style and access to movie stars – Valenti became the dominant powerbroker connecting Capitol Hill and the film colony.  Besides his work on the ratings system in the late 1960s, he helped open up world markets for American-made films and secured passage of copyright legislation to protect movies into the digital age, which led to the proliferation of DVDs.

He also was a major gateway to Hollywood's financial largesse during the campaign season. On any given week, Valenti met with actors, world leaders and newspaper editors and was regarded as a brilliant wielder of his glamorous pulpit. Valenti became known to a wider audience through his work as a presenter on Academy Award telecasts. A diminutive, sprightly man, he was easily identifiable by a well-tanned and protruding forehead covered by snow-white hair. He was widely considered an effective promoter for Hollywood on matters including censorship, copyright infringement and, in recent years, video and online piracy of trademarked films. When Hollywood filmmakers attracted controversy, he routinely defended the studios by citing the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as the cause of artistic liberty. This was the case when Valenti, along with MPAA general counsel Louis Nizer, helped create a voluntary rating system in 1968 that changed the way the studios classified a film's suitability for general audiences. By implementing this voluntary system, the MPAA eliminated a movie code dating from the early 1930s with a long list of on-screen taboos ranging from "excessive and lustful kissing" to showing mixed-race sexual relations. What helped smooth the way for Valenti's changes was that many of these films were quality productions with top stars, including Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. By 1969, Midnight Cowboy starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight became the only X-rated picture to win an Oscar for best picture.

O, What Lucrative Webs He Weaves

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss

(May 1, 2007) LOS ANGELES — With his third, fervidly anticipated
Spider-Man movie opening worldwide this week, director Sam Raimi reveals the secret of his success. "My mother and father instilled in us that the best way to be happy is to work hard, and then harder than that," says the diminutive, 47-year-old filmmaker, dressed in the dark suit and tie that has become his standard uniform. His parents also told him and his brothers "that we weren't brilliant, so the only way to make something better than average was to work harder than the next guy at it. So that's been our policy." Spider-Man 3 required more work than its blockbuster predecessors. The special effects are more plentiful and complicated, while the villain ante is upped to three (Sideways's Thomas Haden Church is the amorphous Sandman, That '70s Show's Topher Grace plays Spidey's evil doppelganger Venom and James Franco's character takes up his dead father's Goblin mantle). For lead actors Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, it's also the most emotionally complex of the three films. An alien force brings out the uglier aspects of Spider-Man and his alter ego Peter Parker's personality, and his relationship with Mary Jane Watson is threatened by the arrival of another love interest from the comic books, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Raimi conceived the scenario with his older brother Ivan - who, when he's not screenwriting, works as both a doctor and a private detective (their youngest brother Ted is an actor who's had a small role in all of the Spider-Man movies, because, Sam jokes, his mom makes him cast him). The Raimis started making Super-8 Three Stooges knockoffs when they were kids in Detroit, and Sam just kept going at it through college and beyond. Now he's directing some of the biggest box office in Hollywood: Spider-Man and the sequel are the seventh- and 10th-highest North American box-office grossers of all time and have made more than $1.6-billion (U.S.) internationally. But before the superhero franchise came his way, Raimi was mainly known for the ultra low-budget, grotesquely inventive Evil Dead horror trilogy and producing cheap TV action series such as Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess in New Zealand. Raimi figures he's worked his way up to Spider-Man 3, which has a whopping reported budget of over $250-million (U.S.) But he still can't quite believe it. "I feel very lucky to have gotten the job for that first Spider-Man picture," recalls the director, a childhood fan of the comics who beat out the likes of James Cameron and Tim Burton for the gig. "It was very unlikely that someone with my track record would have ever gotten such a big studio picture. Now, I'm not surprised any more, because the first and second movies were profitable for Sony.

"But it was a slow process getting here. I never even realized that I could be a director. When you live in Detroit, you think you're just going to make movies until somebody says, 'Okay, now it's time to get a job.' " And what a job it's been. But not so consuming a one that Raimi hasn't found time to marry (Gillian Greene, Canadian acting legend Lorne Greene's daughter), and father five children. He has been so busy, though, he does have to think a bit when asked how old his kids are. "Um ... 13, 10, eight, three and five months," he says, slowly, with a proud flourish at the end. When you get five of them, it gets hard because they change ages at different times! I'm about to balance out the intense workload and take some time off to be with my wife and kids. I need to do that. This has been very hard on them." At this point, Raimi doesn't even want to ponder Hollywood's hottest rumour: That he may skip another Spider-Man sequel and instead direct The Hobbit, now that Lord of the Rings director/producer Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema, have fallen out. "The real truth is, I haven't made a decision as to what's next for me," Raimi insists.

As for these intensive years working on three all these years on three work-intensive Spider-Man films productions, Raimi says what's made him happiest throughout these busy years, Raimi is obvious. "I'm out of debt!" he laughs. "I used to make low-budget horror movies and thrillers, and they never made any money. I lived a lot of my life during those 20 years borrowing money, and I never liked that. Finally, I don't have to do that any more. That's really allowed me to concentrate on the movie and, with whatever other time I have, my family. I have so many worries about the movie being good enough that I'm thrilled to have that off my shoulders right now."

Hot Docs Film Festival Breaks Attendance Record

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(April 30, 2007) The 14th annual
Hot Docs festival attracted 68,000 people this year, breaking a previous attendance record for the prestigious event, the largest of its kind in North America. The festival closed Sunday after a 33 per cent increase in its audience over last year. The U.S. documentary War/Dance, about three orphans from a displacement camp in Uganda, picked up the festival's audience award. The prize, sponsored by History Television, is compiled from ballots assembled at all of the festival's screenings.

A list of the Top 10 audience favourites:

1. War/Dance, U.S., directed by Sean Fine, Andrea Nix.

2. We Are Together, U.K., directed by Paul Taylor.

3. Garbage Warrior, U.K., directed by Oliver Hodge.

4. The Suicide Tourist, Canada, directed by John Zaritsky.

5. Forbidden Lies, Australia, directed by Anna Broinowski.

6. Nanking, U.S., directed by Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman.

7. City Idol, Canada, directed by Arturo Perez Torres.

8. Hear and Now, U.S., directed by Taylor Brodsky.

9. Chichester's Choice, Canada, directed by Simonee Chichester.

10. Forever, Netherlands, directed by Heddy Honigmann.

A list of some of the other awards handed out at the festival:

Best Canadian feature documentary: The Bodybuilder and I, directed by Bryan Friedman.

Special jury prize Canadian feature documentary: Driven by Dreams, directed by Serge Giguere.

Best international feature documentary: Losers and Winners, directed by Ulrike Franke, Michael Loeken.

Special jury prize international feature documentary: Without the King, directed by Michael Skolnik.

Best mid-length documentary: Forgiveness: Stories for our Time, directed by Johanna Lunn.

Best short documentary: Man Up, directed by Arturo Cabanas.

The Don Haig Award: Hubert Davis.

The Lindalee Tracey Award: Trevor Anderson.

Hot Docs outstanding achievement award: Heddy Honigmann.

Julie Christie - Play Misty For Her

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

(May 02, 2007)
Julie Christie is shedding a tear for Canada.  The spot of moisture appears during a conversational detour she's taken to comment on how much this country has changed politically since the 66-year-old actor first came to British Columbia for the filming of Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller 36 years ago. Christie was in Toronto last September for the world premiere of Sarah Polley's highly celebrated directing debut, Away From Her, in which she co-stars with Gordon Pinsent. The movie opens Friday. Canada, once the vast untamed frontier of tolerant liberalism, seems to Christie a harder, more conservative place.  "I'm very conscious of the change in Canada since I was here before," says Christie the day after the premiere of Away From Her at the Toronto International Film Festival.  "And the change is very disturbing," the veteran performer and activist (primarily for nuclear disarmament and animal rights) adds.  "I think a lot of the world looked up to Canada – I feel like I might make myself cry – because it's a wonderful thing to have someone not participating in the stuff you feel that you yourself are struggling against. And here was this whole country that had decided to pursue a path of common sense and gentleness. That was terribly gratifying for all of us. So it's like a friend has gone."

