Fourteen-year-old Vancouver artist Maya Rae brings youthful influences to vocal jazz

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Sapphire Birds album launch
Feb. 23, 8 p.m., Frankie’s
Tickets $20
Reservations at

She’s just 14 years old, but Vancouver jazz vocalist Maya Rae already knows exactly who she is as an artist.

Her debut album, Sapphire Birds, showcases her beguiling, understated vocal style and her totally unique repertoire, which ranges from originals inspired by life at school and home to fresh covers of jazz standards and unique renditions of favourite pop songs by artists such as Meghan Trainor and Christina Aguilera.

In fact, the opening track of Sapphire Birds, a cover of Trainor’s “Close Your Eyes,” immediately puts the listener on notice that Maya is her own kind of artist. She strips the song of Trainor’s girly, bubble gum pop vocal affectations, and replaces them with real swing and soul. A-list Vancouver Jazz pianist Miles Black and Maya’s mentor, West Coast saxophonist and jazz impresario Cory Weeds give the piece a gorgeous vintage doo-wop feel that leaves the whole thing sounding 100 times better than the original. Read the rest of this entry »

Montreal’s multi-award-winning Mélisande [électrotrad] creates an explosion of trad music and beats

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Launch concerts for Les Millésimes:

Feb. 11 – The Ironwood, Calgary, AB
Feb. 24 – Festival du Voyageur, Winnipeg, MB
Feb. 25-26 – Maple Sugar Festival, Nanaimo, BC

March 4-5 – Festival du Bois, Coquitlam, BC

Following in the footsteps of globally-renowned acts like Afro Celt Sound System and Sweden’s Hedningarna, award-winning artist Mélisande [électrotrad] (say: may-lee-ZAWND) is leading a movement to merge traditional Quebecois music with electronica.

The band’s brand new sophomore album Les millésimes (the vintages) is an odyssey of pulsating beats, live drums and percussion, searing fiddle melodies, driving vocal choruses, blistering horn arrangements and creative synth lines – all providing hook-laden, centuries-old songs with a new life on the dance floor.

Mélisande and musical partner Alexandre “Moulin” de Grosbois-Garand purposely chose songs with a festive feel for their second album, hoping to make it groove even more than their award-winning debut. They chose the album title to suggest that great music, like fine wine, gets better with age. They selected their source material from the American Folk Life Centre at the U.S. Library of Congress as well as from the archives of the Canadian Museum of History and the University of Laval. Mélisande picked out her favorite versions of the songs while “Moulin” composed the core musical arrangements.

The first single, “Sur la ritintin,” opens with a brief cold vocal before erupting into pounding beats and bubbling bass, the traditional call-and-response vocal structure of the song rendered as a repetitive pop hook. Adding to Mélisande’s energetic singing, Francois Richard’s horn arrangement and Robin Boulianne’s fiddle build in intensity as if in a classic La Bottine Souriante song on steroids. Read the rest of this entry »

Literary Lyrics Meet Baroque Pop in kele fleming’s Return to the Spotlight

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Photo credit: Sarah Race
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no static album launch dates:

Feb. 25 – Junction City Music Hall, Toronto, ON
(early show with Sarah Greene and the Collette Savard Band)
March 2 – Bar Robo, Ottawa, ON

It’s not often we get to hear new music from kele fleming.

The founder of the early 90s Vancouver indie pop band Hazel Motes – which, along with acts like Lava Hay and the Grapes of Wrath, helped define the city’s sound for that era – has a full-time career in higher education now, so it’s always a breath of fresh air when she carves out time from that career to show us where her creative muse has been carrying her lately.

Never has that been more true than with her new release, no static, which sees kele combining her literate folk rock sensibilities with the Baroque pop melodies of Ron Yamauchi (Insomniacs, Soreheads) to bring us a collection that is truly the best of both worlds. Ron’s catchy compositional style perfectly balances the earnestness of kele’s often introspective lyrics, which touch at times on topics such as social alienation and the marginalization of women. The result is a collection that is both intelligent and extremely fun to listen to.

Kele’s musical calling cards remain her jangly electric guitars – a throwback to the days when indie meant raw – and her voice, a majestic instrument of seemingly-limitless force and dexterity that can shift from choir girl naiveté to early Sinead O’Connor-style edge in seconds. Read the rest of this entry »

Slocan Ramblers to stage homecoming tour after a (career) high and lonesome year on the road

