This week…beauty contests, wrestlers, a jazz safari, a day at the races, two birthdays and some sailing! (Oh yeah, and of course working all morn at JAZZ.FM91 on weekdays.) Never a dull moment…sometimes I think my life is best described as a Gemischter Salat; which basically means a mixed salad and depending on where you are, that “mixed” can mean anything. Still, “variety” and “not unhealthy” is a good start and everything I did this past week was fun and more than a little eventful.
Tuesday I attended the press conference for the CHIN Picnic 2013, held on Canada Day weekend each year. They’ve stepped it up this year with budgets for bands I imagine…during the male and female bikini pageant Platinum Blonde will hit the stage. At the Liberty Grand press conference, there were dancers and acrobats on hand, and after the wrestlers speech (read: rant) Lenny Lombardi got really animated and hilarious. I always miss Lenny’s dad (the late, great Johnny Lombardi) when I attend this event, but Lenny gets better every year dealing with the logistics and the media for Canada’s largest free picnic. He was having a blast at the conference and his crew make everyone feel like family. If you know of anyone looking for a family friendly thing to do Canada weekend, it’s at The CNE Grounds for the CHIN Picnic. Lenny was taken aback when I won the Weber’s BBQ from a business card draw…because I won the exact same prize from the same draw a year earlier! The odds were in the hundreds of it happening once…dunno how to figure it twice annually! Last time I gave the barbecue away to a good friend but this time knew I was supposed to have one…I’m keeping it. (Note to self: by a Veggie BBQ book!) Wednesday night I went to Lula Lounge and enjoyed a prog-rock-film-soundtrack performance from Maurizio Guarnini. The concert doubled as a CD launch for his latest recording called “Creatures From A Drawer”. Maurizio played keyboards with the Italian band Goblin whose soundtrack from the cult film Susperia was a favourite of mine growing up as a teen. He was joined by Chris Garnter, Great Bob Scott and others. I am happy to report I’ve never seen so many new faces at Lula Lounge! Fans of Fangoria and Rue Morgue Magazine filled the room. Maurizio sold a ton of shirts, CD’s and DVD’s and I hope Lula brings him back. (It’s the perfect venue for him because Howard Laurie is on the sound and this music deserves to both kick and kiss ass! Howard has two of the best ears in town and gives enjoys doing sound for artists in any musical genre.)
I played tour guide (bwana) on another jazz safari Friday and was thrilled that Jessica Pelchat could join me. She arrived just in time to board the Magic Bus to see Jeff Jones at The Old Mill Inn. She brought along brand new business cards for me, that she designed herself – and they look great. (She also designed my website www.jaymzbee.ca)
Lily Frost was brought in to play The Jazz Bistro by Gary Topp and we stayed for the entire set.
The set was over an hour and although it’s uncommon for the jazz safari to visit four instead of five venues in one night, I’ve found that the Jazz Bistro has such a great ambience and the caliber of talent so high, nobody wants to leave, so I will often do 4 stops and allow us the full experience. The Jazz Bistro is at Dundas Square on Victoria; and when you consider Massey Hall, Pantages Hotel and Ed Mirvish Theatre all a stone’s throw away I’m sure this place will be a huge success.
We ended our night with Steve Koven playing solo piano at Pantages Hotel Martini Bar.
The piano needs some love – I hope they get a new one soon – but Koven worked with what he had and blew everyone’s mind. Classical bits in between jazz, and some Liberace like chops massaging the piano that made barflies stop gabbing to take notice. I’m pretty sure I saw the piano smile, but I did have three bourbon manhattans and a martini that night.
Saturday morning I hopped in the RV with Captain Paul and Melissa Shouldice and drove up to Woodbine Racetrack for a gala benefit. I was asked to emcee a charity event for Best Buddies called “The Thrill Of Ascot”. Barbra Lica performed all afternoon and along with Mark Kieswetter on keys, Glenn Anderson on drums and George Koller on bass…entertained the well-dressed
philanthropists. We were all treated to complimentary champagne for the first hour and a gorgeous buffet for the day. Of course, being at Woodbine, watching the races was half the fun – but the most fun was seeing how much money was raised.
I was asked by Tammy Oram to act as auctioneer as well as emcee and I admit I approached that moment with a little trepidation, but the speech given earlier by Bernadette Morra (editor of Flare Magazine) was so eloquent and heartfelt that money almost fell out of wallets afterwards.
The event raised over $100,000 for Best Buddies. When
Bernadette asked us to imagine life without friends, I choked. If you don’t know much about this organization please surf around. It’s such a worthy cause: www.bestbuddies.ca
Sunday was Nathalie Kraemer Day! I thought we were going to a book signing by Robert Priest at 2pm but it turned out I was late by a day so I just bought the book and we made our way to a birthday party for Erella Gagnon. Her daughter, Celleste (who I babysat when she was one) greeted us at the door. After some animated conversations with Erella and her guests, Nathalie and I jumped in a taxi and beelined to another birthday celebration…for Serafin LaRiviere.
Nathalie had met Serafin at a concert recently and was a big fan of him and his voice. She really didn’t want to leave the party so soon (and neither did I, although I had resigned to the fact that I had four things to do on Sunday and only the last part wouldn’t be rushed). We took one last cab down to Harbourfront, bailing part way and walking because Toronto traffic is silly.
My friend Liz and her pal Emily were hanging with Captain Paul, enjoying some wine and ready to ship off. We sailed a bit but as there wasn’t much wind, we mostly putted in through the islands.
We dropped by The Queen City Yacht Club for a drink and a bite and returned to the mainland just before sunset as it was starting to chill. Quality time with Nathalie on Sunday was a perfect way to prepare for the busy week coming.