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Never Read Anything the Same Way Twice: Jazz Books at TPL

April 28, 2015 | Beau | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Did you know April was Jazz Appreciation Month? I didn't, either! Fortunately we've got eleven other months to also listen to jazz, but if you'd like to learn more about the music, you don't have to limit yourself to the acts you see in clubs or the albums you hear. Here are just a few of the best books about jazz that I've read and which are available for checkout at the Toronto Public Library.

Jazz by Geoffrey C Ward

Jazz: a history of America's music, by Geoffrey C. Ward, is a companion piece to the celebrated documentary film series by Ken Burns. Like the films, it's been criticized in some quarters for giving short shrift to the post-World War II (and non-U.S.) history of the music, but it's still an invaluable and gorgeously photographed survey of the personalities, social conditions and politics that shaped this most American of art forms.

Jazz New York In The Roaring Twenties book cover

Jazz: New York in the roaring twentieswritten by Hans-Jürgen Schaal and illustrated by Robert Nippoldt, is a gorgeous blend of text and art, profiling some of jazz's leading lights and evoking a time and place when you could walk down the streets of Harlem and hear the sounds of Duke Ellington's band or Louis Armstrong playing with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra pouring out of nightclubs and dance halls. It also includes a CD with many of the artists' best songs.

The Jazz Standards, by Ted Gioia

From ragtime's "Sweet Georgia Brown" to the bossa-nova favourite "The Girl From Ipanema," certain songs have become part of jazz's bedrock, revisited and re-interpreted by a wide range of musicians throughout the decades. The Jazz Standards: a guide to the repertoireby music historian and critic Ted Gioia, is a comprehensive survey of the jazz songbook that both new fans and experts will find useful and enthralling.

Jazz Covers by Joaquim Paulo                The Cover Art Of Blue Note Records, by Graham Marsh

In addition to its musical heritage, jazz also boasts a rich visual legacy. Jazz Covers, by Joaquim Paulo, features album art right through from the invention of the LP record in the 1940s to the 1990s, which saw a decline in vinyl production as the CD gained in popularity. In addition to all the cover art eye candy, each photo is accompanied by a fact sheet listing the performer and album name, art director, photographer, illustrator, year, label, and more. The Cover Art of Blue Note Records, by Graham Marsh, focuses on the artwork of that legendary label, with illustrations of more than 400 of the best covers from the company which did more than any other to visually define jazz.

Jazz by Gary Giddens

Jazz has been around for almost a century now (2017 will mark the 100th anniversary of "Livery Stable Blues" by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the first jazz single ever released), and it can be intimidating to newcomers. The simply-titled Jazz, by Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux, is the best single-volume survey of the music and its history, theory, politics and diversity of musical styles - from ragtime to avant-garde free jazz - I've ever read. In addition to its lively recounting of jazz history, it also includes listening guides for several songs which will help novices identify and understand some of the fundamental concepts behind the music.


The Penguin Jazz Guide by Brian Morton and Richard Cook

The first edition of The Penguin Guide to Jazz was released in 1992, long enough ago that the second half of the title was "...on CD, LP and Cassette." Eight amazingly comprehensive editions followed before co-author Richard Cook passed away in 2007. This tenth and presumably final edition, titled The Penguin Jazz Guide: the history of the music in the 1000 best albums, was compiled by Cook's writing partner Brian Morton and released in 2010. While the previous versions were encyclopedic reference works, this one is more of a chronological history of the music arranged around the albums - some famous, many not - Morton and Cook have identified the ones that every fan of the music should know.

Straight Life      Miles the autobiography      Lady Sings The Blues

I'll finish up with a switch from the general to the specific: three autobiographies by legendary jazz artists. Saxophonist Art Pepper's autobiography Straight Life is an often-harrowing and remarkably candid account of his life as a musician, which was marred by horrific problems with drugs and alcohol, prison sentences and stints at a rehabilitation centre which turned out to be a cult. Miles: the autobiography (co-written by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe) is an equally unsparing account of the life of arguably the greatest figure the music has ever known, detailing his own struggles with substance abuse and systematic racism as he changed the course of jazz several times over the course of his extraordinary life.

