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LE NEWSLETTER

May 8, 2008

It's May in Toronto, which means I'm off to California for some R&R but you can still expect your newsletter next week. 

One of our own homegrown talents - Jennie Laws - releases her much-anticipated debut, Introducing Jennie Laws with all details below!

This week also gives the scoop of the new artist busting out of Britain - Estelle.  Check out all the information below.

AND check out the HOT details of a celebrity party where YOU could get on TV!  Look for the details under EVENTS for the Oasis brought to you by Kriss-O!

Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

 

::HOT EVENTS::

Celebrity Oasis at Fluid – May 14, 2008

Source:  Celebrity Oasis, SEI Records

(April 26, 2008) In the midst of the desert, there is an oasis. It is cool and tranquil, and at night all of the brightest stars come out to shine. On Wednesday, May 14, 2008, The Kriss-O Show will be filming Fluid's famous faces at the first ever Celebrity Oasis at Fluid Lounge in downtown Toronto.

With a guest-list including musicians, actors, models, recording executives and many more, it will truly be a night like no other. Celebrity Oasis is scheduled to start at 10PM, when it becomes just dark enough to see the stars.

Tickets are available now, but are expected to sell out fast. Purchase tickets at: http://www.clubzone.com/events/event89600.html
April- May 06 $20 general admission $100 VIP
May 07-May 14 $100 general admission $500 VIP

Kriss-O (www.kriss-o.com) is one of those rare people who can do it all. She sings, dances, acts and even writes in a variety of mediums. She is currently starring in her own reality show, "The Kriss-O Show" (www.thekriss-oshow.com), which just debuted online at the beginning of April. After conquering the clubs, and the hearts of millions of her fans, The Kriss-O Show is set to take over television and the web in 2008.

Since 1995 Fluid Lounge (www.fluidlounge.ca) has been providing the ultimate in Toronto's nightclub experience. With regular guests such as Bruce Willis, 50 Cent, Nicole Ritchie, Mark Wahlberg, Nelly Furtado, Samuel L. Jackson, Boy George, Pharrell, Wayne Brady, Snoop Dogg, Robin Williams, and many more.

Celebrity Oasis is certain to be this year's hottest party, and will be the talk of the entertainment industry for years to come. Be sure not to miss this once in a life-time event!

For more information on Celebrity Oasis, SEI Records, Kriss-O or "The Kriss-O Show", or to book an interview with Kriss-O please contact Mark Bernhardt at mark.b@seirecords.ca.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 14, 2008
THE KRISS-O SHOW’S CELEBRITY OASIS
Fluid Lounge
217 Richmond St. W.
10:00 pm
Tickets at: http://www.clubzone.com/events/event89600.html
April- May 06 $20 general admission $100 VIP
May 07-May 14 $100 general admission $500 VIP
Description: http://www.langfieldentertainment.com/images/IMAGES%20TO%20KEEP/MAP.gif

::SCOOP::

Estelle Lights It Up With “Shine”

Source: Warner Music Canada

(April 29, 2008) Home school and Atlantic Records have announced the upcoming release of “SHINE,” the hugely anticipated US debut album from British hip-hop/soul sensation,
Estelle.  The album – which features the current UK #1 single, “American Boy (Feat. Kanye West)” – lands in stores across North America on April 29th.
 
“SHINE” marks the premiere release from John Legend’s new Home school Records label, in partnership with Atlantic Records.  “Her sound is a unique blend of hip-hop, pop, reggae and soul,” explains the Grammy Award-winning Legend.  “She has a special voice, unlike any other voice out there in mainstream music, and she can really write.  I’m excited and honoured to have Estelle as the first artist on my label.  I believe the world is going to fall in love with her album, as I already have.  Estelle is an amazing talent, and she’s going to do big things.”
 
Legend – who executive produced “SHINE” alongside Atlantic Records Chairman/CEO Craig Kallman – is hosting a number of dates on Estelle’s current US club tour.  The shows continue through a May 1st performance at Los Angeles’ Temple Bar (see attached itinerary).  “American Boy (Feat. Kanye West)” continues to dominate the UK singles chart, standing tall at #1 for its fourth consecutive week.  Last month, the track made history as the third-ever #1 UK single based on digital sales alone, following in the international smash footsteps of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella.”  Here in the US, “American Boy” has just impacted at multi-format radio outlets nationwide, including Urban, Rhythmic, and CHR/Top 40. 
 
What’s more, the “American Boy” companion video is looking like an out-of-the-box breakthrough for Estelle.  The clip – directed by Syndrome (Danity Kane, Day26, Lupe Fiasco) – has already been added at MTV, MTV Jams, MTV Hits, mtvU, and BET J.  Estelle has also been tapped fort he prestigious BET “Rated Next” and Vh-1 Soul “You Oughta Know” programs.
 
On April 24th, Estelle made her network television debut on CBS’
Late Show with David Letterman.  Additional television performances will include, the nationally syndicated Ellen DeGeneres Show, CBS’s Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson,  and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! 
 
“SHINE” is now available for pre-order via the iTunes Store.  An exclusive “Deluxe Edition” is also on offer, featuring bonus tracks such as “Life To Me,” Estelle’s 2007 collaboration with renowned hip-hop producer Hi-Tek, as well as the music videos for “American Boy” and “Wait a Minute (Just a Touch).”

Executive Produced by Home school Records founder John Legend and Atlantic Records Chairman/CEO Craig Kallman, “SHINE” is without question one of the year’s most anticipated releases.  The album features production from an array of studio superstars, including Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen), Wyclef Jean (Mary J. Blige, Shakira), Swizz Beatz (T.I., Jay-Z, Beyoncé), will. i. am (Justin Timberlake, Diddy, Chris Brown), and Supa Dups (of the famed Black Chiney sound system).  Joining Estelle behind the mic are such talented artists as John Legend, Kanye West, Cee-Lo, and acclaimed Canadian dancehall/hip-hop  MC, Kardinal Offishall.
 
Even with the star-studded guest roster, it is Estelle who shines brightest throughout the collection.  Her idiosyncratic vocals – sensual, swaggering, and always special – unite the album’s diverse spectrum of sonic styles, spanning funk, reggae, R&B, soul, hip-hop, and anything else which strikes the West London girl’s fancy.  Tracks such as the dancehall party jam, “Magnificent,” or the brass-powered “Wait a Minute (Just a Touch)” display mature confidence, deep soulfulness, and a remarkable gift for no-holds-barred emotional expression.
 
With “SHINE,” Estelle more than fulfills the promise of her 2004 debut, “THE 18TH DAY.”  That album earned her widespread acclaim, as well as a series of honours including a 2004 MOBO for “Best Newcomer” and three consecutive received “Best Female Artist” trophies from the UK Hip-Hop Awards.
 
“SHINE” has already received ecstatic critical hosannas in Estelle’s home country.  “Equal parts reggae, pop and hip-hop, it's stuffed with potential singles,” declared the Guardian’s Caroline Sullivan in a four-out-of-five starred review.  “There’s a nothing-to-lose confidence in these songs that defies resistance,” raved the Times’ Peter Paphides, hailing the album as “an almighty new beginning.”
 
Here in the US, Estelle has been acknowledged as one of the year’s most extraordinary new stars.  She is among Rolling Stone’s “Ones to Watch in 2008,” Billboard’s “What Great in 2008,” the New York Post’s “New Faces of 2008,” and Paste’s “4 to Watch in 2008,” as well as one of Vibe’s “Next” artists.
 
Also offering proliferate praise are Estelle’s fellow artists.  “I have never worked with a young artist that reminded me so much of Lauryn Hill,” offers Wyclef Jean.  “Estelle is such a talented singer, rapper, vocal arranger, and songwriter,” says Mark Ronson.  “I can’t think of anyone else who can do all those things as well as she can.  Any time that we work together in the studio, she never comes up with an idea that’s uninspiring.”
 
“Estelle has a strong unique voice,” notes Cee-Lo, “reminiscent of old soul.   Her ability to think outside the box draws me to her, and this is what will draw others to her.”  “I feel she will be the next big thing in the R&B/soul game,” adds Swizz Beatz.  “She is a great person to work with and I feel her album is a new feel for ‘08.”

Jennie Laws –To Release Debut EP: “Introducing Jennie Laws”

Source:  Jennie Laws

(May 1, 2008) Cartouche Music has announced the release of
Jennie Laws debut EP  -“Introducing Jennie Laws”.  The EP will be released on Tuesday, May 13,  2008 and is available on iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, Amazon and other digital retail outlets, as well as her official website www.jennielaws.com and www.myspace.com/jennielaws.  The websites also offer Jennie Laws latest news, music, pictures, biography, and concert dates.

“Introducing Jennie Laws” represents a new stage of evolution for the talented singer and musician, who is comfortable playing the role of writer, arranger, and producer.  With distinctive and dynamic vocal artistry, unique and original songwriting skills and a wide range of influences and inspirations, Jennie Laws has emerged as a beautiful and brilliantly talented new arrival on the cutting edge of today’s music.

With the release of her first EP featuring such Laws' originals as "Heavenly,"  "I Just Want to Be Close To You,"  "So Deep" and  "My Soul," she mixes contemporary urban grooves with folk-flavoured nuances, bringing it all together in one accessible and appealing package.

“It took me a while to realize that the music going around in my head ever since I can remember was there for a reason,” says Jennie. “  As much as it is about entertaining people, it’s also about creating positive energy and spreading love. There’s a purpose to what I do and that’s the most important element of the songs I write and sing.” 

The result is Jennie Laws’ stunning debut EP.  Showcasing her evocative and emotionally resonant singing and songwriting, the collection also boasts an impressive roster of supporting talent, including engineering by, among others, Grammy-winner Ari Raskin, and Juno-winner L. Stu Young.

Through it all, Jennie Laws has maintained her belief that music can bring wholeness and healing to the world. “My goal is simple,” she concludes: “To make the best music I can.”   It’s a goal she’s reached and exceeds on her debut EP.

::TOP STORIES::

'I Don't Call Upon The Voice Until It's Needed'

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(May 04, 2008) He may be a legend, but Gordon Lightfoot is still honing his craft like a newcomer.

"We're refining the presentation of the music," said the Orillia native of his weekly rehearsals with long-time accompanists at his Toronto home.

"We're working on intonation, tuning ... they play the music well and the better I play it, the better they play it. So I have to hold up my end and I keep practising and I keep working on it.

"I'm concentrating on my concert performances, because that's what I did for the first five years of my career before there were any recording contracts," Lightfoot said.

"I played bars, clubs and coffee houses. I learned how to perform at that time to the best of my ability and got my first recording contract in 1965. I remained under contract for 33 years to record companies. During that time I made 19 albums."

Holding court in a downtown hotel suite in advance of his four-night Massey Hall residency this week, the soft-spoken entertainer said the one thing he doesn't have to prepare is his trademark burr.

"I'm very lucky that way. I don't call upon the voice until it's needed. I keep the lungs and the voice working well with quite a severe physical exercise routine – weight training, stretches, fast walking – I incorporated into my life in 1980 at the same time I gave up alcohol.

"I've been able to summon adrenalin from this activity. I'll be 70 this year and I can get a lot of energy going onstage and people I think will be able to recognize that."

With no record company contract to satisfy, Lightfoot rarely turns out new lyrics these days.

"It could be described as a hobby. I enjoy more working on the instruments and working on the songs that we already have and trying to inject some of the older ones that we know they really want to hear like `If Children Had Wings,' which is one they'd been yelling out, wanting us to play. We play it this year. We've got some great older songs that are sitting on the back burner."

But one track that he'll never again perform in concert, or otherwise, is "For Loving Me."

"Oh, that's a terrible song," said Lightfoot of the kiss-off song, with its line "I got a hundred more like you.

"That's a song that I wrote before I understood what the word chauvinist meant. I stopped singing that one many, many years ago. That's probably the one that I hate the most. The reason it did well with Peter, Paul & Mary is because Peter Yarrow is a very gifted orchestrator, and basically the leader of that group took the song and made an arrangement of it that made the lyric work so that it didn't sound so chauvinistic any more.

"The song really did well on the charts: at one point it was up to No. 5 on Billboard. The incurably romantic side of my character was brought forth in that song, but it certainly is not one of my favourites."

Of those there are several — "Sundown," ``Cotton Jenny," "If You Could Read My Mind" and of course, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

"It's a wonderful song," said the author. "I love to listen to it. It takes a lot of time and its got wonderful guitar solos in it and great music."

A Black Tie Event With Levy-Ty

Source:  www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman,
Columnist

(May 05, 2008) NOTE: Governor General Michaëlle Jean, joined Gregory Charles, the host for the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards gala, for an onstage piano duet, not one of the winners, pianist Anton Kuerti, as stated near the bottom of this article.

OTTAWA–Saturday was the best of nights for Canadian culture; it was the worst of nights for Canadian culture.

The
Governor General's Performing Arts Awards gala, formerly an autumnal event, was reborn after an 18-month hiatus, with a glitzy black-tie affair at the National Arts Centre celebrating some of Canada's most talented people.

Heritage Minister Josée Verner was conspicuously absent (along with other senior members of the Stephen Harper government) but more than 2,000 arts boosters turned out for a sometimes dazzling, sometimes baffling show that was both sparkly and excessively long.

Missing in action was the CBC, which apparently decided that after 15 years of telecasting a delayed, edited version of this event, enough was enough. So much for any notion that it's the role of the public broadcaster to showcase the country's greatest artists.

Veteran comedian Martin Short, who was not one of the honourees, nearly stole the show with his hilarious tribute/roast to Eugene Levy, an old SCTV pal, who was one of the honourees.

"It's a thrill to be here," Short deadpanned before adding, "and an obligation."

When they met 38 years ago at McMaster University in Hamilton, Short recalled, Levy had an air of cool superiority. "It was unearned," he added.

Levy himself provided a satiric gem of a performance in a mock-doc made for the occasion where he insists, despite the doubts of the interviewer, that this is the third time he has received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Governor General, even claiming that Adrienne Clarkson took a taxi to his house to present one of the previous awards.

Among the seven other honourees were two who provided some of the greatest moments in the history of this country's English-language theatre.

Brian Macdonald, almost 80, had a long career as a dancer and innovative choreographer before he became, in the 1980s, the hugely successful director of Stratford Festival musicals, especially The Mikado, which went on to delight audiences at the Old Vic in London and the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Playwright, arts administrator and theatrical mentor John Murrell moved to Western Canada from Texas and wrote such stage classics as Waiting for the Parade and Farther West – the latter a tale of frontier prostitutes.

In a break with tradition, a number of recipients turned up on stage as performers, rather than just sitting in the front row of the mezzanine acknowledging tributes – which is the way it is always done at the Kennedy Center Awards, from which the GG Performing Arts Gala was cloned.

In this case, there were two rousing explosions of rock 'n' roll. The first was from veteran singer/composer Michel Pagliaro, who has been a huge star in Quebec for decades but is not nearly as well known in English Canada, although his song "Rainshowers" has been heard everywhere.

And after a numbing 3 1/2 hours, just when some of us needed a nap, the Tragically Hip – that band from Kingston that sprang out of nowhere in the 1980s – bounded onstage to close the show and rouse us from our stupor.

Even Governor General Michaëlle Jean, who normally acts regal while graciously saluting the artists, got into the act, joining one of the winners, the great pianist Anton Kuerti, for an onstage duet.

When they were joined by a group of four opera singers, the act came perilously close to becoming as funny as one of those Shmenge Brother routines Levy used to do on SCTV with John Candy.

Levy, accompanied by his wife Deborah Divine and their two grown children, gets special points for being one of the few SCTV comedy stars who did not move to Los Angeles.

In fact, the Levy family still lives in the Rosedale house they've had for 25 years, and the kids did all their schooling in Toronto.

But as Levy confessed in a chat with the Star, he has a second house in the Pacific Palisades area of L.A., where he and his wife will likely spend winter months in future.

Other recipients: native filmmaker, educator and storyteller Alanis Obomsawin and volunteer B.C. fundraiser Eric Chapman.

It's a pity the CBC opted out, because the event was full of great moments that could be vastly more effective if they had the benefit of pacing, shaping, and most of all, judicious editing. And the winners deserve a much bigger audience.

Martin Knelman is an entertainment columnist. He can be reached at mknelman@thestar.ca.

Moses Znaimer Kicks Off Film Festival Dedicated To Creativity In Aging

Source:  www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Entertainment Reporter

(May 02, 2008) Moses Znaimer – soon to be a dictionary entry – can take credit for a word that is fast replacing terms no baby boomer would answer to. The Peter Pan generation (the post-war one), otherwise known as the play generation, is never going to wear the label of "senior," "oldster," "retiree" or, God forbid, "old age pensioner."

But they (we) seem to appreciate zoomer. Not Znaimer Boomers, but "boomers with zip," as he so presciently and publicly put it last February when he took over as executive director of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons and announced plans to re-situate and revamp CARP magazine as – what else? – Zoomer.

Znaimer, 65, founder of Citytv and its many spinoffs, never had a good idea he didn't act on. Today at 1 p.m. the "Über Zoomer" will give the keynote address at the
Silver Screens Arts Festival, running until May 16 at Ryerson University. The theme of the two-week event is "Aging Creatively and Creativity in Aging."

Expect the president of MZTV and the executive producer of IdeaCity to have some positive things to say about the A-word. He's out to destroy stereotypes and defeat expectations of decline, such as women over 50 who feel invisible, undesired; or, worse, ladies of a certain age subjected to ridicule if they dress and behave in a youthful way.

"It wasn't that long ago when there was a certain orderliness to life," Znaimer says. He's casual but cool, going from video production to a magazine editorial meeting to pause for a brief interview in the bustling offices on Queen St. E. that house his new mini-empire. It started with purchase of The New Classical 96.3 FM; next on the acquisition list is AM740.

"The stages were quite predictable and there were behaviours attendant upon those stages. Now it's totally fluid and I think exciting.

"This word (zoomer) acknowledges one's age but defines it as something active, vigorous, optimistic and `I ain't goin' nowhere.'"

If there's a plaque on the wall in his personal suite it no doubt reads NOT THROUGH YET.

The audience for Znaimer's video presentation and Q&A will get some interesting stats on how important the zoomer generation is, for its numbers alone. And they will get a reminder that the stars of the silver screen – icons such as Sean Connery, Harrison Ford and Meryl Streep – are zoomers and still considered box-office gold.

The festival's movies accentuate the positive (for the most part) aspects of growing, um, older. Here are a few to catch:

A TIFF '07 film, Empties, from Jan Sverak (Kolya), directing his father Zdenek, is a bittersweet tale of a retired teacher who chooses supermarket menial duty over sitting at home in a cramped apartment.

