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June 24, 2010

This newsletter edition is dedicated to the life and memory of
Michael Jackson

Has it really be one year since the King of Pop,
Michael Jackson, died?  Do you remember where you were when the news was unfolding?  I first saw a question about him on Facebook and quickly stay tuned for the unfolding events which would leave the world without this mega talent forever.  I think I was shocked but settled into some sort of space where I figured that we were lucky at all to experience this sort of genius and let's face it, quirkiness.  Admittedly, I lost some interest in the years prior to his death at some of his lifestyle choices and behaviours, but in the end, the emotion and fervour behind the movie, This Is It, reclaimed my love of the King. 

I'm republishing some of the articles from one year ago that I had in my newsletter last year as well as newer ones from this year. 

Also featured this week is a CD giveaway featuring
Nas and Damian Marley.  Don't be disappointed by not including your full mailing address - if you don't, I cannot consider your entry.  If you can name me how many tracks are on this project, then you could be a winner.  Enter contest HERE.  The answer is HERE.

Tons of news this week ... scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTS


Universal Republic: Nas & Damian "JR. Gong" Marley New Studio Album "Distant Relatives" in Stores Now

Source: Universal Republic

(May 19, 2010) NEW YORK, NY - Nas and Damian "JR. Gong" Marley are proud to announce the release of their highly-anticipated collaborative studio album, Distant Relatives (IDJ/Universal Republic), which hit stores today. Featuring the signature instrumentation and musicianship of Damian "JR. Gong" Marley with the hard-hitting beats and lyrics of Nas, the album title refers not only to the bond between the artists, but the connection to their African ancestry, which inspired the album both musically and lyrically. The pair will kick off a nationwide tour immediately following the release of the album in Arcata, CA on May 21st. The US leg of the tour will also incorporate late night TV appearances including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (May 19th), Jimmy Kimmel Live! (May 24th), Last Call with Carson Daly (May 27th), FUEL TV's "The Daily Habit" (June 6th) and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (June 10th) before heading overseas for the European dates.

The collaboration is sure to amaze with an album encompassing
14-tracks including the first singles "As We Enter" and "Strong Will Continue." The album was produced by Damian "JR. Gong" Marley and also features several guest appearances including Lil Wayne, who appears on the track "Generation," K'NAAN on "Africa Must Wake Up" and "Tribal War," and Stephen Marley on "Leaders" and "In His Own Words." In support of their new disc, Nas & Damian Marley are confirmed to make in-store appearances at Best Buy in LA on 5/20, Rasputin in San Francisco on 5/25, and Hot Topic in Las Vegas on 5/29.

The partnership between the two artists has already garnered critical praise:

"Few best-of-both-worlds collaborations work as well as Distant Relatives"

"a vibrant blend of Marley's thick Jamaican patois and Nas' New York-accented rhymes"

"the ambitious project approaches perfection on its own terms"

"This is a benchmark album for Damian and Nas"

"Distant Relatives is a rewarding listening experience in its musicianship and lyricism, and one you can expect to go back to in the years to come"

"it's impressive, as on the unrelenting organ buzz of leadoff single 'As We Enter' and the riotous 'Nah Mean'"

Throughout the course of their musical careers, the duo has always admired each other's style. Since first meeting in 1996 the two artists have shared a mutual respect and camaraderie that was most recently showcased on the track "Road to Zion," from Damian's critically acclaimed album, Welcome to Jamrock. After having such a positive experience working together, they have joined forces for Distant Relatives. In their latest collaboration, Nas and Damian trace hip-hop's roots to Africa, where the genre originated as a vital form of cultural expression and was then transported by the slave trade to the Caribbean and the American colonies. It blossomed a half century ago in the dance halls of Kingston, Jamaica, and soon migrated to the park jams and recreational centers of New York City, where the culture became known as hip-hop. This evolution forms the basis of the Distant Relatives project.

Check www.distantrelatives.com for a complete list of tour dates and appearances.

About Universal Republic Records
Universal Republic Records is a division of Universal Music Group, the world's largest music company, with wholly owned record operations or licensees in 77 countries. One of several labels that comprise Universal Motown Republic Group, Republic Records was formed in 1995 by President, CEO of the label, Monte Lipman, and his brother, Co-President & COO of Universal Republic, Avery Lipman. Today, the label is responsible for numerous breakthrough and mainstream chart topping artists, including a diverse array of groundbreaking imprints and ventures encompassing new and established platinum and multi-platinum acts.


A Year Without Michael Jackson

Source: www.thestar.com - Rick Sznajder

(June 23, 2010) June 26, 2009: Police begin investigating claims Jackson received a painkilling injection minutes before his death.

June 30, 2009: Three-CD box set Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection, featuring Jackson solo recordings from 1971 to 1975, is released digitally on iTunes.

July 1, 2009: Jackson’s will is filed in court, giving his entire estate to a family trust and excluding ex-wife Debbie Rowe.

July 3, 2009: Rowe, who gave away parental rights to children she had with Jackson 10 years earlier, announces she will fight Jackson’s mother, Katherine, for custody.

July 7, 2009: Jackson memorial in Los Angeles’s Staples Centre draws a global television and Internet audience estimated at one billion.

July 10, 2009: Thousands flock to Gary, Ind., Jackson’s hometown, for a memorial celebration.

July 14, 2009: AEG Live, the company behind Jackson’s planned comeback tour, says it hopes to hold a tribute show in London on Aug 29.

July 17, 2009: Michael Jackson — Legend, Hero, Icon: A Tribute to the King of Pop published by HarperCollins

Aug. 3, 2009: Katherine Jackson gains permanent custody of the children.

Aug. 10, 2009: Promoter World Awards Media GmbH announces a farewell tribute to Jackson will be held at Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace in September.

Aug. 11, 2009: The planned London tribute shows are cancelled when AEG Live fails to finalize deals with performers.

Aug. 20, 2009: Tito Jackson announces he and other members of the family will play a series of concerts in Britain as a tribute to his brother.

Aug. 24, 2009: Los Angeles County coroner rules Michael Jackson’s death a homicide with a combination of drugs as the cause.

Sept. 3, 2009: Jackson buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery

Sept. 11, 2009: A lack of major performers and a withdrawal of backing by the city of Vienna cause organizers to cancel planned Schönbrunn Palace tribute and reschedule it for London in mid-2010.

Oct. 12, 2009: Jackson’s first posthumous single, “This is it,” co-written with Paul Anka, released on the singer’s official website

Oct. 28, 2009: Sony Pictures’ This Is It, a film drawn from rehearsal footage of Jackson’s planned concerts in London, opens on 18,000 screens worldwide. The film grosses about $100 million (U.S.) worldwide in its first five days.

Nov. 22, 2009: Jackson posthumously wins four American Music Awards.

Dec. 13, 2009: The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty begins airing on A&E. It follows Jermaine, Jackie, Tito and Marlon as they plan for a tentative 40th anniversary reunion of the Jackson 5 before and after Michael’s death.

Dec. 18 2009: The tribute concert originally scheduled for Vienna and moved to London is scrapped after the promoter closes.

Jan. 31, 2010: Jackson’s children, Prince Michael, 12, and Paris, 11, accept a lifetime achievement award for the pop star at the Grammy Awards.

Feb. 8: Conrad Murray, Jackson’s personal physician, is charged with involuntary manslaughter for providing the singer with propofol, a powerful anesthetic.

March 17: Sony Music signs a $250 million contract with the Jackson estate for 10 releases of his music through 2017, with the double-CD This Is It soundtrack counting as the first of these.

April 21: Jackson’s estate and Cirque du Soleil announce several projects, including a TV show and a permanent Cirque show built around Jackson’s music.

May 29: Jermaine Jackson and other members of the family perform a tribute to Michael at Gambia’s Kanilai International Cultural Festival.

June 3: Jackson’s father and Gary, Ind., mayor Rudy Clay announce a feasibility study for a Jackson Family Museum and Cultural Centre, which would include a museum, concert hall, theatre, restaurant and casino themed around the singer.

June 6: Sources estimate Jackson’s estate has earned around $900 million since the singer’s death.

June 11: A planned June 25 tribute concert in Rome, to star Marlon Jackson, Missy Elliott, Joss Stone, Akon and Dionne Warwick, is cancelled after protests from Randy Jackson.

June 14: The California Superior Court declines to suspend Conrad Murray from practising in the state. Murray can practise but is prohibited from administering anesthetics such as propofol.

June 18: Julien’s Auctions announces it will sell 250 items related to Jackson, including the crystal-covered white glove he wore in 1983 and a shirt worn in the “Beat It” video.

June 18: French video-game company Ubisoft announces the development of an interactive game inspired by Jackson, which will include the songs “Beat It” and “Billie Jean.”

June 19: Katherine Jackson announces the release of a coffee table book, Never Can Say Goodbye: The Katherine Jackson Archives.

June 20: Organizers announce that a memorial plaque for Jackson will be unveiled at London’s Lyric Theatre on June 24.

Source: Media reports

Michael Jackson’s Kids Adjust To Life In The Spotlight

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 22, 2010) There is much about Michael Jackson’s controversial last decade that will remain a mystery, but there was never any confusion about his desire to keep his three children out of the public eye.

Since their appearance at the late King of Pop’s memorial service last summer, Prince, 13, Paris, 12, and Blanket, 8, have attended the Grammy Awards, seen some of their home videos posted on YouTube and been photographed by paparazzi going bowling and to the movies or heading to karate lessons and religious classes — all without the veils or masks their dad employed to keep their identities hidden. And TLC recently aired Michael Jackson's Children, an unauthorized special about the trio.

Their emergence on the celebrity watch list would be a profound disappointment to their father. And there’s no chance of an abatement of the nearly weekly reporting about their activities. The impact of the youngsters going from a sheltered, peripatetic life with the reclusive Jackson to a more typical Hollywood existence of the rich and famous has yet to be realized. They each stand to inherit more than $30 million by age 40.

Last weekend, family matriarch Katherine Jackson, who is the children’s legal guardian, discussed how they were coping with the loss of their father in an interview with the British tabloid Mail on Sunday.

“I wanted to hang pictures of flowers or ballerinas in Paris's room, the sort of things I expected a girl would like,” she said. “But she went into a closet and she brought out seven or eight pictures of Michael, and she told me, ‘No, I want Daddy hanging in my room.’ So she goes to bed looking at him and wakes up looking at him. She said, ‘I always want to be able to see him.’ ”

And the boys, Katherine said, bravely talk about wanting to make him proud — and then lapse into silent moments, when they are missing him.

She revealed plans for the lifelong home-schooled children to enter private schools in the fall.

The children now live in the Jackson family’s Encino, Calif., compound with Katherine and other relatives, including children of their uncles Jermaine and Randy Jackson. But the youngsters face future disruptions, since Katherine is 80 and unlikely to be able to manage their care until they reach adulthood.

There were concerns about the matriarch’s control of the brood in February when child welfare authorities came to the mansion to investigate after Jermaine’s son Jaafar, 13, apparently brandished near Blanket a stun gun that Jaafar had bought on the Internet with a credit card.

If Katherine becomes unable to continue as their guardian, other female relatives, such as unmarried sisters La Toya and Janet, or married with kids Rebbie, could step in to supervise. Or perhaps they would join the families of uncles Tito, Jackie or Marlon. Then there’s Diana Ross who was named backup guardian in Jackson’s will, but who since his death has not spoken publicly about a role in the lives of his children. The children’s aging godmother Elizabeth Taylor is an unlikely option.

At some point, Prince, Paris and Blanket, who don’t exhibit any of Jackson’s African American characteristics, may want to learn about their biological father. It’s unclear what role if any Jackson’s ex-wife Debbie Rowe, believed to be the biological mother of Prince and Paris, has in their lives. Various fathers have been alleged for the pair, including Jackson dermatologist and Rowe’s one-time employer Arnold Klein. There are no indications of Blanket’s parentage.

Katherine has said the siblings share many characteristics of Michael.

“Paris has that lovely way, just like him, and I see his talent in her. Whatever she does, she is very good at it. She's a good artist, she plays the piano and she wants to be an actress.

“Prince is serious about a lot of things. He wants to be a cameraman or produce movies. He is dedicated to that, like Michael was. And Blanket is very playful, like Michael was.”

It’s not hard to imagine how conflicted Michael Jackson would be of his offspring following in his showbiz footsteps, given his love-hate relationship with the industry he blamed for stealing his youth, but that gave him international success.

Quotes on Michael Jackson

We have had many thoughts, emotions, shock and as well, been inundated with news
stories, gossip and speculation about the death of Michael Jackson.  There was such an outpouring on Facebook as the sad news spread that I wanted to create to forum for people to say what was on their mind.  Below that are some celebrity quotes in reaction to his passing.

I asked a cross section of people I know for a quote on just this.  Some were overcome and still overwhelmed, some declined based on their beliefs of his guilt in legal allegations and some responded as below. 

As we mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Michael Jackson, I must defer to my instincts which is to believe that Michael is now finally at rest and at peace, as it seemed to elude him here on this earth, regardless of how he lived it.  Personally, his influence has shaped the way I hear and see music and ultimately grew a respect of excellence in artistry.  R.I.P. Michael.

Aisha Wickham Thomas, Music Industry Consultant & Executive Director of the Canadian Independent Recording Artists' Association

Quote: "Michael Jackson was a one-of-a-kind artistic innovator, and his significant and truly unique contributions to music, dance, video and fashion will be an inspiration to artists for generations to come. I was in New York a couple of days after he died, and it was amazing to witness first-hand the massive impromptu tribute to him outside the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. It made me wonder, which artist of today could generate anything close to such a huge public display of reverence? With Jackson's passing, I hope that the artists of this generation will look at his artistic legacy and be challenged to develop their craft so that they can collectively elevate the current standard of creativity."

Paul Peress, Producer, Drummer, Composer, Bandleader

: I was a big Jackson 5 fan as a kid, and grew up following Michael's career.  His music greatly influenced who I am as a musician.  "Off the Wall" is one of my top 10 albums of all time, and his song "I'll Be There" always brings me back to a special time in my life.  His death had a profound impact on me, and we have lost a true genius.  MJ set the benchmark, and brought tremendous joy into the lives of millions. I have too many visceral and sensory memories to even attempt to share. He brought it on, and delivered like no other.  But then, the burden of such fame, and the social responsibility and demands of being an icon takes its toll... very very sad... Thanks Michael for all the good times...

Andrew Craig, Artist, Producer, Director, Broadcaster

It's hard to quantify the enormous impact Michael Jackson has had on popular culture - on music, dance, on the music video format, even on our very notions of what constitutes stardom. Only years and time will lend us clarity on those subjects. I do believe, however, that I am safe in saying that his mark is indelible, and that popular entertainment will never be the same since his arrival and passing. As for the complexities of his character, which have been well documented, and even distorted in the media, let me say that I have come to view Michael as a gauge of sorts. It was not just that he grew more complex with the passing of time - our entire world has grown infinitely more complex, and us along with it. You and I seek endless distractions to prevent us from contemplating that simple truth, but perhaps Michael was too sensitive, too fragile, too spiritually vulnerable to reconcile the vagaries of this existence. Quincy Jones once commented that Michael was "not of this world". Maybe then Michael has simply gone home, back to a world he can understand, and that can understand him. I, for one, am glad he visited us, and shared his extraordinary talents.

Richard Leacock, Actor/Singer

Quote: Michael Jackson is part of the reason that I'm a performer today! I started as a dancer many years ago and use to emulate him. (who didn't right?)  Michael's music moved me as it did many others and led me to other parts of the entertainment business that I now do for a living. It's sad to know that there won't be anymore songs coming from the musical genius that he was. I'm sure I'll be "Burning this Disco Out" and "Working Day and Night" but I "Never can say Goodbye" Thank you Michael!

Joe 'Jojo' Bowden, Creative Person

"Sometimes, Stars fall to Earth to guide the way for others, then ascend back to the heavens to burn bright in the night sky."  Michael's time on Earth has influenced every known human being who has come into direct or indirect contact with him. We should all feel blessed that we were touched by his presence.

Ebonnie Rowe, President, PhemPhat Entertainment Group

Quote:  Like everyone else I was shocked, saddened and devastated when I heard of Michael's passing.  Just last week I was on youtube playing all of his videos.  In this business I am often discouraged and annoyed when I see fly-by-night manufactured artists try to pass themselves off as icons. Short-term artists in it for a quick cash grab and for whom the most important thing is to be seen in the latest fashions and at the right nightclubs.  I grew up in an era of so many true entertainers who paid their dues and gave so much to the world, innovators whose careers lasted decades, not minutes, artists with substance and depth, who took a social interest in their communities and the world because they truly cared, not because it fit into their demographic and marketing plan.  Artists who continued to take musical risks and push the envelope.  Michael Jackson's music has been in my life for all of my life. It meant so much to millions and stood the test of time - a 40 year career.  He represented to me the pinnacle of what an artist can be.  He set the highest standards for performance and used his incredible influence to help causes around the world as well as breaking down racial barriers that existed at MTV.  There is a quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet which I feel is fitting: 

"And when he shall die, take him and cut him up in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will fall in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun."  RIP Michael Jackson - a magical artist who lit up the world, the likes of whom shall never pass our way again.  My heart aches at the loss of such a talent, philanthropist and humanitarian. 

Adrian Eccleston, Guitarist, Producer, Songwriter

Its hard to write about MJ no longer being around. He was the biggest influence on my childhood and I thank the heavens for letting us watch and listen to his amazing talent for so many years. I will always remember his amazing voice, the stank faces he made when busting his serious dance moves and his amazing energy. I had the pleasure of being in the same venue as him in 2006. Needless to say, when he was announced to the stage I was standing on a chair screaming his name just like everybody else! I will never forget Michael Jackson. MJ forever!!!

Debi Blair, Producer

Quote: To the world he was a musical genius but I have always felt and believed he was part of my family just like one of my brothers.  My heart is heavy.....  I love and will truly miss you Michael.

Mateo Jordache, Artist

Quote: Having been called “young Mike” as a child vocalist I had always hoped to meet Michael so I could tell him how much he influenced me as an artist and as a risk taker.   I recorded a song in 2004 where I sang the hook “I always feel like... somebody's watchin me” ; Originally recorded by Rockwell featuring MJ on the hook  and I can remember thinking to myself, “I wonder what Michael would say if he heard this”.  If he did by chance hear it...I hope he liked it.  As one of Michaels many students, I will continue to make music from the heart... just as he did.  He will be greatly missed but never forgotten.

Michael Jackson, Pop Music Legend, Dead At 50

Source: By Todd Leopold, CNN

(June 25, 2009) He was 50.

He collapsed at his residence in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles, California, about noon Pacific time, suffering cardiac arrest, according to brother Randy Jackson. He died at UCLA Medical Center.

Lt. Fred Corral of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said an autopsy would probably be done on the singer Friday, with results expected that afternoon.

