“Jazz” Sleeps With the Fishes – Would You Like Fries With That?



So, the other day a friend sent me a link to the latest Toronto brainwave in generic jazz promotion, or Jazz-McMarketing, which could be summed up as, “Let’s bring so-called jazz to people who never listen to it, while making sure to present it at unimaginably stupid venues”. In this case, believe it or not, “Jazz at the Ripley’s Aquarium” on the second Friday of every month. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the “believe it or not” gag because the joint is run by Ripley’s, but just in case you don’t believe me, go to the Ripley’s Aquarium website. I’d link it here, but I might get into trouble and besides I don’t actually want to have even the slightest hand in promoting this howlingly vulgar idea.

For those of you not from Toronto, the Ripley’s Aquarium is a huge, relatively new tourist attraction that’s been promoted to the point of saturation – massive, retina-burning digital billboards depicting sharks, eels, rays and other exotic fish, posters in the subway with clever slogans like “Come to the Aquarium, where staring isn’t creepy”. I’m sure it’s doing quite well and it’s the kind of place I would like to take my grandsons, who are both crazy about fish and other wildlife. Of course, it’s nestled in among a bunch of similar high-traffic venues in the busiest part of the city – the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre, the Metro Convention Centre, etc. – none of which are all that near to the subway, so parking and easy access are a nightmare. I can only imagine the joys of schlepping a double bass and an amp or a drum kit 1,000 yards through the crowds to play a gig there – I say only imagine because I sure as hell won’t be doing that, I’d rather set my bass on fire.

Anyway, seeing the on-line promotion for the “jazz sleeps with the fishes” concept sent my mind racing down two conflicting paths – hardly a new thing for me – one of dark, world-weary outrage, and the other of satirical humour possibilities. It wound me up for about a minute, my inner-purist jazz curmudgeon going into overdrive with, “Oh fuck, great, here we go again, more McJazz in another stupid-ass, bad sounding venue, another co-opting of the word jazz to lend a veneer of sophistication to I-don’t-even-know-what, or to sucker more people into buying tickets on an otherwise slow night, all the while giving jazz another black eye by dumbing it down and presenting it in a wildly inappropriate setting, just what we needed.”

But then I pulled back and realized I’m too old to take this seriously or get really upset, instead I began to see the (admittedly unintentional) comic possibilities in this inherently absurd idea. I’ll try to combine these serious and comic threads in this piece and will probably fail as usual.

First of all, I love the “second Friday of every month” bit – like, whoa, let’s not go crazy here people, let’s “test the waters” and try it on for size before we fully commit ourselves. Let’s make it hard for people to figure out when the music is going to be appearing, so the whole idea won’t succeed – not that I want it to.

Then there’s the obvious question: why? When I think fish, I think lemon wedges, capers, maybe a bottle of Chablis or two and if I want some jazz with that, then I’ll throw on any one of a thousand CDs. But otherwise, what the hell do fish in huge tanks and jazz have in common? Why not have a stand-up comedian named Dory Sprat? – “So, a grouper walks into a bar…….”. Or maybe clog-dancers in fish-scale outfits, or a guy juggling live lobsters? Why not show some appropriately marine-themed movies, like The Day of the Dolphin, Jaws, or Moby Dick? Why jazz? Who are they trying to attract here – the surprisingly massive crowd of oceanographic jazz-lovers? People who like some John Coltrane with their Jacques Cousteau? Are they hoping to make jazz converts out of the tourists and families with their kids who come here? No, of course not, because predictably, the music on offer here will have nothing to do with John Coltrane or any other jazz, it’s jazz in name only. That’s clear from the most cursory look at the website and its coming attractions.

Before any of this occurred to me though, the first funny thing that came to mind was the old tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman, which I’ll admit sounds weird so I’ll explain. Way back, Bud recorded a couple of signature tunes called “The Eel” and “Margo’s Seal”, and it was a short, “three-hour cruise” from these to other fish-song titles. The straight ones, like “Gone Fishin'”, “Dolphin Dance”, “I’m Gonna Go Fishin'”, “On Green Dolphin Street” and “Good Bait” – but of course, I’m more interested in the fishier ones, such as:

“Salmon Chanted Evening” “The Moray I See You” “Golden Herrings” 

“Slap That Bass” “Any Plaice I Hang My Hat Is Home” “Pike Yourself Up”

“Love For Scales” “I Haddock Anyone Till You” “Halibut Not For Me”

“Darn That Bream” “The Brill Is Gone” “Trout of Nowhere” “For Heaven’s Hake”

“Some Ling To Live For” “Ray Down Yonder in New Orleans” “Body & Sole”

“Roe, Look At Me Now” “Abalone Together” “I Only Have Walleyes For You”

“Trawl the Things You Are” “Until the Creel Thing Comes Along” “Gill Wind”

“I’ve Got A Shad, and That Ain’t Good” “Cod Bless the Child” “Hello, Molly”

And my personal favourite: “I Wish I Could Sashimi Like My Sister Skate”.


As amusing as these are (at least to me), they pale in comparison to the laughs provided by the deliciously clumsy copy-writing of the ad itself, which borders on genius. To wit:

Introducing our Friday Night Jazz, taking place on the second Friday of each month. Join us for an unforgettable evening of live jazz, music, and refreshments available at our cash bars, while you wander through the aquarium at your leisure.