Finally, Lady Sings The Blues by Billie Holiday (also available in eBook format) takes readers on a journey from her hard-knock childhood (where she ran errands at a brothel in exchange for the chance to listen to jazz records) to her career as a singer fronting some of the biggest names in jazz (including Count Basie and Artie Shaw), all the while battling her own demons and the vicious racism she decried in songs like "Strange Fruit."

Alfred Hitchcock's soundtracks on Vinyl LP

April 23, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

I was watching North by Northwest the other day and was struck by the soundtrack.  The music in Alfred Hitchcock's movies plays a key role.  Can you imagine the Psycho shower scene without the intense sound that is now virtually synonymous with stabbing? 

Speaking of Psycho you may be interested in the ProfTalks symposium on April 25th being held in the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon that includes Professor Annette Insdorf's talk "Master of Suspense: The Artistry of Alfred Hitchcock" focusing on Psycho.

Did you know the Arts Department, 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library has 15,000 LP records including several of his soundtracks with period vintage psychedelic covers (and we have 2 record players you can use too!).


Music from Alfred Hitchcock films LP record cover on vinyl


Music from the great movie thrillers music composed for motion pictures directed by Alfred Hitchcock


Hitchcock's Music  by Jack Sullivan


Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo LP record


The lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock a play This poetic new play takes a unique look at the way the great filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock developed the idea of his most famous films, including Marnie, Vertigo, Psycho and Strangers on A Train. The result is a unique and haunting character study and an unprecedented journey into the mind of one our most fascinating cultural icons.


North by northwest original motion picture score LP vinyl record


Alfred Hitchcock presents Music to be murdered by Circus of horrors.








Did You Say Hot Docs? 8000 DVDs to Borrow (free!)

April 20, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (5) Facebook Twitter More...

Did you know there are 8000 DVDs you can borrow from the Toronto Reference Library's Arts Department on the 5th floor? The collection is focused on documentaries, how to, practical and performance (including many PBS type shows). 

And what do 8000+ DVDs and 3700 VHS look like? Well, we have compact shelving that moves, opening up vast riches in a dramatic yet safe way!

DVD compact shelving of 3 bays seen closed on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library

DVD compact shelving partially opened as seen on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library

DVD compact shelving shown fully open as seen on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library


Faced with this much choice I asked staff to recommend some of their favorites:

20 Feet from Stardom DVD

20 Feet from Stardom was last year's Academy Award winner for best feature documentary. It's an inspiring and uplifting look at the unsung (no pun intended) heroes of pop music: the nameless back-up singers behind all the great popular music artists. They're mostly women, and women of colour, who grew up singing harmony in gospel choirs and it's great to see them finally get their due. Watch for the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and a wonderful rendition of Samuel Barber's "Sure on that Shining Night".


To Be Takei DVD

To Be Takei: The actor most famous as Mr Sulu in Star Trek developed an unexpected new career as a gay rights advocate and a Facebook phenomenon.The movie follows his story from boyhood in an Asian internment camps in Arkansas  during World War II to his current life with his husband Brad (they wed in 2008). An inspiring story which somehow makes room for lots of bad puns. The film presents unprecedented access to the daily life of 77-year-old George Takei. And speaking of puns you may also want to take a whiff of his cologne offering "Eau My".


The Queen of Versailles DVD

The Queen of Versailles is a character-driven documentary about a billionaire family and their financial challenges in the wake of the economic crisis. The film follows two unique characters, whose rags-to-riches-to-rags success stories reveal the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream.  Deeply moving and a tiny bit bizarre.


Men at Lunch DVD

Men at Lunch: In New York City, 1932, a photograph, "Lunch Atop a Skyscraper," is taken during the construction of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. In it, 11 construction workers are taking their lunch break while casually perched along a steel girder. For 80 years, the identity of the 11 construction workers and the photographer that immortalized them remained a mystery: their stories, lost in time, subsumed by the fame of the image itself. Then, at the start of the 21st century, the photograph finally began to give up some of its secrets.


