Pat Blythe – UNISON and Jaymz Bee’s Caravan of Music….

Today’s missive and prime focus is Unison and the musical community they support. We begin with Unison’s background. Then it’s on to the fabulous fundraising bash Monday night (I’m still attempting to open the other eye). Find out who Jaymz Bee is (it was his birthday party), the instigator of Monday night’s festivities and of course, the musicians themselves and their music.

Some of the best Canadian talent appeared in support of this wonderful cause and to celebrate a birthday. But before I launch into any of that, I would like you to take a few minutes and listen to the following video.

Bill Bell Shares his story at the SOCAN Awards

A little background…….

From Unison’s website, “The Unison Benevolent Fund is an assistance program – created and administered for the music community, by the music community – designed to provide discreet relief to music industry professionals in times of crisis.”

The Unison Benevolent Fund was born out of the idea of establishing an organized support system for musicians and those who work in the business including roadies, sound and lighting technicians, riggers, performers…..the list goes on. Jodie Ferneyhough, President of the Canadian Music Publishers Association and Catharine Saxberg, SOCAN’s Vice-President, International Relations started the ball rolling. Designed to provide emergency funds to those who were experiencing an unforeseen emergency or medical crisis, the first Unison Board of Directors was formed in 2010. The following year Unison received a commitment of $250,000 from Music Canada followed by Slaight Music who donated $100,000.

According to Saxberg, “the creation of an emergency fund was our first priority. As we’re mostly self-employed, it’s often more difficult for us to secure bank loans, or other types of emergency financing when we need it. Our long-term goal is to provide access to additional assistance programs and insurance options. We’d like to use our strength in numbers.”

Now in its tenth year, Unison has expanded their services to include counselling, health solutions and health insurance options in addition to financial assistance. Unison continues to assist hundreds of people across Canada when the need arises…..musicians helping musicians. For more information or to support Unison click here

The buzz on Jaymz Bee…..

Jaymz Bee blowing out his birthday candle

Jamyz Bee introducing Mary Margaret O’Hara and Marcus O’Hara

Birth name…..James Terrence Shamus O’Malley Lyola Doyle…..Irish to the core. Conveniently shortened at some point to Jaymz Bee, the man has a long list of accomplishments but here’s a short synopsis. He began with his first band The Bee People, next was alternative rock band Look People, he started independent label Nepotism Records, formed Jamyz Bee and The Royal Jelly Orchestra, published his book Cocktail Parties for Dummies, hosted two radio shows for two different stations, ran BMG Music Canada’s boutique label Leisure Lab, produced the first Jazz Live concert at Convocation Hall in 2005 (which continues to be an annual event), formed pop group Bonzai Suzuki, has collaborated on a number of recordings and most recently has been writing and recording surf/jazz band The Tiki Collective whose debut album Muse was released in 2018. The man has had a busy and exciting life so far and I haven’t even mentioned all the “inbetweens”. As for energy levels, he doesn’t stop. I think I’ve met my match!

Jaymz Bee’s Caravan of Music…….

Every year Bee likes to celebrate his birthday in a big way. Some just happen to be bigger than others. This year was Jaymz Bee’s Caravan of Music and his charity of choice was Unison. Held at the Old Mill Toronto the evening began with a VIP dinner and entertainment by Tom Cochrane, Andy Kim, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Damhnait Doyle, Bill Bell, Jim Cuddy, June Garber and Jay Douglas. After dinner, twenty bands in ten rooms throughout the three floors of the hotel were waiting to entertain the masses. Whether you purchased the VIP ticket or simply the “caravan” ticket, guests were encouraged to check out the artists in each of the rooms. Every “traveller” was provided with a passport listing the rooms (with a map) and the musicians in each. Room shows were at 8pm and 10pm and the music ranged from funk, blues and jazz to silent movies live accompaniment.

The evening was a huge success and raised $25,000 for Unison.

…..the musicians and their music

How often are you going to see Tom Cochrane and Andy Kim sharing a mic….or Bill Bell and Mary Margaret O’Hara? How about Mary Margaret and Tom or Damhnait (DAV-net) Doyle with Andy? Then there’s Jim Cuddy nonchalantly strumming his guitar joining in from stage left….all of these artists sharing the stage at the same time, all belting out Life Is A Highway and having such a blast. How often? Once….and never again! Cameras were going nuts. Thus our dinner ended with a bang. So, not necessarily in order of appearance…..but here goes….