While this might seem a peculiar digression, Christie has never been shy about making her feelings known. And the fact is, those feelings have often been stronger in matters of politics than of her profession. Indeed, few celebrities have been as ambivalent about celebrity as Christie. Moreover, as far as she's concerned, it's worse now than ever. "It's much more unpleasant now," she observes about the fame game. "I'm not grumbling because I don't have to suffer. Fortunately none of that applies to me any more, so (I'm) looking at it from the outside and I'm so glad that I'm not a young actress."  One can only imagine that it was precisely this kind of sentiment which forged such a close relationship between Christie and Polley, the equally celebrity-ambivalent Canadian actor-turned-filmmaker who has coaxed such a commanding performance from Christie as Fiona, a woman with Alzheimer's. "It's devastating now," says Christie of today's brand of fame, tucking her feet with their red-painted toenails beneath her on a couch at the Four Seasons hotel.  "And Sarah is very cleverly foreseeing the danger that lies ahead," she adds of celebrity. "I'm sure she'll manage to deal with it, especially that she's now directing. It's so much easier in a way for a director to avoid the evils of celebrity and to be regarded as a worthwhile human being who is something more than a beautiful face or a beautiful body or a beautiful handbag or a beautiful dress. Because half this stuff has to do with what you're wearing, what is the latest label you've got on. It's all to do with sell, sell, sell."

Polley met Christie in 2001, during production of a movie, shot in Iceland, called No Such Thing. Immediately struck by the young actor's intelligence and practicality –"I don't often make friends with actors and actresses," she stresses – Christie struck up a correspondence with Polley that endured not only the making of another film (2005's The Secret Life of Words) but the younger woman's persistent requests that Christie take on an especially challenging role in Polley's ambitious adaptation of an Alice Munro short story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain, which became Away from Her. "She got hold of me for this," Christie recalls with a sigh. "And I thought, `This is a great big part, takes me out of my own wonderful life that I enjoy so much.' Plus I've got to learn a Canadian accent and I hate learning accents. I think I'm basically terribly lazy. So I said, `Oh, no I can't do this. I can't learn a Canadian accent. I can't learn to ski for God's sakes.' Anyway she lured me in the end and I'm terribly glad she did because it was a joy. It was an absolute joy." There's another aspect of Christie, who has lived with the British journalist Duncan Campbell for 28 years, that Polley no doubt found both inspirational and illuminating. Like the younger actor, who has been known for her outspoken views on matters of Canadian culture and politics, Christie has somehow managed to strike a productive balance between acting and activism. "I'm basically very shy," she says. "And although I was always involved, I'm keenly aware that I'm not much of an orator. Not like Vanessa (Redgrave) or Jane (Fonda), both of who are wonderful orators. I was always just so terribly afraid of standing up in public because I thought I'd let the side down.

"Eventually a very passionate activist from South America, one of the Chileans who was staying in Britain at the time of the persecution in Chile, just said, `You've got to do it,'" Christie explains.  "So I started then. That was to do with American nuclear weapons. Since then I've done the best I can because I do feel the people who are trying to spotlight these things which aren't talked about, and which are so terribly dangerous, those people need all the help they can get. And if unfortunately they need it through someone like me who will then be quoted, that's great."  Then, with customary ambivalence, she shrugs. "I should be grateful, I suppose."


Sarah Silverman Will Host MTV Movie Awards

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - AP

(April 27, 2007) New York -- Sarah Silverman, host of this year's
MTV Movie Awards, jokes that she's fulfilling a lifelong dream. "Ever since I was a little girl, before it even started in 1980 -- MTV -- I said, 'Some day, I want there to be an all-music channel that gives out awards for movies. And I want to host that show,' " the 36-year-old actress-comedian said in an interview. The show will air live on June 3 from Los Angeles. Silverman has her own Comedy Central series, The Sarah Silverman Program. AP

EUR DVD Review: Premium

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(April 27, 2007) *Charli (Zoe Saldana) is putting the finishing touches on her planned fairytale wedding to Ed (Hill Harper). But with less than two days to go till the big day when they're supposed to exchange vows, she crosses paths with Cool (Dorian Missick) whose mom, Marva (Tonya Pinkins), has been hired to cater the affair. Cool just happens to be Charli's ex-fiancé, and the two haven't spoken to each other in three years. He doesn't take the news of her impending nuptials very well, because he never got over being dumped by this love of his life. It is easy to see why Charli had ended their relationship, since not only had he behaved inconsiderately towards her, but he's never held a steady job and still lives at home with his mother. Cool is very lucky that his mom's boyfriend, Phil (Frankie Faison), owns a gas station and lets him work there even though he's totally unreliable. So, one would think that Charli would have no reason to reconsider this jive playa, except for the fact that females in films always seem to be attracted to such bad boys. However, just such a self-destructive urge is the familiar theme of Premium, a high-stakes romantic comedy which pits a bourgie brother against another from the 'hood who knows how to keep it real.  For full review by Kam Williams, go HERE.


African American Lives: Second Time Around

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 27, 07) Renowned scholar
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is gearing up for a new instalment of his provocative PBS special 'African American Lives,' which brought to the black genealogy to the forefront with its premiere in February 2006. This go round, the phenomenon --which also included the heralded 'Oprah's Roots' spin-off -- producers are seeking an African American to join the Harvard and an all-new group of distinguished African Americans on an extraordinary journey of discovery.  The new series is tentatively scheduled to air on PBS next February. "What we find in doing this research is that even a regular person has extraordinary stories within his or her family," said Professor Gates.

Under the supervision of Professor Gates, the series' research will be conducted by the eminent genealogists Tony Burroughs, Johni Cerny, Jane Ailes and Megan Smolenyak together with Ancestry.com -- recognized as one of the world's leading online resources for family history information. They'll research the selected individual's family history, while a DNA testing service will provide a genetic analysis.

Interested individuals can now apply online via 'African American Lives' official website through May 4.  "In 'African American Lives 2,' we'll work with one such person to show that the technology and resources for discovering these stories are available to all Americans, especially those of African descent," Gates concluded.

Strange Days, Indeed

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Reporter

(April 28, 2007) "So who is she?" asks the smartly dressed matron out for a bite of lunch with her companion. She's pointing to the long-legged brunette coolly posing for Star photographer Dave Cooper outside the Windsor Arms hotel. "I think she's a model," she says. "No, I've seen her somewhere," her friend answers. "I've seen her on TV in ..." And she shrugs as she goes by. If you watch Canadian TV at all, then you've seen the darkly beautiful
Sarah Strange in three hit series so far: the teen angst show Madison, the medical thriller Da Vinci's Inquest and the sci-fi hit ReGenesis. And if you watch U.S. TV at all, you'll recognize her as one of the co-stars of the hit new ABC series Men In Trees with Anne Heche. In a year of spectacular series burnouts, the low-key and quirky Men In Trees hit the spot with dissatisfied viewers. "We have our pick-up from ABC," Strange reports with glee, finally tiring of posing in the hot midday sun as she leads the way to the hotel's shaded patio. Once there, the B.C. native relaxes with a big grin. "That's right, we're in. After all that struggling, the ratings just turned around. People started finding us. You could feel it, people started noticing the actors and wanting to talk about the show."