Michael Jackson made culture accept a person of color," the Rev. Al Sharpton said. "To say an 'icon' would only give these young people in Harlem a fraction of what he was. He was a historic figure that people will measure music and the industry by."

Jackson's blazing rise to stardom -- and later fall from grace -- is among the most startling of show business tales. The son of a steelworker, he rose to fame as the lead singer of the Jackson 5, a band he formed with his brothers in the late 1960s. By the late '70s, as a solo artist, he was topping the charts with cuts from "Off the Wall," including "Rock With You" and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." Watch Jackson perform at a 1988 concert »

In 1982, he released "Thriller," an album that eventually produced seven hit singles. An appearance the next year on a Motown Records 25th-anniversary special cemented his status as the biggest star in the country. Timeline: The life of Michael Jackson »

For the rest of the 1980s, they came no bigger. "Thriller's" follow-up, 1987's "Bad," sold almost as many copies. A new Jackson album -- a new Jackson appearance -- was a pop culture event. iReport: Share your memories of Michael Jackson

The pop music landscape was changing, however, opening up for rap, hip-hop and what came to be called "alternative" -- and Jackson was seen as out of step.

His next release, 1991's "Dangerous," debuted at No. 1 but "only" produced one top-ranking single -- "Black or White" -- and that song earned criticism for its inexplicably violent ending, in which Jackson was seen smashing car windows and clutching his crotch.

And then "Dangerous" was knocked out of its No. 1 spot on the album charts by Nirvana's "Nevermind," an occurrence noted for its symbolism by rock critics.

After that, more attention was paid to Jackson's private life than his music career, which faltered. A 1995 two-CD greatest hits, "HIStory," sold relatively poorly, given the huge expense of Jackson's recording contract: about 7 million copies, according to Recording Industry of America certifications.

A 2001 album of new material, "Invincible," did even worse.

In 2005, he went to trial on child-molestation charges. He was acquitted.

In July 2008, after three years away from the spotlight, Jackson announced a series of concerts at London's O2 Arena as his "curtain call." Some of the shows, initially scheduled to begin in July, were eventually postponed until 2010. Watch the reaction to Jackson's passing

Rise to stardom

Michael Jackson was born August 29, 1958, to Joe Jackson, a Gary, Indiana, steelworker, and his wife, Katherine. By the time he was 6, he had joined his brothers in a musical group organized by his father, and by the time he was 10, the group -- the Jackson 5 -- had been signed to Motown. Watch Michael Jackson's life in video

He made his first television appearance at age 11.

Jackson, a natural performer, soon became the group's front man. Music critic Langdon Winner, reviewing the group's first album, "Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5," for Rolling Stone, praised Michael's versatile singing and added, "Who is this 'Diana Ross,' anyway?"

The group's first four singles -- "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There" -- went to No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart, the first time any group had pulled off that feat. There was even a Jackson 5 cartoon series on ABC. Watch reaction from Motown Studios »

In 1972, he hit No. 1 as a solo artist with the song "Ben."

The group's popularity waned as the '70s continued, and Michael eventually went solo full time. He played the Scarecrow in the 1978 movie version of "The Wiz," and released the album "Off the Wall" in 1979. Its success paved the way for "Thriller," which eventually became the best-selling album in history, with 50 million copies sold worldwide.

At that point, Michael Jackson became ubiquitous.

Seven of "Thriller's" nine cuts were released as singles; all made the Top Ten. The then-new cable channel MTV, criticized for its almost exclusively white playlist, finally started playing Jackson's videos. They aired incessantly, including a 14-minute minimovie of the title cut. ("Weird Al" Yankovic cemented his own stardom by lampooning Jackson's song "Beat It" with a letter-perfect parody video.)

On the Motown Records' 25th-anniversary special -- a May 1983 TV extravaganza with notable turns by the Temptations, the Four Tops and Smokey Robinson -- it was Michael Jackson who stopped the show.

Already he was the most popular musician in America, riding high with "Thriller." But something about his electrifying performance of "Billie Jean," complete with the patented backward dance moves, boosted his stardom to a new level. Watch Jackson perform "Thriller" »

People copied his Jheri-curled hair and single-gloved, zippered-jacket look. Showbiz veterans such as Fred Astaire praised his chops. He posed for photos with Ronald and Nancy Reagan at the White House. Paul McCartney teamed with him on three duets, two of which -- "The Girl Is Mine" and "Say Say Say" -- became top five hits. Jackson became a Pepsi spokesman, and when his hair caught fire while making a commercial, it was worldwide news.

It all happened very fast -- within a couple years of the Motown special. But even at the time of the "Motown 25" moonwalk, fame was old hat to Michael Jackson. He hadn't even turned 25 himself, but he'd been a star for more than half his life. He was given the nickname the "King of Pop" -- a spin on Elvis Presley's status as "the King of Rock 'n' Roll" -- and few questioned the moniker.

Relentless attention

But, as the showbiz saying has it, when you're on top of the world, there's nowhere to go but down.
The relentless attention given Jackson started focusing as much on his eccentricities -- some real, some rumoured -- as his music.

As the Web site Allmusic.com notes, he was rumoured to sleep in a hyperbaric chamber and to have purchased the bones of John Merrick, the "Elephant Man." (Neither was true.) He did have a pet chimpanzee, Bubbles; underwent a series of increasingly drastic plastic surgeries; established an estate, Neverland, filled with zoo animals and amusement park rides; and managed to purchase the Beatles catalogue from under Paul McCartney's nose, which displeased the ex-Beatle immensely.

In 1990s and 2000s, Jackson found himself pasted across the media for his short-lived marriages, the first to Elvis Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie; his 2002 claim that then Sony Records head Tommy Mottola was racist; his behaviour and statements during a 2003 interview with British journalist Martin Bashir done for a documentary called "Living With Michael Jackson;" his changing physical appearance; and, above all, the accusations that he sexually molested young boys at Neverland. Watch report on legacy on Michael Jackson »

The first such accusation, in 1993, resulted in a settlement to the 13-year-old accuser (rumoured to be as high as $20 million), though no criminal charges were filed, Allmusic.com notes.

He also fell deeply in debt and was forced to sell some of his assets. Neverland was one of many holdings that went on the block. However, an auction of material from Neverland, scheduled for April, was called off and all items returned to Jackson.

Interest in Jackson never faded, however, even if some of it was prurient. In 2008, when he announced 10 comeback shows in London, beginning in July 2009, the story made worldwide news. The number of concerts was later increased to 50.

Seventy-five thousand tickets sold in four hours when they went on sale in March.

However, when the shows were postponed until 2010, rumours swept the Internet that Jackson was not physically prepared and possibly suffering from skin cancer. Watch discussion of his tough life, brilliant career »

At the time, the president and CEO of AEG Live, Randy Phillips, said, "He's as healthy as can be -- no health problems whatsoever."

Jackson held open auditions for dancers in April in Los Angeles.

He is survived by his three children, Prince Michael I, Paris and Prince

Tribute to Michael Jackson

Source: Dwayne Morgan

I wasn’t expecting to write this;
It wasn’t on my to do list,
but it’s taken precedence;
After all,
you’ve given me so much,
It’s the least that I can do.
Growing up,
I wanted to be just like you;
The teenage Black boy on my TV screen,
that made people faint and scream,
every time you walked down the street;
they just don’t make them like they use to.
You were one of a kind,
And time will never produce another like you.
You gave the world your childhood,
And refused to let your inner child grow up.
You were the soundtrack to a generation.
You dedicated your life to the well being and enjoyment of others,
and what did we do?
We picked at you like vultures,
Ripping you to shreds,
until you looked nothing like your former self.
Yes, I too made jokes,
questioning whether you were black or white .
we thought that you’d gone off the wall,
but through it all,
there was still a love there;
a place for you in our hearts,
that’s come alive with word of your passing.
Despite the trials and controversy,
you refused to conform to society’s ‘norms’,
and marched to the sounds of your own beat,
in the process leaving us with beats to dance too.
I’m not old enough to remember
the first time a man walked on the moon,
but I’ll never forget the way you moon walked across that stage,
and how you had us trying to imitate you
in the school hallway the following day;
You left us more than just music.
There’s so much more that I feel I should say,
but what’s the point when these tributes usually come too late.
I will have to look at the man in the mirror,
and ask myself what more I can do to make this world a better place.
Truth be told, I’m envious,
Not of your fame or success,
But because there was something in you that we all wish we had;
a love for humanity; pure, beautiful, and naïve.
Despite the situation,
I always held out hope and believed;
I crossed my fingers and closed my eyes,
wanting nothing more than for you to succeed,
against the odds.
I wish you could have known
that you were truly not alone.
Your music will only stop long enough
for the entire world to watch your final show,
and embrace you with the love you’ve longed for.
Even in death,
There will be many who pick you apart,
But no-one can deny the power of your art,
So I say thank you Michael Jackson,
Dead at age 50 from a broken heart.


Can Drake, Eminem Save The Music Industry?

Source: www.thestar.com - Mike Collett-White

(June 21, 2010) LONDON—Recovery, the new album from U.S. rapper Eminem, could not be more aptly named for a music business facing an alarming fall in sales so far this year. The Detroit star’s seventh studio album hits shelves on Monday, a day earlier than planned after tracks leaked on to the Internet. It comes about a week after the release of Canadian artist Drake’s debut Thank Me Later, which is also expected to perform strongly.

But the duo are unlikely to lift the gloom hanging over the music business for long, with year-to-date U.S. physical and digital album sales by early June down 11 per cent year-on-year to 130.6 million, extending a decade-long decline.

To make matters worse, the recent boom in touring, which labels and bands sought to exploit as recorded music faded, is showing signs of weakness caused by high ticket prices and economic uncertainty, and digital download growth is slowing.

Official figures for the key U.S. market as it approaches mid-year show how tough conditions are for music companies and acts who blame illegal file sharing for their woes.

According to Nielsen Soundscan, which tracks sales, 4.98 million albums were sold in the week ending May 30, possibly the lowest figure since the early 1970s. By comparison, the record one-week tally set in December 2000 was 45.4 million.

Analysts put the low figure down to a weak line-up during that particular week, and Drake’s record is forecast to be one of the largest launches of the year so far while Eminem, another “tentpole” album, follows hot on its heels.


Yet while major and independent labels are pinning their future on digital music, whether it is access models or actual ownership, they can ill afford to abandon physical sales which account for somewhere in the region of 70 per cent of revenues.

“The physical format is in decline, but I don’t think it will go away completely,” said Ed Christman, who tracks music sales for industry publication Billboard.

“What you want to do, since the digital ‘magical bullet’ hasn’t appeared, is to sustain your revenue from CD sales for as long as you can.”

Although relatively small in terms of a label’s revenues, digital streaming, downloading, online subscriptions and advertising are seen as key to the industry’s future.

“The revenue is still small, but at least it’s revenue,” said one major label executive. “Don’t forget, some 95 per cent of the digital market is illegal. If we can grow that five per cent significantly, we’ve got a future.”

That task is proving slow going, and while a recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that the music industry will return to growth in 2013, some analysts are less sure.

“Given the incredible number of ways a person can now listen to music for free or near free, that gap between interest and willingness to pay is the biggest hurdle in record labels’ quest to grow digital revenues,” Billboard said of the report.

In the short term, all eyes will be on Eminem, one of the world’s best-selling artists of the last decade who has said in interviews to promote Recovery that he is over his prescription drug addiction, is sober and more tolerant than he used to be.

Whether the “nice guy” image appeals to fans is unclear.

Early reaction to the album, out on Universal Music Group’s Interscope label, has been mixed.

London’s Evening Standard was among the most positive with a four-star review that concluded: “After seven albums, Eminem is so far ahead of the pack he only has himself to compete with. Even by that measurement, he’s winning.”

The Independent was less glowing, stating: “If we’re being brutally frank, I think we already know far more about Eminem’s private life and his alleged mental torment than is probably healthy for us, let alone the rapper himself.”

VIDEO: Calgary Group To Perform At Michael Jackson Tribute

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

[Note from Dawn – DEFINITELY check out this video!] (June 20, 2010) A Calgary vocal group will perform as part of a Michael Jacksontribute at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, after winning a talent search launched by the museum.

EarthTONES and beatboxer Peterpot were selected after submitting a YouTube video of a Michael Jackson medley, performed a capella.

“We put that little YouTube clip together and then bam,” says EarthTONES member Scott Henderson. “We’re just absolutely on Cloud 9.”

The group made the video in May, just weeks after reuniting following a years-long hiatus.

The museum’s Michael Jackson Tribute Weekend June 25-27 marks the one-year anniversary of the singer’s death. The EarthTONES will perform on June 27, sharing the bill with several acts including the headliner, R&B singer Angie Stone.  

We Remember: Manute Bol, NBA Star, Dies at 47

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Larita Shelby

(June 20, 2010) Manute Bol (October 16, 1962 – June 19, 2010) *Manute Bol, the seven-foot plus Sudanese basketball player who played for a number of teams in the NBA, including the Washington Bullets and the Golden State Warriors, died Friday night.

The cause was a combination of symptoms arising from a rare skin condition called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, which he contracted from medication taken while in Africa.

He was known for his shot-blocking as well as his humanitarian and political efforts in his native Sudan.

Read more about Manute Bol via his Wikipedia page


We’re No. 1! Canadians’ Top In-Country Destination Is Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - Jim Byers and Adrian Brijbassi

(June 18, 2010) We’re No. 1!  So much for the rest of Canada hating us. Our town is the top Canadian summer destination for travellers in the country, according to Hotwire.com (based on booking stays from June 1 to Sept. 1). “Overall, Hotwire bookings are up 3 to 6 per cent this summer for Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal,” says Fulvia Montresor, Hotwire’s senior director, merchandising.:

1. Toronto — An increasingly solid international reputation, with new, interesting neighbourhoods (Leslieville, Ossington) popping up every day. And Rob Ford leads the mayoral polls!

2. Vancouver — Scout out a choice piece of driftwood on Third Beach, bring a barbecue, a cooler, a book, friends with a variety of benefits and wait for the sunset over English Bay and Howe Sound. Repeat the next day. And the day after that. And until the rain comes in October.

3. Montreal — Lionel Richie is this year’s Jazz Fest headliner. That won’t stop the crowds from partying all night long — especially once the Gipsy Kings hit the stage.

4. Ottawa — Go to the Bluesfest. Don’t ask how come. Just do it. Thank us later. (It’s July 6-18.)

5. Halifax — Awesome waterfront in this part of Nova Scotia, plus all the pubs you’d expect from a first-rate university town make this the hub of the Maritimes. “Bookings are up a big 85 per cent as travellers are looking to take advantage of the amazing deals hotels are offering,” Montresor says.

6. Calgary — The Stampede ropes in the tourists, with more than 1 million ponying up big bucks for tickets and lodging annually.

7. Niagara Falls — Is there more to the Falls than a natural wonder and tacky kitsch? Yes, and read upcoming editions of Star Travel to find out what.

8. Quebec City — The narrow streets, cozy hotels, great food and luscious views make it one of the most romantic cities on earth. If you don’t get lucky here it’s your own fault.

9. Edmonton — A city of great festivals and winning sports teams with a wonderful river valley. Not hip? Wrong – a rapper was the city’s recent poet laureate.

10. Banff, Alta. — Jaw-dropping scenery, great restaurants, a world-class golf course and deer nibbling flowers at the side of the road in the middle of downtown. Not bad.


Toronto Songwriters Earn Credits On Eminem’s New Album

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 21, 2010) A pair of Toronto songwriters has hit the big time with credits on Eminem’s new album Recovery.

Released Monday, the Detroit rapper’s seventh disc is being heralded as a return to form, with the clever, incendiary lyrics that made him the biggest selling artist of 2000-09, after last year’s tepid Relapse followed a sabbatical spent fighting drug addiction and mourning his murdered best friend.

And it’s got a big dose of Canadian content.

Liz Wright and Erik Alcock, performers in their own right, who have previously penned songs for rappers Pitbull and Slaughterhouse, conceived the lyrics and melody of choruses on three of Recovery’s 17 tracks — “Won’t Back Down,” “25 To Life” and “Almost Famous.”

They share lead vocals in the band The New Royales with Vancouver-based Chin Injeti (formerly of Bass is Base) and American producer DJ Khalil. It was Khalil, signed to the Aftermath label of Eminem spar and executive producer Dr. Dre, who paved the way to Eminem. He produced the tracks they wrote, as well as one other on Recovery.

“It is a big deal, how could it not be?” enthused Rodrigues, who also can be heard singing the recurring verses of “25 To Life” and “Almost Famous.” “To land on the album of somebody that respected as a writer . . . and people just love what he does.”

The 34-year-old songstress, who has a duet on Dan Hill’s current album, doesn’t mind that Eminem replaced her other demo vocals on “Won’t Back Down” with pop star Pink.

“I love hearing her on it, because there’s an edge that she has that gives it a little bit more of the powerful meaning behind it,” said Rodrigues of Pink’s interpretation of the lines — “You can sound the alarm/You can call out your guards/You can fence in your yard/You can pull all the cards/But I won’t back down.”

Is she conceding the American is a better singer?

“I wouldn’t even get into that, because I’m such a big fan of hers, I wouldn’t even try to compare. To hear her on something that I wrote is really exciting.”

Alcock, 27, a proficient musician and member of indie quartet We Are the Take is stoked that “Won’t Back Down” retains the same guitar riffs he recorded on the demo in his Annex apartment using the GarageBand software application. In a phone interview with the Toronto Star, he lauded Eminem’s flow and declined to critique the profane, misogynistic “I’m a sh-- stain on the underwear of life” rhymes the rapper wrote around the chorus, but conceded, “I wouldn’t make fun of Michael J. Fox” given the mockery of the Parkinson’s afflicted actor in the tune.

While “Almost Famous,” is about the challenges of being a public figure, Eminem goes for bravado — “I stick my di-- in this game like a rapist” — rather than vulnerability, which the songwriters imbue with the chorus.

“I think his expression, his interpretation is bang on for him,” said Rodrigues, whose “There Comes a Time” was recorded by Céline Dion in 2008. “It’s exactly who he is and what the hooks inspired him to write.”

She recalled coming up with the stanzas — “You dream of trading places/I have been changing faces” during a writing session in Los Angeles with Alcock, Injeti and Khalil.

“We were sitting around brainstorming and talking about being imprisoned by fame, like people like Eminem. We started to talk about having to change your appearance all the time and people wanting to be just like you all the time, but at the same time you’re trying to disguise who you are to not be noticed so you can have some kind of freedom.”

Alcock’s We Are the Take quartet had its “Montreal Love Song” used on an episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation. The track is more typical of the pop rock output of the performer, who began writing songs at 12 and signed his first publishing deal at 17.