The Invisible Frame and Cycling the Frame DVD

Cycling the frame (60 min.): In 1988, director Cynthia Beatt and the young Tilda Swinton embarked on a journey along the Berlin Wall into little-known territory. Over 20years later, Beatt and Swinton reteamed to retrace the entire 160 km line of the Wall that once isolated Berlin. The Invisible frame (28 min.) depicts a poetic passage through varied landscapes, this time on both sides of the former Wall.

The Buddha The Story of Siddhartha DVD

The Buddha the story of Siddhartha (PBS) recounts the life of the Buddha and presents the tenets of Buddhism. Produced in conjunction with the exhibition, Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art, organized by Asia Society Museum, New York. 

Not for Ourselves Alone The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony  DVD

Not for ourselves alone the story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony: The staff who recommended this DVD said "I cried the first time I watched it". Presents the history of women's suffrage in the United States through the dramatic, often turbulent friendship of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan Anthony. Part 1 covers the years from their youth up to the establishment of the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1868. Part 2 spans the period from 1868 to the passage in 1919 of the 19th amendment to the Constitution which gave women the vote.

Bruce Weber, the film collection DVD

Bruce Weber, the film collection: includes four films by Weber -- Broken Noses (1987), Let's Get Lost (1988), Chop Suey (2000) and A Letter to True 2003. I saw the Chet Baker film Let's Get Lost at the old Carleton Cinema on College Street and was struck by the black & white filming, the cigarette smoke, the sound and the beauty of the characters.  I recently discovered this compilation of his films and was moved by the music and life of cabaret singer Frances Faye as seen in Chop Suey.

China heavyweight Qian chui bai lian DVD

China heavyweight Qian chui bai lian: profiles the ever-changing Chinese economic landscape through the view of the sport of boxing. Filmmaker Yung Chang follows boxing coach Qi Moxiang as he travels across China's Sichuan province recruiting young fighting talent from impoverished farms and villages. Selected boys and girls are taken to national training centres in hopes of becoming Olympic heroes, but can they leave their families behind to become boxing's finest?

  Herb and Dorothy
Herb & Dorothy: tells the story of a postal clerk and a librarian who managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history with very modest means.

Pima DVD

Pina: Director Wim Wenders takes viewers on a sensual, visually stunning journey of discovery into a new dimension: straight onto the stage with the legendary Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch ensemble. He follows the dancers out of the theatre and into the city and the surrounding areas of Wuppertal, the place which for 35 years was the home and center of Pina Bausch's creativity. 

Zines at TRL: A PDF Catalogue and a Major Donation

March 25, 2015 | Brent | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

Earlier in the year, Toronto Reference library received a major donation of zines, most of them documenting the punk and new wave music scene of the 1980s. We’ve just added them to our online PDF Zine Catalogue  which documents the collection on the Arts Department on the fifth floor.

     Re-Press   Local Smash  Kick it Over

Social Outlook - From the Streets

It’s great to see interviews and reviews of Toronto favorites like Alta Moda, Vital Sines, Dave Howard Singers, Fifth Column, L’Etranger, The Woods are Full of Cuckoos and the Boys Brigade side by side with alternative bands from the United States and the UK. The blog for our TD gallery show “Coffee Beer and Mosh Pits” has lots of suggestions on how to reconnect with the music scene in Toronto.

I’m particularly glad to see lots of reviews for one my personal favorites, Kinetic Ideals.


The donation is also a reminder of just how hard fans of alternative culture had to look to find records and reviews of their favourite bands. In addition to the Toronto based music zines, the donation includes RePress a new wave zine from Halifax, the anarchist feminist zine “Kick it Over” and a rare issue of underground comic Casual Casual with cartoons by Dia Skuse from Fastwurms, artist Julie Voyce and graphic designer Barbara Klunder.

