Concert Review; Pat Travers

Friday night at Cabaret Mille End – Pat Travers brought his high caliber guitar chops to Montreal. It was the first time in almost twenty years the songwriter of ‘Crash and Burn’ flicked his pick to a Montreal audience.

One can only wonder why it took so long …?

IMAG0365Travers – a transplanted Canadian. An Ottawa – raised son who has been living in Orlando, Fla. since 1980, arrived at the worse possible time. His long awaited appearance marred by the opening of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Hundreds of people who may have jumped on the ‘guitar rock’ bandwagon and attended Pat’s show – instead acting like sheep and flocking to La Place de Festival to witness Feist destroy a grand opening …

The Pat Travers Band was here in support of their new album which will be released near the end of July. The disc is titled ; ‘ Can Do’. A fitting title for the man who for so many years was known as the ‘ Boom! Boom!Out go the Lights!’ guy. Fitting because Travers ‘can do’ it better than most and he proved it with a couple of his new songs …

IMAG0382‘Can Do’ – the title track, is a genuine rocker. A wake up the kids and shake the neighbors kinda tune. It is entrenched with a more mature Travers soloing with his trademark lightning fast fingers. Digits that may just be a little quicker than five years ago. An fact Travers himself attributes to a fitness regime he started in 2004. The song is a powerhouse and puts The Pat Travers Band in perfect harmony. As tight as a girdle on an obese person.

Another new song performed before 200 people last night – is a ballad. It is Travers’ soon-to-be-hit. If Pat owned a supermarket, the song ‘Diamond Girl’ would be his lost leader. A ‘Pop’ tune which is tailor made for radio airplay although it is not Travers’ style. An ode to a woman who makes her man feel lucky to have her. Soft guitar licks reminiscent of an angel’s wings flapping in the wind. A shadow – light as a feather, hovering over a sweet message to a woman who is loved …

‘Crash and Burn’ – the evening’s biggest moment; talent-wise.

The original ‘hit for Travers and a tune indicative of the early eighties sound. With hints of Frank Marino‘s ‘Dragonfly’ – this song dominated the airwaves and is a perfect example of what happens when guitar meets bass. A bleeding so natural – so uniquely splendid, it is the song which kept Travers afloat on the sea of music for so many years. Last night, for the length of the song – a haunting feeling engulfed the venue. Travers – ‘the ghost from music past’, narrating his experience and wisdom onto fans of old and new.

The surprise of the evening was the Blues portion of the show. A two song IMAG0378homage to Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell. Travers is a Blues guy so the choices not too bizarre. The surprise was – just how well the band pulled the songs off. They were profound with guitar, deeper with bass and depth -defying with a backseat drum kit.  Drummer Sandy Genero; a human metronome. Snapping the snare allowing bassist Rodney O’ Quinn the passage to rhythm built on old – school Blues. An opening of the vault into music history. Kirk McKim – Pat’s best friend and fellow axeman, fueling a fire lit with a passion for the music that inspired Rock n Roll.

Richard Newell’s (aka King Biscuit Boy) spirit was front and center just like any Pat Travers show. ‘Boom Boom – Out Go the Lights’ – a song which Travers heard through the ‘biscuit man’  at the age of thirteen, played live like it always is. Raw, energetic and a genuine crowd pleaser. Travers’ voice – complete with a raspiness owned by few – performed by fewer. ‘Snortin’ Whiskey and Drinkin’ Cocaine’ – another standard Travers fare in concert. A bookend to ‘Boom Boom’. An ignition switch to an engine primed with seventies oil.

Travers’ uniqueness shone through Friday night. Like a beacon cutting through a fog that hovered over the opening of the Jazz festival.

Rightly so …

Wanda Jackson; A Legend Pure and Simple. Part Two

When Wanda Jackson was a young lady, she did not realize her name would forever be associated with the beginning of Rock n Roll. Now – as an older lady, she did not realize that men and women, young enough to be her Grandchildren, would hold her in such high esteem. Men like Jack White

wanda7” I guess I am like the Betty White of music …” Laughs Wanda. ” All these people suddenly interested in me and my music and handing me so much respect. I certainly can understand exactly what Betty White is going through right now. It is wonderful!”