A documentary that grabbed the spotlight at last year's Hot Docs, The Bodybuilder and I, tells a revealing tale of 59-year-old bodybuilder Bill Friedman through the lens of his filmmaker son.

The inspiration of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Gogo Granny support groups link Canadian and African older women in the struggle against the devastation of HIV/AIDS. They are the subject of three films: the New Zealand-made A Grandmother's Tribe; Robert and Brenda Rooney's The Great Granny Revolution; and Liz Marshall's Grandmothers: The Unsung Heroes of Africa. Broadway star Frank Langella delivers one of his best screen roles in Starting Out in the Evening, a 2007 film based on a novel about an aging and mostly forgotten New York literary titan.

For a complete schedule, ticket prices and locations for the Silver Screens Arts Festival, zoom over to ryerson.ca/ce/silverscreens.

Phil Stone, 94: Brought Rock 'N' Roll To Toronto

Source:  www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard,
Toronto Star

(May 06, 2008) On May 27, 1957, at 4:23 p.m. in Toronto, CHUM broadcaster Phil Stone changed Canadian radio forever.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new sound for you and I hope you like it," he told his listeners.

"It goes like this ..."

He played "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets, the first rock 'n' roll piece ever played on radio in Canada.

Stone, who died last week aged 94, was a pioneer in many ways, his son Glen said in a telephone interview.

"The rock 'n' roll thing turned out to be a good idea," Glen Stone said.

Rites for the veteran of Canadian radio, public relations and print journalism, and supporter of numerous charities, were held on Friday. He leaves Mildred, to whom he was married for 65 years, and two other sons, Jay and Doug, as well as four grandchildren.

Glen Stone said his father had been part of CHUM radio since the late 1940s and was there when it became a 24-hour Top 40 station.

Before that, Glasgow-born Stone had a long history in broadcast and print journalism, including becoming a self-taught writer whose laurels included simultaneous columns in the Toronto Star and Toronto Telegram.

He also wrote sports for the Star and he founded his own sports magazine, Sports Digest, in 1947, after serving as an army public relations officer during World War II.

"The magazine did quite well," his son said."Then it was knocked out by a new magazine published in the States called Sports Illustrated."

Stone's successes in journalism were made more remarkable because he had been forced to drop out of school at age 14 to help support his widowed mother Leah and his younger sister Anne.

His father died in a flu pandemic that struck Glasgow in 1919, when Stone was 6, and the family experienced "real poverty," eking out a living in Glasgow, and in the northern England towns of Leeds and Sheffield.

They moved to Toronto, into the then traditionally Jewish area of Toronto along Spadina Ave.

In his first Toronto neighbourhood, Stone struck up a friendship with a young neighbour named Ed Mirvish, who became Toronto's famous Honest Ed and a lifelong friend.

When Stone was interred at Pardes Shalom Cemetery in Vaughan, he was laid to rest one row over from his old friend Mirvish, his son said.

In Toronto, after working in a variety of menial jobs, Stone taught himself to type, and started submitting articles to newspapers and magazines. He was also doing publicity for the new radio station, CHUM, and eventually got a sports slot on weekends, his son said.

He then got a daily show as a disc jockey on CHUM, and from there came the events of 1957 that brought rock 'n' roll to Canada's airwaves.

Until the early 1960s, Stone remained as a rock jock at CHUM, then became the vice-president of the station, responsible for promotions and charitable work.

By the time he left the station in 1964, he was on the board of 45 different charities. He then founded his own public relations firm and, in 1972, started the radio program at Humber College. He also taught at York University and Conestoga College.

At age 73, he went back to school and got his bachelor of arts in English at York University.

"How he would like to be remembered is for helping people," his son said. "He loved to help young people. There are thousands who benefited from his advice."

Badu Mixes The New With The Old-School

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Joshua Ostroff

ERYKAH BADU
At Massey Hall in Toronto on Monday

(May 07, 2008) When
Erykah Badu first ascended in 1997 with her Grammy-winning debut Baduizm, her neo-soul sound established ties between postwar jazz, 1970s R&B and contemporary hip-hop. More than a decade later, the scene is dominated by Timbaland's future-funk and Amy Winehouse's retro-soul. But as Badu's bewitching Toronto performance attested, the self-declared analog girl in a digital world continues connecting dots between genres and eras.

While her sprawling, soul revue-style band - including four backup singers, two drummers, a small horn section, flutist and DJ - locked into an old-school groove, Badu emerged in a ruffled black flapper dress and feathered bowler, a sly shout-out to her towering turbans of yore. She immediately launched into Amerykahn Promise, the kickoff song on the recently released New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), her first full-length album in almost eight years.

The up-tempo funk track was fuelled by her soulful wail, a far cry from the cooing common to Janet Jackson or the excessive melisma of Mariah Carey. Badu likes to belt it out - the band often dropped off so she could hammer a note home unimpeded - but also enjoys vamping and voguing, drumming on a bongo or fiddling with a laptop and synthesizer.

She continued mining the new disc with languid underground fave The Healer - prompting cheers for the line "hip hop, it's bigger than the government" - and the deeply personal Me, on which she sings about her children, her advancing age (36) and the fact that "[her] ass and legs have gotten big" - cue more cheers - over a deep, pounding beat.

After the political call-to-arms of Twinkle and lover's lament My People, she moved into some older songs with her Billie Holiday-esque breakthrough On and On and ghetto tale Other Side Of The Game.

In the encore to the nearly two-hour show, Badu performed two songs from her 2000 album Mama's Gun, beginning with the 10-minute Broadway-esque epic Green Eyes, which ranged from rollicking piano funk to heart-wrenching ballad as she sat on the floor, childlike, or tried out interpretive dance moves with giant red exercise balls. Badu then moved down into the sold-out audience for crowd-favourite Bag Lady, a singalong that turned Massey Hall into a gospel revival meeting - she even cracked a joke about using her hat as a collection plate.

Throughout the night, Badu refused to adhere to labels, get sequestered by time periods or even be beholden to singles. For instance, fans screamed for, but did not receive, a rendition of her recent hit Honey.

She remains a singular performer, proudly claiming "my shit ain't based on notes - it's primal wails and tribal moans." She is as prone to scatting like a jazz singer as crooning about drug dealers and "Venus bitches," all while gleefully pinwheeling from adorable to regal, goofy to sultry.

At one point, she noted that drums were the past, present and future of music. But after such a temporally unfixed performance, Badu may as well have been describing herself.

Special to The Globe and Mail

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Jamaica: Montego Bay

BY Melanie Reffes

(May 4, 2008) Try it on for size, I'm instructed by the affable vendor at the Fort Street Craft Market near Montego Bay's Hip Strip. With a vibe more like a gracious granny than a savvy entrepreneur, her pitch continues. ''Green is your color,'' she says, holding up a batik shirt she notices matches my eyes.

I wouldn't call it a hard-sell but I would call it a convincing one. No sooner did she spy the smile on my pal Wayne's face than the shirt was folded and placed neatly in a bag. We started the bargaining at $15, and in less time than it took her to fold the shirt that matched my eyes, we settled on $12.

No doubt about it: Felicia knew how to clinch a deal. All in a day's work at the market, which sits on the site of a 17th century fort and is one of many reasons to leave the beach chair or cruise ship -- at least for an afternoon.

Montego Bay is Jamaica's most-visited city but on a recent trip, I discovered it's a lot more than the capital of the all-inclusive resort and swim-up bar.

The second largest city after Kingston (100,000 people live in Mobay, as the locals call it), it brims with gourmet eateries, swank bars, swishy spas, the greenest golf courses in Jamaica, shopping galore, nightlife that sizzles till the wee hours, footprint-in-the-sand beaches and vistas of the Caribbean Sea that put postcards to shame.

With a room total to reach 9,000 by the end of the year and accommodations among the finest on the planet, it's no wonder the government takes the north coast seriously with the refurbishment of the main highway and the Gloucester Avenue Resort Upgrading Project that is revitalizing the main drag -- known as the Hip Strip.

Steeped In History

Less than a mile from the Hip Strip, Old Town is a treasure trove of West Indian history. We start our walking tour at the St. James Parish Church, with its 18th century marble monuments and stained glass windows.

Meandering along King Street to the Burchell Baptist Church, we learn it was a haven for freed slaves. Here, Sam Sharpe, one of seven national heroes, instigated the rebellion that led to the 1834 Abolition Bill.

Two blocks west to the cobbled Sam Sharpe Square we see the locals taking five -- or lyming -- and the vendors hawking kids' clothes and ladies shoes under the shady fig trees.

''Try my peanut cake,'' beckons an elderly gentleman who politely introduces himself as Mr. Art from Gordon Town. At 40 cents a slice (we didn't bother to barter), we bought two and joined the regulars on the bench for some lyming of our own.

It was here, Wayne tells me, that 312 slaves, including Sam Sharpe, were hanged at the gallows.

''This feels like a million miles from the swim-up bar,'' he adds pointing to the Cage. Once a jail for runaway slaves, it now sells T-shirts and phone cards although the old-timers sitting nearby know exactly what it once meant.

The Great Outdoors

''Hold this vial of sugar water in your hand, raise your arm slowly and the birds will come to you.'' With that directive, Fritz Beckford welcomed a gaggle of nature buffs who awoke with the sun to see Jamaica's national bird in the wild. Twenty minutes from the beach, the Rockland Bird Sanctuary in the sleepy town of Anchovy is the most un-touristy tourist attraction we'd ever seen -- no snack bar, no gift shop, not even a website.

Ruling the roost for two decades, Fritz entertains us with trivia about the Doctor bird -- like how its black crest and tail resemble the top hat and long coats doctors wore in the old days.

How many times have you given this lecture, I ask him. ''Maybe 3,000, maybe more'' he says as the hummingbirds with the long tails and iridescent feathers swoop down from the trees as if they recognize his voice.

His words morph into bird calls and in less than a minute, a feeding frenzy erupts as dozens of the diminutive birds zoom in for their breakfast. It looks like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds as we furiously snap photos of the critters flitting about our heads, arms and even our hair.

On the way out, Fritz hands us brochures and tells us his birds will be waiting the next time we visit.

Get Your Groove On

Stepping into Wine With Me, we could have easily been in Miami, New York or any hip city in Europe. Lorded over by MoBay's Queen Social Butterfly, Cecile Levee, we feel like family stopping by for a nightcap.

''Take a seat anywhere'' she tells us as we look around the cozy bar with an impressive 100-bottle wine list. We settle on a Riesling and a plate of perfectly grilled peppered shrimp in a mango and jerk rum sauce. After kicking back a few, we feel right at home.

With a flight the next morning, planning our next trip comes up for discussion.

''Come back for Reggae Sumfest,'' Cecile suggests as a Marley tune plays in the background. Ya mon, we tell her with the flair of Montegonians. ``I'll keep your seats warm and the wine chilled.''

Going To Montego Bay

• Best for: Montego Bay is ideal for families, couples, singles and seniors seeking a leisurely couple of days under the Caribbean sun.

• Getting there: American flies nonstop to Montego Bay from Miami; Spirit and Air Jamaica fly nonstop from Fort Lauderdale. Several airlines make the trip in four to six hours with one stop or a change of planes.

• Cost of a weekend getaway: Roundtrip airfare in early June starts at $322 from Fort Lauderdale and $378 from Miami; cheaper fares available on one-stop flights. Online travel agencies were offering three-night air/hotel packages starting around $425 per person double occupancy. For deals, check www.caribbeantravel.com and www.cheapcaribbean.com.

• Staying safe: Unlike Kingston, which reports incidents of mayhem, Montego Bay is a safe city. Crimes against tourists are virtually non-existent; the resorts have security around the clock and police patrol with mobile monitors and closed circuit cameras. A polite ''No, thank you'' is all that's necessary to those who offer to braid your hair or sell you T-shirts. Leave airline tickets and passports in the hotel safe, hire only JUTA-operated taxis (Jamaica Union of Travelers Association) and contrary to urban legend, ganja is illegal for use or export.

Where To Stay

• The gold standard for luxury, the AAA Five Diamond Ritz-Carlton at Rose Hall (800-826-9430 or 876-953-2800, www.rosehall.com) is offering a Reconnect package -- $299 per room, per night (plus 13 percent resort fee), includes accommodations, breakfast for two and a $100 daily food credit, a round of golf at the White Witch course or a massage -- try the Jamaican Coffee Scrub that refreshes and renews but won't keep you up at night.

• The palatial villas (2-8 bedrooms) at the Tryall Club (800-238- 5290, www.tryallclub.com) come with a chef and Swimming Nanny for the younger set. From $400 for a two-bedroom villa in summer to $2,410 for seven bedrooms at Christmas, per night.

• Sandals Inn (800-SANDALS, www.sandals.com) is all about location, location, location. On the Hip Strip, the 52 room all-inclusive is cozier than its two sister properties, Royal Caribbean and Sandals Montego Bay yet with the same high standards -- and you can have privileges at the others, with shuttle provided. Daily all-inclusive rate in May, $346.

• Also with instant access to the Hip Strip, the all-inclusive SuperClub Breezes Montego Bay (800-GO-SUPER, www.superclubs.com) fronts Doctor's Cave Beach, famous for the healing powers of its mineral-rich translucent water. Stand-outs include the rooftop Jacuzzi, Cook and Talk Jamaica classes and a staff that feels like family. From $250 per night in May.

• There at least a dozen budget hotels on the Hip Strip. Our choice is the Altamont West (33 Gloucester Ave., 876-979-9378, www.altamontwesthotel.com) The 31-room hotel has free Wi-fi, cable TV and a wine bar. Rooms from $90.

Where To Eat

• The Boonoonoonoos (patois for ''plentiful'') platter at The Native (29 Gloucester Ave, 876-979-2769) is chock full of curried goat, lip-searing jerk chicken, ackee with salt fish and plantains. Open to the breeze on a veranda overlooking the Hip Strip, it raises lyming with the locals to a fine art. Dinner entrees, $9-$34.

• Close to the airport, Scotchies (Coral Gardens Main Highway, 876-953-8041) is a no-frills bonanza of roasted breadfruit, frosty Red Stripe beer and chicken, fish and pork blackened to perfection in a marinade of scotch bonnet peppers. $6.50 for a half-pound of jerk pork

• The views are ridiculously fabulous at the Montego Bay Yacht Club (1133 Sunset Dr., 876-979-8038, http://montegobayyachtclub.com) and the lamb chops with mint pesto are to-die-for.

• Try the spicy jerk burger ($8.95) at the Jamaican Bobsled Café (69 Gloucester Ave, 876-940-7009), which stays open until 2 a.m. and delivers to the resorts.

What To Do

• Built in the 1770's with limestone brought from England, Rose Hall Great House (876-953-2323, www.rosehall.com) was the home of the wicked Annie Palmer, aka White Witch of Rose Hall, who murdered her three husbands and remains one of Montego Bay's favorite ghosts. 45-minute tours, $20 adults, $10 kids.

• Starting from Doctor's Cave Beach, Chukka Sea Trek is Jamaica's only underwater tour. Designed for seafarers and land lubbers, a space age helmet rests on your shoulders while a continuous flow of air allows you to breathe. Your hair doesn't get wet and you can wear glasses while viewing the marine life and spectacular coral. 876-953-5619, www.chukkacaribbean.com; 30-minute ride, $69 per person.

• At the end of the Hip Strip next to the Jamaica Tourist Board, the Jewish Cemetery is the oldest on the island. Managed by the St. James Parish Council, the gates are locked; however, the JTB can arrange entry (876-922-5931 or 876-922-1287).

• Rockland Bird Sanctuary, 876-952-2009; $15 adult admission, $5 children.

• Wine With Me, 33 Gloucester Ave.; 876-371- 4804; www.altamontwesthotel.com. Wine cellar and food. Closed Mondays.

• Reggae Sumfest (July 13-19; 876-953-2933, www.reggaesumfest.com) is the largest reggae festival in the world attracting hard-core fans and a stellar line-up of acts. Book hotel rooms early -- they fill up fast. Event tickets, $12-$160.

Information

• Jamaica Tourist Board, 305-665-0557 or 800-233- 4582; www.visitjamaica.com.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Bryan Adams Asks Fans To Listen Up

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(May 01, 2008)
In his 1984 arena shaking B-side Kids Wanna Rock, Bryan Adams exhorted his fans to "Turn it Up! Turn it up!" But now, faced with a measure of hearing loss from decades of playing at eardrum-piercing decibel levels, the British Columbia-born rocker is the public face of a global campaign suggesting that listeners might want to turn the music down a tad.

Tonight, Adams will unveil an exhibition of his photographs at a gallery space in New York's meatpacking district that include shots of Mick Jagger, Michael Bublé, Annie Lennox, Placido Domingo, Chad Kroeger, Amy Winehouse and Lindsay Lohan, each cupping a hand to an ear in a universal expression of listening. More than 20 recording artists posed for Adams's camera as part of the Hear the World initiative.

Sponsored by the hearing-aid company Phonak, the exhibition aims to increase awareness of the importance of good hearing. To that end, it will include a number of interactive displays, including hearing self-testing stations and sound-art installations.

The photos, on public view in New York until May 15 before travelling to Berlin and Zurich, will be auctioned at hear-the-world.com/exhibition to raise funds that will help those struggling with hearing impairment. Previous Phonak initiatives have helped hearing-impaired children in South Africa integrate into regular school classrooms.

Tonight's red carpet event at the unnamed space at 413-415 West 14th St., between Alexander McQueen's flagship store and the club Lotus, will include appearances by actors Franka Potente and Matthew Modine, a music set from the Virgins and a DJ set by the Roots's drummer, Questlove.

Adams himself is saving his energy for a 15-date solo tour kicking off tomorrow night in Philadelphia in support of his new album, 11. Most of the set will be acoustic - all the better for his hearing.

Latest Mash-Up: COC And Hip Hop

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Joshua Ostroff

(May 07, 2008) If you had to pick a pair of musical genres furthest apart from each other, opera and hip hop would be a fairly safe bet. One thing they do share is sizable purist fan bases, which, whether they use the phrase or not, prefer practitioners to keep it real. Nonetheless, these star-crossed genres are coming together in a performance called The Hip Hopera, a new collaboration by the Canadian Opera Company and the Royal Conservatory of Music.

"I don't really know how that's going to work out, but sure, I'd be willing to sit down," was DJ Lil Jaz's initial reaction to the proposed mash-up. "I wasn't sceptical so much as wondering what the hell would come out of it. What were we going to do?"

Jaz is a former world champion DJ who has worked with k-os and Nelly Furtado (with whom he has a daughter) and teaches turntable fundamentals at the Royal Conservatory alongside DJ T.R.A.C.K.S. The duo teamed up with COC soprano Teiya Kasahara and baritone Justin Welsh to bring their respective specialties together.