“This hip-hop stuff I fell ass backwards into,” he explained. “Never in a million years did I see myself doing it, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s pretty cool. I don’t know what (the Eminem contributions) are going to mean financially; I know it takes quite a while for royalties to come dripping down the street.”

In the meantime, he continues to perform with We Are the Take (at the Drake Hotel July 2), to work on The New Royales mixtape and to try to figure out how to have Jay-Z record one of his songs.

“It’s a hell of a goal, but hey, I just got Eminem and I never thought that was going to happen.”

Jazz Fest Cancellation Leaves Calgary Scrambling

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 21, 2010) The Calgary Jazz Festival’s last-minute decision to pull the plug on the event has left ticket holders and venues scrambling to figure out how to deal with the cancellation.

With a line-up that included jazz legends such as Ben E. King and Chick Corea, the 2010 edition of the Calgary Jazz Festival promised a “seven day party with the best musicians in the world!” But two days before it was supposed to begin, organizers cancelled the event, citing financial reasons.

The decision was made after a six-hour board meeting Saturday, where, according to a written release, members analyzed the cash flow and profit projections for this year’s festival, and examined alternatives such as scaling down the event. “They came to the conclusion that there was no possibility of financial success in 2010,” read the release.

“As a result, they decided less pain would be inflicted on artists, volunteers and jazz music fans by cancelling the festival before the event started rather than during the festival ... as seemed likely.”

The cancellation left C-Jazz, the organization which runs the festival, unsure on Monday – the day the festival was supposed to start – about arrangements to provide refunds to ticket holders.

Venues scheduled to hold jazz festival events were also scrambling to deal with the surprise decision.

At Mikey’s Juke Joint & Eatery, the plan is to go ahead with shows Mikey’s has booked itself, but even Monday afternoon, owner and operator Darin Muller was unsure how they were going to handle admissions.

“We don’t know whether people are expecting to come in with their passes and not have to pay us and then we’re going to have to be paying the band, because obviously the Jazz Festival won’t be paying the band, so it’s sort of a grey area,” he said. “We could be upsetting a lot of people by charging them again; or we could be biting the bullet.”

At Beatniq Jazz & Social Club (which has had its own share of financial troubles; it almost went under last year), spokesperson Alex Middleton said the venue’s owner was trying to contact the bands they’ve booked and pay for them out of his own pocket, but said it would be impossible to honour previously-purchased tickets. Middleton said they are considering offering discounts to ticket holders, but nothing had been nailed down by deadline yesterday.

“They cancelled on Saturday night, so we’re trying to work out the logistics and we’re trying make it as easy as possible for people who are supportive of jazz in the city,” he said. “Obviously we’re incredibly disappointed by what happened but we’re scrambling to make sure there are places to go for people who love jazz.

In an e-mail to the Globe and Mail Monday, interim C-Jazz president Richard Sherry wrote: “Close examination of the financial situation Saturday revealed that it would be impossible for the financial commitments to be met. We sincerely apologize for this appalling situation.”

Nikki Yanofsky Is A Sunny Girl

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(June 23, 2010) Her record label, Universal Music, brands her simply as a “songstress” and her website describes her as a “singing sensation.” With her self-titled debut studio album, Nikki Yanofsky breaks somewhat free from her “jazz kitten” status by mixing soulful pop with sleek jazz standards. The 16-year-old Montreal-based phenom speaks about straddling lines and broadening audiences in advance of her gigs on the jazz-festival circuit, kicking off Friday in Toronto.

One of the cover songs on your album is the jazz standard On the Sunny Side of the Street. Is that the side you walk on?

I have been. I’m very, very lucky. I generally tend to be an optimistic person. I think even if all of this wasn’t going on, I’d get everyone on the sunny side of the street. And I’d be there too. It’s better than the cloudy side.

Billie Holiday, one of the many who sang that song, often walked on the cloudy side.

She did for sure. It’s very unfortunate. She was very powerful person, but I guess not everyone has that outlook of just being happy. They have things to be sad about.

Everything has been going well for you, but your debut studio album, Nikki, was criticized a bit. Did you read The Globe and Mail’s review?

I read it. I didn’t find it that bad actually. I was actually pretty happy with it.

What about the criticism that the mix of jazz and pop was a bit unwieldy?

The “not picking a lane” thing. That was deliberate actually. I wanted pop lovers to listen to jazz, and I wanted jazz lovers to listen to pop. That’s who I am. By picking a lane, I think I’d be going against myself.

There will be more albums to come, though. Why not choose your lanes album by album?

I don’t feel comfortable just picking one genre. I think I’d be shooting myself in the foot that way. We wanted to make this album personal. It was with intent that we did it the way we did.

Is it possible to make what might be considered a truly great album with that kind of eclectic approach?

I’d like to imagine that Miles Davis would be adventuring across different genres of music, like Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter are now, if he were still alive, and if he would have continued recording after Doo-Bop.

Hancock’s new album, The Imagine Project, certainly is eclectic.

I think the entire question is a reflection of the times. I was brought up in a world where all the music I listened to was purchased digitally, which, by default, means that I had the luxury of living in a playlist environment that I got to create. The result of that is I get to experience a lot of different genres, and I guess my writing and musical choices reflect that.

You end the album with Over the Rainbow. Why?

It’s timeless. I never get sick of it. The Wizard of Oz is one of my favourite movies, and I love Judy Garland and all of her songs. Everyone wants to put their own little spin on Over the Rainbow, and to take something so old and bring something new to the table. It’s a reference point.

You’ve sung it for a few years now. Has it changed for you?

I sing it very differently than I used to. It’s a song that shows off a lot of range. Because of that, originally, I used to do a lot of melismas and everything. As I’ve matured as a vocalist, I’ve learned about simplicity. The version I sing now is closer to the original melody, although there’s still the little Nikki-isms in there.

You threw a couple of Nikki-isms into your O Canada at the Vancouver Olympics. Surprisingly, there was some negative reaction.

I thought it was beautiful. But whatever – it’s human nature.

You sing Holiday’s God Bless the Child, which has the line “God bless the child that’s got his own.” Is that song personal to you?

I don’t relate to it the same way Billie Holiday did. Songs are written for people to take something away from, so they can relate to it in their own way.

But Holiday once said the line stemmed from an argument with her mother over money. You’re a child who certainly has her own, right?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a career, or a source of income. It could be a source of inspiration, or just being yourself. Or it could be something original that you do.

Nikki Yanofsky plays the Toronto Jazz Festival, Friday; Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, Saturday; Calgary, June 28; Edmonton International Jazz Festival, June 29; Victoria International Jazz Fest, July 2; Vancouver International Jazz Festival, July 3; Winnipeg International Jazz Festival, July 4.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

The Jazz Musicians’ Jazz Musicians

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 23, 2010) Who better than musicians to rate the hottest acts at the 24th edition of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival? We asked 10 local artists — all of them participating in the festival — which one headliner would they buy tickets for.


Good thing this young bassist’s opening act slot for Herbie Hancock guarantees her a spot at the famed pianist’s Saturday show at Nathan Phillips Square. “Herbie has always paid homage to the tradition of jazz while capturing the attention of the younger audience and incorporating new sounds of today’s music. He has had an impact on my musical journey since I was a little girl.”


Bassist Young would most like to see The Harry Connick Jr. Orchestra at the Canon Theatre Sunday. “I like his energy and presentation of a song. He comes across as more genuine than a lot of singers these days. Maybe his acting ability helps in delivering the song. And he is one of the few guys who keeps a larger group working.” Young’s quartet opens for Stanley Clarke at NPS June 28.


Drummer Clarke will be performing in Saskatchewan and unable to checkout The Roots at NPS Tuesday, including Questlove, his “latest favourite drummer. All the players in that band, as evidenced nightly on Jimmy Fallon’s show, are excellent, dedicated players who are growing and stretching their own boundaries. . . While they are not stone-cold beboppers, their music still swings ferociously and with integrity.” Clarke will be back in town to swing with his trio at Trane Studio July 2.


Singer Butcher has bought tickets for Bettye LaVette’s Phoenix show Tuesday. “Her voice is outstanding, but I’m really drawn to her ability to truly ‘interpret’ the music. I find listening to her sing the music of Elton John, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, etc. (on newly released Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook), I understand their lyrics as I never have before. She’s able to light up every word with honest emotion and raw power.” Butcher turns in a free 12:30 p.m. quartet show at the Shops at Don Mills on June 30.


He’s got a 16-month-old at home and his own gig helming Random Access Unplugged at the Music Gallery on Monday, but drummer Romberg hopes to squeeze in trumpeter Dave Douglas & Keystone at Enwave Theatre June 29. “Douglas is one of the great composers in modern jazz. His quintet with the Rhodes and his Keystone band, which is a bit more funky, fuse the elements of great writing with great improvisation . . . and there’s always a real group dynamic. He’s my inspiration for my own spearheading of different projects.”


The saxist/vocalist is miffed to be out of town when Keith Jarrett’s piano trio plays the Four Seasons Centre next Wednesday. “He has the ability to draw the listener into his experience. Also, this is one of the longest-working trios in jazz; imagine the level of creative communication possible when you’ve been playing together with the same guys for almost 30 years.” Viswanathan performs a free 5 p.m. show with Jaffa Road this Sunday at NPS.


You’d think this flautist would be jockeying to hear some of the horn greats playing the fest, but he’s also keen on Jarrett. “Any concert by Keith Jarrett is guaranteed to be a source of genuine beauty and real inspiration, to any listener, whether a musician or not!” said McBirnie, who will miss the show, which coincides with one of his eight jazz fest gigs — this one at Hot House Café with Brenda Carol & ClaireVoyance.


The vocalist’s pick is singer Mavis Staples’ NPS show June 30. “She is the most soulful, most spiritual of my personal favourite artists,” said Richardson, who performs with the Russ Little Quintet at Old Mill Inn on Monday. “Nobody can hum and moan like Mavis Staples. She is the real deal.”


The saxman and former TDJ artistic director, who performs a free noon show at NPS this Sunday, plans to catch trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s big band at Koerner Hall July 1. “He’s truly a jazz player — fiery and full of musical surprises. And he has tremendous knowledge of the roots of the music: he’s as contemporary as can be, but can pick an obscure ballad and knock you out with it. He’s also a great singer.”


“I don’t know enough about her music, but when I listen to Angelique Kidjo I hear strength and passion; I’d like to hear more,” said vocalist Cuevas, who heads to the Montreal Jazz Festival after her Lula Lounge septet show this Sunday and hopes to be back in town for Kidjo’s July 1 NPS concert.

The TD Toronto Jazz Festival runs June 25-July 4. Visit www.torontojazz.com for tickets and information.

Herbie Hancock: The Jazz Ambassador

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 23, 2010) If the dozen Grammys, classical pedigree and storied history including membership in Miles Davis’s second great quintet aren’t indication enough of Herbie Hancock’s stature, consider his regard amongst musicians. When the Star asked a selection of local performers to name the one headlining concert they most wanted to attend at this year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival, which kicks off Friday, more than half cited the piano dean.

Veteran saxophonist Mike Murley, bummed that his gig at the Rex coincides with Hancock’s Saturday night show at Nathan Phillips Square, gave a typical response:

“How do you top Herbie Hancock? Every time I hear Herbie, his music amazes me with its vitality, energy and incredible harmonic and rhythmic sophistication. His playing always sounds fresh. He is a true improviser and a master musician who continues to evolve artistically. It seems strange to think of him as one of the elder statesmen of the music, but I suppose at this point he is just that.”

On the phone from his California environs, Hancock, who is being feted Thursday with a 70th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall, was initially mirthful about his position as a living legend.

“It’s either that or be dead; what kind of choice is that?” he laughed before addressing the subject seriously.

“Along with being an elder statesman comes a deep responsibility and that is to do what was done for me,” said Hancock, who was 23 when he joined Davis, 14 years his senior, and his band in 1963. “There were elder statesmen that shared their knowledge and their experience with me to help, to help shape me, so it’s my responsibility to carry on that tradition.”

His current band is comprised of seasoned players such as drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, guitarist Lionel Loueke and keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, along with a 24-year-old female bassist, Australian newcomer Tal Wilkenfeld.

“I always try to provide an atmosphere that’s open enough so that musical output is a collaboration with all the musicians that are involved and that they have the freedom to express themselves and go in any direction that they feel at the moment,” Hancock explained.

“I encourage that, the way that Miles Davis encouraged me to do that. He told me he paid us to think outside the box, he paid us to work on stuff. And I hope to provide that kind of freedom and being in the moment with the musicians that work with me. I try to let them know, not necessarily with my mouth or my brain, but in my behaviour and in the music I play that it’s okay to try things and its okay to fail ‘If this doesn’t work, so what? Nobody’s going to die.’”

They do, however, have the possibility of garnering a reputation like Hancock’s as a jazz pioneer who successfully incorporated electronics, rock, funk and hip-hop and contributed standards such as “Watermelon Man, “Cantaloupe Island” and “Maiden Voyage” to the canon.

He’s at it again with this week’s release of The Imagine Project. Working with Larry Klein, who produced his 2007 Album of the Year Grammy winner River: The Joni Letters, Hancock travelled around the world to record a cover album with a disparate array of musicians, including: North Americans Pink, John Legend, Indie.Arie, Derek Trucks, Wayne Shorter and K’Naan; Brits Jeff Beck and James Morrison; Africans Oumou Sangare, Tinariwen and Konono No. 1; Latin acts Juanes and Ceu; and Indian sitarist Anoushka Shankar.

Though mostly recorded live with few overdubs, Hancock says this album is not about musical proficiency, but the societal progression urged in recorded tunes, such as Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come,” Bob Dylan’s “The Times, They Are a’ Changin’” and Bob Marley’s “Exodus.”

Politely, he dismisses a reporter’s suggestion that music has a poor record of curing the world’s ills.

“Think about, for example, ‘We Shall Overcome’ and the impact that had. And the fact that the song ‘Imagine’ is still valid; so many generations know that song. What about ‘We are the World?’ Look at the impact that had. Look how much money it raised. If it had some impact, and it helped some of the problems, you can either look at it as a glass half empty or half full. I’d rather look at it as half full. I’m more of an optimist than a pessimist.

“I feel strongly that many people will not just hear the music, but have it trigger something that’s already in their hearts as a human being, which is that there’s a value to being open and to being inclusive, and we need that spirit in order to create the kind of globalized present and future that we want to live in.”

Fair enough, but what’s with another Hancock disc filled with singers? Though he turns in a few superb solos, chances are longtime fans would prefer to hear more of his playing.

“This record is not about me,” the maestro maintains. “This record is about global collaboration. I’ve got plenty of records where you hear a lot of me. Miles Davis” — here he drops his voice to mimic the trumpet icon’s trademark rasp — “used to say, ‘You only need to play one note that speaks volumes.’”

Audio: Chuck D Track Targets Arizona…Again

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 21, 2010) *Public Enemy’s Chuck D has again put the entire state of Arizona in his crosshairs.

Nearly 20 years after the P.E. single “By the Time I Get to Arizona” blasted the state for refusing to recognize Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a national holiday, frontman Chuck D has released a new track titled “Tear Down That Wall,” which targets the state’s controversial new immigration law. [Scroll down to listen.]

“Yeah, because the governor is a Hitler,” Chuck D told Billboard.com. “Things do change from time to time, but it goes right back into just proving that it wants to be something else. ‘Tear Down That Wall’ is something that has its own life. It’s not that you’re doing anything to be opportunistic. I talked about the wall not only just dividing the U.S. and Mexico but the states of California, New Mexico and Texas. But Arizona, it’s like, come on. Now they’re going to enforce a law that talks about basically racial profiling.”

“Tear Down That Wall,” which is available at www.slamjamz.com, will appear on his solo CD, to be released at a later date.

Listen below.

P-Funk Guitarist Garry “StarchildShider Dies at 56

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 18, 2010) *Garry Shider, the longtime musical director of Parliament-Funkadelic known as “Starchild,” died Wednesday at his home in Upper Marlboro, Md, reports the Associated Press. He was 56.

Shider, also known as “Diaperman” because of the loincloth he often wore on stage, had been diagnosed with brain and lung cancer in late March, according to his son Garrett. He then briefly went out on tour one last time but had to stop because of his failing health.

“He was a beautiful man who had a beautiful heart, who loved his fans just as much as they loved him,” Garrett Shider said. “I’m sure if he had the choice, he would have passed on a tour bus, because he loved playing music, playing for the fans.”

A New Jersey native, Shider started his musical career as a young boy, performing mostly gospel music in churches in a group that included his brother and was overseen by their father. The band also played backup for many prominent gospel artists when they performed concerts in the area, but Shider’s musical taste soon grew more diverse.

The teenager first met P-Funk mastermind George Clinton in the late 1960s at a Plainfield barbershop Clinton owned, where future P-Funk members would sing doo-wop for customers and counsel local youths. Then, when he was around 16, Shider and a friend went to Canada, where they formed a funk/rock band called United Soul, or “U.S.”

Clinton, who was living in Toronto at the time, heard about the band from people in the local music business, and took the band under his wing upon learning that Shider was a member. He helped produce some of their songs and eventually invited Shider to join P-Funk, a combination of two bands, Parliament and Funkadelic.

Shider soon became a mainstay of Clinton’s wide-ranging musical family, eventually serving as its musical director and co-writing some of Parliament-Funkadelic’s biggest hits.

“Thank you, Garry for all you have done. Forever funkin’ on!” Clinton noted in a message posted on his website.

Shider first appeared on Funkadelic’s 1971 album “Maggot Brain” and Parliament’s second album “Up for the Down Stroke,” and joined P-Funk for good in 1972. He became one of Clinton’s most trusted lieutenants, co-writing and providing vocals on some of the band’s biggest hits — including “Atomic Dog,” “Cosmic Slop,” “Can You Get to That” and “One Nation Under the Groove.”

He also toured with P-Funk for many years and was still considered an active member of the group. He also was among 16 members — including Clinton — who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, winning recognition for their musicianship, politically charged lyrics, outlandish concept albums and memorable live performances. Barbara Thomas, part of a group that is raising money to help Shider’s family cover his medical bills, said she was “truly heartbroken” over his death. She said upcoming benefit concerts in New York and New Jersey would go on as planned.

“Over the past forty years, Garry put his stamp and signature of everything he did musically,” stated a message posted on the group’s website, http://www.garryshidermedicalfund.com. “His talent was and always will be unmatched.”

Ke$Ha: Here For The Party

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 20, 2010) With her rather trashy esthetic — cowboy boots, big hair, smudged makeup, nose hoop — and anecdotes about throwing up in Paris Hilton’s closet and sending gift-wrapped poop to enemies, singer-rapper Ke$ha is easy to dismiss as a lightweight who got lucky with the handful of infectious electro pop tunes that catapulted her into the spotlight.

