The House With Leonard Cohen

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Manteca with Leonard Cohen
The House with Leonard Cohen

 

When I finished last nights Manteca concert at the Young Centre for Performing Arts, Lyne told me Leonard Cohen had passed away. Can one be down to earth and utterly elegant? Leonard could and it was not the suit, it was the man, his generosity of spirit, his kindness and his respect for others and his deep respect for words.

Here is a story I posted last year on my site.

U is for Ubiquitous. In 1993 my long-time friend, composer and collaborator Doug Wilde and I were co-leaders of a band called “The House”. Named thusly because we were the house band on a national CBC weekly “variety show”, as they were called in those days, hosted by Ralph Benmurgui. The producers had invited Leonard Cohen to play on the show to coincide with the release of his 9th studio album “The Future”. He was not yet touring, had just finished the recording and was nervous about playing with a house band. He agreed to do the show but wanted to play with his pre-recorded album tracks, the kiss of death for a live TV show. The producers asked me if I would write Leonard and lobby him to perform with our band by sending some recordings of the group. Easily done. I had met Leonard in 1988 while interviewing him for a BBC/ABC/CBC music show I co-hosted called “Wired”. Leonard is a master interview subject; present, measured, funny, philosophical. His vocabulary is striking, but not in a pretentious way; for example, he might call a tour, “an enterprise” or an abandoned idea would “overthrown”, to get out of something, one might “extract “ themselves…He speaks slowly, allowing himself time. to. consider. what. to. say. next*. It is a journalistic seduction – one starts to wait for the considered words of the poet with great anticipation. But unlike so many of the famous, his willingness to connect appears so genuine. During our interview, I truly believed there was no place he would rather be than talking to me.
I bragged to my journalist friends, ‘oh man, wait until you hear the interview I did with Leonard, it was incredible, he was so charming, so engaged…no question this is the best interview I have ever heard him do”.
“Really?” they would say, “he did a pretty great one on our show too”.
“ Yeah, right!”
And then I would hear the interview on their show and it would be the same interview, just as warm, just as revealing, just as exclusive feeling… but not exclusive at all, God damn it.
In my letter to Leonard that accompanied the recordings of the band, I reminded him of our previous meeting and in a couple days he got back to the producers and confirmed that he would be delighted to play with the house band and would be performing “The Future” and “Closing Time”. We had copies of the recording and were told that Leonard would bring the charts with him.
The day before he arrived I convened the band for a rehearsal and we learned Leonard’s tunes…in great detail and with a kind of live impact that the studio recording did not have. I told the band that when Leonard arrived they were to look his charts over and ask all kinds of questions, giving the impression they had never heard the tunes before….”when we get to the second chorus, does the pre-chorus repeat or do we just go right in? “Do you want the feel in the bridge to be more staccato”? “Do you want us to pick up the horn shots in the last chorus or play through?”
Leonard and his musical director were extremely gracious in answering our numerous queries and when all was set, Leonard turned to the band and said with his with his ever present elegance, “well, friend’s, shall we give this a try?”
Our drummer, Charlie Cooley, shouted out the count with über confidence; “…click, click, in, two, three, fooooouuur”! The band landed on the downbeat like a train, after the first 8 bars Leonard turned to us with a huge smile on his face….it struck me that he had not heard this song played by a live band before and he was both relieved and filled with joy.
After we performed, Leonard sat with Ralph for the interview and could not stop breathlessly talking about the band, “wow, I really appreciate your band, really grateful…they’re really great. Wow. ” Since this adventure, I have run into Leonard a few times at the grocery store, but I have never told him of our cheatin’ ways.
*When I teach public speaking I always show my students two speakers, Bill Clinton’s convention speech in 2012 for Obama for plain spoken message and Leonard Cohen in interview for pace… I tell them that during their speech, a tiny version of me is going to sit on their left shoulder and whisper in their ear: STFD, STFD, STFD…slow, the, fuck, down, slow, the,fuck, down.

 

Dolby Atmos Listening

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Manteca: Dolby Atmos

Mission accomplished! Bravo! Really a remarkable experience thank you everyone! This could not have been done with more precision, more craft, more warmth and kindness and more taste.

L to R

Front row: Jeff Wolpert – Engineer, Matt Zimbel – Manteca/ producer / Composer, Anthony Montuno – Dolby Atmos Mixer, Charlie Cooley – Drummer/Manteca

Second row: Colleen Allen – Sax/Flute/Manteca, Doug Wilde – keyboards/Composer/Manteca, Michael Nunan – Dolby Atmos Mixer, Walter Vanafro – Jazz FM Host

Third row: Ben Escobedo, Justin Auld, Doug Spears. All 3 from Sennheiser (Ben is Sennheiser USA, the other 2 gents from Sennheiser Canada)

Far right: Norman Verrall, HHB Canada representing Merging Technologies

Doug Wilde: I’m The Architect, He’s the builder

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Manteca: Doug Wilde

 

Doug Wilde and I have been working together, co-writing, touring, creating shows, leading bands on TV, doing music for film and advertising now for I guess about 40 years. In all that time we have never had a fight. More importantly, I think it would be fair to say that we have always been proud of what we have done. This collaboration has taken us and the music around the world from Australia to Italy to China to the US and throughout Canada. Doug describes our co-writing collaboration as; I’m the architect, he’s the builder. Which is not the case all the time, sometimes he’s the architect and the builder and I’m doing a little light landscaping over the septic.

Writing this album, The Twelfth of Never was a two-year process that began at his house in Toronto listening to what we called “records that changed music”. It was an eclectic mix, Miles (Blue), Moby (Play), Laura Mvula (Can’t Live With This World), Maria Joao, Oregon, Eddie Harris and Les McCann, Elizabeth Sheppard. Baaba Maal, Värttinä, Manni Sandhu & Jelly Manjitpuri. It was a crazy mash up of stuff, in many cases, it might not be entire songs that interested us, it could be just a groove or a background vocal part. The listening mission was to explore. We wanted the Manteca album to be less structured than our previous work, we wanted to “meander” through the charts, not be in such a hurry to get anywhere. We wanted our new guitar player Nick Taiteshi not to just get parts, but to “cast” the guitar as a character in the songs.

Over the years of working together, one of our most bizarre collaborations was when we were asked to audition for the Conan O’Brien show back in the early 90’s. That story, and it is quite a tale of death and resurrection and re-death is told here. Here is the audition which includes Manteca’s Charlie Cooley on Drums, the remarkable Neil Chapman on Guitar, Collin Barrett on Bass, Phil Dwyer on Sax, Dave Dunlop on Trumpet, Gord Myers on Bone, Doug on keys and me on percs.