Rick Keene Music Scene Presents; What’s New?

New YorkNew JerseyNew Guinea … not the only things that are new …

In Canada and around the world – musicians are releasing new music every second. That is an alarming amount of tun-age being made available .

Here below are just a few samples of new songs by Montreal artists, Canadians and ( because we are polite ) one American …

Thanks for listening …


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Gino Vannelli; All Those Nights in Montreal. Part Two

Gino Vannelli had a lot of ambition as a young man growing up in Montreal. According to him – you have to have that fire to succeed.

The+Best+Of+Gino+Vannelli“I was filled with fire as a kid. I moved to New York when I was young and signed a record deal by the time I was twenty-one, which was fairly young for even today’s standards. None of that would have happened without that fire. As I have gotten older, I would not say the fire has gone away but it is tamed. I became more interested in different styles and improving my vocal techniques. It has became an interesting musical journey …”

That trip is not over …

Vannelli is in the process of recording a new album which will be ‘in record stores near you’ in 2014. An album that will contain all original material. Material devoted to Jazz and Blues. Something Vannelli wants to get off his chest.

” I love the process.” Says Gino. ” I love to hear the results of hard work and the desire to make art. I love the sound of music. I love to play piano and I love to sing. Right now with all the new technology, I love to be in front of the computer, programming and using new school applications with old school ways.”


Growing up in Montreal, Vannelli was gaining fame around the same time as guys like Frank Marino. He really did not hang with him or guys like him because he was not a rocker. He did not fit in with most of the people making waves in the Montreal or Quebec music scene back in the 70’s. The state of the Canadian recording scene also had something to do with it …

“I had different visions musically. I wanted to explore music on my own terms and I knew I needed good producers and sound technicians. Back in those days – that did not exist in Canada. Now it is a different story. Starting in the mid-eighties, with the advent of Celine Dion and Bryan Adams – studios got really good in Canada. When I started, studios in Canada were in the infancy stage. You could not make the kind of music you wanted because producers and musicians were not skilled in the process of making records.”

Vannelli, a resident of Portland ,Oregon – is using all the skill he has gathered over the years to good use. For him – he learned his singing skill as he went along with no one to teach him the ups and downs of what it takes to be a singer. Gino is giving master voice lessons in Oregon. Something he wishes had existed for him when he was a young man starting out.

“I have ten students from all over the world. I have been doing this for threeginovannelliscan0032 years now. They are all good singers. I started doing this when I was living in Holland a couple of years ago. It is a lot of fun to teach up and coming singers and it is a great learning experience for me as well. Once in a while – I run into really great singers and it is wonderful. I have done this in Italy and France as well…”

Vannelli teaches the intangibles. Stuff that singers come across while on the road touring …

” A lot of people come in and think they can hit every note in the world. I say okay, what are you going to do if you just flew ten hours and you are tired? What happens when you are sick? Are you going to be able to hit those notes? We call it conscience singing – being aware of everything around you. Phonetically, annotative, diction and concepts are part of it along with theory and technical. There is a lot involved in singing. It’s a human being that’s travelling and you must really learn the ropes.”

Vannelli grew up listening to his Grandfather play the guitar but it was his Father who influenced him mostly – music wise. His Dad was a Big Band fan who brought home a lot of records. A real music lover …

” He had Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgreald, Classical and Opera records … He had everything and I was very fortunate to grow up in that atmosphere. He was a huge music fan and it made me a bit of a musicologist. I know the players , the bands, the singers who go way back to the 1930s. I studied classical music and my favorite period is the French Impressionists of the late 19th century. My taste run wild when it comes to music. I appreciate everything right down to Americana and Bluegrass. I like to mix and match when it comes to  recording. It’s like an artist mixing colors – the music process is about talking all genres and implicating it in the sound they are making .”