   Casual Casual

Right now, the Toronto Reference Library Zine Collection boasts over 800 titles and there are all kinds of unexpected treasures throughout. They're tucked in just beside our Graphic Novels on the Arts Department on the 5th floor

A Thousand five hundred years of Irish Art (more or less)

March 11, 2015 | Brent | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

The 28th Annual Toronto St Patrick's Day Parade is on this Sunday, March 15.

Happily the parade coincides with the arrival of an amazing series of books at Toronto Reference Library: The Art and Architecture of Ireland.

        Art and Architecture of Ireland Medieval     Art and Architecture of Ireland Painting     Art and Architecture of Ireland Sculpture

                           Art and Architecture of Ireland Architecture      Art and Architecture of Ireland Twentieth Century

The five volume series is published by Yale University Press for the Royal Irish Academy and the Paul Mellon Centre. It covers over 1,500 years of Irish art, beginning with the Medieval period around 400 AD and continuing to the end of the Twentieth century. Special additional volumes look at painting, sculpture and architecture.

The series arrived with quite of a bit of hoopla in its native land accompanied with the kind of video spot one usually sees reserved for new cars :


Introduction to the Art and Architecture of Ireland (AAI) from The Royal Irish Academy on Vimeo.

The books are reference but any one of the 600 page volumes would be a great way to prepare for this Sunday or to spend the next Spring rain storm.

If you're looking for something to take home there are a lot of great choices:

   Ireland's Treasures       The Archaeology of Celtic Britain and Ireland      Archaelogy of Celtic Art

If that's not enough, Toronto Public Library has two multi-part video series:

                     Ireland's Secret Sights         The Story of Ireland

They both have a LOT of history to cover. 

Hamlet "On Stage" 2015 at the Toronto Reference Library - Free Shakespearean Lecture

March 2, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

"To be or not to be" is not the question!

Instead, ask how quickly can I get to the free Hamlet lecture, on Tuesday March 3rd, 7-8 pm at the Toronto Reference Library Appel Salon.

This is the first of a four part thought provoking series on Shakespeare and Ben Johnson, presented by Toronto Public Library and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.


Original title page of Hamlet 1605 by Shakespeare


Speaker Dr. Jane Freeman is a faculty member at the University of Toronto and author of numerous articles on Shakespeare and classical rhetoric.  She is a regular lecturer at the Festival, a Senior Fellow of Massey College, a member of the Massey College Corporation, and a member of the Stratford Festival's Senate.

There is a bibliography about the play including speaker's suggestions - see here to download the pdf of the Hamlet Bibliography.  It's very easy to book 2 free tickets at this site. This program gratefully receives generous and ongoing support from the Friends of the Library - South Chapter. 


The other lectures in the series are as follows :

Matthew Henson: the first African-American Arctic explorer

February 19, 2015 | Beau | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Toronto's had a lot of cold weather and snow lately, but it still doesn't amount to much compared to what Matthew Henson experienced during his seven trips to the Arctic as a member of Robert Peary's expeditions. Henson, the world's first black Arctic explorer, accompanied Peary seven times over the course of 23 years, including their last trip in 1909 when they may or may not have become the first explorers to reach the North Pole.

Matthew Henson

Henson was born on a Maryland farm in 1866 and began working as a cabin boy on ocean-going ships at the age of 12. By the time he turned 20 he'd already sailed around the world and become a skilled navigator. During a rare spell spent working on land he met Peary, who recruited him as an aide after learning about his experiences at sea. Henson quickly worked his way up to "first man" status and proved himself an indispensable craftsman and dog sled team driver, and also mastered the Inuit language over the course of six grueling expeditions.

In 1908, Peary mounted his eighth and last attempt to reach the Pole; the first seven had been unsuccessful, although the 1906 expedition had set a "farthest north" record. After struggling across hundreds of miles of snow, water, ice and dangerous Arctic conditions, Henson and four Inuit guides accompanied Peary on his final push to the Pole. However, by that point Peary was incapacitated by illness and frostbite and sent Henson ahead as a scout while he was being pulled along in a sled, which meant he was actually the first person to step foot on the Pole and plant the American flag.


