Corby's Orbit

Corby's Orbit
Listening in All the High Places illustration by John Kricfalusi

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Elizabeth Shepherd's Parkdale Album and Corby's Orbit ... Plus Ten Years

On July 13, 2008, I went into the studio at CKLN.FM and I said: "This is your last warning: You are now entering Corby's Orbit." Then I played Music Is Love by Neil Young off David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name album. Then we were off - and on the air for the next ten years and counting.

Corby's Orbit survived the persecution and assassination of CKLN as performed by its inmates and the CRTC in 2012 by going underground, along with several other CKLN alumni, to a kinder asylum, on Radio Regent in Regent Park, which had newly opened under the direction of  Regent Park Focus Media Arts Center.

The range of talent that has visited me to chat and perform there amazes me when I look back. It is all documented on this blog and much of it is on video at YouTube's Radio Regent and Corby`s Orbit channels.

Coincidentally, also on July 13, 2008, Elizabeth Shepherd released her second album, Parkdale. After creating an international hipster smash in jazz and dance circles with her first album, Start To Move, the transplanted MontrĂ©aler settled into a basement apartment in Parkdale, and began work on a new LP, a musical love letter to the neighbourhood that provided her with a new set of responses to her humanistic musical aspirations. Parkdale was a work that expanded the spectrum of Canadian jazz, by skewing towards a more breezy and cosmopolitan lyricism while embracing exotic time signatures, hip hop syncopation and deeply personal content. 

To celebrate these two pivotal inceptions at a distance of ten years, a concert featuring the music of Parkdale and the brightest talents of the Orbital community is coming together on Sunday the 15th of July at the ballroom in the Gladstone Hotel to re-sing, to re-imagine, to re-invent the most specifically Toronto music of Elizabeth Shepherd's career.

Musical director Nick Maclean first came into the Orbit as a band leader / composer for his award-winning band Snaggle, but since then, his management of various jazz tribute nights, especially one for the excruciatingly complex music of Snarky Puppy, made him an obvious choice for coordinating the musical presentation of Parkdale. When he told me he'd secure the original Parkdale rhythm section of Colin Kingsmore and Scott Kemp, I got the cosmic tingles. His horn highness, Brownman Ali, completed the backing quartet.

As Elizabeth's former Do-Right label-mate and occasional co-fabulator of songs, Jessica Stuart was the first candidate that came to mind for the reinvention honours. Her band The Jessica Stuart Few has an international fan base and a set of fine jazz-pop albums that have received widespread airplay. Also, bearing in mind that she is the all-time favourite guest on Corby's Orbit, with four appearances over the decade, I had to recall her memorable radio moments, including the time a dreadlocks called in to keep her from trimming hers (too late), and the on-air transference of an epic virus that I had been bequeathed by Kim Churchill the week before. Music is not the only thing that is communicable.

And after that, every time that I mentioned Elizabeth Shepherd, peoples' eyes popped open. When I went to Chloe Watkinson's major Universe-al tour de force at the Opera House in January, both Tia Brazda and Denielle Bassels came on strong to me about their love of Ms. Shepherd's work. The next thing you know, Denielle was on the bill. Tia is on tour on the week of, but she had had an intense desire to participate. And now suddenly, Chloe has signed on too.

Valeria Matzner came up to the Orbit last month for her CD release party and when I asked about her favourite Canadian singers she immediately mentioned Elizabeth Shepherd. Hired! Jocelyn Barth is a former teaching colleague and a hugely influential and kinetic presence in the right-now Toronto jazz style.

And Carin Redman, on the staff at my current school, just exploded when I brought Elizabeth's name into the conversation. Her current collabo with Yvette Tollar and Thyron Lee Whyte in Red Whyte and Tollar - all Shepherd fans -  will be getting broad exposure soon. 

Rebecca Campbell is about the most called-up singer in town, and when I see her at a show, I am always confident that I'm in for a good night of music. She has been a frequent Orbital feature over the years and was especially treasured when she came down to sing Ron Hynes' magnificent A Good Dog Is Lost during Winterfolk a few years back. Only a year ago she introduced me to her colleague in the Savantes, Collette Savard, who became an instant pal, and who has, btw, put out one of the best albums of original songs that I've heard earlier this year. Along with Megan Worthy they will be performing two tunes, including one of Collette's that bears a fine comparison with Ms. Shepherd's work.

The Memberz are the performers that I am the most proud of having on the bill. I have been playing guitar with them for the last five years, and their ability to revive the quality of innovation inherent in reggae has recently been made obvious with the release of our second single, Work It Out. Our own Charmizelle will take on a Parkdale song and we should have enough energy left over to rock an after party and dance to end the night.

The music will be unique to the night and FIFA will be just finishing up that afternoon, so you may have something to celebrate yourself. It will be a potent and perfect collection of Toronto's best singers, and a great Sunday night to introduce yourself to, or to revisit the swoony and shadowy music of Elizabeth Shepherd's Parkdale, early in the evening of the dark of the moon, and to find out what Corby's Orbit is all about besides. At ten years up and flying, they are both modern Canadian classics.

Tickets are $12 in advance here Parkdale - A Reinvention and $15 at the door.
The Memberz after party will cost $5.


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