Not high fashion like Rihanna, outrageous as Lady Gaga, or clever as Katy Perry, the Nashville-based, L.A.-born performer has remained competitive on the strength of her January debut, Animal, which has scored three top ten singles, “Blah Blah Blah,” “Your Love is My Drug” and the ubiquitous “Tik Tok

,” which spent nine weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 chart to become the longest running No. 1 debut single by a female artist since Debby Boone’s 1977 “You Light Up My Life.”

That party anthem is rife with typical Ke$ha insouciance — “I'm talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk/ Boys tryin' to touch my junk, junk/ Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk.”

Up close, the performer, who is in town to perform at Sunday’s MuchMusic Video Awards, was surprisingly sober, as in both lucid and serious. Chatting with the Star backstage after soundcheck at the network’s Queen St. headquarters, Ke$ha cited Bob Dylan as inspiration, lauded the power of positive thinking and came close to tears on the subject of animals dying in the Gulf oil spill. She seemed older than her 23 years despite the trademark shorts and glittery eye shadow.

“I am a very serious songwriter and a very serious artist and I take what I do very seriously; it just so happens that what I do is make people dance,” said Ke$ha who co-wrote every track on Animal. “And as silly as it may seem it’s very important for people to have fun. My main objective with this record is to embody youthful irreverence and happiness.

“I was broke, my family was broke, all my friends were broke, and instead of making it into a pity party and writing a slow, depressing record, I decided to look at it as a challenge and in a positive sense.”

Though she was raised with two brothers by mom Pebe Sebert who struggled with her own singing career before finding moderate success as songwriter, Ke$ha wasn’t deterred from going down the same path.

“Ever since I was little, she told me that’s it up to me to create my own reality,” explained the entertainer who went from “yodelling around the house” as a child to starting her first band in Grade 8 and moving back to Los Angeles on her own at 17 to pursue a pop career.

“I’ve actualized all of this. Singing was the only thing I ever thought I was really good at and I thought might as well run with it, because I love doing it and I don’t feel like being a banker.”

Though her nascent demo landed in hands of Animal’s executive producer Dr. Luke six years ago, Ke$ha toiled in the trenches — penning tunes or singing backup for the likes of The Veronicas, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears before getting a break on Flo Rida’s top-selling “Right Round” last year.

“That was a huge turning point. I didn’t get credit or money from it — I got featured internationally, but not in the States — but for an artist who has been struggling, been raised by single parent who is a struggling artist, finally to hear your voice on the radio and to be taken seriously as a songwriter and musician and an artist and a singer was a massive moment for me.”

She adopted the dollar sign in her name as “a confidence booster, because I was really broke and instead of being upset about it I decided no money was not going to bring me down. I was not going to let a dollar get in my way of realizing and actualizing my dreams. So put it in my name like, ‘I’m money, bitches! and here I am.’ “

Here she is, riding high with 4.9 million downloads, two MMVA nominations and the opening act slot on Rihanna’s summer tour. “Tik Tok” has been featured on The Simpsons and Ke$ha has made the rounds of all the high-profile American award and TV shows, including the Grammys and American Idol. Too busy to move out of her mom’s basement, she’s so big her former managers have filed a $14-million lawsuit against her.

“I’m very lucky, because I’m at a point where I can start reaching to a lot of people about things that are important to me; that’s really an upside to fame, but the rest of its really weird.”

Like the way everything she says goes viral. Yes, Ke$ha did tell some reporter or other about sending dog excrement to somebody that pissed her off, but she describes herself as “mortified” now that the story is making the rounds. She’d prefer people view that as the by-product of a creative mind and follow her lead on rescuing abused and abandoned dogs and raising money for Tennessee flood victims.

“People think I named my record Animal, because I’m a party animal. I can be, sure, but I feel like I am very much an animal, I’m very much in touch with that side of myself.”

That begs the obvious question.

“I wish it were something sexy like a jaguar, but I think I’m like a seal or a narwhal — something far more awkward and interesting.”

Much of a Muchness

Details on the MuchMusic Video Awards:

Airing: 9 p.m. on MuchMusic; Red Carpet Special at 8.

Performers: Adam Lambert, Down With Webster, Drake, Hedley, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Marianas Trench and Miley Cyrus (also co-host).

Presenters: Too many to name, but including Nikki Yanofsky, Karl Wolf, LIGHTS, Three Days Grace, hockey hero Jonthan Toews, actors Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz and Xavier Samuel from the new Twilight film Eclipse, and TV stars Blake McGrath, Jessica Szohr, Kristin Cavallari, Miranda Cosgrove, Nina Dobrev, Shenae Grimes and, from Jersey Shore, Pauly D and Snooki.

Maxwell Cancels Second Half of Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 17, 2010) *Bad news for Maxwell fans hoping to see him on the second part of his summer tour – you’ll have to wait until next year.

The singer has announced he is pulling out of his U.S. tour with Jill Scott and Erykah Badu citing “scheduling conflicts.”

According to his camp, Maxwell will play all of his dates up to and including sold out concerts at New York’s Madison Square Garden on June 25 and 26, but he has postponed the entire second leg of the trek.

He was due to perform 11 shows between June 28 and July 15, in such cities as Nashville, Tennessee and Boston, but the gigs will now take place sometime in 2011.

Now for the drama: There are rumours that Maxwell’s so-called “scheduling conflicts” is really a cover for a major disagreement he’s supposedly having with Jill Scott and Erykah Badu over time slots in the line-up.

Scott’s publicist has already slammed the reports, telling Billboard.com, “Jill has enjoyed every moment on stage with Maxwell, whom she calls a consummate gentleman and tour mate. She looks forward to sharing the rest of the tour with all of the supportive followers.”

And Maxwell’s reps at Shore Fire Media just continue to blame the cancellation on “scheduling difficulties” without going into further detail.

The publicity firm also stated: “Due to scheduling conflicts with the venues, Maxwell’s additional tour dates with Melanie Fiona (scheduled to begin June 28 in Greensboro, N.C.) have been postponed to 2011. Refunds have been provided to ticket buyers. New dates will be announced later this year.”

Miley Cyrus: Tamed, Famed, Lame

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Can’t Be Tamed
Miley Cyrus

(June 21, 2010) On Sunday, her appearance hosting the MuchMusic Video Awards was much ballyhooed. Earlier in the week, she defended her skimpy attire to the press: “I'm not trying to be slutty.” Then there was her paparazzi-friendly faux-mance last month with Justin Bieber. And let us attempt to forget the recent “was she wearing panties?” controversy involving blogger Perez Hilton  

The pop star
Miley Cyrus is getting a taste of what life is like as a sought-after super-celebrity – someone like the ever-embattled Britney Spears.

On the Spears-style dance track Robot, the woman-child Cyrus sings about being a hollow shell, about breaking free, about not being part of the big machine. Oh, she’s probably dealing generically with relationships – she mostly does so on this, her third studio album, a synthetic disco-pop record marred by trite lyrics, cheap beats, bland production and grab-free hooks – but Robot might also be a cry for help. There’s not a sliver of individuality on this uninspired album; the Hannah Montana star has blended in with the crowd here.

Cyrus, an emancipation-seeking 17-year-old, told Billboard she hopes Can’t Be Tamed will be her final pop record. I hope so too, but that’s not my point. My point is that it’s possible that the too-young-to-be-dusky Cyrus may be looking at the life and career of someone like Spears as a cautionary tale – that Spears is an empty vessel for whatever pop music her high-priced producers put in front of her. Perhaps the supposedly untamable Cyrus wants none of that.

“The more I make music that doesn’t truly inspire me,” Cyrus said recently, “the more I feel like I’m blending in with everyone else.” Brilliant! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Actually, I did say it myself, a couple of paragraphs ago.

If Cyrus is looking at Spears, she should probably look harder. The Britster’s last disc, Circus, was fantastic – a whole lot of innovative fun. The talking points on Can’t Be Tamed are an acceptable country-flavoured cover of Poison’s Every Rose Has Its Thorn and the silly, sexed-up H.R. Pufnstuf video for the stomping title-track lead single, which represented a clean break from her Disney-approved previous albums.

The rest is uninteresting. Cyrus can be tamed. A better title: Can Be Famed.

Or, Can Be Lame. Her nothing-special, technologically-assisted voice comes up with some extremely banal lyrics. The emotive ballad Take Me Along begins: “The city of angels is lonely tonight.” This is equivalent to the novel which opens with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Another ballad, Forgiveness and Love, asks “where does the time go?” You can’t be serious, Miley. You’re 17 years old, for goodness sakes – your time goes around and around, with hours upon hours to spare.

The upbeat, album-opening Liberty Walk (which has Cyrus rapping, if you can believe it) finds the teenaged daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus lecturing her audience to not live a lie, and to say goodbye to the people who tied you down. “People come on,” she implores, “that means you.” No, Cyrus, it means you.

Bollywood And Fine

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Joanna Slater

(June 20, 2010) NEW YORK — On a sunny afternoon in suburban Long Island, elevator music is piping into the atrium lobby of a Marriott hotel. Or perhaps it’s some kind of very smooth jazz. It’s the type of tune that you barely hear, deadening the ears and perhaps the brain.

It feels absurd, somehow, that this musical slush will serve as the backdrop for a meeting with the reigning maestro of Bollywood. This is the man whose thumping, soaring anthems have bewitched millions, making him one of the bestselling musical artists on the planet.

In India, where chart-topping songs come almost exclusively from films,
A.R. Rahman occupies a position for which there is no equivalent in North America. Imagine a cross between a renowned film composer (John Williams, say) and a blockbuster recording artist (Michael Jackson, maybe) and you’ll start to have a sense of his celebrity.

Among his fellow Tamils, he’s known as Isai Puyal, or Musical Storm, an apt description for the way his songs have thundered across the Indian film industry and into the national consciousness. His Oscar-winning soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire is a source of national pride, but redundant in a way: Everyone in India already knew that Rahman’s music rocked.

He doesn't write the lyrics for his songs, but they have a distinct style, as Slumdog's tracks showed: groovy beats, plaintive melodies, and a global cache of instruments from the sitar to violins to Japanese taiko drums.

During my own exceedingly brief stint as an extra in a Bollywood film six years ago, it was Rahman who wrote the movie’s score, and also sang on one track, as he often does. So it’s fair to say that I experience a minor jolt when the revolving door in the lobby turns and I see him in person: a small man wearing jeans, a denim shirt, and a frayed green cap. We repair to a nearby restaurant, beyond the reach of the smooth jazz.

Rahman, 43, flops onto the banquette seat with his can of mixed-fruit soda. His flight from Los Angeles arrived the previous night, and after sleeping through the morning, as is his habit, he headed to a nearby mosque for afternoon prayers.

He is in New York to launch a new concert tour, dubbed the A.R. Rahman Jai Ho Concert: The Journey Home World Tour. The travelling two-and-a-half hour spectacle will touch down in 16 cities worldwide, including Toronto on Sunday and Vancouver on June 30.

These days, Rahman moves in a kind of musical stratosphere

Bringing the show to life requires a cast and crew of 75, including musicians, singers, and a troupe of insanely energetic dancers. As is fitting for a Bollywood blowout, there are colourful sets and costumes, often accompanied by stunning backgrounds projected onto a huge screen. Rahman sings, jams with other musicians, plays the piano, and even takes a turn at the harmonium.

Asked about the show, whose opening night is now just hours away, he jokes about the “trauma” involved in the months of preparation, adding that all the rehearsing has made him “a bit numb.” He laughs easily and speaks so softly that at times I strain to hear him.

Beyond concerns about the show, he seems preoccupied. His youngest daughter, 11, one of his three children, recently had heart surgery in India to address a birth defect. While he was in rehearsals, she developed complications and had to return to the intensive-care unit. “It’s such a tug of war, an emotional tug of war,” he says. When the tour ends, he’ll head home, but in the meantime, there are video chats. “It’s a boon, isn’t it, Skype,” he says.

Then there’s the work. Back in Chennai, formerly known as Madras, there are three soundtracks awaiting his attention that need to be finished over the next month. Rahman is also in talks with a major Hollywood studio, but worries about the pressures involved in movies where the budgets run to $100-million or more. “If something goes wrong, blame it on the music,” he says. “They can’t throw out the actor, they can’t throw out the director.”

These days, Rahman moves in a kind of musical stratosphere. He is on a first-name basis with Australian singer Kylie Minogue. He bonded with Michael Jackson not long before the star’s death. He was particularly tickled to meet Peter Gabriel, whom he cites as an inspiration. (Also on his list of influences: Indian classical singer Kumar Gandharva, film composer Ennio Morricone, Czech classical composer Leos Janacek, and the band Queen).

Rahman met Gabriel at the Golden Globes, though in a somewhat awkward twist, they turned out to be competing at the Oscars in the category of best original song (Gabriel, for a track from the film WALL-E). “You know inside you want to win,” says Rahman. “But you feel like, ‘Oh my God, he’s almost like my teacher. And he has to win.’ ” Rahman hoots with laughter. (He won the Oscar for Slumdog’s Jai Ho).

The key turning point on his journey to stardom, he says, was a spiritual one. Born A.S. Dileep Kumar, he converted from Hinduism to Islam in his early 20s, an unusual and potentially contentious choice given India’s religious politics. He later changed his name to Allah Rakha Rahman.

Rahman says his path toward Sufi Islam began with the death of his father, also a musician, who passed away when Rahman was only 9. “It’s a deep story, I could write a book on it,” he says. “It’ll offend a lot of people.” There’s more to say, but he won’t talk about it on the record. A recent biography of Rahman notes that he believes his father was killed by a kind of black magic.

Sufi devotional songs and writings have helped inspire some of his biggest hits. “Poetry like that, it’s got its own potency, its own truth,” he says. “Whatever you throw on it, it comes like gold.”

A talented keyboard player, Rahman started out writing advertising jingles before his big break at 25. A director named Mani Ratnam asked him to write the music for the 1992 film Roja. Rahman took six months to produce the score, an eternity in the Indian movie industry, where it wasn’t unusual to expect a full complement of songs from a composer in five or six days.

The waiting paid off. Made in Tamil, Roja was dubbed into Hindi and other Indian languages, turning into a major national hit. Ratnam and Rahman went on to collaborate on two more films in the 1990s, Dil Se and Bombay, whose soundtracks were also monster hits. The trilogy introduced Indians to a distinctly Rahman sound: inspired by Indian traditions but possessing a chameleon-like quality, blending such influences as rock and reggae.

As our interview wraps up, I can’t resist asking Rahman about the film in which I played that tiny role, a historical epic called Mangal Pandey: The Rising. He groans. It turns out that five years after the movie’s release, the producer still hasn't paid Rahman in full for the music.

Later that night, he takes to the stage. The show – a collaborative effort between Rahman and Los Angeles-based Amy Tinkham – is alternately dazzling and perplexing. There’s a beautiful virtual duet between Rahman and Lata Mangeshkar, the aging queen of Indian women singers, whose apparition hovers over the stage. But there’s also what may be a prison-themed instrumental number complete with dancers writhing on bars. By the last half hour, a series of rousing hits has the crowd on its feet.

In the days after the show, I find myself humming the songs on the subway, at the office, back at home. They refuse to yield, proof that Rahman’s magic has worked again.

The Journey Home World Tour stops in Toronto on Sunday, and in Vancouver on June 30.

Rock-And-Roll Entrepreneurs Learn To Sell Themselves

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Rasha Mourtada

(June 21, 2010) When Toronto hip-hop artist Mindbender released his first CD in 1997, a collaborative effort with his twin brother, things didn’t go quite as he’d expected.

“We got the box of CDs and I was like, ‘Wow, people aren’t just running to break down the door to buy this.’ And it started dawning on me: ‘Where am I even advertising this?’”

Since then, Mindbender has learned a few things about the business side of music. But he’s not done yet.

“I still struggle with it because I’m very much the artist and not the businessman,” said Mindbender, whose six solo projects have earned him a following in the local underground hip-hop scene.

From producing music, to distributing CDs, to booking shows, to getting press, the need for entrepreneurial skills in the music industry today is indisputable, particularly for artists who are not signed to a label.

“It helps to be business-minded [about your music],” said Amy Cole, who does keyboards, percussion and vocals for indie folk-rock band Rural Alberta Advantage (RAA).

After three years making a go of it independently, RAA signed with U.S. label Saddle Creek Records and Canadian label Paper Bag Records, something that would never have happened if the band failed to think of its pursuit as a business – sending out its own press releases, building its own web site, and reinvesting any money made from live shows and merchandise.

But thinking of a music career as a business should be a means to an end for an artist, said Shauna de Cartier, who founded independent Canadian label Six Shooter Records in 2000. The goal is to assemble a team who can take care of the business end, leaving artists to concentrate on what they do best, their music.

“It’s important for musicians to have an understanding of how the business works,” she explained. “But the thing that’s going to make you more successful is being better at your art.”

She encourages musicians not to get too caught up in activities like getting T-shirts printed, distributing flyers and sending out press releases. “I’ve seen solo artists exhausted to the point of tears.”

That’s something Mindbender can identify with. “My neck is sore from wearing so many hats,” he said. “My passion is the art. But I have to send out promotional e-mails and budget and put together tours and design my album cover. That’s all fun – but it’s not what my love is.”

On the flip side, ignoring the business of music can end a career before it even begins. No artist will attract the attention of music managers and labels without exposure. And getting exposure requires some business skills.

Opportunities often come through connections, said Jesse Gainer, drummer with Montreal punk band Talk-Sick. “If you want to be serious about it, you have to get out there and talk to people,” he added, particularly when it comes to booking shows.

And playing live shows is second to none when it comes to getting exposure, said Ms. De Cartier, who emphasized that gaining the respect of other musicians can go a long way.

Mindbender, who’s set to release his latest effort – Jupiter, said building a reputation just by being present in the local hip-hop scene has been pivotal in any success he’s had. “I’ve seen almost every hip-hop show that’s come here in the last 20 years,” he said. “I always have my music and I give it to people.”

Also important is promoting music, especially live shows, to the general public.

“Technology has allowed us to do publicity very inexpensively and with great return,” Mr. Gainer said. “Facebook, Twitter, MySpace have all been really good for us.”

Ms. Cole directly links the power of the Internet with RAA’s recent explosion. The band toured the United States and Canada in 2009, playing 100 shows, and this spring it set off on an eight-city European tour.

It all started when Canadian music blogs Chromewaves and Herohill wrote about the band. From there, RAA made it onto the radar of online music retailer eMusic, which featured it as new artist of the month and subsequently invited the band to play at the influential annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Tex.

“And that’s what led to Saddle Creek approaching us,” Ms. Cole said.

Press releases also help. Talk-Sick, which released its second record last fall, sent out a slew of complimentary records to local newspapers and college radio stations. “When someone outside of our friends suggests to the greater community ‘these guys are worth a listen,’ that’s pretty cool,” Mr. Gainer said.

