Pat Blythe – Festivals, a little Snarky Puppy, Quisha Wint and SING!….plus Music!

So, I’ve been doing some cogitating, ruminating, deliberating, pondering, considering and generally thinking. My first loves are music, dance, writing and photography. Not necessarily in that order but they’re all a number one and blend together rather agreeably…..well…..except for the dance. It’s a little more physical. You have to visualize that one. (okay, you can stop laughing now). I began penning this weekly diatribe over three years ago writing about women in music which graduated to some of the leading ladies of blues and subsequently all those ballsy women of rock ‘n’ roll. Somehow I graduated, or drifted (depending on how you look at it) into writing about all the explosion of talent here in The Big Smoke. I’ve been covering as much as one body will allow me to for the past two-and-a-half years.

I want to take more time to delve further into the histories of some of the music and music makers and carry on down my previous path of researching the women who contribute to this glorious landscape. I will continue to listen, photograph and share the music…..roam the hallowed halls of Toronto’s venues and attend the music festivals… out new bands and artists and update you on those I’m following. If you have a special event… EP, album or video launch, a show/concert/festival you would like me to attend please let me know. You can reach out to me through FB/Messenger, email or comment on one of my columns.

Our newest addition to the DBAWIS family, Peter Montreuil, loves and supports the Indie scene as much as I do (and he wears it well if you look at all his band t-shirts). His retirement from government has not slowed him down one whit. He is enjoying his trek though Toronto’s clubs and sharing his thoughts with the DBAWIS readers on all the talent that each and every one of you should be checking out and supporting. Peter will sorta kinda pick up my “slack” and between the two of us we’ll do our utmost to keep everyone in the loop.

I’m still trying to get caught up on what’s been going on for the past couple of months before we plunge headlong into the summer/fall festivals. SING! The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival runs from May 23-June 3. If you love harmonies, this is the festival for you. Now in its seventh year, SING! is not your run-of-the-mill “barbershop” quartets. Groups from all over the world participate in Canada’s only a cappella festival. Ranging in size from four to fourteen members, with repertoires that cover all music genres from rock to jazz, folk to soul, these songsters create beautiful images of sound with only their voices. Check out festival details here Your ears will thank you.

Countdown on just a smattering of the music festivals happening in Ontario, Quebec and B.C.

CBC Music Festival – Echo Beach, May 26

Spring Song Music Festival – Stouffville, Ontario – May 25-27

Field Trip – Fort York Garrison Common, June 2-3

NXNE – Toronto, June 6-17

Sound of Music – Burlington, June 14-17

TD Jazz Festival – Toronto – June 22-July 1

Stars and Thunder – Timmins, June 24-July 1

Sunfest – Victoria Pak, London – July 5-8

Ottawa RBC Bluesfest – Lebreton Flats, July 5-15

Mariposa – Orillia, July 6-8

Rock The Park – Harris Park, London, July 11-14

River and Sky – Sudbury, July 19-22

Folk Country – Victoria Park, London, July 20-22

Beaches International Jazz Festival – Toronto, July 26-29

Osheaga – Parc Jean Drapeau, Montreal, August 3-5

Veld Music Festival – Downsview Park, Toronto – August 4-5

CannaFest –  Grand Forks, B.C. – August 9-11

Boots and Hearts – Burls Creek, Oro-Medonte, August 9-12

Havelock Country Jamboree – August 16-19

Riverfest – Elora, August 17-19

Summer Folk – Kelso Beach Park, Georgian Bay – August 17-19

London Bluesfest – Harris Park, London – August 23-26

…..then there’s the Naked Word Festival…..and no, I’m not going…..

A young and talented drummer from London, Ontario (Adam Swallowell) has discovered Snarky Puppy, a fusion jazz-rock band based in New York. With about 40 members (give or take) working individually and/or collectively, The Farm as they are affectionately called, have won several Grammy Awards for their work. I had the pleasure of hearing Snarky Puppy vocalist and drummer Larnell Lewis during Eddie Bullen’s Smooth Jazz Cruise last summer. Swallowell drums for M.A.D!, a local high school band currently making some serious waves after winning the Battle of The High School Bands during Jack Richardson London Music Week. I’m hoping to connect him with Bullen later this year.

What About Me – Snarky Puppy

We Like It Here – Snarky Puppy (full album)

Backwards in time to April 17 and a blues jam hosted by Cosmic Ray at the Gladstone Hotel. Blues heavyweights Harpdog Brown, Steve Grant and Sugar Brown along with Sam Taylor and a host of others joined each other on stage to present some of the best blues sounds around. Interestingly enough, there used to be another Toronto artist Ray Scott who performed using the professional name Cosmic Ray™. Scott, performing since the age of 10, moved from British Guiana to Toronto sometime in the early 1970’s. His bands included Ray Scott and The Saints and Sunray (B.B. Gabor was his guitarist). Scott put together the first black funk band, Scott Free, in Canada and opened a club on Toronto’s Danforth called LA Disco. At some point in the later 1980’s Scott moved down to L.A., started his own production company Gold Records, opened up The Cosmic Diner and in 2003 released a new album called It’s All About Love that included 14 original songs. After that… His website hasn’t been updated since 2003. Chris photographed Scott numerous times in various venues in and around Toronto as the several envelopes of negatives will attest to…..but I digress…..