And Strange got the best of both worlds. She could stay in her beloved Vancouver while shooting a series good enough to make it onto prime time U.S. television. This meant she had to ditch her running role (two years) on ReGenesis, which shoots in Hamilton and Toronto. "It was the toughest call I ever had to make. I liked playing this gutsy virologist. But I phoned (producer Christina Jennings) and explained I was up for this role and felt I had to take it if offered." For Men In Trees, "I auditioned, I tested, I retested – it's a very specific process in getting exactly who is suited for the role." Making the collective decision to go with Strange were executive producers Jenny Bicks and director James Marigold.  "What I got was this wonderful character"– bartender Jenny who dumped her husband and has now picked him up again. One character described the Alaska-based drama as "Cheers meets Northern Exposure" as Heche winningly plays a relationship expert dumped by her fiancé who moves to tiny Elmo, Alaska to find herself. As Jenny shouts about the plethora of men in Elmo: "The odds are good but the goods are odd!"  "Our prospects were not good," reports Strange, because ABC slotted Men In Trees Fridays at 9. "And nobody watches TV Friday nights anymore!"

But nine episodes and slowly growing ratings later, it was apparent the series was forging its own identity. It needed help to become a hit and ABC relented, popping it into Thursdays at 10 right after the No. 1-rated U.S. series, Grey's Anatomy.  "And we just took off. And never really looked back." ABC still has five unaired episodes from this year – at first, it was thought Men In Trees might be returning Thursdays at 10 – but current network thinking is to bank the five hours and use them up at the start of the September TV season. Strange sighs dramatically when it's suggested she must always have wanted to be an actress. Parents Marc and Susan Strange created the long-running CBC hit The Beachcombers.  "Look, I'd love to give you wonderful anecdotes about hanging out on set – which I did. But I was so tiny I just can't remember that much. As a kid I accepted these people who'd hang out at our home as family."

Anika Noni Rose: 'Dreamgirl' Stage Star Conquers Film And Takes On TV

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

(April 30, 2007) *The name
Anika Noni Rose, which is Swahili for goodness (Anika) and gift of God (Noni) is rather familiar to stage fans and vaguely familiar to movie buffs.  The actress, an acclaimed Broadway star with a Tony Award under her belt, starred in the hit film “Dreamgirls” last winter, but was often driven to the background among the hype of the other two-thirds of the Dreamettes – newcomer Jennifer Hudson and pop superstar Beyonce Knowles.  But Rose has made a name for herself and is quite proud of her recent accomplishments, including taking on the big screen and small screen mediums.  “Dreamgirls” was the first challenge for the stage actress. Moving from stage to screen, Rose said that she was proud of her transition. Proud enough to pacify her ego, apparently. The star told EUR’s Lee Bailey that the satisfaction she had in the project made it easier to bear the fact that the she was overlooked in the media for the film.  “It was a new medium for me and a new challenge and I feel that I was able to step into it. That feels real good on a personal level. And if no one is saying, ‘Oh she was awful’, it’s better for someone to say nothing than to talk about how bad you were,” she joked. “There were moments when I was like, ‘Dang.’ Sometimes it was a little less than pleasing, but things happen that way and sometimes it’s not your time. It doesn’t take away from the work that I did or the joy that I had in creating it, and the pride that I feel.” The actress continued that to some degree, she’s fortunate that she didn’t get as much media attention because she’s rarely recognized on the streets. She shared the story of occasions when she was recognized and said that while she finds it exciting how so many people – from all walks of life – were touched by the film, she’s still surprised.

Nevertheless, “Dreamgirls” will be released on DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, May 1, and the potential for Rose to be recognized – both physically and for her work – resumes. Meanwhile, Rose continues to celebrate the work that she and the rest of the cast did on the film.  “It was an amazing experience,” she reminisced. “It was a phenomenal thing to make and really a blessing to be a part of. When I was in it, I had moments of ‘Wow, this is something special.’ But I didn’t know how huge and affecting it was going to be and how many people were excited for it and ready for it. Making it was just a load of fun to do and a lot of hard work.” The actress even said that she even considers the film a classic already. The star said she loves movies, but had never quite seen anything like “Dreamgirls”, nor witnessed moviegoer reactions like those she saw during the premiere of the film.  “I’ve never seen people in a movie theatre stand up and scream and yell,” she said. “That’s amazing and I credit Bill Condon who had such a beautiful vision of what he wanted to see and what he wanted it to be. He made the film from the perspective of someone who didn’t like a musical. I hope that it continues to push the movie-musical back into the eye and make people want to see that again.”

From the big screen to the small, Rose co-stars in the upcoming USA Networks television movie “
Starter Wife” as the no-nonsense security guard at the Malibu Colony estates where the Hollywood “wifes” congregate. The TV flick, which premieres May 31, stars Debra Messing.  “[‘Starter Wife’] is a term in Hollywood where these big honchos from the studios get married and then became famous and very rich and drop the first wife for a newer, fresher, younger model, so the first wife is called a ‘starter wife’,” Rose explained.  Rose described the film as a story of empowerment of a woman who realized that although she has been dumped by her husband, she had dumped herself a long time ago, and lost herself in that relationship.         “So it’s about her finding herself again without the big-time husband on her arm,” she said. “It’s really a great story for anyone that’s been in a relationship and has moulded themselves so strongly with the other person that they have released their own spirit.”  “Dreamgirls” is available on DVD, tomorrow, Tuesday May 1. For more on the TV movie “Starter Wife” check out www.usanetwork.com.

Tom Poston, 85: Comic Actor

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bob Thomas, Associated Press

(May 02, 2007) LOS ANGELES —
Tom Poston, the tall, pasty-faced comic who found fame and fortune playing a clueless everyman on such hit television shows as Newhart and Mork and Mindy, has died. He was 85.  Poston, who was married to Suzanne Pleshette of The Bob Newhart Show, died Monday night at home after a brief illness, a family representative, Tanner Gibson, said Tuesday. The nature of his illness was not disclosed.  Bob Newhart remembered Poston as a “versatile and veteran performer and a kind-hearted individual.’’  “Tom was always the 'go-to guy’ on Newhart in addition to being a good and long-time friend,” Newhart said in a statement Tuesday.  Billy Crystal, who starred in the 1978 film Rabbit Test in which Poston also appeared, was another admirer.  “How rare that a gentle, sweet person could be so incredibly funny,” Crystal said in a statement. “I grew up watching Tom on The Steve Allen Show as a kid. What an incredible gift to become friends with him and to learn about comedy from a true professional. He was a combination of Stan Laurel and Jack Benny. We will all miss him.”

Poston’s run as a comic bumbler began in the mid-1950s with The Steve Allen Show after Allen plucked the character actor from the Broadway stage to join an ensemble of eccentrics he would conduct “man in the street” interviews with.  Don Knotts was the shaky Mr. Morrison, Louis Nye was the suave, overconfident Gordon Hathaway and Poston’s character was so unnerved by the television cameras that he couldn’t remember who he was. He won an Emmy playing “The Man Who Can’t Remember His Name.”  But when Allen moved the show from New York to Los Angeles in 1959, Poston stayed behind.  “Hollywood’s not for me right now; I’m a Broadway cat,” he told a reporter at the time.  When he did finally move west, he quickly began appearing in variety shows, sitcoms and films.  His movie credits included Cold Turkey, The Happy Hooker, Rabbit Test and, more recently, Christmas With the Kranks, Beethoven’s 5th and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.  On Mork and Mindy, which starred Robin Williams as a space alien, Poston was Franklin Delano Bickley, the mindless boozer with the annoying dog. On Newhart, he was George Utley, the handyman who couldn’t fix anything at the New England inn run by Newhart’s character. And on Newhart’s show Bob, he was the star’s dim-bulb former college roommate.