And when it comes to distributing a record as an unsigned artist, there’s really nothing glamorous about it. It’s a matter of selling the merchandise at shows and online – and hoofing it to the post office to mail them. “Now that we’re with a label, we don’t have to do that any more,” Ms. Cole said.

She sees a marked shift in the band’s daily lives. It has a manager to handle scheduling logistics, among other things, a booking agent who lines up shows and, of course, their labels, which help finance recording (the band will record album No. 2 this year) and touring and take a lead on the promotional front.

“It’s nice not having to do a million things at once,” she said. “And the labels are helping us do things we couldn’t do.”

Being with a label might seem like a ticket to success, and for some it is, but Ms. De Cartier cautioned it doesn’t always work out that way. “Sometimes people think I have a record deal so now I’m going to be famous. But really it should be, ‘I have a record deal and now the real work begins,’” she said. “Getting – or not getting – a record deal isn’t any guarantee of success.”

Sarah Harmer Revs It Up Again

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(June 20, 2010) In the four and a half years since the release of her last CD, the rootsy, pastoral “I’m A Mountain,” Juno-award winning songwriter Sarah Harmer has been conspicuously quiet, performing only occasionally, otherwise immersed in the grassroots campaign to save Mount Nemo, near her childhood home in rural North Burlington, Ont., from being levelled to make gravel.

It’s a close-to-home environmental issue that led her to others threatening the pristine beauty of the giant Niagara Escarpment, to which she has devoted a great deal of time and effort. Only in the past year has the 39-year-old folk-country star been able to give some thought to resuming her musical career, which began in the mid 1990s with the alt-rock band Weeping Tile, and blossomed a decade ago with her first solo recording, the surprise indie hit, You Were Here, and its plaintive, radio-friendly single, “Basement Apartment.”

You could be mistaken for thinking the new album, Oh Little Fire — Harmer’s fourth, to be released Tuesday — is the result of a long and deliberate process to reposition her in the musical landscape, and to launch her into the Feistian musical mainstream, stripped of her former country-folk trappings.

It’s a consciously pop-aware construct built around layered guitars and clever rock-lite bass/drum patterns, showcasing an assertive new voice and a cluster of infectious melodies that support lyrics eschewing the emotional commentary of her 2005 underground hit, “Niagara Escarpment Blues,” for “the usual stuff — love and loss and the mystery of human relationships,” she told the Star during a recent phone interview.

The shift from acoustic song forms to electric pop isn’t deliberate, Harmer insisted.

“These songs just seemed to need filling out, they needed to be more crisp and angular in the arrangements, like songs you want to turn up loud on the car radio.

“Besides, I like swinging between the two poles. I’ve always done it. I like both styles of music. When I did ‘I’m A Mountain’ I’d been sitting around for months with friends, jamming on acoustic instruments. I figured it was time to drag out the Telecaster.”

She enlisted longtime musical friend, producer Gavin Brown (Metric, Billy Talent), to ramp up the energy quotient in the studio, and started recording last May. They made no particular schedule, and were under no deadline pressures. The songs grew organically, Harmer said.

“Some songs were finished, others were just ideas that we fleshed out in the studio. We took our time, recording piecemeal, and coming back after long breaks. Gavin has a great studio in his home, with lots of old analogue gear. He’s a great drummer, and plays other instruments as well. We’d pass them back and forth, and if we couldn’t play what was in our heads, we’d call in experts, mostly friends from Weeping Tile and other bands I’d worked with.”

Most artists who’ve achieved Harmer’s kind of success find themselves locked onto a wheel — writing, recording, touring, recovery — that turns relentlessly every couple of years and, so the theory goes, yields measurably larger audiences, radio acceptance, revenue and kudos with each revolution. Harmer, who has always done things her own way, doesn’t buy it.

“I like doing other things, too,” she said. “I’m not super-ambitious. I got involved in the land conservation campaign because it matters to me. I played drums in a band in Kingston for a while, because I like playing drums. It’s like dancing — fun, if you’re in the mood. I sang in a barbershop quartet.

“I live in the country north of Kingston. I loll around a lot, and I don’t feel guilty about it. I hang out with friends and loved ones. I’m attached to domestic life and simple chores. I don’t have a schedule and I haven’t been in the self-promotion mode for a long time. I’ve been a regular person. Fallow time is important.”

But once Oh Little Fire started taking shape, the juices started flowing again, and an appetite to get these songs finished and roadworthy.

“I do want people to hear them,” says Harmer, who has received nothing but encouragement from friends and musical peers who have heard it. Mainstream radio in Canada and the U.S. has already picked up the lead single, “Captive,” a particularly bright and affecting little masterpiece that seems destined for chart success.

“I don’t want to leave the impression that I don’t care about my musical career. I do care. My ego wants this album to be heard, and I’ll do whatever feels good to make that happen.”

That means touring, and Harmer and her band have loads lined up, including a sold-out show at Toronto’s Palais Royale Tuesday night, followed by a string of festival appearances across the country later in the summer, several dates in the U.S. and Britain in between, and a full U.S. tour in the fall.

“I haven’t been on the road for a while … it takes some getting used to,” Harmer said. “But I love my band mates, and I love the stimulating conversations that you get into at close quarters in the back of the bus in the middle of the night.

“In lots of ways, this is like starting over.”

Lilith Fair Celebrates Its Diversity

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Patch

(June 23, 2010) As Sarah McLachlan happily watched her Lilith Fair festival grow into a concert giant in the late 1990s, she simultaneously became a bit irked by the reputation her fest was getting.

Lilith Fair was suddenly shorthand for acoustic guitars, Birkenstocks, and crunchy granola. And McLachlan didn’t like it.

“We got dubbed as the white chicks’ folk fest,” McLachlan said in a recent telephone interview from Vancouver. “It was so frustrating to me because I had to defend it every day. I’d say, ‘We ask everybody. We ask artists from all genres and this is who said yes.’ ”

When Lilith Fair relaunches, beginning with a show Sunday in Calgary, it appears as though McLachlan might not have to worry about defending her all-female music fest.

This year’s line-up, in fact, boasts the sort of diversity that McLachlan hungered for then.

Sure, there are your more typically Lilith stars — returnees Sheryl Crow, the Indigo Girls, Martina McBride, Suzanne Vega, Emmylou Harris, for instance.

But there’s also R&B superstar Mary J. Blige, country legend Loretta Lynn, powerhouse American Idol pop vocalist Kelly Clarkson and — for one night only — Barbadian R&B star Rihanna.

Also on the tour will be Toronto new-wave rockers Metric, R&B crooner Erykah Badu, Disney teen-popper Selena Gomez, Nashville new country duo Sugarland, plus a litany of buzzed-about critical favourites including Janelle Monae, Hannah Georgas, Anjulie, Lights and Sia.

“This time out, the wealth of diversity to choose from was massive,” McLachlan said. “And it was a huge struggle to fit everybody in who wanted to be a part of it.

“So it was really great. And I think there’s just a lot more to choose from.”

Added Emily Robison of the Dixie Chicks: “It’s really eclectic, which I think is great. It’s not just folk chicks out there, it’s everybody.”

Robison and her sister, Martie McGuire, will play 13 Lilith dates with their new outfit, Court Yard Hounds.

They carry fond memories of playing the last Fair with the Dixie Chicks, back in 1999. Though they were two-time Grammy winners and mainstage mainstays at that point, they hadn’t yet reached the lofty ranks of country music’s biggest stars, so they were surprised at the warm reception they received from their Lilith tour mates.

“We just have the best memories from that first Lilith Fair,” McGuire said. “It’s just a different kind of music festival. We didn’t know until we got there, but artists were inviting us into their dressing room, and they wanted to work on one of our songs (or) they wanted us to work on one of their songs.

“It felt so strange to have artists the stature of Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan and the Indigo Girls really interested in what you were doing, and so supportive of other females. I think females get pegged as — there’s always (supposed to be) infighting and catfighting.”

“At Lilith, there was this camaraderie that you don’t find on a lot of concerts. We hope that still lives from the first time around.”

Chantal Kreviazuk was similarly star-struck when she first played Lilith Fair in 1998.

“I can remember, you know, standing next to Sheryl Crow and chatting and thinking: ‘Oh my God, I’m standing next to Sheryl Crow, chatting!’”

When she plays five dates on this year’s Fair circuit, meanwhile, Kreviazuk figures it might be a bit different.

“Now if I bump into Sheryl, I go: ‘Hey, Sheryl,’ ” Kreviazuk said casually, with a laugh. “Everything’s a little bit different now.”

That goes for the record industry as a whole, which has plummeted to unthinkable lows since the booming ’90s, when Lilith boasted headliners like Jewel who had albums selling well past the 10 million mark.

But looking at today’s fractured musical landscape, the legacy of Lilith isn’t too hard to spot. For one thing, Kreviazuk notes that a revitalized Lilith will shine the spotlight back on musicians who value substance over style.

“It’s a tough time to just be a singer/songwriter with authenticity and genuineness and all that crap,” Kreviazuk said. “It’s hard because everything is rather glitzy and glamorous and it’s a little bit more jam-packed with candy right now. It’s difficult to be a simple act.

“(Lilith) is presenting an opportunity to get out there and remind people that simple, authentic music is also really, really powerful and there’s a place for it.”

Frazey Ford will make her official Lilith debut this summer, though she participated in the first round of festivals in her own way — her former group, the Be-Good Tanyas, busked outside a Vancouver date on Lilith Fair’s 1999 tour.

Living in her early 20s during the first three years of tours, she said Lilith Fair had an impact on her.

“It was definitely a coming together of female power, musically,” said Ford, who will release her first solo album, “Obadiah,” on July 20. “It made a pretty strong impression on a lot of young people.

“I just knew there was something powerful about it.”

And the artists involved with the relaunched Lilith hope that it retains that power, for the benefit of a new group of female artists navigating an increasingly difficult music industry.

“I think music is very cyclical in terms of what people’s tastes are,” Robison said.

“I’m glad that Lilith is back now, because at the time we did it earlier, it seemed like there was this big groundswell of support for female artists and singer/songwriters, and that seemed to be lost for a few years.

“I hope that this means that it’s coming back.”


Behind the Scenes with Ruben Studdard

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 19, 2010) *What’s going on with the ever huggable, so loveable Ruben Studdard? Well Singersroom.com says he is scheduled to be a part of TV One’s “Life After.” “Once a choir boy, R&B crooner Ruben Studdard became American Idol’s first African American winner during the show’s nail-biting second season, edging out runner-up Clay Aiken. Since then Studdard has struggled with album success but with his new music, he’s looking to rise back to the top,” a TV One announcement reads. The show will explore the behind the scenes life of the star as he works to revive his fame and answer some of those questions music fans and Studdard lovers have been asking. Season two premiers July 19.

Bow Wow All Grown Up: Remakes TuPac’s ‘I Get Around’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 19, 2010) *We guess no one really takes a child rapper gone grown up style very seriously, so those kind gotta work a lil’ harder to be noticed. Bow Weezee appears to be trying to prove to the world of Hip-Hop lovers that he too belongs at the grown-up table with all the veterans. The 23-year-old has switched up his style by adding a few explicative’s and stories of midnight flings with women. He’s turned it up a notch and created his own version of the might Tupac’s classic “I Get Around.” It’s supposed to be available on his “Greenlight 3” mixtape. Supposedly the song is pointed at Kat Stacks, the great fake, video blogger who discusses her imaginary sexual episodes with various rappers. She recently jabbed at Bow Wow via Twitter and video blog talking about their sexual relationship. Listen to his version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIFLaBMKU2M&feature=player_embedded

Amber Rose: ‘Kanye Saved My Life’ 

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 21, 2010) *Kanye West’s on/off girlfriend Amber Rose is crediting the rapper for “saving” her life and helping to jump start her modeling career.  The Philly-born model says she was on the constant grind before she started dating Kanye. The couple quickly became a highlight of red carpet events, which boosted her star power in the process.  “Honestly, Kanye saved my life, and I don’t even think about what I would have been; I just think about what I’m going to be,” she told YRB Magazine.  Rose says she’s still a bit baffled that folks treat her like a famous star when she’s spotted on the street.  “I don’t look at myself as a celebrity. I’m just a dope chick from South Philly!” she said. “I mean, it’s crazy when fans come up to me and cry and just want a hug from me. It bugs me out! But it’s really cool.”  However, she admits the constant paparazzi presence has begun to irk her – and she now struggles with anxiety every time a photographer is near.   “Sometimes it does get overwhelming because, for example, I like to be on the beach with my man with no top on. I’m very comfortable with my body. [See photo above.] But there’s no privacy – that’s the only thing that overwhelms me. Every time I see a light flash, I think it’s the paparazzi. Those f**kers give me anxiety.”  West and Rose, who briefly split last summer, were recently rumoured to have broken up once again.  She landed a contract with top agency Ford Models in 2009 after posing nude with West to promote his new sneaker line with Louis Vuitton.

Canadian Tenors Tug Heartstrings Expertly

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

The Canadian Tenors Live at Koerner Hall
(out of 4)

(June 21, 2010) This slick, masterfully paced live concert, recorded on Jan. 25 at Koerner Hall shows off this pan-Canadian poperatic quartet at its very best – putting on a good show that connects with its audience and creates an intimate ambience without feeling contrived. British Columbians Clifton Murray and Fraser Walters, Torontonian Victor Micallef and Quebecer Remigio Pereira gave their audience a generous 17 songs backed up by a combination of pop and classical-style instrumentals. On top of that, there are three songs featuring special guest David Foster and — in the evening-closing “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen — Sarah McLachlan. The artfully lit wooden interior of Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory is as classy as the music on stage. Somehow, the arrangements manage the requisite swell without histrionics and they pull our emotional heartstrings without sounding saccharine. New pop, like Foster’s “Because We Believe,” sits comfortably alongside great-grandma’s favourite Italian song, “A Vuccella,” written by late-19th century pop master Paolo Tosti (not Fernando, as the program states). There are a couple of minor extras, including McLachlan singing “Angel.” The high-definition visuals are amazing on a big screen, but bass frequencies sounded buzzy on my Blu-Ray-based sound system.

Jackson 5 Exhibit To Mark One Year Since Michael’s Death

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(June 22, 2010) Detroit — A Jackson 5 exhibit opens Tuesday at the Motown Historical Museum in Detroit, marking the one-year anniversary this week of Michael Jackson's death.  The public will be able to view photographs, awards and uniforms the group wore throughout its career.  Museum chief curator Lina Stephens says the exhibit celebrates the life of Jackson and acknowledges the Jackson 5's “contribution to the Motown story.” Jackson died June 25, 2009.  Stephens says the exhibit will be open through October. Museum summer hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Rihanna and Drake Working Together?

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 22, 2010) The former couple might be working together, despite the sour grapes the two have shared. Drake and Rihanna are going to be working together in the future despite the rapper’s harsh song supposedly dedicated to her. “Right now I’m listening to Drake, Jay-Z, Kings of Leon, Ke$ha,” she told E! News while in Israel. The interviewer asked about a possible collaboration with Drake. She said, “I hope so ‘cause he’s really, really talented, and I think he’s one of the illest lyricists out there right now, so I would love to work with him.” In the mean time, the Barbadian singer is working on releasing her follow-up album to her 2009 “Rated R.” According to Aceshowbiz.com, the project has involved over 50 producers and other big named industry talent. This time, fans can look forward to a different side of Rihanna and be very pleased with the new mix of talent, including David Guetta. He says the album is quite a change from her last one and is positive and explosive.

Angelou Contributes to Michael Jackson Portrait

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 22, 2010) *In remembrance of Michael Jackson, poet Maya Angelou joins his fans in participating in a pointillism portrait of the late singer, who died almost a year ago. Pointillism is an art technique in which small dots are used to form an image. So far, the portrait has 250,000 dots, representing fans in 180 countries. According to the AP, Angelou met Monday at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C., with artist David Ilan, who is organizing the tribute. Ilan placed a dot representing Angelou in the heart area on the portrait. Ilan says he hopes 1 million people will each ask through a Web site to be represented by one of the free dots. Angelou also read the poem she wrote for Jackson’s funeral, titled “We Had Him.” Queen Latifah read the poem at the funeral.

Keith Sweat Releases New Album

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 23, 2010) *OMG! This is the return we all have been waiting for!!!! Where has he been?
Keith Sweat just came out with his new “Ridin’ Solo” album. The 80s love making music legend has been musically hushed for quite some time, leaving the world of music cold, desolate and in a place of unrest as it itches for some good music recovery. Hopefully Sweat’s album will revitalize music. “I’m trying to add to the catalogue,” he told The BoomBox. “I feel a real resurgence right now. Sometimes you have t reinvent yourself in all areas.” He said. He is really on his way back to the lime light of R&B. Not only is has he released a new album, but he is working on a reality series – “Keith Sweat’s Platinum House” – due to premiere on June 28 on Centric. He is also talking about reviving Dru Hill. YAY! “We have our favourite acts like SWV, New Edition we all grew up listening to them and they have a wide fan base, [but] those veteran groups are not in radio demographics. So you don’t hear about them as much and then they end up falling in to adult contemporary, which has the 18-34 mainstream missing out because, radio is so concerned about whatever song is hot now and they feel that these artist are not relevant,” the singer explained. “My TV show and radio program can connect the fans back with these artists, find out what they’re doing and keep them relevant.”


Anthony Daniels - The Force Was With Him

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 20, 2010) Anthony Daniels has made a career out of playing the world’s most famous uptight gold robot. His C-3PO appeared in all six Star Wars films – and spinoffs. He has lent that distinctive British voice to various other Star Wars endeavours, including a Disney theme-park ride, a Las Vegas slot machine and an in-car satellite navigation system. Daniels, 64, is also the live narrator for a show called Star Wars: In Concert – a massive multimedia arena event featuring an orchestra, choir, film clips and John Williams’ larger-than-life soundtrack.

Going back to that first Star Wars film, I understand you weren’t initially interested in the part.

I was 27, had worked consistently for two years in radio and television and was playing quite a big role in the West End in London in [Tom Stoppard’s] Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead. That’s when I was made, made, made to meet George Lucas. ‘Don’t be so stupid,’ my agent said. ‘Go and meet him.’ And here’s the killer line: My agent said, ‘You never know what it can lead to.’

Have you talked to George Lucas about why you got the part? Is it because you didn’t speak like a robot in your audition?

He had people coming in doing wonderful robotic acting like Michael Jacksonand he kept saying, ‘No, no, no; this is not that kind of robot.’ And, of course, they couldn’t stop doing it once they got into robot mode. I just walked in, completely uninterested, sat down and talked with him. After another meeting and once I read the script, I finally said: ‘Well, may I play the part?’ I had changed my opinion 100 per cent.

This changed the whole course of your life.

Yes it did. People ask me: ‘What might you be doing if you hadn’t done Star Wars?’ That’s a stupid question because you never know the road you didn’t take. This is not where I intended to be, but you know, as a destination it’s not been bad.

