Now that it is January, most of us are back to work, back to school, or at least, back to regular programming. My iPhone is plugged back to my favourite instrumental playlists and I am back haunting my preferred study spots in the city. I am also working on my resolutions for the year, but more on that later.
When it comes to my music playlists for work and productivity, I like variety in types of genres to keep things interesting. However, I also require a bit of repetitiveness in terms of the tracks so that I can keep my focus on my tasks. Which brings me to instrumental jazz music. I was first truly introduced to jazz when I was in my late teens and held a part-time job at a music store in Toronto. I was already trained in classical piano but had abandoned it despite my parents’ grievances, and the freedom out of the confines of Chopin and Liszt fuelled me to discover everything else outside nocturnes and sonatas.
I was first drawn to the songstresses Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, which lead me to discover their non-vocal counterparts in swing music. Benny Goodman was one of my favourite discoveries; his clarinet produce playful and bright tunes that got me hooked into finding more gems. I searched further into the jazz genre and I branched out to the jazz-funk melodies of Herbie Hancock’s more recent productions. And from there I found Goodman and Hancock’s contemporaries, including Robert Glasper, Antibalas, and Mulatu Astatke. So here is a listing of my favourite jazz musicians that successfully accompany coffee, late nights, and deadlines in my work and study life.
Evan Penny, Murray, variation #3, silicone, pigment, hair, aluminum (2008)
Evan Penny: Re Figured
Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West
Toronto, Ontario Canada M5T 1G4
1-877-225-4246 or (416) 979-6648
During my trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto, I visited the exhibition Evan Penny: Re Figured, which began in September 2012. The exhibition can be viewed as part of General Admissions and is located on the fourth floor of the newly renovated AGO.
Evan Penny, Male Stretch #3, silicone, pigment, hair, fabric, aluminum (2008)
Evan Penny is a Canadian artist who specializes in creating lifelike portrait and figure sculptures. These sculptures are often stretched and distorted as per his Stretch/Anamorphs series (2003 to 2008) or experiments with the red, green, blue colour model seen in the No One – In Particular series (2004 to 2007). Penny also experiments with self-portraiture, and his anamorphic Self (2008) sculpture is imposing and hyper-realistic.
106 McGill St. (north of rue Marguerite d’Youville)
Montréal, QC H2Y 2E5
Whenever I have family and friends visit me here in Montréal I take them to Le Cartet. The restaurant is located in The Old Port neighbourhood of Montréal where many of the streets are cobblestone, and horse-drawn carriages provide rides for tourists. The area is dotted with upscale and well loved restaurants, and Le Cartet remains my favourite placed for a more refined brunch.
Le Cartet’s menu is quite extensive for brunch at a non-chain restaurant. During our recent visit, we had the Brunch Toscan and the Scrambled Eggs with Goat Cheese (Brouillé Fromage de Chèvre); keep in mind that, although the online menu is in French only, the restaurant does hand out English menus as well. The Brunch Toscan comes with poached eggs on top of English muffins with ham, spinach, and Mornay sauce. It is accompanied by a side of roasted potatoes with duck fat and herbs, fresh fruit, and a glass of freshly pressed orange juice. My scrambled eggs comes atop of grilled bread, and also sides of the roasted potatoes and fresh fruit. Coffee is comes free with the Brunch Toscan and is limitless. Le Cartet serves illy coffee for illy coffee fans out there.
During my stay in Toronto I discovered the trails along the Humber River in the Old Mill area in west Toronto. There are two trails, one that is pedestrian only, and the other that is for both pedestrian and mixed used (including bicycles). Toronto was green for most of the time I was visiting so I did not encounter any snow or slippery routes. I did, however, encounter many types of birds including chickadees, red cardinals, and some very small birds that I could not identify.
The area is heavily forested but with several park benches and picnic tables scattered along the greenery. There were many runners, walkers, and bikers along the trails, with some coming from the neighbouring affluent neighbourhood and others who parked their cars in the nearby lots to walk their dogs. For more information on the trails around the Humber River and Old Mill, and other walking trails, visit the Discovery Walks section of the City of Toronto website.
Since I came back to Montréal from a holiday break in Toronto, it has been snowing pretty much non-stop. The precipitation plus the frosty weather — it has dipped as low as -28ºC (or about -18ºF) without the wind chill — means digging out snow from the road to park the car while shivering under several layers of clothing.
I call these parking spots on snowy streets “car graves” for a good reason: Many cars get stuck in their spots from the snow, and many drivers absolve to leave their cars buried in the massive snow so that the vehicles remain barely visible. It is only in the last two days that the city-owned snow removal trucks made their way into the Plateau neighbourhood of Montréal to completely clear the residential streets and exhume the parked cars out of their graves. The snow may be removed but the cold temperature stays with Sunday dipping down to a low of -20ºC (or about -4ºF) once again. Brrrr!
To ring in the new year, my boyfriend and I were invited to a very francophone Quebecois venue in the suburbs of Montréal. The couples on the dance floor knew all the songs blasting from the speakers, and performed some improvised and synchronized line dancing.
One of the songs of the night that I recognized was Cette année-là , the 1963 hit by French singer Claude François, which also features synchronized dancing in his music video. I was first introduced to the song through a friend of mine who, as part of her training for a Canadian public servant position, took French language and culture courses where this song was highlighted as an important artifact of Québec’s cultural landscape. I feel that the song, translated as Oh What a Night!, is perfect for celebrating the New Year here in la belle province.
Also check out the 2000 version of the song by French rapper, Yannick, called Ces Soirées-là, which was also a hit in France and Québec.