Bill Bell

Our host (along with Jamyz Bee) and emcee for the evening, a man of many talents, was singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer Bill Bell. The night began with Mary Margaret O’Hara and brother Marcus performing the Balloon Song…and salad was served. Reggae artist Jay Douglas took the stage with a couple of tunes….I’ve met Douglas at various functions over the years but this is the first time I’ve seen him perform. Loved his, smooth, rich voice that can easily segue from one genre to another…. and the man has moves! June Garber’s rich, velvety tones took us into the main course and John Finley brought us to tears. As I was doing a little research, I was surprised to discover Finley was one of the original members of the 70s band Rhinoceros as well as John & Lee and The Checkmates. I’m beginning to realize as I write this there was a whole lot of history in that room.

Jay Douglas

June Garber

John Finley

Bill Bell and Damhnait Doyle

Bill Bell and Tom Cochrane

Andy Kim

l-r – Mary Margaret O’Hara, George Koller, Marcus O’Hara performing the Balloon Song

Dessert followed the presentation of Bee’s birthday cake. The soul of the evening, Damhnait Doyle, sang two of the evening’s most poignant songs, a powerful, rip-your-heart-out voice. I’ve been “YouTubing” her all day. The evening’s surprise guest was Jim Cuddy. One of his songs, Constellations, was a beautiful tribute to one of his best friends whose death came much too soon in life. I watched the video before placing it in today’s music section and couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. The story behind the song was both hilarious and heartbreaking. After the grand finale with all hands on stage we headed out with our trusty passports in hand, roaming the halls of the Old Mill in search of music.

Jim Cuddy and his harmonica

l-r – Bill Bell, Andy Kim, Tom Cochrane

Bill Bell and Jim Cuddy

Andy Kim and Tom Cochrane

l-r – Bill Bell, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Tom Cochrane, Damhnait Doyle, Andy Kim, Jim Cuddy

It’s impossible to list all the musicians here but some highlights were Barbra Lica, Lou Pomanti, rap artist and DJ Branko Scekic who joined the Lou Pomanti Trio and free-styled to the audience’s delight. Seeing my friend Davide DiRenzo on drums made my night. Jazz singer Whitney Ross-Barris, guitarist Ted Quinlan, keyboardist Joe Sealy and guitarist/vocalist Joe Hash…..the list goes on and on and on….. An amazing night of fun and superb talent.

Whitney Ross-Barris

Part of the all night Jazz Jam, this young lady was fabulous on the horn!

Lou Pomanti Trio – l – r – Davide DiRenzo, Ross MacIntyre, Lou Pomanti

Branko with the Lou Pomanti Trio

Joe Hash

I must note the skills of the multi-talented bassist George Koller and pianist (as of this filing I still don’t have a name) along with Bill Bell, who backed up all the performers and serenaded us through our supper. It was an incredibly fantastic evening and I salute all the volunteers, Old Mill staff and the incredibly hard work of Unison staff including Amanda Powers and Cassandra Popescu. I just love my guitar string bracelet! Now all I need is tiny, silver drumstick earrings.

…..and now the music….and there’s a lot of it so pour a glass, sit back and enjoy some of Canada’s finest…….

Better Life – Damhnait Doyle

That’s What You Get – Damhnait Doyle

Out of The Blue – Mary Margaret O’Hara

Dear Darling – Mary Margaret O’Hara

How’d We Ever Get This Way – Andy Kim

Rock Me Gently – Andy Kim

Constellations – Jim Cuddy

While I Was Waiting – Jim Cuddy

Here’s To Life – June Garber

Black Coffee – June Garber

Turn Me On – Jay Douglas

Reggae Lane – Jay Douglas

Life Is A Highway – Tom Cochrane

Big League – Tom Cochrane & Red Rider

London Town – Barbra Lica

Coffee Shop – Barbra Lica

Jungle Boogie – Oakland Stroke (feat. Lou Pomanti)

Comes Love – Whitney Ross-Barris

Give It Up – Lou Pomanti

A Change Is Gonna Come – John Finley & Michael Fonfara

Misty – John Finley

Apricot Brandy – Rhinoceros

A full week of music ahead and a long weekend to look forward to.


All photographs 2019 Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Please scroll down and leave a comment. Thank you.

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 – UNISON and Jaymz Bee’s Caravan of Music….”

  1. It was a spectacular night of music! The all night jazz jam young lady pictured above is Marie Goudy, trumpet player, composer, band leader and recording artist.

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