"To fuse hip hop and opera isn't exactly a new idea," Jaz acknowledges, "but I don't think it's been done to the degree that we did it." Indeed, the term hip hopera is usually used like rock opera - Beyoncé starred in MTV's Carmen but sang R&B while Prince Paul's classic rap album Prince Among Thieves was opera-like only in its narrative structure.

"With my bosses, maybe there was a little bit of trepidation because [hip hop] is more foreign to them," Kasahara says. "But with our generation, growing up with it in the house, it was familiar."

It's safe to say hip hop's familiarity is what sparked the fusion - and what better way to make a 16th-century art form relevant to a young 21st-century audience. Atlanta Ballet recently tried a similar, albeit more ambitious, collaboration with OutKast rapper Big Boi, though National Public Radio reported some ballet traditionalists were initially "freaked out."

For any similar doubters, Kasahara notes that opera and hip hop have more in common than many realize. "Years ago, opera was a way for composers and librettists to create political and social messages. They were criticized and censored, but it allowed them to express themselves and challenge government. Today, genres like hip hop [raise] social and political issues."

Kasahara acknowledges that younger audiences don't know much about opera and that hip hop is a whole new world for opera fans - a fact she hopes this production could help to change.

"We weren't thinking 'How can we make this for the traditional Toronto opera audience?' We didn't want to be inhibited by that. It's not opera and hip hop side by side - we're trying to create something new."

It is structured like a          traditional opera, with a dramatic arc about defining identity in today's society, and there's no actual rapping. The hip-hop elements arrive through beats, classical samples and live turntable scratching.

"I think anyone could get with the program. We're not taking it to the grimiest areas of hip hop. It's understandable by anyone who listens to pop music today," Jaz says. "Over all, it is just two genres trying to transcend what they're traditionally classified as.

"It's time to evolve. To start mixing and matching."

Special to The Globe and Mail

The Hip Hopera is performed today at 5:30 p.m. at the Four Seasons Centre's Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Toronto. Admission is free.

Common Teases New Album 'Invincible'

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(May 02, 2008) *Common unveiled eight songs from his upcoming album "Invincible Summer" Tuesday night for Billboard magazine, which said the project is "shaping up to be an electro-tinged departure from the MC's previous lyric-driven albums."

"I created this music for the summer time, it's about feeling good," Common tells Billboard.com. "This is the type of music I felt was missing from my body of work."

The Chicago-born rapper has spent the last two months working on "Invincible Summer," which is tentatively due in mid-July led by the high-energy track "Universal Mind Control (U.M.C)."

The set was produced by The Neptunes and Outkast producer Mr. DJ. Kanye West, who helmed the production on Common's last LP, 2007's "Finding Forever," did not contribute any tracks this time around.

"Kanye was focusing on his 'Glow in the Dark' show, so he hasn't been able to make it to the studio to weigh in," Common says. "But it worked out well, organically. The Neptunes & Mr. DJ came up with a fresh sound for me."

Cee-Lo and The Neptunes' pop group, Chester French, guest on the album, but Common says singer-MC Santogold is "one of my favourite artists right now" and adds that he's awaiting a verse from her for the track "Runaway," which samples its guitar riff from Pat Benatar's 'Love Is A Battlefield."

"Invincible" also features spongy futuristic chords on "Make My Day" featuring Cee-Lo, and fuzzy kazoos on "Punch Love," reports Billboard.

Genticorum: Quebec Folk Trio With An Indie Spirit

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Entertainment Reporter

(May 01, 2008) In casual slouch, the three 30-something dudes that are
Genticorum could be mistaken for indie rockers. But don't let the attitude fool you; they are folkies through and through.

Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand, Yann Falquet and Pascal Gemme all did time in jazz, pop and rock as they searched for musical identity in the 1990s. All three found home – and one another – in the music of their Québécois roots, founding Genticorum in 2000.

Eight years later, they have spread the gospel of Quebec folk around the world and are busily touring their recently released third album, La Bibournoise. Shuttling back and forth this spring between southwestern Ontario and Quebec, the hard-travelling trio performs in Toronto for the Flying Cloud Folk Club on Sunday.

This string of Canadian gigs is unusual. "Normally, 85 to 90 per cent of our gigs are outside Quebec," says de Grosbois-Garand in French over a roadside cellphone chat just outside the GTA last week.

"But we're taking advantage of the new album and having an international career to get some attention at home," he says.

Back from a month-long tour of Australia and with critical applause from major folk, Celtic and world-music festivals around the globe, Genticorum is yet another lesson in the generations-old Canadian tale of having to become famous beyond before being taken seriously at home.

"No one is a prophet in their own country," the group's front man says matter-of-factly.

Now, Genticorum is riding a wave of interest in folk traditions and music among young listeners. It could be that in a wired, globalized world, authentic local culture is taking on greater importance as a cultural anchor in our home communities.

"Since about '93 we've been seeing more and more young people in the audience for traditional music."

Genticorum offers the real thing, mixing vocals with fiddle, guitar, fretless bass and the ever-present tapping of seasoned leather soles on wood. Their repertoire mixes songs that go back several centuries with the group's own creations, which mimic traditional rhythms and melodies.

On disc as well as live, the trio mixes purely instrumental pieces with songs. All three can sing in polished, close harmony, when required. Their energy and enthusiasm are palpable.

"All three of us have a background in rock, so we also bring a particular kind of energy to a show that younger audiences appreciate," says de Grosbois-Garand. "But the purists are okay with us, too. We try to find a balance in what we do."

De Grosbois-Garand explains the band's popularity in the English-speaking world by pointing to a crossover in audiences between Celtic and Québécois music. Often one style leads to another.

"A lot of people have discovered us through more modern styles," de Grosbois-Garand says. "Even bands like Great Big Sea, on the Celtic side, have woken up the folk spirit in people."

Just the facts
WHAT: Genticorum
WHERE: The Tranzac, 292 Brunswick Ave.
WHEN: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 7)
ADMISSION: $20 at the door (members: $18 at flyingcloudfolk.ca)

Brooklyn Rapper A Hot Lil Mama

Source:  www.thestar.com - Melena Ryzik,
New York Times

(May 03, 2008) NEW YORK–"I love you, oh my God, you my idol!" Ashley Smellie, a Long Island high school student, gushed as the young Brooklyn rapper Lil Mama emerged from a tour bus outside of a club in Queens recently. It was near midnight, and Lil Mama had been scheduled to perform for an audience of mostly teenage girls. They came to hear "Lip Gloss," last summer's hit novelty single, in which she brags about her makeup over a simplified beat:

"My lip gloss is poppin'
My lip gloss is cool
All the boys keep jockin'
They chase me after school."

Smellie, 16, added, "She's swaggerific."

That swagger was nearly not displayed: For murky reasons the show was cancelled at the last minute, leaving her fans milling about, and Lil Mama, who has a li'l temper, hiding out in the bus, upset. But eventually she rallied, 5-foot-3 in hot-pink patent leather Doc Martens, to arrange group photos on a deserted street corner. She led her fans in a chant, "4-29-08!" – the release date last Tuesday for her debut album,
VYP: Voice of the Young People.

A long-delayed follow-up to "Lip Gloss,'' Voice of the Young People is a curious mix of schoolyard froth and adult advice. When "G-Slide (Tour Bus),'' released last fall, was met with indifference, her label held the album, repositioning the rapper as more of a multifaceted artist and pairing her with hit-makers like the producer Scott Storch, the singer-rapper T-Pain and the young R&B star Chris Brown. The collaborations resulted in the Top 10 single "Shawty Get Loose," which was also used on Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew, the MTV show on which Lil Mama was a judge, dispensing mostly supportive, if occasionally nonsensical, commentary.

Now Lil Mama, 18, is in a rare position in hip hop: a female MC aiming to jump from dance-floor hotness to inspiration. "Growing up in a neighbourhood like mine, I always had to be a positive influence on the youth," she said. "I'm the outlet of the things that we want the world to know about us.''

Her determination to be viewed as more than a novelty act – as chronicled in the album's second track, "One Hit Wonder" – was bolstered by the death of her mother, Tara Kirkland, in December after a four-year battle with cancer. At an interview at a house her father owns in the Bushwick neighbourhood of Brooklyn, where she shared a cherry Popsicle with her 3-year-old sister, Jasmine, Lil Mama explained how Lil Mama grew up.

For starters, the name: Born Niatia Kirkland, the oldest girl of eight siblings, she was nicknamed Lil Mama early on by her mother and aunt.

"As the years went on, everybody said, `She lives up to her name, she's too grown,'" Lil Mama said. She and her brothers and sisters and various cousins bounced between living with her mother in Harlem and her father in and around East New York, Brooklyn.

"We grew up kind of poor, on welfare," she said. "It was a crazy lifestyle, moving around, from apartment to apartment, shelter to apartment.''

Lil Mama still lives with her family in Brooklyn; they appear on the album and in her videos. "I can't be on my own yet," she said, especially so soon after her mother's death.

"My mother taught me every-thing there is to know," she emphasized. "As I get older, I just learn how to put it into place better." Her album has a song called "College" in which she raps about visiting a campus with her mother.

She started dancing as a child; her father ran an independent record imprint, Familiar Faces, and released her songs on mix tapes. Through a management company, "Lip Gloss" was eventually propelled to radio.

And for contemporary hip hop, Lil Mama is especially radio-friendly. Though her mother, she said, "would curse, she was raw, her mouth was ridiculous," she doesn't use profanity. "That takes away from who you have potential to be," she said. "The best, the greatest, smart, innovative, creative. That's what I am.

"When was the last time a new female M.C. on the scene – from Harlem, from Brooklyn – put out an album that people actually care about?" she asked. "Lil' Kim? Foxy Brown? It's been years. Lil Mama's a big deal."

A Swedish Britney, Minus The Antics

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Joshua Ostroff

(May 02, 2008) Britney Spears offers a cautionary tale of pop stardom's pitfalls, but if you prefer a feel-good fable, look no further than Swedish teen-pop refugee Robyn.

The pint-sized singer with a new-wave hairdo, sassy rhymes, heartfelt yet chirpy vocals and impeccable pop smarts had her last North American hit with 1997's Show Me Love - penned by Max Martin, who later wrote Spears's Baby One More Time. More recently, Robyn sang backup on Britney's Piece of Me, has collaborated with Snoop Dogg and clocked a pair of British Top 10 singles.

Her self-titled album - combining edgy electro-pop, adorable hip hop and dramatic dance-floor epics - is only just arriving on our shores. But Robyn is already a cult hero in the indie scene and gay community (websites Pitchfork and Perez Hilton are among her biggest backers) which have been onside since her cutesy battle-rap track Konichiwa Bitches hit music blogs in 2005.

"Of course, there are certainly things that are similar," Robyn says, over the telephone from London, of the Spears comparison. "We both worked with Max Martin. We both signed to Jive. We both started out young and were part of this genre in the mid-nineties. But there are also a lot of things that are different between us."

For starters, when a teenaged Robyn was offered a slot opening for the Backstreet Boys, she cited "exhaustion" and retreated home, while Britney used a subsequent Backstreet tour to launch her solo career.

"The best thing I ever did was to not think about that as a career move," she says. "I didn't know at the time why I was doing it, but I had this instinct to withdraw from everything and go back to Sweden. I felt really uncomfortable shouldering this teen pop-star role or being a role model or being someone who had a lot of expectations on her. I didn't feel like I was ready for it. I had just started out: I didn't know who I was, I didn't know what kind of artist I wanted to be."

Raised by unconventional parents involved in experimental theatre, Robyn was not content to be just another pop tart. However, her commercial beginnings did instill the importance of melody and being in control of her career. "I learned what it's like to have success and what it's like to not have success - both of those situations are good and both are bad. It's not black or white. It's more about what I want to do and what I think is fun."

During the early 2000s, Robyn continued releasing music in Europe until finally starting her own Konichiwa Records. With complete artistic control, she collaborated with electronic producers the Knife, Teddybears and Kleerup to craft an electro-pop classic.

In 2005, the beat-driven Robyn topped the Swedish charts, won the country's equivalent to a Grammy and began its slow viral spread online. Last year, her swoon-inducing synth ballad With Every Heartbeat hit No. 1 in Britain. In March, she matched her hype with a trio of triumphant performances at the South-by-Southwest music festival in Austin, Tex., during which she rapped saucily, crooned sweetly, covered Prince dirtily, and wowed with a stripped-down ballad version of Show Me Love.

Then, after licensing her self-released album to Interscope for worldwide distribution, Robyn finally landed (officially) in North America at April's end. "It's been three years and, of course, that's a long time, but it's been an amazing process to work this album in all these different markets on my own terms with my own record company. How people get into the music is really honest," she says, noting it might do better in Canada than the United States, because of what she calls our "more European perspective."

But since she never expected to, once again, become an international artist, Robyn's slow and steady global rise has already been gratifying. "I've been able to stay in control over everything. I didn't have to compromise for this," she says proudly. "There's a huge contrast to how I started out and where I am now."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Robyn plays La Tulipe in Montreal on Sunday and the Phoenix in Toronto on Monday.

*****

The Swedish Invasion

Perhaps more infiltration than

invasion, Swedish acts have doggedly thrived on international pop charts since a certain Stockholm-based quartet rose to fame more than three decades ago. Here are a few of the country's top-40 triumphs:

April 6, 1974 On its third try, ABBA wins the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo. It becomes the band's first U.K. chart-topper, and reaches No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

Oct. 11, 1976 ABBA releases Arrival, its fourth album, which includes wedding-reception staples such as Knowing Me, Knowing You and Dancing Queen. At this point, ABBA is well on its way to becoming the second-bestselling band of all time (after the Beatles).

Oct. 19, 1988 Roxette's Look Sharp!, its second album, features breakthrough hit The Look. The single tops the Hot 100.Nov. 23, 1993 Ace of Base's The Sign delivers its eponymous first single, which spends six weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100.

Aug. 12, 1996 The Cardigans' third album, First Band on the Moon, includes Hot 100 chart-topper Lovefool.

Fan Club Should Stick With Police Club

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner,
Pop Music Critic

(May 04, 2008) So are we not supposed to like Tokyo Police Club anymore?

Internet-age lovin' is fast, rough and fickle when it demands rock stardom of non-rock stars, we know, but it seems to be operating at a delusionally accelerated pace where these excitable Newmarket youngsters are concerned.

After pining for two years for the proper, album-length successor to TPC's tersely charming debut EP, A Lesson in Crime, many of the same critics, bloggers and opinionated fans who turned the band into Toronto indie-rock's most closely watched Next Big Thing now seem taken aback that its surefooted new Elephant Shell disc (released on Bright Eyes main man Conor Oberst's Saddle Creek imprint) sounds like, well ... a first album.

It seems a bit presumptuous on the media's part to assume that the band should completely reinvent itself just as it's on the verge of potentially reaching the wide audience that exists outside the "virtual" realm. Give the boys some time, for Pete's sake, and stop lamenting that it's not the "statement album" you'd hoped for. Even Radiohead was allowed to get one record under its belt before The Bends.

One walked away from Tokyo Police Club's Friday-night set at The Opera House – the first gig of a sold-out, two-night stand at the Queen East venue – feeling, as always, reasonably confident that this foursome will produce its big statement in due time. It's certainly got small statements down to a fine art.

True, it's sometimes difficult to tell one of TPC's pogoing, two-minute pop tunes from another until they get moving, but the group is still probing every corner of its breathless formula for unpredictable new songwriting angles and illustrative stray sounds to wedge into its concise, yet always ambitiously dense arrangements.

Frontman David Monks's sweet chorus to "In A Cave" melted wonderfully on Friday night into a liquid guitar line by gifted noise conjurer Josh Hook that sounded like a picked-apart Cure riff, while the squalling white noise in the background to the propulsive "Sixties Remake" – stampeded forward by the spring-loaded, often heart-stoppingly off-kilter rhythm section of Monks and drummer Greg Alsop – had the ring of early My Bloody Valentine to it. There's still room for surprises.

Tokyo Police Club hasn't really stopped touring since A Lesson in Crime was released, and the proof is all onstage these days. The quartet ripped through its set list, which took in most of Elephant Shell and the evidently crowd-beloved Crime, in a hungry 50 minutes that whipped by like 15 largely because of the barely containable energy exuded by the symbiotic playing.

The new album's bittersweet first single, "Tessellate," and "Your English is Good" – whose shouted "Give us your vote!" intro makes it a natural audience-participation candidate – were already convulsing the room with as much contagious energy as the jubilantly received (and truly indelible) early numbers "Be Good," "Nature of the Experiment" and the wonderful mini-epic "Citizens of Tomorrow," so the tunes are still there to go with the blazing live show. Does Tokyo Police Club really need a big statement right away when it's got all that going for it?

Ex-Boxer Pulls No Punches On The Podium

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Description: http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifDescription: http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifDescription: http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifDescription: http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Eri Klas, conductor. Guest pianist Alexander Toradze. Repeats tonight. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. 416-593-4828

(May 01, 2008) The package may catch the eye. But it's what's inside that truly sells the sentiment.

The musical heat being generated by two older, white, bald guys and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week exceeds most of the music we've heard recently from younger and sexier artists.

Powerhouse Russian pianist Alexander Toradze, looking every bit like an overanimated and oversized garden gnome, set Roy Thomson Hall on edge last night with a vivid performance of the Piano Concerto No. 3 by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953).

On the podium, making his debut with the TSO, Estonian conductor
Eri Klas squeezed every ounce of nuance from the players in the Symphony No. 4 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893).

The Prokofiev is all 20th-century now-I'm-nice-now-I'm naughty exuberance. The Tchaikovsky is heart-bleeding-on-sleeve Romanticism. Each received its full stylistic due.

It helped that Klas focused and centred our attention at the outset with a mesmerizing rendition of Fratres, a three-decade-old meditation by now-72-year-old Estonian composer Arvo Part.

The piece begins with the quietest of repeated note pattern in the violins, underlined by a single, light drone from a double bass. Last night, this was accompanied by five minutes of shuffling programs, a cellphone being noisily turned off and a cacophony of coughs.

But when silence finally fell on the audience side of the stage, it was total – and lasting – until the hearty ovations at the end of the two major pieces.

It's hard to imagine a more luxurious rendition of the Prokofiev. Last night we heard a remarkable range of colour, dynamics, rhythm and tempo. Toradze tossed it off with what appeared to be outright glee.

In what is as much a tribute to the quality of the TSO as to the conductor's skills, Klas displayed an economy of movement that veteran maestros usually reserve for their long-time collaborators.

At times, Klas dropped his arms completely, fully trusting the TSO to get it right. Several times, melodies were shaped with simple arabesques of the left hand.

It was fascinating to watch this master in action – and to hear the magnetically charged result. The conductor, a former boxing champ, evidently learned that concentration and precision in a boxing ring can work wonders on a podium, too.

