Lady Marian: A woman’s touch

What a classy lady that Marian McPartland is. The seventy something pianist is still going strong, still playing with dexterity and taste and inventiveness, still drawing crowds.

Her range is remarkable — from Eubie Blake to Chick Corea. And she plays them all with equal authority. McPartland was in Toronto last summer for three triumphant nights at the Montreal Bistro, superbly backed by bassist Don Thompson and drummer Barry Elmes.

In her quiet way, Marian McPartland also likes to remind audiences of the fine contributions women have made to modern music. She idolizes Mary Lou Williams and likes to play that composer’s What’s Your Story, Morning Glory. She frequently includes Ann Ronnell’s Willow Weep For Me in her sets. And the night I caught her, she also featured Close Your Eyes, after first pointing out that it, too, was written by a woman, Bernice Petkare. Another woman composer to be reckoned with is McPartland herself. Her latest CD (on Concord) features a dozen of her own tunes, all beautifully backed by a string section of 20 musicians several of them women. The session was arranged and conducted by Alan Broadbent and the result is a hunk oforgeous music.

Incidentally, only a previous commitment prevented Marian from joining the roster of jazz artists who played at the Helen McNamara benefit concert at the Du Maurier Theatre Centre in Toronto last fall. Nevertheless, she made a donation to the Helen McNamara Fund, as did George Shearing, who was in San Francisco at the time, and Ed Bickert, who did play at the concert, with Rob McConnell.

Selling nostalgia
Veteran radio listeners around Toronto will remember Barry Nesbitt, who was a mainstay of CKFH, Foster Hewitt’s old station for 30 years. But he also worked at other radio stations, on television and in live theatre across Canada. Barry, a member of Variety Club’s Tent 28 for four decades, has received some of that club’s highest honors for his tireless humanitarian work. He has also served as MC for countless Variety events.

In 1990, Barry wrote and co produced a film called The Myths of Aging, funded by the Ontario government, for the guidance of young nurses and doctors just entering the healthcare field.

These days, Nesbitt occupies his time spotlighting nostalgia in a one man show he calls NES BITS & PIECES, a collection of songs, patter and even early radio commercials.

Although he still lives in Toronto, Barry has taken his show to such places as the El Dorado County Fair in California, to the Regency Tower in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and also to the Rouleau Saskatchewan Reunion. That, by the way, happens to be his home province.

I last caught up with Barry at the Silver Rail in Toronto last year, when it celebrated its 50th anniversary by hosting a fundraiser for Variety Village, an institution still close to Barry’s large heart. Incidentally, trivia quiz: The Rail had the first liquor license in Toronto.

Bossin’s best
You’d have to do a lot of digging to find a more original and stimulating artist than singer/guitarist/songwriter Bob Bossin, once of Toronto, now living on Gabriola Island, B.C. To quote Pete Seeger: “Not many people can write songs that are funny, informative and inspiring at the same time. Bob Bossin can.” Plus he can sing them engagingly.

His most recent CD, titled Gabriola Vorixo (the second word is really his postal code), contains a dozen of his gems, including the brilliant The Secret of Life According to Satchel Paige.

Some of Bossin’s songs are clarion calls for such causes as ending clear cut logging at Clayoquot Sound (Sulphur Passage) or environmental protests (Cleaning Up the Oil). But there is also just plain fun, as in the mock French lyrics to La Chanson Francee. Another revered folk artist, Tom Paxton, called this collection: “Bossin’s best yet.”

As an indication of the high regard he holds around Vancouver, among the friends who join him on one or another of the songs on this CD are Ann Mortifee, Valdi, plus numerous jazz and folk music artists on the west coast.

This is one of several CDs Bossin has put out over the years. Because you won’t find them in just any record store, here’s the full address: Bob Bossin, Site 24, Box 22, Gabriola Island, B.C. V0R 1X0.

Bob’s father, the late Dave Bossin, was Toronto’s leading booking agent for many years, providing shows for the Barclay Hotel and various other venues in and around Toronto.

Parting shot
I don’t know about you, but I’m up to here with Elvis Look Alikes. Why doesn’t someone start a contest for Colonel Parker Look Alikes? At least they wouldn’t have to sing — just count money.