Well it’s that time of year again, and what a terrific whirlwind year we had!

In 2014, SPEAK Music had the pleasure of working with some of the most talented artists in the country as well as some of the most exceptional media folk around.

Thank you all, we are so very grateful for your talent, support and friendship.
 
It’s such a joy to look back and see all of the wonderful people we’ve encountered, and how much has been achieved in such a short time. Here are a few of the many highlights throughout the year…
 
Multi-talented singer-songwriter and actress extraordinaire Andrea Menard released her inspiring CD LIFT at Musideum (with Robert Walsh and guest George Koller), and elevated us all with her bright energy, beauty and talent. Already a Canadian television star and nominee for a 2014 LEO award for her supporting role in APTN’s Blackstone, she toured Canada and won over fans at every stop.
 
Anslem Douglas, a Grammy-winning songwriter, Trinidadian-born and now Toronto-based, won Best Caribbean Style Artist at the BLACK CANADIAN AWARDS 2014 event and received all kinds of attention for his latest CD PROJECT A.D. which was in rotation on U.S. radio and offered much more than just the traditional style soca. He showcased at NXNE and was a major finalist in this summer’s Trinidadian Carnival competitions.
 
Isabel Fryszberg (formerly of Sisters of Sheynville), released the heart-breakingly beautiful HEARTS AND ARROWS to a packed house at Hugh’s Room, with her stellar band Isabel and the Uncommons. CBC and campus airplay, plus some really great reviews (will let you know when the No Depression one comes out shortly too), was a really impressive start to her solo career. Congrats Isabel!
 
Communism + Ben Sures & The Son Of Trouble Orchestra recruited us for their fall show at Hugh’s Room that highlighted Ben’s blues/roots/world music and Don Kerr’s high-energy rock trio. Look out for Ben at Winterfolk this year and for Communism’s debut album in the new year. Love these guys.
 
We have had the great pleasure to work with award-winning singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and world-jazz artist Daniela Nardi on various projects including her insanely great album Manifesto – The Songs of Paolo Conte, where she shared her signature interpretations of the songs by legendary Italian artist Paolo Conte. This year she also amped up her passion for championing Italian culture through her ESPRESSO MANIFESTO PRESENTS: SALONE DI CULTURA – ARTS NOW as part of Italian Heritage Month. And apparently they love her in Russia too.
 
Julian Taylor Band, well, what can we say? The man and the band have come a very long way this year, with the new, widely acclaimed CD TECH NOIR, charting in Canada and the US. With the recent addition of the track “Do You Remember” in an episode of NBC and eOne’s hit TV show Haven, and “Never Gonna Give You Up” in the CBS drama Elementary, starring Lucy Lui, Julian’s star is rising fast. Now a CBC darling to boot, he garnered “Song of the Week” on CBC’s Here and Now with “You Say.” He was interviewed on CBC’s The Next Chapter, Big City Small Worldand CBC News, and the network also took up the “be good to your woman” challenge issued by Julian and bandmate Jeremy Elliot, to post videos about what that statement actually means. Julian began this initiative in order to gather donations for women’s shelters and organizations. It was inspired by his Otis Redding-influenced song, “Be Good to Your Woman.”
 
Jane Bunnett’s Cuban connection continued when the four-time JUNO Award winner, two-time Grammy nominee, and Officer of the Order of Canada, soprano saxophonist/flautist once again brought the soul of Cuba to the hearts of Canadian music-lovers. She and her husband trumpeter Larry Cramer wrangled a group of 20-something Cuban women to Canada after recording with them and producing a spectacular new album called MAQUEQUE, released on Justin Time Records. These incredibly talented young women provided a perfect match for Jane’s virtuosic skills, showcasing at Lula Lounge, and followed by a national tour as well as a few stops in the US, such as NYC’s prestigious Blue Note Club. Jane is truly a hard-working, one-of-a-kind treasure.

