2014 flew by so fast I have not had any time to think about lessons learned, goals achieved and irons in the fire that should be attended to. Going over my blog for the past year, it’s impossible to pick a Top Ten or anything like that – I can’t even do a particular highlight of the month – rating experiences isn’t my bag. Still, the past hour made me marvel at how many incredible bands I’ve witnessed in the past year, how many wonderful cocktails and meals I’ve enjoyed and mostly; how many brilliant, sweet friends I have! Grateful would be my middle name, but Jaymz G Bee doesn’t have a ring to it.
I rang in the New Year (Dec. 31 2013) at my loft with a dozen or so friends after our annual Bonzai Suzuki performance at the Massey Hall Comedy Extravaganza, which ended at ten thirty.
In January I hit Panama on business (The JAZZ.FM91 International Jazz Safari) and enjoyed the Panama Jazz Festival. (As I write this, II’m packing for Panama, seeking dejavu and then some – back on the 16th with a new blog!)
Danillo Perez, the world renowned pianist, composer and jazz educator is the Artistic Director of the festival and gave us all tickets to his private party in a tower over looking the Panama Canal. We saw a ton of amazing shows – most notably students from around the world who were attending Berklee. I met some new friends and on my last night bumped into Bare Naked Ladies at a small club in the old city.
From there my touring companion, Sahra Featherstone and I hit Costa Rica for a week. A visit from one of my best friends, Melissa Shouldice was an unexpected treat. We hit five star private beaches, remote beaches, tourist beaches…ate healthy food and drank the best coffee. Something about Costa Rica makes me not want to drink so much. Even though we explored a ton of places, Sahra and I enjoyed the last night of our trip in Jaco Beach more than anything. A perfect sunset, a visit with our friend Lalena and a simple perfect meal sent us back to the Canadian cold.
In February, I had another international jazz safari to host: this one to New Orleans which I must admit is my favourite destination. I also love New York and Newport, RI…what’s up with New?!?
I like to take our crew to the jazz hotspots like Preservational Hall, Fritzell’s and Snug Harbour but I also bring them to places they’d either never hear of or be worried about. As we drove up to the Oom Poo Pah Doo Bar we saw a car turned over. Two kids got out, by kicking out the windows and crawling. One opened the trunk, retrieved a bag..and they ran. As we got out of the bus the people standing around were talking and I said “isn’t it nice those kids are racing home before the ice cream melts? It’s probably groceries for their granny!” Everyone laughed and we went into the bar. This was a local joint and they not only allowed – but encouraged – smoking. The band played jazz, then blues and by the time we left, we were dancing to Rick James covers. The band were blown away because they usually get a buck a head in the tip jar and our people were putting in tens and twenties. We were so grateful for their hospitality and they now officially love Canadians. (Especially Jazz FM donating Canadians!)
In March, Don Francks released his recording from a live show at Top O’ The Senator about ten years back. Finally the CD “21st Century Francks” was available to the public! His show was stellar and our friendship has inspired me to sing more than I have in years. Working with Don Francks and Tony Quarrington is one of life’s sweetest treats.
Don, Tony and I also performed at St. Phillips Anglican on my birthday in April. Dave Young and Bernie Senensky joined us.
My entire birthday week (I do 7 parties in a row and then 7 nights where I only invite one friend over for a quiet dinner) is a bit of a blur…even with photos to remind me. It’s a whirlwind of good vibes and various styles of music.
Speaking of that, The JAZZ.FM91 One Stop Vocal Jazz Safari was another highlight of the spring for me. So much talent in this town – it’s ridiculous!
May days were exceptionally warm, and mid-month Captain Paul and I set sail several times with a fabulous crew. When I say crew, I should say guests – because other than optional steering of the ship there is nothing for our guests to do but enjoy.
In 2014 I lost count of how many International Jazz Safaris I hosted but I know we hit Chicago twice, New York twice, New Orleans, Monterey and Panama once – and for the first time we hit Newport Rhode Island for the Newport Jazz Festival which is held at Fort Adams – a historical festival on a historical site!
I hosted a wine safari of Southern Ontario and one weekend Barbra Lica, A-Phil and I cycled through wine country and stayed over with friends in St. Catherine’s. Also this year; a few RV trips to wineries in the Beamsville and Niagara region.
I also hosted a wine safari in Napa Valley during our San Francisco and Monterey jazz safari.
For a guy who rarely whines…I should do wine a lot!
Aside from a week in Costa Rica with Sahra, the only actual vacation (non-work related) was in Cuba. It was still kind of work related because I wanted to scout out a new resort…nothing to write off or anything but I hope to take a jazz safari to Caya Coco one day.
I attended a whack of charity events this year and one that I’m always happy to promote is The Purple Party which raises money for Childhood Cancer Canada. Barbra Lica, Mary B and I ripped it up on the dance floor!
I also held an event for Unison Benevolent Fund (www.unisonfund.ca) and the Fred Schneider dance party at The Phoenix raised over eight grand. The silent auction was stellar and the body painting was a welcome addition to the shenanigans.
Mervon Mehta at Koerner Hall: Take a bow! Mervon booked Barbra Lica in this gorgeous venue and lemetellya: It felt SO GOOD to see her and her band (under the direction of Lou Pomanti) play to over a thousand enthusiastic fans. She’s come a long way in a short time! Go get her new CD “Kissing You” right now!
Halloween was a gas…but as usual the Zombie Walk was even better than all the Halloween parties I hit. It’s so much more fun when you get your make up done. CLICK HERE
This year-end blog is really just scratching the surface…perhaps a pointless exercise…still, it’s faster than reading through twelve months and dozens of blogs from last year…uh, not that there’s anything wrong with that! 😉
I didn’t even post pics from my salon nights at Chez Bee Gigi. Gigi being home in T.O. …The single best thing about 2014!
Counting my blessings:
My family are happy, my neighbours are brilliant, I work with awesome people at JAZZ.FM91, I adore making music with Bonzai Suzki, Don Francks and Tony Q. and sitting in with all kinds of bands…and the adventures with friends continues…all out of fingers and toes…WISHING YOU ALL THE BEST FOR 2015!