Robert Peary Sledge Party At The North PoleHenson and the Inuit members of the Peary sledge team posing at the North Pole

In the wake of the expedition Henson did not receive the credit and acclaim he deserved due to the racism of the day, but he did publish his autobiography, A Negro Explorer At The North Pole, in 1912 and collaborated with writer Bradley Robinson on a 1947 biography entitled Dark Companion. He was also admitted to the exclusive Explorers Club in 1937, was granted honorary doctorates by two universities, and was formally honored by the U.S. Navy, Congress and Presidents Truman and Eisenhower before he died in 1955.

A Negro Explorer   Dark Companion

Controversy still rages over whether Henson and Peary actually reached the Pole. Researchers have examined Peary's diary and the astronomical observations listed in his expedition records and concluded that they did not. However, in 2002 British explorer Tom Avery set out to recreate their journey using the same equipment available to the 1909 expedition and traveling the same route. His party completed the journey four hours faster than Peary's records indicated, which added credence to Peary's claims. Avery tells his story in the book To The End Of The Earth: Our Epic Journey To The North Pole And The Legend of Peary And Henson.

To The End Of The Earth

Whether or not Henson and Peary actually made it all the way to the North Pole, Henson's legacy as an African-American hero and one of the 20th century's greatest explorers is secure.

   Matthew Henson Keep On   Peary and Henson

Ma chere, je t'aime - nothing says love like Vintage Valentine Postcards

February 12, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

My great-aunt Sophie's third husband, Gaston, was French. Growing up I would often hear him murmur to her "je t'aime, je t'aime". It confused me at the time, but in retrospect what could be more romantic?

This year I offer no elaborate Valentine's Day blog post. Instead, please enjoy two visually unremarkable postcards circa 1908 with simple moving messages.

Vintage Valentine's Day postcard back of To My Valentine message says Ma Chere, Je t'aime
American Post Cards Sentimental Valentine's Series No 39  Publisher Ullman Manufacturing

"Ma chere, je t'aime" ... Miss Gertrude Eliot of Frost & Wood St John New Brunswick, in 1908 who was your French speaking paramour?

Vintage Valentine's Day postcard front To My Valentine woman smelling a rose
To my Valentine : The rose is fairest // When 'tis budding new // And hope is brightest when it dawns from fears. // The rose is sweetest washed with morning dew // And love is loveliest when embalmed in tears.


Vintage Valentine's Day postcard back of Sweetheart Think of Me message says To My Love"To my love" Miss E Rugg 448 Parliament St Toronto International Art Publishing Co.


Vintage Valentine's Day postcard front Sweetheart Think of Me
Sweetheart think of me - on the reverse "To my love" handwritten


Gil Scott-Heron: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (but it will be blogged about)

February 8, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Gil Scott-Heron was a Renaissance man. He's one of the early Black spoken word poets, singer, author and possibly the father of Rap. I dare you to listen and not be electrified.

"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" was written in the early 70s as a poem/song. You can watch many versions on Youtube but it's helpful to have the lyrics and I think this clip has a strong visual aspect that illuminates the song.  The original conga bongo drum version is more spoken word than the full band version below.


You can see Gil Scott-Heron talk about the song below (he begins "you have to change your mind first" which reminds me of my blog post on Bob Marley's Redemption song "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our minds"). In one interview he says he meant it as satire rather than social commentary.



I liked his memoir which was partially autobiographical and partially a story of his concert tour with Stevie Wonder.  There is also a biography of him "Gil Scott-Heron: pieces of a man".

Gil Scott-Heron The Last Holiday a memoir


Gil Scott-Heron was a published writer and poet with two early 1970s novels and two books of poetry.

 Gil Scott-Heron's book The Vulture    Gil Scott-Heron's book of poetry Now and Then    Gil Scott-Heron's book The Nigger Factory

I also like this BBC documentary including interviews with Scott-Heron and commentary.