It’s Friday night and you’re looking forward to spending the evening out of the house. After a long day at work you feel like relaxing with live music somewhere in downtown Toronto.”

Wow, they’re offering live jazz and music here. And just so there’s no misunderstanding, the booze will cost ya, not like at all those other joints “somewhere in downtown Toronto” where they give it away. I love the “out of the house” turn of phrase – why not just say “out”? They make it sound as if everyone’s house is so infested with rats, cockroaches or dysfunctional families that nobody could stand to be there a second longer, so why not forget your troubles, come on down and “get tanked” with us! And the “somewhere in downtown Toronto” is so vague and self-effacing, it’s as though they’re admitting this venue is not such a hot idea, which it isn’t.

But the fun really starts when you see the coming musical attractions, oh Christ. One of the bands is called “Lady Be Good” – never, ever trust a young band named after an old song. Their logo is one of those big, retro Telefunken-style microphones from the ’40s – as in “Telefunken sound man to turn it down” – or even better, off. They’re proclaimed as “one of Toronto’s most charming and fun jazz bands” – honest – and their style is a mixture of “modern pop, classic jazz and soulful RnB.” Awesome, can’t wait to hear them. Then there’s their publicity photo, which screams “peppy, entrepreneurial kid-band”. A perky thrush with a retro-bob hairdo and party dress, the all-important Telefunken on a stand in front of her, flanked by the bassist (who at least has a string bass), the drummer holding his sticks and the “piano” player leaning in a casually geeky pose against his vertical electric keyboard, which tells you all you need to know. “Hey folks, we’ve got the retro-lounge-swing thing together, but we’re also with it and contemporary, we love our electric keyboard so much we’ve put in our promo shot just to show how eager to please we are!”

Out of curiosity I checked them out on Google and they’re about what I expected, only worse. There are three clips from their “Rehearsin’ in the Kitchen” series, where they’re literally playing in the kitchen of somebody’s house and smiling so keenly it’s like one of those old Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland flicks – “I know kids, we’ll put on a show! – Grandma will bake some cookies! – We could use dad’s barn! – It’s so crazy, it might work!” – but minus the talent and swing. The singer absolutely destroys Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” with off-key cheerfulness, I had to listen to Al Hibbler’s version twice just to get the taste of sugar out of my mouth.

There’s a photo of another band that’s either going to, or has already played the aquarium – it’s not clear which – and they’re a treat too: “Parkside Drive”. While bands named after tunes are almost guaranteed to suck, bands named after thoroughfares are really from hunger. They’re a little older and their style is not summarized, but by the looks of their photo it’s no doubt something like “A captivating stew of smooth Latin, hot funk and fusion-jazz that will stir your soul”, or some such breathless dreck. Their promo shot is a riot, four guys in matching tan suits with vests, lounging around and glaring out like a squad of gay Russian Mafia hit-men. They’re protectively encircling their singer, who doesn’t look like she needs any protection – she has quite the sultry, pouting Lucretia Borgia thing going on – “Caro, bring your weenie any closer and I’ll lop it off with my stiletto.”


I may sound a little harsh and elitist here, like I’m dumping on these young musicians as a grumpy old guy, after all they’re just trying to make a buck. Well, I was young once too, and yes, I played some low-paying gigs at iffy places because that’s all that was available in the very early going, but it wasn’t quite the same. None of the bands I played in worked big corporate or public venues like this, we didn’t have glossy publicity photos or matching suits and the music we played was out-and-out jazz, not this harmless please-everybody twaddle. That’s the difference, there’s something very contrived about these bands and their slick demographic approach to marketing and presentation, a lack of sincerity, a lack of realness. And, as a working musician, I’m not a jazz purist either, appearances to the contrary. I’ve done thousands of gigs providing incidental background music for functions – weddings, corporate events, all manner of parties, you name it. I don’t get offended when people don’t listen to the bands at these affairs even if we’re playing good music, which we generally are – they’re one-off parties, nobody expects anyone to pay attention to the music. That’s why these gigs pay well, you put the suit on and do them to keep the wolf from the door, I have no problem with it. But this is different – it’s a series run by a big outfit with deep pockets and, perhaps taking their cue from the Toronto Jazz Festival, they’re selling something – the “jazz experience” – which they’re not providing. This is like McDonald’s suddenly marketing their fast-food as haut cuisine when it’s the same old greasy slop.

So okay, you get the picture, they’re hiring young cookie-cutter bands with girl singers playing some sort of corpo-Hallmark music and given all this, I’d love to know what these monthly gigs are paying for a seven-to-midnight, five-hour call. I’ve been around the block a few times and my instincts tell me that the pay for these gigs is either, a) – shitty, or, b) – really shitty. There’s a third, more sinister option though – that the bands may be playing for free. You know, for the experience and the exposure, so maybe they can pass out some business cards and cop a few wedding gigs. This is probably not the case, but on the other hand it wouldn’t surprise me in the least, considering how few gigs there are and how “internship” has blossomed as a way to avoid paying young people.

As to these jazz-inappropriate venues, I wonder what’s next? Maybe hiring jazz bands to play near the most popular rides at amusement parks like the CNE or Canada’s Wonderland, so people standing in line for the Zoomer or the Wild Plunge could be entertained while they wait, by bands with names like “Carousel” or “The Rollercoasters”. They’d be a little hard to hear with all the noise going on, but who really cares? – they’re pleasant and functional enough.