“These guys are about a half-step behind life’s parade," Poston commented in a 1983 interview. “The ink on their instruction sheets is beginning to fade. But they can function and cope and don’t realize they are driving people up the walls.  “In ways I don’t like to admit, I’m a goof-up myself,” Poston continued. “It’s an essential part of my character. When these guys screw up it reminds me of my own incompetence with the small frustrations of life.’’  Goof-up or not, Poston was a versatile actor who made his Broadway debut in 1947 playing five roles in Jose Ferrer’s Cyrano de Bergerac.  One role called for him to engage in a duel, fall 10 feet, roll across the stage and vanish into the orchestra pit. Other actors had auditioned and failed but Poston, who in his youth had been an acrobat with the Flying Zepleys, did the stunt perfectly.  He went on to play secondary roles in Broadway comedies and starred at regional theatres in such shows as Romanoff and Juliet and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. For 10 years he was also a panellist on the popular TV quiz show To Tell the Truth.  He made guest appearances on scores of television shows, including Studio One, The Phil Silvers Show, The Defenders, Get Smart, The Bob Newhart Show, The Love Boat, St. Elsewhere, The Simpsons, Coach, Murphy Brown, Home Improvement, Touched by an Angel, Will & Grace, Dream On, Just Shoot Me! and That ’70s Show.  Poston and his first wife, Jean Sullivan, had a daughter, Francesca, before their marriage ended in divorce. He married his second wife, Kay Hudson, after they met while appearing in the St. Louis Light Opera, and they had a son, Jason, and daughter, Hudson.

Poston and Pleshette, who had appeared together in the 1959 Broadway play The Golden Fleecing, had had a brief fling before marrying other people. Both now widowed, they reunited in 2000 and married the following year.  Their paths had crossed on The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s. Poston made several guest appearances on the sitcom in which Pleshette played Newhart’s wife.  In 2006, Pleshette underwent chemotherapy for lung cancer that her agent said was caught at an early stage.  Born in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 17, 1921, Thomas Poston moved from city to city as a child as his father hunted for work during the Depression. As a teenager, he made money as a boxer.  Following two years at Bethany College he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and flew troops to the European war zone during World War II.  Hunting for a postwar occupation, Poston read an interview with Charles Jehlinger, creative head of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was inspired to sign up for a two-year course at the Academy.  Besides Pleshette, 70, Poston is survived by his children, Francesca Poston of Nashville, Tenn., Jason Poston of Los Angeles and Hudson Poston of Portland, Ore.  A private service was planned for immediate family. Details of a public memorial service were to be announced later.


Canadian Documentary Receives Prestigious Award

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(April 26, 2007) The acclaimed Canadian documentary
Sex Slaves will receive the Overseas Press Club of America's prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award tonight for its journey into the hellish underworld of sex trafficking. A number of recent films have delved into the enslavement of women forced into prostitution. Sex Slaves, which originally aired on the CBC in September, 2005, and has since appeared on PBS's Frontline, differs by focusing on one case: A young man from the former Soviet republic of Moldova travels to Turkey to free his pregnant wife, sold into the sex trade. "We certainly had to go a little deeper than just interviewing victims. We really did want to go inside the story, and uncover how it works," said the film's director, Ric Esther Bienstock, of Toronto-based Associated Producers. She has previously won the Overseas Press Club's Carl Spielvogel Award for her doc about victims of suicide bombings, Impact of Terror. Since the TV broadcast of Sex Slaves, viewers have inundated the producers with offers to help victims. A relief fund was set up, raising close to $18,000 for women in the film. "So in a way, I guess the profile is helping, is making a difference. At least I hope it does," Bienstock said.

Herrndorf's Kind Words About Rival Mystify CBC

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Patricia Best

(April 30, 2007) Yesterday, the CRTC opened public hearings into
CTVglobemedia's recent acquisition of Toronto-based broadcaster CHUM Ltd. The $1.4-billion deal was approved by the Competition Bureau in March and, last month, Rogers Communications agreed to take $138-million worth of television channel assets off CHUM's hands as a way of taking the edge off the big deal.  Hidden among the written submissions to this week's hearings into the takeover is a gem from Peter Herrndorf, long-time Canadian cultural czar. Mr. Herrndorf has written to the broadcast regulator in support of CTVglobemedia. And his warm words are included in the acquirer's reply to the interventions filed with the commission. "CTVgm has a proven track record in supporting and developing Canadian programming and CHUM's collection of culturally diverse ... radio and television services is a natural complement to CTVgm's existing line-up," states Mr. Herrndorf, who wrote in his capacity as president and chief executive officer of "Canada's National Arts Centre," former chairman and CEO of TVOntario and former general manager of the CBC English television network.  Nowhere, however, in his recounting of his impressive c.v. did he mention the fact that he is a current member of CBC's board of directors. The CBC is one of the intervenors at the hearing and has filed a detailed submission against its archrival CTV taking over CHUM: "The resulting entity ... would have unprecedented scope and scale in the Canadian broadcasting system, which would grant an undue competitive advantage." Reliable word is the CBC brain trust has simply thrown its hands up over this.


Radio Golf: Ready For The 'Drama'

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 27, 07) The spirit of August Wilson is surely living on through his latest Broadway play 'Radio Golf,' which started previews at New York City's Cort Theatre this week. The late two-time Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright's final story --in a ten-series cycle -- stars Tony Award winning diva Tonya Pinkins, along with acclaimed actors Harry Lennix, Anthony Chisolm, John Earl Jelks and James A. Williams. Considered Wilson's most contemporary play, directed by
Kenny Leon ('A Raisin in the Sun'), 'Radio' has garnered three coveted Drama League Awards nominations, including Distinguished Production of a Play and two nods for Distinguished Performance for Lennix and Chisolm, respectively. Other early honours include three nominations for the Drama Desk Awards (Outstanding Play, Distinguished Actor: Chisolm, Set Design), and one Outer Critics Circle Award (Best Play).

Set in 1997 in Pittsburgh's renaissance-ready Hill District, 'Radio' is the story of a charming and powerful African-American politician, who is running for the highest office of his career, with the loving support of his publicity savvy wife. Throw in an overly ambitious business partner, a mysterious stranger from the past and a street-edged man who is good with his hands, and you have a brilliant mix of Wilson at his best. This Tony Award calibre production is the perfect culmination of Wilson's dynamic mastery of theatrical artform, which includes 'The Piano Lesson,' 'Fences,' 'Two Trains Running' and 'Gem of the Ocean.'  April 27, 2007 will officially mark "August Wilson Day," honouring Wilson, and commemorating what would've been his 62nd birthday. Tony Award winning superstar Whoopi Goldberg is expected at the event, to be held at 10 AM in New York City’s Bryant Park, which also kicks off a day-long tribute to the man who has been recognized as the nation's greatest African-American playwright.

All-Female Theatre Company Seventh Stage Revives Early Anthony Minghella Work

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

(April 26, 2007)  The proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child, but Melissa-Jane Shaw has a new corollary to that statement: "It takes 50 women to put on a play." That's how many female colleagues Shaw has enlisted in one form or another to work on
Whale Music, which opens Saturday night at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space. It's the initial stage work being presented by Seventh Stage Productions, described as "a Toronto-based production company run by a group of young women with a unique multi-faceted approach to creating and presenting all forms of entertainment." Actor-choreographer Shaw united with director Kelly Straughan and actor-playwright Rosa Laborde (Leo) to form a company that Shaw said "could give the women of today an environment in which they felt empowered to create."

