Author Tags: Music, Poetry
Jamie Reid was a member of the original five-member editorial board of TISH, the Vancouver poetry newsletter at UBC, in 1961. He became a co-organizer (with many others), and a spokesperson for, the first Vancouver Human Be-In in Stanley Park, in 1967. That year he also visited to the Okanagan Valley and produced poems that appeared in his first book in 1968. Reid became thereafter, in his own words, "a fierce communist for almost twenty years," mainly in central Canada. Until 1987, Reid renounced and left behind the somewhat insular concerns of former literary pals who turned from radicalism to university teaching jobs.
Jamie Reid returned to West Coast with an open mind in 1987, producing a hasty but keen appreciation of the Diana Krall's music career in 2002. This was followed by an cumulative work of poetry, I. Another. The Space Between: Selected Poems that incorporates early work and reflects upon his period of disengagement from the literary scene. He also published a chapbook, Homages (Pooka Press).
Jamie Reid was born in Timmins, Ontario in 1941. His parents were from Canmore, Alberta, but his mother had lived on Vancouver Island. Having taken a job as a mining engineer for a Timmins gold mine after his marriage, Reid's father soon enlisted in the Canadian army as an engineer. While Reid's father was at war in Britain and Italy, his mother took him to live in Banff, Alberta. "My father was never the same after the war," Jamie Reid recalls. "He suffered several mental breakdowns. He lived with us briefly in 1946, long enough to see the birth of my brother, Robert, who died when he was 21-years-old." Two other siblings died as young children: Jamie Reid's brother Douglas died while his father was training in Chilliwack and his sister Janet died in Banff while his father was overseas. "My father lived with us again for about a year in 1952," he recalls, but then he and my mother separated permanently."
A registered nurse, Jamie Reid's mother became Night Supervisor at the University Hospital in Edmonton after the Reid family moved there in 1948. She subsequently became matron of the Aberhart Sanitorium for tuberculosis patients. "It was always her dream to live on the West Coast," he recalls, "so we moved to Vancouver in 1953. "She became Night Supervisor at Shaughnessy Hospital but later, because of the pressures of working nights and raising two children, she gave up her supervisory position for a position as a regular nurse on the Shaughnessy psychiatric ward." She was head nurse of that ward when she retired in 1976.
Influenced by three teachers at King Edward High School (Ida Abel, Mary Fallis and Mr. Fitzpatrick), Reid began to read Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, leading him to the works of Rimbaud, Baudelaire, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Irving Layton and Raymond Souster. "I also became interested in modern jazz," he recalls. "I still remember the day in 1959 when I went to the record store and played the Miles Davis album 'Milestones' in one of the booths that record stores used to have in those days: that was the sound that I had been waiting to hear all my life."
UBC professors Jake Zilber and Tony Friedsen encouraged Reid during an undergraduate writers' workshop. "I first met George Bowering at one of the meetings at Tony Friedsen's house," he recalls. "He was the first live poet that I had ever met. I mean, some people that I knew had written poetry, but George was the first person that openly said he wanted to be a poet as his life's activity. And so I decided to be a poet, too."
Jamie Reid formative experiences with TISH at UBC led him to be influenced by local writers such as Bowering, Frank Davey, Fred Wah, Gladys Hindmarch and Lionel Kearns. In turn, he came to know and respect other Vancouver poets that included John Newlove, Gerry Gilbert, bill bissett, Peter Trower, Barry McKinnon, Maxine Gadd, Judith Copithorne and many others. Poets who came to Vancouver and influenced him have included Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Jack Spicer, Al Purdy, Milton Acorn and Louis Dudek. "All of these poets gave something to me," he says, "showed me something about life and about poetry."
Jamie Reid died at home on June 25, 2015. According to his wife, Carol, "his last day was filled with happiness and healing energy, and he was vibrant." Memorial gathering of appreciation: Wise Hall, Vancouver, August 9, 2015.
DATE OF BIRTH: April 10, 1941
PLACE OF BIRTH: Timmins, Ontario
EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: data gatherer, Statistics Canada, cook, freelance editor
Homages (Pooka Press, 2009). Chapbook
I. Another. The Space Between: Selected Poems. Talonbooks, 2004
Diana Krall, The Language of Love. Quarry Music Books, 2002
Mad Boys. Coach House Books, 1997 (poetry)
Prez: Homage to Lester Young. Oolichan Books, 1994 (poetry)
The Man Whose Path Was On Fire. Talonbooks, 1968 (poetry)
[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2015] "Poetry" "Music"
Diana Krall: The Language of Love (Quarry $24.95)
Pop divas come and pop divas go; jazz divas are forever. Diana Krall is somewhere in the middle, a lounge-singing sensation with the bestselling jazz recording in history—her sixth album, The Look of Love—living in New York, chumming with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Sting and making the big bucks.
