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Often the book I’m reading provides inspiration. Currently it’s John Banville’s “Time Pieces – A Dublin Memoir”. Early on he suggests that “the resplendent vision we carry with us in memory was once merely the present, dull and workaday and wholly unremarkable”… except in those special moments.

And so this series of Toronto Tales is just that, put in the simplest terms; a personal past memory, one-off snapshots.

Much of the earlier activity was centred about Coda Magazine and the Jazz & Blues Centre. Coda Magazine was created by John Norris in 1958 as the organ of the Traditional Jazz Club of Toronto. He also opened the Galleon jazz club, and promoted concerts. I joined him in 1963 as the “art director” of Coda Magazine. In 1968 we created Sackville & Onari Records and two years later the Jazz & Blues Centre.

There were four Jazz & Blues Centre locations. The first above Le Chateau the fashionable clothing store on Yonge Street just half a block south of Bloor, up a dimly lit staircase into a labyrinth of rooms occupied by artists of every stripe. The original record stock from our own collections.

The second location north up Yonge Street, hardly three blocks, tucked between a purveyor of antiques and a greasy spoon was a dilapidated house ready for demolition, waiting for the creeping commercialism that was Toronto to reach this far north, to the fringes of commerce, just up the road from Canadian Tire and the Masonic Temple. The crumbling frontage sported our grand boast: “The Jazz & Blues Record Centre – Home of Coda Publications”.

The third location on King Street West at John, another funky bohemian building, residence of a well-known local artist, a film-maker and out back an antique furniture restorer.

A few blocks up and over, the upstairs room of Queen Street’s Beverly Tavern bore witness to the origin of the New Art Music Ensemble, acronymously known as N.A.M.E.. Weekly sessions to encourage our modest group of improvisers to set the stage for uncharted possibilities.

Me and bassist David Lee had already started – rehearsing out back behind the store with guitarist Lloyd Garber. And then this classical violinist – David Prentice – sauntered into our lives, His violin replacing the guitar. Three guys from such diverse backgrounds, from all over the place, a disparate trio – poles apart. Off we go…

The final home of the Jazz & Blues Centre was Dundas Street East.

In 1973 Norris and myself, with a group of enthusiastic friends, decided to organize a series of concerts at the Toronto Music Library so that we could hear this music live, personally participate in its power. The first three concerts were all solo and featured Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell and Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim). They were all a terrific success — with large audiences, in memory more than 100 at each event — and set the stage for a continuing series that would change many people’s lives.

There was a brief period when the concerts took place at St. Paul’s United Church on Avenue Road. The two I remember being the Anthony Braxton trio and Don Pullen solo. After a short while the elderly upright piano began to lose hammers and strings began to break. Don made comments as it disintegrated. I will have to play this piece in F, and such like. In the audience was poet Victor Coleman, then the director of A Space on St. Nicholas Street. With his assistance we moved our burgeoning music series to this wonderful multi-media arts centre and over the ensuing years presented to a willing and excited audience the music of numerous pioneers of this new form. Many released on Sackville Records. Victor also introduced us to the economic language known as Government Art Grants.

Mind Images [28:49]

Among the many Canadian musicians that performed at A Space was this trio. Stuart Broomer [piano] Bill Smith [soprano saxophone], and Larry Dubin [drums]. Recorded by Dan Allen. Only the first set has been located.

A Space – January 29, 1977
A Review by Barry Tepperman
Coda Magazine – April 1977

Knowing precisely where to look, the occasion to hear the open musics of Smith, Broomer and Dubin – and associate David Rosenboom – is not an infrequent one in Toronto. Why, then, this celebration of their music? Originally, it began as a celebration of Marion Brown – to wit, Brown in concert alternating sets with Rosenboom and the Smith/Broomer trio. UnfortunateIy, the Creator had another, more masterful pIan – a blizzard which prevented the arrival of both Brown and of drummer John Mars. However, an audience came and, undaunted, the musicians present decided to make an evening of it, following as much as possible the original concert plan – an opening trio set performing “Mind Images”, dedicated to Brown; a set of Rosenboom playing piano compositions by Brown; and a second, non-predetermined trio performance.

I doubt that I can say very much about this manifestation of music that I’ve left unsaid about other of the superior performers of the same art. This is an open, fluid music in which the impetus – the source of power radiated – shifts liquidIy from mind/instrument to mind/instrument. As befits a performance dedicated to Brown – a melodist and much more – “Mind Images” sprung from a series of short alternated motivic fragments developed in a textural rather than a linear manner. Each subbasement depended upon a different depth of ensemble interaction – from initially relying on Dubin only for timbrel feed while Broomer and Smith generated drive, up through an ascending spiral of power until Dubin overtook and dominated the ensemble to the point that the other two instruments, played pointillistically and permissively, seemed to flair out from under his hands. At all times in both trio sets there was an easy exchange of musical information – like breathing between the levels and lines. [If any specifically outstanding point about their second set need be cited, it would be Stuart Broomer’s art of preparing and controlling the piano, generating a new vocabulary of sounds which remained yet distant to and superimposed on the regular tonal resources of the keyboard.] One never sensed the lack of Brown’s voice. [This paragraph is reviewing music of which there is no audio sample.]

Also the final paragraph reviewing David Rosenboom’s performance, which I have been unable to locate on tape, has been removed. Below is a link to his music.

End Notes:

Photograph Credits:
Bill Smith & John Norris [photographer unknown]
Larry Dubin, Stuart Broomer, Bill Smith [photograph Ian Stewart]
Marion Brown [photograph Bill Smith]

Victor Coleman:
David Rosenboom: