I bid farewell to 2011 at Massey Hall, providing music for the New Years Eve Comedy Extravaganza along with some band mates from Bonzai Suzuki (Great Bob Scott and Dave Howard) and guests Elise LeGrow, Friskey Brown and Gene Hardy). Mark Breslin showcased some great stand up comics, all at the top of their game and the emcee was Andrea Martin. She sang “Let’s Talk Dirty To The Animals” to a packed house which set the tone for a perfect night. After the show we bee-lined three blocks south to The Cosmo 8 Colbourne.
I rang in the New Year in style with my pal Gil Blutrich in his penthouse at The Cosmopolitan Hotel. The room was a perfect blend of forty or his friends and forty of mine…business associates and musicians and singers. Sophia Perlman, Julian Kuchoki and Bianca entertained while Robert Scott & Michael Kaeshammer took turns and sometimes did duets on the piano.
Early in January I hit Jaco Beach, Costa Rica. This was my third trip and each time it gets better.
Lalena, my beautiful tour guide and friend, catered some of our healthy lunches and showed us around…waterfalls, beaches and great restaurants…it’s heaven on earth!
On earlier visits Lala took Genevieve and I to various places where we could see monkeys and a triple waterfall that nobody goes to. Of course, the fact that you have to cross a field of deadly snakes to get there might be a deterrent. I had a “crappy-cam” but I still managed to feel like a national geographic photographer due to the extraordinary subject matter.
But I digress…this time around Sahra Featherstone and I spent more time in the ocean and pool in one week than I have in the past several years put together.
It was a perfect holiday and we promised to do it again in 2013. (Which, I’m happy to report is indeed the case!) Drinking a ginormous coconut every morning gave us so much energy!
Another great January Adventure was my trip to New Orleans hosting another International Jazz Safari for JAZZ.FM91. I love this city unlike any other…the people, music, art…every little thing about New Orleans is just fine with me. I’ve been five times and this trip was as memorable as any! In fact, I was lucky enough to hit New Orleans a second time in 2012. I returned in June for yet another jazz safari with dozens of satisfied customers!
In February I hosted a ton of Jazz Safaris in Toronto.
Almost every weekend my Fridays and Saturdays were all about hitting five clubs a night playing tour guide to 20 jazz fans who donate to Jazz Fm. When adding other shows during the week, I counted 48 live bands in one month. The most memorable was Paquito de Rivera and Adam Makowicz at Glenn Gould Studio. Brilliant!
Easily one of my favourite memories of 2012 was going up to Port McNicoll for the homecoming of the S.S. Keewatin; a ship that left the area in 1966 and was purchased by my pal Gil Blutrich and his company Skyline Investment. This ship is as old as The Titanic and nobody died on it! Hundreds of boats, ships and floating vessels of all sizes accompanied this historic ship home. Bagpipers, RCMP, a choir, native dancers…all sorts of entertainment that was reminiscent of an old county fair.
2012 was the year I had the pleasure of helping my friend Pam Hyatt record her debut CD…at 76 years old! The “Pamalot” CD was launched in the fall. She raised some of the money on-line and paid for the remainder from her CD launch concert with pianist, Peter Hill. I love the photo shoot we did with Shereen Mroueh at Barberian’s Steakhouse. I had dozens of meals at my favourite haunt this year and every time it felt like a special occasion. If you haven’t been to 7 Elm Street for tuna or steak, go now fast!
Arron Barberian continues his father’s legacy and the place has the same charm as it did in 1959!
A highlight of my year is always sailing in the summer. I lost count of how many afternoons I spent on Lake Ontario but I can guess about 30 at least.
The Monterey Jazz Festival was another highlight of 2012. It’s my favourite festival and seeing Tony Bennett, Bill Frisell and others made it the best yet! Hearing Melody Gardot doing songs from her new CD “The Absence” was the highlight of the festival for me. We were staying at the same hotel so we got a visit in and I also got to know Deedee Bridgewater, Clint and Kyle Eastwood and Christian McBride. A day in Carmel and Big Sur with a few friends was memorable too…especially when the NASA space shuttle flew over our heads at Pebble Beach! The trip to Monterey was another Jazz Safari and it included a few days in San Francisco. I got everyone to meet for drinks in my favourite all-time Tiki Bar, The Tonga Room at the Fairmount Hotel. My old buddy Paul Myers dropped by and we had a great time catching up on each others antics. Another perfect adventure!
