Music News Digest, April 17, 2020
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has cancelled the rest of its 2019-2020 season as a result of the pandemic, with some programs being postponed to the 2020/21 season. “The cancellation of a third of our season is devastating in so many ways,” stated CEO Matthew Loden, adding "in our own way, we will continue to try and serve our community through the elevating power of music — virtually.” TSO musicians have been collaborating at a distance online and sharing the results with listeners in recent weeks. Most recently the brass section and soprano Measha Brueggergosman performed I’ll Be Seeing You and dedicated the result on YouTube to isolated seniors. Source: Toronto Star
– Rock for Relief: A Living Room Concert for Vancouver Island, a benefit featuring performances by David Foster, Randy and Tal Bachman, The Tenors, Trevor Guthrie, Aaron Pritchett and others, airs tonight (April 17) at 8 pm. on CHEK TV and streamed on the station’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. The event supports Rock for Relief, an initiative of local television station CHEK, the Victoria Foundation and the Nanaimo Foundation, with donations going to the Rapid Relief Fund and Island Response Fund.
– Words matter to poet Bob Dylan: A Stephen Colbert TV performance parody of his 1965 song Subterranean Homesick Blues has been thwarted by the songwriter.
– On Apr. 22, The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund will present JERSEY 4 JERSEY, “a one-night broadcast fundraiser to fight the medical, social and economic impact of Covid-19 on New Jersey’s most vulnerable communities.” The event will feature some of “New Jersey’s biggest champions and celebrities participating from their homes,” including Tony Bennett, Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Halsey, Charlie Puth, SZA and many more. It will be broadcast at 7 pm EST, on Apple Music and AppleTV apps, worldwide. It will also be broadcast live and rebroadcast five times on E Street Radio on SiriusXM, currently free on the SiriusXM app.
– This Storm is a collaboration between folk favourites Catherine MacLellan and Tara MacLean (Shaye) that was recently written and recorded while the two artists were in isolation and miles apart with friends Natalie Williams-Calhoun (cello) and Mark Westberg mixing/mastering. The video includes family, friends, fellow musicians, community leaders, as well as essential service workers and first responders. The song is the first musical collaboration of the two award winning singer/songwriters from PEI. Fascinating fact: Their fathers, Gene MacLellan and Marty Reno, wrote and toured together for decades.
– Hamilton-based singer/songwriter Lindy Vopnfjörd releases his eighth studio full-length album State of the Heart, on May 22, and has just released its title-track single. The record was produced by Danny Michel, and the pair host an interactive live stream listening party for the album, May 7 at 5 pm ET via Side Door. Tickets available here.
– This summer, Canadian guitar star Jesse Cook was to begin the Tempest 25 Tour, marking the 25th anniversary of his breakout tune and album, Tempest. The times being what they are have scuttled that, but he has now come up with a new video to accompany the song. The social-distancing Cook had some assistance with the clip, he explains. “For the filming, I had the help of my 12-year-old daughter. She wisely wishes to remain anonymous, so I didn’t include her name in the credits, but I wanted to acknowledge her great camera work. I’m incredibly proud of her!” The video is up on his Facebook page.
– In collaboration with longstanding partner the Canadian Music Centre, Toronto’s Music Gallery has launched a new initiative, Music Gallery At Home featuring banked interviews and concerts from MG's artists, thinkers and creators. Tonight's show features Toronto composer/percussionist Germaine Liu. More info here
– Prolific Toronto chanteuse, songwriter, performer and radio host Lily Frost released her 14th album, Retro-Moderne, last year. Here is the latest video single from it.
Lee Konitz, the US jazz composer and alto saxophonist, died on April 15, of Covid-19-linked pneumonia, age 92.
He performed successfully in a wide range of jazz styles, including bebop, cool jazz, and avant-garde jazz. Konitz was most commonly associated with the “cool” school in jazz. He embodied the idea, as he once put it, that “it’s possible to get the maximum intensity in your playing and still relax.”
His first major exposure came in 1947, in an impressionistic big band led by Claude Thornhill. Through his association with Gil Evans, he was part of the coterie involved in Miles Davis’ historic Birth of the Cool sessions in 1949.
Like other students of pianist/teacher Lennie Tristano, Konitz was noted for improvising long, melodic lines with the rhythmic interest coming from odd accents, or odd note groupings suggestive of the imposition of the one-time signature over another. Other saxophonists were strongly influenced by Konitz, notably Paul Desmond and Art Pepper.
Konitz remained devoted to many aspects of Tristano’s philosophy throughout his career. He played with a range of musicians in ever-changing settings, to amassing one of the largest discographies in all of jazz.
Konitz generally didn’t lead a steady working group, but simply played with everyone. Remarking on a younger musician he admired, one with a well-rehearsed band and an ever-growing book of music, Konitz once said: “Bravo. I don’t seem to need that in my life.”
He addressed a wide body of original music over the years. Highlight albums include An Image: Lee Konitz with Strings (1958), 1977's Pyramid, with pianist Paul Bley and guitarist Bill Connors, Canadian trumpeter Kenny Wheeler’s 1997 album Angel Song; and a series of refined collaborations with saxophonist and composer Ohad Talmor from the mid-2000s on, the most recent of which, Old Songs New, was released last fall. Sources: WGBO, NPR
John Fenton, Ottawa rock guitarist known for his work in The Fenton Brothers and The Action, died April 2, of liver cancer, age 67.
Fenton started his career in Avalon, a Queen-influenced group that played the Eastern Ontario/West Quebec bar circuit of the 1970s. Along with brothers Paul and Michael Fenton and frontman Ted Axe, he then formed The Action in 1975.
The Action began as a glam rock band but soon veered into punk. The group made a splash in Ottawa and Toronto, and even got invited to tour the US with punk godfathers The Ramones (sadly, visa hassles negated that).
A self-titled EP came out in 1977, and in 2009, early recordings resurfaced on a compilation, The Action - Complete Punk Recordings 1977-1978, out on Sudden Death Records. 2010 reunion gigs in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal followed.
Fenton remained a fixture of the Ottawa music scene for more than 40 years, as a member of bands like Bone, Hangmen, Straight N’ Wicked, and the Fenton Brothers, alongside Paul.
His final gig took place in front of a capacity crowd at Overflow Brewery last summer, on a day the City of Ottawa proclaimed John Fenton Day in recognition of his contribution to the local music scene. The massive jam featured many of his former bandmates. Source: The Ottawa Citizen