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Feb. 23 – Connections Coffee House, Sangudo, AB
Feb. 24 – St. Basil’s Cultural Centre (New Moon Folk Club), Edmonton, AB
Feb. 25 – Crescent Heights Community Hall (Nickelodeon Folk Club), Calgary, AB
Feb. 26 – Key City Theatre, Cranbrook, BC
Feb. 28 – The Langham, Kaslo, BC
Mar. 2 – Spiritbar at the Hume Hotel, Nelson, BC
Mar. 3 – The Arts Station, Fernie, BC
Mar. 4 – KathFest, Canmore, AB
Mar. 7 – Blackfoot Balehouse, Blackfoot, AB
Mar. 8 – Ghostown Blues, Maple Creek, SK
Mar. 9 – Creative City Centre, Regina, SK
Mar. 10 – The Bassment, Saskatoon, SK
Mar. 11 – The Happy Nun, Forget, SK
March 25 – Old Town Hall, Newmarket
April 7 – Registry Theatre, Kitchener
May 11 – Full Circle Theatre, Perth
May 12 – Aurora Cultural Centre, Aurora
May 20 – Regent Theatre, Picton
Atlantic dates in May:
May 4 – Harbourfront Theatre, Summerside, PEI
May 5 – deCoste Centre, Pictou NS
May 6 – Mermaid Imperial Performing Arts Centre, Windsor, NS
May 7 – L’Association Le Moulin de la Baie, Saulnerville, NS

After spending more than three months on tour in the U.S. last year, playing sold-out shows in Colorado, earning standing ovations from crowds of 300 or more in places like Los Angeles, and performing and teaching at some of America’s biggest bluegrass festivals, Toronto’s Slocan Ramblers were feeling both high and lonesome like never before.

So the award-winning young bluegrass outfit, which has been lauded everywhere from Exclaim, to HuffPo to Hockey Night in Canada, has decided to open 2017 with a series of concerts close to home. Read the rest of this entry »

Joanna Chapman-Smith brings global folklore to life with multi-disciplinary folk opera

Joanna Chapman-Smith launches Elon & the City of Stone

Sunday November 20 at Hugh’s Room

A dinner theatre featuring storyteller Anna Kerz

Tickets: $20 Advance / $22.50 Door

Performance: 7:30pm

Reservations:  (416) 531-6604 /

Eight years in the making and comprised of folklore from four continents, the latest project from Toronto chanteuse Joanna Chapman-Smith is a career-defining work of art – an utterly unique album combining music and storytelling into glorious musical theatre of the mind.

Elon & The City of Stone features beautifully-orchestrated original songs based on traditional tales Joanna collected from Italy, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, Europe, Africa and Asia — all tied together with an original story about Elon, a young inhabitant of the City of Stone who helps a mysterious, story-telling being transform his urban home.

“Shall I tell you stories?”  Joanna sings, on the album’s overture, before narrating the opening chapter of Elon’s tale.  From there, she picks up his story between the songs – which themselves represent the stories told by the mystical raconteur.

Joanna’s voice, strengthened over several years of study and training that followed vocal damage in 2008, is a revelation – powerful and pure and possessed of the mellifluous dexterity of a Broadway star’s.

As a narrator, she is bold, expressive and dramatic, bringing Elon and his surroundings to life with a captivating flare. It is sometimes said that a story is only alive between the teller and the listener, and Joanna succeeds beautifully at animating the City of Stone in the listener’s imagination.    Read the rest of this entry »

Pioneering women of world music return to the spotlight with Turkwaz

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Turkwaz launches Nazar Sept. 24 at the Music Gallery

Doors at 7 p.m; Show at 8 p.m.

Tickets $25; $20 for members of the Music Gallery; $23 if purchased online.  A CD is included in the price of the ticket.

Tickets at

More information:  416.204.1080

Four musical trailblazers of Canada’s global music scene will be in the spotlight this fall with a brand new project That’s already playing to sold out crowds in Toronto:  the breathtaking Mediterranean quartetTurkwaz.

Their debut album, Nazar, showcases the versatile vocals and boundless sense of musical adventure that has made Maryem Tollar, Brenna MacCrimmon, Sophia Grigoriadis and Jayne Brown leaders in cross-cultural collaboration.

Recorded with Jeremy Darby at Canterbury Music Company and mixed by Jono Grant at Victory Drive Music, Nazar is a stunningly diverse collection of songs from Greece, Turkey, the Middle East and the Balkans, woven into a cohesive whole by the quartet. It’s a nuanced collection that showcases the singers’ raw vocal power and the sense of restraint that comes with maturity. Read the rest of this entry »

Vancouver’s Farnaz Ohadi turns a turbulent journey from Iran to Canada into an album of empowerment for women

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October 1, 8PM, at the BlueShore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts

2055 Purcell Way, North Vancouver

Tickets: $35/$45

Tickets available at:  / 604.990.7810

At 42, Vancouver based Persian Flamenco singer Farnaz Ohadi is releasing her debut album – a culmination of her turbulent life experience from Iran to North America and a riveting message of resilience and empowerment for women.

A central, respected figure in the Vancouver flamenco scene, she now translates her life story

through a blend of Flamenco rhythm and musicality and Persian poetry.

Her distinctive voice has been described as a blend between the tones of the late Cesaria Evora and the melodic power of La Paquera de Jerez.