Another adventure was the jazz safari to New York City! I loved all the music but most of all Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure at Zinc Bar. On my night “off” – which just meant no official city tour – I hit a bunch of clubs including Toshi’s Living Room for a Chris Norton concert and the Rum Room for a party with a bunch of friends including Tim “Love” Lee (my fave DJ) and a bunch of Toronto peeps including Barbra Lica. It was an outrageous night of fun that also included a comedy gala where I saw Jon Stewart, Tina Fey, Louis CK, Stephen Colbert and countless comics. By the end of the night I must have been tipsy but I certainly looked sober (as you can see from the photo below)!
Cuba was another great trip in 2012. It was the third time I played tour guide (with help from Larry Kramer and Jane Bunnett who have been there about a hundred times) and spent four days in Varadero and three in Havana.
We saw some great local musicians (including Chucho Valdez) at The Havana Jazz Festival and enjoyed perfect weather. On December 21st I took my crew to the Cathedral in Old Havana and at 11:11, which was said to be the end of the Mayan calendar we celebrated the New Myan Calendar with lobster and rum! On another afternoon I held my annual Coco Taxi Cannonball run. (This was not part of the jazz safari but I never have problem finding like-minded danger cats. We raced to The Russian Embassy and after confusing a friendly security guard, raced for lunch by the ocean. It was a perfect afternoon: Dangerous but fun!
The Royal Jelly Orchestra were asked to play a show in support of St. Joseph’s Hospital and were introduced as Jaymz Bee & His Jelly Bean Band. We’ve decided to stick with it! It was so much fun I am making a special repertoire that showcases the same crew of singers: Julie Michels, Roger Clown, Barbra Lica and Heather Bambrick. I hope we do several all-ages shows in 2013!
I enjoy burlesque shows and while many of the best are big To Do’s at The Mod Club or Revival, I also like the cozy little rooms with more intimate shows. Toronto’s burlesque seen is starting to improve thanks the the hard work of a handful of visionaries.
Speaking of beauty …I was certainly surprised when Melody Gardot called me up on stage and wooed me in front of her sold out Harboufront concert. The Flex Dance Theatre was a perfect venue for this intimate performance…the band strolled through the audience to open the show and everyone knew it was going to be one of the best shows of their year…if not life!
In my Liberty Village loft my fellow warehouse friends get together for theme parties. The mini putt tournament was a big hit but nothing was more memorable than the cardboard theme party.
People made buildings and things out of cardboard. There were different themes in a few lofts, in the parking lot and down the side garden. So much effort! The next day Cheryl, our awesome organizer, returned the cardboard to a recycling plant and thus (technically) sold art to be re-used. Brilliant and silly! Speaking of that…I really loved surrealist camping at The Electric-Eclectics Festival at The Funny Farm (near Meaford, Ontario) this past summer!
Mary and I rip it up every time we go out on the town and probably the most memorable event was the Business For The Arts Awards Gala at The Carlu.
Mary B joined me on many a Jazz Safari and also to see Cavalia…my favourite show of the year!
Jessica is so brilliant. She did a complete remake of my website, http://www.jaymzbee.ca and works for a party planning / special event company. We had a ton of fun adventures in 2012!
Melissa Shouldice is another BFF who attends some wonderful shows with me including War Horse and a national pole dancing competition! We also had a blast at the annual CFC Picnic during TIFF.
In December I went from sandy beaches to shovelling snow in 24 hours! Hanging with my folks about six times a year makes me feel lucky – but the time we spend at Christmas is always the most unforgettable. We host a party at night and then chill Christmas Day after opening a handful of presents.
Finally, as always, I ended my year as I often have in the past decade, playing with friends from Bonzai Suzuki at Massey Hall, opening for The New Years Eve Comedy Extravaganza.
This time Harland Williams was emcee and Kiran Friesen was our special guest pole dancer. The time flew by and I found myself at my loft with about a dozen friends. We toasted the New Year and they left before 2am, leaving me to chill with just a couple friends. Mellow…but perfect!
2012 was pure bliss. I can only hope that I continue with this smooth sailing throughout 2013! On the horizon: Costa Rica, Chicago, New Orleans…and my 50th Birthday Week April 8-13! (Info at http://www.bullhorn.ca)