With the dwindling number of live music venues in Toronto and GTA, the Taste of Colombia El Salon Room in Oakville, Ontario is a beacon of light on the darkening landscape. Much Music VeeJay and celebrity icon Michael Williams and his Michael Williams Presents shows are providing a listening room atmosphere for new acts and established artists to stage mini concerts. The venue serves coffee, some of the best coffee on the planet by the way, to a seated audience of around 50 music lovers.
On the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, two veterans of the Montreal music scene now living in Ontario, Lisa Hartt and Don Graham celebrated the night of love with a concert aptly called ‘One Night, Two Hearts’. Both artists performed solo shows of love songs to celebrate the occasion with Hartt adding bagpipes to her set on a couple of songs.
Don GrahamThe night started with Don Graham and the title track of his album “ A Willing Heart”and his set contained some new tunes he’d written including “ Everything About Her Feels like Home” as well as a version of the old standard “ The Glory of Love” to end his set.
It was a packed and seething house at Rebel , the anticipation high for the First Nations DJ collective's unveiling of current album We Are The Halluci Nation. ATCR occupy a niche all their own in mixing party music with political lyrics, hip hop beats with powwow-step. On We Are The Halluci Nation and the set which followed, the dominant rhythms were those of hip-hop, reggaeton, and dancehall, with most of the EDM influences back burnered for the show.
The video mixing of Bear Witness brings the visual focus, keeping it real by deconstructing and subverting pop culture depictions of Indigenous people. For the energy and rabble rousing though, it's all down to Zoolman, DJ NDN and Bear Witness and whoa, can they bring the party. In the span of three album, they've arrived at a musical and cultural nexus where their three communities intersect: North American indigenous people, DJ/EDM club culture, and the post-millennial global music community and the audience reflected that. From the first rattle of the tribal drums underpinned by massive bass beats, the place went nuts.
'Twas standing room only and given a plurality of fervent dancers, precious little of it, resulting in a bump 'n' hustle vibe for the entirety of Sean Jones set inside Candyland. The gig was the closer for Jones' summer tour and the rising soul star's fanbase was out in force. Which is tres femme and demographically varied. There were rich white ladies from round Rosedale way, inherited from his Casa Loma summer residency, fly soul girls from the burbs, downtown hipster club babes, all up on it from the get go.
Backed by a nine-piece crew including sax, trombone and horn, Jones passed on a set salted with his classic interpretations in favour of leaning heavily on material from current album, Waiting ForMidnight.Opening with the crackling tempo of'Pot Of Gold,", the pace never slackened as Jones gave the people what they came for: hot, sexy, up-tempo soul via " One In A Million,' "Night Time Is The Right Time", "Out My Window" ,"Bad Till I'm Good" and the anthemic ballad "In My Arms"
An unseasonably warm November wind was setting the mood for The Ault Sisters at 120 Diner. The Mississauga trio, mostly still in their teens, work the retro swing thing and work it with style and grace. Case in point, they faced a tiny crowdlet and went about engaging everyone of us with a full-on performance. In the process turning out vivid interpretations of such as "Ain't Misbehaving" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" . Between sets they worked the room like it was packed solid, stopping by each table to check that everyone was liking the vibe. Which was inclusive enough for a sweet, swinging, almost scatlike take on Van Morrison's "Moondance."
What they're currently up to was highlighted by an original, "Wasting My Time With You", a soulful nugget with a contemporary feel even as it references The Andrews Sisters and The Ronettes. It's part of an album currently in the production stage and due in March 2017. If this single's an example of its DNA, it should be a grabby one.
Heading west as the temp drops and the wind kicks up. Good thing next stop is Revival and the incendiary funk styling of KC Roberts & The Live Revolution. The recipe they cook from involves classic Stax funk, D.C. late Eighties acid funk and the hard-as-diamond power funk of Living Colour. An irresistible floor-filler of a mashup when delivered by the Parkdale octet and abetted by the urgent, testifyin' vocals of K C. The set leaned into recent album From The North and its crowd pleasing faves including "Diamond On The Dancefloor", "Soulwalk" "Find You Again" and "Tribe Beneath The Storm," as the folks on the floor didn't so much dance as pulsate like a massive, single-minded sweaty life form.
For the diehards, they hauled out back catalogue bullets "Drift Away," "Money Ways," "Between The Cracks," "Fire Burning" and the fans were literally throwing themselves into it as the band blazed on, three piece brass section to the fore and the backline of bassist Matt Fullbrook and drummer Chino de Villa keeping the beat strong. The gig was promoted as the last one for the band in 2016 but if you're into it, wouldn't be a bad idea to keep an ear open over the holiday season.
Leaving the Revival and checking out the lineup for the second show, it must be said that the funk sure brings out the diversity. One nation under a groove indeed.
