Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Back in Paris, back to the web

Well, I'm back in Pareee. It feels great to be home after almost (no, wait, actually more than...) 6 months on the road. Such a pleasure to cook my own food and be surrounded by 'my stuff' and my music and my walls. The dog is snoring on the floor and all feels right with the world. And I'll be doing most of my blogging over on my site www.parislovesjazz.com.

I haven't been updating it for a while, but now that I'm back in the city of lights I figure it's time to hit the keyboard again. It's brought me some great friends and contacts and managed to work its way up to the top of Google's search engine listings for jazz in Paris. Not sure what that means - but it's kind of cool...

So drop by www.parislovesjazz.com and you'll probably get a good idea of where I've been this week, or my plans for the weekend - and if you're in town, then please join me


Sunday, July 18, 2010


I'm not reading reviews this summer.

God, that feels terribly decadent and pleasurable to be able to say that. It's an incredibly self-indulgent pleasure to just perform for the audiences, and do the show, and not pay any attention to the reviewers. I got kind of obsessed in the last fringe tour I did - with Whiskey Bars, and the reviews - either good or bad - and god knows I had a lot of both - really started to affect the way I performed and my pleasure in the work, so this summer, I figured I'd just get up there and sing and let the audience tell me whether the show was good or bad...

But Lisa is keeping track for the files - and a thoughtful one came up, and they liked it, so I'll post the link here - I haven't read it, but apparently it gives a good idea of the show, and god knows I'm crap at describing my own work.... so here goes



Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pigs first night out

well, that was stressful – and fun!

the first show in ottawa of a new text with new music and new instruments in a byov where I’m running the sound and costume changes and musical accompaniment…. ack…

it went fairly well…. no, honestly, I have no idea how it went. Everyone stayed for the whole show (always a good sign!), and at the end they seemed happy. But I have no perspective. I’ve had my head inside this show for a long rehearsal process, and I’m still not sure what I’ve come up with. A story, within a story, within a story… and a character that is the actor that is the character and a set of wildly cheerful happy songs presented in a way that veers between the maniacally delighted and the deeply tragic.

For now I’ll rest on my laurels… the show is up and running. There’s a whole whack of details and storylines that I now see need to be polished and tightened, but I’ll leave that for tomorrow, when I can see straight.

Monday, June 07, 2010

In a dark room with a lot of words and music

The last weeks are always like this …. though I swear every time that I will have the piece done and ready a month before, I end up in a dark room in the days before the opening with a lot of words and music trying to put them all together in the way that I imagined.

The Pig of Happiness is a reworking of a show I tried out last year at the London Fringe – The Barker’s Spiel …. however, extensive marketing research at the fringe revealed the title was impossible to pronounce for the average theatre goer… so changes were made. I thought this would be just a tiny tweak to the text and music, but it ended up being a total reworking of the piece.

So, the studio is full of paper – I work by sticking big sheets of brown paper all over the walls and then when I’m working on the show I can make notes with markers and stick ideas and images. It makes for a flexible way to work, but even I have to admit it sort of looks like I’m a crazy person living in a room, writing on the walls…

The Studio in mid rehearsal

at the moment there’s 12 songs and a ukulele and a concertina and an old casio and some backtracks and a bunch of text and old lights and costumes and a soft shoe shuffle and it all adds up to about an hour and forty five minutes — which is a problem since by the time I open in Ottawa on the 19th I have to have to cut it down to an hour….

it’ll be an interesting two weeks…. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes

you can see more of the work, and videos and listen to music at www.bremnerduthie.com

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Summer Plans

I'm on the road again! Well, almost... in June gonna start moving from Toronto to Victoria with a new cabaret show and also a jazz concert.

(and between you and me - both of the shows adapt to impromptu spaces like living rooms and gallery spaces and church basements ... so if you'd like me to detour over to your community or home or neighbourhood, just give me a shout and I'd love to head over and use it as a chance to meet up)

The Pig of Happiness is a cabaret about.... well, about being a pig for happiness...

here's the blurb - ‘To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.’ Elevate your spirit, kick-start your karma and become one with the Pig. A new show from cabaret singer Bremner Duthie. From Weill to Nirvana to Britney to Brel to Tom Waits. From a howl to a lullaby. “Seedy. Stirring. Utterly memorable. – Andrew Clover, Sunday Times, UK

And the Sky Was Blue is a new album of standards and re-imagined pop songs.

I like to say it's like a big old brass bed – a well pounded mattress of bouncy old jazz springs, a colourful quilt of pop twang, and a huge fluffy feather pillow of Sixties soul.

more information on both of them at www.bremnerduthie.com

Some of the shows I'm doing this summer are still fixing dates and times, but here's a short list below.