Or maybe jazz at Tim Horton’s – you know, “Coffee ‘N’ Doughnut Jazz” with Frankie Latte and The Crullers. Next week, the exotic Latin-jazz blend of Dark Roast, featuring the alluring vocal stylings of Mocha.

Perhaps solo keyboard players outside drive-thru fast-food outlets, to provide a diversion while people are deciding if they want fries with that. You laugh, but if we’re not at that level yet, we’re close. As the writer Quentin Crisp once said, “Those who write things as they really are, are satirists.”

In that the generic brand of music being offered at the aquarium and other such dopey venues sure as shit ain’t jazz, maybe it’s time that we came up with some new terminology for it. Like maybe “plazz” – poppy-lite-jazz, good for shopping malls and plazas. Or “spazzm” – smooth-pop-jazz-muzak – we could have “spazzm bands” like in the good old days, but offering far more bloodless music. Or “splazz” – smooth-pop-lounge jazz – I like the sound of that one, it works just about everywhere. Ripley’s and other similar presenters have come up with a cynical, self-fulfilling prophecy model here – offering music that’s not very interesting to listen to in a setting where people won’t listen to it except in a walk-by fashion. I mean, why bother? And please….for fuck’s sake, don’t call it jazz, okay?


For the life of me, I just don’t get the allure of the word “jazz” as a promotional tool because, as music, jazz is failing more and more at the cash register. This has been amply demonstrated by an increasingly smaller percentage of “units sold” – CDs, downloads, etc. – in the music industry at large. And yet, companies are falling all over themselves to use jazz in their marketing – there are Jazz crackers, Jazz apples, a Jazz basketball team (in Utah of all places), even a Jazz airline. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a car, like maybe the Buick Jazz, with its innovative Rhythm-Shift transmission. So, even while the music struggles, the word “jazz” seems to have a cachet of elegance, of being hip and cool. Outfits like Ripley’s see this and decide to jump on the bandwagon, so to speak, and promote their dreary little music series as being jazz. The maddening thing is that when this inevitably fails, because it wasn’t handled very well and was a bad idea in the first place, jazz gets blamed. They say, “Well, we tried jazz and it just didn’t work, people don’t like it.” And we wonder why next year there’s even less jazz at the festival; it’s a vicious cycle, not unlike sharks circling a bleeding man.

But, when the real thing is presented properly in a setting conducive to listening, people like it, they really do. Time and time again, jazz has shown that it’s adaptable and self-sufficient enough to thrive in any number of settings that weren’t designed or originally intended for its presentation – churches, community halls, parks and other outdoor venues, art galleries and museums, small-town theatres, people’s homes. But jazz is not a walk-by music, it’s a concert music. When I say “concert”, I don’t mean that it has to be presented in a swanky concert hall, not at all, even sets in a club can be like mini-concerts. I mean concert in the “concerted effort” sense of two or more groups working together – the presenters, who promote the music in a workable venue, the artists, who try their best to provide interesting, quality music, and the audience, who sit and listen to it, enjoy it. Apart from a few bare-minimum requirements – a decent, in-tune piano, maybe some sound equipment run by someone who knows what jazz is supposed to sound like, some sort of makeshift stage with a focal point – this unspoken relationship between the players and their listeners is the key ingredient in any serious jazz presentation.

Encouragingly, there are all sorts of people or little groups out there who are interested in jazz, who “get” this and are presenting the music respectfully – not just in Toronto, but in lots of smaller towns, where the response from audiences is enthusiastic and appreciative. As in, “If you build it, we will come”. My sister is but one of many examples, for several years she’s wanted to start a jazz series at the church in her hometown, which is so small it’s technically a hamlet. Late last year she asked me about it and I advised her to hire a good, small band with a track record and a following – in this case, the Mike Murley Trio. I checked out the church, which had some soul and good acoustics that would only be improved with bums in seats. To attract these, she went to work at promoting it like crazy, which can be done quite cheaply if you’re resourceful and persistent. I helped her with this and she wisely got some local people involved – an artist chipped in a great poster, the county newspaper did an interview with me and wrote a nice advance article, other local presenters offered her their email lists, Murley and I mentioned it on our websites – and voila, come concert time in early April, it was a sell-out. The sound was perfect, you could hear a pin drop in the place, everybody loved the music. Jazz is intimate, it’s chamber music and small is good, quiet is good.

On the break and after the concert, many people expressed a shocked gratitude that such a good band would come so far to play in their little town – but hell, it’s less than an hour from Toronto – so our response was, “Not at all, thank you for coming and for listening.” I was very proud of my sister and happy for her and the community, the band was well-paid and there was more money than expected left over for the church. A small profit is still a profit and people were asking when the next concert was going to be, saying they wouldn’t miss it for anything. And the band was equally happy – all jazz musicians want is to be treated fairly and to be heard, for people to listen. This is what I meant earlier by “the jazz experience” – bringing real music to real people who actually want to hear it. It doesn’t matter that we’re not looking at Woodstockian numbers, or that nobody’s getting rich, what matters is that the experience is fulfilling for all and the music stays alive by growing fresh audiences. We don’t need outfits like Ripley’s doing us any favours, tossing jazz a bone by deigning to present a fast-food version of it at a fishy venue – fuck them and their misguided arrogance.