It had been over three years since Tom Rush had performed at Hugh’s Room in Toronto and the overflow crowd was a testament to how well loved and missed the man had been. When long time friend and former waitress at the iconic Riverboat in Toronto, Jane Harbury, introduced him and Tom ambled, yes ambled , to the stage you could almost feel the room smile with love and loyalty. Tom acknowledged how he happy was to be back in Canada although not without some trepidation, “ I’m 75 now and that’s about 99 Canadian!”
Tom and accompanist Matt Nakoa (more on Matt later) started the night off with a tune that gave an idea as to what was in store, “It’s Gonna Get Hot Tonight” and the party had begun. For his second song Tom explained,“I’m going to do a new song and the reason I’m doing it so early in the set is cause if it sucks I have the rest of night to redeem myself.” After he finished “Come See ‘Bout Me” the crowd let him know “it didn’t suck.” Next up was a song by The Austin Lounge Lizards, “How can you not like a band that has a song called ‘Jesus Loves Me, But He Can’t Stand You” called “Old Blevins.” Needs to be heard to be fully appreciated but is perfectly suited to a Tom Rush set.
It was Super Bowl Sunday and the hype hadn't seemed to penetrate those of us heading to Taste of Colombia for an evening of music. As a matter of fact, I didn't even know "the game" was on until somebody wondered out loud what the score was. The half-time show apparently bombed....big time. The sound system...well...in a word....sucked.
In my humble opinion, nothing compared to what was happening at Taste this fine Sunday night. Sam Taylor, a new blues sensation, and singer/songwriter Don Graham (the country part) were about to give us a "taste" of what music is really supposed to feel like. The event was organized and hosted by the ever gracious Michael Williams, he of rapier wit, lover of music and master of the java bean.
Submitted by Lee Fraser Photo Credits: Live at Massey Hall Series
This is not your parents’ Massey Hall. Now in its second season, “Live at Massey Hall” is a series that features up-and-coming Canadian artists in the iconic venue. Not every episode converts the centenarian into a throbbing night club, but that was certainly the case when Shad headlined on Friday, March 27. The tip off was when the programming director took to the stage pre-show to say something to the effect of ”Things can get a little crazy at shows like this, so we’re asking that you please keep the centre aisle and the front of the stage clear for the camera crew.”
The evening got under way with Zaki Ibrahim. After an intro by her guitarist, the lights came up as the percussion and vocals grew louder; Zaki stood before us in a stunning dress, singing in French. After only one number, people in the audience were exclaiming “Wow.” The show that Zaki Ibrahim presents is aurally, visually and emotionally stunning.
Submitted by Don Graham Photo at right: Photo Credit Paul Brown
With her new self titled album hitting the streets officially last week with a CD release attended by friends, family, fans and music industry A Listers, Mimi O'Bonsawin seized the moment.
The 20 year old singer/songwriter owned the stage from the downbeat until the last note rung in the room and hung in the air at the legendary Gladstone Hotel Ballroom in the Queen West area of Toronto. Producer and co-writer Thomas Wade, who this night doubled as guitar player and musical director, assembled some the area's finest musicians and background singers to insure the live sound was as close to the record as possible. And that they did.
Mimi O'Bonsawin CD Release Photo Credit Paul BrownThe set started with the lead single “Stone Gaze” with Mimi’s trademark dreadlocks piled on hear head in a loose bun and high heels to go with her beautiful stage dress. The band rocked the tune with the first two words "Shiver, Shiver" setting the musical tone for the set. The confidence in Mimi’s voice and her delivery belied her age and stage experience. The lady is a natural and commands attention. The relative newcomer owned the audience and the song; you knew her time had come and she had arrived. The enthusiastic applause after the opening number only strengthened her mood as she shook her ginger dreads loose and kicked the grown up high heels off and became the free spirited Mimi, barefoot and uninhibited.
Eric Andersen’s return to Hugh’s Room was a fascinating night of legendary songs, newer songs destined to become legendary and triumph.
When I arrived at Hugh’s Room for Eric Andersen’s performance, the room was already buzzing in anticipation of seeing and hearing this American icon who was there at the beginning of the explosion of music in New York’s Greenwich Village. He was introduced by Jane Harbury who was once a waitress at The Riverboat in Toronto where Eric played and sang in the 1960s. The moment he was introduced and made his way to the stage the room fell quiet, eerily quiet. That’s how much respect this man got from this audience of fans and people just wanting to be transported back to a simpler time. But this was not a nostalgia show. Unlike some veteran performers Eric Andersen didn’t just sing his classic songs from the 60’s (although he could have easily done a whole evening of that) but rather did some current material. He even had a song called The “Plague” where he referenced the current Ebola scare in Dallas Texas. “You guys are following that right?”
From the first words out his mouth when hit the stage you knew you were in for an interesting evening, As he climbed up on the stage and put on his guitar he stood by the mic, in the soft lighting, looking very ethereal and said, quietly “ Can you walk behind Niagara Falls? “ Somebody yelled out “Yes!” Eric said, “How far back can you go?” The answer, “ About 200 feet.” Eric stared out at the crowd and said “I’m going to be thinking about that all night.” The crowd was all his from that moment on.