Q&A with "Doin' It in the Park" director Bobbito Garcia

bobbito.jpgThis Thursday, June 5, the Halifax Jazz Festival will be hosting a free screening of Doin' It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC at the Halifax North Branch Memorial Library at 7 PM. The film features a soundtrack by TD Halifax Jazz Festival artist Eddie Palmieri. We spoke with co-director Bobbito Garcia, a legendary New York DJ who lives and breathes basketball, to get the inside scoop on the film. 

Halifax Jazz Festival: What were some of your goals when you set out to make the documentary?

Bobbito Garcia: Well, Kevin Couliau, the co-director, and I, when we set out to do the documentary, it was a new experience for both of us. Neither of us had ever made a film. We really set out to attempt to document, in an honest manner, the beautiful culture and community that exists here in New York City that plays pick-up basketball. When we were finished with the film, we realized we had a grand opportunity to not just document and present it, but to advocate and inspire people worldwide with the message of “go outside and play ball and engage in the community” and all the positive value that comes out of that. 

We’ve screened it at this point in six continents. We’ve premiered here on PBS in the United States. We hit Netflix on June 1. We have DVDs and t-shirts and posters for sale and downloads and streams directly from our website. We’ve been able to exploit every single avenue of distribution for the film, which we couldn’t have anticipated when we started out because it’s such a DIY process and really a labour of love. Even still to this day, it’s still a labour of love. We’re working with different festivals and basketball tournaments and special events to screen it. We’re proud, we’re really proud. 

HJF: It’s an amazing film, you go to parks all over New York City, 180 courts. Did you have a favourite basketball court that you shot the film at?

BG: Every single one of them! I think Kevin, his eyes are a little different than mine because he’s a cinematographer and a videographer and a photographer. For him, the beauty of New York City courts is how they’re integrated into the urban landscape and the geography of it. For myself, I don’t know anybody, and I’m 47 years old, I don’t know anyone in any era who’s played in as many basketball courts in New York as I have.

Alex Wolff wrote The In-Your-Face Basketball Book about the whole country and documented his visits to various courts. Kevin and I did the same thing, but in New York. I wouldn’t say there was a favourite court, but I grew up playing in The Goat, so I have really fond memories of playing there. Anywhere there’s a court, I’m happy. Anywhere there’s a rim, I’m happy. 

HJF: One of our 2014 TD Halifax Jazz Festival artists, Eddie Palmieri, scored Doin’ It in the Park. How did you link up with him?

BG: Eddie’s camp and I have been collaborating for years now. I opened up for him back in 2001 in Copenhagen. More recently, I DJ’d his 75th birthday concert here in New York. That was the moment where we were just about finished the film and there were some slots we needed to fill for the score. I ran it by him, this nine-time Grammy award winner, thinking he was just going to laugh in my face about this independent film. Turned out he had never scored a film before. Imagine that! 100 albums and 50-plus years of recording and he had never been approached. He loved the idea and really respected what I’ve done in my career. He watched the film and loved it. He went to the music sheet and started composing. We’re thankful for that. The music that he’s created, it’s fantastic. 

We released an EP, a soundtrack EP called Eddie Palmieri Is Doin’ It in the Park, which features music in the film, as well as some of the music that he recorded inspired by the film. It includes some interludes, some audio soundbites from our film taken from the basketball court. It’s been a really, really beautiful project and we’re so proud to be mentioned in the same breath as a nine-time Grammy award winning artist. 

HJF: You’ve screened the film everywhere. The reaction to the film has been incredibly positive. Is there a particularly memorable screening you’ve been to? 

BG: Yeah, I would say two screenings, since we’ve screened it both outdoors and indoors. Outdoors, that would be at Rucker Park. It’s such a grand place to do an outdoor screening, considering the basketball history that exists there. The park’s featured in our film and we had about 600 people attend the screening. Kids started playing ball during the end credits roll and I couldn’t have orchestrated it any better. They were just so excited to play after watching the film. It kinda reminded me of when I was young, I’d see a Bruce Lee film and leave the theatre and karate-chop my brother. That, I would say was my favourite outdoor screening, by far.