Only trouble is jazz buffs aren’t learning to Krall very easily. They say her piano playing is virtually non-existent on some tracks, some of her renditions of classics have a Disneyesque feel and her sultry glam packaging is just that; making her a blonde Linda Ronstadt in Ella Fitzgerald land.
Except Linda can sing.
The self-confident Krall is used to such sniping.
“I had a poster of Peter Frampton and a poster of Charlie Parker in my room when I was a teenager,” she says. “But for you jazz police out there, don’t worry—I arranged them so they couldn’t see each other.”
Trumpeter Chet Baker and guitarist Mark Knopfler are two other range-challenged musicians who’ve made the leap to the microphone with alluring and understated vocals that are easily engulfed by orchestration.
In contrast to the over-the-top wailers like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion, Krall thrills her listeners as a relief, as an antidote.
Besides, anyone named Jazz Vocalist of the Year by Down Beat magazine can’t be all pop.
Diana Krall is not the Anna Kournikova of jazz. She’s 37. And she wins.
“She’s a genuine jazz artist, whether she wants to go that way or not,” says Jamie Reid, author of Prez: A Homage to Lester Young.
“Either way, she should be feted in her own country and especially in her own region.”
In his biography-tinged tribute, Diana Krall: The Language of Love (Quarry $24.95), Reid has been won over by her looks and music. Describing a Paris concert he writes, “She is almost without make-up—with only a hint of pale lipstick on her full and sensuous lips. She looks for all the world as if she has just come on stage from washing her face, her transparent complexion youthful and dewy, fresh as an adolescent’s. Her teeth are as white and straight as the keys on her Steinway grand.
“She has all the beauty, poise and allure of a ravishing star of the silver screen, a Veronica Lake or a Lauren Bacall, and all their mysterious cool reserve.”
Whoa! If Diana Krall and her management were a tad worried about the contents of this unauthorized study, well, they needn’t have bothered. Reid has accepted, and he clearly enjoys, Krall’s appeal as a musician, woman and artist. “I’m not really on a mission to tell anybody anything,” says Krall. “I’d rather be figured out.”
Reid’s song-by-song analysis of her renditions is spot-on. Along the way he’s detoured for plenty of space-filling about jazz legends to educate the non-jazzified reader. It’s a much-better-than-workmanlike job considering the time constraints Reid was under. She should be so lucky when an authorized biography is written.
The most important parts of Reid’s documentary trace her beginnings on Vancouver Island. This is information that can’t be easily found on the Internet.
After Diana Krall was born on November 16, 1964, she was raised by supportive and loving parents. Her dad, Jim, was a chartered accountant.
Her mum, Adella, was an elementary school teacher-librarian. Both played piano and sang. Her aunt had performed in vaudeville. Her Dad was a collector of old 78s and wax recording cylinders. Old music was good music.
On Sunday nights they’d meet at the home of her grandmother, also a musician, for sing-songs of pop tunes, hymns and Celtic folksongs. Krall first took classical piano lessons at age four from a
neighbour, Audrey Thomas. Thomas remembers her protégé liked boogie-woogie.
By age 15 Krall was playing professionally at two Nanaimo venues, the NHL and Chez Michel. Her school band leader Bryan Stovell, no slouch himself on the bass, introduced her to jazz. Thriving on Stovell’s mentorship, and learning to perform in the Nanaimo restaurant ‘n’ bar scene, Krall won a Vancouver Jazz Festival scholarship to study at the Berklee College of Music in 1981.
At Berklee in Boston she studied piano with Ray Santisi. “As a pianist, she was always into economy,” he recalls. “She has said that she took a cue from comedians Alan King and Jack Benny whose punch lines were very economical. Diana has always been aware that you don’t have to go grandstanding to make good music.”
In the States for more than a year, she retained her somewhat stubborn respect for the old tunes and the old guys, particularly Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. “I was a huge, huge fan,” she says of Sinatra. “I consider him the greatest pop singer of all time.” Bennett, however, would turn out to be closer to her heart. She would credit the crooner for much of her success as a vocalist.
