Rick Keene Music Scene – Molly Johnson Launches A Much Needed Black History Website

History comes in many forms. Molly Johnson herself – is Canadian music history.

Molly is a pioneer. Musical theater, Theater, Disco, Funk, Rock / Pop and Jazz. Molly has not only done it all, she has excelled in all.

A Member of the Order of Canda

In 2019, Johnson has been nominated for a Juno Award in the Best Adult Contemporary Category. She has already won a Juno for Jazz Recording and this recent album places her in the company of some of her favorite artists.

This year is also fertile ground for a website she is starting up. A Black History informational tool which she hopes will be a go to place for teachers in all Canadian institutions.

Please LISTEN below to my chat with Molly. Hear some great tunes and find out why history is so IMPORTANT to all Canadian’s futures.

Rick Keene Music Scene – Molly Johnson Talks Juno Nomination and A Much Needed Black History Website

History comes in many forms. Molly Johnson herself – is Canadian music history.

Molly is a pioneer. Musical theater, Theater, Disco, Funk, Rock / Pop and Jazz. Molly has not only done it all, she has excelled in all.

A Member of the Order of Canda

In 2019, Johnson has been nominated for a Juno Award in the Best Adult Contemporary Category. She has already won a Juno for Jazz Recording and this recent album places her in the company of some of her favorite artists.

This year is also fertile ground for a website she is starting up. A Black History informational tool which she hopes will be a go to place for teachers in all Canadian institutions.

Please LISTEN below to my chat with Molly. Hear some great tunes and find out why history is so IMPORTANT to all Canadian’s futures.

The League of Rock Montreal; And a One … And a Two …

They say, practice makes perfect.

If that is the case, then no-one is perfect because even guys like April Wine’s guitarist Brian Greenway keep practicing ….


Greenway is the first ‘Rock Star’ coach to participate in The League of Rock Montreal’s first rehearsal which took place this past Wednesday at Studio Musico Practik in Verdun.

An initial meeting of the instruments ( and minds) …



Under the watchful eyes of Montreal President Gary Johnston, the boys and woman – were locked away inside four beautiful studio rooms on de L’eglise Avenue for a night of hard work.

With Brian Greenway making the rounds and spending time with each group,’ lessons learned’ and ‘lessons earned’ became the catchphrase for the night.


Local guys such as Ed Booth, a player who just past middle age, decided to live his dream and start playing music. Suddenly, he is knocking elbows with Greenway and loving  the learning  of it.

Josh Van Sprang, Martin Jaz, Murray Rappel, Gregory Gallagher and Jordan Gosselin – just a few of the musicians from various backgrounds, playing levels and ages, together at The League of Rock Montreal. All with one common goal. To become one with their band-mates whom they met for the first time last week.


Greenway, upon completion of the last session, exited the studio room with a smile larger than Lasalle. The April Wine guitarist clearly energized by the vibes taking place among virtual strangers a week ago.

“The beauty of the League of Rock is not knowing what will arrive from the nine weeks of rehearsing and a couple of gigs leading to the final showcase. ” Says League President and CEO Gary Johnston. ” That’s why it is important to focus on a couple of songs right away. Too many choices will not allow for any song to be performed and developed properly.”


Heavy Metal could be heard from one studio. A cover of a Rolling Stones’ tune from another. The only thing not heard in the first ten minutes may have been ‘Smoke on the Water’. Surprisingly ( or not)  – Deep Purple’s iconic song, too simple for the bands (?)

An indication this batch of musicians are advanced in their playing or not fans of Deep Purple. Either way, nothing caught fire.


The second rehearsals are taking place this coming Wednesday. The guys and gal have no excuses left to not put their fingers to the chords and their feet to the bass pedals. All intros are over. All nerves should be settled and not ‘torn and frayed’.

It is time to get down to some serious business at …

The League of Rock Montreal !



To buy pictures from The League of Rock Montreal’s first rehearsal –

Visit James St Laurent Here !



Visit The League of Rock Here!

 Visit Evenko Here !  



Visit The Hi – Fins Here !



Mathew and Jill Barber Keep Family Values Alive With New Album

Mathew and Jill Barber are brother and sister. 


Both – possessing very solid solo careers on their own but face it, family is family …


All these years later, the pair of siblings have finally recorded an album together and it is a feel good story. ‘The Family Album’ combines folk music with sentimental values – the album is an open door to heartwarming lyrics and melodies.

Please listen below as Mathew explains the album and his relationship with his younger sister.