In addition to the upcoming production of Whale Music, they also have three films in development, and Straughan is curating a series called Whale Riders, made up of original short works by female artists, with a different one to be presented before each performance of the play. But why did this group of women turn for their first theatrical project to Whale Music – not the well-known Canadian works, but a play of the same name written in 1981 by Anthony Minghella?" Ten years ago," recalls Shaw, "when I first read the play in theatre school in search of material with juicy roles for women, Whale Music was a gold mine. Coming from a more conservative background, I was drawn to the fun and freedom and feminist suggestions that breathed through the story and these eclectic characters." And its power stayed with Shaw through the years.

"Each time I read Whale Music I found myself identifying with a different character and certain circumstances. It's really about relationships, specifically those between women, these ones each moving through a stuck point in their lives." Minghella's tale of a group of women from England's Isle of Wight, and how the pregnancy/birth experience of one changes them all, was his first professionally produced stage play. And although he's now best known as the Oscar-winning writer/director of The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain, he has never forgotten his origins. “Frankly, I find it both thrilling and rather unnerving that Whale Music is still being produced somewhere," he said during a phone interview from New York's JFK airport while waiting for a plane to Los Angeles. “It was a very important part of my early life for many reasons," Minghella recalls, "and it allowed me to pay tribute to the women I grew up with as well as that very special place I called home. “He’s talking about the Isle of Wight, which he describes as "Three hours and 30 years from London. It's a place I now adore and feel increasingly connected with, although there were times in my youth when I thought I couldn't get away from it fast enough." Minghella's Italian family ran "a not very distinguished café which we lived above. I had five siblings and I remember there being no distinction between the public and the private life. Every sin of commission and omission was played out in front of the customers."

He chuckles heartily as he summons up "a typical Italian Catholic environment that turned our experiences into arias. Our grandmother presided over everything, a huge personality in the tiniest of bodies. "And then there were my mother and my three sisters, all extravagantly bright and formidable women. My father was busy with work 90 per cent of the time, so it doesn't take a psychologist to see where the major influences in my upbringing came from.” But despite his deep bond with his family, Minghella knew he'd have to leave the nest. He quotes Samuel Beckett: "There are fools that stay where they are and there are fools that keep moving." After a pause, he adds his judgment: "I knew I would be one of the latter fools very early on.” What fed this feeling further were the three Isle of Wight music festivals between 1968 and 1970, Woodstock-like celebrations that grew from 10,000 to 600,000 visitors in a few short years. “I remembering waiting all night on the beach for Bob Dylan to arrive," says Minghella, a bit dreamily. "There were only two of us, but at 5 a.m. his hovercraft finally appeared and he got out.

"The encounters with all those counterculture people made me re-examine my own life and encouraged me to think outside the island.” After many twists and turns, he finally wound up teaching drama at England's University of Hull, where Whale Music began its gestation. “We had one opportunity for late-night independent shows in the department," Minghella recalls. "It was called The Huddle. There were two stipulations: the show could only be one hour long and the budget was five pounds. “I came up with the idea of writing a play specifically for the students in the department, no not just for them, but on them, creating it specifically for the cast that I found. “Well, I put up a notice saying I was thinking of doing such a project and asked for volunteers. Eight young women signed up and no men. That's why I wound up writing a story for an all-female cast.” The show's subject matter also came about in a similarly ad hoc manner. “We presented each show for two nights, but I thought, why not do a show in two halves, one on each night. That's when the idea of the pregnancy occurred to me. I backed myself into it, more or less.” When asked if the show is autobiographical, Minghella immediately quips, "No, I was never pregnant.” But he then goes on to admit that "One of my contemporaries at university disappeared for a year. I subsequently discovered she'd had a child and put it up for adoption. I was very intrigued by the rather Victorian elements of it."

Still, in the end, Minghella admits the deep inner life of the play undoubtedly stems from "the strong, wonderful women who helped shape my life." "This play is my acknowledgment as a man of being educated by women. It is my realization of the struggle they have all been through and my declaration of gratitude to them for all they have done for me. “Producer Shaw has similar feelings on her mind.” I feel so blessed to have all these amazingly talented women come together to make this show happen," she says. "Now is the exciting (and terrifying) time when we show her to the rest of the world and hope they think she's as beautiful as we do."

Just the facts
What: Whale Music by Anthony Minghella
Where: Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave.
When: Saturday to May 20
Tickets: PWYC-$27 @ 416-531-1827

Making Sweet Music

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

Whale Music
(out of 4)
By Anthony Minghella. Directed by Rosemary Dunsmore. Until May 20 at Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave.

(April 30, 2007) What a beautiful sound six women opening their hearts can make! Anthony Minghella's
Whale Music, which opened this past weekend as the inaugural production of Seventh Stage Theatre Productions, may have some problems, but I have no trouble at all in highly recommending it to you as a showcase for some very fine acting indeed. By his own admission, Minghella wrote the piece to order, while he was a drama instructor in England, creating a story around the actresses who were available to him. And there are times, especially in the first act, when this kind of paint-by-numbers approach still shows. The moody Madonna Caroline (played with a wonderful, consistent honesty by Mika Collins) has returned to her home on the Isle of Wight to give birth to a child. We gradually discover how and why she got pregnant and what she intends to do with the child after its birth. Initially, she's cared for by two very different local women. Stella is the free-living, free-loving, hip-swinging tart with a heart of, well, silver – brought to perfect life by Melissa-Jane Shaw, who demonstrates that sensuality and sensitivity are not mutually exclusive.

The chameleon-like Rosa Laborde gives us good girl Fran, who opted for family and home. Laborde submerges her own natural dynamism to play the good grey mouse who eventually reveals more strength than we gave her credit for. Through the first act, these three establish their characters and the play's situation, but sparks never really fly. Don't worry, that happens in Act II, when a whole new set of personalities join the picture. Kate is a tough-as-nails professor who may (or may not) have been Caroline's lover. She was her roommate and their relationship is far more than teacher-pupil. Katherine East is excellent in the role, painting with bold colours but never descending into caricature. Sascha Cole is disarmingly touching as D, clad in leather, drowned in feminist dialectic and hopelessly in love with Kate. As the final wild card in this scenario, add Jane Moffat as Shelagh, wonderfully empathetic as Caroline's mother, who shows up when the child's birth is imminent. These six totally diverse characters keep us riveted as they demonstrate the complex variety of ways that women can care for each other. Men are omnipresent in the background, but are best noted by their absences: the fathers, lovers and friends who all somehow failed to care enough to show up for any aspect of Caroline's child's birth.

Rosemary Dunsmore's direction gets the relationships just right. Her staging (on Dana Osborne's set) seems cramped, however, and considering the limited space available, perhaps an open-form stage would have been preferable.  The lighting by the ever-wonderful Kimberly Purtell (joined here by Michelle Ramsay) is a masterful symphony of faded dawns and melancholy sunsets. In the end, Whale Music deserves our attention and respect, because it's unafraid to embrace emotion. In today's increasingly cerebral theatre, that's a rare and great thing.

Graham Rowat - Actor Lets The Good Times Roll

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

(May 02, 2007) NEW YORK—
Graham Rowat is having one of those extraordinary weeks that an actor only dreams of.  Not only does the 34-year-old Peterborough native open tomorrow night, playing a featured part in Broadway legend Hal Prince’s latest Gotham musical, LoveMusik, but it’s just been announced he and his wife, Kate Baldwin, will star in the production of White Christmas that’s opening at the Hummingbird Centre this holiday season.  Broadway fame and a high-profile gig with the spouse back home where all your relatives can see you — who could ask for anything more?  Rowat is one of those genuinely nice guys you’re happy to see succeed: a lanky 6-foot-4 baritone with a killer voice and charm to spare.  Under the heading of total disclosure, the first time I saw him onstage in a 1994 Equity Showcase production of Clifford Odets’ Paradise Lost, fresh out of Ryerson Theatre School, I pronounced him “an actor to remember” — and he’s lived up to that legacy.