For the indoor screening, most recently we premiered the film in Paris with over 700 people who showed up in line for a theatre that only had 500 seats. We’re continuing to grow and expose the film to new audiences.

I just wanted to add, I used to be the editor-in-chief of a playground basketball magazine called Bounce. We ran an article some years ago about a Halifax basketball tournament which, to my knowledge, has existed for decades. I wasn’t aware at the time, until the writer presented the piece, that Halifax was a stop on the Underground Railroad and that Halifax had all of this incredible African American history. To know that the Halifax Jazz Festival exists in this city, to be able to collaborate with what we created on the basketball side in a town that has its own basketball history and its own history with African Americans and its own history with jazz music is incredible. To have Eddie Palmieri performing there at the festival, it’s really like everything in the universe has lined up so perfectly and we’re really happy to have our film be a part of it. 

Thanks for chatting with us, Bobbito! We're very excited for the free screening of Doin' It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC this Thursday at 7 PM at the Halifax North Branch Memorial Library. For more info on the film, you can visit the website, tweet at @doinitinthepark and talk about the film using the #doinitinthepark hashtag. 

Be sure to catch Eddie Palmieri at the TD Halifax Jazz Festival 8 PM Friday, July 4 at the Festival Tent!

Artist Profile: Karen Robinson

We sat down with local jazz favourite Karen Robinson to talk about what inspires her songwriting and collaboration. Be sure to check out Karen at the TD Halifax Jazz Festival this summer at the Festival Tent, July 9 at 12:00 PM as part of the Free Daytime Concert series!


Halifax Jazz Festival: Your first album of original music, Karen Robinson WITH, came out last October. Where did these songs come from? Can you take us through the songwriting process?
Karen Robinson: Someone described to me once, a river of songs that is flowing beside all of us. It was Craig Werth. He's a fine songwriter. I think that songs are gifts that come to us, and we grab them when they pass by. Craig said, once in a while, songwriters will dip into the river and pull out a song. But other times, the river flows over us without our asking and deliver us songs. In either case, it's a matter of committing to doing the work in order to finish the songs. I'll take credit for the work, but I don't know where the inspiration comes from. Where do these songs come from? That's pretty much it.

The songs that I’ve written, they’re so different from each other. They come from who I am and where I grew up, and what life experiences I had. When the song comes, then I just grab it. A writer has to be open to receive the inspiration.

HJF: The title of your album, Karen Robinson WITH, reflects the group you’re playing with. What was it like playing with the nine-piece band?
KR: They made everything so easy. They’re thoroughly professional. We were having such a wonderful time, and they loved the songs. I didn’t expect to have that reception to the songs. They were absolutely excited about what we were doing together. So, working with them was just a total joy.

In the nine-piece band, there’s five horns. I’d worked with some of these people before. Locally, we had Larry Bjornson on bass and Dave Burton on drums. If there’s anyone who can make a drum kit sound melodical, it’s Dave. It’s a melodical instrument in his hands, and my songs call for that. Holly Arsenault on piano, she is a master. She listens to space and leaves room for all the instruments and sounds to be there. She creates space with the piano. Mike Cowie on the trumpet, Chris Mitchell on flute and alto sax, and Danny Martin on trombone and bass clarinet were all brilliant. Jeff Reilly plays bass clarinet on the album. Kevin Breit was the guitar player on the album, he played with Norah Jones on one of her albums. And we had Lisa MacDougall and Doris Mason as well. Our voices worked very well together.

The title, Karen Robinson WITH, comes from the knowledge that, especially with jazz, writing the songs is only part of it. So, I couldn’t see putting out an album that just had my name on it. I reflected on how Miles Davis used to make albums, where he would have all the names of the artists who played with him on the album cover in clear recognition that the work is the sum of its parts. I wanted to do that as well, and each member brought brilliant things to the music. That’s why the album is called Karen Robinson WITH.