Something Vannelli will be doing in an upcoming television show …

Stay Tuned for Part Three

Connie Crothers; A Hidden Legend

Underground Piano Legend Connie Crothers continues her creative tear with Live At the Freight; a Thrilling Duo Encounter With Tenor Saxophonist Jessica Jones


The history of jazz is replete with visionary improvisers possessing wholly original sounds who have gone largely unsung by the music’s mainstream chroniclers. Pianist Connie Crothers, a brilliant player championed by jazz giants such as Lennie Tristano, Max Roach and Jemeel Moondoc, has long flown under the radar, but in recent years she’s become such a prolific force there’s simply no denying her rarified status. Her latest in a flood of recent releases is Live at the Freight, a captivating duo session with adventurous tenor saxophonist Jessica Jonesslated for release September 17, 2013 on the Crothers-founded collective New Artists Records.

connieAlternating expansive interpretations of American Songbook standards with concise, beautifully constructed passages of free improvisation, the album offers an emotionally exuberant snapshot of two fearless improvisers utterly alive to the endless possibilities afforded by a duo.

Recorded at the storied Berkeley folk venue Freight & Salvage, where Jones joined forces with French horn master Mark Taylor for last year’s critically hailed quartet session on New Artists, the concert marked Crothers and Jones’ first duo performance, though they share a lot of history on and off the bandstand.

“Musically speaking and on a life level, we feel areas of enormous affinity,” Crothers says. “Jessica is a great friend, and we have talked a lot about how we were shaped by growing up in Northern California, and making our way as improvising musicians in New York. There’s a freedom that comes from the recognition of this affinity, as strong individuals who are truly on this path as artists.”

The album opens with a rhapsodic investigation of the Kern/Hammerstein gem “All the Things You Are,” in which Jones and Crothers bob and weave around the soaring melody. The rhythmically oblique dialogue seems to continue on “Clothespins In A Row,” an impromptu excursion informed by their extensive experience “doing free playing in other ensembles,” Jones says. “It’s really a priority and path that Connie’s on. A lot of people who play abstract don’t have this super developed sense of space. She’s somebody who can think of rhythm in a lot of different ways.”


The album’s centerpiece is a tour de force interpretation of Ellington’s luscious ballad “In A Sentimental Mood,” an exquisite piece that showcases Jones’ tough but tender tone.

They playfully deconstruct the Harry Warren/Mach Gordon chestnut “There Will Never Be Another You,” with Crothers offering sly asides to Jones’ faithful reading of the familiar melody, and close the album with a dangerously slow but riveting version of “Family,” a soulful theme by Jones that has become her best known work.

“She plays these songs so beautifully,” Crothers says. “She’s just amazing on ‘In A Sentimental Mood,’ and her tune ‘Family’ is right up there with these standards. It’s a beautiful song melodically and harmonically and emotionally, and I’ve played it since then in other places with other musicians.”

A California native, Crothers was born in Palo Alto on May 2, 1941, and grew up in various communities around the Bay Area (eventually graduating from Redwood City’s Sequoia High School).

Raised by her paternal grandmother, she started piano lessons at nine, and before long started studying with Edward Hoy, who encouraged her to play her original compositions. Even at that tender age she had “a strong feeling to create my own music,” Crothers says. As a teenager she caught artists like Roy Eldridge, Ella Fitzgerald and the Modern Jazz Quartet in concert with a jazz-loving boyfriend, but she didn’t find herself drawn to improvisation until experiencing a life-changing epiphany while majoring in composition at the UC Berkeley. She happened to hear Tristano’s “Requiem” on an Atlantic blues compilation, which triggered an uncanny vision.  “It wasn’t a wish or even sudden realization,” Crothers recalls. “It was a moment when I seemed to be in my future, a feeling of inevitability.”

connie6She sought out Lee Konitz, who was living in the Bay Area at the time, and studied with him for several months.

With his encouragement and a recommendation to Tristano she moved to New York City in the fall of 1962. Greeted by the blind pianist with tremendous warmth, she ended up studying with him formally for six years, and later taught by his side until his death in 1978, when Crothers co-launched the Lennie Tristano Foundation. Strongly supportive of his former student, he began presenting her at house concerts in 1972, and when the New York scene was slow to recognize Crothers he arranged her New York debut, a 1973 solo recital at Carnegie Hall (the first of three such performances he produced).

