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Stacey Kent’s Tender Summer Caress

June 30, 2016 10:33 am
Stacey Kent’s Tender Summer Caress

Photos supplied by artist.

American jazz vocalist Stacey Kent kind of tumbled into a career in song. With no formal training and a degree in literature, she started improvising in the style of the greats she admired. The music of Nat King Cole and João Gilberto, for example, were a natural fit for her airy voice that soothes while sometimes hinting at sorrow and fragility.

Though training would come later, Kent grew up surrounded by music. She’d hurry home after school to get lost in melodies. It didn’t really matter what kind. She would listening to the Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, pop and, of course, jazz, but to her it was less about the genre and more about the mood the music was conveying.

While studying at London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Kent got her first gigs performing at Café Boheme in London’s atmospheric Soho district.

At this point of her life, however, there was reason for more joy than sadness in the songs Kent was singing. Not only was her career taking off but she also found love. She met tenor saxophonist Jim Tomlinson during her studies and the two married in 1991, later beginning a touring life with Tomlinson arranging many of Kent’s songs. Kent, with her husband on sax, released her first album, Close Your Eyes, in 1997 and the debut became the best-selling British jazz album of the year.

It was another chance encounter that gave shape to her most recent release, Tenderly. Kent and Roberto Menescal should have never met. They both come from two very different worlds. She, the American, sings breezy jazz standards while he, the Brazilian guitarist, was a founding father of Bossa Nova and one of the most important musical figures in the country. Over 30 years of age separate their lives, they’re from two different generations and cultures, but listening to the album you’d think they’d known each other for centuries.

The funny thing is, though apart, they were pretty close to each other. Menescal was a fan of Kent’s music so much so that he would often, for teaching purposes, give selections of her music to new singers as what they needed to listen to in order to train their voices. Meanwhile, Kent was rekindling a love for Brazilian jazz music she discovered in her youth and Menescal’s music played a big part in that flame of adoration.

The two were on a musical collision course that finally found them meeting in 2011 when Kent was asked to perform at a show in Rio de Janeiro in celebration of the famed Cristo Redentor. She spotted Menescal backstage and, in the presence of one of her idols, could only stammer out, “Roberto”, only to be astonished by his reply of “Stacey!”

The two first collaborated on Kent’s 2013 album The Changing Lights, but it was always Menescal’s want to record an album of standards from The Great American Songbook. Kent was more than happy to oblige and the result are 12 gems that merges both musicians’ styles beautifully. This album is like a caress on a warm summer night.

Stacey Kent will return to TD Ottawa Jazz Festival for a July 2 performance in the National Arts Centre Theatre.

Ottawa Life had a chance to speak with Kent about the new album, her collaboration with Menescal, those early days in Soho and what road life is like traveling with her husband.

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Can you tell me about your early gigs singing at Café Boheme? London’s Soho district must have provided a pretty amazing atmosphere.

 Soho has always been center of the London music and jazz scene, with Ronnie Scott’s club being there, and so many West End theaters and so on. In my early days, I used to sing twice a week at Cafe Boheme on Old Compton Street. I’d be there for three hours on Wednesdays and Fridays, and I would sing standards to the afternoon and early evening crowd. Yes, it truly was a great atmosphere, very relaxed and musical and warm, and it was a great place for me to expand my repertoire.  These were days before social media and people would tell their friends, and so along with the long-time regulars, the crowd grew and grew and I ended up developing a large and loyal following. I still meet people at shows who say, “I used to come to hear you at Cafe Boheme!”

You have become known for some of your beautiful renditions of jazz standards. With so many to choose from, what is your selection process in picking songs that fit right for you?

First and foremost, the lyric has to feel right. I don’t have a theatrical style but I definitely have a musical persona. The lyric of a song has to fit that persona in the same way certain parts seem to fit certain actors. Then we work on the arrangement and make sure it suits that song and its emotional universe. Jim Tomlinson is outstanding at this. He is able to capture the essence in his arrangements. What has been exciting in the last few years is working with Jim and various lyricists, most notably Kazuo Ishiguro. This has really enabled me to hone that aspect of my art. Part of the joy of picking a set on a night of a concert is mixing the standards with the songs that have been written for me. It was a real musical turning point in 2007, when Jim and Kazuo presented me with my first songs, “The Ice Hotel” and “Breakfast on the Morning Tram”. I can’t think of my music or a set any other way now. In other words, I can’t not have these songs in my repertoire and they belong alongside these extraordinary standards in my set.