The fish-jazz business reminded me of one other funny thing and I’d like to close on a humorous note. It’s both a visual and aural joke that was a favourite of my ex-father-in law. He liked to use it at family gatherings, especially with “proper” older ladies. He would write out these words on a piece of paper, spaced out like this: WHALE    OIL   BEEF   HOOKED

He’d instruct the victim to read them slowly and separately at first, them run them together more quickly until they sounded like an astonished Barry Fitzgerald – “Whale oil beef hooked”. Try it, it’s fun.

Well I’ll be fucked, “Jazz at the Aquarium” – what’ll they think of next? Don’t tell me, I don’t wanna know.



© 2015, Steve Wallace. All rights reserved.

91 thoughts on ““Jazz” Sleeps With the Fishes – Would You Like Fries With That?

  1. “…come on down and “get tanked” with us!”
    That’s funny… as in “fish tanked”?

    Still reading… but what about …
    “My Mahi”?

    Ah, nobody knows that tune, after all it’s never been played on JAZZ.FM

  2. Loved that fishy stuff Steve…We did a cruise a number of years back…the ladies had to come dressed as a song title…One young lady came dressed as “Body and Sole”..she wore a bikini and carried a large sole…don’t know about the soul thing but she sure had the body! The marketing of “jazz”; or the use of the word “jazz” in marketing …very complex subject. Selling Jazz or just selling? Remember playing with Jim McHarg’s Dixieland quartet, the late Brian Ogilvie on Clarinet and a young lady brought around vests (Du Maurier cigarette colours) she said they would like us to wear the following day…Brian said “No thanks, I’m a jazz musician, not a clown!”…next day he was the only one not wearing one… A “Show Biz” dilemma”…but the kids need shoes! Another very enjoyable read!

  3. Bud Freeman must have had a thing about marine life. In addition to The Eel and Margo’s Seal he offered The Eel’s Nephew, The Sailfish, and later in his career The Dolphin Has A Message. And like many of his generation, often played The Prince of Wails.

  4. I scuba dive as well as play the drums. Do you think I can monetize that?

    On a more serious, or dare I say, tragic note, local jazz musicians Tony Simpkin and Brian Quebec were once hired to play a recently refurbished McDonalds to celebrate the new “McCafe”. If I recall correctly, they were corralled between the washrooms and McFoyer whereupon they endured countless requests for Mega-Death et al from pimply faced adolescents (hold the manufactured outrage – I was one too) on their way to double down on something or other.

    My only regret is that I am not making this up.
    Nil illegitemus carborundum

  5. Couldn’t agree more Steve on presenting the real Jazz!
    Great bit of humor too, with the fishy song titles!
    All The Lings You Are

  6. Not sure why you decided to take a low shot at the young bands playing at the venue – including the looks of a lead singer. Tearing town other musicians was not necessary to making your central point. Shame.

  7. So much that is wrong here. So much nastiness, so much inconsistency, so much defensiveness — “I may sound a little harsh and elitist.” That you do, Steve, but mostly you just sound like an old coot yelling at the kids to get the hell off your lawn. Quite sad, really.

  8. Steve has been called out for criticizing the young bands playing at the Ripley gigs.
    Although it may seen harsh to some, it’s needed if only to show how a corporation like Ripley’s reveals their ignorance and lack of due diligence to take advantage of these younger players.

    That being said it’s not entirely the younger musicians’ fault that they are playing right into the ‘man’s’ hands. This is complex.
    The lack of music work has undermined much of the inter-generational working situations where young and older players played together. This mixing of generations had the benefits of:
    Young players getting information from older players (about the business, maybe musically, and many other things)
    Older players being challenged by younger players’ energy, new influences and who knows what else!?

    When I started working, I got most of my work SUBBING for players a generation or 2 older than me. And believe me, there was a an unspoken pressure to NEVER undercut a musician that you subbed for.
    Because of respect, the fear of never being called again.

    This experience taught me lifelong lessons in how one should take care of business. I was treated with respect, and learned that we need to stand up for our side musicians and subs. For each other. for the good of the whole scene.

    The lack of work has not only driven the price down. These days there isn’t enough work to force the subbing intergeneration-ally so that interaction between generations (in the business sense) can’t happen. Therefore younger players have NO CONTEXT, (historically or otherwise) on which to base their concept of what different gigs should, and COULD pay. And when to say no to a gig offer.

    Everyone can get who they want because everyone is available. Or 5 other guys in the same generation are available. This keeps us from interacting on GIGS, talking on the breaks, the only place these discussions can really be effective.

    I used to be able to read the riot act to my students and tell them that they had better not let me find out that they were playing a gig under scale. Or playing in a room I played, for less than scale. Because if they were ever GOOD enough to sub for me, they would be off MY list.

    Now, that can’t happen because the odds of me having to sub out of a gig have greatly diminished, and the odds of me NOT being able to find a PEER (or 10 peers) available are infinitesimal. SO, I can’t do the right thing and educate my young students, who MIGHT already be on the scene.
    This whole situation had undermined the mentorship so necessary to this music and this BUSINESS.
    This is the situation that Ripley’s and other savvy employers have enjoyed for years now, and they are only too ready do what they do best. Get a passable product for the least amount for money. And some young players have no context on how to deal with these employers.