Crothers made her recording debut as a leader with 1974’s Perception,which includes solo and trio pieces with drummer Roger Mancuso and bassist Joe Solomon. Working widely around the region in the mid-1970s and early 1980s,she forged deep creative ties with tenor saxophonists (and fellow Tristano acolytes) Warne Marsh and Lenny Popkin and bassist Eddie Gomez. She’s particularly proud of her association with Max Roach,who sought her out for a collaboration as part of his duo series. They ended up recording Swish, a stellar 1982 recording they released on New Artists, a record label they co-founded. They joined forces again the following years as part of an ambitious project with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

While the label lapsed into inactivity when Roach signed with Soul Note, Crothers eventually reorganized New Artists as a cooperative in 1987, and it’s become a vital outlet for some of jazz’s most expressive improvisers. She’s moved into creative overdrive in recent years, releasing four albums in 2011, including two featuring her quartet with altoist Richard Tabnik, drummer Roger Mancuso, and bassist Ken Filiano–Live at The Stone, NYC (with poet Mark Weber) and Band of Fire (with trumpet player Roy Campbell). Last year she released another five albums, including a 4-CD box set documenting his bracing duo with pianist David Arner, Spontaneous Suites for Two Pianos (RogueArt), a duo with alto saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc, Two (Relative Pitch), and TranceFormation (New Artists), a trio session with singer Andrea Wolper and bassist Filiano.


“There’s been a burst,” Crothers says. “I don’t know why. I think it’s part of something that’s underground, a jazz renaissance. I’m hearing it all the time. I’ve been very fortunate to be invited in by Art for Arts, the presenters of the Vision Festival. They have flung the doors open and introduced me to a new and wonderful group of artists and musicians. That’s how I first performed with Jemeel.”

It was through teaching that Crothers first met Jessica Jones, who was part of the first wave of students to come up through the Berkeley public school system’s innovative jazz education program. By the time she joined the jazz band in the 8th grade, classmates like Peter Apfelbaum and Steve Bernstein were already accomplished improvisers and local celebrities. Under the direction of Phil Hardymon, she started on alto sax and eventually moved to tenor. Almost from the start, she connected with veteran musicians closely tied to Ornette Coleman, such as drummer Charles Moffett and a later mentor,trumpeter Don Cherry.

Determined to keep music at the center of her life, she studied at several different universities, including UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz. Eventually she decided to make the move to New York, joining her Berkeley High pals Peter Apfelbaum and tenor saxophonist Tony Jones (her future husband). She honed her chops at jam sessions, and hung around the emerging M-BASE scene, explored Haitian music, and received an NEA grant to study with reed master Ken McIntyre. After Tony heard Crothers on a radio interview, he suggested that Jessica seek her out, and she ended up studying with the pianist for a year. Jones is one of many musicians who have gravitated to Crothers, an artist whose radical optimism resounds in her music.

“She’s very intellectual and politically conscious and tenacious about staying hopeful that it’s the time for this music, and that this music can make a difference in the world,” Jones says. “That’s something that people sense and want to be around. Though she’s never had any kind of sustained publicity Connie has a huge body of work at this point. She’s a dynamo, and the centerpiece of so much that’s going on in New York.”

www.conniecrothers.net and www.jessicajonesmusic.com

Jon Spencer; A Blues Explosion …

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion does not have an average audience. Funny thing. Jon Spencer likes it that way …

” A lot of arsonists and people with assault charges …” Explains Jon. “Nothing serious though, no murderers or anything like that. Well – maybe not … ”

jon5Jon’s band have been around for twenty years. Long enough for the band to be comfortable with not only themselves – their somewhat colorful audience. Spencer and his ‘dynamite’ mates are in the midst of a tour which saw them play at Le Festival D’Ete in Quebec City last month. The band are touring in support of their new album; Meat and Bone.