Thanks for listening ! Talk soon !


Please visit Mathew Here !



Visit The League of Rock Here!

 Visit Evenko Here !  


Visit The Hi – Fins Here !



Justin Rutledge – Former Juno Award Winner is Heading ‘ East ‘.

Justin Rutledge – at one point, wanted to be a writer.


A Juno Award down the road, things have not gone Justin’s way. Or – have they?

 Please listen below to hear some new tunes from Justin’s album East and hear his thoughts on bar-tending?

Justin? What’s up?

Visit Justin Here !



Visit The League of Rock Here!

 Visit Evenko Here !  


Visit The Hi – Fins Here !



Christine Jensen – It’s All About the Sax …( Sorta )

Christine Jensen has a new album out.

Habitat will be released on October 1st in stores near you. This release will be followed by a live show on October 3rd at Lion D’Or as part of the Off Festival. Christine’s latest ‘opus’ is a labor of love …


” Every time I do a large ensemble thing like this, it’s not a short event.” Explains Christine from her home in Montreal.” There are a lot of pieces that have to be put in place which includes writing the music …”

An album this size takes Christine about three years to complete. Eighteen musicians take part in what Jensen describes as short stories. Each song has a different theme and they all contain spontaneity. Slightly organized tunes which contain great rhythms – something which Christine adores …

” This is Jazz.” Says Christine.” It is so different than most types of music. I have to structure everything down and when we go to record we get about two days in the studio, as opposed to what may sound like months and months and months. Just to do the live stuff – it’s all about capturing the live element of the music.”

Christine Jensen is foremost a Saxaphone player and a current Montrealer. Christine.JensenMathieu-Rivard_hires1Originally from Sechelt, British Columbia, she grew up in Nanaimo and learned her craft among some of Canada’s finest crop of musicians. Diana Krall, David Gogo and her sister Ingrid to name but three. Once in Montreal, Christine obtained her Bachelor and Masters degrees from McGill University. She has studied with Pat LaBarbera, Kenny Werner, Jim McNeely, Remi Bolduc, Dick Oatts and Steve Wilson. People who have taught Christine well in the city she calls the greatest in the world for musical talent …

“We have our struggles in this Province …” Admits Christine. ” But those struggles also help us to band together. The struggles add to the dimension for this need of creation here.  There is no better place than Montreal.”

Habitat is the second disc of such magnitude for Jensen. Treelines (released in 2010) won Christine a Juno award yet the new album was much easier to complete. Christine’s experience from the first – enabling an ‘easier’ go the second time around.

The new album from The Christine Jensen  Jazz Orchestra, is composed of six parts, all arranged and composed by Jensen and dotted by the places that inspired her. From the Prairies to Port-au-Prince, Peru to BrooklynJensen’s new album is the most inspired project she has released. Particularly the song; ‘Nishiyuu’. One of six tracks on the album ‘Habitat’.


” This is my most political piece although it is not political per say … ” Explains Christine. ” It’s about the march the Cree young men took from up North this past winter to Ottawa. It took them three months through the winter. I thought it was a beautiful and a hopeful journey they went through. If I had undertaken something like that, I liken it to climbing  Mount Everest  – I’d probably get a lot of satisfaction from it. Like you went somewhere on your journey. These young men went through some deplorable situations to send a message.’

Jensen came up with the name for her album for a reason. Her ‘habitat’ is a concept as an artist thinking in architectural terms as a place where her songs can live. Her ‘children’ – safe for now as Christine tends to live in the moment. Each older piece from ‘Treelines’ – safely and respectively placed in the past. Jensen does not write things in an hour – the most recent compositions are loved the most …

Christine is also a world traveler. She has played all over the world and those experiences have taught her ‘global’ lessons in music. ‘Academic’  truths based in ‘Alchemy’ …?

“It’s funny – every Country has it’s own flavor when they approach music.” Explains Jensen. ” There remains a common underlying theme. We are all well versed in what I call ‘Big Band writing’ in terms of executing and interpreting it. Yet there is always a different sound with each band. I am sure in Classical music it’s the same. If you play Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in England or Spain – you will get a different interpretation of it …”


One thing which does not need interpretation is Christine’s view on the new age of selling records. The new age of the record industry. An era which Christine believes is good and bad …

” Technology has a changed a few things … I find it is so hard out there to crack open, to get your music out there.” Explains Jensen.

