Hallelujah! It’s Sophie.


Story:Lenny Stoute

‘Tis the season to be hungover and ‘tis a reckless journalist who skeds an interview for 9.a.m. Especially with rising jazz vocalist Sophie Berkal-Sarbit who comes on as bright eyed and bushy tailed as well -  one of Santa’s reindeer.

The occasion for all this is the release of the lady’s time-stopping version of “Hallelujah”. Yep, the Lenny Cohen standard that’s been around the block with just about everyone on the block, most recently given the anthemic treatment by Stephen Page at Jack Layton’s State funeral.
So why would a fresh young thing want to step out with this old dude?

“ It’s a song I’ve admired for a long time, everything about it. Oh yeah, lots of people were warning me off it, saying it’s overdone etc. So I listened to a lot of versions but I was still left feeling like I should do my own treatment.”

The built-in role of an interpretive vocalist is to bring something different to the piece. Given its many treatments, Sophie knew she had to have something unique in mind before stepping in front of the mic and answers without hesitation, “I did it from the viewpoint of a 21 year old. It’s basically a mix of some bleak imagery along with an instance on the beauty that is there too. This is not always easy to keep in mind, especially for my generation, given the way the world is. That's another reason I wanted to do it, It’s just such a beautiful songs and I wanted to put a beautiful thing out there”.

Gary Slaight to receive prestigious CARAS Award


Story:Sandy Graham

Music industry icon Gary Slaight is making broadcast news again but this time it is about him.  The Arts philanthropist, burgeoning music industry mogul and former Standard Broadcasting owner and CEO is to be honoured for his contributions to the Canadian music industry at the 2012 Juno Awards. 
Slaight is the 2012 recipient of the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, given by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. “He’s not only distinguished himself as a music innovator, he has made it his mandate to proactively support our nation’s talented artists” said CARAS president Melanie Berry. The award will be given at the 2012 Juno Awards in Ottawa on March 31. Slaight’s father, Allan, received the same distinguished award in 2005 in Winnipeg.

Slaight is a longtime staunch supporter of Canadian music. Not only did he create the National Songwriting Contest, but as well the Canadian Radio Music Awards.  Slaight was named Broadcast Executive of the Year in 1992, 1993, 1996 and 1998. In 2004, he received the Outstanding Community Service by an Individual Broadcaster award at the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

Gary was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame in March 2005.  and received the Canadian Association of Broadcasters 2007 Gold Ribbon Award for Broadcast Excellence, as well as the Humanitarian Spirit Award at the 2010 Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards.

Music Industry Icons make up The Board of the Unison Benevolent Fund


Story:Sandy Graham

The music industry in Canada stretches across many sectors and offers many different types of employment. That, though, it is a relatively small and close-knit community. Often we have seen our friends and colleagues fall on tough times due in part to the many changes the industry has gone through over the past 10 years. We've also experienced the pain of losing friends and peers to illness or accidents and seen up close the heartache and unanticipated financial hardship that these tragedies create for families.

Because so many of us are self-employed, we don't have access to pension plans, unemployment insurance, employee assistance programs, sick leave and medical benefits; when tragedy strikes, many are unprepared to deal with the devastating financial and emotional burdens left in its wake.

Our Board of Directors represents a wide variety of sectors in the music industry; labels, publishers, the live sector, music industry associations, and of course, artists. Unison is the brainchild of Jodie Ferneyhough and Catharine Saxberg, both of whom had been touched by the loss and illness of several friends. Catharine had seen that similar relief programs existed in other sectors, and decided it was time to unite the music industry: to create a process by which we can help each other.

Out on the Prairie with Little Miss Higgins


Story: Lenny Stoute

Say you turned down a hidden street in a strangely familiar city you’ve never been in before, following raucous Twenties blues tinged with the sad strain of Appalachia. You follow the music swirling with the smoke into a club looks like home base for time travellers. Burning through the haze onstage a sultry woman with knowing eyes and a slash of scarlet for a moth and a voice for the ages, from the ages. So you surrender to the slippery sound worming itself inside your brain and time slips and the faces around you in vintage dresses and fedoras give no clue as to what time it is, even when time it is.

Such is the sonic world of Little Miss Higgins and you’d best be aware it’ll suck in and flush you out a believer. It’s been like that since the age of four, when Jolene Higgins’ daddy brought home a piano and encouraged his wee daughter to bang away at it. “It was a mini grand piano. He brought it home and told me it was mine. I carved my name in the side and started taking piano lessons.”

As with most of the breed, in her teens Higgins switched to guitar and started playing rock’n’roll. Until she caught the blues infection off a local radio station and fell under the spell of great blues ladies like Memphis Minnie and Billie Holiday,



Story: Lenny Stoute

“Hello Lenny. It’s Tom Jackson”, says the warmest baritone currently wearing an Officer of the Order of Canada medal. It’s the week before Jackson’s annual Christmas national tour in support of the Canadian Association of Food Banks and he’s all enthusiastic as he talks about the prospect.

Jackson came up with his novel cross-country benefit tour 20 years ago and sadly, the needs and wants that pushed him to take action are still with us, in ever-growing Dickensian numbers. It’s a situation which engenders mixed feelings in the big man.

“ The good news is that since I’ve been doing this we’ve generated $200 million in cash and goods for a variety of food banks, community service agencies and disaster relief. The sad news is that there is still the need for me to keep doing this. "

“ What was started as a one-of has become my job and I couldn’t find another that suits me better. There will always be the gap between the haves and the have-nots. As humans, I feel it is all our jobs to work to narrow that gap. "

“ That’s what gets me up in the morning; knowing that whatever I have to do that day relates to being pro-active about narrowing the gap, So when you ask how much longer I intend on doing this, the answer is simply as long as there is breath in my body. It’s what I live and breathe. ”

He also sings, acts, writes songs and most recently the script for a play. All of the activities cross-pollinate each other and come to a kind of peak with the seasonal concerts.