Harpdog Brown

Steve Grant & Sam Taylor

Jam session with Maia Van Raes on keys, Steve Grant on harp, Sam Taylor on guitar and Roger Williams on bass

I attended the CSARN (Canadian Senior Artist’s Resource Network) conference, Maintaining Creativity, at the Toronto Reference Library with fellow writer Roxanne Tellier on April 19. Panel discussions on housing for artists, maintaining creative relevance, keynote speaker actor R.H. Thomson, a presentation by Dr. Luis Fornazzari of the St. Michael’s Hospital Memory Disorders Clinic, an exercise/stretch break led by Carol Anderson of The Seventh Inning Stretch, continental breakfast, lunch, coffee and snacks….all for the princely sum of $12. An entertaining and informative day. Canadian singer and actress Tabby Johnson was one of the “relevance” panelists. Click here to read the piece she wrote. It’s worth the three minutes.

Later that evening I made it (albeit late) to the Marvin Gaye/Luther Vandross tribute at Lula Lounge hosted by  singer/songwriter/arranger Quisha Wint.  Along with singer Michael Dunstan and backing vocalists Karen Jules and Carlos Morgan all the crowd favourites of both the soulful Gaye and velvet-voiced Vandross were performed. Actually there were a couple I didn’t recognize but the audience sure did. I ran into blues harmonica player Steve Grant sitting in the shadows at the back of the room thoroughly enjoying the show. Wint has a powerful set of vocal chords and you can hear hints of Dionne and Aretha somewhere in there. I first saw Wint at the 35th anniversary soiree of the Toronto Blues Society and then again on Eddie Bullen’s Smooth Jazz Cruise last year. Each time I hear her voice she leaves me and everyone else wanting more. Band members included Roger Williams (bass/keyboards), Shamakah Ali (drums), Carl Harvey (guitar) and Joe Palawan (keys). Thank you Roger Williams for the invitation!

Quisha Wint

I Just Want To Make Love To You – Quisha Wint

The following week was a visit to The Joint to see Wild T and The Spirit. Toney Springer, Guenther Kapelle and Murad Gunduz make up this trio. I haven’t seen these guys perform together since last year’s blues festival in London, Ontario. The Joint, a small club downstairs from Hogtown Smoke, is a small speakeasy in the heart of Toronto on Colborne St. This place rocks until the wee hours with a packed house. The performing area is tiny, with Kapelle’s head brushing the ceiling. Not much room for the energetic Springer to move around but he still manages, wandering right into the crowd. Springer makes all the blues and rock favourites his own without detracting from the original, offering unexpected mash-ups and his personal edge to every song. His guitar solos are legendary and mind-bending (let alone string bending) and both Kapelle and Gunduz will match Springer note for note, beat for beat, wherever he takes them.

Toney Springer & Guenther Kapelle

Thunder Dome Sounds…..

I had a wonderful opportunity to introduce a young music prodigy (for the purposes of this column I will call him Shar) to his first time in a professional recording studio. I met Shar and his father at a Robbie Lane and The Disciples concert in Mississauga last year. Shar (who is only eleven) had actually come to see Sam Taylor who was guesting with the show. I heard from Shar’s dad a few weeks later, asking if I could video his son at one of his recitals. The goal was to have a decent video produced for YouTube. After a few months of messages and discussions I finally suggested we get Shar into a recording studio and have his sessions professionally recorded (music and video). Shar’s dad agreed so time at Eddie Bullen’s Thunder Dome Sounds was booked. I felt Bullen, who had pretty much raised both his sons in the studio, was a perfect choice to record and mentor this young man.  To cap it all off, Shar jammed, for the first time ever. Quincy on guitar and Tre-Michael Bullen on drums joined together with Eddie on keys and Shar on sax, for a couple of tunes. The day was a roaring success and Shar now has a professional recording and a video he is over the moon with. Oh, and Tre-Michael was the videographer….that’s his business. By the way, Shar started drumming at age two and currently plays the piano, drums, saxophone, clarinet, guitar and bass guitar as well as sings. Yep….a little musical genius.

Eddie relaxing in between takes

Shar on sax, Quincy on guitar

…and that folks brings us up to May.

Moanin’ –  Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers

Morning Dance – Spyro Gyra

(one of my faves)

Blue Train – John Coltrane

Chant – Fourplay

Meridian – Eddie Bullen

(I absolutely love love this piece)


All photographs ©2018 A Girl With A Camera “The Picture Taker”


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at:

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

One Response to “Pat Blythe – Festivals, a little Snarky Puppy, Quisha Wint and SING!….plus Music!”

  1. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Thanks for the mention, Pat. I will try to keep up. And another great column, by the way!

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