    • First off, you don’t know how much these guys are making. You’re making assumptions. I know some of these guys and I know they have minimum standards on how much they get paid. And frankly they are much higher than anything that most of the “real jazz” artists make at a Rex gig let alone the Gate or any other jazz room that will likely shut down in the next year. Maybe the reason these “kids” (which is kind of insulting because most of them are in their late 20s to 40s) are getting work is because no one wants to hear what you consider real jazz anymore. They are doing what people in the music business do: they fulfill a demand for a style of music.

    • Pretty sure you and old Steve haven’t the faintest idea what the aquarium pays. Maybe you could find out before you start handing out advice about what young players should and shouldn’t do?

      • Hi Abel,
        Speculating for sure.
        Yes, we should find out, am in the process of trying to.

        BTW “OLD” Steve has more energy than most of these young cats will ever have. All you have to do is be on the bandstand for 5 minutes playing a raging tempo or a slow blues that would make most bass players sweat with fear and you’d kill to have ‘old’ Steve at your back.


  9. “I may sound harsh and elitist”

    No, that ship sailed midway through this blog post. You actually are an ass for taking shots at these other bands like that.

  10. hey steve great article but a lot of young bands started that wayand went on to become jazz artists play me a tuna have a bite captain cod tried our fish and ships and said they never smelt better jazz is forever and a day

  11. As piano player, my respect for a room that presents jazz begins with two things, paying a professional wage and a decent acoustic piano. My respect increases exponentially with..
    all the keys working
    It being well maintained.
    It being in tune.
    All other things being equal, string length
    Quality of the brand.

    I understand this is a huge stretch these days. So, consequently MY list of rooms that purport to be presenting jazz is incredibly small.
    Ripley’s does not make the cut.

  12. “Their promo shot is a riot, four guys in matching tan suits with vests, lounging around and glaring out like a squad of gay Russian Mafia hit-men”

    Really? Putting down a bunch of kids by calling them gay? Setting a great example.

  13. Been thinking… very bad when that happens.

    On the matter of ‘elitism’.
    If a person is simply better than most at what he/she does and is acknowledged as such by the field, does that not make him an elite in his/her field?
    And, if that’s the case, when ruminating about his/her field, doesn’t that person’s opinion carry some weight?
    Further, if this person is accused of being an elitist and it’s accurate, then why is that assumed to be negative attribute?

    • William Henry, a Pulitzer Prize winning social critic wrote a book called “In Defence of Elitism” that dealt in part with the points you raise Mark. We live in interesting times where everyone is equal. Of course some are a tad more equal than others.

      • This from a review by George Scialabba.
        “What redeems “In Defense of Elitism” is Henry’s admirably grouchy, uninhibited voice. “Every bit of plain speaking offends some one these days,” “

        • Mark: I am not offended, even mildly, by plain speaking – grouchy or otherwise. Uninformed bullshit masquerading as opinion, on the other hand, should be called out, especially when it involves mean-spirited attacks on other musicians. He’s never heard them play, fercrissake!

          • Uninformed? Hardly.

            Bullshit? Let’s call it well written opinion from someone who has spent much time in the trenches.

            Masquerading? Nothing hidden here.

            Abel: Ad hominem attacks do not advance your argument a whit. Nor does manufactured outrage; I understand that “calling out” is new term for what used to be called “disagree”. That said, as my Grade 5 teacher used to remind us all: “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

          • You wrote:
            “He’s never heard them play, fercrissake!”

            Maybe not in person, however, Steve did mention some specific version of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”.
            Which coincidentally, is fast becoming my theme song.

  14. FYI, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium has been presenting “Jazzin’ at the Shedd” for many years now–I’m guessing that’s where they got the idea. They sell tickets and promote the bands on their website. Things are and could be much worse.

  15. We have a Japanese car over here called the “Honda Jazz”. Do not know if they are sold in Canada.Me,I drive Fords.

  16. What Toronto NEEDS is “smalls jazz club.” Every time I go to New York, musicians passing through town go to check out incredible artists having fun and jamming, they lock the doors at some point in the night, and it becomes a musicians hub of great jazz artists and jazz fans just watching. It’s in a basement, it’s small, they have a baby grand piano. Maybe that’s what we need, a low cost venue that allows jazz musicians to play, hang, and inspire. Nothing fancy, just a good small room, a good crowd of people, and low cost to keep it running : )

  17. and while we’re at it…
    Let’s all come out of the woodwork, those of you using pseudonyms. At least Steve is putting his name to his opinion. That takes some balls. Show some yourself.

  18. Wow! The air has gotten very thick in here since last night, when I had first planned to add some of my own fishy titles. Obviously, that doesn’t seem so important now, But, what the Hell, here they are: (And, for the record: Steve and Mark are MY Heroes!). I Clam Sea Clearly Now.
    Sole Eyes. In My Sole Etude. If I Haddock You. Sweet and Blubber-y. It’s Now Orca Never. What A Difference A Snail Made. Bernie’s Tuna.
    Scallopfornia Dreamin’. Scallopfornia, Here I Come. Goldeye Earrings. Someday My Shrimps Will Come. My Roe-Mance. Sushi-Q.