As for female vocalists, Krall liked Dinah Washington, Roberta Flack, Carmen McRae, Nina Simone and Shirley Horn. But Diana Krall: The Language of Love reveals that Krall possibly found her greatest female influence as a musician on Vancouver Island. Every Saturday, for most of a year in the 1980s, Louise Rose drove up the Malahat to meet Krall at Malaspina University-College for individual lessons.
Louise Rose had studied with Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson and Leonard Bernstein. An accomplished recording artist and an ordained Baptist minister, Rose was the real deal—probably the first professional female musician that Krall knew. Now the musical director of the Victoria Good News Choir, she can regularly be seen on Vision TV’s Let’s Sing Again program as a pianist.
“I vividly recall her first piano lesson,” she told Reid, “because she was so nervous that she had small puddles of perspiration in each hand… The most important thing I showed her was how to sing and accompany herself in the honoured style of those who’d preceded her.”
The tall, buxom, warm Afro-American preacher and teacher received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from UVic in 2001. She passed along to Krall what she calls ‘the lesson of all lessons’ that she had received from Oscar Peterson: the most difficult thing for artists is to learn to play like themselves.
“People compare her to Ella Fitzgerald,” says Rose. “They say Diana doesn’t have any range. What a pity that we don’t have the means to appreciate without making silly comparisons. But there is only one Ella, and there is only one Diana, too.
“Diana has the range that she has, and she uses it. She doesn’t pretend to be anything other than she is. And you have to be confident about who you are in order to play like yourself.”
In other words, do people complain that Neil Young doesn’t sound like Placido Domingo? When Miles Davis became internationally known, Louise Rose says, he was beset by “the jealousy of nay-sayers, a kind of self-loathing. If you’re black you can’t become too famous, or you will be accused of losing your soul. Similarly, Rose defends the deliberate portrayals of Krall as an ice-queen goddess. “Come on! She’s a sensuous, full-bodied woman, and she wants to show it!”
The big break for Krall came in Nanaimo, not New York, L.A. or Boston. Back in 1983 she was doing gigs in Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Victoria and other Vancouver Island towns with bassist Rick Kilburn who had played for two years with Dave Brubeck and seven years with Mose Allison. He, in turn, was the son of Jim Kilburn who’d played with her high school mentor Bryan Stovell at Vancouver’s Cellar club in the early ‘60s. Still not singing much, Krall attended the annual jazz festival across the border at Port Townsend.
In Port Townsend Krall met a drummer named Jeff Hamilton. He was playing with a legendary jazz great, Ray Brown, a husband of Ella Fitzgerald and a sideman for Dizzy Gillespie and countless others. Brown, as it turned out, was a frequent visitor to Nanaimo. He liked to jam there at a restaurant called Tio’s, named after its Vietnamese owner. Back in Los Angeles Jeff Hamilton encouraged Ray Brown to check out the blonde babe in Nanaimo who could really, really play.
That’s how Diana Krall’s career began. Brown and Hamilton, two L.A. heavyweights, arrived for dinner at the Krall’s place and jammed in the Kralls’ living room. Hamilton assured Krall’s mother that her daughter could make it in jazz; Brown, in his 70s, suggested studying down in L.A. Another jazz great, Jimmy Rowles, became her teacher. And by necessity, Diana Krall found her voice.
“I went down to this little club to hear her,” Ray Brown recalls. “She was kinda sad. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ She said, ‘They’re going to revoke my [green] card’. And for some reason… I don’t know what this law was, but they said if she sang, she could stay, but if she didn’t sing, she had to go back to Canada. So I said, “Hell with it, sing. Go ahead and sing!”
Lacking confidence in her low voice, Diana Krall says she would initially sing “only enough to keep the gig.”
And the rest is herstory. 1-55082-297-7–[BCBW Alan Twigg AUTUMN 2002]
A BIOGRAPHY: SPORT AND SEED
I became a poet because I couldn't be anything else. I was born colour-deficient in both eyes, tone deaf in at least one ear, and flat in both feet. I couldn't paint, I couldn't play music and I couldn't be an athlete or a dancer. I needed a fast tongue to overcome the slowness of my other faculties. I learned to speak before I was twelve months old. My aunts and all my relatives recognized I had the gift of the gab when they noted that I was saying 'engine,' 'boxcar' and 'caboose' while the other kids my age were still saying 'choo-choo'. This poor little idiot had to grow up to be a poet or maybe a lawyer. I knew the names of things even if I couldn't figure out how they worked.