Is it true that you weren’t originally supposed to voice the character?

That’s correct, but I didn’t know that until way after we’d finished filming, because I did the voice all the way through. Six months later a studio engineer in Hollywood explained that they’d spent a couple of months trying 30 different actors, people like Richard Dreyfuss, to voice my character, because George wanted a sleazy car-dealer type thing. Except George never mentioned it to me.

Would that have affected your decision to do the role?

Oh yes, I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing it had I just been the body. And I’m very grateful to George for having the courage to rethink it. He just said he never thought of C-3PO being a British butler type.

At what point did you realize this was not just a film, but a phenomenon?

When it opened in America and made the cover of Newsweek. Six months later we got it in England and of course nobody got in touch with me because nobody was meant to know I was in the movie. That was a little difficult: to have contributed to the party and then not be invited. They eventually explained that they wanted people to think that Threepio was a real robot. And I said isn’t that rather underestimating the intelligence of the audience?

Does part of you also feel that you were sheltered somewhat from the craziness around the film?

I, on occasion, have been recognized. I’m thinking of two experiences in supermarkets in England near my home where I have to say I’ve been slumped over the trolley with a hangover, and I haven’t shaved, haven’t brushed my teeth and somebody’s asked for an autograph. I felt so ashamed. But I’m not going to do hair and makeup every time I go out and buy milk, am I? But now I’m recognized in a very charming way, where people come up and say, ‘Thank you for my childhood.’ That’s a lovely, lovely thing to hear. Because I am a lot of people’s childhood.

Star Wars: In Concert will visit several Canadian cities this summer beginning with Vancouver at GM Place on Tuesday. For details, visit starwarsinconcert.com.

This interview has been condensed and edited. 

Carlton Cinema Returns — With Even Fewer Seats

Source: www.thestar.com - Jason Anderson

(June 23, 2010) Cineplex’s decision to close the Carlton Cinema inspired much grief and worry among Toronto moviegoers last December. Many had fond memories of the theatre, which opened in 1981 as Canada’s first multiplex for arthouse releases.

Yet the cinema’s later years inspired fewer happy memories. It had become too hard to ignore the signs of age and neglect that afflicted this once-proud bastion of upscale moviegoing.

“I always had a bit of a hard time going back to the Carlton because it had that old style of sloped, narrow seats and not a lot of leg space,” admits Robin Smith of Kinosmith, an independent film distribution company. “As a tall guy, even just sitting in the old Carlton was not the most comfortable feeling.”

Yet thanks to a $1.5 million renovation by its new owners Magic Lantern, the Edmonton-based chain that runs three other Toronto theatres under the Rainbow Cinemas banner the Carlton is ready to return, looking much healthier and roomier than it was when it left us.

The Carlton hosts free screenings of recent favourites (including The Cove, Up in the Air and Fantastic Mr. Fox) in its nine newly refurbished auditoriums on June 30 and July 1 before opening for regular business on July 2.

Finishing touches were still being applied when Magic Lantern president Tom Hutchinson and general manager Chris Ciavaglia showed off the space last week.

Seat counts have been reduced in each theatre (ranging from 80 to 120) to allow for wider seats and more legroom. The theatres also boast new screens and sound systems, as well as greater flexibility when it comes to screening films in digital formats.

Ciavaglia is obviously thrilled with the results. As the theatre’s manager during its final days under Cineplex, he has long wanted a makeover. While it was upsetting to watch the former owners essentially gut the space when they left (they even took the toilets), it was worth the trauma.

“I wouldn’t have said this in December when it happened, but it’s probably for the best because we had to come in and redo everything,” he says. “There wasn’t an option for us to say, ‘Well, maybe we should keep the seats in. . .’”

Hutchinson’s company had been keeping tabs on the fate of the Carlton for the last six or seven years. In operation since 1984, Magic Lantern has carved out a niche in the Canadian film exhibition business by buying and reconditioning downtown theatres that had been shuttered by the major chains. The Carlton, he says, “was something that fit into our vision of what we could do.”

Though he admits that the renovation can’t entirely correct “the odd quirk” in the building’s original design, he believes that the Carlton will still appeal to moviegoers put off by the teen-targeted flash of newer theatres. He also hopes that lower prices ($6 to $9 for evenings and matinees, and $5 on Tuesdays) will make return visitors out of the seniors, students and viewers of foreign-language fare who comprised a big part of the Carlton’s clientele.

As for the programming, the Carlton will once again showcase specialty titles, as well as films that move over from larger spaces like the Royal. But the new management wants to challenge the stereotype of the Carlton as just a place for movies to finish their runs.

“We’re going to be pushing the envelope a little bit more than we did under Cineplex, I expect,” says Ciavaglia. “We’re hoping to do some more premieres, events and festivals. We’re going to experiment to see what people are interested in.”

With its smaller auditoriums, the Carlton will again be a place where movies otherwise limited to brief runs in other venues can have the opportunity to build audiences.

Kinosmith’s Robin Smith saw that happen with Departures, a Japanese film that did steady business for 21 weeks at the Carlton last year. “Both the type of films we work on and the type of films Carlton will program need that time to foster audiences,” he says. “The business of exhibition is such that we’re not always allowed that time.”

Two newer Kinosmith releases — the Canadian documentaries Land and Sounds Like a Revolution — begin runs at the Carlton next week.

With the theatre back in action, more movies that do not have the advantage of millions of Hollywood marketing dollars may have the chance to succeed.

“I keep hearing it’s the end of art film and we’ll only have Twilight sequels from now on,” says Ciavaglia. “I wholeheartedly believe that’s not the case.”

Toronto’s indie cinema resurgence

The Carlton’s reopening on June 30 is just the latest sign of revitalization for Toronto’s cinemas. It’s an especially welcome trend given the doom-saying that accompanied both the end of the Festival Cinemas chain in 2006 and the closure of the Carlton last December.

Occupying a long-empty subterranean site near Queen and Spadina, the Toronto Underground Cinema is a 700-seat theatre that opened in May — it now boasts a robust program of recent non-Hollywood fare and cult flicks.

Meanwhile, anticipation continues to rise ahead of the Sept. 12 opening of the Bell LightboxTIFF’s new year-round home will include five new cinemas, ranging in size from 80 to 550 seats.

Many venues that were part of the Festival chain are also attracting enthusiastic audiences, partially thanks to special events like the Revue’s Silent Sundays series, the Fox’s Shock and Awe marathons and the Royal’s monthly screenings of The Room. Besides hosting a steady stream of festivals, the Royal and the Bloor have become regular venues for first-run fare.

The Carlton’s Chris Ciavaglia believes that more options for moviegoers can only improve the community’s overall health.

“I’ve always felt that with smaller theatres like the Carlton and others that play these kinds of movies, the better the one theatre does, the better that all the theatres do,” he says. “You want to get people in the habit. Maybe they’ll go to the Bloor one week, then the Lightbox the next, then the Carlton — I’m good with that.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Cineplex unveils its new “UltraAVX” theatre environment in select cinemas next week. Starting June 30, patrons of the GTA’s first UltraAVX auditorium at the Queensway Cinemas can see The Twilight Saga: Eclipse presented on a larger screen with improved digital picture and sound. New extra-wide, high-back rocker seats make it even easier to swoon along with Bella, Edward and Jacob if viewers are so inclined (or reclined).

Video: Jada Explains Nude Essence Cover on ‘View’; Talks Tupac at WJLB

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 22, 2010) *Jada Pinkett Smith visited “The View” on Monday to discuss the season premiere of her TNT series “HawthoRNe,” her spicy marriage to Will Smith and her son Jaden’s performance in “The Karate Kid” – particularly his first on-screen kiss.

Smith also explains how her daughter Willow inspired her to pose nude for one of the two available covers of Essence magazine’s current issue.

[Watch below.]

The actress also plugged “HawthoRNe” and discussed other topics on Detroit’s WJLB.

During her phone conversation with COCO, Foolish and Mr. Chase, she was asked about her close friendship with the late Tupac Shakur, describing their relationship as a “platonic romance.”

“We knew us being together in a romantic way would destroy everything because we were both fire,” she said. “We would burn everything up! So we knew in order to preserve our relationship there was no way we could ever add romance to it cause we probably would’ve killed each other!”

Regarding her sexually-open marriage with husband Will Smith, she made it clear that no man could ever
replace Will, but it is ok to have fun…

“We always have people that we’re attracted to that we talk about. That don’t stop just because you’re married,” she said. “Somebody’s always gonna catch your eye. That’s real. Somebody’s gonna always be prettier than me, and somebody’s always gonna be more in awe of him than me and he gonna be like (in Will’s voice) ‘Yo she really like me,’ (laughter) but as far as somebody being right for us… is there somebody right for a nice night? Maybe. But somebody that can sustain our life and sustain what we’ve built together, absolutely not!”

Click here for full audio and snippets of Jada’s WJLB interview.

Will ‘Knight and Day’ save Tom Cruise?

Source: www.thestar.com - David Germain

(June 22, 2010) LOS ANGELES—Early on in his latest spy caper “Knight and Day,” Tom Cruise flashes that billion-dollar grin and proclaims, “I’m the guy.”

But is he?

Cruise definitely is the guy who rang up $3 billion at the domestic box office since the early 1980s, making him one of the most enduring hitmakers in Hollywood history.

He’s also the guy who veered into his own personal bizarro world with Scientology rants that alienated or even offended fans and his love-drunk bouncing act on Oprah Winfrey’s couch as he proclaimed his devotion to Katie Holmes.

His box-office returns soured, and he made some career choices which, while not disastrous, were not the sort to restore a stumbling star to the audience’s good graces.

With Cruise’s erratic behaviour now a few years in the past, “Knight and Day” is the first real test on whether the dashing idol of “Risky Business,” “Top Gun” and “Rain Man” has lost his appeal.

“The short answer is, I hope not. Those challenges have been there, but I think he has moved past that,” said Chris Aronson, head of domestic distribution for 20th Century Fox, the studio behind “Knight and Day.” “I think he still is the guy. If you look over the course of history, there are very few actors who are the guy as long as he has been and are still rolling along.”

“Enough time has passed, and he has tried to make amends,” said Chuck Walton, an editor for movie-ticket Web site Fandango.com. “This is sort of the perfect summer movie vehicle for him. I think most, if not all, is forgiven. ... Look at Robert Downey Jr. He’s had plenty of things in the past and it hasn’t stopped him.”

It’s Cruise’s first all-out action adventure since 2006’s “Mission: Impossible III” and the first movie since 1996’s “Jerry Maguire” in which he turns on his full-blown comic and romantic charm.

The movie reunites Cruise with “Vanilla Sky” co-star Cameron Diaz. Known for a tireless work ethic, Cruise hurled himself into action scenes that could have been handled by stunt men and continually added spontaneous flourishes to his character, said “Knight and Day” director James Mangold.

The “I’m the guy” exchange was Cruise’s invention, Mangold said. Diaz’s June Havens, who restores classic cars for a living, has just had a near-fatal encounter with Cruise’s Roy Miller, a secret agent who might be a good guy or a rogue spy gone bad.

When Roy reappears in her life, June stammers to her ex-boyfriend, “This is the guy.” Cruise riffs off that line and delivers a memorable moment as Roy beams and agrees, repeating “I’m the guy” like a mantra.

“None of that was written. It was just Tom overhearing her and just flowing, creating a vibe on the set,” Mangold said. “’I’m the guy. Hey, I’m the guy.’ You realize on how many levels this was true. He is the guy in the movie. He is the spy, he is the romantic lead who will sweep her off her feet.

“He’s also just the guy. ‘I am Tom Cruise, and I am here, and I will knock it out of the park.’”

Whether “Knight and Day” will be a home run or a swing and a miss is in the hands of fans now. Distributor Fox feels it has a good movie, but “Knight and Day” is a tough sell, an original story not based on a comic book, video game or other property with built-in familiarity.

Besides the uncertainty of Cruise’s box-office pep, “Knight and Day” arrives during a fitful summer for Hollywood, when known quantities such as “Sex and the City 2,” “The A-Team” and Russell Crowe’s “Robin Hood” failed to live up to expectations.

Already stung by weak returns for “The A-Team” and “Marmaduke,” Fox has scrambled to build buzz for “Knight and Day” with sneak peak screenings last Saturday in about 500 theatres. The studio also moved up the release date by two days to this Wednesday, hoping audiences will talk up the film and boost ticket sales through the weekend.

Opening weekend often is a make-or-break deal. But “Knight and Day” has it harder than most movies, sandwiched between two of the season’s biggest releases, last weekend’s blockbuster “Toy Story 3” and next week’s hotly anticipated sequel “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.”

If “Knight and Day” does not find an audience this weekend, it probably never will.

“Everybody’s nervous about every movie this summer. If ‘Sex and the City’ or a Russell Crowe movie underperform, why wouldn’t you be worried about a film like ‘Knight and Day’?” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for entertainment Web site Hollywood.com. “There are no sure bets anymore. The audience is so fickle that you just don’t know.”

Cruise turns 48 next month, and while he retains his boyish good looks, it’s hard to maintain an action career at that age and beyond, particularly with the personal baggage dogging him.

As his public image sagged in 2006, “Mission: Impossible III” came out to some of the best reviews in the series, yet it took in just $134 million, by far the worst return for the franchise.

Cruise has done serious roles, earning Academy Awards nominations for “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Jerry Maguire” and “Magnolia.” His three films since “Mission: Impossible III” showed new sides to the actor, with middling results.

The war-on-terror drama “Lions for Lambs” flopped, part of Cruise’s ill-fated effort to revive moribund United Artists, the banner whose founders included Charles Chaplin and D.W. Griffith.

He drew praise for a hilarious supporting role in “Tropic Thunder,” playing a bald, foul-mouthed studio boss. Cruise reprised the character at the recent MTV Movie Awards, and he’s planning to play him again in a big-screen spinoff.

Cruise critics gleefully laid in wait to mock “Valkyrie,” his World War II Nazi saga in which he donned an eyepatch to play the German colonel who led an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler. But the movie wound up getting decent reviews, and while it was not a big hit, it did respectable business.

A fourth “Mission: Impossible” instalment is in the works, though coming after “Knight and Day,” even Cruise fans think he needs to focus less on the spy game and find more diverse roles.

“When I first heard about ‘Knight and Day’ being put into production, I thought, another spy movie,” said Daniel Hubschman, content co-ordinator for Hollywood.com and a Cruise fan since he saw “Top Gun” at age 7. “I would like to see Tom Cruise move away from spy action. Whether it’s comedy, straight-up action, sci-fi action. That’s the one thing that might detract from this movie.”

Even if “Knight and Day” flops, the film reveals that he has not lost the magnetism that made him a star in the first place. He will have other shots to restore his box-office trajectory, whether with “Mission: Impossible IV” or some other project.

“I saw my first Tom Cruise movie when I was in high school. I’ve grown up with him as a star of my generation, and THE star of my generation,” said “Knight and Day” director Mangold. “With his talent and uncanny relationship with the camera, he’s one of the few true movie stars in the last century of film.”

Video: Obba Babatunde Stars In ‘The Fallen Faithful’

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Larita Shelby

(June 21, 2010) *Emmy nominated actor Obba Babatunde stars as Father Emanuel in the forthcoming flick “The Fallen Faithful.” The film is produced by PJ Leonard & The Other Side Of The River Productions.

This diverse and innovative production company will also host a star studded premiere on Monday, June 21st, 2010 at the Arclight Theatre in Hollywood, California at 7:30 pm.

(Scroll down to watch the film’s trailer.)

The screenwriter is Elizabeth Regen who made several sitcom performances before flexing her literary skills in this compelling theatrical experience. The story is by E. B. Hughes.

In “The Fallen Faithful” Sonny Marinelli brings life to the role of Moran Douglas; a troubled orphan who has grown into a ruthless killer. Still plagued by inner turmoil, Douglass vacillates between the foundations laid by two surrogate fathers; the power hungry psychopath Asa (played by Mark Margolis) and the more rational & godly Emanuel (played by Obba Babatunde’).

Mr. Babatunde’ has over 100 film & television appearances to his credit, including the Emmy nominated performance in HBO’s “Miss Evers’ Boys.” Of course Obba made history as C.C. White in the original Broadway production of “Dreamgirls.”

Thankfully this brilliant and versatile talent is still providing the industry with more and more displays of his multi-dimensional gifts and creative aptitude.

Also appearing in The Fallen Faithful are Patrick Gallagher, Jaquelyn Pi ñol, Alan Smyth, Zeus Mendoza and Eric Payne.

The film is directed by Hungarian born Csaba Bereczky. The Fallen Faithful offers a unique perspective on man’s choices and consequences.

Watch the trailer for “The Fallen Faithful”:


Hong Kong Star To Play Bruce Lee

Source: www.thestar.com - Mike Collett-White

(June 21, 2010)  Aarif Lee, 23, who rose to fame in Hong Kong as the star of the hit movie Echoes of the Rainbow, will play Bruce Lee in an upcoming biopic that focuses on the late kung fu icon's youth. Bruce Lee: My Brother's Story is funded by a consortium of studios from Hong Kong and mainland China. It will start shooting in June.

To Infinity At The Box Office

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 20, 2010) Welcome back, Woody and Buzz. The animated heroes of Toy Story 3 sold $109 million (all figures U.S.) worth of tickets during their opening weekend at the North American box office, reviving slow summer sales, according to estimates issued Sunday by distributor Walt Disney Co. The film scored the best debut for a film produced by Disney’s Pixar Animation unit. The old mark of $70.5 million was set by The Incredibles in May 2004. Pixar’s perfect record of 11 No. 1 movies also remains intact, as expected. Woody the cowboy, Buzz Lightyear the spaceman and their pals in the toy chest starred in Pixar’s debut release, Toy Story, in 1995, a film that inaugurated the era of computer-generated animation. They returned in November 1999 with a sequel that opened to $57.3 million.  Also new at the box office was the comic-book adaptation Jonah Hex, which is an early contender for biggest flop of the year. The movie, starring Josh Brolin as a Western bounty hunter, earned just $5.1 million during its first three days.

::TV NEWS::\

Young Series Veterans Sing Rookie Blues

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(June 20, 2010) They are anything but “rookies.” But they play them on TV.

Rookie Blue co-stars Missy Peregrym and Gregory Smith have between them almost 30 years solid acting experience, much of it on American series, more often than not shows shot here in Canada.

Montreal-born, B.C.-raised Peregrym, 28, made a successful leap from modelling to acting, to the point where she had to give up her recurring role on the then-hit Heroes to take on the female lead in Reaper.

Smith, 27, was born in Toronto and made his professional acting debut only 14 months later (in a Tide commercial). He went on to play Heath Ledger’s ill-fated little brother in The Patriot, teamed with Kirsten Dunst to battle homicidal dolls in Small Soldiers and capped a decade and a half of episodic TV with a starring role on Everwood.