Jackson – along wither her husband (manager) and publicist, were looking for an idea for an album. They decided it would be great to do a disc filled with duets. Musical arrangements created with singers from all walks of life and all ages. Different people who knew Wanda well. In their search, Jackson discovered that Jack White was a fan of not just her – Rockabilly as well. They contacted Mr. White and asked if he would be interested. White’s answer? Somewhat surprising …

“Jack said he was not interested in doing a duet with me. ” Explains Jackson. “But he then asked if he could produce an album for me. I was floored. He is one of the top rock stars of today and I was flattered. Here is this young guy, a guy younger than my son,  and he wanted to work with me. It is something else.”

Jackson talked things over with her husband and the pair decided to give full reign to White. Who were they to argue with one of the influential men in rock today? The couple ran with their gut instincts …

Wanda Jackson Performs At The El Rey Theatre

“I began listening to the playbacks he recorded. I listened to the horn section and the girls who were singing behind me. He worked me so hard.” Laughs Jacskon. “I was physically tired going into this album but then I fed off the energy that White provided and it was very good for me.  I had forgotten the energy these young people  have along with so much vitality.  It made me feel young again and it revitalized me. The record -‘The Party Ain’t Over‘; is something which I am extremely proud of and equally proud to have met and worked with Jack. He is such a nice young man and very respectful …”

That album placed in Billboard’s Top 200 and once more – Wanda became historic. She is the oldest person ever to obtain such a lofty goal. Jackson next turned to Justin Townes Earle to record another album. A disc which was much more laid back than her collaboration with White. A Country – oriented disc released under the name; ‘Unfinished Business’.

jtewanda_300x168‘Justin is a different type personality than Jack. ” Explains Jackson. ” A young man who is very creative and a hard worker. White is so gung ho  – Bam! Bam! Bam! … (She laughs). Justin said from the get-go that we would not try to match what I did with White. He wanted to go back to my roots. The album does not have all the big arrangements . I liked that because I like to sing all songs as long as I feel it in my heart and I feel confident I can sing it. The words must be believable and it does not matter if it is Country, Gospel or Rock. I just enjoy singing …”

Jackson, after all these years – still feels the same energy as she prepares for her live shows. Shows in the past which – were part of the reason behind Jackson’s success. Wanda was a spark-plug on stage and her reputation of being that type of performer led to more and more appearances.

” I still have the same excitement. The want is still there. I am not as feisty as I once was but  now I have a different approach. All my audiences are young adults and the energy they provide keeps me going. I feel so much love from them and my music and it makes me feed off of them. I love what I do and when you think about it – people retire to do what they want to do. I am doing what I love to do and always have. I am very lucky. People retire to fish or sing music and generally have fun. I am doing that and me and my husband are blessed. I just want to keep doing this until I cannot do it anymore.”


Jackson spends her time not singing with her husband, daughter, son and her Grandchildren. She loves how her Grand kids feel as they read about her in history books. She is somewhat of a Superhero to them and it makes her very proud.

Wanda is coming to the Montreal International Jazz Festival on the 4th of July at Metropolis. Showtime is 8:30pm. She is part of a double bill with Bettye Lavette. Two songstresses who have a wealth of experience between them and the show should be a history lesson to everyone in attendance.

‘In Montreal I will mix it up real good.” says Wanda.” It is mostly the fifties Rock stuff but Iwanda2 throw in some of my country stuff I did from the sixties. There will be some Gospel songs but mostly I will sing the songs that people have on their record players. That is what they want. I do throw in a yodel and people love it. It is a showstopper and the audience really loves when I do that. I love Montreal and it is a great city for me …”

If there is one person that Jackson wished she had an opportunity to record with – one being that would have made her music career complete, it is someone who remains close to her heart …


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Holly Cole; The ‘Night’ Started Young …

It is no coincidence Holly Cole‘s new CD is titled ‘ Night’


‘I am a night owl, I stay up very, very late every night …” Says Cole. ” I find it very quiet. I mean the only phone calls I get are from drunk friends. It is very mysterious and for a creative person – it is ideal. It is open at night – meaning there are no distractions. You have peace and quiet.”

