Music News Digest, Aug. 1, 2018

Billy Talent and Dallas Green's City and Colour are holding a benefit concert for the victims of the recent shooting rampage on Toronto's Danforth Avenue. Fittingly, it will take place at the Danforth Music Hall on Aug. 11, during the area's hugely popular The Taste of the Danforth fest. Also on the bill is Pup. On hearing news of the shooting, Billy Talent singer Ben Kowalewicz tweeted "Still can’t grasp the reality of what happened yesterday. This is an area that our close friends and family live that is blocks from our studio but I believe in us, I believe in our community, I believe in love, I believe in you, I believe in Toronto." All concert proceeds will be donated to the #TorontoStrong fund. Tickets go on sale today (Aug. 1). Source: CTV News

– Drake as TV producer? Given that the small screen brought his first taste of fame (Degrassi: The Next Generation), it makes sense. Variety reports that he has just signed on as an executive producer of HBO drama series Euphoria, described as a series that "follows a group of high school students as they navigate drugs, sex, identity, trauma, social media, love and friendship." It is based on the Israeli series of the same name. Joining Drake and ten others in the executive producer role is Future the Prince, Drake’s DJ and manager.

– Soulful singer/songwriter Zaki Ibrahim has earned a Juno nomination and placed on the Polaris Prize shortlist with her 2013 full-length debut, Every Opposite. Yesterday she announced her debut headlining tour. Entitled Cutloose, it is in support of her much-praised new album The Secret Life of Planets. The tour kicks off at Winnipeg's WECC on Sept. 18, closing at The Queen’s in Nanaimo, Sept. 30. Tix on sale Friday. View a tour trailer here

– On Aug. 17, Canadian country star Charlie Major releases the 25th anniversary edition of his #1 hit single “It Can’t Happen To Me,” via MDM Recordings Inc./UMC. This new version features an A-list grouping of peers, including Dean Brody, Terri Clark, Johnny Reid, Gord Bamford, Jess Moskaluke, Derek Miller, Jason Blaine, Tim Hicks, The Road Hammers, Doc Walker, Bobby Wills, Brett Kissel, Jason McCoy, Aaron Pritchett, Aaron Goodvin and Tebey. All proceeds go to MADD Canada. Major’s next album, More Of The Best (Greatest Hits 2), arrives Sept. 7.  Major is currently playing western dates supporting Alabama.

– The 30th edition of the annual Beaches International Jazz Festival in Toronto concluded on the weekend, and by all accounts it was a real success. Congrats to artistic director (and FYI contributor) Bill King and the team there. King found time to deliver an ace set with his combo The Uprising on Sunday afternoon.

– The China-created and now global Modern Sky Festival is expanding to Toronto. The first edition comes to Echo Beach on Sept. 23, featuring both Asian and Canadian artists. The lineup includes Tizzy T, Rollercoaster, Yao 1, Erbai, Bohan Phoenix, and Calvin Love, with more TBA. Since starting in Beijing in 2007, the fest has expanded to NYC, LA, and Helsinki. Source: NOW

– Live concert recordings of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell considered lost for decades have been unearthed by Michigan archivists, CP reports. The recordings were made at the Canterbury House on the University of Michigan campus in the late 1960s, then misplaced until being recently discovered by the non-profit Michigan History Project. Reportedly of professional audio quality, the seven-inch reel-to-reel tapes are now being shopped to record labels for an official release, organizers say.

– The not-for-profit and artist-run Kensington Market Jazz Festival in Toronto has put out a call for volunteers. Check here for info. The fest runs Sept. 14-16.

– Hard rock veteran Lee Aaron is back on the road on a summer tour. She played Heavy Montreal on the weekend, and jets to Europe for fest shows at Wacken Air in Germany (Aug. 3) and Skogsrojet Festival in Sweden, Aug. 4. After a Kitchener Blues Fest date on Aug. 11, she heads back to Western Canada for five more shows Here's a new video from her Diamond Baby Blues album.

–  Toronto's Unity Festival 2018 features visual art, dance, beatboxing, spoken word, hip-hop, electronic and R&B music. The free fest runs Sept 13-15, and the music lineup for the Sept. 15 Unity Concert at Daniels Spectrum includes Chicago Soulection DJ/producer Monte Booker alongside highly-rated locals Zaki Ibrahim, Witch Prophet,  the Sorority, Yung Surfer, and Ziibiwan.

– On Facebook, Doug Chappell posts that there will be a Celebration of Life for George Semkiw on Sunday, Sept. 9 (3 pm) at  3030 Dundas St W, Toronto. One of Canada’s most successful recording engineers and producers, Semkiw died from cancer, June 14, age 74.

– According to Maple Blues, the Toronto Blues Society's newsletter, bluesy Ontario singer/songwriter Samantha Martin will be presented with CIMA's coveted Road Gold award when she performs with her group Delta Sugar at the Roy Thomson Hall patio in Toronto on Aug. 23. Martin also gets to perform inside RTH as part of the Women's Blues Revue on Nov. 16.Road Gold is awarded to Canadian artists who have achieved a high level of achievement during their Canadian tours over the course of any 12-month period.

– The Cultural Craft Festival in Port Union, NL, is seeking acoustic players able to perform during the daytime (10am-5pm) on Aug. 25 and 26. For more information, contact Cyndy Stead, the festival’s organizer, at 709-464-7345 or



Ray Cooper, former Virgin Records America Co-President with Ashley Newton who is given credit for the worldwide success of the Spice Girls — died on July 28, in Guildford, England. He was 69 and had been suffering from a rare neurological condition, Progressive Primary Aphasia (PPA). 

Cooper started his career in 1972 as a sales rep for UK label Transatlantic Records. This was followed by stints at  Anchor and Jet Records, then a post as marketing director at Island Records, working with Bob Marley, U2 and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Cooper and Ashley Newton launched Circa Records in the UK. in 1986. When it was acquired by Virgin in 1995, the pair worked as co-managing directors, breaking the Spice Girls, Daft Punk and the Verve. They both joined Virgin America as co-presidents in 1997. Virgin Records founder Richard Branson called him “an extraordinary delightful individual and an incredible talent." Source: Variety

Tomasz Stańko, Polish jazz trumpeter, died from lung cancer on July 29, at age 76. Stańko was one of European jazz’s most celebrated figures, often recording for famed record label ECM and performing with Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette, among others. Holland paid tribute on Twitter, calling him “a unique musician with deep feelings and a gentle soul”.

He formed numerous bands throughout his lifetime, the most recent of which was the Tomasz Stańko New York Quartet. Their 2017 album December Avenue earned critical praise. That group included Cuban pianist David Virelles, who spent time in Toronto studying music and recording with Jane Bunnett. Source: The Guardian

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