The most adventurous sounds are those that defy restrictive labels and easy categorization. Eclecticism has long been a mainstay of the jazz and pop worlds, where experimentation is encouraged and celebrated. But chamber music, with its roots in specific classical repertoire, has often been limited by advocates intent on simply keeping old traditions alive. Canada’s Gryphon Trio, one of North America’s top chamber ensembles, is committed to changing that.
Formed in 1993, the Trio—cellist Roman Borys, pianist Jamie Parker and violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon—began pushing the boundaries for chamber music by commissioning and performing new works from both established and emerging composers. Its multimedia production of Christos Hatzis’s Constantinople, took the Gryphons deep into cross-cultural terrain. Set at the crossroads of East and West, Constantinople brought the Trio together with Arabic singer Maryem Hassan Tollar and soprano Patricia O’Callaghan in acclaimed performances across North America and at London’s Royal Opera
It’s the inevitable fate of a multi-faceted artist as ridiculously talented as Paul Quarrington that one creative field should overshadow the others. In Paul’s case, his musical career was rudely hijacked by his literary success. Long before the awards for fiction, humour and screenplays, Paul was a musician—and an extremely good one. He played bass and sang in the eccentric cult-rock band Joe Hall & the Continental Drift, a band his guitarist brother Tony once described as “an acquired taste that no one acquired.” He wrote songs, played guitar and sang with lifelong friend Martin Worthy in the underrated folk duo Quarrington Worthy—even scoring a number one hit in 1980 with “Baby and the Blues.” Most recently, he fronted Porkbelly Futures, a thinking-person’s bar band that plays a rootsy mix of country-blues, or what Paul liked to call “red-eyed soul.”
Paul wrote some memorable material with the Porkbellies, songs like “Gladstone Hotel,” “Sweet Daddy,” “You Gotta Love a Train” and “Sad Old Love Affair,” all literate, hilarious and touching tales about life, boyhood heroes and the workings of the human heart. Music gave Paul a forum that was direct, succinct and visceral, and he loved the rush of performing and the immediate connection with his audience.
For some people, ska music died with the passing of Britain’s two-tone movement in the 1980s. But they only knew it as a post-punk dance craze anyway. As Jamaica’s peppy precursor to reggae, pioneered by legends like Jackie Mittoo, Don Drummond and Prince Buster, ska has a long and vibrant history whose influence still reverberates today.
In England, the ska banner was first held high by Desmond Dekker, a Jamaican singer whose songs “007 (Shanty Town)” and the classic “The Israelites” sent syncopated shock waves across radioland in the 1970s. By the end of the decade, ska was bubbling up big time in Old Blighty, with two-toners The Specials and The English Beat opening for the likes of Elvis Costello and The Clash.
Into those heady days stepped Adrian Miller, Mr. Rude Boy himself, a young Jamaican who found England’s music scene totally inspiring. “The whole climate was more experimental than what was going on back home,” recalls Miller. “There were older musicians like Saxa and Rico, who had first started doing ska back in Jamaica, playing with young groups like The Beat and The Specials. It was an amazing time.”