HJF: Can you take us through a bit of the album production process? 
KR: Mike Cowie, he was the first to see what I saw--the jazz potential in my songs. He was the producer and put the arrangements together. He did the mixing, and we sent the mastering to someone he had worked with before, Chris Iannetti. One of the most wonderful things when we were putting together the album was that we knew we wanted to do a bare-bones, off the floor kind of album. Chris Sweet, who works at Peak Audio, has been using it as a demonstration for his sound-systems, which is great because I think we achieved what we were trying to do. We didn’t want to make an over-produced album. We wanted to make an album that would sound terrific on a home sound system, and on your car radio, too.

We also did the album with very few takes. And that also reflects the collaborative process, because I didn’t want an album that was overworked and over-compressed and I wanted it to be more real. The producer, Mike Cowie, and I were very likeminded in that way. He created the arrangements, and he was fabulous to work with. Even the cover, the picture on the front, is a picture of me with no makeup on. The picture on the cover is not made-over, it is as real as the songs that are on the album. The “flaws” show more character.

HJF: You also have your second group, the Karen Robinson Trio. What’s it like playing with that group? What differences do you find in going from a nine-piece to a three-piece band?
KR: With the trio, we took the arrangements that Mike did and my input as well, and we’ve taken songs that were written for a nine-piece band and turned it into three. The brilliance of the two I’m working with in the trio, Danny Parker and Paul Simons, comes out now. It gives the songs a different feel than in the nine-piece band. The songs translate beautifully into a trio. They have their own characteristics. We’ve just wrapped up for the season at Stayner’s. In the fall, I hope to be doing other venues, if everything plays out.

HJF: Are there any acts at the jazz festival you’re hoping to see this summer?
KR: Oh yes, I’m looking forward to seeing Susie Arioli very much. Just as she does, I stand and play the snare andsome of the drum-kit while I sing sometimes. It’ll be a thrill to see her live. I missed her the last time she was here.

HJF: You play the drums with the Buckley’s Mixture combo. What’s it like playing the drums with that group?
KR: There’s a lot less responsibility on that end. Well, there is and there isn’t. A person still has to be very good at what they do. Singing and playing the drums at the same time, the first few years I was learning to do that, it’s a very tricky coordination to learn! It’s a pretty interesting thing to do, to be a drummer and sing at the same time. Singing is a full time job. You're communicating a song. And drumming is a full time job. Right now, I’m giving myself less to do because I’m only incorporating the snare and the ride cymbal, for the most part. And then I’ll work my way back up. It’s an interesting thing because with drumming, you have to keep your four limbs separate and coordinated. And then you throw in singing as well to deliver a song, and it’s otherworldly. It’s a really fun challenge. It’s such a different type of coordination that’s involved. I try to keep a sense of humour and I tell people "I’m a drummer and a singer and when I do them at the same time, maybe I do neither of them well” (laughs).

HJF: Were there albums or influences that you experienced growing up that have left an influence on you today?
KR: Definitely. When I did my album launch, I wore vintage shoes that belonged to my mom. And she had worn them when she was stationed in World War II with the air force in the United States. She had worn them dancing to Louis Armstrong’s band. I wore them Tuesday night when I did the show at the Woodlawn Library, and also for the CD release. I know your question isn’t about clothing, but it is about influence, and my mom used to tell me about that period of time. My mom taught me to jive and jitterbug, she was very good, and talked about what it was like to dance to a live big band. I heard the wonder in her voice telling of Louis Armstrong, and it left an impression for sure.

We had albums in my parents’ home of Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee and Billie Holiday and Dinah Shore. I grew up listening to those. I loved listening to those. I became a folk singer instead, but somewhere down the road, that love got rekindled and I realized that’s what I wanted to sing.

Joni Mitchell was a strong influence. When she switched from folk to jazz, I felt the connection with my childhood swing and jazz influences coming full circle. My uncle Hugh is a big influence. He played mostly Dixieland coronet, but he has broad musical skills that I am grateful he shares with me to this day. 