Holly Cole’s latest musical effort and her first in five years, is definitely an evening affair.

b153bf1cbec0e6d_fileIt is an album which turned into a nocturnal theme after a few recording sessions and it also discovers Cole back to where she started. It’s a reunion of sorts. Cole has re-united with her two initial partners in crime. A duo, along with Holly – which made up the Holly Cole Trio.  One of the most talented threesomes in Canadian music history …

“My favorite song on the album is ‘Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues‘ ” Admits the 49 year old singer from Nova Scotia. ” One of the reasons I love the song is because it is done as my original trio with Aaron Davies and David Pilch. It really takes me back to the raw trio and that is where my real heart lies. It really is minimal and I am a real minimalist.”

All of the songs on the album ‘Night’ are covers except for one. ‘You’ve got a Secret’ is an original composition and it fits in well with the ‘accidental’ theme of the album. As Cole and her mates were recording, Holly realized the songs she had chosen, all had either the words or ideas of a nighttime flavor. An underlying message of what goes on once the sun disappears. She then chose the remainder of the covers based on that …

” I knew we would do songs in increments. Four at a time or something. Then I realized that most of the songs were about night, written at night or had night in the lyrics. It’s all about the ‘night’ feeling. Some of the songs  have a loose connection but they ended up being arranged with that night feeling. The song that I wrote is about night so I think the feel is very mysterious.”


Holly believes her ‘late night’ habits were introduced to her at a young age. She profoundly recalls an incident that took place when she was a three year old in Halifax. She woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible cough – waking both of her parents up. According to Cole,  she sounded like Tom Waits and nobody wants their little girl to sound like him – a fan or not …

‘It was around four o’clock in the morning …” She remembers. ” My Father wrapped me into a blanket and took me for a late night stroll. My whole neighborhood was blank – not a soul there. I saw it all for the first time through completely different eyes.”

She goes on …

“It was a clear night with clean Halifax air and fog. I was sitting on my Dad’s shoulders and everything was basking him – the street lights, the moonlight … and all I could hear were his footsteps. It made me fall in love completely with the night. I sincerely believe it had a big influence on me becoming a night owl. When I got home, I felt better and I remember laying in bed thinking that I have a secret. Something which was mine and only mine. It really inspired me and I believe it opened up creative juices within me …”

Those creative juices have served Cole very well.

She released her first albumHolly+Cole+bw+mix+2a in 1990; ‘ Girl Talk’. It was recorded and released as the Holly Cole Trio. Since that time  – Cole has done everything from Christmas albums to an entire disc devoted to Tom Waits songs.

‘Night’ is Holly’s (including ‘best of’ and compilations) 16th album and it has been a long way since she sent a cassette to the founder of the Montreal International Jazz Festival – Andre Menard.

‘I did not have an album, a manager – nothing …” Says Holly. ” I sent him some songs I had done and he loved them. His influence put me on a stage and I was thrilled to play there. It was 1987 and Menard loved me from the beginning. He has been so great to me …”

Holly will be performing at this upcoming Montreal Jazz festival for three nights. June 27th, 28th and 29th at Theatre du Nouveau Monde.

She will be with her quintet as well as something that is a first for her. A full Gospel choir will be involved. It  is an idea that came to her. A thought that delivered the answer; why not …? After all – an artist must continue to grow or risk becoming stagnant …


” This is the first time with a Gospel choir. We have worked with a choir before but not a Gospel one. I like to keep things fresh. They are a twenty – five piece choir called the ‘Praise and Worship Crew.’ They will be with us all three nights and they are from Montreal. I am looking forward to that as well as Kevin Breault joining us for the final two shows. He is a fantastic guitar player.”