Do everything you can to catch these masters at work.

Solange Knowles aka Sol-Angel Set To Release Sophomore CD

Source:   IGA, Tresa Sanders, tresa.sanders@umusic.com

(May 05, 2008) *Talented singer, songwriter, artist, and entrepreneur, Solange Knowles AKA SoL-AngeL, is ready to set the world on fire with a sound that is sure to breathe life into a sometimes stagnant music scene. 

With her sophomore set, SoL-AngeL and The Hadley Street Dreams, on her new label home of Geffen Records through Music World Entertainment, Solange takes us through a walk in yesteryear with an uber modern twist. 

SoL-AngeL and The Hadley Street Dreams is due for release on August 26th.

On SoL-AngeL and The Hadley Street Dreams, SoL-AngeL enlisted help from producers and songwriters that she knew would capture the sound she wanted to project instantly; but getting them to believe in her wasn't easy.

"I literally had to beg Cee-Lo to listen to my music but once he did he signed on immediately," states the giddy SoL-AngeL.  "We wrote and recorded 'T.O.N.Y' and 'Sandcastle Disco' (produced by Soul Shock) that same week.  Producer Jack 'Splash' joined in to produce 'T.O.N.Y' and went on to produce two more songs for me:  'Would've Been the One' and 'Ode To Marvin,' my special take on Mr. Gaye's 'What's going On,'  both of which  I wrote with Splash and Makeba."

For the remainder of the album SoL-AngeL went on to work with Pharrell for the finger-snapping, feel-good first single "I Decided," Lil Wayne makes an intoxicated guest appearance on "Champagnechronicnightcap," Bilal helps write and appears on "Cosmic Journey" and "Wanna Go Back," which Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry lends vocals to, and Raphael Saddiq produces the soulfully insightful, "Same Song, Different Man," which features Estelle.

"By the end of the project, I had worked with all of the producers and artists I had ever dreamed of including Q-Tip, Boards of Canada and Mark Ronson," states SoL-AngeL. "When I got a call saying the legendary Lamont Dozier would take the time out to write with little old me I was ecstatic beyond words."

The video for "I Decided," directed by the creative Melina, will offer the viewer a glimpse of who Solange, the visionary, really is:  It is the ultimate pop art piece.  Its psychedelic, it's adventurous, it's colourful and not so colourful, it's intelligent, and it's the inner makings of Solange.  "I love pop art; in fact I am a painter myself and have several pieces under my belt that I haven't put on display but soon plan to."  The "I Decided" video deals with pop culture from the 60s to the future.  It displays SoL-AngeL in settings from American Bandstand, to the Civil Rights Movement, to New Wave, and finally a "Cosmic Journey" future.

SoL-AngeL's love of music started at an early age when she became a classically trained ballerina and a jazz, tap, and modern dancer.  She began touring internationally as a dancer for Destiny's Child when she was 13 years old and then she began to mix and match musical styles she experienced in Europe, Africa, Asia, Mexico and Australia with what she loved from America which was sounds from the 60's and 70's.  Her influences from that era range from Shuggie Otis--who made the original "Strawberry Letter 23," to The Supremes and the Marvelettes, to Dusty Springfield, to Marvin Gaye, and to Minnie Riperton.  A wide range of sounds from a young lady that will definitely give you what you least expect.

For more information, press kits, and interviews and to RSVP video shoot coverage on Solange AKA SoL-AngeL please contact IGA:  Tresa Sanders @ 212 841 8272 and via email at tresa.sanders@umusic.com or Music World Entertainment:  Chanel Green @ 310 402 7326 and via email at chanel.green@musicworldent.com.

Toronto Welcomes Back Yo-Yo Ma

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

(May 05, 2008) International cello star Yo-Yo Ma could have played the scales at Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday night and the sold-out house would have roared its approval.

But he did much more than that as he joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and its music director, Peter Oundjian, in a riveting performance of the 1959 Cello Concerto No. 1 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

From the mechanistic, angry opening chords through the sighing languors of the second movement, a spellbinding solo Cadenza third and hard-driving finale, there wasn't a dull moment from the 52-year-old cellist who has been wowing listeners since he was a kid.

The Cadenza is one of Shostakovich's many musical nods to his hero J.S. Bach, a link Ma acknowledged later with an unaccompanied Cello Suite by Bach as an encore.

Oundjian's orchestra was always in perfect step, sounding tight and delivering gorgeous quiet string passages. Principal French horn Neil Deland deserves special praise for his brilliant duo work with Ma in the concerto.

When the TSO announced this concert, in early 2007, the guest was supposed to be Mstislav Rostropovich, who died that April. The Cello Concerto had been written for the legendary Russian. Both Oundjian and Ma remembered Rostropovich in remarks to the audience.

Saturday's concert also marked the 10th anniversary of Toronto's Music Garden at Harbourfront, a project driven by Ma. He praised the orchestra and Oundjian for tending Shostakovich and Rostropovich's garden.

The other work on the program was Tchaikovsky's ever-popular Symphony No. 4, given the same clean, elegant reading the TSO has given several times before. That would have been fine, had we not heard the work conducted by Estonian Eri Klas earlier in the week.

Where Oundjian's rendition is a meticulous aquarelle, Klas's was a robust oil painting textured by a palette knife. Fortunately, the audience could fall back on Ma's performance as one of this season's memorable ones.

Festival Hits A Hopeful Note In New Orleans

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(May 05, 2008) NEW ORLEANS–As Aaron Neville's plaintive falsetto rang out in the final moments of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, it seemed all was right in the city that had been decimated by Hurricane Katrina.

It was the first time since the 2005 storm and flood that the
Neville Brothers had resumed their traditional spot at the seven-day event's denouement. The 30-year-old band finished its 100-minute set with a medley of "Amazing Grace," Bob Marley's "One Love" and their traditional Mardi Gras anthem "Big Chief."

"We ain't go nowhere y'all; we always been in New Orleans," Art Neville said to the enthusiastic crowd that greeted them.

In a city where half the elementary schools and several big-name retailers have not reopened since Katrina, and dozens of homeless people live in a tent village beneath the highway, the health of the area's largest festival is also a measure of progress.

The event, which began in 1970, has a $14 million (U.S.) budget and is expected to contribute $300 million to the local economy, organizers said. Spread over 11 stages and across two weekends, this edition was back to a full seven days from a scaled-down six-day version held the last two years.

It featured a wide range of music, from big-name stars, including Billy Joel, Santana, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, The Roots, Steelpulse, Tim McGraw and Sheryl Crowe, to dozens of local acts playing the traditional brass, blues and cajun styles rooted in the birthplace of jazz.

About 87 per cent of the more than 500 acts were drawn from the area, said associate producer Louis Edwards. With many musicians among the non-returning evacuees, there may be an argument for "a diminished talent pool, but there are still so many that we can't book everybody who wants to play," he said.

The festival typically attracts about 400,000 people, 50 per cent from out of town (many of them now displaced New Orleanians) and the majority of those from New York. Still, those who praised the festival's comeback also lamented that its leaps have outstripped the city's.

"Music has definitely been the string that held this city together," said Loyola University student Dario Elbadry, who ferried festivalgoers in an unofficial taxi. "It has brought back the tourists and they spend a lot of money that keeps people employed, but there's a lot more that needs to be done. Housing is scarce; rents and insurance have doubled and tripled."

Fest producer Edwards prefers to take a "realistic, reflective and dispassionate view" of the urban tragedy.

"Where should we be right now?" he posited. "Could this be a success story instead of a devastating lack of progress? For New Orleans to be as vibrant as it is 2 1/2 years out: walking, talking, singing and dancing ... maybe it should be, `Wow! Aren't we something special to be anywhere.'"

Colin Eatock Talks To Canadian Soprano Sensation Isabel Bayrakdarian

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Colin Eatock

(May 06, 2008) Isabel Bayrakdarian opens the door to her dressing room at Toronto's Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. On the windowsill is the long, auburn wig she will wear as Mélisande, in the Canadian Opera Company's production of Pelléas et Mélisande opening tonight. Hanging on the closet door are her radiantly colourful costumes.

The conversation, however, soon turns to babies - a topic of much interest to Bayrakdarian these days. "It ends with us not knowing whose baby she has," she says of Debussy's only opera, "whether it's Pélleas's or Golaud's - or whether she had conceived before meeting Golaud. Mélisande is unlike any other role I've portrayed, because musically and dramatically it's so very ambiguous."

The 34-year-old Toronto-based soprano continues, explaining how the ending of the work has a personal significance for her, as a new mother herself. "The first time we rehearsed the final scene - when Mélisande is too weak to raise her arms to hold her newborn child - I found it very disturbing." For the performances, she has requested that the eyes on the theatrical doll be closed, so as not to look so lifelike.

The birth five months ago of Ari, to Bayrakdarian and her pianist husband, Serouj Kradjian, hasn't slowed her down. While she did have to withdraw from rehearsals for The Marriage of Figaro at New York's Metropolitan Opera in the fall as her due date approached, she has bounced right back into professional life. She has recently appeared in concerts and recitals in New York; San Francisco; St. Paul, Minn.; and Kansas City, Mo.; and in a production of Don Pasquale in Denver.

"My baby has been travelling with me ever since he was one month old," she says. "He's been very co-operative - it's almost as if he knew what he was getting into! When he's older, things will change, but that's a bridge we'll cross when we get to it."

It was 10 years ago Bayrakdarian sang her first role with the COC: the Sandman in Hansel and Gretel. She was just 24, fresh out of the COC's Ensemble Studio training program. If her degree in biomedical engineering didn't point to a singing career, her win at Placido Domingo's Operalia Competition in 2000 certainly did. Since then, her ascent to the heights of her profession has been swift and sure - guided by a careful selectivity and a wide-ranging eclecticism.

"Initially," she recalls, "I turned down a lot of engagements, when other singers were saying, 'Oh my God, I would love to have that opportunity.' When I was 21, I was asked to sing Liu in Turandot, but said no thank you."

Deciding that Puccini's big-voiced roles could wait, she turned to Mozart: to Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro and Pamina in The Magic Flute.

Critics have been impressed with her Mozart. The New York Times declared her Pamina "beautiful in every way you can be: in singing, in comportment, in looks." And the San Diego Union-Tribune recently credited her with bringing "alluring expertise" to the role of Susanna.

Yet she wilfully resists being pigeonholed. "I've always been known as a Mozart interpreter. I've done a lot of Susannas - you could wake me up a 3 a.m. and I could sing it, and prompt the other performers at the same time. But sometimes you need the thrill of learning something new. I don't understand how some singers can bring freshness and novelty to a couple of roles that they do all the time. I'm not one of those singers - I need the stimulation of new excitement."

Even as she built a reputation for Mozart, Bayrakdarian cultivated other musical interests: 20th-century opera and Italian bel canto roles. "I'm very fortunate," she notes, "because people who do casting 'get' me. I have been offered interesting parts because the people who make the decisions know that if they ask me to do a role, I'm going to do it justice."

Also, her skills as a recitalist have won her much praise. "What impressed me most," reported a critic for Opera News magazine, after a 2005 Carnegie Hall performance, "was that she chose not to take the audience by storm; instead, she captured it by stealth."

And she has followed pathways that have led her away from the tried-and-true classical repertoire. She sang on the soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings movie The Two Towers, and also for Atom Egoyan's film Ararat. She has taken an interest in Latin-American music and has recorded a CD of tango songs for CBC Records.

It was Bayrakdarian's first journey to Armenia in 2004 that inspired her current fascination with the music of her ancestral homeland. "In Armenia," she says, "when you walk on the ground, you feel 1,700 years of Christianity right in the soil. ... it puts in perspective a huge history you can't really grasp if you're not there. I promised myself I would return, and I have."

In the capital city of Yerevan, she performed with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra and with local folk musicians. The trip was documented in the film The Long Journey Home, aired on CBC. (She can also be heard singing in Armenia, accompanied by a group of musicians playing a flute-like instrument called the duduk, on YouTube.) In the fall, she will undertake a tour with some of the musicians she worked with in Armenia; there's a Toronto performance at Roy Thomson Hall on Oct. 17.

For the next few months, however, opera is dominating her schedule: Pelléas et Mélisande in Toronto, followed by The Marriage of Figaro in Munich (her last Susanna for a while) and the title role in The Cunning Little Vixen in Japan.

Beyond that, she is deliberately vague. "I don't believe in having a five-year or a 10-year plan. I already know my two-year plan - I have it in my calendar. But how I fill the voids in between my engagements is something that I like to leave to the unexpected. Who knows?"

Special to The Globe and Mail

Pelléas et Mélisande runs on various dates at Toronto's Four Seasons Centre until May 24 (416-363-8231).

Canadian Version Of Classic Jazz Photo To Be Shot

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Goddard

(May 03, 2008) If things go well tomorrow, a Who's Who of Toronto's jazz elite will congregate at 1 p.m. in the Distillery District for a group shot to be taken by Toronto photographer Jason Hendricks.

At the same time, Montreal's stalwart jazzers, as well as Vancouver's, will assemble in their own cities for their own collective portraits.

Ostensibly, the three groups are kicking off next week's celebrations for CODA, the scrappy Canadian jazz magazine having its 50th anniversary. Also being honoured is CODA founder John Norris, whose importance to jazz in this country is the equal to any individual's in any artistic endeavour.

But as the musicians find a place to stand tomorrow, each will undoubtedly feel part of another history – the 50th anniversary of A Great Day In Harlem, the collegial portrait of 57 jazz musicians taken for Esquire on a sweet August morning in 1958 in front of a 126th St. New York brownstone by novice New York photographer Art Kane.

"That Harlem photo lays to rest any sense of divisiveness in jazz," says Andrew Scott, CODA editor and organizer of the anniversary tribute. "I teach jazz at university and I always use that photo to open up the discussion of division in jazz, of the modernists versus the mouldy figs. We're having our picture taken to speak to the similar community aspect of jazz in Toronto."

Jim Galloway, the quintessential Toronto jazz figure over the years, can't make tomorrow's shoot – called The Quintessential Canadian Jazz Photograph – because he's playing a "jazz party" in England. "I'm upset that I can't be there," he says. "I'd wanted to do something like it years ago. But a gig's a gig."

A good many jazz notables didn't make the original Harlem shoot, either – Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong among them.

Willie "The Lion" Smith, the fiery early-times piano player, sweated uncomfortably through one shot after another – Kane took 120 in all – only to wander away bored before the "keeper" photograph was taken.

Pianist Marian McPartland couldn't convince her husband, Jimmy McPartland, the hard-nosed Chicago cornet player, to get out of bed. So he missed it, too.

Because of those who stayed, though, A Great Day in Harlem has had such resonance over the years that, in 1994, it became the subject of a documentary written and produced by Jean Bach and Matthew Seig, with Quincy Jones narrating.

A Great Day in Harlem did more than encapsulate a particular moment in jazz history. It makes us rethink jazz history just as the musicians, merely in participating in the shoot, were rethinking jazz history, too.

There's pianist/composer Thelonious Monk, looking dapper standing next to McPartland and pianist Mary Lou Williams. (Monk, dapper? Hey, Williams and McPartland are dishes.)

There's trombonist Vic Dickenson, positioned only inches behind Monk, making us aware of the close links between Monk's modernism and Dickenson's traditional ways. Dozens of similar telling proximities can be found: white (Gene Krupa) next to black (Jo Jones) or young (the line of neighbour kids) and old (Count Basie, sitting on the curb next to the kids, resting his feet.)

The 12th annual Contact photography festival, on at some 200 venues around town to May 31, underscores photography's centrality to our thinking.

But among the world's cache of billions of photos, A Great Day in Harlem feels like the music it suggested. "Look at everyone," Scott says. "For them, jazz was more than just a community's music. It was a joint tendency of different races, genders and classifications."

Big Names – Jazzy And Not – Coming To Fest

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(May 07, 2008) In any other city, 150 concerts would make for a fairly sizable jazz festival. But for the
Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, 150 shows merely represent the indoor portion of the 29th annual festival (tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday).

Naturally, a big festival demands big names, but the biggest names aren't always the jazziest. Although the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, the festival's prestige venue, will play host to some big jazz shows, including the reunited Return to Forever (June 27) and an all-star tribute to the Montréal-based jazz label Justin Time (July 5), the largest crowds are expected for rockers Steely Dan (July 1-2), soul diva Aretha Franklin (July 3-4) and film auteur/clarinettist Woody Allen (June 29-30).

Perhaps the biggest name at the festival, however, will be one who won't be playing: Oscar Peterson. This year's festival is dedicated to the memory of the late pianist, himself a Montrealer, and will feature a number of noteworthy piano shows, including Brad Mehldau, solo (June 27) and with his trio (June 28), Satoko Fujii (June 29), E.S.T. (June 30) and Hilario Durán (June 29).

But the keyboard highpoint will undoubtedly be the Invitation Rio Tinto Alcan series, which will present three great pianists - Hank Jones, McCoy Tyner and Dave Brubeck - in a total of nine different settings over the course of the festival. Of particular note will be duets between Jones and Mehldau (June 28), Jones and Oliver Jones (June 29), and a John Coltrane tribute featuring the Tyner trio with Coltrane's son, Ravi (July 2).

Fans of jazz singing will be able to feast on performances by Abbey Lincoln (July 2), Dee Dee Bridgewater (June 26), Cassandra Wilson (July 4), Stacey Kent (June 28) and, of course, hometown sensation Nikki Yanofsky (June 26).

Tenor titans Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman and Ravi Coltrane will offer a Saxophone Summit on June 27, but the festival will still have room for other saxophonists including David Murray (June 26), Miguel Zenon (July 3) and James Carter (July 5).

And, as always, there will be a number of pop acts on hand, including Gilberto Gil (June 26), Sarah Slean (June 28), the Blind Boys of Alabama with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (July 2), Joe Piscopo doing a full evening of his Frank Sinatra impression (July 5), and three different shows by Daniel Lanois (July 2, 3 and 4).

MUSIC TIDBITS

Rihanna And Maroon 5 Team For Remix

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 1, 2008) *
Maroon 5 has recorded a remix of their single "If I Never See Your Face Again" with pop star Rihanna that will appear on the upcoming re-releases of both artists' most recent albums. Def Jam says the reissue of Rihanna’s "Good Girl Gone Bad" will reach stores on June 17, while Maroon 5's revamped "It Won't Be Soon Before Long" will be released in late June, according to A&M/Octone president James Diener. "Maroon 5 is a big fan of Rihanna; they have seen her at shows, their paths have crossed and they are buddies," Diener told Billboard.com about the joint effort. "Adam [Levine] thought it would be amazing to make the song into a 'battle of the sexes'-style duet, and she was the first person they thought of." "The re-release is an opportunity for them to give existing fans more material and new fans that don't have the record a value-added piece," adds Diener. "The bonus content keeps fans enthused." A video for "If I Never See Your Face Again" was filmed on April 25 in Los Angeles by director Anthony Mandler.