Thanks for chatting with us, Karen! Check out the artist profile blog series next Tuesday when we talk with legendary DJ Bobbito Garcia, co-director of "Doin' It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC"!

Halifax Jazz Festival screens Doin' It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC featuring original score by Eddie Palmieri

As the Halifax Jazz Festival gears up for its annual summer event, the TD Halifax Jazz Festival, it is pleased to announce a very special free movie presentation for music and sports fans alike. Presented in partnership with Halifax Public Libraries, the documentary Doin' It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC screens at the North Branch Memorial Library 7 PM Thursday, June 5. The film features an original score by 2014 TD Halifax Jazz Festival artist Eddie Palmieri.

"Doin' It in the Park is a great way to introduce audiences to the music of ten-time Grammy award-winning pianist Eddie Palmieri," states Laura 'Lulu' Healy. "It's fantastic to be able to connect the jazz festival with basketball, something that is core to the cultural fabric of many urban centres, including Halifax."

Eddie Palmieri recently received the prestigious National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Jazz Master Award, the United States’ highest honour for the genre.

The debut documentary film by co-directors Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau explores the history, culture and social impact of New York’s summer b-ball scene, considered the worldwide “Mecca” of the sport. One hundred eighty courts throughout NYC’s five boroughs were visited within seventy-five hot summer days.  The filmmakers traveled to a majority of the locations by bicycle, carrying cameras and a ball in their backpacks.  In New York City, pick-up is not just a sport. It is a way of life. There are 700+ outdoor courts, and an estimated 500,000 players, the most loyal of which approach the game as a religion, and the playground as their church. Doin' It in the Park lovingly uncovers this movement through the voices of playground legends, NBA athletes, and most importantly the common man and woman, including those incarcerated and handicapped, who loyally look forward to experiencing the raw energy of the game at their local outdoor court.

The 28th edition of the TD Halifax Jazz Festival kicks off with the Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet 8 PM Friday, July 4, at the Festival Tent. Opening the evening is local favourite the Back Alley Big Band with Cuba's powerhouse Augusto Enriquez. Tickets for Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet | The Back Alley Big Band with Augusto Enriquez are $28 ($25 Halifax Jazz Festival Members).

Doin' It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC screens at 7 PM Thursday, June 5 at the Halifax North Memorial Library. The film is 83 minutes in length and unrated. For more information visit
and follow the film on Twitter @doinitinthepark #doinitinthepark.

Jazz Up Your Spring at local libraries with the Halifax Jazz Festival

With Jazz Appreciation month coming to a close the Halifax Jazz Festival is pleased to present the Jazz Up Your Spring concert series. Presented in partnership with Halifax Public Libraries these free and intimate concerts showcase some of Halifax's finest musicians at the coziest venues, public libraries! Jazz Up Your Spring features four terrific acts including Bill Stevenson and Tom Easley, John Chiasson’s Straight Up, the Karen Robinson Trio and Zoe Leger.

BillStevenson_0.jpgThe concert series begins 2 PM Saturday, May 3, with Bill Stevenson and Tom Easley at the Cole Harbour Public Library.  This duo represents a time-honored tradition in jazz of woven rhythm and melodic interplay that is created when bass and piano play well together. Add Bill’s unique vocal approach to a wide variety of songs and his honest and humorous take on the world in general, and you have the makings of a very enjoyable afternoon concert for all ages.

The following Saturday, May 10, John Chiasson’s Straight Up will liven up the Keshen Goodman Library starting at 2:30 PM. Enjoy the upbeat original material of Straight Up, with its funky dance grooves keeping the mood fresh and lively. The group features veteran jazz scene musicians Dave Staples and John Chiasson, and emerging musician Luke Chiasson.


Jazz Up Your Spring moves into the evening of Tuesday, May 20, with the Karen Robinson Trio, 7 PM at the Woodlawn Public Library.  Presenting a show that will dazzle audiences of all ages, Karen Robinson writes engaging melodies, interesting chord changes, and imaginative lyrics. Her vocal delivery is often compared to Billie Holiday and Peggy Lee, but Karen’s sound remains unique.

