Korea Town Acid

Fans of eclectic electronic music will probably love this.

Korea Town Acid is the performing alias of Toronto-based DJ/Producer Jessica Cho, who performed last Saturday at the Toronto Sound Festival (Marion and I attended as part of my birthday celebrations!)

Toronto Sound Festival logoHer strengths are rhythmic and timbral variety, as well as the ability to create an infectious groove – although, I was chagrined at the lack of it visceral impact as evidenced by the lack of movement from the mostly-younger-than-me audience, but that’s on them!  Marion and I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop moving.  I would also characterize her music as very atmospheric and very textural, and by that I don’t mean “ambient” – there’s too much interest for it to be “ambient”, in my opinion.  Her musical influences seem to be widespread given the variety of synths and samples that hint at numerous sub-genres.  Apparently, she approaches creating her tracks in an improvisatory fashion, and that’s damn cool if you ask me.


Photo: by Ella Rinaldo for MUTEK

I went to get her to sign my notebook but she seemed like she couldn’t be bothered.  Trying to break the ice, I mentioned I had taught in Korea for three years. Sadly, ZERO response.  Ok, so she hasn’t lived there in decades but hey, she goes by the name Korea Town Acid!    I can only speculate as to why she seemed so cold.

Nevertheless, I intend to seek out her music online, track down her EP Mahogani Forest and keep an eye out for future releases.

More info:

Article in NOW Magazine by Michelle Da Silva (June 13, 2018)


Sax Drive, Ep. 4 Success

Group Photo Sax Drive Full Band

Just a quick note to say we had an awesome gig last Thursday night (Nov. 21st) at the Southern Cross lounge of the Tranzac Club.  Big thanks to Lauren Barnett, for hooking us up with it (and for playing alto so beautifully in our band)!  And of course, big thanks to the rest of the band for pouring their musical souls into the set.

The small 50-person capacity room was pretty much full of enthusiastic supporters, some friends and some strangers, probably most hearing the band for the first time. We received so much positive feedback on our music and I think it bodes well for our future. My friend Alison Hall – who heard us at HONK! ON – said it was even better than what she was expecting, and that our “lush” sounds were better appreciated in a venue like this than in a big park.

It was amazing to be able to feed off the energy – the whistles and cheers – as we played our eight-song set. You never know what kind of crowd to expect, especially appearing as unknowns at a recurring event like this.  Lauren might get a full-house one night and only a handful on another night.  We couldn’t have asked for better experience – it felt like a bit of a party!

What most didn’t realize is that, while it’s our fourth appearance as a band, it was our very first appearance as the real deal – the full band with no subs sitting in (our “true self” lol).  That makes a big difference to our sound, of course. Not only is it meant to sound like a seven-piece, the contributions of the regular crew means a tighter sound and one that will only improve the more we play together.  Yesterday, I listened to the set, which we recorded on a ZOOM Recorder, and damn we sounded good.

We didn’t get to play all ten songs of our current repertoire, but we did close out with a “world premiere” of “Under a Demon’s Thumb”, which I re-titled “Under a Demon’s Thumbnail Sketch” in light of the Drawing Free For All theme.  I adapted a few other titles, too.  I did this at Drom Taberna back in July and I can see changing titles to fit the gig becoming a little bit of a fun gimmick (even if I just entertain myself, I suppose).

Anyway, we don’t have our next gig scheduled in yet, but we’re planning to get together soon to record a couple demos and then break for the holidays.


Sax Drive, episode #4

My new band Sax Drive is playing later this week.

November Sax Drive - Made with PosterMyWall

Lauren Barnett, who plays alto sax in Sax Drive, hosts this really cool event on the third Thursday of each month at Tranzac, 292 Brunswick Ave.  At 10pm until midnight you can sit in a cozy lounge, listen to great music and draw to your heart’s content – Lauren provides the supplies.

This month Lauren has connected her Drawing Free For All with the groovy jazz sounds of Sax Drive: five saxophones, bass and drums. Joining her are Scott Pearce on alto, Nicole Auger and Micaela Morey on tenor, Tavo Diez De Bonilla on bass, Trevor Yearwood on drums and yours truly on the bari sax.

Sax Drive plays from 10-11-pm and is followed by Tom Richards on piano.