You’re right, I have so many songs from which to choose and I am extremely selective. Choosing a song is so personal, it just has to be right. You can’t force a song on yourself, you fall in love with it, you just know it works for you.

How did you and Roberto Menescal come to collaborate? From what I read it was a pretty interesting first encounter. 

 I met Roberto in Rio in 2011 when I was there performing with Marcos Valle. Roberto told me he’d been a fan for a long time. Of course, it was mutual. So, when I came to record The Changing Lights, I asked Roberto to join us on a couple of tracks. It was at this point that he told me that he’d never made a standards album and it would be his dream to do that with me. He is a big fan of the records of Barney Kessell and Julie London and so doing something in that condensed and intimate style seemed so obvious to us both.

You two come from very different backgrounds, continents and cultures. What do you feel you learned from Menescal and, subsequently, what did you teach him?

Menescal is hugely experienced as a player, composer and producer. He is also a master Bossa Nova player. If there is one thing that, for me, epitomizes that style, it’s the interplay between voice and guitar. The voice and guitar duo sound is how I played at Cafe Boheme and so it was very natural for me to do that. My focus is always on telling the story and Roberto, with all of his experience, and who also knows my singing and way of delivering so well, knew exactly how to frame my vocals. We recorded in England at Curtis Schwartz’s studio. It’s a studio with a vast garden and one can’t help but absorb the beauty while there working. It was such joy to bring Roberto there, who is a keen gardener; so exotic for him though quite normal for us, in the same way it is reversed when we go to visit him in Rio and sit in his garden! It’s where I’ve made all my albums.  Jim produced the album, at Roberto’s request, so it was fun for Roberto to see our process in the studio.  He was always smiling and relaxed through the sessions and I think that comes through in the music.

How did you approach putting together Tenderly?

I basically let Roberto choose the repertoire, since it was his baby. We exchanged ideas over Skype before the sessions and I chose a couple of the songs. But it was fun for me to have someone say, “I already hear you singing this!” about songs I had never sung before. When you let someone else drive, you can enjoy the scenery more! I doubt, for instance, that I would have chosen “There Will Never Be Another You”. It’s a very difficult song to sing successfully. It’s very sad and reflective but can’t be touchy. It also has a big range but has to be supported very delicately. Of course, Nat King Cole set the standard for that song.

The show at the Ottawa Jazz Festival has you performing again with your husband. How do you differentiate your music life with your married one or do the two merge nicely on the road?

The two are seamless. We have our on-the-road life and off-the-road life but the dynamic between us is the same and we make music together in both settings. I love being on the road with Jim. We go on tour a lot, we’re away from a home life for long stretches but our home life is wherever we go. When we’re off the road, our interests are also very much the same, so we enjoy entering back into that different rhythm.

What’s one of the songs you are most looking forward to performing here in Ottawa?

“If I’m Lucky”, a beautiful ballad! Not a lot of people know it and what joy to share a gem like this. It’s one of the songs I picked for the album. I learned it from Perry Como, whose version is sublime. I knew I would record this someday. I was just waiting for the right moment. When Roberto suggested our making a record, it was the first song I thought about. I knew I had to record it with him!

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Ottawa Life’s Festival City Series will provide a unique look at some of your favourite summer events.We’ll go beyond the music with artist interviews, volunteer profiles, concert reviews and spotlights on the tastes, sights and sounds of the festival season. Your city! Your festivals! Your summer! Like a good sunscreen, Ottawa Life has you covered.

We want to send YOU to RBC Bluesfest. Click to find out how you can win two full festival passes.

Building Krumpers Solar Blinds

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Building Krumpers Solar Blinds

Photo by Paul Couvrette. Hair & makeup by Klava Z. 

Diana Livshits knew she had found something special the moment she discovered the technology for Krumpers Solar Blinds. Livshits discovered the technology by sheer accident while visiting a friend in Windsor, Ontario. Livshits mentioned a problem that she and her husband were having in their home. The back of their house was west facing, making their living room’s temperature a warm 20°C in the summer, while their bedroom’s temperature was a fiery 30°C. The house had the opposite problem in the winter. From awnings to window film treatments, a frustrated Livshits and her husband had tried everything they could think of to help prevent the problem.

Along came a neighbour to her Windsor friend’s home and offered her a sample of his solar blind creation. Livshits sent the blind to her husband, and ten days later the couple had acquired the rights to the technology. The rest, as they say, is history.