” We wrote most of the tracks in 2011 and it was completed in 2012.” Explains Spencer. ” We were happy the way the album turned out but when you are making a baby – you never know what color hair it will have! We have toured all over for the album;  Japan – all over Europe and watching the audience react is the true test to the new songs. When you see people bopping their heads and they have big smiles, you then realize you have done something good.”

ababThe Jon Spencer Blues Explosion consists of three members and are based in New York City. Judah Bauer is on bass guitar, backing vocals, harmonica and occasional lead vocals, Russell Simins batters the skins  and Jon Spencer sings and plays guitar. They are a mixture of many things. Some say Alternative, others call them Punk. Truly those  elements exist yet their roots are based in Rock n Roll and Blues. A definite trio that march to their own beat …

‘We are old men now …” Laughs Jon. ” Really we have not changed too much since the beginning. We love the Blues and try to stick with it. It’s all in the way you carry yourself. You cannot carry on like a teenager on stage or off.  You grow up but remain young. The attitude remains the same.”

Spencer’s youth consisted of various musical and diverse acts. The Stooges, Otis Redding, Devo, Kraftwerk , The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and  James Brown to name a few.The band has also recorded with Elliott Smith, Beck, Solomon Burke, Steve Albini, Martina Topley-Bird and Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys. Quite the melting pot for a stew which seems to have stood the test of time and remains tasteful.

“I really took all genres and implemented them into the Blues Explosion. After twenty years, I consider myself fortunate enough to to be able to do this and to have a following of people. Our audience consists of a lot of woman over forty and ex – cons. To come to our concerts, expect a lot of metal detectors and pat-downs. It certainly is not like Woodstock.”

jon4Although Spencer and his mates tote a cast of unsavory characters around – the band itself cares very much of the world around them. The song; ‘Black Mold’ from the new album, is about Hurricane Irene and it’s devastating effects.

“The tune …” Explains Jon. “Was originally penned about records getting destroyed in cardboard boxes. Ironically, a year later, Hurricane Sandy hit which was far more devastating. The song also helped to raise funds for the victims of New York and the band has and continues to donate monies for the victims of tragedies such as Irene among many others.”

Spencer is also an advocate of ‘the tragedy of the music business’ and ensures people do not cheat the system by downloading stuff for free. He is very vocal when it comes to convincing people to buy CD’s at concerts and to support the ‘good’ acts that are not necessarily on the radio. Something which – according to Spencer, has not changed since his band commenced in 1991 and when he was a kid growing up …

jon4” I come from New Hampshire and I listened to the local Fm station as well as any station I could get. There was a lot of crap on the radio back then as there is now. Money buys airplay and it has always been that way. It is the small guys who may get that one song on the radio, they are the ones who need support. The internet is good and bad. You can search for what you like but then again – a lot of new bands get recognition but do not make money. If you find something or someone you like – buy their stuff. Do not make the deejays of corporate stations rich along with the bands who are also rich. ‘Bag of Bones‘ , the title track from our new album is about that topic …”

All of the songs are written by the band and remain a joint effort. A universal feel betweenjon spencer the members. They will listen to ‘the trends’ but if a song does not feel right, it is dismissed quite quickly. A common denominator throughout the band’s eight album discography.

Another  common denominator is controversy including a ‘hoax’ where Tom Waits was said to have replaced Spencer in the band. A joke placed on the website just to see if the ‘mainstream’ media would ‘pick up’ the story.

A common denominator like the ‘not average’ audience that follow The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion around.

Jon likes it that way …

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Ritchie Henman; The Beginning and End of the Dudes

Before disbanding in the fall of ’73, AW took the summer off for everyone to clear their heads. The band had toured almost non-stop since fall ’70.

” I went camping and fishing with Claire ( my wife) for a few weeks and when I got back I was contacted by a band from California called “The Wackers“. They were living and working out of Montreal and their drummer had broken his left wrist in a diving accident. I filled in alongside Ernie until that group disbanded in October.” Explains Ritchie Henman – the original drummer of April Wine.