Shortly after that, he went into a season at the Shaw Festival, which led directly to 18 months in the Toronto production of Beauty and the Beast, where he remained until 1997.  Then came that all-important phone call.  “They asked me if I’d be willing to (join) the Broadway cast of Beauty and the Beast,” recalled Rowat, “which I did for another year and a half.”  That was an important time for him, because “I realized this was a huge community down here and I wanted to be a part of it.”  So Rowat auditioned for the national company of Les Misérables and found himself “out on the road for about 3 1/2 years.”  “Hey, the pay is good, the atmosphere is great, you’re seeing lots of different cities and every time you talk to somebody back home, they’re always saying, 'Dude, there’s nothing happening in New York right now.’ ”

But, as Rowat puts it, “I finally found the show that gave me the strength to leave: a revival of 1776 in Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.”  Not only was the part they offered him a real winner (Richard Henry Lee, who stops the show in the first 20 minutes and then vanishes for the rest of the night), but he got to meet an actor by the name of Kate Baldwin.  “We both had all of Act II off,” he explains, “and we would hang around backstage. We discovered that we really liked each other.”  They started to date and then they married, and Graham found himself in the Broadway musical of Dracula, directed by Des McAnuff.  “I was in a big show on Broadway,” he recalled, “so why, then, was I so miserable?”  He survived that flop, and then he and his wife both got cast in the “Bing Crosby” and “Rosemary Clooney” roles in the 2005 San Francisco production of White Christmas.  “That made 2005 pretty great for me,” he recalled, and even a period of unemployment failed to dim the lustre.  After a while, he got cast in his current role, as a series of Lotte Lenya’s lovers in the musical LoveMusik, about the relationship between composer Kurt Weill and vocalist Lenya, which veteran Hal Prince is directing for tomorrow night’s Broadway opening.  “I play the template for all of Lenya’s different lovers,” explains Rowat, “which is a fascinating assignment, considering what varied types they were.  “But I’m very grateful for such a challenging assignment. You know, the things you see on the horizon and fight for are the ones you never get. The things that come out of left field are the ones that wind up hugging the inside of your mitt.”  It doesn’t matter. As one of Weill’s songs says, “It’s a long, long time from May to December,” but the important part is that Graham Rowat’s currently got good jobs at both ends of the calendar.  And he’s very thankful.


Theatre Company Launched

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(April 24, 2007) There's been much gnashing of teeth about the
anaemic health of Toronto's theatre scene in the past five years, especially in the wake of the collapse of The Lord of the Rings in 2006. But there was nothing but generous applause and smiles yesterday at a glitzy party to mark the launch of a company determined to make Toronto a sort of Broadway North. Dancap Productions, brainchild of Toronto businessman/philanthropist Aubrey Dan, used a party at the 1,600-seat Elgin Theatre to preview scenes from the six musicals it plans to mount for its inaugural season.  Hosting the bash, which was attended by at least 15 producers flown in from New York, was 80-year-old actress Cloris Leachman, winner of the 1971 best supporting actress Oscar.  Dancap's 2007-2008 season starts Sept. 19 with an almost month-long run of the Tony-winning, Canadian-made The Drowsy Chaperone at the Elgin, followed by The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, (Jan. 29-Feb. 10, 2008, Elgin), 3 Mo' Divas (Mar. 4-18, Winter Garden Theatre), the National Theatre of Great Britain's production of My Fair Lady (Mar. 8-31, Toronto Centre for the Arts), Avenue Q (July 29-Aug. 31, Elgin) and Jersey Boys, about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (dates and location to be announced). Tickets go on sale Saturday.  "The whole secret is to find shows that either have a proven creative team [or] a proven track record," Mr. Dan said. Staff


Justin Trudeau Wins Nomination

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Canadian Press

(April 29, 2007) MONTREAL – The most famous family in Canadian politics celebrated a victory Sunday as Liberals chanted their name and waved red-and-white posters emblazoned "Trudeau."
Justin Trudeau hugged his mother, brother and wife after securing a first-ballot victory in his battle to represent a Montreal riding in the next election for the party his father led through 16 years and three majority governments. The 35-year-old called his win at the nomination meeting a reminder that he's more than just Pierre Elliott Trudeau's son. The outcome on the crowded floor of a college gymnasium came after a weeks-long fight in the gritty Papineau riding that Trudeau now hopes to represent in Parliament. He received no endorsement from the party brass and defeated two challengers with deep roots in a lower-middle-class community that is an economic galaxy away from his own upbringing at 24 Sussex Drive.

"Listen, I'm carrying the Trudeau name, yes. I'm also carrying my own name," he said after the results were announced.  "I think what was achieved here in this process was to demonstrate that I'm not just a last name. I'm someone who has a first name, who is able to reach out and represent people." He ducked behind the stage to take a congratulatory phone call from Liberal Leader Stephane Dion once the results came in.  His win was a slim one – with 54 per cent of the vote and just 56 ballots more than he needed – but averted a second ballot amid rumours that his rivals might join in an anybody-but-Trudeau alliance. The longtime municipal councillor and Italian-language newspaper editor he defeated both said they would support Trudeau's bid to dislodge the Bloc Quebecois incumbent in the next election. To the left of the stage his younger brother Alexandre was locked in a celebratory bearhug with a family friend, after spending much of the day wandering through the gymnasium and cradling his four-month-old son. The boy's name is Pierre Trudeau.  Alexandre joked that the late prime minister would have had a mixed reaction Sunday.  "He would have said, `I guess I can't control my son,' " Alexandre said.  "My father would be worried about his son going into politics but he would have blessed him, of course. Politics has its ups and downs – it's good and bad.

"But he would be proud, of course."  Dressed in a smart white business suit, his mother Margaret energetically worked the bustling room and signed her name on campaign posters. Dion said Trudeau would be an asset to the party and that he was pleased the candidate entered politics "by the front door in a very proud way."  Earlier in the day, Trudeau's opponents at the nomination meeting drew attention to their longstanding ties to the area in an unspoken reference to his newcomer status. But the former drama teacher and current environmental geography student reminded the crowd during his opening speech Sunday of something they had in common: pride in his father's legacy. In the fall of 1965, he said, Pierre Trudeau ran in the neighbouring Mount Royal riding – part of which is now in Papineau.  He told the crowd that some of the people present Sunday helped nominate the man who eventually gave Canada one of the most evolved tools for human rights in the world, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  "What you were part of 40 years ago changed Canada forever," he said.  "We are all children of the charter. You can understand how fiercely proud I am to be able to say that your prime minister was also my dad."

But he quickly pointed out that his political dreams are based on future ambitions – not nostalgia.  He said he wants to wrest the riding back from a Bloc Quebecois that seeks to "divide and destroy Canada."  And he also wants the Liberal party to defeat the Conservatives, who he described as plagiarists stealing policy from the U.S. right wing and dividing Canadians over social-justice and environmental issues.  But his carefully choreographed speech hit a snag when he tried switching from the podium to a handheld microphone that would allow him to roam the stage.  "And just who am I? I am . . . ."  Then there was dead air as the microphone failed.  After an awkward pause, Trudeau recovered and went on: "I am Justin Trudeau. I am a man with a dream for our riding, our province, and our country."