  19. Wow, thick indeed. Well Steve, I guess if the one thing we’re learned here is that this blog writing is all fun and games until someone loses a walleye!

  20. Re: the “thickness”
    I think it’s time to re-read Steve’s dis-claimer.

    We were all warned. Delivered as promised.

  21. Tanks, Mark. I was ready to Snapper at you, but when I Mullet it over, even though I felt a bit Shad, I decided not to Mako myself a Hammerhead over it. Bonito appetit – I’ll Sea ya!

  22. I’ve been thinking about this blog post and comments made about it a lot over the past couple days. As a young Toronto bassist, I have a lot of respect for what Steve has done. But as a young person who is socially conscious I disagree immensely with this blog post. It is homophobic, “glaring out like a squad of gay Russian Mafia hit-men” and attacking young students looking to play music.

    The music community should not support hate amongst all ages and levels of playing nor should it support homophobia or sexism.

    Plain and simple, the world is moving forward and this is not a time where out community should push back. We need to welcome women in jazz where women are not condemned for their appearance and outfits, we need to welcome the LGBTQA+ community to the jazz scene. We need to create a safe space for younger musicians to take the opportunities to have gigs without being ridiculed by their predecessors. Us young students have the opportunity to learn so much from people like Steve, but we also need to point inappropriate things that are being shared by them.

    You can question the idea of something without attacking the people involved. You can question having jazz at the Aquarium but there is no reason an adult should be attacking young musicians. You can critique a song without attacking the people involved. There’s a big difference between “that sucked” and “you suck.” One is a critique on the music, the other is an attack on the person.

    It’s really a shame that the choice of language and attitude in this post are so hateful because thats not what music is about. Music is universal, music doesn’t care if you’re black or white, if you’re young or old, if you’re straight or gay. Music is a language of love, and it is a shame that this kind of attitude against younger students (who just as a personal note, are some of the most incredible musicians I’ve met, who have received high awards and honours that are absolutely well deserved. I feel honoured every time I get the chance to play with them) is being said amongst our idols.

    At this point, I’d like to recognize I am a younger music student who fears putting their career on the line for this. But I also recognize that just because I am a younger music student does not mean that my age group is not part of the music community of Toronto and deserve to be treated as your peer, albeit much younger and not as good. With all due respect, we’ll get to your level some day and will do it with the support of our elders, not the condemnation.

    I have nothing but respect for my mentors, educators and idols. But I also have the upmost respect for my peers, and because of that, I feel that much of the content of this blog post is inappropriate.

  23. Hi Irene
    You might have missed the point of Steve’s blog. Steve isn’t denigrating anybody here. He’s trying to point out that the word ‘jazz’ is being inappropriately used by corporations to market products that have absolutely nothing to do with jazz. A once-a-month gig for three or four musicians in an aquarium is not a commitment to artists of any kind. It’s laughable, and insulting. The corporation is capitalizing on some sort of ‘cool’ factor, and distorting and abusing what may be one of the only unique art forms of North America.
    Instead of railing on Steve, who is one of the most formidable musicians of any kind in Canada, you should be demanding a proper representation for your chosen art-form from companies such as Ripley’s. Like, maybe, EVERY Friday, or maybe signed union contracts, or maybe a good grand piano in the venue. Would Ripley’s market the Toronto Symphony in such an insulting manner? I think not.
    I wish you well with your bass playing, but if want to make a living with your bass, you must be more than just background music, once a month, in an aquarium.
    And, Steve is one of the sweetest, caring and open minded people I know.
    Cheers, John

    • I recognize his point from the beginning, and I do agree that having jazz there is weird. But, while agree with that, I disagree with going after young students. I feel like his main point would have been more strong and resonate better if he did not attack the students preforming there and didn’t use homophobic language.

      To address your point that I should be focusing on proper representation of my music, I’d like to say that at 18 years old, I ran a jazz jam at a local art bar which I had to hand over to another young musician due to an illness in my family. I always require fair pay for my band when I hire them. I am focused on when I die musicians be treated with respect by people their being hired for. I am also focused on having everyone be treated with respect no matter age, race, gender, and sexual orientation, so it is my obligation to point it out when it happens. I am not saying he is homophobic, I am saying describing someone as gay as an insult is homophobic. I am not saying I do not respect Steve Wallace. I’m not attacking him or his character. I am pointing out something that is problematic. It is not an insult towards him.

      I was not “railing” Steve Wallace, as I said in my post I have a huge amount of respect for him and what he has done for music in Toronto. I am not saying that the venue is a place where jazz should be listened to, but why not support the youth musicians of Toronto by confirming they get treated with respect and dignity by the corporation while questioning the necessity of having jazz music at a location as such? As I said above, it’s one thing to question the validity of having jazz at the aquarium, its another to “attack” the students (attack in quotations because I can not think of a better word.) My comment is not “railing” on Steve, nor is it disrespecting him. It is a comment made to address his post.

      I feel as though his point his valid and very important, but his belittling of students and homophobia – as inadvertent and unintentional as it may be is still not appropriate and distracts from his main issue, that jazz is not taken seriously and deserves to be.

      Thank you for your response, I hope this clarifies what I said above.

