Music News Digest, Sept. 6, 2017

Charges stemming from a fatal Radiohead concert stage collapse at Downsview Park in Toronto five years ago were stayed Tuesday when a judge ruled the justice system had failed in allowing the case to take far too long to come to trial. The original charges were laid a year following.

Much-lauded singer/songwriter John Cody celebrated the release of his new album, Hard Won: The Final Recordings, with a launch party at the Toronto HQ of his label, ole, last week. Cody's health issues have robbed him of his singing voice since the album was made, so comrades stepped in to perform his songs at the event.

Ably abetted by a band led by album co-producer Bill Bell, Andy Maize, Damhnait Doyle, Tom Wilson, Perla Batalla, and Rebecca Campbell did Cody's poetic material justice, with Batalla leading a version of "Hallelujah." A long-time close friend of and former backing singing for Leonard Cohen, she flew in from LA just for the party.

Cody gave a touching speech of gratitude, and a cheque for $5K was then presented by ole to the Unison Benevolent Fund's executive director Sheila Hamilton. Unison and Slaight Music played key roles in enabling Cody to complete the album. Those spied at the party included Brian Hetherman, Cam Carpenter, Frank Davies, and publicists Samantha Pickard, Jane Harbury, Yvonne Valnea, and Maureen Spillane.

—The Group of Seven Guitars is a new feature-length film documentary that tells the story of two parallel groups of artists: Canada’s famous Group of Seven painters, and seven luthiers who have come together to honour their work through seven original guitars inspired by the paintings. When they first met in an industrial Toronto studio in the early ‘70s, guitar makers: Linda Manzer, William “Grit” Laskin, Tony Duggan-Smith, Sergei de Jonge, George Gray, David Wren and Jean Larrivée, had no idea that their work would develop the craft of guitar building into an art form. The film is coming to cinemas across Canada, Sept. 5-9. Check here for a schedule.

— The Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) will hold its AGM in Toronto on Thursday, Sept. 28.

— Submissions are open for the 2018 Edmonton Music Awards, with a deadline of Feb. 28. Artists from within a 100-km radius of the city are eligible. This year's winners included Nuela Charles, Scenic Route to Alaska and Striker. Full details here

— The Plumtree Project is an initiative named after a local all-female band that took the stage at the first The Halifax Pop Explosion (HPX ). A collaboration between Mirus Records and HPX, PP is designed to support women, trans folks and people of colour to “be in bands and feel confident playing music.” Applications are open to women, nonbinary, genderqueer and trans folks between the ages of 18 and 29. Eight successful applicants will receive free private music lessons weekly for two months. The deadline is Sept. 15. Apply here

— News of a new live music venue in Toronto is always welcome. NOW magazine reports that Carmen Elle, singer in acclaimed electro-pop band Diana, will open Less Bar (at Bloor West and Shaw) on Sept. 21. Elle stresses that the cafe-sized bar plans to put specific emphasis on space for people of colour, female-identified, trans and queer people. She will manage and book the venue, and her opening night party will feature Queen of Swords and Witch Prophet.

—  One of New York’s most famous recording studios, the Power Station, is being given a new lease on life. The Manhattan building housing the studio has been acquired by Berklee, and the studio will be known as the Power Station at BerkleeNYC. Established in 1977, it has had such star clients as Bob Dylan, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, and David Bowie.

—  Folk/roots quintet Durham County Poets recently released its new album Grimshaw Road, featuring guest appearances by Suzie Vinnick and Michael Jerome Browne. DCP is supporting the album with a series of dates in Ontario, Quebec and the US. A full itinerary here.

RIP

Walter Becker, guitarist, bassist and co-writer in Steely Dan, on Sept. 3. Age 67. Cause of death not revealed. Becker and keyboardist/co-writer  Donald Fagen were the creative core of the band, one whose sophisticated jazz meets rock sound brought them considerable commercial success in the '70s, beginning with 1972 debut album Can't Buy A Thrill.

After a protracted hiatus (1981-93), the group reunited, and their 2000 album Two Against Nature collected four Grammys, including album of the year. Becker released two solo albums, 1994's 11 Tracks of Whack and 2008's Circus Money. He was also active as a producer, working on albums by Rickie Lee Jones, Michael Franks, China Crisis, and Rosie Vela.

Harry Sandler, rock photographer and a famed tour manager and the long-time partner to AEG’s Debra Rathwell, passed away on Saturday (Sept. 2) after a brief fight with pancreatic cancer. He was 73. Over the years he was tour manager for Bruce Springsteen, Eagles, Van Halen, Barbra Streisand and Billy Joel.

Holger Czukay, bassist and founding member of influential German band Can, died on Sept. 5. Age 89. No cause of death given. Born in Poland, Czukay studied under avant-garde pioneer Karlheinz Stockhausen in the '60s before starting Can alongside Irmin Schmidt in 1968. Such albums as Tago MagoEge Bamyasi and Future Days are considered seminal works in the Krautrock genre. Post-Can, he collaborated with such artists as Conny Plank, David Sylvian, Jah Wobble, Brian Eno, Eurythmics. and The Edge. Czukay is also considered a pioneer in the field of audio sampling.

J Michael (Mike) Elder, a Toronto live event and concert production coordinator. Age 68. His family announced his passing this past weekend, peaceably surrounded by friends. Elder worked extensively at The El Mocambo during his career and for a time managed singer/songwriter Lisa Garber.

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