To close the series, join vocalist Zoe Leger 12 PM Wednesday, May 28, at the Spring Garden Public Library. This afternoon will stretch from swinging jazz to contemporary classical to folk, and many shades in between. Zoe creates a genre all her own with brand new music that breaks down the barriers between jazz and pop styles.

All Jazz Up Your Spring concerts are free and suitable for listeners of all ages. 


TD Halifax Jazz Festival presents internationally renowned American musician St. Vincent

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The TD Halifax Jazz Festival proudly presents internationally renowned American superstar St. Vincent, aka 'Annie' Clark, live at the Festival Tent 8 PM Monday, July 7.

"It’s been hard for me to keep this to myself the past couple weeks," states Laura 'Lulu' Healy. "I have been a huge fan of St. Vincent for many years. Not only is she an incredibly creative artist but her live shows are known to be exquisite and breathtaking. Halifax is in for a serious treat."

St. Vincent has been making waves since she debuted her first album Marry Me in 2007. Since then she has won the 2008 PLUG Female Artist of the Year award, performed sold out tours across North America and Europe, toured and recorded with David Byrne, made appearances on The Colbert Report, Late Show With David Letterman and Portlandia, and more. On February 25, 2014, she released St. Vincent, a record which has been charting high on billboard charts in the United States ever since.

2014 ECMA nominee The Heavy Blinkers opens the night with their original orchestral-pop and folk music. The Heavy Blinkers' latest album Health was just voted Best Album of the Year by reader's of The Coast. Band members include some Halifax's finest musicians including Jason Michael MacIsaac, Melanie Stone, David Christensen, Ellen Gibling, Adam Fine, Warda Limaye and Stewart Legere.

Tickets for St. Vincent | The Heavy Blinkers  are $35 regular and $32 JazzEast members. The 28th edition of the TD Halifax Jazz Festival takes place July 4-12, 2014, at venues throughout Halifax and the Festival Tent on the city's waterfront. The full line-up will be announced Tuesday, April 22. For more information and to purchase tickets and festival passes visit

Music video for the song "Cruel" by St. Vincent featured in her third studio album Strange Mercy.

Celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month with the Halifax Jazz Festival and Halifax Public Libraries

JAM_Logo.gifApril is Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) and JazzEast and Halifax Public Libraries will be celebrating with free public concerts across HRM for listeners of all ages. Initiated by the Smithsonian Institution, Jazz Appreciation Month celebrates jazz as both a historical and living treasure. Now in its thirteenth year, over forty countries take part in this annual tradition.

The month kicks off 2 PM Saturday, April 5 at the Tantallon Public Library with the Georges Herbert Trio. Georges Hebert began playing jazz in the mid-seventies with Skip Beckwith, Don Palmer and Tim Cohoon. His quartet backed up such artists as Moe Koffman, Steve Lederer and many other international jazz artists at the former Halifax late night venue Pepe's.

The following Saturday, April 12, the Shan Arsenault Trio will celebrate JAM at the Sackville Public Library starting at 2:30 PM. Guitarist Shan Arsenault has performed in various musical formats, with some of the greatest artists in the fields of jazz and rock throughout Canada and the United States. Improvised music is the style of choice for Arsenault.

The Willem Paynter Trio will be set up at the Captain William Spry Public Library starting at 3 PM  Saturday, April 19. Bassist Willem Paynter moved to Halifax after graduating from Saint Francis Xavier University with a BA Honours in Music and has quickly gained a reputation as one of the most on-demand young players in the jazz scene. His trio plays the music of the American Songbook with a cutting-edge sense of adventure and a modern flair. Featuring Brendan Melchin and Evan Mahaney, the group puts a unique twist on old favourites.

To close out JAM, join spoken word artist and musician Shauntay Grant at 2:30 PM Saturday, April 26, at the Dartmouth North Public Library, for a performance that fuses high-impact poetry with the spirited sounds of jazz and neo-soul. Grant, Halifax’s third Poet Laureate (2009-2011), has shared her vibrant blend of poetry and music internationally at festivals and events, including the TD Halifax Jazz Festival.