  24. Hi Irene
    You are an excellent writer! Well done!
    I have a gay son, and insulted him terribly when I referred to something as ‘faggy’. This is something that is, as someone approaching 60 years old, a rather quaint and harmless comment. He, rightly, took offense. When I researched the word ‘faggot’, I discovered that it referred to the sticks that were used to burn homosexuals during the Renaissance. Needless to say, I was aghast, and immediately called my son and apologized. I am not, in spite of this, homophobic. There are references that are, unfortunately, lodged in our culture. Eventually they will sublimate out, and we all are doing our best to cleanse the errs of the past. Especially here in Canada. Culture is s wonderful thing, but does it carry baggage.
    I appreciate that you have taken offense. Please know that Steve means absolutely no offense. He is merely trying to protect an art-form from corporate misuse.

  25. Hi Irene
    I forgot to address your concern about students. We were all students. All of us. We all experienced many interactions with our elders. These interactions included support, payment, education, patience, insults, ridicule, and disrespect. All of these things make us all better people!
    With all respect, John
    Keep writing!

  26. What a cruel and mean spirited attack on Toronto musicians who are learning, growing and trying to make a name for themselves. It would have been easy to make the point about the aquarium without mocking hard working people because they don’t fit your idea of the perfect representation of jazz. Just awful.

    • Firstly, the entire text (which it sounds like you read) is preceded by the warning “READER DISCRETION ADVISED – MAY CONTAIN RANT, COARSE LANGUAGE and ILL-CONSIDERED HUMOUR”.
      Secondly, I’m a man married to another man, and the phrase “squad of gay Russian Mafia hit-men” conjured a vividly specific and hilarious image for me. I’m appalled by homophobia as much as the next woman, but there’s no need to cultivate our sensitivity to the point that we become humorless raw nerves.

      • Bravo Thomas,

        “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel peace prize.” Tom Lehrer

        I fear that the same thing has happened to all satire or any humour, ever since the prevalence of political correctness.
        Steve Wallace, who hasn’t got a mean bone in his body and one of the most liberal minded people I know is FUNNY.
        In fact, the only offensive thing in that line is if it wasn’t funny. But it is.
        The juxtaposition of such a diverse and seemingly mutually exclusive bunch is a hallmark of humour.

        Jazz and humour are on a razor’s edge, and is always based in some truth. If you don’t try to walk that razor, i.e.; risk offending someone, then you don’t get the payoff, and life becomes a safe medium groove, risk-less bore.

        • I’m sorry this turned into a silly pissing contest, Steve. Wow. All you wanted to do was comment on the misuse of the word jazz, and poke fun at the concept of jazz in an aquarium. Everything went well until the comments ‘smelt’ bad.

          • With all due respect (and that’s quite a lot) John, Steve started the pissing. I know he told us he was going to do it so there’s that, and I too think the “gay Russian Mafia hit men” is funny. But he stuck his Littleneck out too far with denigrating the musicians. They may be bad but he doesn’t look good for saying it.

  27. I don’t like music and I especially don’t like jazz. They just make it up. Fish are nice. Please leave fish alone. They are like me – they dislike music.

  28. You are right, Harry. Nothing like a bit of ‘rant, coarse language and ill-considered humour’ to get everyone going. It may not be right, but it’s fun, in a self-indulgent way. I feel badly that people were hurt, and I regret a few of my comments too. It’s really easy to spout off on the internet. No inconvenient editors to get in the way.

    I don’t think anything should be retracted, but. if anything, the entire post could be removed, including the comments. Nothing more said. Bits to bits. Bytes to bytes. Chalked up to experience. In the grand scheme of things …

  29. Steve, you certainly got the attention of the masses on this one.

    I just wanted to comment that the Utah Jazz basketball team name has some degree of validity. The original team began in New Orleans in the mid 1970’s. After five fairly unsuccessful years, they relocated to Utah, where they have been ever since. One could make a legitimate argument that, as part of the relocation, they should have picked a more “Utah-like” name (it’s not like they were a team steeped in tradition at that point). But hey, we named our team after pre-historic, extinct beasts, so we shouldn’t throw stones.

  30. I say, lets take Steve out back and beat the snot out of him – oh wait! That has already happened here, albeit virtually, and I suppose it would constitute violence against blogging bassists. Oh dear.

    I confess that when I first read this post I thought, “Uh oh … The Jazz Plaice [police] are going to have a virtual field day with this one.”
    And … now there really is blood in the water. Ahem.

    While I, for one, never want to hear another chick singer joke and I concede that Jazz and the telling/writing of its history is about as macho as it gets, I can’t help but counter some of the sentiments here with the suggestion that jazz isn’t for the faint of heart.

    Jazz didn’t emerge from a “safe place” “created” to nurture younger musicians.
    The pioneers of this music routinely faced real bigotry, misogyny and hatred. As Annie in Bull Durham said, “You could look it up.”

    Pre-internet and itunes there were cutting contests and amateur shows where audiences and participants alike were merciless. African-American musicians on the road in the Southern States often legitimately feared for their very lives and practiced a thing called “the dozens” to toughen themselves up for the hatred and danger they were sure to encounter.

    I am irritated by a certain entitled tone here.
    While we may hope that they will always be models of grace and forbearance, our mentors don’t have to behave for us … they are not required to filter what they have to share with us before we will deign to receive their experience and wisdom.