“You have to find every opportunity to do that. The game has a changed a lot over the years. To do large ensemble compositions takes a lot of time and energy and you have to want to do the other side of the business as well. It is a huge investment to do this type of thing. I hope there is someone out there who can help a little bit. My thing is to tell people to buy hard copies of musicians’ works. It’s the only time we see money. ”

Jensen also believes we live in a ‘fast’ throwaway society, especially when it comes to music. Guys like The Beatles and Micheal Jackson – may not be as huge today because of the nature of speed which artists disappear.

Christine’s personal choices as ‘idols’ are vast and somewhat universal.

Charlie Parker, Myles Davis and Coltrane.

Jensen believes the trick is to find an individual voice when choosing an instrument. Something which she believes takes a long time, self – analysis and focus. According to Christine – Jazz is much like Classical in the way that the goal is to be individualistic within a group. Alone but together.


” I am looking forward to my show and the CD launch on the 3rd of October. As much as I would like to say; ‘ it’s done; goodbye …'” She laughs. ” I am looking forward to playing the music I spent so much time working on.

Christine Jensen will be performing all her new songs on Thursday at Lion D’Or. She will also toss older ones into the mix as she plays with her eighteen piece orchestra.

That’s a lot of people …

On her new album; Habitat.

Visit Christine’s Site here!

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Emelie – Claire Barlow; The Juno, the Duck, the Mouse and ‘Bunny’

For Emelie – Claire Barlow, the fifth time is a charm.

Following four previous Juno nominations, Barlow finally won a 2013 award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year. The album is called ‘Seule ce  Soir’ . A disc which was recorded in 2012 and was initially intended as a compilation of all her French songs she has done over the years.


‘Most of my records have one or two songs in French and we played most of them live. I just thought it was time to  re – record  them because over the years they have evolved. So the project took on a life of its own. Half the record is newly recorded versions of old songs and the other half are new songs. ”

Barlow, combining new and old – did not discover that a huge gap existed between the compositions. According to the native of Toronto, the blending of material was smooth.

“I found the album worked in a very cohesive way. For me, my creative process is taking a song and changing the arrangement completely and making them my own style. An example would be Croissants de Soleil. Ginette Reno is very pop oriented and we took her song, stripped it down and made it a lush romantic Bossa Nova. Because I have a band that has played with me for several years, there is a consistency in the record between the older and newer songs. They all sound as if they come from the same place.”


Barlow makes no bones about the fact that she is in control of the arrangements and the writing process. She chooses the repertoire and the album name. Although, over the years she has mellowed and given up more of her ‘ perfectionist’  habits, she has learned  to ‘trust’ more people. Changing arrangements, especially on stage,  used to stress her out. Now – she realizes that sometimes, the most  interesting things come from the need of adapting it. Having musicians who are world class helps that process quite a bit.

Emelie – Claire explains …

” I sit at the piano and come up with the ideas and write out the charts for the bands. They are very generous musicians who bring their own ideas and styles and then – things evolve. Especially after playing the songs live.  Getting older and trusting everyone more leaves me more freedom to improvise on stage. Don’t forget, we are also traveling with a different amount of musicians sometimes. We may not have a piano player one show. My voice will compensate for that missing sound and my voice becomes the piano. If the horns are the instrument that is missing, same thing – my voice fills in that gap.”

emilie488152-000009_LREmelie – Claire’s voice is very ‘instrumental’ in her career.

Starting at the age of nine, Barlow has used her voice in television commercials singing jingles which appears to have launched an ensuing  career which started about fifteen years ago. Barlow plays or ‘acts’  characters in animated television series ( see link below).

Singing Jazz or doing voices are equally comfortable for the late thirties Barlowe and she is currently the voice behind an animated character in the television series; Almost Naked Animals. It is in the third season and Emelie plays ‘Bunny‘, a rabbit aptly named and ( as it turns out ), aptly placed as well …

“I moved into a new place about six months ago and I actually have a mantle. I took my Juno award – which is quite heavy ( I may use it to work on my biceps), and surrounded it with a stuffed animal of ‘Bunny’ along with a glass duck and a mouse. They are all looking at my Juno – it is pretty funny.”

The Juno, the Duck, the Mouse and 'Bunny'.
The Juno, the Duck, the Mouse and ‘Bunny’.

Something that is not very humorous, is when Emelie discovered that she had won the Juno award. She was on tour and could not attend the ceremonies. She came off stage following a one-of-kind performance and was informed by her trumpet player she had won. According to Barlow – shock was the first emotion that invaded her body.