I'll be in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, B.C.

Ottawa, Ontario
Ottawa Fringe Festival - June 21 - 28
Laurier Royal Oak Pub
The Pig of Happiness,a cabaret

Wakefield, Quebec
Piggyback Festival - June 25 - 27th
'The Pig of Happiness', a cabaret

Swift Current, Saskatchewan
Chautauqua Festival - June 9 + 10
'Whiskey Bars'a kabarett with the songs of Kurt Weill

Toronto, Ontario
Annex Live Restaurant Cabaret, July 13th
Speak Low, the songs of Kurt Weill

Winnipeg, Manitoba
Winnipeg Fringe Festival - July 14 - 25
The Pig of Happiness, a cabaret

Winnipeg Manitoba
Centre Culturel Francopho Manitobann
Mardi-Jazz - July 20th, 2010, 8:30pm

Winnipeg, Manitoba
Mcnally-Robinson Bookstore July 24th
Saturday night Jazz at Prairie Inc.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Saskatoon Fringe Festival July 29 - Aug 7
The Pig of Happiness, a cabaret

Gabriola Island, British Columbia
Gabriola Theatre Festival, August 22nd
Whiskey Bars, a kabarett with the songs of Kurt Weill

Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver International Fringe Festival - Sep 9 - 19th
The Pig of Happiness, a cabaret

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

All new Weill

Spent the last months reading the collected letters of Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill, a couple of Weill biographies and the remarkable biography of Lotte Lenya. Also searched through Weill's complete works to find new material that I want to explore in this upcoming cabaret.

Years ago I created Whiskey Bars because I was frustrated by doing the songs in recital. Well, now I'm creating a cabaret (that resembles a recital) along with the remarkable pianist and singer Neill Kernohan, because I'm frustrated about doing the songs in a theatrical venue. I want to be able to sing these songs and not be in costume, not worry about lights and theatres and sound and just be able to sing.

But I still think the songs deserve (like any great jewel) to be placed into a great setting. So I'm hoping to link them up with stories, anecdotes and reflections about his life and times and the complex relationship he had with Lotte Lenya. Their lives together spanned two world wars and a half dozen countries and some of the most important artistic and political movements of the 20th Century.

We did a first workshop performance this month as a house concert in the welcoming salon of pianist Lawrence Pitchko, we'll do another in May. No theatre, no makeup, no costumes. Just the music and some reflections on the extraordinary life of Kurt Weill.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Bloody Business

It's a broadsword and dagger extravaganza! I'm walking onstage soon with a new production of Macbeth. We're all done up in designer suits and carrying blackberrys and iphones, but also carrying daggers and broadswords. It is a small cast, so we're all playing several roles, and I think (at last count) I die four times (that's not counting the off-stage dispatching of myself as Duncan) The only character I play that makes it through the show alive is the Porter, with his great licentious speeches... A wonderful adaptation by Tommy Taylor of Forward Theatre and fabulous stage fighting choreography by Christian Feliciano.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Lisa Pasold looking fab and reading the opening paragraphs of Rats of Las Vegas, at SPOT - Small Press fair of Toronto. The huge bay windows of the Gladstone Hotel look out on Queen St West and framed a wonderful reading series hosted by Sang Kim.



RATS OF LAS VEGAS features Millard Lacouvy, a short, plain, fiercely independent girl who is a prodigy in the male world of poker. Millard learns her craft in Depression-era Vancouver and then graduates to high stakes games on the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the trains fail to satisfy either her ambition or her need for security, she goes to Bugsy Siegels Las Vegas. There, her talent with cards brings her a new kind of family. But she is haunted by the handsome conman she has known all her life, and she learns that love can also be a game of chance. Along the way, Pasold gives us a rich and convincing historical portrait of Vancouver and Vegas in the 1940s.

Buy the book at http://www.amazon.com/Rats-Las-Vegas

Filmed at the Small Press Book Fair in Toronto.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

March 4th at the Cameron

Come along, it'll be half party, half concert, audience participation is threatened but not guaranteed, the ambiance is spiffy, the beer is great and the location is simply historic.

the CD is jazz with a dark, pop twist, pulling in songs from the Velvet Underground and the Talking Heads. I think it sounds like Tom Waits and Frank Sinatra in a fist fight over who gets to sing next in a red velvet lounge in Vegas.

or maybe it's less violent and more romantic to say it sounds like a big old brass bed – you know... a well pounded mattress of bouncy jazz springs, a colourful quilt of pop twang, and a fluffy feather pillow of Sixties soul.

what else should I tell you? Stories??