And now it’s back to square one, fictionally speaking, as the focal figures of a quintet of green but gung-ho police academy grads learning the ropes on the mean streets of Toronto.

Rookie Blue debuts Thursday night on its originating network Global, and simultaneously in the States on ABC, temporarily taking over the timeslot of the on-hiatus Grey’s Anatomy.

While the docs are away, the cops will play, a summer-long trial run of 13 episodes that Peregrym and Smith are obviously hoping will prove popular enough to lead to more.

The chances are good — Rookie Blue is the perfect placeholder, a similarly character-driven procedural show about professional coming of age.

I am not the first person to describe it as Blues Anatomy, or Grey’s Academy.

“Those are nice things for people to say,” acknowledges Smith. “I mean, that show set the standard for procedural-based, character-driven drama.”

Peregrym enthusiastically agrees. “If we can match that,” she laughs, “we will be sooo happy.”

Peregrym is front and centre as Andy McNally, an earnest young cadet who exits the academy with more than her share of emotional baggage.

“Andy’s a perfectionist,” she says. “She’s the girl who wants to save everybody. It stems from her father, who was an alcoholic (cop), and exited the division with a pretty bad name. Her mother left when she was 12, and she’s hoping that the job can give her that sense of family that she’s missed.

“There’s so much depth to her character, which is exciting for me. I’ve never been able to go that far with a character before. There is so much potential. She’s a lot of fun to play.”

Perhaps, initially, just a little too much fun. “We kind of got into a little trouble,” admits Peregrym, “for goofing around with our guns. We got a bit of a talking-to. You really can’t do that out where people can see you. Because to them it looks real. We’re often mistaken for real cops when we’re filming.

“So we had to grow up a little bit.”

Just like their characters. Explains Smith: “My character, Dov Epstein, is basically one of those guys who’s known exactly what he’s wanted to do for as long as he can remember.”

“I kind of loosely based him on a guy I knew in kindergarten, who wanted to be a cop so bad he used to pull kids over on the playground.”

He never did find out if the boy actually made it — he’s thinking about tracking him down via Facebook — but if so, he too would likely have found the reality far removed from the dream.

“He’s finally there. This is the moment he’s waited for his entire life. But first he’ll have to reconcile what he had imagined it would be, with that ignorance of youth, to the reality check of what it really is.”

Part of both actors’ real-life learning curve was a crash course in police procedure and learning how to properly handle a gun.

“I’ll tell you one big misconception,” Smith says. “Cops never say ‘Freeze!’ It might be misinterpreted. They might think you were, like, ordering fries. Or that you had fleas.”

But it’s not so much what you yell as it is at whom. Their police training included the familiar field test of shooting at a moving target range of cardboard suspects and victims.

“Wasn’t it you who shot the mother and baby?” Peregrym teases Smith.

“Yeah,” says Smith, sadly shaking his head. “I basically just shot the crap out of anything that moved.”

Maybe they ought to rethink that whole “Freeze!” thing.

Glee To Step It Up Next Season

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 20, 2010) Banff, Alta. —Expect new students, teachers – and more high-profile guest stars – on the next season of Glee. “We’re bringing in several new awesome characters,” series co-creator Ian Brennan revealed at the Banff World Television Festival on Wednesday, saying some of them joined the show after auditioning on the social networking site MySpace. “We were inundated,” Brennan said, adding they had “tens of thousands” of entries.

The show’s first season tracked teacher Will Schuester’s (Matthew Morrison) rebuilding of a competitive suburban high school glee club, as he prepares the students for competition at Sectionals and Regionals. Part drama, part comedy, part musical, Glee was a smash success.

Brennan says viewers can expect some changes in the fall. “The show sort of steps up in the second season,” he said. “It’s not just anymore about a rag-tag bunch of kids putting on a show.” He says the shift occurs as the students are no longer most concerned about making friends or getting others involved in glee club, but will instead focus more on winning. “It’s a shift,” he said. “They’re in their sophomore year … and [there are] changes that happen there.”

There are several Canadians in the cast, including Calgary native Cory Monteith, who plays quarterback-turned-Glee-club-member Finn Hudson. Brennan said he liked Monteith from the beginning. “The actor playing that role sort of had to be Canadian,” he told reporters in Banff. “I think if Cory was American, he wouldn’t be the same kid.”

Brennan said season two will feature “hilarious, hilarious, awesome” guest stars, but would not reveal any names. When asked about reports British singer Leona Lewis would make an appearance, he smiled and said “no comment.” He also said the show would feature another very high profile star. (There are rumours it will be Justin Timberlake.) Brennan said Glee receives a lot of requests from celebrities who want to be on the show; too many to accommodate by writing them into the script. “You don’t want it to be The Love Boat,” he said.

Dancing To A (Slightly) Different Tune

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(June 22, 2010) When producer Nigel Lythgoe first announced he would be making changes to So You Think You Can Dance, I thought he was crazy. And now that we’re a week into the actual competition, I’m sure of it. Crazy like a fox — both the animal and the network.

Lythgoe, who also created, directs and anchors the SYTYCD judging panel, has overhauled the structure of the show, cutting immediately to the chase and starting out with only 10 finalists . . . well actually, as it turned out, 11, but that freedom to improvise on the fly just speaks to the viability of the revamped rules.

Limiting the number of competitors only increases our individual emotional investment, giving us that much extra time to get to know, get behind and cheer on our favourites.

I was particularly worried about not coupling them off, which originally allowed them to develop (or not) solid partnerships, with the added excitement of then tearing them asunder as their ranks decreased, ultimately to fend for themselves.

But to partner them up instead with a rotating roster of SYTYCD all-stars from previous seasons . . . surely just a naked ploy to elevate the ratings.

I did not truly appreciate what wonderful fun it could be reconnecting with these former favourites, all uniquely charismatic performers still very much at the top of their game. And I never imagined how much this would actually, contrarily highlight the individual new competitors.

Nor did it even occur to me that, relieved of the couples restraint, the show’s matchless choreographers would be free to work in additional combinations of three, four, five . . .

I panicked when I saw veteran judge Mary Murphy missing from the weekly panel. And then I realized that, much as I love her — and I am looking right now at a photo of the two of us, prominently displayed on my desk — I have to admit, the woman’s constant banshee shriek and “hot tamale train” shtick was starting to wear a little thin.

Replacing her with the incomparable Mia Michaels was even more worrisome; the show will suffer greatly from the loss of her particular choreographic genius, though I imagine she will at least keep a hand in on some of those wonderful, non-competitive, en masse opening numbers. Still, it is almost worth it for her honest and often impassioned commentary.

The instalment of Adam Shankman as a regular judge last year brought added expertise, eloquence and a wicked sense of humour, bringing out in particular the lighter side of Lythgoe, who will now finally be able to uncover his ears.

Shankman also, as far I can recall, was the first judge ever to unreservedly criticize the work of an in-house choreographer. Not that there is a lot of occasion to do so. But no one hits the ball out of the park every single time.

It’s an example our own, generally gushy — albeit sincerely so — Canadian judges might do well to consider. There’s nothing wrong with a little well-earned praise, but on the homegrown So You Think You Can Dance Canada it has become just a tad overzealous, particularly where choreographers are concerned.

The Canadian show, which returns mid-August, does not yet have enough seasons to draw from to be able to adopt the new format.

The American original’s second elimination round airs Wednesday and Thursday nights on Fox and CTV.


Kravitz, Diddy to Guest Star on HBO’s Entourage

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 17, 2010) *Lenny Kravitz and Sean “Diddy” Combs are among the guest stars lined up for an upcoming episode of the HBO comedy “Entourage,” reports EW.comKravitz will play himself—with Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) serving as his agent. In the episode, “Ari’s trying to trade favours,” says series creator Doug Ellin. “He’s got to get Lenny to do a movie so someone else will do something for him.”  Meanwhile, Diddy and “Entourage” executive producer Mark Wahlberg will portray themselves on the golf course. “Turtle [Jerry Ferrara] is starting a business, and he’s trying to get them to invest in it,” says Ellin. “He’s going to a lot of people about this investment.”  The episode will air in August as part of the show’s seventh season, which debuts June 27.

Mos Def Gets ‘Enlightened’ for HBO

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 23, 2010) *
Mos Def has signed on to star in HBO’s upcoming comedy series “Enlightened,” reports Deadline. Laura Dern stars as a woman who changes her life after a spiritual awakening, complicating her relationships with family and friends. Mos Def will play Dern’s boss. The rapper-actor’s last go-round with HBO, the 2004 film “Something the Lord Made,” earned him an Emmy nomination.


Dissent Clouds Dora Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(June 22, 2010) Who’s going to keep the wolf away from the Dora?

In the past few days, the artistic directors of two of this city’s largest arts organizations informed me of their decision to end their affiliation with the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts after this year’s
Dora Awards.

Every year, people complain about how the Doras are run, but this year was worse than ever. And in light of TAPA’s refusal to make any significant changes, it seems revolution is the order of the day.

You might wonder why it would be so significant if a couple of larger companies withdrew from this organization, but here’s the answer.

TAPA’s budget is primarily supported by the dues of its members and those dues are predicated on the annual budget of the organizations in question.

In other words, Mirvish Productions foots a lot more of the total bill than, say, Theatre Columbus.

Another economic factor not generally known to the public is that you have to be a dues-paying member of TAPA to be eligible for Doras. That’s why some excellent shows go unnominated each year: because the producers involved either can’t or won’t spend the cash to join TAPA.

It’s one of the reasons that the superb Sandra Shamas has never been nominated for a Dora and never will be as long as those rules are in place. Why would she support an organization that really can’t do much for her?

THIS CHICK ROCKS! The cast of the hit musical Rock of Ages now playing at the Royal Alex is virtually all-Canadian, but it will take another step toward being totally True North Strong and Free very soon.

The Star has learned that Josephine Rose Roberts, so funny in the role of political activist Regina, will leave the Toronto company to take over the role on Broadway at the end of July.

Her replacement will be the lovely and talented Adrienne Merrell, whose most recent Toronto appearances were as Christine in The Boys in the Photograph at the Royal Alex and as Cathy in The Last Five Years at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

Her onstage romantic partner in Rock of Ages is Cody Scott Lancaster as the mad metrosexual German Franz. It won’t take much getting used to for either of them, because they played a couple in The Boys in the Photograph as well.

SHARRON SHARE ALIKE: What’s the cost of World Domination? About $8,000, or at least that’s how much Sharron Matthews still has to raise to finance her conquest of the Edinburgh Festival this August under that name. (Her loyal fans have contributed $22,000 already.) This one-woman dynamo has just returned from New York, where she earned the kind of buzz we normally don’t give people in Canada.

“Cabaret in the city hasn’t ever encountered anything like Matthews before or since,” wrote one critic, “and she simply must make her presence more widely known within a very short time.”

If you’ve seen this awesome talent in any one of the numerous local musicals she’s lit up, or in her popular cabaret, Sharron’s Party, then you know how great she can be.

If not, take my word for it. Any donation you make to Matthews is tax-deductible, because of her relationship with Buddies In Bad Times Theatre.

Just email her and the diva will explain all!

Elton John okays a tour for Love Lies Bleeding

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(June 22, 2010) Alberta Ballet production, based on pop star's music, to hit the road next year

It was the phone call that Alberta Ballet artistic director Jean Grand-Maître has been waiting weeks for. Ray Cooper was on the line: percussionist, long-time collaborator, close friend and confidante to
Elton John. Cooper had been to Calgary last month to see the world premiere of Love Lies Bleeding, a ballet set to the pop star's music, choreographed by Grand-Maître. John, who sent a big bouquet and a card to Grand-Maître on opening night apologizing for not being there, had sent Cooper in his place: It would be up to the drummer to watch the ballet and report back.

John had given Grand-Maître the approval to show the ballet in Alberta only. Once it was staged in Calgary and Edmonton, John would weigh in on whether the production was good enough to tour elsewhere. The stakes were high: At $1.1-million, the ballet's budget had doubled from its original estimate, and Grand-Maître would be in hot water, he knew, if the show could go nowhere.

" I don't call it a Broadway show, because it ain't. "- Jean Grand-Maître

"This was the biggest risk I've ever taken. I pushed the company into huge investment in [a] very difficult economic time," he says.

So when Cooper called him up last week, Grand-Maître was on pins and needles. Cooper reported that he and John had spent the previous day watching the ballet on DVD and discussing it. And then: "Ray ... said the news was good. The maestro was very happy, he really loves the ballet. He loves that the ballet [deals with] themes that are important to him today: dignity for people with AIDS, compassion and tolerance for homosexuals. ... He seems to be happy that the ballet did not cop out and become highly entertaining schlock. That we used his life and challenges he faced in his life to educate."

The ballet, inspired by John's life, examines the cult of celebrity through a fan-turned-fantasy-rock-star protagonist. It deals with difficulties John himself has faced, such as drug addiction.

"I am proud of what the Alberta Ballet has created and I am looking forward to seeing this ballet live on," John said in a written statement released by the ballet company. "It is a strong, contemporary choreography that entertains and challenges dance audiences with its new aesthetics and its powerful fusion of different art mediums. I hope it will attract thousands of new patrons to this wonderful art form."

That point was key, says Grand-Maître: John is keen to bring new people to the ballet, and they both feel Love Lies Bleeding, with its hit songs, accessible story - and its superstar attached - can accomplish that. "We think between 8,000 and 10,000 people came to the ballet for the very first time in their lives with this show," says Grand-Maître.

John's approval does come with some strings. While he has asked for no changes to the content, he has indicated that the ballet cannot tour to a city where it will be competing with another John show: either a live performance, or any of his theatrical properties such as The Lion King or Billy Elliot. (Although Grand-Maître feels there may be some wriggle room in a large arts-friendly city such as New York.)

Also the ballet must be presented and marketed as such: "That means I don't call it a Broadway show," says Grand-Maître, "because it ain't."

Even before the world premiere, Grand-Maître had received offers from interested promoters around the world. He's also been called by organizations wanting to sponsor the tour - a first, he points out with a laugh. "It seems that we'll be world touring."

While he's had offers to present the ballet as early as January, 2011, Grand-Maître says a tour will likely have to wait until September, 2011. It's a massive undertaking: a two-truck tour with some 45 personnel and a lot of equipment. The logistics are daunting, but the payoff could be spectacular: Grand-Maître estimates the ballet could bring in "hundreds of thousands of dollars" each year for his company. And he thinks it will be such a hot seller, he may create a touring ensemble specifically for this property, beginning in September, 2012.

"I predict that we'll be touring for years to come and give our dancers extra weeks of work and give us some financial stability as well in these challenging times."

They're also in discussions about televising the work.

Grand-Maître, who has also created a ballet with Joni Mitchell (The Fiddle and the Drum) and is working on a ballet set to Sarah McLachlan's music, figures the first tour of Love Lies Bleeding will concentrate on Canada, perhaps kicking off in Toronto, with some U.S. dates. But he sees it going far beyond and for years to come - perhaps with some pop ballet double-bills. And there's one city he has his eye on in particular.

"I dream to see it performed one day in London, where Elton can finally see it live: having him sitting next to us, watching his life on stage."

Mirvish Leaves Stage Fans Plenty Of Choices Even During G20

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(June 20, 2010) Were you all pumped to see Rock of Ages or Mamma Mia! this week, only to find that the G20 had rained on your parade and the Mirvishes were keeping their theatres closed in the interests of safety and sanity?

Sorry, dude!

Fear not, Rock of Ages will be back on June 29 to delight audiences again. Mamma Mia!s stay in Toronto was supposed to come to an end on June 27, anyway, and considering the quality of the touring cast, don’t shed any tears.

But what are you going to do if you’re dying for an in-town theatrical experience next week? Here’s five very worthy solutions.

SECOND CITY FOR MAYOR — Second City Theatre, 51 Mercer Street (416-343-0033) Okay, the theatre is right in the belly of the G20 beast, but they’ve got a hilarious show playing and they’re offering all seats next week for $20! Even better is their dinner- theatre package with $35 buying you a full-course dinner AND the show at some choice area restaurants. Details at: www.secondcity.com/page/dinnertheatre

ONEGIN — Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W. (416-345-9595) Have you never been to the National Ballet of Canada? This is your chance! It’s a great story-ballet with an easy-to-follow plot-line, luscious music by Tchaikovsky, a dazzling new design and a company dancing at their peak. Go to www.national.ballet.ca for advice on “dancing around the G20”.

ROMEO AND JULIET — Canadian Stage’s Dream in High Park, Grenadier Pond. 416-367-1652. Catch one of the final previews of this year’s outdoor Shakespeare treat, seated on a grassy slope while the sun sets around you. Jeff Irving (Sound of Music, Robin Hood) is the manly Montague. Pay what you can. Details at: www.canadianstage.com/dream

JITTERSSoulpepper Theatre Company at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St. 416-866-8666. Another show to visit in previews, this one is David French’s much-loved comedy about the trials and tribulations of putting on a new Canadian play. C. David Johnson and Diane D’Aquilla star. More info at www.soulpepper.ca

THE WEDDING SINGER — Stage West Dinner Theatre, 5400 Dixie Rd. (905-238-0042) Mississauga is nice and far from downtown Toronto and this feel-good musical is a great way to pretend the G20 never came to town. Erica Peck is the standout in a great cast and the buffet makes for one-stop shopping! www.stagewest.com

Prospero Won’t Be Plummer’s Last Role

Source: www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

(June 23, 2010) Did William Shakespeare write The Tempest as a farewell to the theatre? Whether or not it was intended as such, his romance about revenge and reconciliation on an enchanted island, which opens in a production starring Christopher Plummer on Friday at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, has become closely associated with endings both planned and unplanned in the 400 years since it premiered.

Certainly, when it was first announced that Plummer would be playing Prospero this summer, it was logical to wonder whether this would be the 81-year-old actor's parting part.

The role has become a favourite for actors nearing the end of a long stage career: Just five years ago, revered Canadian actor William Hutt took his final bow at Stratford in it, released from his long career as he spoke Prospero's last line: “As you from crimes would pardoned be, let your indulgence set me free.” (That's the audience's cue to clap.)

Plummer, however, has been clear that his Prospero is not a swan song. With his recent Oscar nomination and box-office success with films like Up, his career is still going strong and he intends to return to the stage quickly – possibly in a comic role directed by Des McAnuff, who is also helming The Tempest. (Perhaps Malvolio in next season's rumoured production of Twelfth Night?)

So how did Prospero come to be associated with final curtains in the first place? Though it appears at the beginning of the First Folio, the 1623 collection of Shakespeare's plays, The Tempest is widely considered to be the Bard's final full play. And the magician Prospero has long been read as the poet's stand-in, at least since the 19th century when it became fashionable to try to glean traces of an author's autobiography in his work.

