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IN THE PRESS

WHOLE NOTE MAGAZINE

Multi-talented Julie McGregor is an exquisite painter who, about a decade ago, turned her focus to singing jazz. More recently, McGregor has begun producing The Singer’s Jazz Series, which features, alongside herself, a variety of Torontonian talent on vocals, with the venerable Norman Amadio on piano. Ironically, it’s the accompanist who’s at the heart of this singer’s series.

“I was inspired by pianist Norman Amadio, one of Canada’s greatest jazz talents...he loves accompanying and really is one of the most giving, humble and kind musicians I have ever met.”

Indeed, Amadio’s modesty belies his legendary status as jazz pianist, piano teacher, music coach, composer, arranger, session player, band leader and accompanist, dating back to the 1940s. At 17, the precociously gifted Norm left his hometown of Timmins to study with Boris Berlin at the Royal Conservatory, and soon thereafter became influential in starting the bebop scene in Toronto. Amadio became one of the country’s most in-demand players, headlining at New York’s Birdland in 1956 opposite Duke Ellington, and collaborating with far too many jazz giants to mention in this wee column.

At the “September’s Song” installment of The Singer’s Jazz Series, Amadio, along with the wondrous Neil Swainson on bass, will provide the ultimate accompaniment for featured vocalists Sophia Perlman, Vincent Wolfe and Julie McGregor, and jazz poet Chris Hercules. Reservations are recommended for this event, taking place at Hugh’s Room on Sunday, September 16.

Article by Ori Dagan, Wholenote Magazine Sept 2012

TORONTO STAR

Published on Saturday September 15, 2012

 

Julie McGregor, organizer for The Singer's Jazz Series has a confession to make. The Sept. 16 Hugh's Room concert is really about the piano player.

“It should be called, ‘Norm and The Singers,’ ” says McGregor, meaning Norm Amadio, unquestionably the finest accompanist in Canadian jazz history. At 84 and a bit hobbled these days — “my balance isn’t any good” — he still gets the first call from even the newest generation of vocalists such as the silky Sophia Perlman who’s sharing the stage Sunday with McGregor and Vincent Wolfe, the Michael Bublé-like crooner from Toronto.

 

Amadio was an aggressive bebop player along the lines of Bud Powell when he first arrived on the Toronto scene in the 40s. A precocious teen musical whiz from Timmins, he soon enough learned to keep his cool when others were losing theirs in the city's turbulent club scene.

Reliability got him work. Unrivaled musicality gave him stature and clout. Jazz stars arriving in town - Carmen McRae, Miles Davis, Joe Williams or Jimmy Rushing wanted him. Or even needed him, as the veteran American singer Maxine Sullivan once told me.

'Amadio's secret? Never outplay the star', he says.

“He’s such a great musician that he can make it seem it’s not about him,” says McGregor who remembers catching Amadio at George’s Spaghetti House, the peerless Dundas St. E. jazz bistro and Italian restaurant in the ’70s. “He always considers the singer.” 

Amadio’s friends say he likes to think he invented jazz in the city. Certainly modern jazz had its roots in his many appearances at the House of Hambourg in the ’50s and his seemingly endless number of lounge gigs around town. 

Studio work with Moe Koffman and others meant steady work and countless recordings, and CBC TV appearances made him a minor celebrity. There was the ubiquitous Norm Amadio — never, ever “Norman” — a cool presence looming over the keyboard, a fixed noncommittal smile on his face as his meaty, muscular hands stitched together seamless backgrounds.

“Yet he never plays the same thing twice,” says McGregor. “He never plays the same intro, never does the same ending. He solos are always different. He changes rhythms and phrasing. So he makes me pay attention as a singer. He’s always been inventing on the spot.”

The Singer’s Jazz Series is at Hugh’s Room Sun. Sept. 16 with Julie McGregor, Perlman, Wolfe and Chris Hercules. Amadio is on piano and Neil Swainson on bass. 

Freelance writer for The Toronto Star - Peter Goddard

CAUGHT JULIE MCGREGOR SING ON ST CLAIR

 

I have listened to Julie perform over the last decade and her voice has matured and mellowed into a very real and personal sound. Her phrasing in her up-tempo version of ‘Speak Low’ was impeccable. Standards like ‘End of a Love Affair’ and ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ had distinctive styling. And, for a steamy, humid Friday night, Dave’s was packed and most people stayed for the entire evening. Julie, hat on backwards and perched on a high stool, ended the night with a memorable rendition of ‘Good-Bye Pork Pie Hat’ by Charlie Mingus. The crowd loved it.

Julie McGregor is definitely a jazz vocalist to watch.

Freelance writer Gayle Winship

Julie McGregor
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