Venue Profile: The Nook

The_Nook_2.jpgWe sat down with the very busy pair behind our new favourite coffee shop in the north end, The Nook! Mark Pavlovski and Katie Roux were kind enough to fuel us with coffee, share their favourite things on the menu and which Songza lists keep them going!

JazzEast: Why did you open up The Nook?
Mark Pavlovski: Essentially we wanted to build something from scratch with our own hand and we were not sure in what capacity. The timing was right and the space was perfect. Katie has a talent for cooking and always has, and for me I was ready for a change from my math degree. So we decided to do this!
Katie Roux: We created the space together, I had an idea in my head how to change the space to something cozy and comfy.
MP: We want a casual atmosphere, not just a café but also a lounge. You can sit and talk without feeling like you are in one or the other, we made it a place for conversation. It also opens it up for other events and the layout is extremely transformable. We can move all of the tables and open up the floor for a dance.
KR: From the very beginning we knew we wanted to be able to transform the space.

JE: Why make it a live music venue?
KR: I’ve always been around musicians, I grew up with music around the house all of the time. For me it was a natural atmosphere that I wanted, I am a huge lover of art in any capacity.
MP: The space really works for shows, but we just haven’t had enough sleep yet to really start scheduling anything.

JE: What is upcoming for The Nook?
 Other than Out Like A Lion, we have a show on the 21st of March, featuring the Kate & Rich duo and the Koconut Kings.
MP: And we have a blues dance every Sunday.

JE: What do you recommend people order when they are coming to the show on March 28?
KR: Blueberry Lychee Lemonade for sure or Extra Foggy, an alcoholic London Fog with vanilla liquor. Also, if people are coming in groups you can order any of our cocktails in a pitcher to share!
MP: Propeller is also on tap and if you do want coffee we have the best, Laughing Whale. If you are thinking about food, the vegan board is very popular, smoked tofu, three house spreads, 7-grain bread and a caramel dip with apples.

JE: What is on your ipod these days?
KR: We are always listening to Songza (all 90s playlist), and Fink.
MP: I  am listening to a lot of swing music.

Thanks for the coffee and chat Mark & Katie! Check out The Nook at 2116 Gottingen Street and make sure to be there on Friday, March 28, when JazzEast presents Out Like A Lion : E.S.T. Tribute Band | The Final Chapter of Our Lives.

Bill Frisell, Julian Priester and Bettye LaVette added to TD Halifax Jazz Festival artist roster

Three more legendary artists have been added to the internationally renowned roster at the 2014 TD Halifax Jazz Festival: Bill Frisell, Julian Priester and Bettye LaVette.

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"Bill Frisell and Bettye LaVette offer a sneak peek into the kind of excitement you can expect from this year's TD Halifax Jazz Festival," states Laura 'Lulu' Healy, JazzEast Artistic Director. "We’re thrilled to have such legendary artists coming to grace our main stage - and to hear Julian Priester playing Love, Love with a killer cast of musicians will be music history in the making!"

Soul, R&B and blues are at the Festival Tent with Bettye LaVette Wednesday, July 9. This chart-topping, award winning musician has been making waves since her first single "My Man - He’s a Loving Man" was released in 1962.  Just some of LaVette's career highlights include collaborations with Stevie Wonder, a stint at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, label representation from Motown, and a performance with Jon Bon Jovi for President Barack Obama. Opening the concert is the Nova Scotia Super Soul Review, a project created especially for this event, featuring Nova Scotia's finest emerging talent in soul: Erin Costelo,  Jessie Brown, Kirsten Olivia, Samm Splash, Reeny Smith and Giverny "Roxy" Mercier.