In Shakespeare's story – which has no known original source – Prospero, who was once Duke of Milan, rules over an uncharted island that is ostensibly located in the Mediterranean, but contains hints of the New World and, practically speaking, exists solely in the imagination.

When a ship full of his old enemies and friends come within the vicinity of the island, Prospero, with the help of the spirit Ariel, causes it to wreck; he then manipulates the survivors from afar, sending them on quests and teaching them lessons.

The parallel to artistic creation is very clear, though Prospero doesn't behave exactly like a playwright – as critic Northrop Frye observed, he's really more of an actor-manager, both playing the lead role and directing the show.

When Prospero gives up the “art” of magic and says he'll “retire me to my Milan, where every third thought shall be my grave” in the final scene, however, generations of critics have imagined Shakespeare similarly tottering off to Stratford-upon-Avon to putter in the garden.

But not everyone is as soft-headed. “In point of historical fact, The Tempest was not Shakespeare's last play, and the romantic notion of a 'farewell to the stage' serves the Shakespeare myth better than the Shakespeare reality,” Harvard professor Marjorie Garber grumbles in her book Shakespeare After All. “It is we, not the playwright, who seem to need a ceremonial occasion to say goodbye.”

Indeed, most scholars believe that Shakespeare followed The Tempest with at least two other plays, Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and possibly the legendary lost play Cardenio.

But since those endeavours were co-authored by John Fletcher, however, they have, perhaps unfairly, tended not to be viewed as “real” Shakespeare.

In any case, who's to say that the Bard didn't head off to Stratford and then, like so many artists ill-advisedly do to this day, attempt a comeback? Hutt himself – who, it should be noted, played Prospero a total of four times at Stratford –came out of retirement to perform King Lear, in a way, on the TV series Slings and Arrows. And he planned a return to Stratford in 2007, before ill health forced him to withdraw.

In fact, if Shakespeare is similar in personality to Prospero, then it makes sense that he would have trouble staying away from the stage. As The Tempest draws to a close, Prospero keeps delivering speeches that sound as if they should be epilogues. First there's “our revels now are ended,” which includes the famous line, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Then there's “this rough magic I here abjure,” where he breaks his staff and drowns his magic books. By the time he gets to the actual epilogue and lets us know that now his “charms are all o'erthrown,” it can feel like a victory lap.

Academic David Bevington has eloquently expressed why the connection between Prospero's final speeches and Shakespeare is so hard to shake. “No doubt it is a romantic fiction to associate the dramatist Shakespeare with Prospero's farewell to his art,” he has written, “but it is an almost irresistible idea, because we are so moved by the sense of completion yet humility, the exultation and yet the calm contained in this leave-taking.”

Similarly, it will be hard not to associate the words Prospero speaks this summer at Stratford with the aging, adored actor playing him. While we hope and expect Plummer's performance this summer will be just another notch on his belt, if he plays it well it will no doubt feel like a valediction.

The Tempest runs in Stratford, Ont., from June 25 to Sept. 12.  

Actress Tracy Wright Dead At 50

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

(June 23, 2010) Toronto actress
Tracy Wright, who frequently collaborated with husband Don McKellar on films including Monkey Warfare, Highway 61, and the upcoming concert film, This Movie is Broken, has died.

She was 50.

An obituary notice published Wednesday says Wright passed away peacefully at home Tuesday, surrounded by family.

Friend and collaborator Reg Harkema says she had been battling pancreatic cancer and took a sudden turn for the worse about a month ago.

Although mostly known for smaller roles, Wright's list of diverse credits in film, television and theatre established her as a fixture on the indie scene.

Her 20-year career included appearances in more than 35 films and TV shows, as she worked with luminaries such as Bruce McDonald and playwright Daniel MacIvor.

She starred as an aging, pot-smoking radical in Harkema's 2006 movie Monkey Warfare and last year appeared in a theatrical remount of MacIvor’s A Beautiful View.

Upcoming projects were to include the title role in a reading of Bertolt Brecht’s Life Of Galileo and as an alt-rock-band survivor in McDonald’s film, Trigger.

“She was not in good shape the last time we saw her but you know, she still had all the spark and wit and passion,” Harkema said Wednesday.

Wright has a small cameo in McDonald's concert film, This Movie Is Broken, which opens Friday in Toronto and Vancouver.

A visitation is planned for Thursday and a memorial will be announced at a later date.

Wright is survived by McKellar, her father Colin Wright, her brother Paul, sisters Gloria and Stephanie, parents- in-law John and Kay McKellar and their families. 

Jersey Boys Finds Its Millionth Customer

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(June 23, 2010) For Amanda Sant, it was a million-to-one shot.

The Innisfil woman was surprised Wednesday afternoon to be told she was the millionth customer to attend
Jersey Boys, the hit musical presented by Dancap Productions at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

Sant, who is five months pregnant, took her mother to the matinee and was rewarded with a prize of an all-expense-paid trip to New York, including a night at Jersey Boys on Broadway, where the show opened in 2005.

For almost two years, the musical saga of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has played to large and enthusiastic audiences in Toronto, just as it has done in other cities across North America since its first tryout in La Jolla, Calif., in 2004.

When the show’s Toronto presenter, Aubrey Dan, announced he was opening the show at a theatre north of Yonge St. and Sheppard Ave., downtown sceptics doubted it could succeed. But the GTA has changed and, as Dan puts it, “what used to be perceived as the north of the city is now the heart of the city.”

When the show opened on Aug. 24, 2008, Dan said he “never dreamed it would reach its millionth customer . . . but that doesn’t make it any less thrilling.”

Des McAnuff, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival artistic director, who originally directed the show and guided it to its Tony-winning stint on Broadway as well as its Toronto incarnation, said he was also thrilled the show had achieved such “a truly remarkable milestone.”

Dan said the success of Jersey Boys has also given him courage to continue in his battle to be considered as a major presenter of commercial theatre in Toronto. He has struggled to get venues and some of his attempts have failed, such as last fall’s show The Toxic Avenger.

“I’m committed to staying with this effort,” Dan said. “In fact, I’m more involved than I ever have been before. My organization has its finger on the pulse of Toronto, but we’re also close to what’s happening in New York and London.”

Dan is one of the producers of Memphis, which won this season’s Tony Award for Best Musical, evidence that the quirky, slouch-hatted impresario is not to be written off as a major player on the city’s scene.

As for the lucky Sant, her prize trip will be her first ever to Manhattan, and a memory she’ll never forget.


Tammy Grimes Gets Back To Caberet

Source: www.thestar.com - The New York Times

(June 23, 2010) NEW YORK—At 76, Tammy Grimes has amassed a lifetime of stories and loves to tell them. She was discovered singing in a cabaret by Noel Coward, knew she would marry Canadian actor Christopher Plummer the first time she saw him onstage (and she did), was the first and in some people’s minds the only Unsinkable Molly Brown (sorry, Debbie Reynolds), and once showered with a young Marlon Brando. And beginning Tuesday and continuing for six more nights over this week and next, Grimes will return to her roots in cabaret with Miss Tammy Grimes: Favourite Songs and Stories at the Metropolitan Room in Gramercy.  In addition to Molly Brown, Grimes is known for her Broadway roles in the musical High Spirits, and the original cast of 42nd Street. She performed extensively with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, had a short-lived TV series, The Tammy Grimes Show, in the 1960s (after passing on the role of Samantha Stevens in the hit TV series Bewitched), and only shared the stage once with Plummer, her first of three husbands (their daughter is the actress Amanda Plummer).


Joe Danger: Stunt-Combo Game Delivers With Adrenalin Doses

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

Joe Danger
(out of 4)
PS3 (download)
Rated e

Back in junior-high science class, where tandem tables were even more conducive to non-academic diversionsthan rows of desks, my friend Mike and I used to play a drawing game we called “Dare Devil.” Passing a sheet of paper, taking turns adding segments of death-track, we’d put a little stickman on a motorbike through a gauntlet of ramps, pits, shark-filled pools, rotating blades, lava lakes and laser grids. We’d mess that little guy up good, but he always came out smiling, dazed and broken but triumphant. I immediately recognized and responded to that same spirit of gleeful stunt chaos in Hello Games’ excellent PS3 download title,
Joe Danger.

A riotous, sparkling, candy-coloured blend of Excitebike, Mario, Wario and any number of stunt-combo games, with maybe a little dash of Crazy Taxi for spice, Joe Danger puts you in the jumpsuit and cape of its plucky eponymous cycle-stuntman as he attempts to come back from retirement to reclaim his spot at the top of the international daredevil rankings. You’ll race him through rapid-fire challenges, boosting, leaping, flipping and generally cannonballing (or pin-balling) through hilariously high-energy obstacle courses that might’ve been pulled right from the brain of a sadistic adolescent.

The key word to Joe Danger is speed. Not just the raw speed of Joe’s onscreen motoring, or the alacrity with which he busts out aerial combos after being launched into the air, but quickness overall — it’s pure go, go, go. Joe Danger never forces you to wait too long between adrenalin doses, and those doses are never too drawn out; if you’re taking more than a couple minutes to get through a level, you’re either doing it wrong or you’re taking your time to explore.

The fact you can take time to explore is actually one of the game’s unexpected pleasures. Sure, it’s mostly flat-out stunt action, but Joe Danger’s many stages are less like “tracks” than platform-style levels, complete with hidden treasures waiting to reward those who like to poke around in every nook and cranny. And any given level will have multiple challenges associated with it, so you end up playing the same stage multiple times, in very different ways, to achieve those various goals. Head-to-head multiplayer and a fun little track editor — which sadly does not feature LittleBigPlanet-style global sharing — add even more depth to the package.

On the audiovisual level, Joe Danger is a real treat, bright and brassy and wholly geared toward building a sense of recklessness and joy. The sound design is especially good, a happy cacophony of engine revs, hyperbolic track announcer, satisfying crowd reactions, coin blings straight out of Mario, and propulsive music. Man, that music; double-time party funk featuring an organ player busting out sweet riffs like Booker T. on speed . . . totally boss.

Not to be too mercenary about it, but in these tough economic times, you’ve got to look to maximizing your game budget, and considered in terms of grins-on-the-dollar, the 15-buck Joe Danger delivers value like little else out there. High speed, high fun, high danger . . . this is everything you’ve ever loved about video games, cooked down into concentrated form. 

Toews is NHL Cover Athlete

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(June 21, 2010) It was a case of the present versus the future, and like most things these days, things went very well for Jonathan Toews. This past year, the Chicago Blackhawks centre won Olympic Gold with Team Canada, then the Stanley Cup, and was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy for being the playoff MVP. On Monday, he was named the cover athlete for the EA Sports NHL 11.

At the launch event at a local art gallery, Toews played the game against Tyler Seguin, the Plymouth Whaler touted a top pick in Friday’s NHL draft. In the opening moments, Toews quickly potted a goal, sticking his tongue out in joy seconds after he took the lead in their virtual game.

“I think coming in [playing pro hockey], one of the first things you’re excited to see is yourself in a video game, but you never imagine that being on the cover is going to happen so quickly,” said the 22-year-old Blackhawks Captain, who says he been playing video game hockey since he was 7 on the NES and Sega consoles.

Unlike the famed Madden Curse — that NFL video game’s cover athlete has a long and dark history of misfortune after appearing on the game — Toews says it’s an honour to join the stellar list of fellow NHLers who have appeared on the NHL game, and he didn’t have to look far to know it’s at least bunk for his sport, as his teammate Patrick Kane had the honour last year, and things turned out pretty well for him.

“We would joke about that with Kaner, this year, but he had a great year,” he said. “The [video game] simulation predicted that we’d win the Cup before the playoffs started, and we ended up winning, so hopefully this is a sign of only good things to come.”

As for Seguin, he says his life has been “surreal” as he prepares to realize his dream of playing professional hockey, and says that being part of a video game only adds to the excitement. He was on hand because one of the new additions to NHL 11 is that it will feature Canadian Hockey League players and franchises.

“It’s unreal,” said Seguin. “I thought I was a big fan before, but now I’m even a bigger fan. I can go up there and try and do my dangle with my own hands.”

It’s the 20th anniversary edition of EA’s hockey franchise, and in addition to the Canadian junior league players being added to the game, the game developer is touting the addition of a new physics engine, which is software that controls all the physical aspects within the game.

“We looked at Fight Night 4 and what they did, and how successful they were in making the game play open-ended and non-scripted. We saw that and figured we had to get that into the NHL and a team sports game for the first time,” said Sean Ramjagsingh, associate producer of NHL 11.

“So when you think physics and you think hockey, the first thing you think of is big hits, and we have those, but now the great thing about the game play is that every single hit will be different.”

The new engine will affect everything in the game, from the way that sticks handle to how the puck bounces off a goalie’s pads after a shot. Another change is that player’s sticks can be broken and players will actually be able to play without them for moments until they make it to the bench to get another one.

NHL 11 will be released on Sept. 7, 2010.



Oprah, Will.i.am to get Stars on Walk of Fame

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 17, 2010) *Oprah Winfrey and Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am are among 30 new celebs announced Thursday as 2011 recipients of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Penelope Cruz, The Muppets, Gwyneth Paltrow, Donald Sutherland, Reese Witherspoon, Danny DeVito and Tina Fey will also be immortalized in pink-and-black terrazzo during ceremonies next year. Honourees in the recording category include Melissa Etheridge, Los Tigres Del Norte and Rascal Flatts.



McGee Maddox: Plucked From The Corps De Ballet

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(June 22, 2010) It’s the stuff of legends: A young dancer is catapulted out of the ranks in his first season with the company to perform a starring role.

McGee Maddox, only 23, will take the lead in the National Ballet of Canada’s production of John Cranko’s masterpiece Onegin at the matinee performance this Thursday in Toronto. And while it may be a single midday outing, as ballet aficionados know, it signals a promise of glory to come. In fact, just this week McGee was promoted to second soloist.

It was Reid Anderson, director of this production, who plucked Maddox out of the corps de ballet. The former National artistic director, currently head of Stuttgart Ballet, was himself one of the great Onegins.

“I went on my gut instinct when I saw McGee in company class,” he says. “He may be young but he has bearing, deportment and moves with elegance. He’s also a very good partner, a natural onstage, and he’s blessed with charisma and a strong theatrical presence.”

Right from his start with the National, Maddox has been cast in such hefty roles as Benno, the Prince’s friend in James Kudelka’s Swan Lake, and in the Snow Queen Pas de Trois in Kudelka’s The Nutcracker. He was also one of the few whiz kids chosen for Jorma Elo’s world premiere Pur ti Miro.

The Globe caught up with Maddox between rehearsals to find out how he handled being the only boy in his ballet class in Spartanburg, S.C., how he recovered from injury to keep on dancing and what it means to play Eugene Onegin.

The obvious first question: How did you get into dance, anyway?

I was a hyperactive kid. When my mother, a pianist, played our Steinway, I’d dance around to the music – so my parents put me into creative movement [classes]. I started to take dance seriously when I began formal ballet classes at 7 or 8.

What was it like being a ballet boy in a conservative Southern town?

As the only boy in ballet class, I certainly had to defend my choice of art form, so I became known as a little guy with a big mouth. I was also into sports, played the cello in the school orchestra, studied piano and around 14 got into rock with drums and guitar – but I always knew that dance was where I was supposed to be. I fast-tracked through high school because I had to get out of Spartanburg.

And you went straight to Houston Ballet. Why there?

I’d taken summer ballet intensives at Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy with a phenomenal teacher called Lazaro Carreno. When I was offered a scholarship, I jumped. After two years I joined the company.

Even as an apprentice, you got leading roles – and then everything came to a grinding halt. Tell me about you injury.

In the last week of my apprentice year, I tore my knee. Between surgery and rehabilitation, I lost a year and a half.

How did having such a serious injury affect you so early in your career?

When I first went to Houston, I was in that dangerous young-dancer mindset. I wanted to have the edge that comes from pushing yourself to be the best. The time away taught me not to try so damn hard – to be honest with myself, and dance how I feel, and not do things that don’t feel right.

You only spent one more year with Houston before auditioning for the National. Why the move?

I felt I had grown as much as I could, and after six years, it was time to work with different people. I was looking for a company with a progressive rep that was au courant and attracted the movers and shakers of dance. The National is the ‘here and now’ of ballet.

You certainly got major roles right away.

I think people here could see that I could handle big stuff in a short amount of time. I’m committed to this art form. My technique is constantly evolving. I want to be a great dancer.

Tell me about landing that pivotal matinee lead in Onegin.

Onegin is a role that a dancer can build a career on. Tchaikovsky’s music is awesome and the choreography is perfect. It requires partnering and acting, so it’s my kind of ballet. It’s a dream of every male dancer to perform Onegin one day. Because the ballet is associated with mature artists, it’s a very big surprise to be taking on the role at 23.

The National Ballet’s Onegin runs through Friday at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre. McGee Maddox performs the title role in Thursday’s matinee at 2 p.m.

This interview has been condensed and edited.



World Cup Coverage

Source: www.thestar.com

South Korea draws with Nigeria to advance at World Cup

Argentina beats Greece to top Group B standings

France stumbles out of World Cup

Uruguay beats Mexico but both advance at World Cup

U.S. and England win key matches to advance at World Cup

German win sets up date with rival English side


Female Players Named To Hockey Hall Of Fame For First Time

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(June 22, 2010) The Hockey Hall of Fame is set to enshrine women for the first time. Canadian player Angela James and U.S. player Cammi Granato were among those elected to the Hall of Fame today. They were joined in the players category by former star NHL forward Dino Ciccarelli. Longtime Red Wings executive Jimmy Devellano and the late Daryl (Doc) Seaman — a founding owner of the Calgary Flames — were elected as builders. The induction ceremony will be held in November. While women had always been eligible for induction, the Hall made it easier for them to be selected when it established a women's subcategory this year. Not selected were Eric Lindros and Joe Nieuwendyk. Both were in their first year of eligibility and seen as possible top candidates.

Photos: Venus’ Wimbledon Dress Inspired by Tina Turner; Both Sisters Advance

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 22, 2010) Venus Williams competes during first round at Wimbledon, June 21, 2010 *Serena Williams made lightening quick work of her opponent at Wimbledon this morning, while her sister Venus – who caused yet another stir with her outfit – cruised through her opening match on Monday to advance to the tournament’s second round. Serena took just 21 minutes to eliminate Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-0, 6-4, delivering 15 aces in the process. Venus, who ditched her controversial flesh-coloured shorts for a pair of white ones, disposed of Paraguay’s Rossana De Los Rios 6-3, 6-2 while dressed in a frilly layered dress inspired by Tina Turner. “I love Tina Turner. Obviously, she’s just an amazing, amazing artist, just a survivor,” Venus told reporters about her ensemble. Referring to the uproar over her Australian Open shorts that made her appear to be playing without underwear, Williams said yesterday: ‘There’s no illusion this time. Here it’s all about white. I just think it’s a fun, elegant dress.”