april 16, stiffed
Caught Philly's Stiffed last week at the Reverb, opening for local soul threat Graph Nobel. Santi White and her alt-soul crew, which included Nobel and Esthero super-producer Doc, held the room of hiphop heads and jaded A&R dudes spellbound with a vicious set of Blondie-meets-Aretha-meets-MC5 booty-shakers. Most impressive was the band's ability to get the entire room dancing. One suit in his 50s was rocking so hard that the folks around him had to make space for his flailing arms.
The multi-talented White, an A&R rep who served as co-writer on neo-soul rising star Res's major-label debut, is the fiercest frontwoman I've seen in a long time. She puts the canon of Canrock chicks to shame -- bet she could take on the combined force of Sarah, Nelly, Alanis and Amanda Marshall without breaking a nail.
april 19, greg keelor
On paper, Greg Keelor's idea of performing the songs from Lee Hazlewood's characteristically bent concept debut, 63's Trouble Is A Lonesome Town (LHI/Smells Like) album -- concerning the strange characters of a fictional town called Trouble -- seemed like a good idea. If nothing else, it would get the less than prolific Blue Rodeo singer/songwriter out of the studio and onto the stage with his Lee-loving pals in the Sadies.
Judging by the muffed parts, sloppy endings and generally hesitant play at the first of two Horseshoe gigs, they could've used another rehearsal or three before taking it public. Keelor's attempts at reciting Hazlewood's between-song narratives seemed to confuse the restless Friday crowd who came to the 'Shoe to party.
Indignant shouts of "Shut up and play" and "How 'bout a song?" after the first few tunes convinced Keelor to skip the dialogue and finish as quickly as possible, oddly substituting Some Velvet Morning for Look At That Woman. There's always dinner theatre.
april 20, the foggy hogtown boys
A highly anticipated Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday-afternoon showdown with the New York Islanders looked like it might have cut into the Foggy Hogtown Boys' draw for their weekend matinee at the Black Friar (Saturdays 4-7 pm).
But it'll take more than playoff hockey to keep bluegrass fans away from the friendly pub on College near Dovercourt -- at least when banjo boss Chris Quinn (formerly of Heartbreak Hill) and his boys, bassist John McNaughton, guitarist Chris Coole, mandolinist Andrew Collins and reformed Celtic fiddler John Showman, are harmonizing around a single microphone.
As the Foggy Hogtown name implies, their three spirited sets come piled high with Flatt & Scruggs faves, but they keep a balanced mix between old-school classics and newgrass innovation with a focus on vocals. It makes sense, since McNaughton -- who co-hosts a popular bluegrass show on Six Nations radio CKRZ -- is the best young tenor in the country right now. Believe that.
upcoming downtown jazz festival
The 16th annual Downtown Jazz Festival, much like the previous 15, seems largely weighted toward venerable traditionalists rather than adventurous and exciting new innovators. Mainstage performances at Nathan Phillips Square include Dr. John (June 21), singer Ernestine Anderson (June 22), trumpeter Maynard Ferguson (June 23), the Dave Brubeck Quartet (June 24), the Grover Mitchell-led Count Basie Orchestra (June 25), the Dave Holland Quintet along with the Legends of the Bandstand, featuring Cedar Walton, Louis Hayes, Earl May, Curtis Fuller and David Fathead Newman (June 26), the Pat Martino Trio with Joey DeFrancesco (June 27) and trumpeter/pianist Arturo Sandoval (June 28).
Once again, the bright spot of the 10-day festival, which runs June 21 to 30 at various downtown venues, is the Nightlife Series, specifically the Revival lineup, which includes New York's DJ Spinna (June 21), NOJO (June 23), the Freestylin' improvisational hiphop jam (June 25) and Parisian house producer Llorca (June 26). Check the Web site (www.torontojazz.com) for a complete schedule and ticket information.