Should I tell you how the CD was originally meant to be a jagged mix of electropop and jazz, but the producer got a better paying gig and quit days before the recording session?

Should I tell you about my panic as I realized I was faced with four days in the studio, and no idea how to deal with it?

Should I tell you about the day the charmingly stoned guitarist forgot both his guitar and amp, and did the day's recording on what was basically a toy guitar that was kicking around the studio?

Should I tell you about my despair as I listened to the feeble twangings that were recorded from that cheap instrument straight onto the board?

or should I tell you about how those four amazing musicians pulled together without any producer and simply did what I should have had confidence they would do in the first place - use their talents and skill to put down some amazing music, and challenge me to come up with vocals to match.

and should I tell you about the studio engineer who, when he was mixing the CD, heard the guitar sounds and went straight to the back of his cluttered space, pulled out a 1963 fender amp, rerouted the tiny guitar through that amp, added some reverb and rerecorded the whole thing... giving me a sound like it fell out of a gorgeous '60's blues album.

or how my friend Toni Mustra donated his amazing graphic talents to create a gorgeous, mysterious album cover crafted from a shot of a cloud drifing through the Blue Sky over Trinity Bellwoods park in Toronto.

I'm not sure if I should tell those stories... but if you're curious, and want to hear some more gossip... and what it sounds like live... well, come by the Cameron House (the Back Room... the party room!) on March 4th, and we'll show off a bit...

'The Sky Was Blue' was recorded in Paris at Bopcity Studios with Remi Amblard, Benoit Gil, Thierry Tardieu and Tomasso Montagnani.

I'll be accompanied on the 4th by the extraordinary talents of Scott Metcalf on keyboards, Scott Kemp on Bass, Robin Pirson on drums and Joel Schwarz on Guitar.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Splendid Koko

Delighted to have been part of the launch of the new very spiffy venture of my friend Sang Kim - KoKo in Yorkville. Extraordinary space, renovated with 100 year old beams of wood from an ancient Ontario barn. Great mix of antiquity and glowing modernity. Amazing Japanese/Korean cuisine and wow, those cocktails... as yet unnamed creations from behind the bar based on various Asian alcohols...

The first outing of the new group, with Robin Pirson on drums (or drum, as he could only fit a snare and a multitude of little percussion instruments onto the performance space), Scott Metcalf on piano and Scott Kemp on Bass.

We played three eve-more fun sets. Finished the evening with a rap/jazz version of Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark (as my French guitarist Benoit Gil said after our first try at this arrangement "Are we allowed to play this song like thees? What eeef her lawyers hear it....")

Looking forward to taking a 2nd shot at the songs at the Album launch on March 4th at the Cameron House on Queen St.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gil's back

Very excited to hear the extraordinary (and tragic) singer Gil Scott-Heron has a new album. The producer had to hunt down the singer and poet in the Riker's Island Prison in NYC. Gil's been a heroin addict for years, and, though I've deliberately avoided finding out about the details of his fall from grace, it seems that he's been about as damaged and destructive as anyone who has decided to devote themselves to this drug.

His voice is shattered and broken, but the musicality and poetry is still intact. He now sounds like one of those ancient, mythical blues recordings out of the deep south in the twenties and thirties. Singing a hard road.

I saw him play in Toronto in 1983 at the Bamboo Club. I remember being almost the only (incredibly young) white face in a sea of guys who looked like they could have had walk-on roles in the Shaft movies. It was a great gig.

this widget is from the guardian - click on the link to go their page or click 'play all' to hear the whole album


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Holy Reposting Batman

And in an odd turn of events, the National Post picks up the press release I sent out about my last blog and runs it in their blog...


the web is almost as strange as show business

Crazy Corrupt Carnival

In my show Whiskey Bars there's a line I stole from David Mamet; "Show business is a crazy corrupt carnival, and always will be." He's saying that if you want to be part of the business that is what you have to sign up for. I think he's right. The unpredictability of the whole thing is truly astounding.

Ten years ago I did a version of Whiskey Bars at the Toronto Fringe. The first evening was terrifying. I had sold quite a few ticks and I had five reviewers in the audience. The evening probably changed my life. The audience liked the show, a lot, and it began a run of growing numbers in the audience. I actually made money from my own work and creativity! The reviews however showed me how crazy the industry was.

The same show on the same night resulted in five completely different reviews, ranging from four stars and wild enthusiasm in Eye Magazine to 'nice show, could use some work on the script' in Now Magazine (which honestly I think was the most accurate for the state of the show at the time) to a strange almost hysterical attack in the Toronto Star. It was like they had seen five different shows. It cured me forever from taking reviews seriously. I suddenly realized 'oh, it's not about some intrinsic artistic worth of the show, it's totally subjective.' Since that time the show has made a lot of people laugh and cry around the world, and that is what has made it worthwhile for me.