At that point David and Ritchie Henman  started “Silver” with Danny Ceaser on bass and George Mack on keys. George had played with the brothers and Jim Henman in “Prism” in ’68-’69.  Silver and the new version of the Wackers (with Bob and Kootch from the original group along with local drummer Wayne Cullen and Brian Greenway on guitar), began jamming at Smitty’s, a country bar in NDG.

Says Ritchie;

“The bar allowed us the run of the place on Monday nights. Neither band was accomplishing much on its own and it wasn’t long before the principal songwriters got together on the notion of joining forces.” He continues. “We originally called the group “All The Young Dudes” to draw a lawsuit from Bowie’s company. Thereby drawing attention … ”

The stragedy sort of backfired when the band was notofied that Bowie loved the name! Nonetheless, the members shortened it to “the Dudes” which had always been the plan.


“We quickly became the number one unsigned band in all of North America and spent several weeks in the Twilight Zone entertaining obscene offers from almost all the major U.S. labels.” Explains Henman.

” Finally, with New York Attorney Nat Weiss (the former partner of Brian Epstein) doing our bidding, we signed a historical contract with CBS in New York. We ate, drank and made merry while leaving the production of our debut LP to one Mark Spector, a terrific guy personally (very personally) selected by the current head of CBS.”

According to Ritchie, Mark was in way over his head with that band and the LP tanked.

“We did that one magical tour with the Bee Gees…  nicest guys ever, and had some great gigs and get – togethers with our manager’s other acts. Groups such as Blood, Sweat and Tears and Ian Hunter.”

By the fall of ’77 the group saw no point in carrying on. They did one last set of recordings at Le Studio with the top engineers from Criteria Sound in Miami. It was a study for CBS to decide what should be done with the band and the resulting recommendation was that they should have been self-produced from the start.

“CBS took a pass and cut us loose and we went our separate ways. I started a few original projects for the next two years and had some great experience, enough to keep my hopes alive for one more “career” group.

Late in ’78 I was asked to join a local group called Lyrock who had an eastern tour booked but were losing a few members. I went to see them play and saw for the first time Don Beauchamp on keys and some vocals as well as old acquaintances Wally and Tom Rathie who had been in Frames, our fave opening act during the Dudes period.”

Interspersed with Lyrock’s cover songs were several originals by Don and Wally and Ritchie was blown away. This was the music he had looked for.

” I took the tour gig but as soon as I got back to Montreal I got in touch with the Rathies and managed to get an audition for their new group.” Continues Ritchie. ” They chose a local jazz drummer over me and I was quite devestated but a few weeks later I was called back. It hadn’t worked out and I was in!”

As Ritchie had expected, the group’s music got immediate attention and they organized themselves with an indie label and local production Guru; Guy Rheaume.

” Our first LP, ‘Rollin’ With The Times was an instant in-trade hit.” Says Ritchie.

“The entire Canadian radio industry seemed to adore us. Unfortunately, our manager, fearful of financial ruin refused to sign off more than 5,000 units for our first pressing. This – despite urging from people who didn’t even have a stake in it, to guarantee at least 20,000 units.”

He goes on.

“Incredibly, just as we were charted with heavy rotation on 52 stations coast to coast, our distributor went bankrupt. It took our manager six weeks to find a new distributor and during that time the available pressings sold out. This forced the stations to drop it..Crash and burn … another one-hit wonder.”

Ritchie had been through this type of thing before but for the other four members of Cruiser ( this being their first real crack at the high-end of the entertainment industry), Henman believes they were devastated.

“Don left town shortly afterward and Wally, Tom, Ed and I did some studio sessions together but it was never the same and we drifted away from it by ’82.

Says Ritchie; “Even for me the project remains both the best and worst I have ever experienced.”

The first LP was finally released on CD three years ago as was the never-released second LP, Strange News.

” And I’ll go on record as saying they are both masterpieces!” Adds Henman. “To this day, the best players I have ever worked with are Ed Stevens on guitar, Tom Rathie on bass, Walter Rathie on keyboards and Don Beauchamp on vocals”.

For this statement, Ritchie Henman does not have to clear his head …