On Thursday, July 10, at the Festival Tent join one of the most influential jazz guitarists of the past forty years, Bill Frisell, as he presents his latest project GUITAR IN THE SPACE AGE! The project mines the catalog of his earliest influences from the mid-20th century: from jazz icon Charlie Christian to rock pioneer Chuck Berry to surf music legends The Ventures and The Astronauts. Legendary jazz trombonist Julian Priester sets the tone for the evening when his iconic album Love, Love, is tenderly brought to life by musician and arranger J. Anthony Granelli, drummer Jerry Granelli and an impressive cast of musicians.

JazzEast is also pleased to announce that Bill Frisell will facilitate a clinic for Creative Music Workshop students in advance of his concert. The ten day program, coinciding with the festival, offers a unique learning experience for musicians and artists who want to take their playing to the next level. For more information visit

Bettye LaVette | Nova Scotia Super Soul Review, and Bill Frisell GUITAR IN THE SPACE AGE! | Julian Priester Love, Love with Jerry Granelli tickets are each $28 regular and $25 for JazzEast members. The 28th edition of the TD Halifax Jazz Festival takes place July 4-12, 2014, at venues throughout Halifax and the Festival Tent on the city's waterfront. The full line-up will be announced Tuesday, April 22.

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Artist Profile: Jeff Torbert


Local talent and music educator Jeff Torbert, along with some friends, will be joining us for Out Like A Lion on March 28 with his latest project The E.S.T. Tribute. We asked him a few questions about what music means to him. 

JazzEast: What is your musical background?
Jeff Torbert: I grew up under and on top of the piano thanks to my mother (pianist Diana Torbert of Rhapsody Quintet), then classical guitar at Dalhousie, followed by jazz guitar with David Tronzo in Boston, and most importantly, lots of Jerry Granelli time throughout.

JE: You are a teacher as well, why is it important to you to teach music?
JT: I feel that teaching anything helps you understand it better, but more than that, I find the personal transformation and growth that occurs in a truly mutual learning environment endlessly inspiring---it's also one of the best ways I can think of to honour the amazing teachers I have been lucky enough to have in my life.

JE: This is not the first time you have put together an E.S.T. Tribute band. What is it about E.S.T. that inspires you to continue to pay tribute to them?
JT: E.S.T. expresses some intangible part of the human experience to me---profound, exhilarating, vulnerable and fresh all at the same time. And playing Esbjörn's piano parts on the guitar keeps me humble; keeps me working hard.

JE: What do you want audience to experience when listening to you?
JT: Well, instrumental music tends to allow plenty of room for different subjective experiences---I say enjoy whatever comes up---Mark and Nic and I will surely enjoy ourselves.

JE: Jazz is, obviously, at the heart of what we do here at JazzEast, how has jazz and jazz musicians influenced your work?
JT: Some of my best friends are jazz musicians---an openness to the unexpected, and in Granelli's words, the commitment to practicing "nowness" in music-making (and elsewhere).

JE: What are you working on currently?
JT: Other than the E.S.T. immersion, I'm working on some challenging classical guitar music for a show with Jason Davis and Lucy Hayes Davis (St. Cecelia Concert Series), as well as a Patrick Roux Concerto for Classical Guitar Quartet with the Acadia Symphonic Orchestra.

JE: What's on your 8 track/walkman/Ipod these days?
The new Pat Metheny record, Kin, with the always-inventive Chris Potter on sax. Also, a student of mine just recently exposed me to Hanne Hukkelberg, and her music is brilliant and beautiful.

Thanks for chatting with us Jeff! For more info and tickets visit Out Like A Lion: E.S.T. Tribute Band | The Final Chapter Of Our Lives.

Artist Profile: Magnolia


Magnolia.jpgJazzEast sat down with Leanne Hoffman and Scott MacLean of Magnolia to chat about how they got started, picking names, and what kind of music makes them feel cool.

JazzEast: What are your musical backgrounds?         
Leanne Hoffman:
I sang in my high school music program back in Exeter, Ontario, as well as played some saxophone. I moved here to study science, and didn’t think I would continue with music but I like to write and sing so I started taking lessons from Jessie Brown. She suggested the NSCC programs so I auditioned and switched over.
Scott MacLean: I always wanted to be in a band, playing guitar, so I just started playing with friend in high school back in Sydney, Cape Breton. I taught myself mostly, and then took a couple years of lessons until I came to Halifax for the NSCC music program.