Livshits comes from a family of innovators. Her mother was a doctor and her father had a Ph.D. in technology and fiber optics. Born in Latvia, Livshits and her family moved to Toronto in 1975. A decade later, Livshits’ father was offered a position at Nortel. The family packed their bags once more and moved to Ottawa.

Livshits herself attended the University of Ottawa, worked for Nortel, is a huge technology enthusiast and a keen businesswoman.

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Because the blinds are two-sided, both thermal gain and thermal loss is addressed allowing for year round temperature control.

For the past eight years, the success of Krumpers Blinds has soared while in her hands. These blinds are extraordinary. They are green, award winning and the first of their kind. The accolades keep pouring in. Krumpers has won HomeStars Best Blinds award for the past six years, and the company recently received the prestigious 2015 Scotia Bank EcoLiving Award. Winning the EcoLiving award has allowed the company to enjoy national exposure. Krumpers recently won another prestigious award this year: the Bank of Montreal and Air Miles Award for Innovation of the Year. Along with endless positive testimonials from businesses and customers alike (Livshits says she has over 400 testimonials tucked away in a folder in her office), the proof of Krumpers’ success is in its unique technology.

Krumpers Blinds aren’t your typical, simple paper or plastic window blind. Made from a thin layer of aluminium, a layer of nano-carbon-graphite, as well as non-toxic food-grade PVC, Krumpers Blinds are transparent and two-sided. One side of the blind is used during the summer. The blind’s metallic fabric offers solar protection from heat, UV damage and glare, and reflects heat outside by using a unique angular perforation. The other side of the blind is used during the winter. This graphite side acts as a passive solar collector, helping to reflect heat back into the home and a still air barrier helps to retain the warmth. The blinds are spring loaded, making them easy turn around in less than ten seconds once the seasons change.

“They work instantly. In any piece of real estate, we look for light, we look for the view. People are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get them. When climatic conditions (are) either too hot or too cold, we cover the windows and obstruct the view. With this product, you are covering the window, but you are retaining that beautiful view,” Livshits explains. “And because the blinds are two-sided, you’re addressing both thermal issues: the thermal gain through the sun, and the thermal loss in the winter time.”

Krumpers has provided blinds to large projects, including the National Research Council Canada in Ottawa and a government site in the Northwest Territories. Recently, Krumpers outfitted the KI Offices in Pembroke, Ontario. KI is a leading manufacturer of office furniture, as well as a leader in sustainability and green practices. The blinds are a part of the green sustainability program at KI. “We call it the ‘toothache effect.’ People have a problem and we solve it,” Livshits says. “That’s the simplicity of our product. It’s there, doing its job quietly in the background and clients reap the reward on a monthly basis because utility consumption goes away down. The blinds help save energy consumption up to 40 per cent year-round.” Krumpers Blinds are currently the only product on the market that has independent lab results that support its results. “There’s nothing comparable on the market.”

Creating a green product has been important to Livshits, especially as the mother of a 13-year-old boy. Krumpers has even installed blinds inside her son’s school. “I think for people to be environmentally friendly, there has to be products on the market that present in such a way that people don’t even need to think about it.

By the end of the year, Livshits says the company is hoping to have a showroom in Toronto. Krumpers manufactures its blinds right here in Ottawa, and Livshits is incredibly proud of the company’s made-by-Canadians, made-for-Canadians status. “Canada has given my family a lot… When my parents came (to Canada), they came from the former Soviet Union. They were stateless. Canada accepted my parents, and my parents were able to build a very good life for themselves. In some small way, I would love to pay it forward.”

Find out more at: krumperssolarsolutions.ca

Klava Z. can be reached at: (613) 804-0742

Think You Got Game?

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Think You Got Game?

Attention all basketball players! Think you got game? Back for a second year is the Got Game Ottawa basketball tournament. After player input from last year’s event, this year’s tournament is being held across two days on July 9th and 10th at La Cité Collégiale, a sponsor of the tournament.

Got Game Ottawa is a charity event which raises funds to help a different charity each year. This year, the goal is to raise $800 towards Shelter Them, a Canadian children’s charity which helps orphaned children in Rwanda. All proceeds will help develop a soccer program for the orphans by purchasing equipment and paying for coaches.

The tournament features both mens and women’s competitions and will host roughly 120 players aged 18 and up. In addition to the basketball competition, there will be other events for spectators to look forward to. A special performance will be held at halftime on both days, along with a dunk competition.

A group of children in Shelter Them’s soccer program. Photos courtesy of Shelter Them.

A group of children in Shelter Them’s soccer program. Photos courtesy of Shelter Them.

