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oda Magazine
was a labour of love, not only for the writers and photographers (some eventually going on to fame if not fortune), but also in those early days the actual production. John Norris, who had come to Canada eight years prior to my arrival, had originally published the magazine under the umbrella of the Traditional Jazz Club of Toronto, an indication of the style of music covered in the earliest issues.
These issues were printed with a mimeograph machine, a laborious process involving the cutting of stencils on a cardboard-backed flexible waxed mulberry paper sheet. This was achieved by placing the stencil assemblage in a typewriter with the ribbon disabled so that the bare sharp letter fonts could pierce the wax paper and create a stencil. Those old enough will remember that when the keys were struck with too much ferocity the letters with enclosed loops such as b, o and p, were cut out, separated from their bodies, causing solid black blobs to appear instead of loops with white spaces in their centres. Column justification, long before you could simply bop Apple J on your computer keyboard and — presto!, was a tedious process. John, who also typed the entire content of the magazine on a Smith Corona electric typewriter, counted the number of spaces that represented a column width as he typed, inserting spaces or a hyphen at the end of a line to achieved perfectly parallel columns. The very first issue I ever saw, displayed behind the counter of the jazz department of Sam The Record Man, where John worked as the manager, was now printed offset by a budget-priced back-street outfit, and featured on its cover Fats Waller [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9C83jtfOcI]. The editorial page stated: “With this issue we depart from our regular policy to pay tribute to one of the greatest musicians and entertainers of this century – Fats Waller”. The entire issue dedicated to one musician! And in typical North American capitalist fashion he had exploited his gullible readers by raising the cost 40% to the exorbitant price of 35¢, claiming that this was a “special” issue

It didn’t take long to be invited into the inner circle, the secret society of jazzers, to become one of the chosen few who helped, once a month, to assemble Coda at John’s apartment down there in Rosedale Valley. The apartment had a spacious living room with windows running the complete length of one wall and two of the other walls were lined from end to end, top to bottom, with thousands of lps and books. Enough to start an independent record shop. In the centre of the room a foldaway trestle table was assembled, around which the eighteen piles of double-sided printed pages were arranged in chronological order. One remembered Sunday the volunteers were Jim Falconbridge, a commercial artist and a fine New Orleans styled clarinetist who performed with the Black Eagle Jazz Band; the teenage bassist (and later pianist) Stuart Broomer who would go on to play with new music masters Andrew Hill and Marion Brown and form an Albert Ayler inspired trio with Jim; and yours truly. Around and around the table we traipsed picking up a page at a time, collating the inside of the magazine. John, seated at one end of the table, would relieve us of the bundle, add the front and back cover which was of a heavier stock, tap them square and staple them together, returning the completed magazine to one of the empty boxes in which they had been delivered. A procession round and around time after time. As you can imagine, even with our great love for the music, this would eventually become monotonous drudgery. Apart from the camaraderie that existed between us, the boisterous jocularity, we were compensated for our labours with beer, and pizzas ordered from the basement kitchen of George’s Spaghetti House, down on the corner of Dundas and Parliament, above which a club featured nightly the talents of local musicians including the pianistic musings of Michael Snow whose film “New York Eye and Ear Control” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-TaqhjQ7TA] had used as a soundtrack the music of Albert Ayler. However the ultimate entertainment was that each of us hard-core jazzophiles could chose, from John’s extensive collection, a recording of our choice. My taste had already lead to the investigation of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Archie Shepp and Cecil Taylor, but most of us were not prepared for Stuart’s choice. The music came shouting and hollering out of the speakers, a volatile energy mass like nothing heard before. The lp titled “Ghosts” [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9B9y_c2-M0], recorded in Copenhagen in 1964, featured Albert Ayler’s sanctified tenor saxophone, Don Cherry’s agile melodic pocket trumpet counterpointing, the arhythmic gymnastics of bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sonny Murray. The tune “Ghosts”, introducing me to what would become the anthem of the avant garde. On that Sunday afternoon Albert’s spirit filled the apartment, suitably sanctifying. The truth was marching in.

Those were the days, oh yes those were the days.

End Notes:
The Coda Magazine cover is from the author’s personal collection.
The material for this series of stories was culled from Chapter 26 of “Rant & Dawdle – A Fictional Memoir”.
Click on the pictures then click again to see image full-size.
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