Holly’s upcoming appearances at the Montreal Jazz Festival will be her 25th.  The city is her favorite and she simply adores not only playing – taking in as many acts as she can during the Festival. In fact – she always comes to the Festival if  she is not performing elsewhere.  Sometimes she is recognized – sometimes she is not.

” The thing about Montreal … (and I have been all over the world), is that it is able to combine the best of North America and Europe. Somehow – the city is able to not have the worst of those cultures. I really mean it when I say that. It’s the greatest Jazz Festival in the world and Montreal is fantastic!”

Cole’s ‘Night’ is  produced by Holly Cole and Greg Cohen. It includes cover songs from Tom Waits (“Walk Away”), Gordon Lightfoot (“If You Could Read My Mind”), Mort Shuman (“Viva Las Vegas”), Captain Beefheart (“Love Lies”) and a James Bond theme by John Barry (“You Only Live Twice“).

Holly Cole will be touring in support of her new record  in Canada, Germany, Japan and the U.S.

It is no coincidence that all of the shows will take place at ‘Night’ …


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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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Top Ten Signs the Jazz Festival is Coming Soon!

It is almost that time of year …

The grass is getting greener, the trees are overflowing with growth and City Hall smells like … well, never mind …

The Montreal International Jazz Festival is around the corner and people in the city of Montreal are bracing themselves for a ten day onslaught of foreigners. Yes – many West Islanders will be venturing to the downtown core for their annual pilgrimage.

Many tourists will also arrive. Sporting outlandish summer costumes tacky enough to make Don Cherry cringe. From Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Zaire – music lovers will invade Montreal with enough  accents to make Pauline Marois shake in her lingerie ( Marois? Lingerie? Ewwwww).

Here now are the Top Ten Signs the Jazz Festival is coming soon to a street corner near you …

10. CD‘s are available for sale in liquor stores, pizza parlors and the pockets of the homeless guy at the corner of Atwater and Ste Catherine.

9. The drummer who plays plastic buckets is seen everywhere! ( wait – he is seen everywhere all the time – never mind).

8. Andre Menard’s smart phone has fifty missed calls a day from a certain Anthony Bennett  …

7. The movie ‘All that Jazz’ – number one on Netflix, Videotron and the Dollar Cinema!

6. Jazz – ercise making a huge comeback!

5. Rumors of the Super hospital being named ‘L’hopitale Brubeck – just that; rumors ….!

4. Rumors of Corey Hart opening up for Dr. John – just that; rumors!

3. The Breakfast Club movie poster is everywhere!

2. STM bus drivers breaking into ‘song and dance’ every second stop!

and the number one sign the Jazz Festival is coming soon …?

1. Sales of Conway Twitty’s greatest hits? Sadly in decline …


Gilberto Gil; A Brazilian Mick Jagger?

When a seventy year old man is able to lift people from their seats – over and over and over again …

A flip of the fedora in his direction is not just necessary – it is required.

Photo courtesy of Anne Achan

Gilberto Passos Gil Moreira, born in 1942, is the man responsible for a love – in at Theatre Maisonneuve at Place des Arts last night. Who knew that a man from  Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, could one day be king of Montreal – if only for a couple of days.

Dressed entirely in a white suit and a blue guitar as an accessory, Gil was a presence the moment he took center stage. John Bon Jovi and Stephen Tyler take note. Before the status of Mick Jagger is obtained – an obstacle by the name of Gilberto stands in the way.

Gil is an icon. Gil is a performer and a groundbreaking songwriter. Gil is special.

With his trademark dance moves a la James Brown / Jagger, his falsetto notes arriving on cue and an ability to raise the level of the musicians around him – Gil possesses that ‘something’ which all superstars possess. Elvis Presley had it, Micheal Jackson had it and the man who was at one time his country’s Minister of Culture – is one of the few living who not only ‘have it’, know precisely how to use ‘it’.

Photo courtesy of Anne Achan

That’s exactly what Gil did, utilizing every tool in his white suit jacket to get the audience so involved – the rain outside, a footnote in the long history of Montreal Jazz shows.