JE: So you both attended the NSCC program. What was it like?
It is a lot packed into two years with everything you need to survive the industry. It is not genre based at all, and offers a very open approach to the world of music. What you put into it is what you get out of it. Essentially it provides you with a lot of opportunities and it is kind of up to you to make the most of it.
SM: It covers everything: theory, ear training, business, technology, history, even all the way to figuring out how to properly wrap cables. The whole point of it is to set you up as an entrepreneur in music so you can run your own music business.

JE: How did you form Magnolia?
: We went on tour with Pretty Archie in the summer of 2012, before we were formally Magnolia. It was the first time we played music together outside of school.
LH: While we were on tour, we chatted about those shows. We realized we had a lot of similar opinions and wants for music. We both really wanted to be writing and doing things our own way. I don’t think we expected for anything to really come out of it, certainly not what has happened.  Erin Costelo was the one who really started the ball rolling.

JE: Nice segue! Tell me about your experience of working with Erin Costelo as a producer?
SM: She worked a song of ours we had brought into a masterclass for our NSCC program. When we left that day we decided that if anyone was going to produce anything for us it should be Erin. With the smallest tweaks she makes things so much better. She actually contacted us later asking if she could help produce something.      
LH: She was my vocal teacher at NSCC and had told me she wanted to start producing things. I really didn’t think she would be such an integral part of the EP, but she had so many ideas and really pushed us. She was so much more involved than I ever could have hoped for. It was her that really started the ball rolling. She has a hand in every track in some way or another. We wrote everything but she is definitely a huge part.
SM: Everyone is really a part of this album in so many ways. It was collaborative.  We had two rehearsals with Benn Ross and Clive McNutt before we went into production, and everyone just worked together to create what ended up being the final project.

JE: What is with the name Magnolia?
We were just talking about this! We honestly do not have a good answer. We must have spent at least six months until finally we had a show, and we couldn’t do the show without a name!
SM: We were going through a dictionary and baby name books to find something.
LH: The only thing we knew was that we wanted a word that had very little connection to things already and sounded nice. We almost went with Odelia, but the meaning of the word was not for us. I think it is “praise god”.
SM: Magnolia has worked. It has grown on us for sure.

JE: You got added to Tom Power’s new music picks on Valentine’s Day. Did you feel the love?
I got texts from people I haven’t seen in years saying they saw us on TV, during the Olympics. It was wild.
SM: We didn’t believe at first that they really meant us.  There was no way that Tom Power was talking about us.
LH: We watched it and Scott just said, “He just said our name!” It was unreal.  After things like this happen though, good or bad, we check in with each other, you know to keep ourselves grounded. It is hard to focus on any one thing in a year that has been so busy. We try to live in the moment and appreciate it.
SM: There are things we are achieving and it just passes by. We like to reflect back.
LH: Scott has this great saying “Don’t let the good things go to your head, and don’t let the bad things go to your heart.” They have kind of become words to live by. Seriously.

JE: Jazz is at the heart of our programming at JazzEast. What jazz musicians influence Magnolia?
Jazz vocalists for sure-Etta James, Norah Jones, Nina Simone.
SM: Chet Baker, Lennie Breau.

JE: What is up next for Magnolia?
We are going to Ontario and back. We will hit Montreal as well, and it will end with the show here with Out Like A Lion. We haven’t playing in Ontario yet, and since I’m from there, I thought it was time.

JE: What is on your music list these days?
Paul Simon, so much Paul Simon.
LH: Nick Lowe, Beyonce.
SM: A Tribe Called Quest, The Meters, Tallest Man on Earth.                                                                                 
LH: You can’t feel any cooler that driving along with ATCQ playing.

Thank you for chatting with us Leanne and Scott. For more information on the September 27 show and how to get tickets, visit Banda Magda | Magnolia.