It’s our fourth appearance and we’re premiering a couple new tunes. It’s bound to be a fun time.

I’ll be dedicating the show to the memory of my teacher and friend, Paul Bendzsa, who passed away last Thursday.  I know he’d appreciate our music and also the connection with visual art.

R.I.P., Mr. Bendzsa

I received word this afternoon: Paul has passed away.

I’ve been dreading and expecting this all week.  And I still can’t believe it.

As I’m processing this, I’ve been checking out some of his music where I can find it online.  (As I write this I’m enjoying some improvisations he recorded with Michael Venart and company).

One of his main projects I’ve admired in recent years has been his duo with Rob Power, called Spanner.  There’s info on Rob’s site about their eponymous 2006 album, as well as Dark Boat (2009).  I highly recommend this music.

You can hear him on YouTube playing a piece called Nautilus for clarinet and electronics by David Keane.

On a note closer to home, here’s a touching home-made video of Paul on soprano saxophone and his son Nick on guitar playing an original song called “Apple Cider.”

My heart goes out to his family.


Paul Bendzsa

I received some devastating news yesterday evening:  Paul Bendzsa, mentor and friend,  was in palliative care and taken off life support.  A young, exuberant 76-year-old, who belied his age by decades, and whom I figured would live to be 100+, now only has hours left.

While on some “objective” level it might be exaggerating to say, I believe the path to the individual I’ve ultimately become began the day I stepped into Paul’s office at the MUN School of Music for my first saxophone lesson with him.  People for whom the label “Musician” refers to their core identity, will know what I mean. I didn’t start to become a Musician until I began working with Paul and I wouldn’t be the musician I am – especially one for whom improvisation plays a central role – without Paul Bendzsa. It was January 1993 and I wasn’t yet 20 years old – and still a business major, for crying out loud! – and all that mattered before that day would matter less and less as Paul coached me over the next several years into the creative spirit that I am today.

I think we worked on an Arthur Frackenpohl piece called “Air for Alto” on that first day.  I remember him devising a 5- or 6- note phrase, although I don’t remember the exact words, that would help me relate to how to play the opening sequence. And although it would be a struggle for months, he got me out of the bad playing (tone production) habits I’d developed up to that point.  Over the years, people have complimented me on my saxophone tone and Bendsza deserves at least half the credit.

He subsequently mentored me through solo recitals, chamber music and jazz band concerts.  We had an extra-curricular improvisation group “Shades of Orange” in my graduating year.  On top of all that were the laughs and the hugs.

Not enough will ever be said about this man and his impact on the music community of St. John’s, NL.  I know my friends (and fellow players) like Greg Bruce, Susan Evoy and Chris Harnett all feel the same way.

Where would we be without Paul Bendzsa?

We all loved him like family.  And it’s impossible to put into words how much we appreciated him and how much we will miss him.

paul bendzsa


more info:

Paul’s 2018 Sound Symposium bio

Paul’s profile at the Canadian Music Centre

Samba Elegua, October PSK

Another event at the last Pedestrian Sunday in Kensington (PSK) was a performance by Samba Elegua, of which I’m a member – since August I’ve been in good standing after a near-total absence since the fall of 2017 (wink, wink to Samba Elegua members).  We played along Augusta Ave from 6:00 to 6:30pm: samba, dancehall, funk and samba-reggae, all to our hearts’ delight.

I love this band. I love the people in it and I love the vibe.  As our website states, Samba Elégua is “a non-profit, volunteer-run musical community, powered by the passion of its members. It is free to join and open to all, from novices to experienced players.”

Notice this last bit.  WE NEED MORE MEMBERS!!!  Especially, we need caixa players.  (caixa is a Brazilian snare drum).  There were only two of us at the last performance and, as loud and as passionate as we are, two of us can’t keep up with the pounding of the big surdos, who typically lay down the beats behind us, and the thrilling, melodic clatter and clanging  of the the tamborims and agogo bells ahead of us.

Here’s a picture – taken by my buddy-in-brass-bands, trumpeter Gerry Bortolussi – of us milling about before we get set to play.  Some are into the cat-themed, Halloween spirit; I’m not sure about myself, whom you can see to the right all dressed in black and decked out in hat and shades.