Ludacris Prepares Album While Shooting Films

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(May 02, 2008) *Ludacris says he's been preparing for the September release of his new album "Theater of the Mind" while filming the upcoming movie "Max Payne" in Toronto, Canada. Based on the popular Rockstar video game, "Max Payne" features Luda as NYPD Deputy Police Chief Jim Bravura opposite co-stars Mark Wahlberg.  His forthcoming Def Jam album will be another film-worthy project, he tells Billboard. "Expect the whole album [to be] theatrical," he explains. Though he hasn't yet chosen a first single, he says that a track should drop by June or July. Ludacris said one of his tracks, "Let's Stay Together," is produced by DJ Paul of Three6 Mafia. Other producers making contributions include Dre & Vidal, 9th wonder, Ice Drake and DJ Don Cannon. In addition to "Max Payne," Ludacris will also star as a character named Roman in Guy Ritchie's upcoming film "RocknRolla," due Oct. 31. That film also stars Thandie Newton and Jeremy Piven. "It's about how the Russian mob came to Europe and took over," says Ludacris. "Then there's another film at the Tribeca Film Festival called 'Balls Don't Lie' with myself and Isaiah Washington about a kid that goes to an orphanage but is very talented in basketball. It's about how foster kids go in and out of families."

New Kids On The Block Coming To Toronto

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(May 05, 2008) The '90s boy band New Kids On The Block are taking their reunion tour to Canada this September. The pop quintet says they'll be bringing hits such as "You Got It, (The Right Stuff)" and "Step By Step" – as well as new music – to cities including Montreal and Toronto. A limited tour schedule has been posted on their webpage, with more dates expected to be announced. Tickets for Montreal's show Sept. 20 go on sale Saturday while tickets for Toronto's show Sept. 21 go on sale next Monday. A new single, called "Summertime," is set for release next week, and a new album is expected in the fall. Since disbanding in 1994, members Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre and Danny Wood each released solo albums while Donnie Wahlberg turned to acting and Jonathan Knight became a real estate developer. New Kids On The Block will make their first public performance in 15 years with an appearance on the "Today" show on May 16.

Diddy Gets His Hollywood Star

Source:  www.eurweb.com - Rob Salem

(May 05, 2008) *Sean "Diddy" Combs made his Hollywood Walk of Fame induction ceremony an event on Friday, complete with fans courted by an online video, advance interviews with the press and, of course, a Beverly Hills after party. "It's also like my coming-out party here in Hollywood," Combs told AP before the affair in front of the Hollywood-Highland complex. "I don't have nothing to hide about that. If I'm going to come someplace, I'm going to make some noise, and you're going to know I'm here." Oscar winner Jamie Foxx led fans in a chant of "Diddy! Diddy! Diddy!," and recited popular lines from his songs before officially introducing him to the crowd.  In his acceptance speech, Diddy proclaimed: "Today is proof that if you believe, all your dreams can come true. I've gone from Harlem to Hollywood." Friday night, the celebration moved to billionaire Ron Burkle's sprawling Beverly Hills estate.  Calling it an "intimate 250-person party" with "just very very close friends and family and people that I know throughout the industry," the event reportedly cost $4 million.  Combs is house-hunting in Los Angeles now, and plans to split his time between here and New York to pursue his acting career. To that end, he's looking through scripts in search of the next role.

Billy Ocean Inducted Into International Reggae Music Hall Of Fame

Source: CaribWorldNews

CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK , NY, Tues. May 6, 2008: Trinidad & Tobago-born , UK raised singer,
Billy Ocean, was Sunday night inducted into the International Reggae & World Music Awards Hall Of Fame. The singer, whose real name is Leslie Sebastian Charles, was honoured for his lengthy years of service to the music industry at the Apollo Theater by organizers of the annual event,  Martin's International & Associates, LLC.  Ocean had a string of rhythm and blues-tinged international pop hits in the 1970s and 1980s and last returned to the touring circuit after an absence of 15 years, performing in January at the Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival in Montego Bay , Jamaica . He released his new album, `Wilberforce 200` and the single, `Chained` last month.  Meanwhile, soca’s Machel Montano topped this year’s award ceremony, winning all three categories in which he was nominated. Montano walked away with the Entertainer of the Year award, the Best Calypso/Soca Entertainer and the Most Outstanding Stage Personality. Reggae’s Beenie Man, Sean Kingston, Stephen Marley and Taurus Riley each snagged two awards at this year’s 27th annual event. Beenie was named Recording Artist of the Year and Best Male D.J./Rapper while Riley won the Best Male Vocalist and Best Song for `She Is Royal.` Best Crossover Song award was given to Sean Kingston, who also won Best New Entertainer award. The Best CD honour went to Stephen Marley. Marley also snagged the Songwriter of the Year title.  The female artist title went to newcomer Etana while the Best Reggaeton Entertainer was Don Omar. The Best African Entertainer award was given to the late Lucky Dube while the Best Hip Hop/R&B Entertainer awardee was Rihanna. The Best Music Video title was given to Shaggy for `Church Heathen,` while Buju Banton won the award for Most Educational Entertainer. The Best Poet award went to Mutabaruka while the Most Outstanding Show Band title was given to Morgan Heritage. Freddie McGregor won the Most Consistent Entertainer award while Ky-Mani Marley grabbed bragging rights for Most Promising Entertainer. Junior Reid was named Most Improved Entertainer while the Best Instrumentalist award of the year went to Dean Fraser.  www.caribworldnews.com.

Ray J: All I Feel

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Koch)
Description: http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)

(May 06, 2008) There was a time when "Brandy's brother" would've been reference enough for this Cali-based entertainer, but with his R&B-singing sister off the radar, gossip mavens can place the 27-year-old as reality star Kim Kardashian's sex-tape partner and Whitney Houston's alleged post-Bobby fling. And those would be highlights, because Ray J's third solo album isn't one.  I don't know if it's an attempt to capitalize on, or add to, his current notoriety, but Ray J is pushing an X-rated thug persona over uninspiring beats that fall flat with lyrics like "I can't believe I cheated on my woman with a girl from the Bronx" ("Girl from the Bronx") and "Is that your wife? Well I'm her boyfriend" ("Boyfriend").  There's a suave sample of "If Loving You is Wrong" on "Don't Wanna Be Right (Intro)," but after that it's an inane litany of stripper poles, champagne swilling and big spending that 50 Cent and R. Kelly have well covered. Hope Ray J's making money off the porn tape and BET hosting gigs.

::FILM NEWS::

Moviegoers Have 'Sex' On The Brain: Poll

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Bob Tourtellotte, Reuters

(May 01, 2008)
LOS ANGELES — Sorry “Iron Man.” But moviegoers have something else on their minds as spring gives way to summer – like Sex.

Sex and the City,” based on HBO's hit television comedy about single women in New York, is the movie that fans are most excited about heading into Hollywood's key summer season, which starts on Thursday with the debut of comic book adventure “Iron Man,” according to a new poll from online film site AOL Moviefone.

Not far behind was “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which opens on May 22 with Harrison Ford returning as the adventure-seeking Jones.

In the poll of nearly 420,000 respondents, “Sex and the City,” which premieres on May 30, proved most exciting to 32 per cent of the movie fans, compared with 31 per cent for “Indiana Jones.”

 “I think there were a lot of people curious about the series (“Sex and the City”) who didn't see it on HBO,” said Scott Robson, editor-in-chief at AOL Moviefone. “It's real fresh, and people who do know the program love the characters and love the show.”

Robson said respondents also seemed curious to see what Ford and director Steven Spielberg had cooked up to rejuvenate the “Indiana Jones” franchise, which has not been in movie theatres in nearly 20 years.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Ford and “Sex” actress Sarah Jessica Parker were the male and female stars fans most wanted to see. The late actor Heath Ledger, playing the villainous Joker in the Batman movie “The Dark Knight,” which opens on July 18, came in second behind Ford. Angelina Jolie, who appears in the action flick “Wanted,” trailed Parker.

The summer movie season runs four months from May 1 through the end of August and can account for nearly 40 per cent of annual ticket sales in the United States and Canada, so the period's movies are hugely important to Hollywood.

Ledger died last year at his home in New York of an accidental overdose of prescription medication.

Robson said Ledger's death would likely draw curiosity seekers to the new “Dark Knight.”

“Iron Man” did not perform too poorly with about 7 per cent excited to see it, and 22 per cent said he was the superhero they were “most psyched” to see.

Two other big action films, “Speed Racer” (May 9) and “Hellboy 2,” (July 11) appear to be getting a rough time from moviegoers before even reaching movie screens.

Only 2 per cent of fans said there were most excited to see “Speed Racer,” which is based on the popular cartoon of a boy race car driver. Worse, it topped the list of films moviegoers thought would be the biggest disappointment, with “Hellboy 2” close behind.

Among comedies, “Get Smart” (June 20) with Steve Carell proved to be the biggest drawing card, and in the family film category the top slot belonged to Disney/Pixar movie “Wall-E” (June 27).

Cattrall Still Has Sex On The Mind In Big-Screen Version Of TV Hit

Source:  www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard,
Toronto Star

(May 06, 2008) NEW YORK–You could say Kim Cattrall looks amazing in anything – including only some well-placed pieces of sushi.

Amid the carnival of colourful designer dresses and sky-high heels she sports as the delightfully libidinous Samantha Jones in the new
Sex and the City movie, Cattrall has a funny, touching scene where she reclines and dresses her toned curves as a sushi buffet for her boyfriend.

Along with the rest of the SATC cast, the Liverpool-born and Vancouver Island-raised Cattrall reprises her role from the HBO series in the movie, due out May 30. It's among the summer's most hotly anticipated flicks.

Cattrall, who met with the Star for a private chat before a series of round-table interviews with the media at a chic Manhattan hotel Sunday morning, had initially nixed signing on a Sex and the City movie. But she says contrary to rumours, it wasn't about the money, honey. "I never wanted to be paid what anybody else was being paid," Cattrall insists when asked if she was holding out for a Sarah Jessica Parker-sized payday. "I felt there were reasons to do the movie and I felt they were about a really great script, and they were about all of us being happy and all of us being put in a position where we could make this movie. I felt that the bar was so high when we left off, and to come back and do anything that would not be as good, would have been really tough."

Cattrall says she also balked at making a movie right away after the HBO series ended in 2004 because of pressures in her personal life. Back then, she was going through "a kind of a tough time," including a very public divorce from third husband Mark Levinson and her father's diagnosis with dementia.

"There were quite a few issues at play. I can only speak for myself, but I think we were all exhausted," says Cattrall. But on this day, blond and lightly tanned, wearing a sleeveless aqua Luca Luca dress with a plunging neckline, her fuchsia-painted toes peeking out of cobalt blue Jimmy Choo strappy sandals, Cattrall looks fresh and beautiful. She looks lovely onscreen, too, even dotted with sushi.

"If you're going to do these kind of scenes at a certain age, I felt very blessed that I had someone like (director of photography) John Thomas lighting me and (writer-director) Michael Patrick King setting up the shots, because whatever the angle was, I felt protected," Cattrall said of her nearly nude scene. "I felt my butt was covered."

Literally or figuratively? "Both!" Cattrall replies with a giggle.

Cattrall says it was "so easy" to get back into the Sex swing four years after Carrie Bradshaw and her trio of best gal pals – Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha – signed off the air. All of the original cast is back.

"It was like falling off a log. I thought this was going to be difficult, but I look back and we did this for six years of our lives, so these characters are at our fingertips," says Cattrall, who admits she was still nervous on the first day of shooting.

As proof their fans were more than ready for SATC to ramp up again, Cattrall says more than 300 people jammed a corner on Park Ave. for the first day of shooting: the opening scene where the four ebullient women reunite and stride down the sidewalk as if they own Manhattan. "There were so many people screaming our names, our characters' names," says Cattrall.

Much has changed in the lives of Carrie and company when the movie opens. Now into their 40s, the central theme of finding love in the city is still there, but friendships, loyalty and even forgiveness are also much on their minds.

Filming was done under almost lockdown conditions, Cattrall says, to keep the story a secret. Because fans and press followed the New York shoot, key scenes were filmed indoors (and there was at least one alternate ending, perhaps to act as a red herring).

Among the milestones the women mark onscreen, Samantha celebrates her 50th birthday, an event Cattrall celebrated in August 2006.

"About two or three months before (my birthday) I was thinking, 'Oh my goodness, this is happening to me. I'm on the other side!' And I woke up the next morning and I said, 'Hey! I did it! Nothing happened! I feel exactly the same!' "

As for her off-screen romantic life, Cattrall is still happily with her boyfriend of three years, Toronto personal chef Alan Wyse, 28.

"His family is all there and he's in Toronto. I have a production company in Toronto so I'm up there quite a bit, and I've been doing quite a bit of work there," she explains.

We get to see a softer side of Samantha on the big screen, but her passion for the pleasures of the flesh still burn white-hot. So how close is Cattrall to her onscreen alter ego? "I have an appetite, I don't think anyone is as voracious as that character," she says with a sly smile. "Maybe Aphrodite or Venus or somebody. But at the same time, I like to think that I have a strong sex drive; I'm a red-blooded North American."

As for what's next for Cattrall, there's already talk of an SATC sequel, but she has her sights set on more immediate plans.

There are rumours she may play an even more legendary femme fatale than Samantha onstage: Cleopatra in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.

Is the sparkling coiled serpent ring she's wearing a clue? Cattrall's not saying. After all, one of the biggest contributors to sexiness is mystery.

Hollywood Labour Talks With Actors 'Going Nowhere'

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Ryan Nakashima, Associated Press

(
April 30, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Major Hollywood studios said Wednesday they won't accept pay hikes sought by the Screen Actors Guild in contract talks, suggesting a deal is unlikely before the talks temporarily end later this week.

In a statement posted on its website, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said significant gaps remain between the two sides after 13 days of talks.

The alliance blamed the problems on the guild's insistence on doubling payments that actors receive from DVD sales and demands for “huge increases in compensation and benefits.”

The guild responded late in the day with a message to its members saying a deal did not depend entirely on acceptance of those demands. It also stood by its earlier claims that actors were suffering.

“We are not surprised that the employers dispute the economic hardships actors are facing. You know better,” the guild said.

The statements were the most public sign thus far of discord in the talks aimed at reaching an agreement before the current contract covering theatrical movies and prime-time TV shows expires June 30.

The negotiations “are going nowhere,” said Norman Samnick, an entertainment lawyer who has represented Warner Bros. in previous contract talks with actors and remained close to negotiations. “This thing's not going to be settled until the end of June.”

Both sides have said they want to avoid a replay of the 100-day writers strike that shut down TV production and caused an estimated $2.5-billion in economic losses in the Los Angeles area.

The situation has already caused a delay in the filming of some new movies, as producers worry that a possible strike could disrupt shooting, according to a person familiar with the issue who was not authorized to speak publicly and sought anonymity.

In its statement, the studio alliance offered a point-by-point rebuttal of recent statements the guild has made to its members.

In particular, the studios challenged a proposed restructuring of the formula for residual fees received by actors from DVD sales, which it said would double the current $500-million total that actors would receive over three years if the current formula was unchanged.

“The DVD market is flat, and this is no time to be adding significant new costs to the ability of producers to do business in this sector,” the alliance said.

The studios also rebutted the guild's claim that actors' pay is declining.

Actors' pay for theatrical-release movies rose 6 per cent in 2007 from a year earlier to $596-million, and increased 1 per cent to $705-million for television appearances, according to alliance estimates.

The alliance said the actors guild had requested 70 changes to the contract framework previously accepted by writers and directors for content distributed over new media — “some of which would go a long way toward making the framework itself unworkable.”

The guild proposals also seeks shorter “residual-free” windows during which shows can be rerun online for promotional effect, currently set at 17 or 24 days.

A smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, is set to begin talks with the alliance Monday, with some observers expecting AFTRA to put up less of a fight, since it already has reached a deal on shows such as “American Idol” and “Survivor.”

AFTRA's remaining contract covers only a few prime-time TV shows such as “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Til Death.”

The producers alliance said it would “continue to work as hard as we can” to reach a deal with SAG over talks set to end Friday, but neither side ruled out another round at the bargaining table following the alliance's negotiations with AFTRA.

Jewish Comedy Not Just A Punchline

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Michael Posner

(May 02, 2008) If comedy is your poison of choice, you're in luck: There's a nine-day supply available at this year's Toronto Jewish Film Festival.

Although the line-up includes the usual assortment of dramas (including last year's Oscar-nominated Beaufort), history lessons (Everything is Personal, about the long-time feud between Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres) and offbeat Holocaust films (The House on August Street), festival organizers seem to have laboured especially hard to inject the schedule with cinematic and televised comedy.

"It's part of what we call our sidebar programming," festival curator Ellie Skrow says. "We did Jews and black music two years ago, and blacklisted screenwriters last year. This year, it's comedy. Some of these films were quite hard to get. That's what I try to do: find material not readily available."

Filmgoers have seen plenty of films by Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, Skrow notes, but may not have seen Elaine May's first feature (A New Leaf, 1971, from the Paramount archive) or Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be (1942, from the University of California at Los Angeles archive). A documentary on Danny Kaye needed the permission of Kaye's daughter and the trustees of his estate. "It takes a long time and a lot of red tape to get the okay," Skrow says.

Among other offerings under the umbrella title Comedy on Wry: The Mavericks, the festival is screening an 85-minute, rather lamely titled documentary, Caesar's Writers. It revisits that miraculous constellation of comics (including Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks and Neil Simon) that helped to make Sid Caesar's Show of Shows one of the most memorable on television.

In addition to the Lubitsch feature, there's a 110-minute documentary on the brilliant director, a couple of episodes from the 1950s TV domestic sitcom The Goldbergs, starring Gertrude Berg; a new documentary from Toronto ad man Barry Avrich on Jackie Mason (The Ultimate Jew); a reprise of Lenny, Dustin Hoffman's 1974 take on the acerbic, drug-addled genius of Lenny Bruce; Making Trouble, an 85-minute doc on funny Jewish women (Molly Picon, Sophie Tucker, Fanny Brice, Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner and playwright Wendy Wasserstein); and docs on two other stand-up legends, Mort Sahl (The Loyal Opposition) and Don Rickles (Mr. Warmth). The latter is directed by John Landis (The Blue Brothers and Trading Places).

Still not cured?

Well, how about Elaine May teamed with her old Second City (Chicago) partner Mike Nichols, in a 60-minute sketch highlight reel. Or Danny Kaye's classic film, Hans Christian Andersen?

And if that's not enough, there's also one Mexican (My Mexican Shiva) and several Israeli comedies in the mix, including Arab Labor, a hit sitcom in Israel written by Israeli Arab writer Sayed Kashua (three episodes will be screened).

