Thanks, Pumpkin

I love pumpkin pie. My week ended with Thanksgiving in North Bay with my parents, but there was plenty more than pumpkin to be thankful for. On top of having incredibly awesome friends, a great job and fine health…my life also has the grooviest soundtrack!

Mark Murphy and I pretending to be camera shy.

My week began with a show I never thought I’d see. Mark Murphy is now 80 and thanks to JAZZ.FM91 and their Sound of Jazz Concert Series™ his die-hard fans got to see him perform at The Old Mill Inn. He played with a young trio from Montreal who had performed with him before. He was sliding around and playing with his voice in his trademark style, and people like Ron Sexsmith and Kurt Swinghammer felt as lucky as I to get to meet the man we all grew up with.

Kurt Swinghammer, Don Francks and Ron Sexsmith at The Old Mill Inn.

Truth be told, I only really got familiar with his music about a decade ago through my BFF Genevieve Marentette. I now own a ton of his music and I highly recommend ALL of it! While I was grateful for Mondays concert, Tuesday’s show was one of the highlights of my year and definitely one of the best CD release parties I’ve ever attended. Barbra Lica celebrated the release of her debut CD, “That’s What I Do” (on Triplet Records – the same label that released the “Songs” CD by Joe Sealy & Paul Novotny) with a phenomenal performance with many of those featured on her CD.

Shereen shot the show (and took that black and white photo above, of Barie and I). She had friends with cameras too and I can’t wait to see some footage on You Tube in the near future!

The show was professional yet playful, with the band ready to launch right into a song the moment Barbie was finished cracking jokes. Half hour before the show I went backstage to say hi. She told me her trumpet player was seriously sick and that she really wanted to do the title track with trumpet for the big night.

Barbra Lica live…nuttin’ like it!

I hit speed dial and was lucky enough to reach Jake Wilkinson on my first try. He bee-lined down to the club and arrived just in time to hit the stage.  When he got up, Barbie told the story of how quickly he  filled in and said “well, you look good and you are carrying a horn, but can you actually play that thing?” Big laughs. Jake read the chart and even got a round of applause for nailing the bridge. (Obviously the audience was ecstatic because who ever applauds a bridge?) Barbra Lica’s schoolmate and co-song wrtier Colin Story joined on a few tunes, as did Joe Sealy and her band consisted of: Steve Heathcotte, Brian Dickinson, Reg Schwagger and John Johnson. They all did a flawless job recreating the album. The biggest laugh of the night came from Lica’s rendition of “You Are My Sunshine”. I never knew that song to be so whiney, tragic and dark.

Writing songs for Bonzai Suzuki is a ton of fun!

Wednesday Barbie, Dave Howard and I had dinner and talked Bonzai biz. We’re writing new songs for Bonzai Suzuki and will have two appearances in Toronto. November 2 at The Opera House and December 31stat Massey Hall. The Opera House gig is part of NEWSAPALOOZA, a battle of the media bands. Rock bands made up of staff from various companies like The Star, Sun, CTV etc. create bands and vie for a trophy for best band. The money raised goes to The Children’s Aid Society and I will emcee for the fifth or sixth time. Bonzai Suzuki just play a few songs while the judges tabulate the score but it’ll be a packed house and no doubt a memorable moment. At Massey Hall, we’ll be playing The New Years Eve Comedy Extravaganza for the third year in a row. Opening for Scott Thompson and Andrea Martin was amazing and I can’t wait to find out who will be hosting and headlining this year!

Bonzai Suzuki as a four-piece a few years back at Massey Hall.

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY 

Thursday I had my biggest party of the week, and considering this past week that says a lot. I hadn’t seen Mary B. in ages, so I was fully pumped to pick her up and take her to the Business for The Arts Awards Gala at The Carlu. I saw tons of my favourite business folk, philanthropists and friends who are neck-deep in the arts.

Look for a more “focussed” shot in the Globe And Mail this coming Saturday!

Leanne Wright, Denise Donlon, Lorraine Segato, Albert Schultz, Alex Hahn, Sheena MacDonald and dozens more were all dress to impress. The Awards Show was short and sweet with almost no speeches and the music by Patricia O’Callahan and Quartetto Gellatto was perfect for this deco-venue. After plenty of food and wine we crossed the hallway to the round room for jazz by Ernesto Cervini (drums), Chris Donelly (grand piano), Dan Fortin (bass) and Alex Samaras (vocals). I continued to get photos of friends wearing my glasses for an art project (details on that hare-brained-scheme are in a few previous blogs) and managed to steal a dance. Mary is just about the funniest person I know and I imagine one day she’ll be a famous comic actress although at present she is happy to be A Master of Information, Locksmith and Social Enthusiast. I was so busy laughing and drinking I have to admit I lost count of the glasses of wine and had one of my bigger hangovers in 2012. Still, asleep by 2am, up at 5:30am and back to Jazz Fm to Wake Up with Heather Bambrick. I’m so glad we play great jazz in the morning…it’s good for a hangover, don’t you know? Friday and Saturday I hosted Jazz Safaris. Hitting five clubs in one night with 20 donors to JAZZ.FM91 is already a blast but doing two back-to-back is downright freaky. I saw ten bands and not one weak link! Quotes, The Rex, Gate 403, Dominion on Queen, Lula Lounge, The Reservoir Lounge Hugh’s Room, The Old Mill Inn’s Homes Smith Bar and Dovercourt House…so many venues are booking incredible music these days I find it easy to find five that work time-wise. My guests love the variety of bebop and ballads, swing, latin jazz and blues…and I never tire of producing and hosting these nights.

Ray Jessel was a riot at Hugh’s Room!

Saturday, Pam Hyatt and Ray Jessel at Hugh’s Room had everyone laughing. John Sherwwod at The Old Mill Inn tickled my brain and every single time I hit Dovercourt House I have a great time!

Dovercourt House books music for swing dancing every Saturday!

I enjoy seeing the faces of my new friends as they marvel at the lindy hoppers dancing to timeless jazz (this time performed by Drew Jureka, Ross Wooldridge, Brigham Phillips, Peter Hill, Chris Banks and Glenn Anderson). Also, they have 1990’s alcohol prices. For information on local swing events check out www.swingtoronto.com There are swing dance lessons followed by a live band every Saturday at Dovercourt House. You’ll think you stepped into a time machine: Young people dance with old people and it isn’t even creepy! Kids are happy and not ironic!

On Saturday, before my jazz safari, I enjoyed a Thanksgiving Dinner with my friends who share the Liberty Village warehouse in which I happily dwell…and while there wasn’t too much for me to eat (food fussy vegetarian) the vibe was sweet and the veggies I ate gave me some much-needed energy before another night of drinking.

Thanksgiving dinner isn’t the same if your not with family, so on Sunday I jumped on a bus to Barrie, met my buddy Captain Paul, and we drove up through the gorgeous fall colours to my parents house to dine with my mom and dad and enjoy some incredible pumpkin cheesecake at night and pumpkin pancakes the next morn! I got to see a few old friends and was happy to have made the pilgrimage to my home town for just one night!

Happy Thanksgiving!

COMING UP THIS WEEK:

Lunch with Don Francks and a Jazz Safari to New York City to enjoy music by Dave Gruisin, Diane Schurr and Bill Charlap on Friday and a live comedy gala Saturday featuring Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey, Stephen Cobert and hosted by Jon Stewart!

Back to New York this coming weekend. Can’t wait!!!

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