And, of course, there are his CDs of spoken word and song:

The best of Gil Scott Heron CD   The Revolution Will Not Be Televised CD

I'm New Here CD
"I'm New Here" was his first, and very different, album in 15 years and post prison. 


But the song I find most moving is the more personal "Home is Where the Hatred Is" which may have foreshadowed his own addiction issues. 


Gil Scott-Heron – Home is Where the Hatred is

A junkie walking through the twilight
I'm on my way home
I left three days ago, but no one seems to know I'm gone

Home is where the hatred is,
Home is filled with pain and it,
Might not be such a bad idea if I never, never went home again

Stand as far away from me as you can and ask me why
Hang on to your rosary beads
Close your eyes to watch me die

You keep saying, kick it, quit it, kick it, quit it
God, but did you ever try
To turn your sick soul inside out
So that the world, so that the world
Can watch you die

Home is where I live inside my white powder dreams
Home was once an empty vacuum that's filled now with my silent screams

Home is where the needle marks
Try to heal my broken heart
And it might not be such a bad idea if I never, if I never went home again

Home again, home again, home again
Kick it quit it, kick it quit it, kick it quit it, Kick it,

Can`t go home again

Gil Scott-Heron died in 2011. 



Walking the sidewalks of fashion with Yohji Yamamoto

January 23, 2015 | Valentina | Comments (11) Facebook Twitter More...


Fashion often begins with being 'in';  it's something that moves us to look and follow new trends. Identity and personal style are 'out' for the fashion industry.

Japanese designer, Yohji Yamamoto creates clothing for people who are creative, independent and in search of their own individuality. Indifferent to stereotypes, he molds fabric into original, intellectual, texturized pieces and teaches us how to love them, live with them and never treat them seasonally. Layered and comfortable, often oversized, his clothing is for protection. His aim is to protect bodies but also to protect clothing itself from fashion.

 My Dear Bomb by Yohji Yamamoto  Yamamoto & Yohji by Rizzoli Press

When Yamamoto presented his first collection in Paris 1981, his style was considered a passing fad, marginal, a mere copy of the contemporary street looks of the East. As with any acquired taste his creations were never in or out of style. He remains provocative, a brave rebel challenging "nowadays, especially in Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles, (where) everything is covered by fast fashion. Faster, faster, cheaper, cheaper. People have started wasting fashion".

Talking to myself by Yohji Yamamoto  

Notebook on Cities and Clothes is a documentary film about Yohji Yamamoto directed by Wim Wenders. Not interested in fashion or clothes himself but faced with this assignment, Wenders decided to make a documentary about the designer whose shirt and a jacket he was wearing, whose clothing made him feel as safe and protected as "the knight in the armour". They search for originality and humanity in the world that is becoming a commercialized copy.

In 1994, Yamamoto received the Knight Order of Arts and Letters from France. In 2011, the Victoria and Albert Museum held a retrospective exhibition of his work, and in 2013 Berlin’s Gallery Weekend had a four-day marathon of iconic pieces from the last 30 years of his career.


Now 72 years old, Yohji Yamamoto is still an anti-fashionista and an introspective conceptualist who takes a critical stance on the fashion world: “I hate fashion. Or the word fashion, which sounds colourful, extravagant, expensive and gorgeous, I never wanted to walk the main street of fashion. I have been walking the sidewalks of fashion from the beginning, so I’m a bit dark.” As he insists, his "soul comes through his fingertips": "If one keeps these things in mind and looks very carefully, the fabric itself begins to speak. This is the type of clothing I wish to become."

 Yohji Yamamoto by V & A publishing  Yohji Yamamoto by Assouline Press 

His work can be found in all general books about Japanese fashion designers.   

    Japanese Fashion Designers


The library's blog devoted to the discovery of diverse artistic and cultural works in the library and Toronto. For more information on what the library has to offer please see our Theatre & Performing Arts page