And finally, something called Circumcise Me (also known as It's not in Heaven: The Comedy of Yisrael Campbell), about a Catholic convert to Judaism. A stand-up star in Israel, Campbell - who will be making an appearance here - has actually converted three times - once Reform, once Conservative and once Orthodox. The film is directed by former Torontonian David Blumenfeld and Matthew Kalman, a former Globe and Mail correspondent in Jerusalem.

There are five Canadian selections of note: broadcaster Ralph Benmergui's very personal documentary, My Israel, focusing on the country's Sephardic communities; My Opposition: The Diaries of Friedrich Kellner, by the Toronto husband-wife team of Fern Levitt and Arnie Zipurksy, based on the diaries of a young judicial officer in Nazi Germany; Fatherland, director Manfred Becker's 2006 documentary about fathers, sons and nazism; a 47-minute tribute doc about Sharon, Lois and Bram, the children's entertainers; Skate to Survive, the remarkable story of figure skater Ellen Burka; and Shield of Solomon, about four Darfurians who walked from Sudan to Israel.

In addition to Beaufort, the highlights include three other acclaimed Israeli features, Jellyfish, The Secrets and Noodle.

The Toronto Jewish Film Festival runs from May 3 to 11 at locations around Toronto. For more information, visit tjff.com.

Two Actors Tackle One Role And Discover New Perspective In The Stone Angel

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic

(May 07, 2008) Bringing flinty CanLit heroine Hagar Shipley to the big screen was a process of discovery two times over for actors Ellen Burstyn and Christine Horne.

Hollywood veteran Burstyn and Toronto newcomer Horne play the 94-year-old Hagar at different stages in
The Stone Angel, Kari Skogland's movie adaptation of Margaret Laurence's classic 1964 novel of raging against the indignities of old age. The film opens Friday in Toronto.

Neither Burstyn, 75, nor Horne, 26, had previously heard of Hagar or read the book, which is set in Manitoba (the movie was shot there).

"I read the script first, then I read the novel," Burstyn said during an interview at the most recent Toronto International Film Festival, where The Stone Angel premiered.

"Then I found out how beloved it is and how many people know it. I had no idea."

Horne blushed a bit when she admitted that she, too, didn't know about The Stone Angel, even though it's required reading in many Canadian schools. Maybe she was at a hockey game when her class was studying it?

"I didn't have to read it in school, but the boys that I know who had to read it hated it," said Horne, who was born and raised in Aurora, north of Toronto.

"But then I read it for the film and it's a beautiful book. It has this reputation for being a stuffy boring book about an old lady on the Prairies and it's not."

The two actors also had trouble seeing themselves in each other. Writer/director Skogland first cast the Oscar-winning Burstyn as the white-haired Hagar, then needed to find a younger actor who could plausibly play her decades earlier, with long red hair.

The resulting matchup was a revelation, especially for the two women.

"She's amazing!" Burstyn said of Horne, who had stage experience but no prior film roles when she was hired.

"She's so beautiful, I couldn't possibly think at first that she was a good match for me. Then when I saw her on film, I went, 'Omigod! That really looks like I looked when I was younger!' She's very talented and a very quick study, too. It's the first time she's ever been on a sound stage, and she handled herself very well."

Horne, who is normally a short-haired blond, said she "auditioned with every other young Canadian girl who looked anything like Ellen Burstyn," never expecting to land the coveted role.

"I don't know how I got it. The stars just aligned for me."

Any film fan would know about Burstyn, who has six Oscar nominations over four decades, from her Best Supporting Actress nod for The Last Picture Show in 1971 to a Best Actress nom for Requiem for a Dream in 2001. She won Best Actress in 1975 for Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, directed by Martin Scorsese.

But did anyone ever tell Horne she looked like Burstyn?

"Never! Then once (The Stone Angel) started happening, people would look and say, `Oh God, how could I not see it before?' I think our features are actually quite different, but I think we have the same jaw or something. I'm not sure what it is."

There's one thing Burstyn and Horne definitely have in common. It's an appreciation for the character of Hagar, who is revered worldwide as a symbol of empowerment both for women and the elderly.

Hagar, a rebel from her first breath to her last, refuses to be put out to pasture in a seniors residence. She literally runs away from home for adventures of the kind nonagenarians rarely get up to.

"She's a great character," Burstyn said. "She's so human. She's not a stereotypical heroine; she's very much her own person. Strong, independent, stubborn and bullheaded."

Does that mean she liked Hagar?

"I liked her a lot. She comes to understand that she might have been responsible for the great pain she's feeling. When she looked back, she could see a lot of things that she wished could have been done differently."

Horne also came to know and understand Hagar.

"She's lovely. I think I walked away from this having a greater appreciation that my grandparents were not always my grandparents. I've done this with my parents too. I've frozen them at a certain age and they don't get any older and they were never any younger, and so doing this made me really go, 'My grandmother had a grandmother and she was a child and she got married and had babies and so on.'

"That was interesting, to suddenly assign a whole life to the people whom I'd previously given just one role in life."

FILM TIDBITS

Tom Hanks Announces Support For Barack Obama

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(May 05, 2008) NEW YORK–Tom Hanks is supporting presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Hanks has taken to his MySpace.com page to pledge his support for Obama, who is competing to be the first black president. Obama, who faces rival Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination, has also been endorsed by Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Springsteen and Scarlett Johansson. "As an official celebrity, I know my endorsement has just made your mind up for you," the 51-year-old actor says in a short video titled, Beware: Celebrity Endorsement. "History with a capital `H' is going to be made this November, no matter who the president-elect is. I want Barack Obama to be president of this country, a country that once said people with his skin colour were only three-fifths of a human being." Hanks, who won Oscars for his roles in Forrest Gump and Philadelphia, explains his decision: "It's because of his character and vision, and the high road he has taken during this campaign. He has the integrity and the inspiration to unify us, as did FDR and Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy and even Ronald Reagan when they ran for the job." The actor says Obama and Clinton have each "pretended to eat cheese-steak sandwiches and go bowling," "committed gaffes" and distanced themselves from supporters who could damage their campaigns. But Hanks thinks an Obama presidency could bring about a ``seismic shift," and "live up to the great promise once shaped by our founding fathers." Signing off, the star says: "I'm Tom Hanks, I wrote and approved this message, and I'm now going to turn off the camera."

::TV NEWS::

SCTV Back For Seconds

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Entertainment Reporter

(May 03, 2008) Can Bobby Bittman, Edith Prickley, Count Floyd, Ed Grimley, Lola Heatherton and Moe Green bring back the laughs of yesteryear?

That's the question everyone will be asking – both on the stage and in the audience – as the stars of
SCTV reunite Monday and Tuesday at the Second City Theatre on Mercer St. to perform together for the first time in 24 years.

"Oh my God, I'm petrified!" Andrea Martin shrieks from New York.

"I'm way too excited," is Catherine O'Hara's bubbly Californian response.

"Well, I'm sort of looking forward to it," Joe Flaherty deadpans in Toronto.

"I'll tell you one thing," Martin Short quips from Los Angeles. "We would never work this hard if we were getting paid."

And they're not.

It isn't cash or publicity that's brought these four – along with their colleagues Eugene Levy and Harold Ramis – back to the stage for two historic nights.

Instead, they're here to raise money for The Alumni Fund, which helps veteran artistic and support personnel from SCTV and The Second City comedy troupe who are facing health or financial hardship.

That's the magic wand executive producer Andrew Alexander waved all the way from Chicago to bring this group together.

And now that it's actually happening, it has created a strange sort of alchemy, where the past and the present melt into each other like a giant S'mores being enjoyed around a nostalgic campfire.

"It's been so much fun reminiscing about what we did and what we're going to do," O'Hara sighs. "I wish it would never end."

"I wanted this to happen so much before," says Flaherty candidly, "but I put it out of my mind. I feel that we should have done it a while back, but I'm looking forward to it now."

"We're still friends," Martin insists, "still connected, still respectful of each other, still happy that the others are working."

"I'm just terrified to get up on a stage with them all again," Short admits, "because no one has ever tested me like they did. You always had to be at the top of your game."

But why did this haphazard comedy sketch series, put together at different times, in different cities, on different networks, have such an impact that if you stop any average Canadian on the street and say "Bob and Doug McKenzie," they'll know who you're talking about?

"It's mind-boggling," Levy told the Toronto Star's Rob Salem in a 1999 interview.

"I keep running into people who have their favourite characters and know their favourite scenes line-by-line."

"I get such gratitude from people," Flaherty says. "They're the best fans in the world. They stop you and say, `Thank you for doing SCTV. We loved it!'"

Part of the answer to the program's enduring popularity lies in its origins.

What a lot of people tend to forget is that the first two letters of SCTV stand for "Second City" – and that's an issue this group is going to correct on Monday night.

The first season of SCTV featured a line-up of Flaherty, Levy, Martin, O'Hara, Ramis, Dave Thomas and the late John Candy.

With the exception of Ramis (who had worked for Second City in Chicago), all were members of the stage company of the Second City in Toronto and it was that experience – just as much as the later days on SCTV – that the group plans to capture on Monday night.

In fact, there are cases where the two worlds merged into each other and they're going to be recreating one of them.

"It's an old Second City scene we used to love doing about parents coming to visit the teacher," O'Hara laughs, "and I'll always remember the first time we did it. I held out my hand to Andrea, who was wearing this funny leopard outfit and I said `You must be Sebastian's mom.'"

Martin continues the saga. "I snorted, `That's right, dear,' in a voice I had never used before and then Catherine shook my hand and asked `Mrs. Prickley?' `Edith Prickley,' I snapped back, and that's how she was born."

"I remember those years warmly," Flaherty adds. "There's something about the stage, it's great, it's a real bonding thing for the actors."

It's more than coincidental that – apart from one person – everyone who was to play a continuing part in the six seasons of SCTV was a member of Second City.

Short, Tony Rosato, Robin Duke, John Hemphill, Mary Charlotte Wilcox – all were part of the same improvisational family.

The exception was Rick Moranis, whose major experience prior to SCTV was as a DJ on CHUM-FM.

"We all loved working with Rick," Flaherty says, "but I don't think he ever really liked the repertory tradition."

Moranis eventually withdrew from performing after his wife died in 1991 and won't be participating in Monday's event, although it was announced last week that he and Thomas will be voicing a new animated series based on the antics of their archetypal hosers, Bob and Doug McKenzie.

Moranis isn't the only one who will be missing. Thomas is recovering from multiple surgeries to repair broken bones he incurred in a recent fall and Rosato was confined last September to a psychiatric facility after a much publicized imprisonment and trial.

But the absent friend who cast the largest and most impressive shadow on the history of SCTV was John Candy.

"Dear John," says Martin, with a catch in her voice. "Success came to him early. He was called before any of us. And then he was called away."

"God bless him!" exults O'Hara about her colleague who died of a heart attack in 1994. "He first hired me for the Second City touring company back when I was a teenager and way too excited about everything. I owe him a lot."

"John is part of one of my happiest memories of the show," remembers Flaherty. "It was our first season in Edmonton and they were going to broadcast the first episode. We were all out having dinner at a restaurant in the Westin called The Carvery and John bribed the maitre d' to wheel a television over to our table.

"We all watched it and, when it was over, he looked at us and said, `We have some talented people here. This is pretty funny stuff.'"

Although the low-budget, no-studio-audience atmosphere in which the show was created may have seemed detrimental at the time, it proved to be a virtue in the long run.

"We relied on our own instincts," Martin recalls. "We used each other as a gauge. We knew that if we were laughing, we were onto something."

"It's that heightened excitement that happens around people you want to impress and want to make laugh," O'Hara explains. "And you hope it extends to the audience as well."

"We had to please ourselves," concludes Flaherty, "and we weren't easy to please."

So what's it going to be like for this crowd to work together again after so long?

"We're still the same people," Martin says. "Marty and I will put our scenes in a binder and underline our parts in yellow. Joe will fold his script and put it in his back pocket. We haven't changed."

"We'll be five minutes into our first rehearsal," predicts Short, "and it will be like we've never been apart."

"I think of us just starting out," Martin says softly. "Those little sets, those funny costumes. They were such innocent times."

And when they look back at those old shows, what do they feel? O'Hara sums it up.

"It's like a great video diary of a very special time in my life."

As of press time, a few $500 VIP seats (which include a post-show cocktail party with the cast) are available for the Tuesday night show only. For these tickets, or to put your name on a waiting list for other seats that might become available for Monday or Tuesday, call the box office at 416-343-0011.

JOE FLAHERTY
Born: June 21, 1941, in Pittsburgh, Pa.; appeared in all six seasons of the show.
Best known characters: Guy Caballero, Count Floyd, Sammy Maudlin, Floyd Robertson.
Quote: "That's scaaaaaary stuff!"
After SCTV: Numerous feature films like Happy Gilmore and Back to the Future, Part II. TV series such as The King of Queens and Maniac Mansion.
Currently: On the faculty at Humber College, teaching comedy.

EUGENE LEVY
Born: Dec. 17, 1946, Hamilton, Ont.; appeared in all six seasons.
Best known characters: Bobby Bittman, Sid Dithers, Earl Camembert, Alex Trebel.
Quote: "How are ya?!"
After SCTV: Has worked steadily as an actor and writer in many films. Probably best known for American Pie series and Christopher Guest's satires Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind.
Currently: Will be presented with the Governor General's Performing Arts Award tonight in Ottawa.

ANDREA MARTIN
Born: Jan. 15, 1947, Portland, Me.; appeared in all six seasons.
Best known characters: Edith Prickley, Perini Scleroso, Edna Boil, Libby Wolfson.
Quote: "Make me a woman, big boy."
After SCTV: Increasingly returned to her roots on the stage, winning a coveted Tony Award on Broadway and being nominated for two others.
Currently: Appearing on Broadway as Frau Blücher in the musical version of Young Frankenstein.

CATHERINE O'HARA
Born: March 4, 1954, Toronto; appeared as a regular on Seasons 1, 2, 4. Guested on Seasons 5, 6.
Best known characters: Lola Heatherton, Sue Bopper Simpson, Katharine Hepburn.
Quote: "I wanna bear your children!"
After SCTV: A varied and popular career on film, playing parts like the mom in the first two Home Alone films and making memorable appearances in four of Christopher Guest's mock epics.
Currently: Inducted this April into the Canadian Film and Television Hall of Fame.

MARTIN SHORT
Born: March 26, 1950, Hamilton, Ont.; appeared as a regular on Seasons 5, 6.
Best known characters: Ed Grimley, Jackie Rogers Jr., Brock Linehan, Jiminy Glick.
Quote: "I must say!"
After SCTV: His successful films include Father of the Bride and Three Amigos, his best-loved TV appearances are on Primetime Glick and he's been nominated for two Tonys for his Broadway work.
Currently: Voiced the role of Thimbletack in The Spiderwick Chronicles.

HAROLD RAMIS
Born: Nov. 21, 1944, Chicago, Ill.; was a regular on Seasons 1, 2. Guested on Season 5.
Best known characters: Moe Green, Swami Banananda, Bradley Omar, Officer Friendly.
Quote: "We're trying to reach Mr. X of Melonville to see if he knows the name of tonight's movie."
After SCTV: Writer/actor/director of comedy hits like Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, Analyze This.
Currently: Director/writer of caveman comedy Year One with Jack Black and Michael Cera.

Overdosing On Fame, Detoxing On TV

Source:  www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux,
The Canadian Press

(May 02, 2008) Nothing sells in Hollywood like movie star meltdowns andbad behaviour. Along with the tabloids, celebrity sites like TMZ and Perez Hilton have feasted on the foibles of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and the fallen starlet of the week.

It's all fun until a Heath Ledger or an Anna Nicole Smith dies, and then everybody sobers up – for a day.

Dr. Drew Pinsky says he has "treated them all and it drives me crazy."

On
Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew, a VH1 reality series airing Sundays at 10 on MuchMoreMusic, a number of B-list celebrities agreed to be filmed as they attend Pinsky's rehabilitation clinic in Pasadena, Calif.

Among those treated are actor Daniel Baldwin, of the famous Baldwin brothers, who insists (but doesn't convince Pinsky) he's overcome his addiction to cocaine; Jeff Conaway, the former Taxi and Grease heartthrob who has drunk and popped and snorted his way into a wheelchair; Brigitte Nielsen, the former Sly Stallone trophy girlfriend who boozed her way to the reality show cellar; former American Idol contestant-turned-drug addict Jessica Sierra and several others.

Asked if these celebrities might be more addicted to fame than pills or booze, Pinsky acknowledged the predicament of treating them on TV. Pointing out celebrities generally "have a much higher incidence of childhood trauma and narcissistic personality traits than the average person," he admitted, "just being on TV is not the healthiest thing for these people to begin with."

Still, he said, whatever gets them into his clinic works for him.

Pinksy said some of the personalities involved stuck it out because they knew they were being filmed and they wanted to be good role models.

Others, however, bailed before the series concluded.

When it is suggested that many of the stars on Celebrity Apprentice could have gone straight from that show to his show he quickly answered, "so many you have no idea."

On the positive side, he said many stars find ways to stay sober, mentioning late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson, a recovered alcoholic, as a great role model. Comedians Tom Arnold and Richard Lewis have also beat addictions.

Others weren't so lucky. The death of Ledger angers and saddens Pinsky, who doesn't buy reports that the young actor's death was the result of accidental overdoses of prescription narcotics.

"He was a drug addict. Happens every day," said Pinsky. "I'm deeply ashamed people didn't step up and use this as an opportunity to talk about this problem."

He's tired of media fascination with bad celebrity behaviour.

"P.T. Barnum would probably stand up and cheer," he said. "We're making fun of people with serious mental health issues. That hasn't really entered the public consciousness yet."

Pinsky calls the constant Britney bashing in the tabloids and even the mainstream press "a sacrificial scapegoating. This is an acting out of envy. It's a public sacrifice."

He hopes the tide is beginning to turn away from this fascination with rich and famous screw-ups.

"The Britney Spears story broke through a little bit to help people understand that this is a mental illness," he said. "These are sick people, trauma-surviving sick people with addiction. I hope our show goes further in that regard."

Oprah Excels At Cruise Control

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(May 05, 2008) For Tom Cruise, it was the career equivalent of the hair of the dog: Where else but on a couch next to Oprah Winfrey could the much-mocked marquee idol hope to address the relentlessly negative press that has followed in the wake of that fateful day in 2005 he danced his spontaneous sofa jig on her show?

He could not have been in safer hands: Winfrey all but answered her own questions Friday in the first of two dedicated all-Cruise shows, ostensibly celebrating the 25th anniversary of Risky Business.