” I was in total shock, it took a while to sink in and when it did – it was such a great feeling. It is hard to describe. I was also a lot happier than I thought I would be.” She laughs. “It was a little disappointing not being there to accept it but then I realized that I was surrounded by the people that made it happen and that I had  just finished doing what I loved.The ensuing ‘craziness’ that took place celebrating was memorable and will always be that. A great memory.”

Emelie – Claire was also overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection from her family and friends. According to Barlow – it was the most moving part of receiving the award. A feeling which was overwhelming in a good way and fills her with happiness and pride. Her parents, both professional musicians ( Dad’s an award winning  Jazz percussionist and Mom’s a singer), were so thrilled and excited for her. All this means a lot to Emelie yet this place in her life was not so much envisioned as it just came about naturally…


“I really don’t know what I imagined.” Admits Barlow.” I think it’s just a path I followed from the beginning without even questioning it. My parents were very busy session musicians and I spent a lot of time in studios. It all feels normal to me and even now, when I am in a little studio, locked away from the craziness of the world around me – I feel safe and cozy. I am in my little cocoon and that’s perfect for me.”

Emelie admits the music business is very tough and when an award happens like this – it is a sign indicative of how people feel. It validates what she does and although she would still make music regardless – she cannot help but feel all her hard work is worthwhile. The end justifies the means.

Emelie- Claire Barlow is playing July 5th at Theatre Maissoneuve as part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. A theater which – according to Emelie, is a beautiful place to play. She will be performing a lot of her new songs – both young and old, and bringing a full band along for the ride. That way – her music will be heard as recorded. She also has a couple of special guests joining her on stage yet she is not at the liberty to say who they are at the moment.

“I cannot remember exactly …” Says Emelie.” I think this will be my fifth appearance at the Jazz Festival and I love it. Montreal audiences are so passionate and they make you perform so much better …”

The fifth time is a charm after all …

Visit Emelie’s site here !

Voice and animation work

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David Myles; Dreams Come True

Really, winning a Juno award for ‘Inner  Ninja’ – a collaboration with Classified, comes as no surprise for New Brunswick native David Myles. After all, good things come when you get along with someone so well …


“We have known each other for quite a while and we really see eye to eye. He has this amazing ear. He performs music by feel which is unlike me. I learned with technique, I am schooled and we are a perfect contrast. He plays and writes music the way most people hear it.”

Myles, of course, is speaking of his recent 2013 award at the Junos. He won, along with the Hip – Hop / Rap sensation ‘ Classified’, the award for Rap recording of the year. A prize which makes Myles proud but is furthest from the type of music Myles is accustomed to performing or writing.

David_Myles_2“I love learning about new types of music.”Says David from his home in Nova Scotia. ” This is what I love about working with different people. For example, I did the song ‘Whole to my Half’ with Measha Brueggergossman. She is an opera singer who performed during the opening ceremonies at the Olympic games. We  could not be more different. We grew up together in Fredericton and her family is friends with my family.”

Just because the pair knew each other, it did not make it easy or comfortable for Myles when it came time for recording the song . He flew to Toronto where the song was taped in studio. The two artists were face – to face during the recording and David was a nervous wreck.

“I knew she was not going to make any mistakes.” Laughs Myles. ” If anybody was going to screw up – it would have been me! Thankfully, the song worked out well and it brought the best out of me”

David started playing music young. The trumpet and piano learned at the age of ten. He grew up in a musical family, everyone from Mom and Dad and his brothers – playing something around the family home.

“Funny …” Admits David. ” I only started playing the guitar around the age of twenty – one. When I picked that up – I realized this is what I wanted to do full time. Pursue a career in music.”

It was in Calgary, strumming his acoustic guitar in a coffee house before roughly fifteen people, when Myles realized the whole idea of earning a living through songwriting was realistic. A moment when – someone outside of his immediate family, commended him for his songwriting. A few words and David was starting a path toward a career as well as a  new -found confidence.


“One day, I was at Mount Allison University studying Political Science with aspirations of maybe going to law school.”Says David. “Then,  I was 23 and one of my songs won a Roots – Folk award in Nashville. I realized that maybe I should do something with this. Even though I was in school studying things outside of music – I was always obsessed with it.”

Myles’ early influences were mostly Jazz – related.

Miles Davis was huge in my life because he played the trumpet just like me. Chet Baker was another one and surprisingly – Willie Nelson became huge after I listened to his album; ‘Red Headed Stranger’. I had never listened to country music and it was an eye-opener to me. Even now, I am the kind of guy who is twenty years behind in catching up to music. Especially rock. I did listen to and love the Stones’ album Beggars Banquet as well as Sticky Fingers. ‘Beggars’ is raw – country music. “

David’s current ‘guilty’ pleasures consist of listening to artists such as Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. The Beatles are also dear to his heart as they are to most artists (according to David.)