Some of the prizes include shoes from NRML Clothing for the men’s MVP and a mixtape from Underdog Mixtapes to recognize the hardest working player on the court. Attendees will also receive discount cards to NRML.

Team spaces have filled up, but people are welcome to come cheer the teams on. If you’re not able to make the event and still want to contribute to this amazing cause, you can click here.

A Less-Than Silent Epidemic

June 29, 2016 3:55 pm
English/Anglais 
IS2007-0464
29 October 2007
Patrol Base Wilson, Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

Canadian medical personnel carry a Canadian soldier to a waiting American UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in order to evacuate him from Patrol Base Wilson to Kandahar Airfield for further medical attention. 

About 2500 CF members are currently serving as part of Joint Task Force Afghanistan Roto 4. The personnel consist primarily of the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment (3 R22eR) from the 5e Group-brigade mécanisé du Canada (5 GBMC) Valcartier, Quebec. They, along with other supporting members from various units in the CF, play a key role in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission to improve security in Afghanistan and assist in the rebuilding process.

Photo by MCpl Robert Bottrill, Canadian Forces Combat Camera

FRENCH TRANSLATION TO FOLLOW

Photo by MCPL Robert Bottrill.

Tinnitus is a word you may not know, but it describes something you’ve probably felt. It’s that ringing in your ears, the one that bubbles to the surface when you’re lying in your quiet room after a rock concert or a baseball game where the home team scored just a few more runs than your eardrums probably needed. If you think about it, you may be able to hear that sound right now.

As you might have guessed, tinnitus is a sign of hearing damage. For most people, it’s just an occasional annoyance, some even consider it a welcome side effect, proof of a good night. But for hundreds of thousands of Canadians, especially veterans, the ringing won’t go away.

It’s easy to imagine why veterans are disproportionately affected by hearing damage. Gunfire, artillery and airplane engines are a lot louder than most drum kits. In 2014, the US Department of Veterans Affairs revealed that tinnitus had become the number one disability claim for US veterans, higher than both PTSD and hearing loss, although the three often come hand in hand.

The numbers for Canadian veterans aren’t as well documented, but considering Canadians face the same sounds as American soldiers, with arguably less protection, there’s no reason to believe that the danger isn’t just as present here as it is across the border.

Rodney Taylor

Rodney Taylor, doctor of Audiology. Photo by Paul Couvrette.

“In the US, there are special plugs that can reduce sound 60 or 70 decibels…the most you can do here with the military that I’ve seen is around 30 decibels,” says Rodney Taylor, a Doctor of Audiology who has worked with a number of Canadian veterans through his three Advanced Hearing Aid Clinics in Ottawa.

Clinics like Taylor’s can treat tinnitus to the point that the patient doesn’t notice the buzzing anymore, but the biggest barrier for veterans is funding. Although tinnitus is very common among soldiers, it’s not covered by Veterans Affairs in the same way that more widely known issues like hearing loss are.

“It is a lack of understanding on the part of Veterans Affairs,” Taylor says.

Although Veterans Affairs Canada provides coverage for hearing loss, it often fails to recognize that hearing loss and tinnitus can come separately. Patients who don’t meet the department’s hearing loss criteria can have severe tinnitus that affects their lives just as negatively as hearing loss would, but they have a much smaller chance of getting coverage.

Hearing loss and tinnitus can have huge effects on a sufferer’s life, but there is another, more painful way that hearing or brain trauma can manifest. Sound sensitivity sufferers often can’t stand even low levels of noise. An average conversation can seem jarringly loud, and many people who experience this have to avoid doing things they once loved, like visiting a favourite restaurant or walking down a particularly busy street.

“These people do not leave their house,” Taylor says. He explains how one of his patients contracted a virus overseas which caused sound sensitivity, and when this person first visited Taylor’s office, he was wearing sound-dampening headphones over top of foam earplugs to keep the excruciating sounds of the outside world away.

Sound sensitivity sufferers often come to Taylor’s office simply looking for earplugs. They don’t realize that the illness is treatable.

“Sound sensitivity is my favourite because it’s such an easy fix,” says Taylor. While not every case is curable, many patients’ hearing can be returned to normal by wearing a hearing aid that constantly stimulates their brain, getting their ears used to the sound again. The treatment, Taylor says, generally takes about one to two months.

One of the most frustrating things about the varying forms of hearing damage is that sufferers, and some doctors, don’t realize they can be treated.

“I think typically veterans go to their doctors and are told to learn to live with it, they think there’s nothing that can be done,” Taylor says. “And that’s just simply not true.”

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