The second part of the interview, an all-star in-studio tribute to the Cruise career featuring co-stars and famous friends like Dustin Hoffman, Steven Spielberg and Will and Jada Smith, airs today at 4 p.m. on CTV.

On Friday's show, shot primarily on Cruise's own couch at his sprawling mountaintop refuge in Telluride, Colo., an uncomfortably gaga Winfrey did a masterful job of appearing to address the issues: the couch dance, the Scientology controversies, the unauthorized biography, the rumours about his marriage and fatherhood, the incredibly ill-advised statements and career moves that have threatened to scuttle an up-till-now stellar career ...

And she just as masterfully allowed – and often enabled – him to superficially skirt those issues with a disingenuously wide-eyed toothy grin. Were this sort of thing not second nature to him, it might have been the performance of his career.

And Winfrey, for all her fannish zeal, risked nothing – though at times her unconditional Tom-worship threatened to topple James Lipton of Inside the Actors Studio as TV's leading celebrity sycophant.

But even Lipton's weekly gushfest has an earlier precedent, reluctant though it may have been. More than anything else, Winfrey's pseudo-intimate house tour recalled Edward R. Murrow's uncharacteristically frivolous staged celebrity interviews of the 1950s and '60s.

But you ain't seen nothing yet. Today's full-on Cruise love-in will likely make Friday's Oprah show look like a heated interrogation on 60 Minutes.

Corpse Comedy, Funny Forensics: "Are you serious?" gasped Charlie Sheen. "Are you crazy?" raved William Petersen.

They were a little of both. The very notion of this week's writer-swapping crossover between the procedural cop drama CSI and the sitcom Two and a Half Men would seem as unlikely and outrageous as it is virtually unprecedented.

It was Two and a Half Men's Chuck Lorre who first suggested the swap to CSI showrunner Carol Mendelson, then nailed down the deal a few months later at the annual Banff Television Festival.

"I mentioned it to Carol as something ridiculous to do about a year ago," he says in a telephone press conference, "and then I pressed it when we were in Canada.... It was a really half-assed idea. The fact that it took hold and we're having this conversation now defies every sense of reality I have. It's mind-boggling that we actually did this."

"On some level," adds his partner, Lee Aronson, "I think we were thinking that if we got them to write one of our shows, that would be one less that we'd have to write."

"And it may very well be the last one," acknowledges Lorre.

That's why you'll find the presence of a fresh corpse on tonight's Two and a Half Men (9 p.m. on CBS and A-Channel) and, on Thursday's CSI (9 on CBS), a trip to L.A. to investigate the murder of a sitcom star.

And that may be the true motivation for the unlikely exchange, a "burning desire," in Lorre's words, "to do an autopsy on a sitcom diva." (Any connection to Lorre's earlier incarnations as a producer for Roseanne Barr, Brett Butler and Cybil Shepherd is no doubt entirely coincidental.)

And for CSI's Mendelson? "I just wanted to fulfill Chuck's fantasy."

TV TIDBITS

Damon Wayans Coming Back To ABC

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(May 02, 2008) *Damon Wayans will return to ABC as the executive producer and star of "Never Better," a comedy pilot from the network's production company, ABC Studios. The show revolves around a recovering alcoholic who's determined to be a good husband and father despite his many missteps.  The single-camera project is based on a British series that recently made its debut on BBC2. The property had been given a cast-contingency order from ABC, but Wayans' commitment makes it a go pilot for the network, reports Variety.  Wayans previously starred on ABC in the comedy "My Wife and Kids," which was also produced through ABC Studios and lasted from 2001 through 2005.

Tyra, 'View' Ladies Nominated For Emmys

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(May 02, 2008) *"The Tyra Banks Show" and co-hosts of ABC's "The View" were among the nominees for Daytime Emmys announced Wednesday morning on the latter program's New York set. Banks appears in the newly-created category of best informative talk show against fellow nominees "Dr. Phil" and "A Place of Our Own."  "The View," meanwhile, will compete in the best talk show field alongside "Rachael Ray" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." "The View" hosts Barbara Walters, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Joy Behar, Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd are among the nominees for best talk show host — and get another a chance to break their 10-time losing streak in the category. Nominations for best daytime serial went to "General Hospital," "Guiding Light," "One Life to Live" and "The Young and the Restless." Winners will be announced June 20 in Los Angeles.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Cultures Blend, Not Clash, At CrossCurrents

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(May 01, 2008) One of the most promising signs of spring on the theatre scene each year has come to be
CrossCurrents, Factory Theatre's national festival dedicated to visible-minority playwrights.

It's a sure sign things are growing in this increasingly varied garden we call Canada. This showcase of new works in progress is not just a celebration of diversity, but an ongoing examination of the way in which our cultures intersect. And all tickets are pay-what-you-can.

Producer Nina Lee Aquino and a group of actors, directors and dramaturges that include the likes of Philip Akin, Ruth Madoc-Jones and Guillermo Verdecchia have joined with the five authors to bring their works to life.

This year's plays all have two things in common: a strong political overtone and a solid personal connection with the lives of the people who wrote them.

We thought it best to let them put things in their own words.

Andrew Moodie – Toronto the Good (Friday, May 2)

"In the late '80s I made a trip to New York. I was there to visit some friends. One day, there was a report on the radio of an innocent bystander who was shot and killed. I remember being horrified.

``I remember thinking that America was a land of gun violence, that people were suffering and that nothing was being done, that nothing would ever be done. I returned to Toronto and I felt safe. I felt that nothing like that could ever happen here. Twenty years later, I'm ashamed of my naiveté."

Anita Majumdar – The Misfit (Sunday, May 4)

"My work on the CBC film Murder Unveiled (loosely based on the true-life honour killing of Jassi Sidhu from British Columbia) was successful in generating awareness, but I felt that the concept of `honour' was still grossly misunderstood.

``In the spring of 2006, I visited Mithu Singh (Jassi Sidhu's surviving husband) in his jail cell just outside Ludhiana (India). Seeing and speaking to Mithu in person evoked a responsibility I hadn't felt during filming. It was on the flight back to Canada where I started to imagine a story in my own voice speaking to the complexity of female honour."

Simon Johnston – Sisters (Wednesday, May 7)

"I live in Richmond, B.C., arguably the most diverse cultural city in Canada, where we are on an island figuratively and literally. The Europeans who settled this area have been supplanted by massive immigration from China in the same way that the Musqueam were once `supplanted' by the Europeans.

``This shift in culture and language has caused enormous tensions between the new arrivals and the old settlers. I found that this dynamic is not unique to Richmond.

``Indeed, major cities are experiencing this change. New Canadians have found a way to `take over' by making the personal political. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?"

Rahul Varma – Truth and Treason (Friday, May 9)

"Human catastrophes, wars, genocide, and other human upheavals have become the most recurring and yet least resolved problems of our time.

``For an artist to be meaningful, s/he must respond to human conditions and do everything possible to create a future of peace and human possibilities. Today, all expressions of art are being created in a time of war, a war that George Bush claims is meant to root out terrorists. Has anybody noticed a decline in terrorism since 9/11? As artists we must pose riskier questions: Is America fighting a `war on terror' or is America's `war on terror' the new form of terrorism?''

Marjorie Chan – The Madness of the Square (Sunday, May 11)

"I was 15 when the Tiananmen Square massacre happened. I was idealistic and wanted to change the world. The student protesters, their flags waving, their faces filled with optimism, were inspiring.

``When the tanks rolled, my heart leapt for them, and yet I was so far away. I felt powerless in my sheltered, suburban living room.

``All I could do was embrace the television, pressing my face up against the pixels, begging for meaning.

"As if my arms around an old floor-model TV could have any effect on the fallen. But it was all that I could manage then."

Just the facts
WHAT: CrossCurrents Festival
WHEN: May 2 to 11, all shows 8 p.m.
WHERE: Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St.
TICKETS: Pay what you can at the door. Information at 416-504-9971 or factorytheatre.ca

Jeremy Kushnier Plays Bad Boy In Vegas

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Entertainment Reporter

(May 03, 2008)  Oh, what a night!

When the curtain goes up this evening at The Palazzo Hotel for the Las Vegas premiere of
Jersey Boys, a 32-year-old guy from Winnipeg will be standing centre stage in a spotlight and asking himself, "How the hell did I ever get here?"

Meet
Jeremy Kushnier.

The kid who made his professional debut at the age of 15, playing a dancing mouse in a Rainbow Stage production of Cinderella, is now happily tackling his duties as a different kind of rat.

He's Tommy DeVito, the "bad boy" in this story of the famous 1960s singing group, The Four Seasons – the one whose gambling debts nearly split the group apart.

DeVito is a juicy role and it won Christian Hoff, who created it on Broadway, a coveted Tony Award.

But, according to all reports, Kushnier has made his own solid impression as the black sheep of the pop quartet who became famous for singing songs like "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry."

Chris Jones, the respected critic of the Chicago Tribune, hailed Kushnier's performance in the role when the show played the Windy City in 2007 as one of the year's 10 best, calling him "shrewd, savvy and lovably hopeless."

"Yeah, I guess I owe Chris a couple of bottles of wine," laughs Kushnier, sounding for all the world like a wise guy who could have been hanging out at the Bada Bing with Tony Soprano.

It's a funny thing about Kushnier, but once he is immersed in a role, a lot of its vocal cadences rub off on him offstage as well.

When I last interviewed him, during his Toronto stint in Aida back in 2003, there was a kind of romantic idealism shining off him that matched nicely with the guy he was playing onstage.

But now he sounds, if not sadder and wiser, at least like a dude who has been around the block a few times.

What's happened to him in the five years since Aida?

"Well," he begins ... and then there's a long pause. "I thought I would give up being in musicals and concentrate on writing songs. I discovered it's a terrible way to pay the bills."

And so he joined the Broadway cast of Rent in the seventh year of its run (having appeared in the Canadian tour years before) and kicked around doing summer stock, regional theatre and workshops of new musicals before he went off with Rent again, this time on a five-month Asian tour.

"It's like Al Pacino said in The Godfather, Part III," he quips. "You keep trying to leave and they keep pulling you back in."

But Kushnier didn't really think the way his career was going was anything to joke about.

He had been the hot young star of Footloose on Broadway at the age of 23. But that was nearly a decade ago and, in musical theatre, young can get old real quick.

Kushnier admits, "I didn't really know where I was going or what I wanted to do" until he joined the Broadway cast of Jersey Boys.

"The minute I saw it," he sighs, "I knew I had to do anything to be a part of it.

"It's not like most musicals. This one's got a really great book and characters an actor can sink his teeth into."

Even though Frankie Valli is ostensibly the show's leading role, Kushnier wanted to be DeVito from the start.

"He has the charisma. He lights the fuse on the cannon that gets the audience shot into two hours of awesome entertainment."

Kushnier's commitment to the role is impressive, but it's still surprising how easily he slipped into the dark side, considering his upbringing.

The mean streets of Manitoba? Studying at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School?

Not exactly adequate prep for a world where guys get shot and stuffed into the trunks of cars.

Kushnier disagrees.

"A lot of my older relatives and their friends in Winnipeg had a street mentality. And I lived out in Jersey for a couple of years when I was in New York. I knew what these guys were like. Victims of circumstance who wanted to make it big at any cost."

After he'd been playing Tommy DeVito for nearly a year, he thought it was time to meet the original, who now lives in Vegas.

"I called him on my cellphone," says Kushnier, his voice a little shaky. "I didn't know what to call him. Tommy? Mr. DeVito?

"It didn't matter. He's such an amazingly generous guy. We sat down and he said to me, `You need anything, you tell me. I got more juice in this city than I got back home.'"

Kushnier's voice is rapt with awe. "He was ... he was Tommy, that's all you can say."

Life seems good to the ex-Prairie boy these days.

"Shows like this don't come along very often where you get to have as good a time as the audience does. Once you get that suit on and get out there, it's so fun."

There's even a chance Kushnier might be part of Jersey Boys when Dancap Productions presents it in Toronto this August, but while he admits it's a possibility, he'll only say it "depends on a lot of things."

And, the final card that makes up a royal flush: he has fallen "madly in love" with Jenny Lee Stern, whom he met in the Chicago production.

"I've just got to keep my fingers crossed," he says softly, "that there's no bad karma."

Walk like a man, my son.

THEATRE TIDBITS

Mirvish Sued Over Theatre Sales

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(May 07, 2008) In an unprecedented act on the Toronto entertainment scene, producer Aubrey Dan's Dancap Productions filed a lawsuit today against Key Brand Entertainment and Ed Mirvish Enterprises. At issue is the sale of the Panasonic and Canon Theatres to Mirvish, in seeming violation of the management agreement Dancap signed with Key Brand last fall. In exchange for a considerable equity investment in Key Brand's takeover of the North American theatrical assets of Live Nation Inc., Dancap was granted authority to manage the Canon and Panasonic Theatres. Mirvish Productions, on the other hand, was in possession of a 15 year co-presenting lease from the SFX Theatrical Group (the predecessor to Live Nation) which they felt gave them virtual control of the buildings in question. Both sides were unhappy with the existing situation and Mirvish at first threatened Key Brand with litigation in January of this year over the Dancap transaction, but did not proceed. However, Dancap has since learned that on Feb. 11, 2008, Mirvish made an offer to Key Brand to purchase the theatres. That offer was kept secret from Dancap and other board members until Apr. 9, 2008, five weeks before it was to go into effect. After a hearing at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on May 6, Key Brand and Mirvish agreed not to close the deal until June 6, to permit a hearing on the merits of Dancap's demand for an injunction. Mirvish Productions has been one of the city's largest producers of live theatre for a half century and is currently represented on stage by Dirty Dancing, We Will Rock You and Hairspray. Dancap Productions launched its operations last fall and will be opening their presentation of My Fair Lady this Friday evening.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Canada Squeaks Out 5-4 Win Over U.S. At Hockey Worlds

Source:  www.thestar.com - Kevin McGran,
Sports Reporter

(May 06, 2008) HALIFAX– Dany Heatley, Canada's offensive wizard, is as hot as they come.

His goal with just 49 seconds left in the third period, the result of a 4-on-2 rush up the ice after a faceoff in the Canadian end, gave
Team Canada a 5-4 victory in a edge-of-your seat finish at the world hockey championship.

It was Heatley's second of the game and sixth in three games in the tournament.

Team USA – like Canada, filled with NHLers – showed grit in not giving up even after trailing 3-0 and 4-2.

When the final whistle blew, the two North American rivals – mostly friends off the ice – showed they don't like each other much. Canadian captain Shane Doan and American Jason Pominville got into a scrum.

The win gives Canada the top spot in its pool; the U.S finishes second. They now play their next three games against the top three teams from the other Halifax pool. Final standings in that pool, featuring Finland, Germany, Slovakia and Norway, will be determined Wednesday.

Derek Roy, Jonathan Toews and Brent Burns scored for Canada.

Jason Pominville, Dustin Brown, Patrick O'Sullivan and Zach Parise scored for Team USA. American Goalie Tim Thomas lasted two periods, replaced in the third by Craig Anderson.

Roy scored a power play goal early in the third, much to the pleasure of the 9,192 in attendance at the Halifax Metro Centre, to give Canada a 4-2 lead.

But the Americans proved their grit in the third, scoring twice on Cam Ward to tie. Brown scored at 5:18 on the power play, Pominville scored at 6:54, perched off Ward's side and one-timing a feed from Patrick Kane.

Canada certainly didn't deserve it, but emerged with a 2-0 lead over the Americans after 20 minutes. The Americans had dominated the opening frame, showing Canada it could skate with the best of them, pass-for-pass, hit-for-hit and speed-for-speed. But not shot-for-shot.

The Americans outshot Canada 13-5, helped by three power plays, but Ward was superb. He stopped Adam Burish on a breakaway with a quick glove hand midway through the period, and a flurry capped by Dustin Brown's hard shot at 14:35. Burns scored at 8:26, a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that Thomas should have had. And Heatley scored at 19:49, deflecting a shot from Ryan Getzlaf.

Canada scored in the opening seconds of the second period, with Toews slapping in a shot from the slot after some grinding work from Chris Kunitz to get him the puck.

Eighteen seconds in to the second period it looked as if Canada was going to run away with this one.

But the Americans fought back, on the very next shift. Parise scored at 0:52 and O'Sullivan at 3:09. O'Sullivan was sent in a on breakaway thanks to a heads-up pass from Tom Gilbert from the American end that caught Canadian defencemen Jay Bouwmeester and Duncan Keith off-guard.

Byron Scott Wins NBA Coach Of The Year

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 1, 2008) *New Orleans Hornets head coach
Byron Scott was voted NBA coach of the year following a regular season in which the team won a franchise-record 56 games and earned their first playoff berth in four years.

"This is a very humbling experience for me because this is something you never think about," said Scott, according to the AP.

Scott received 70 first-place votes, while Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers received 23 and Houston Rockets coach Rick Adelman 17.

It is Scott's eighth season as an NBA coach, including four with the New Jersey Nets before joining the Hornets. Scott won three NBA titles as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers and twice coached the Nets to the NBA finals.

Scott accepted the Red Auerbach trophy hours before the Hornets, holding a 3-1 lead in their first round playoff series with the Dallas Mavericks, tipped off Game 5 Tuesday night.

Dallas lost the game, as well as their coach Avery Johnson. He was fired Wednesday by owner Mark Cuban after three-plus seasons and two straight years of playoff exits in the first round.

"It is never easy to relieve a coach of his duties, especially one of Avery's calibre," Cuban said in a statement. "He is a talented coach and I want to thank him for his efforts over the last four years and what he has done for this franchise."

Dallas has gone 3-12 in the playoffs since blowing a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA finals against Miami. The Mavericks followed that 2006 disappointment by the embarrassment of being ousted by Golden State in the opening round last season in one of the biggest upsets in league history.

Leafs Looking For A New Head Coach

Source:  www.thestar.com - Paul Hunter, Sports Reporter

(May 07, 2008) The Maple Leafs are no longer just searching for a general manager, they’ve taken out a help wanted ad for a new head coach as well. And interim general manager Cliff Fletcher said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon that might take some time.

"We're moving forward in a normal fashion," said Fletcher. "There will be substantial news coming forward from the hockey operation in the next six to 10 weeks."

The Leafs fired Paul Maurice this morning, after he’d fulfilled two years of this three-year contract with the team. Toronto missed the playoffs in both those seasons.

"What this does now is pave the way for when a new management team is in place, to bring in their own coaching staff as well," said Fletcher. "This is a new era for the Maple Leafs."

The Leafs finished 12th in the 15-team Eastern Conference in a disappointing season that featured several blowout losses on home ice.

John Ferguson, who promoted Maurice from the Toronto Marlies farm team in 2006, was fired during the season. Ferguson was replaced on an interim basis by Fletcher, who brought the axe down on Maurice Wednesday after meeting with the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's board of directors.