    They don’t owe us anything.
    They don’t have to tell us anything.
    We’re very lucky when they do.

    The worst thing that could come of this fracas would be for Steve to stop writing. Now that would be a shame.

    • Bonnie,

      Unsurprisingly, you have come up with a well-thought out, coherent and original take on the whole thread voiced here.

      By the way, Sam Noto told me about him (the only white guy in the Basie band) getting a serious blast of the “dozens”, except he had no idea of what was going on. Until someone on the bus said: “Sam you can’t react, and punch that guy out for saying shit about your mother.”
      Sam said, “Why not?”
      The other musician said, “It’s the ‘dozens’, the trick is to see how much you can take without reacting, if you’re black in south it could save your life.”
      “We do it to each other all the time, training.”

  31. Thank you Bonnie. I was voting to delete this blog post. Now – it must remain on Steve’s site, in its entirety. You nailed it. Brava.

  32. How dare you poke fun at the promotional materials of musicians! Especially *gasp* hardworking ones. How can any of you even think of trivialities like humor, aesthetics, and artistic integrity at a time when the feelings of innocent wedding bands hang in the balance. Shame!

  33. I think all has been said. I now have stomach cramps from laughing. (No not crabs)
    Steve, you are a twisted man. Where do you find the time to write all this brilliant stuff?
    I thought you had a job. Thank you..chow for now. xogb

  34. Quay Passa? I had a neighbour classmate pass me WHALE OIL BEEF HOOKED on a page in Grade 10. He became an EMT, I learned at a re-union, while I did a Principal Chair/guitar /banjo Symphony service (fee and travel expenses), for Regis Philbin and wife Joy, at a Casino at age 55. Pluck, my life.
    From the Bay Of Fundy, herring about this Bremner Street weir-ding, chokes me up. Having a young friend, my Buddy’s son, J.D., a budding singer/guitarist(+) land in Toronto this decade, at 30 years of age, with his beautiful MBA girlfriend, virtually no pro experience back home, and musically pair up with une vocaliste/saxist (ergo jazz), while auditioning and playing in successive B-circuit cover bands as well, I can marvel at the variety of his appearances from NYE at The Esplanade, to other sunlit matinee gigs across the Great Canadian Shield there in under 5 years, as his proud mom Shares posts on FB.
    In TD Jazz Fest 2013-time, I reeled, having heard a Lutherian busker, as (myself just in from YYZ) I travelled over from TTC station, to swerve around St Andrews’ Kirk on Simcoe, a bag-of-head-guita’/ “There but for the Grace…” moment for me, as he sequeued from a Mixo-Lydian country blues into Carulli’s so-waltz LENTO, a paper grocery bag on his head, but, I recognized a fellow pseudo-classical-style-mutt-at heart. The Towers of Power loom over those busting streets, Roy Thompson Hall down the block, no less, 40 years playing the little etude myself, I’d never heard anyone else play LENTO, and he’s practically on a Hebridean Reef, on Lower Simcoe.
    The paying gigs people get up there, I need not tell you, are as protocol driven as my “Mobility” is a separate account from my Fibre Op, outside of THE BUNDLE. Thus endedth the lesson of the week, so, My Buddy drinks the Kool Aid as he echoes his son’s G.T.A. music biz mantra; “You Need A Manager…”.
    Besides a beeline to THE REX, fast from my hotel, with old friend (Ajax-in-bad-intent) saxist K.G., for the MIKE MURLEY Septet & Rudder, I’d heard a graduated guitarish-Mahal of Bag-of head-guita, then (K.G.’s friend) Orange Devils Martin Loomer, (Courtenay Pine’s) One Chord Joe, and my lifelong (until I met Bickert, in 1978) 6-string diety John McLaughlin with the 4th Dimension. all at N.P.S., plus The Jive Bombers at Don Mills, in under 30 hours? As Ed Bickert called “it” in CODA magazine last century, “the ‘biz”, it takes all kinds, there!

    This has nothing to do with Steve’s blog, but Steve, Terry Clarke and I are accompanying a great musician at the JAZZ BISTRO at the end of the month.
    I know Steve’s shy about self promotion, but I look at this as a way to simply disseminate information that any jazz fan who wants to hear great music should be happy to receive.
    In fact, I assume that there are fans of Steve’s (and jazz music) out there out there who would be rightly bugged that no mention of this opportunity to hear great music was made here. So I’ll do it.

    One other thing, the Jazz Bistro needs to see GOOD jazz like this strongly supported by asses in seats, or they will book other kinds of music, that DO put asses in seats.

    Mark Eisenman
    Jazz Bistro – Warren Vaché
    February 25, 26, 27
    9:00 pm – 11:30 pm
    Vache is a supremely accomplished, versatile and rare performer. He has been astounding audiences worldwide for decades with his superb cornet, trumpet and flugelhorn stylings.
    Don’t miss this opportunity to hear this great player with a stellar rhythm section consisting of if people attend, he’ll be back.

    Mark Eisenman (pn)
    Steve Wallace (bs)
    Terry Clarke (dr)

    At the wonderful Jazz Bistro, a beautiful room to listen to music, with the best piano in town.
    251 Victoria St.
    M5B 1T8 Toronto

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