Raptors - Why This Win Mattered

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Dave Perkins

(May 02, 2007) There's life in the
Raptors yet and on this day, of all days, it is a fitting sign of the franchise's overall upward mobility. This is the 40th anniversary of their co-tenant's most recent championship and last night's rocking 98-96 wipe-out-turned-fingernail job over the New Jersey Nets, which sends the series back to Bruce Willis Country, obviously is one more positive step for a team that has taken a number of them this year. If the Raps had fallen to the Nets last night, the disappointment of the moment would have been real, but it soon would have been replaced by the feeling that's almost unanimous, among fans and basketball types, that this team is moving in the right direction and in Andrea Bargnani, who was lights-out terrific in the first half, a coming-of-age playoff moment, and Chris Bosh and a couple of other young and hungry types, there's future here.  It has been easy to overlook, these past few painful days, the long-term importance of the 47-win season, division title and introduction to and/or maturity in the NBA of a handful of European players. Now add one more notch in a belt; facing elimination and with two truly terrible games on their recent résumé (and two before that weren't all that good, either) they responded with their best game of the past – what? – month? Two months? Bargnani hasn't been better in a couple of months. Ditto Morris Peterson and same for Jose Calderon before his frightful rolled ankle in the final 1:21 that leaves the team's guard position a huge question mark for the next two or three days. Their timing couldn't have been better, with T.J. Ford taken to hospital with a potentially scary injury and with Bosh in foul trouble early, playing restricted minutes and banged around liberally when he was in a very physical, tough game.

This one win, which will be nothing but a pleasant footnote if road fortunes aren't reversed dramatically in Game 6, is simply one more reason that this side of the building is in far better shape, going forward, as the high foreheads like to say, than the hockey team. Given the way they got off the deck last night, with injuries and foul trouble everywhere, there won't be much, if any, sour taste left for this team once the off-season arrives. These weren't the same Raptors as in the previous two games and clearly not the same Nets, either, at least for the first three quarters.  It shows once again the power of home-court advantage, the reason they worked so hard over the course of the 82-game season.  Credit coach Sam Mitchell, who has been tinkering with his line-up, for pulling the correct strings, particularly after the battered Raptors saw the lead, 20 points early, dwindle to dangerous levels. Mitchell went to Peterson to start, and to guard Vince Carter, and while Carter showed a lot more intent and focus on at least approaching the basket, rather than settling for his 20-foot jump shots, he didn't have a dominant game. Passed off for what would have been the winning three-pointer at the horn, but Bostjan Nachbar missed it. The Nets' offence stalled early because Jason Kidd, so dominant before this game, was contained early by Calderon, forced into extra time when Ford went down, and got rolled over by Carter in an unfortunate spill. Calderon played tight on Kidd defensively, picking him up quickly on most possessions, which helped limit his effectiveness. As the foul totals mounted, most costly on Bosh, Mitchell moved his bodies in and out, nursing the lead that stayed in double figures until the final frantic minutes.  It was thrilling theatre, but there's scant time to enjoy it. Injury word on Ford and Calderon comes next and next game could be a mishmash. Whatever happens Friday, this one mattered a lot to this team. Both now and in the future.

Senators Get Away With One

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Damien Cox

(May 01, 2007) OTTAWA–Mike Fisher said he didn't mean to do it and Martin Brodeur said he doubted Fisher deliberately fouled him. But yet there it was, the
Ottawa Senators centre somehow brushing past the all-star New Jersey goalkeeper in the third period of a scoreless playoff game, inexplicably taking a path through the blue paint of the Devils crease despite the fact the puck was 30 feet away. And somehow clipping Brodeur's skate in the process. An accident? Maybe. The play of the game? Most definitely. With Brodeur slightly off balance from his mini-collision with Fisher, you see, Sens defenceman Tom Preissing's shot from a tight angle on the far boards found the top portion of the New Jersey net at 4:46 of the third to give the home side the only goal it would need to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semi-final series. "I didn't even really know I had touched him," Fisher pleaded after the Senators had claimed a 2-0 victory in Game 3. Perhaps, but from television replays it sure looked as if Fisher had no other reason to be so close to Brodeur and it sure looked like an awfully savvy move by a veteran pivot who knew the worst-case scenario would be that he would be handed a two-minute minor. Moreover, while a Sean Avery type might have kicked Brodeur's feet out from under him, Fisher's bump was more subtle and, ultimately, more effective. "In my mind, it was interference on the goaltender," Devils coach Lou Lamoriello said. "It doesn't matter what his intentions were."

Until Preissing's goal, Brodeur had stopped 66 of the previous 68 shots he'd faced dating to the beginning of Game 2, and had seemed pretty much impregnable in a game in which the Devils had been on their heels for the opening 30 minutes but had seized momentum in the latter part of the second period. "The referee (Brad Watson) said he didn't see (Fisher's bump), but then he told my teammates I had enough time to recover," Brodeur said with a shrug. "(Fisher) isn't that kind of player. I was back in position ... but my head wasn't there. I kind of lost my concentration." Asked if he would have stopped Preissing's shot if not for Fisher's bump, Brodeur said simply, "We'll never know." The Devils were certainly muted in their protestations afterward, perhaps because they had scored a suspicious one of their own in Game 2 when Sergei Brylin managed to lose a faceoff and score a goal on a beautiful wrist shot, all with only 2.7 seconds on the Meadowlands clock.

"Look, we have to show everybody that we're still composed," Brodeur replied when asked why there wasn't more outrage in the New Jersey dressing room. "This is not the end of the world. To get all wound up over it would be wasting energy in the wrong direction." More to the point, perhaps, the Devils understood that they were largely outplayed again last night by the Senators and that the offence-lite they launched at Ottawa goalie Ray Emery isn't going to be nearly enough to advance to the next round. On the power play, the Devils were pathetic, going 0 for 5 with few chances. "It's not just the 0 for 5, it's the lack of opportunities," Brodeur said. "We didn't generate anything. "It was a momentum breaker for us." Ottawa has looked like the better team for the majority of the 202 minutes played in this series and last night it was much more effective at controlling Jersey's EGG line, holding Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta to a combined seven shots on goal. By comparison, Ottawa's top line of Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley totalled 14 shots, and Spezza's empty-netter was the Sens' other goal. The Sens have now zinged Brodeur with 78 shots in the past two games, keeping steady pressure on the veteran keeper after stunning him with four goals on eight shots in the series opener. More and more, the series is becoming the Senators vs. Brodeur, with the other Devils watching more than lending a hand.

Toronto Native Signs With Colts

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rick Matsumoto, Sports Reporter, With Files From Star Wire Services

(May 01, 2007)
Clifton Dawson didn't hear his name called during the two days it took for the NFL to complete its draftToronto Native Signs With Colts on the weekend. While the 23-year-old Scarborough native, a Harvard University record-setting running back, admitted "it would have been great to be drafted," he expressed no disappointment yesterday during a phone interview from his dorm room where he was scrambling to complete a major paper. The reason for his upbeat tone was that he had already signed a contract with the Super Bowl-champion Indianapolis Colts. "Even before the end of the draft, I had been contacted by six or seven teams," said Dawson, who scored 20 touchdowns in 10 games with the Crimson last season. "Within minutes of the end of the draft I had decided to sign with the Colts. "Actually, it worked out great for me because the Colts didn't draft a running back." While he didn't get the signing bonus accorded an actual draft pick, Dawson conceded that he got "a substantial" amount from the Colts as a free agent. "I had some leverage because six or seven teams were interested in me," he said.

Dawson, whose CFL rights are held by the Argos, will complete his final exam at Harvard on May 24 before graduating with a degree in economics. "After that I'll join the Colts' mini-camp," he said.  Dawson broke the Ivy League rushing record with 4,831 yards during his four-year career, 116 yards more than Ed Marinaro. Kansas running back Jon Cornish of New Westminster, B.C., was expected to be the only Canadian to go in the draft, but he wasn't selected and has signed with the Calgary Stampeders. University of Alberta defensive lineman Pat MacDonald, who is eligible for the CFL draft, has signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints as a long snapper. Eastern Michigan wide receiver Eric Deslauriers, 26, of Gatineau, Que., the Montreal Alouettes' first pick last year, signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent.  Defensive end Jason Ward of Montreal, who attended the University of Connecticut, signed with the B.C. Lions. Ward missed the entire 2006 season due to injury.