The Juno award and the ensuing popularity could not have arrived at a better time for Myles,

It coincides with the release of his new album; ‘In the Nightime’. A disc which David believes reflects the moods and feelings of his life right now. It is the reason the disc evolved from one CD into a pair. A double album indicative of his ‘duel’ personality.


Disc one contains the romantic ballads while the second disc is more upbeat – dance oriented stuff. According to David, the reason he believes the album is so good is that everyone involved in the process was very focused.

“It took only two and a half days to record. I was very fortunate to play with musicians with a lot of experience. Aaron Davis produced the album and he helped me to bring in the musicians. David Pilch is on bass guitar, Kevin Breit plays guitar, mandolin and dobro, Davide DiRenzo is on drums and Aaron himself contributes on piano. It is the first time I worked with any of these guys. They have worked with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Norah Jones. They definitely raised the bar and made me a better performer on the album. I always have a tendency to over analyze my songs either recording or writing them. These guys helped to make it simple and I am very proud of the result.”

Disc two, the R and B, Hip-Hop, Rap – influenced songs, are produced by his  friend and fellow award winner – Classified. The first single -‘How’d I Ever Think I Loved You’, is also a throwback  to the days of the fifties, the early days of Rock n Roll via The Four Seasons and Frankie Vali.

David Myles continues to grow as an artist. He is open to all genres and is unique in that he is able to sing ‘crooner’ songs as well as ‘Hip-Hop’. David will never don a baseball cap backwards however. He prefers to be himself and believes it is a reason why his collaboration with Classified works so well. The imagery is opposite. David is the accountant and Classified possesses the classic Rapper look ..

The question is; will everyone else learn to grow as a listener and get along as well as David Myles does with every artist from every walk of life …?

Sure hope so. So does David.

David Usher; Songs from the Last Day on Earth

Juno Award winner David Usher is  releasing his eighth studio solo album; ‘Songs From The Last Day On Earth’.


The album will be released on October 2nd through MapleMusic Recordings.

Rice Paper / Partir Ailleur, is the first.single to be released and is currently circulating on radio. A video for the song was shot by award winning Quebec short film director Arnaud Brisebois.

According to Usher, this is his first disc with a central theme. It’s premise is a group of friends sharing their last day together and some thoughts on what might stand out as the things that have stayed with them over a lifetime. How everyone relives moments over and over through memories. Fragments of love, loss and regret.


Songs From The Last Day On Earth reunites Usher with longtime collaborator and co-producer Jonathan Gallivan who was at the helm of his last record – The Mile End Sessions.

That album included David’s first #1 french radio hit with Je repars (2011). The touring in support of that stripped down album of acoustically reinterpreted songs served as Usher’s organic starting point for writing new material.

Usher says he wanted it to be an extension of that thinking. It was formed on an acoustic foundation but the progressive layers added more dynasism to the finished product.

A prolific singer, songwriter and producer he has created genre-defying music and achieved a critical respect since embarking on his solo career in 1998. A four-time JUNO Award winner -including Best Pop Album in 2002 – Usher has had six albums ascend to the Top 20 of the Billboard Top Canadian Albums Chart, and 10 chart topping radio singles.


On the international stage, he’s had top ten and top twenty radio singles in England, Germany, France, Russia and fourteen other countries.

David is equally passionate about using technology to build new and interesting projects.

From social media aggregation software he has developed that’s currently being used by the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, to his company, a creativity lab that brings together, designers, artists, hackers and programmers to develop and collide on new and interesting projects. At the request of Amnesty International, David has developed ArtistsForAmnesty.com, a platform that enables Amnesty to leverage the social reach of supportive artists.

David is active in many other business n, from technology and the environment to creative and social endeavors.

He has traveled to the Burmese refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border for WarChild to film a documentary on children affected by war. He is a long time active supporter of Amnesty International, Tree Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation.


Having sold 1.3 million albums as a solo artist and from his time as the frontman of Moist, one of Canada’s most enduringly well-respected bands, David has undoubtedly become one of Canada’s most emblematic performers.

See David on the road when he plays The Mod Club in Toronto on November 9th and Club Soda in Montreal on November 15th. More dates to be announced soon!

Up next …an interview with Steve Hill