With esteemed Flamenco guitarist Liron Man as her musical director/composer, Farnaz spent 2015 producing Bird Dance, a debut album that features an intoxicating blend of rhythms and world instrumentation from both Flamenco and Persian traditions, combined with deep, soul-drenched vocals and lyrics that recount Farnaz’s life story in song. Read the rest of this entry »

New C.R. Avery album breathes new life into musical story-telling traditions

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All the Angels Didn’t Scare Me features flawlessly detailed portraits of the anti-heroes of everyday life.

Album release date:  September 30, 2016

Sept. 29 – Harbour House Hotel, Salt Spring Island, BC
Sept . 30 – Victoria Event Center, Victoria, BC
Oct. 1 – Cobalt, Vancouver, BC

Oct. 5 – TBC, Vernon, BC
Oct. 6 – Dream Café, Penticton, BC
Oct. 7 – Spirit Bar, Nelson, BC
Oct. 8 – Ironwood Stage, Calgary, AB
Oct. 9 – Stagger Studio, Lethbridge, AB
Oct. 12 – The Almanac, Edmonton, AB
Oct . 13 – TBC, Moose Jaw, SK

Oct. 14 – Vangelis, Saskatoon, SK
Oct. 15 – Creative City Centre, Regina, SK
From Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” and  John Prine’s “Sam Stone” to Springsteen’s “Highway Patrol Man” and  KRS ONE’s “Love’s Gonna Getcha,” the great songs of our time exemplify the number one rule of writing: show don’t tell.  Don’t just preach and point fingers; Paint people as they really are, and folks will relate to the story more than if they feel they’re being yelled at or subjected to a sermon.

It’s those tales and ballads told through music that have sustained us through the passage of time and the waxing and waning of Top 40 trends – music that tells the legends that were already there before the song-writer showed up to pen them down.

One artist who takes that story-telling tradition to heart on every record and every stage is C. R. Avery.

His new album, All the Angels Didn’t Scare Me, unfolds like an homage to the unsung heroines of the outskirts of contemporary society:  the everyday nine-to-fivers,  living and doing what they have to do to keep going – whether it’s fleeing their old neighbourhoods due to gentrification, or putting on the steel-toed boots in the early morning when it seems the rest of the world is still sleeping.

It’s part oral history and part social commentary without any propaganda to weigh the plot down – all  couched in literature for the forgotten faces of a reality TV picture frame.  Read the rest of this entry »

Canada’s premier electric jazz band reunites for new album and tour

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Two-time Juno winner Metalwood launches Twenty

Sept. 9-11 – Frankie’s Jazz Club, Vancouver
Sept. 13-14 – The Rex, Toronto
Sept. 15 – Village Guitar, Saskatoon
Sept. 16 – Calgary Jazz Society, Calgary
Sept. 17 – Yardbird Suite, Edmonton


Twenty years ago, a group of intrepid Canadian jazz musicians put together a band that quickly became the country’s foremost entry into the world of electric jazz.

Metalwood scored consecutive Juno Awards for its first two numbered releases and earned excited praise from critics and fans alike for its groovy, improvisation-heavy tunes that drew inspiration from Miles Davis and Weather Report.

Roger Levesque of the Edmonton Journal called them “a band with one of the most capable adventurous sounds in groove jazz this side of the 49th parallel.”

This fall, the quartet of Chris Tarry, Mike Murley, Brad Turner and Ian Froman reunites as a veritable supergroup under the banner of Canada’s venerated indie jazz imprint, Cellar Live.

The new album is aptly titled Twenty. Read the rest of this entry »

The Bombadils’ new album, New Shoes, shows what all the buzz is about

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New Shoes releases Sept. 9
Album launch dates:
Sept. 8 – Elmira Theatre Company, Woolwich, ON
Oct. 6 – The Hive Centre, Clarington, ON
Oct. 7 – The Cameron House, Toronto, ON
Oct. 9 – Midland Cultural Centre, Midland, ON
Oct 13 – Edmonton, AB – Cafe Blackbird
Oct. 14 – Calgary Folk Club, Calgary, AB
Oct 15 – Duchess, AB – Red Roof Studio
Oct. 20 – Folk Music Ontario Conference, Ottawa, ON

Founded by an adventurous duo of Montreal music students who love the raw, organic authenticity of old folk and bluegrass, the Bombadils have over the past two or three years become one of those acts everyone seems to be taking about.
“This was the band that came out of nowhere and slayed the audience,” said Liz Scott of the Eaglewood Folk Festival.

“All the elements of a great band,” declared Canadian Folk Music Magazine.

“A breath of fresh air,” said Penguin Eggs.

On their new album, New Shoes (Borealis), Luke Fraser and Sarah Frank – partners in music and in life – demonstrate what all the fuss is about.

It’s a glorious album featuring haunting harmonies; fabulous fretwork on banjo, guitar, mandolin and fiddle; all kinds of innovative embellishments from jazzy flute and clarinet lines to pulsating cello and subtle bagpipes; and two vocalists whose distinctive styles light up the recording. Read the rest of this entry »