The timing is curious as Fletcher’s mandate as the interim boss was to clear the deck for a new GM. There are however, no indications that the Leafs are close to bringing in a new man to head up the team’s hockey operations – and Fletcher didn't indicate the club's search committee was any closer to finalizing that position. Fletcher signed a 19-month contract with the club upon replacing Ferguson.

When asked about speculation he may continue as GM into next season, he replied: "No one has suggested to me that that's the case."

Maurice, 41, had a 76-66-22 record during his two seasons behind the Toronto bench.

Maurice told TSN this morning that he was grateful that the Leafs, if they were going to fire him, acted when they did. He said it made the situation easier on his family and gave him a better chance to land a coaching position elsewhere.

Assistant coach Randy Ladouceur was also let go. Keith Acton – a survivor from the Pat Quinn regime – and Dallas Eakins will remain with the Leafs, Fletcher said, although Eakins has been offered a non-coaching hockey position within the organization.

Also, Mike Penny has given up his assistant GM's post and will become full-time head pro scout for the Leafs, based in Vancouver.

Maurice knew this decision might be coming.

“It’s going to be out there from now until the time the next general manager is hired,” he said in his season-ending press conference.

“Things that went well will be talked about occasionally and the things that didn’t go well will be talked about repeatedly, and then a new guy will come in and take a look at the hockey club that is and make a decision on where he thinks we should go.”

Maurice’s overall NHL record with Toronto and Hartford/Carolina is 344-373-121. He guided Carolina to the Stanley Cup final in 2002, knocking off the Quinn-led Leafs in the Eastern Conference final. The Hurricanes lost the final in five games to a very strong Detroit club.

"You know the way the season ended up and the changes that are going to take place on the team," Maurice told The Canadian Press from his Toronto home.

"So I was very aware that it was a possibility."

“I can’t say that I was surprised.”

SPORTS TIDBITS

Kobe Bryant Is The NBA's New MVP

Source:  www.eurweb.com - Rob Salem

(May 05, 2008) *After 12 seasons in the NBA, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has won his first ever Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday ahead of an official announcement. The 29-year-old led the Lakers to the number one spot in the Western Conference, and on Sunday began a Western Conference semi-final playoff series against the Utah Jazz.  The All Star averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.84 steals during the regular season. He also averaged 33.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in leading the Lakers to a first round sweep over the Denver Nuggets.  Bryant helped the Lakers win three consecutive championships between 2000 and 2002. He is hoping to help his team get to its first NBA finals appearance in four years.   The closest Bryant had previously come to the MVP award was third place after the 2002-03 season and again last year. He would be the fourth Laker to win the award, following Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal.

Argos Sign Top Draft Pick

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Canadian Press

(May 06, 2008) The Toronto Argonauts have signed rookie receiver Mike Bradwell, their first selection in last week's CFL Canadian college draft. Toronto selected Bradwell, who played at McMaster University, in the second round (13th overall) of the '08 draft. The Argos didn't have a first-round selection. "I'm happy to sign my first contract and take the initial step toward becoming a pro football player," said Bradwell, a Toronto native. "It's a dream come true to sign with my hometown Argos. "I couldn't have written a better script. Now I can't wait for start of training camp." Bradwell was a first-team All-Canadian last season after leading the CIS in receiving yards (958) and registering a school-record 53 receptions. He played three seasons for the Marauders after joining the team in his sophomore year.

::OTHER NEWS::

Think You've Got A Flat Screen? Ad Panels Make Posters Move

Source:  www.thestar.com - Sean Gordon,
Staff Reporter

(May 04, 2008) MONTREAL–It's an eye-catching twist on an old technology and a Woodstock, Ont., company wants it to become the next big thing in advertising media.

Luminous Media, which makes electroluminescent advertising panels, celebrated a Canadian first this month, installing its paper-thin signs on walls throughout Montreal's subway network.

The animated ads, for a car company, feature a luminous red trace that lights up a black background to outline a cityscape just as the car itself shines into prominence.

And Luminous Media thinks it has found a new way to seduce consumers (viewable online at luminousmedia.ca/gallery).

Contrary to back-lit ad panels, Luminous Media's installations are paper-thin and malleable, meaning they can be installed on circular columns or angled walls.

"We can give a third dimension to attract the eyes ... this can even change the industry," said Michael Micacchi, Luminous Media's director of operations. "This is more effective than LCD or digital and not as in your face. It's halfway between a paper poster and a television."

The company's ad panels – which have been used on sports-drink and movie posters in far-flung places like New Zealand and Ireland – have won awards, although ad industry watchers warn it's difficult to create a revolution in an already crowded advertising marketplace.

"It's the hardest advertising to get right, you have one image and perhaps three or four words ... and advertisers' habits don't necessarily change quickly just because of new technology," said Sylvain Desrochers, a marketing expert and director of the Université de Montréal's advertising diploma program. "Typically, advertisers aren't hungry for new forms of media as much as they're looking for a more efficient and effective way to communicate their message."

And therein lies the challenge for Luminous Media and its clients, said Desrochers, who added he is intrigued by the electroluminescent ads.

The animation on the posters remains primitive, but Micacchi said that's because advertising agencies have only just started designing projects to take advantage of the technology, which is based on special inks that light up when a 12-volt current passes through them.

Luminous Media first adapted the technique for a 2005 cellphone ad campaign on a series of billboards in Toronto.

"The technology was originally developed by the defence industry, would you believe," Micacchi said.

It has also been around since the 1960s, when it was used on the instrument panels of Dodge Charger muscle cars.

The fledgling four-year-old company originally hoped to develop the technology for clothing – it makes a T-shirt that lights up to the beat of music – and is now hoping to branch out beyond advertising into things like safety clothing.

"We kind of fell into it by accident, and now we realize it could have other applications," Micacchi said. "It's a softer light; it even cuts through fog."

Self-Published Author Wins $10,000 Humour Award

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(May 01, 2008)
A debut novel, self-published by its author after he couldn't interest an agent or a Canadian publisher, has won the $10,000 2008 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.

Toronto's
Terry Fallis, who is president of the well-known public-relations firm Thornley Fallis, received the medal and cheque yesterday for The Best Laid Plans at a luncheon in Orillia, Ont., the hometown of Sunshine Sketches creator Stephen Leacock and 100 kilometres north of Toronto.

In an interview, the 48-year-old rookie writer described winning Canada's most prestigious annual prize for a humorous book as "a head-on collision of shock and joy." Previously, "it was not even on my radar screen to be nominated," he said, and when he was, "I was pretty close to having an aneurysm."

Fallis beat four other finalists, all of whose books were released last year by "official" publishers. The books were Douglas Coupland's The Gum Thief (Random House), Spanish Fly by two-time Leacock winner Will Ferguson (Penguin), Scott Gardiner's King John of Canada (McClelland & Stewart) and Ron Wood's And God Created Manyberries (Frontenac House).

Fallis actually tried to get his novel, a political satire set in contemporary Ottawa, published by a mainstream Canadian publishing company. But when he failed, he turned last spring both to the Internet and to what is often disparagingly called "the vanity press."

Amusingly, one agent whom Fallis tried to interest in his manuscript, Toronto's Beverley Slopen, turned him down last year, but when the book was named to the Leacock short list last month, from a field of 47 entries, she agreed to take it on. Yesterday, she was ecstatic to hear that her client had triumphed. "I love it when people break the rules and win." (No publisher as of yesterday had signed on.)

Fallis first "published" The Best Laid Plans one chapter at a time, as a free, downloadable podcast on his own website, http://www.terryfallis.com, as well as on iTunes and http://www.podiobooks.com. The podcast, which totals 20 episodes, also attracted the attention of Berlin-based Radioropa, Europe's leading satellite-radio network, which aired the novel in prime time on its English-language service.

The print version was released last November after Fallis went with a $4,000 cheque to the print-on-demand service iUniverse in Bloomington, Ind. Retailing for $21.95 as a 257-page trade paperback, The Best Laid Plans so far has sold more than 500 copies, most of them through online retailers. The paperback also has been placed with several bookstores, located primarily in Toronto and Ottawa.

The Best Laid Plans is the story of a young, disillusioned Liberal functionary and speechwriter who decides to get out of politics - a decision he is helped to reach when he discovers his girlfriend sleeping with an MP. But before he goes, he agrees to find the party a sacrificial-lamb candidate to run in what has been a long-time Conservative sinecure. Fallis's hero eventually settles on his landlord, a cranky but honest engineering professor whose electoral fortunes appear to get a boost when the Tory incumbent is caught in a sex scandal.

It's a world Fallis knows well. In his 20s, he worked for former prime minister Jean Chrétien's 1984 leadership campaign, and later served as an aide to Robert Nixon, former head of the Ontario Liberal Party and in the mid-1980s finance minister for former Ontario premier David Peterson.

Rules for the Leacock are more flexible than some prizes, and there's really nothing to prevent a DIY writer from submitting a self-published text, provided that it is accompanied by a $100 cheque. The winner is chosen by a five-member jury in association with a readers' panel of Orillia residents.

Microsoft's Zune MP3 Player Coming To Canada

Source:  www.thestar.com - Luann Lasalle
, The Canadian Press

(May 06, 2008) MONTREAL–Microsoft's musical reply to Apple's iPod is finally coming to Canada.

The
Zune digital music player will go on sale June 13, Microsoft Corp. announced Tuesday.

It may not generate the same hype as the announcement that Apple's iPhone will be available in Canada this year, but the Zune – available in the U.S. since late 2006 – has been redesigned and has new software.

Microsoft says it wants to give Canadian consumers a different experience from the IPod.

"Right now there is really only one dominant player, and with Zune coming to the market now, in June, it just offers people with another credible alternative where they can say `I actually get to decide which one is right for me,'" said Elana Zur, Microsoft Canada's Zune product manager.

What sets the Zune apart is its FM radio, social networking and wireless abilities, said Zur.

The pocket-sized Zune will be available in three different sizes and range in price from $140 to $250.

The most expensive 80-gigabyte Zune has high-end headphones and is available in black and red. The slim 4-GB and 8-GB Zunes come in black, red and pink.

The three models can be customized with engraved designs and personal text.

While the Zune plays videos and TV shows and stores and sends photos, Zur said it's considered more of a music player.

"Right now the core scenario is really music and the things that enhance music."

What Canadians will not yet have access to is Zune Marketplace to purchase music and TV shows, said Zur, adding no date has been set for it. It's the equivalent of Apple's iTunes.

Microsoft will offer U.S. Zune owners episodes of TV shows including NBC programming as well as Comedy Central's South Park and other titles at the marketplace site.

NBC Universal pulled its shows from iTunes because Apple was unwilling to set different prices for TV shows.

What Canadians can do beginning Tuesday is download Zune software to their computers and join the Zune online community.

The first generation of the Zune has sold 1.2 million units in the United States, Zur said. The IPod, whose name has become part of modern vocabulary, has been purchased by tens of millions of consumers since it was launched in 2001.

Analyst Michael Gartenberg said in a Tuesday post on his Internet blog that Microsoft's latest efforts are "compelling" but still far short of what Apple has delivered.

"Zune remains a fine choice for consumers not looking to embrace Apple technology for whatever reason, but Microsoft still has a long way to go before Zune becomes a credible iPod alternative for mainstream consumers," wrote Gartenberg of U.S.-based Jupiter Research.

But Digital culture expert Max Valiquette said tech giant Microsoft could benefit from the situation where Apple is the dominant player because there could be "iPod fatigue."

"There has been enough dominance by Apple in the market with iPods, with enough time now, that actually people are starting to look to alternatives," he said.

"It's small, it's sexy, it's well-designed and it also has an FM radio," said Valiquette, president of Youthography, a communications agency in Toronto.

"If you carry an IPod and you're into sports, you've got to carry a second device to listen to a sports broadcast on the radio," since the feature is missing from the IPod, he said.

Zur said she believes Zune's social networking feature sets it apart.

"Zune social is something that can really change the game," she said. "It's an actual online community."

It allows users to find out what family and friends are listening to, visit artists' homepages and read their bios, and listen to clips before buying any music.

Canadians will also be able to paste what's called their Zune cards to social networking site Facebook, blogs or other websites to show others what they are listening to.

The Zune allows users to share music and photos with other Zune owners over wireless Internet connections.

Music bought from Apple's iTunes won't work on a Zune.

"If you purchased it from iTunes and it's not an unprotected format, like MP3, then no, you can't bring it over," Zur said.

OTHER TIDBITS

Tyler, Obama, Mariah Among Time's 'Influential'

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(May 6, 2008) *Filmmaker Tyler Perry, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and singer Mariah Carey join the likes of President Bush, the Dalai Lama and Miley Cyrus on
Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Announced Thursday, the final cut includes nearly 30 celebrities whose appearance was based on votes at the magazine's Web site.  Winfrey was cited alongside fellow "influential" entertainers Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Mia Farrow as “heroes and pioneers” for global goodwill. Others making the list include finance adviser Suze Orman, actor George Clooney, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Hu Jintao, and Obama's fellow presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

::FITNESS NEWS::

Pro Tips for a Tight, Flat Tummy

By Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, RTS1 Raphael, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

"Endless abdominal machines, crunch boards, sit-up devices and tortuous torso routines promise flat bellies and chiselled abs. Hardly a one of them works worth a damn, mainly because their makers show little understanding of human anatomy."
-- Dr. Michael Colgan Renowned Fitness Expert and author of The New Power Program

How does one achieve a tight and flat stomach? Is there a human being on the planet who doesn't want to know the answer to this question? I see articles all the time that discuss abdominal exercises, infomercials that make false promises about a machine that will give you abs to die for and 10,000 other diet aids and gadgets that never tell you the truth.

Want tighter, sexy abs? If you have two minutes, we can show you how! Click here to watch our easy "Two Minutes to Tight Abs" video!

Having studied human anatomy, nothing disgusts me more than watching one of those dumb ab machine infomercials make promises that their product will give a person a flat stomach. A lying abdominal machine will not give you a flat stomach, a seated abdominal machine will not give you a flat stomach and 1,000 crunches per day will not give you a flat stomach.

I'm here to tell you the truth.

There will be work to do on your part, but I'll provide the basic formula for achieving the look you've always thought was reserved for other people. It doesn't matter if you're 20 or 70. This formula works for everyone.

Here then is my eight-point plan to get tight abs and a flat mid-section:

1. NUTRITION: This is the most important component to achieving a stomach. Nothing is more important than food.

First, you'll need to control blood sugar levels in order to lose body fat. This is best accomplished by consuming four to six meals per day. Don't mistake the definition of a meal for a six-course extravaganza. A meal might be an egg white omelette (with vegetables) and oatmeal with some blueberries in it, chicken with one-half cup of rice and a large salad with some oil and vinegar, an apple with a scoop of protein powder or cottage cheese with some fruit.

Get the picture? I'm referring to them as meals, but they're actually feedings. Each of the meals is comprised of protein, a little carbohydrate and a little fat. In some cases, the fat is built into the protein. In other cases, it's added to the meal. For eDiets members, this is already accomplished in your meal plan.

2. RATIOS: It's unlikely that you'll get tight abs and a flat stomach by consuming 80 percent of your calories from carbohydrates. Ratios can vary quite a bit, but consuming more than 55 percent of your calories from carbohydrate will not be optimal for fat loss. Many people do quite well on extremely low carbohydrate plans and others on more moderate plans. As long as you follow the no more than 55 percent of calories from carbohydrate rule, you'll be at a good starting point.

3. TIMING: I realize four to six meals sounds like a lot, but you must keep in mind that the body is always seeking to store body fat. It (the body) doesn't care if you want to lose fat. In fact, your body would prefer to keep fat in order to accomplish its number one goal of keeping you alive in case of a future famine or drought.

Always consider the body from the inside out and not the other way around. In order to control blood sugar, eat every two to three hours throughout the day. When using the most effective nutrient ratios, this helps to control blood sugar (which, in turn, assists in body fat loss).

4. CALORIES: I've received emails from people telling me they do all of the above, but they still can't lose body fat in order to flatten the stomach. In every case, they are still consuming too many calories. It doesn't matter how healthy your nutrition program is if you're eating too much.

It's important that you find maintenance calories first. Maintenance represents the amount of food you consume without any change in your weight. This will take some experimentation and some effort. You'll also need to document your foods: total calories as well as grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Sounds like a lot of work? Yes, it is! However, you only have to do a few weeks of hard work. After that, you'll have your personal formula for success.

5. SLIGHT CALORIC DEFICIT: After you have found maintenance, simply reduce your calories by 200. Our goal is to have you eating as much as possible and still losing fat and retaining muscle. I don't want you eating as little as possible (thereby slowing the metabolism and losing valuable muscle tissue).

The first week, you may lose 4-6 pounds of water. After the first week, you should only lose about 1.5 pounds per week. The goal is to preserve muscle and make your body a metabolic inferno. If you're not losing up to 1.5 pounds per week (it will fluctuate week to week), then reduce calories by another 100. Then, monitor your progress after one week. You'll probably be right on track.

6. CONSISTENCY: You'll need to be on this nutrition program six days a week with one day being somewhat of a cheat day. Unlike many, I'm not a big fan of the "cheat" day. I find that people tend to use it as an excuse to gorge themselves.

So, on Sunday for example, you're allowed to have some pizza, a bit of ice cream, etc. But nothing extreme! When you pig out, blood sugar levels can be elevated for seven hours or more. This will absolutely halt your body fat loss and actually backfire.

7. WEIGHT TRAIN: At this point, you should be aware of the importance of resistance training. Just three to four workout sessions lasting no more than 35 minutes to an hour will do the trick. For every pound of muscle on your body, you'll burn 30-50 additional calories per day.

Part of your program should include abdominal exercises to strengthen and build the abs. That way, when you achieve your low body fat level, your abs will be tight.

By the way, there is one great movement to help pull the stomach inwards; however, I'll cover that in a future abdominal exercise article. I have to give you some reason to come back, right?

8. CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE: Perform three to five days per week of moderate cardio exercise for approximately 30-40 minutes. During two of the days, you can exercise at a higher intensity level to accelerate fat loss -- but, only if you reach a sticking point. If you're a beginner, then remember to increase gradually.

Do this consistently, keep adjusting calories SLIGHTLY (with the help of our nutrition support staff and the specific nutrition program you selected from the site) and change your routine every three to four weeks. You will get a flatter stomach!

Is this easy? No, it's not easy. That's why so few people have flat and tight abs. Is it fulfilling when you achieve your goal of a flatter stomach? Definitely! As in most cases in life, the things we want and desire usually take some degree of sacrifice. It doesn't matter if you have 10 pounds to lose or 100 pounds, the formula works. So, how bad do you want it?

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Tom Blandi

"Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working 24 hours a day, for good or bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force."