Last week the show got another hysterically negative review, which read more like an attack than an artistic assessment of the work. It was wonderful and awful at the same time. Exhilarating and affirming that a show I wrote (which, if you've seen it, is a fairly simple proposition - I put on a tuxedo and sing a bunch of old songs)can inspire vitriol that seems out of proportion to the event. And a total drag, since I figured with only that one review it would kill the audiences and I'd have to cancel the run.

I turned up for the show last night and told the gang not to set anything up until we knew if we had an audience. I brought cake so we could have a little 'closing night party'. We sat on the stage and waited and chatted and stared at the cake and waited. And then, an hour before the show, Lisa poked her nose out to see if anyone was there. We had two people. Then another. Then another. The stage crew convinced me that since there were more people in the audience than on stage (not hard with a one-man!) I had to do the show. I was not thrilled, but we set up the stage and I retired to the back stage.

To cut a long story short, living up the unpredictable nature of show business, we ended up with the largest crowd we've had for the show. Not a sell out, but a great audience who seemed to love the show and who had come because of the review. That really awful review.

Maybe Oscar Wilde said it best... "The only worst thing than being talked about, is not being talked about"... or, less eloquently, but more to the point, as PT Barnum said, "All Publicity is Good Publicity"

or maybe I'll just never understand this surprising show business carnival...

Monday, January 25, 2010


In Paris was lucky enough to have ticks to the premiere of Igor and Coco, a docu-movie about the brief love affair between Stravinsky and Chanel. Honestly, I was dragged to it. Historical romance. Not my thing.

What I didn't realize was that the movie was a very non-romantic look at two immensely talented, creative people and how that creativity affected the way they lived their lives. The first long scene - a recreation of the riot caused by the Rite of Spring - is simply extraordinary. I think most amazing since the director managed to capture how the event might have actually felt.. inspiring and scary... I'm working on a new piece and I've been watching it again for that reason..

I put the trailer for it here (though honestly it makes it look like an overly dramatic chic flic)


and the St. Petersburg Mariinsky's recreation of the dance


Friday, January 22, 2010

The Room

Nice article on Cabaret in Art News - discusses an issue I always find difficult to explain - i.e. just what the hell is Cabaret anyway. Naked Girls in Feathers? Guys in Tuxedo and Whiteface? An unconnected set of skits? Provocation? Entertainment?

I think he's still defining it against that mainstay of US Cabaret - the aging singer hacking their way through a bunch of broadway songs in a wood paneled hotel bar - an entertainment form in which I have less than zero interest - but it's got some nice points...

"Main Entry: cab·a·ret
Pronunciation: \ˌka-bə-ˈrā, ˈka-bə-ˌ\
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from Middle French dial. (Picard or Walloon), from Middle Dutch, alteration of cambret, cameret, from Middle French dial. (Picard) camberete small room, ultimately from Late Latin camera -- more at chamber
Date: 1655
1 archaic : a shop selling wines and liquors
2 a : a restaurant serving liquor and providing entertainment (as by singers or dancers) : nightclub b : the show provided at a cabaret

There's only a small scene here in San Francisco. Mostly it's based out of a venue called The Rzazz Room, a low-ceilinged nook in a corner of the Hotel Nikko downtown. But other venues host cabaret-like events such as Yoshi's, Bimbo's, The Exit Theatre, The Eureka Theatre and the Marine's Memorial Theatre.

It's really a very amorphous artform that seems to feed on the outer edges of other more well-defined genres such as musical theatre, jazz and singer-songwriting. Few artists these days can be said to be truly indigenous to cabaret. I suppose that's not surprising when the word itself means a container for art -- the walls between which it exists -- than the art itself."

here's more of the article

Monday, January 11, 2010

Longer than a minute

A while ago I was cutting down some footage from Whiskey Bars and I showed it to a friend. He saw that it was three minutes long (cut from an hour long show). He shook his head and said, 'No one will ever watch this. It's too long. Get it down to below a minute." I took his advice, for better or worse, but lately it's been nagging me. When did our concentration level get to the point where more than a minute of focus seems like an effort. I recently watching the opera Les Troyens - all five and a half hours of it - and I can't say I really got into it until the second hour.

Anyway... enough ranting. I write that just because I'm putting up a new video for a song from the new album, 'The Sky Was Blue', and its four and a half minutes long. Quite a stretch for the new age. An homage to The Talking Heads, and the songwriting skills of David Byrne. Heaven.


filmed in the Yukon in Dawson City, and at the best bar in Canada, the Pit, at the Westminster Hotel.