The Bill King Trio Stax ‘em High with Five Aces

Five Aces.Cover_.jpg

Story: Sandy Graham

Every life has a soundtrack, and this offering by The Bill King Trio reminds us that music is the language of memory. Five Aces skillfully interprets Bill King’s musical memories of the rhythm and soul era of Motown and Stax Records and the old blues greats, while offering us eight of his own compositions.

Bill King reflects on the influences along his personal musical journey to this point in time. “It was the summer of 1963 when I learned my first lesson in the blues from piano giant Oscar Peterson. I’ll never forget that conversation with Oscar. I was seventeen.”

Bill King was influenced by Peterson and all the blues greats; Count Basie, Ellington, Bessie Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Ma Rainey, B.B. King, with a touch of gospel thrown in by Mahalia Jackson.

As the years passed and King continued down the musical highway, he discovered Booker T. and the M.G.s, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Bobby (Blue) Bland, Travis Womack, Lonny Mack and the unforgettable Godfather of Soul, James Brown.  The track There It Is has pounding drums and bass that go to your soul, while the tasteful keys play the repetitious tune throughout.

Donny Parenteau Rolls a 7!


Story: Don Graham

Donny Parenteau, a Canadian singer/songwriter has broken the record for nominations at the Annual Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards scheduled for November 18, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario.  Parenteau, a Metis from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, is nominated for a staggering 7 awards at the annual awards show. The previous record was 5, held jointly by Shane Yellowbird and Parenteau himself.

Parenteau’s nominations include:
Best Album of the Year: To Whom It May Concern
Best Country Album of the Year: To Whom It May Concern
Best Producer / Engineer:Donny Parenteau & Harry Stinson – To Whom It May Concern
Best Single.: My Girl
Best Songwriter: My Girl
Best Male Artist
Best Music Video: My Girl

When I asked him which one would be the most rewarding to win he said, “I feel like I’ve already won, just by being nominated. By being nominated my work is being recognized. But I think Best Songwriter would be special.”

Special is a good word to describe Donny Parenteau. He spends a lot of time touring western Canada talking to young aboriginal people with motivational talks and is a living example of what these kids can make of themselves if they put their minds and backs into it.

Drake Jensen's Little Toy Trains set to leave the station

Drake Jensen - Little Toy Trains.jpg

Story: Sandy Graham

Canadian Country Recording artist Drake Jensen is getting ready to release his first Christmas single Little Toy Trains to radio worldwide.  Born and raised in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia and now a resident of Ottawa, Ontario, Drake Jensen has a HUGE country heart!  He has aligned himself with Make-A-Wish Foundation in Canada with his first Christmas single. 

On Tuesday, November 4th, 2011 the Little Toy Trains campaign will commence with the release to radio and simultaneously, the single being available on iTunes. All proceeds are going to the Make-A-Wish Campaign in Canada.  Little Toy Trains was written by Roger Miller, and was hit for Glen Campbell.

Drake’s goal is to have 10,000 downloads on the single, as this is what it takes for a child with life threatening medical conditions to have a wish come true!  Along with downloads, Drake Jensen will take part in the Make-A-Wish event at The Shops at Don Mills in Toronto, Ontario on Thursday, November 17 (4:30 – 6:30pm). 

Original Diva Dionne Warwick set to debut new Album in Montreal


Story:Sandy Graham

Five time Grammy Award winning Music Legend, Dionne Warwick celebrates 50 years in the music business since being discovered by Burt Bacharach & Hal David. She will celebrate with the release of her first album of contemporary jazz standards, from the great "American Songbook" titled "Only Trust Your Heart" released by MPCA Records (Sony/Red). The songs are gems from the treasured catalogue of two songwriters closely associated with Frank Sinatra – Sammy Cahn and Jack Wolf. Jack Wolf collaborated with Sinatra to pen the beautiful I'm A Fool To Want You and co-wrote Keep Me In Mind which was written with the songwriter most synonymous with Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach. One of Cahn's biggest fans was Frank Sinatra who recorded 89 of Cahn's songs, many of them more than once.  Cahn won 4 Oscars and was nominated 30 times. He wrote songs for 19 films and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Kill Matilda is back and armed with a new album I Want Revenge. Be very afeard.

Kill Matilda

Remember in college when everybody had those life-sized posters of Buffy The Vampire Slayer in her underwear and when you got drunk enough…oh wait. That’s another magazine.
But now that we have your attention, know who deserves it more? Left Coast zombie stompin’ slash’n’burners Kill Matilda. Buffy would have gotten down on her knees to have them on her side back in the day.

After scaring children and impressionable youth all over the nation on last year’s tour, the fearsome foursome actually managed to stay inside and refrain from killing things long enough to cut an album and now I Want Revenge.

Kill Matilda just can’t sit still. But since they’re on an ass-kicking mission to find revenge, who can really blame them?

Touring and moving around their native country relentlessly, Kill Matilda has called B.C., Quebec and Ontario home within the past year, making it exceptionally clear that they mean business. As the journey to kill Matilda continues, the title of the band’s first full-length album says it all: I Want Revenge.

Charged with the task of clearing the nation of a spreading zombie epidemic after a life or death encounter one fateful night, Kill Matilda is rising to the challenge of zombie management. Specially trained to combat these unruly creatures, Kill Matilda is armed with two incomparable, indestructible, advantageous tools: their bone-crushing music and front woman Dusty Exner’s famous cookies.

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