My mother began my training: as I sat rapt beside her, she would charmingly recite Horatius at the Bridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and Casey at the Bat, and sometimes The Cremation of Sam McGhee. I was always impressed with the way that The Ancient Mariner fixed his eye on the wedding guest: 'He holds him with his glittering eye / The Wedding Guest stood still.' This story of sin without redemption appealed to me tremendously. The Ancient Mariner seems to me now a closer role model than either Horatius or Casey. Now he could get people to pay attention.
When I was a teenager in King Edward High School in the fifties, I didn't know that people who weren't sissies still wrote poetry. One day a councillor read all of Earle Birney's David around the camp-fire at Camp Howdy and made me weep. Just as the hand of The Ancient Mariner gripped the wrist of the helpless wedding guest, the rich language of that poem gripped my young consciousness. I decided and vowed I must try to become a poet.
My earliest public life began in Banff, Alberta, where, as a six-year old, I joined a sleigh race, uninvited, in my own neighbourhood. I was mystified: why was everyone shouting at me as I fled down the slope on my sleigh? Though I finished dead last in the heat, my name was nevertheless the only one mentioned in the Calgary papers which recorded the event the following day. I have never recovered from the thrill of seeing my own name in print. A certain genius for publicity continues to haunt me to this day.
When I first came to Vancouver from Edmonton as a thirteen year old, I organized and coached one of the very first bantam football teams the city had ever seen. I was a spectacular success -- at the end of our final game of the season (the only one we ever lost), the entire team jumped me, took off my pants, and hung them on the goalposts as a memorial.
At the University of British Columbia, I met Warren Tallman and the boys who later became the TISH poets.
In the latter half of the 1960s I won my fifteen minutes of local fame: I became known as the organizer of Vancouver's first Human Be-In, in imitation of an event in San Francisco where the great poet Allen Ginsberg had presided. When I stood in front of the Parks Board commission in my hippie's flowered shirt to ask their permission to hold the event, the stiff-faced commissioners were not at all impressed. They told me the event would only be held, over their dead bodies. I told them I couldn't prevent the event from happening even if I wanted to, and I really couldn't. It happened in spite of all of us, but they survived and so did I. During the 1960s, I lived in a house on West Pender with a spectacular view overlooking Coal Harbour, Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains. I sometimes paid $60 a month for rent, and sometimes didn't. Today the rent for the buildings on that spot must be nearer to $60 a day. There were many parties there, attended by many local and international poets and artists, and many intoxicating substances were there consumed, and in 1963, many famous North American poets visited the place. During those years, I somehow managed to complete a degree at U.B.C., where I majored in personal chaos. Along with the Tish poets and others, I learned what I could about the art of poetry.
By 1967 I was ready to withdraw to the countryside in the Okanagan where I wrote my first book of poems with the aid of a Canada Council grant. The Man Whose Path Was on Fire was published in 1969 by Talonbooks, now a respected local publisher, then an upstart fledgling. Subsequently, my old high school burned right down to the ground. Later still, the house by Fish Creek near Summerland where I wrote the book also burned down, shortly after being occupied by Pat Lane, another B.C. poet. None of this was what I wanted or expected when I named the book, but I do believe that poetry inherits the kind of truth that appears mostly by accident and unbidden.
Because I came to believe, in the political atmosphere of the 1960s, that in order to be true to itself poetry had to involve itself in human politics, I travelled to central Canada and became a fierce communist for almost twenty years. I ran for the House of Commons at least three times, winning a total of just under 400 votes. I went to prison as many times, allegedly for assaulting policemen. I was so much smaller and thinner then than now, I must have been much braver, if we are to believe the police. In jail and on the hustings I learned many secret matters about the workings of our Canadian democracy which otherwise I might have never known.
I finally resigned from politics and wrote a second little book called Prez: Homage to Lester Young, which was published by Oolichan in 1994. Coach House Books in Toronto published Mad Boys in 1997.
For the last four or five years I have been indulging my taste for Dadaism and literary anarchism by publishing a magazine of local and international avant garde writing called DaDaBaBy. In a city which pays its hockey players five and six million dollars a year, DaDaBaBy, a merely cultural entity, was left to starve -- one of the many reasons why I continue to believe that contemporary economic and political arrangements need to be radically disrupted and rearranged. All my poetic activity is directed toward that end.
The curiously named B.C. Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture gave me $5000 two years ago to work on my current book of poems and memoirs about Vancouver poets and poetry. I am still trying to break through to a new poetics that became required during my twenty years of absence from poetry in politics. One day I hope to write a poem or a book that will hold everyone's attention and finally perhaps redeem my life on earth.
-- Jamie Reid, September 1999