Gil utilized his song;  ‘Fe Na Festa’, as an instrument of warmth. A beach – the only thing missing in a theater suddenly alive with rays of musical sunshine. People perked up, they took notice and from that point forward – a sold out theater  were drinking from the palm of the ‘once upon a time’ jailbird’s palm.

‘Vamos Fugir’, ‘Expresso 2222’ and ‘Andar com Fe’ – three songs ripe with a vocal following from the crowd mixed in age, continued a stand-up, sit-down, stand-up roller coaster of a set. The crowd danced, the ushers danced, the band danced and the man himself –  appearing ghostly under a white spotlight, summoned  the only man who may have been able to upstage Gil himself.

Bob Marley appeared. Through song. Particularly – ‘Three Little Birds‘ and ‘No Woman No Cry’. A pair of tunes which rode along within Gil’s four decade repertoire. A duo which delivered smiles to people’s faces and warmth to the coldest of souls.

People were lifted out of their seats over and over again.

Even seventy year old men …

Susie Arioli; Concert Review

Sometimes, poems are written in the dark …

Thoughts and feelings piercing the blackness like a knife profound with emotion. Last night at Place Des Arts – Susie Arioli and her excellent group of musicians delivered lines on a platter spun with golden oldies.

The patrons or as the English say; the punters – recipients of a catalog smitten by the Great America Songbook. Who says Valentine’s day must be celebrated on the 14th of February …?

The songs chosen by Miss Arioli, tunes which placed feminine heads upon manly shoulders – sheer diamonds in a jewelry jukebox. Arioli’s voice, a female version of Mel Torme. Smoother than a velvety fog hovering above a city begging for raindrops of nostalgia.

The first half of the show complimented by My Funny Valentine. A song written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Following a half dozen ‘warm-ups’, Arioli and her backing musicians – appeared to hit stride with the tune which was originally penned for Babes In Arms on April 14, 1937. Arioli’s voice almost mesmerizing in it’s roller coaster indentations.

As he has done for seven discs – guitarist Jordan Officer complimenting the original classic with his clever arrangements and Charlie Christianlike riffs. It is obvious how Arioli and Officer hooked up once upon a time at a Stephen Barry Blues Band jam. A mutual understanding of  songs like ‘Husbands and Wives’, ‘Pennies from Heaven’ and ‘Here’s to the Losers’.

It is difficult to mess up a dinner table set by musicians such as Bill  Gossage (Bass), Cameron Wallace ( Tenor Sax) and Tony Albino on drums. A trio not just primed to fill in empty spaces of a musical scale, primed to headline on their very own if needed. Wallace providing sounds following a childhood education of Clarence (The Big Man ) Clemons. Sultry? Soothing?Ambitious ? All the above.

The song of the evening – “Mother Earth’, originally penned by Memphis Slim. In a show which emphasized Jazz, Officer’s guitar rock – like and menacing while Gossage ( on the stand-up bass), a rock in a weighted down rhythm section complete with Albino’s metronome motions. That is when Miss Arioli was not keeping time with a snare of her own. A pleasant addition to an act void of over – the – top antics …

Miss Susie did not appear in a giant egg a la Gaga. Arioli does not require the bells and whistles. Her vocal chords sounding the charge in a warning of standards to come.

What did come to the surprise of many, were a pair of  Christmas songs. A back-to-back duo fastened to the back end of a two hour show like sleighbells on the Grinch’s back. ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Blue Christmas” – adding a splash of warmth to the most cynical, watered – down enemy of the holiday season. Scrooge was chased out quickly by Arioli’s renditions of the wintery classics …

Another surprise to a non-fan, the presence of trilingual chatter. French, English and Fr – anglais; shattering any preconceived notions that Arioli’s songbook would be under scrutiny from any race or group of people. Add that to the song; ‘Un Jour de Difference’, a musical score penned by Maria Greve and made famous by Lys Gauty – a flicker of Paris candlelight embracing a Montreal crowd huddled together on a cool November evening.

Sometimes, poems are read in the dark …