Get a Delicious Body: 3 Great Exercises!

 By Glenn Mueller, eDiets Senior Writer
Delicious might be the first word that pops in your mind when you think of your favourite desserts, but would you ever use this same adjective to describe your own body? If you don’t look in the mirror and think tasty thoughts, don’t despair. We’ve got a great workout routine that can get your figure bursting with flavour in no time.  "To get the best overall results, you need a complete workout program -- not just a great ab or leg workout," says eDiets Chief Fitness Pro Raphael Calzadilla. "Specialty routines have their place, but you can’t make progress without a solid exercise foundation."
 Delicious In, Delicious Out

 The first step to looking delicious is filling up on healthy foods. If you’ve read Raphael’s columns at all, you know that he recommends following a structured nutrition program that places you in a slight calorie deficit.  "The key to manipulating nutrition is eating the correct foods in the correct amounts at the correct times," Raphael says. "If you’re an eDiets member using one of our many specially-designed nutrition programs, you’re halfway home. The rest has to do with efficient workouts that challenge your muscles and cardiovascular system with optimal efficiency."  One way to ensure your meals are always healthy and convenient is to sign up for eDiets DeliciouslyYours, the new meal delivery service that ships freshly prepared, nutritionally-balanced foods right to your doorstep. DeliciouslyYours is the first major meal plan from a national weight-loss company that ships a full menu of chilled, fresh foods with no added preservatives. Unlike other plans that rely on frozen, canned or powdered foods, eDiets Deliciously Yours guarantees freshness, since the foods are not prepared until customers order them.
 Delicious Workout Routine

 The next step to making yourself delicious is adopting an effective exercise routine. If you follow the routine below and stick to your healthy eating plan, Raphael promises that you will see results within 30 days.  Raphael recommends following this workout routine on 2-3 alternate days per week. He has provided 8 exercises to work the entire body, along with some cardiovascular work. You can substitute these cardio recommendations with any other cardio exercise of your choice. Now, it’s time to get your delicious on! After completing the recommended sets for an exercise, wait 45 seconds and then proceed to the next exercise.
 1. Delicious Legs -- Dumbbell Squat

 Beginners: 1 set 12 reps
 All others: 2 sets 12 reps
 Starting Position:
 ·  Stand up straight with feet shoulder width apart.
 ·  Hold a dumbbell or cans in each hand with arms hanging down at your sides and palms facing one another.
 ·  Maintain a neutral spine and a slight bend in the knees throughout the exercise
 ·  Lower your body by bending from your hips and knees, stopping when your thighs are parallel with the floor.
 ·  Contracting the quadriceps muscles, slowly return to the starting position
 Key Points:
 ·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.
 ·  Inhale while lowering your body.
 ·  Do not let your knees ride over your toes (you should be able to see your feet at all times).
 ·  It helps to find a marker on the wall to keep your eye on as you lift and lower, otherwise your head may tend to fall forward and your body will follow.
 ·  Think about sitting back in a chair as you are lowering down.
 ·  Push off with your heels as you return to the starting position.
 ·  You may want to try this exercise without weights until you master the movement. It is a very effective exercise that involves most of the muscle groups of the lower body, but if done improperly can lead to injuries.
 2. Delicious Legs -- The Lunge
Beginners: 1 set 12 reps
 All others: 2 sets 12 reps
 Starting Position:
 ·  Stand straight with your feet together.
 ·  Hold a dumbbell or cans in each hand with your arms down at your sides
 ·  Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor.
 ·  Contracting the quadriceps muscles, push off your right foot slowly returning to the starting position.
 ·  Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set.
 Key Points:
 ·  Inhale while stepping forward.
 ·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.
 ·  The step should be big enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Do not let your knee touch the floor.
 ·  Make sure your head is up and your back is straight.
 ·  Your chest should be lifted and your front leg should form a 90 degree angle at the bottom of the movement.
 ·  Your right knee should not pass your right foot. You should be able to see your toes at all times.
 ·  If you have one leg that is more dominant than the other, start out with the less dominant leg first.
 ·  Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees
 3. Delicious Chest -- Chest Press
Beginners: 1 set 12 reps
 All others: 2 sets 12 reps
 Starting Position:
 ·  Lie on a flat bench or flat on the floor with your spine in a neutral position.
 ·  Hold a dumbbell or cans in each hand at chest level with your upper arm parallel to the floor and your elbows facing outward.
 ·  Contracting the chest muscles, press both arms upward above the chest until the arms are almost fully extended with a slight bend in the elbows.
 ·  Slowly return to the starting position.
 Key Points:
 ·  Exhale while lifting the weights.
 ·  Inhale while returning to the starting position
 4. Delicious Back -- Dumbbell Reverse Lat Row
Beginners: 1 set 12 reps
 All others: 2 sets 12 reps
 Starting Position:
 ·  Sit on a bench with your feet close together.
 ·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging down at your sides and palms facing one another.
 ·  Bend your upper body so it is parallel with the floor
 ·  Contracting the mid to lower back muscles, draw both arms toward your body and turn your wrists so that your palms are facing the ceiling. Keep your elbows tight against the body and stop when your arms are at chest level.
 ·  Slowly return to the starting position
 Key Points:
 ·  Exhale while lifting the weight.
 ·  Inhale while returning to the starting position
 5. Delicious Shoulders -- Dumbbell Two Arm Lateral Raise
 Beginners: 1 set 12 reps
 All others: 2 sets 10 reps
 Starting Position:
 ·  Stand with feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in your knees.
 ·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides and palms facing your legs
 ·  Contracting the middle shoulder muscles, raise both arms out to the sides stopping when your arms are slightly higher than shoulder level.
 ·  Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of the weights touching your body.
 Key Points:
 ·  Exhale while lifting the weights.
 ·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.
 ·  You may also perform this exercise from a seated position
 6. Delicious Biceps -- Dumbbell Alternating Biceps Curl
 Beginners: 1 set 12 reps
 All others: 2 sets 8/12 reps
 Starting Position:
 ·  Sit upright in a chair with your legs bent, feet forward and your head a natural extension of your spine.
 ·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with the arms hanging down at your sides and palms facing your body.
 ·  Keep your wrists straight throughout the exercise
 ·  Contracting the biceps muscles, bend your right arm at the elbow while turning your wrist until your palm is facing the ceiling stopping when the weight is just short of touching your shoulder.
 ·  Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of the elbow fully extending.
 Key Points:
 ·  Exhale as you lift the weight.
 ·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.
 ·  The upper arm should remain stationary throughout the exercise.
 7. Delicious Triceps -- The Triceps Extension
 Beginners: 1 set 12 reps
 All others: 2 sets 8/12 reps
 Starting Position:
 ·  Stand with a dumbbell in your right hand and your left hand on your hip.
 ·  Press the weight over your head until your right arm is almost straight with a slight bend in the elbow at the top position.
 ·  Do not allow the weight to touch your head or neck area.
 ·  Slowly bend your elbow, lowering the weight until your arm forms a 90-degree angle behind your head stopping before the weight touches your back.
 ·  Contracting the triceps muscles, slowly return to the starting position.
 Key Points:
 ·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.
 ·  Inhale while lowering the weight.
 ·  After completing the set on the right side, repeat on the left side.
 ·  This exercise is not to be performed with large dumbbells. The technique is more important than the weight.
 ·  You can also perform this exercise while seated on a bench.
 8. Delicious Abdominals -- Double Crunch
 Beginners: 1 set 15 reps
 All others: 2 sets 15 reps


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com — Dale Carnegie: Pioneer in personal development

"One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today."