A special shout out to Nancy at Justin Time Records for joining us in the weekly “virtual” cocktail hour! You make the best virtual margaritas! 😉
 
The Kingston Road Village Concert Series presents several shows a year at the Kingston Road United Church. This year so far we worked with a sexy and energetic tango ensemble called Payadora. Sizzling and fun to say the least. Also CBC’s Tom Allen and a string quintet from the Toronto Symphony presented a concert based on Vikram Seth’s evocative classic, An Equal Music. Tom Allen’s readings from the book were interwoven with the music that forms the backbone of the novel’s narrative.
 
Mike Field Jazz Quintet is a super hot group that utilizes some of the city’s best musicians. With his latest CD RUSH MODE in hand, composer and trumpeter Mike Field is always on the move, touring year-round, spending much of his time in LA, Italy, Germany and New Zealand. This year Australia was added to the list, where he also won two Independent Music Video Awards! Bravo!
 
Monsoon and the Toronto Indo Jazz Fest presented their sixth annual festival of unique and extraordinary jazz fusion. Monsoon’s debut CD MANDALA was also released at the Glenn Gould Studio to an adoring crowd, many of whom also helped them fundraise on Kickstarter. Again, the musicianship is astounding, especially for such a young group of fellows and the debut CD is gaining high praise from media and fans alike.
 
Toronto alt-rock ‘n’ reggae thriller ska band Random Order released their new spine-tingling, zombie-fied CD BLACK LIPSTICK KISS at the Mod Club. What a hoot working with fellow Kitchener homey Lynx Phillips. The group also performed at the 2014 Winterfolk Blues and Roots Fest and stole the show with their explosive blend of reggae, rock and ska influences. Rave reviews followed and a short tour in the US brought them continued success and press attention everywhere they went.
 
The Heavyweights Brass Band is one of the most dynamic New Orleans-style jazz groups around. Their latest release aptly named BRASSTRONOMICAL certainly covers the scope of talent here. A follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut DON’T BRING ME DOWN, this latest CD really packs a punch and the release concert at Lula Lounge was like no other. The excitement was palpable and the audience matched the nuclear energy exuding from the stage…like, melt-your-face, ground zero intensity…non-stop! To top it off, the fabulous Jane Bunnett joined them onstage –  an amazing collaboration. It’s always a thrilling ride working with these lads. We can’t wait for their upcoming summer festival tour!
 
The Toronto Bach Consort helped us to auger in the Christmas spirit with a delightful performance of Bach’s Oratorio, WEIHNACHTSORATORIUM BWV 248, held at the Runnymede United Church. As part of their way of “Giving Bach to the Community,” the proceeds are shared between Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee Education Program and Open Table Community Meal at the Church. Thanks Tim Dawson for being “all about that bass!”
 
Blues for Red Door was another charity venture conceived and presented by Big Rude Jake. This blues revue’s proceeds benefited the Red Door Family Shelter. In a fun twist, the backup band featured an acclaimed lineup of Toronto’s top female musicians, and the musical guest singers were all-star bluesmen performing at their very best, including Danny Marks, Jerome Godboo, Mark “Bird” Stafford and Big Rude Jake.
 
We were thrilled to be able to help out with a special concert of folk/roots music entitled Songs of Peace and Protest held in the sanctuary of Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, that featured six top-notch singer-songwriters – James Gordon, Mick Lane, Faith Nolan, Evalyn Parry, Tony Quarrington, and Len Wallace. As per the title theme, the concert was presented to highlight various issues of social and climate justice and oil dependency, plastic water-bottles, the Alberta tarsands and Enbridge’s Line Nine pipeline, plus the proposed nuclear waste-dump at Kincardine.
 
Winterfolk Blues and Roots Festival once again blew the roof off several venues as it returned to its rightful home on the Danforth in 2014. SPEAK Music is very proud to have helped in the expansion and rising profile of this great festival founded by musician and festival director Brian Gladstone. Many successful artists, like Serena Ryder and Ariana Gillis, appeared at the fest early on, which helped kick-start their careers. The tradition continues as we include veteran and emerging artists every year. Look out for the return of Kitchener-based JoJo Worthington to Winterfolk in 2015.
 
There are some new clients we’re excited to work with next year, and we’re also looking forward to some new adventures with returning clients in 2015.
 
We at SPEAK Music are very grateful for all that you are and all that you do to support and generate some of the best music this world has to offer!