Saturday, May 30, 2015

Diana Krall @ PDA

Diana Krall can play anywhere she wants, and the fact that she keeps coming back to
Place des Arts... makes me as happy as a little girl! On Friday night... to end the month
of May on a delicious and soothing note I experienced Lady K in all her smoothness...
up close and very personal. I lucked-out and had front-row seats. I observed and was
mesmerized by her hand movement and ease in which she fingered those keys. Krall
filled the newly renovated hall to the balconies and beyond, providing many with a cozy
early summer soiree.
With a five-man band arranged in a line across the stage — bass, drums, guitars,
fiddle, and organ, including a full ensemble orchestra — Krall both defied and fulfilled
expectations that she would lean heavily on her brand new album, 'Wallflower', a return
to pop classics after her many years of jazz devotion. The album was coming, but first,
there was a Krall original called 'Just Couldn't Say Goodbye', a bit of swinging ragtime
that proved she's not out of the jazz club yet…and what a jazz club.
Across the front of the stage were set old-fashioned, shell illumination lights,
ensconced in vintage radio consoles, but the real mood was set by a casual array of
candles on the floor. Suspended above the stage were glowing, old-time, circular
microphones, and a screen backdrop kept up a rapid run of vintage visual images. Very
Krall calmed things down with the quiet 'Just Like a Butterfly Caught in the Rain'
then, claiming to like songs about weather, did the light swing of 'Sunny Side of the
Street' and the sweet and soft 'Let it Rain'. With a big bash of the drums she and the
band sashayed into 'Temptation' by Tom Waits, and this often flavorful tune provided
a real chance for the band members to show their stuff.
It's a mark of Krall's supreme ability as a player and bandleader that she can hand the
stage over to her talented band members any time she wants, then, with a breath into
the microphone or a flick of her blond hair, take that stage right back and settle into
a masterful solo of her own. And just to show how she could own that stage, the band
melted into the wings and Krall did a few by herself, including 'Let's Face the Music and
Dance', 'East of the Sun, West of the Moon', and some marvelous jazz improvisation on
Joni Mitchell's 'A Case of You' and Fats Waller's 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down' (and Write
Myself a Letter).
Back came the band to do some of the Wallflower album, starting with 'California
Dreamin', featuring varying tempos and Krall moving over to electric piano, then Jim
Croce's 'Operator' and Elton John's 'Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word'.
It was back to her jazz roots with Nat King Cole's 'Just You, Just Me' complete with
galvanizing solos from guitarist Anthony Wilson and violinist Stuart Duncan, then
'Indeed I Do'. By the time Krall did her own 'I'm a Little Mixed Up', the film on the backdrop
behind her of a belly dancer and several wildly leering men was so distracting that it
was hard to concentrate on the band. Diana Krall needs no juicing up from visuals. Just
let us see and hear the woman play.
After a 90 minute set, a cheering standing ovation brought Krall and her band back for
a stirring two more numbers... to feed the soul. Diana Krall can take her piano, her voice,
and now this crackerjack band through any music she wants. It was rock, pop, country,
folk, and lots of jazz in Montreal Friday night!

* From Where I Sit!
Place des Arts
May 29, 2015

Subject of Life

'Being a subject of life, there is no sky without storm, roads without accidents,
work without fatigue, and relationships without disappointments. Being a subject
of life, forcefully we are to find forgiveness, hope in the battles, and security
on the stage of fear and love in disagreement. Sometimes grinning is not only
enhancing the smile, but reflects the sadness of one's life; not only celebrate
the success, but learn lessons in failures. Not only be jubilant in applause, but
find joy in anonymity.
It has tardily recognized that it is a worthless living in life in spite of all
the challenges, misunderstandings and periods of crisis. Being a subject of life,
it is bound to be victim of the problems and becoming an author's own story.'

© Frank Borsellino™
© From Where I Sit™
writer/blogger/bon vivant

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ladies' Night @ Tapas24MTL

'When I eat with my friends, it is a moment of real pleasure, when I really enjoy
my life.' ~ Monica Bellucci

I had the pleasure, nee the privilege, of being invited to a sumptuous and exquisite
dinner at one of Old Montreal's trendiest 'restaurantes' surrounded by a bevy of beautiful
Entering the restaurant I was taken aback by the crowds, the decor, and the crackling
ambiance. I spied the thirty-to forty-something crowd that consisted of many groups and
couples. 'Tapas, 24 Montréal' is modelled after the original in Spain owned by Barcelona's
highly regarded Chef Carles Abellan…the Montreal contingent includes two partners. Québécois
radio and TV personality Sébastien Benoit and restaurateur Jorge Da Silva of 'MTL Cuisine',
and star sommelier François Chartier was brought in to consult on the liquid part of the chefs are Haissam Souki Tamayo as well as one who goes by the name of
Ildemar (who came to the table to say hello because he's friendly with one of the ladies),
this was an opportunity to discover their craft.
As it is always the case with tapas outside of Spain, the ingredients can rarely speak
for themselves, so sticking to items relying heavily on the ingredient is a bit like
expecting the sun to shine at night. However great the ingredient, it simply won't
reproduce the effect of its Iberian counterpart. Bombshell and I allowed our Hostess
to choose from the menu, which comes in a children's booklet-like format. We went through
sixteen or twenty plates of morsel-sized orgasmic explosions in our mouths, so I will
only name a few.

Our first wave of plates began with fat calamari rings, fried to golden perfection and
served with a saffron-enhanced dipping sauce. The delicate, pop-in-your-mouth cod
croquettes, enhanced with honey and lemon. What a perfect pairing with our 'Cantiga
Rioja' a delicious, fruity red wine. 'Bomba de Barceloneta' (potato croquette) is, of
course, not a big deal, but unless someone is devoid of any 'sense for nuances', the
appreciation of that croquette I was having had lots more to reveal: the technique
in keeping the croquette low in fat while maintaining the taste delicious and rich is
not a secret but few are delivering it this well, a fabulous croquette of the sort that
only a handful of the finest restaurants of Montreal can pull off. The accompanied aioli
and salsa brava simply perfect.
The next round included 'coco con tomato', porous coca bread rubbed with tomato and
drizzled with olive oil, and a trio of luscious charcuterie meats including Iberian
sausage, a pitch-perfect-spiced chorizo, and ribbons of nutty-tasting 'jamón', a.k.a.,
Iberian ham.
The pace of the service was perfectly timed, with meals that take longer to cook
taking the relevant time it needs to be served. As for the portions, it was in line
with the quantity of food that is usually served nowadays at most contemporary
restaurants of this sort. What we sampled, and there were many, is all I needed in
order to assess the cooking skills at 'Tapas24MTL', were items forcing the kitchen to
'focus on the substance': personal touch of the cooks, their sense of flavors, palate,
and the ability of extracting the most out of the least (maximum flavor out of simple
ingredients or from simple flavor combinations which is essentially the point of tapas).

I love tapas as it forces a good kitchen to extract a lot out of virtually very little,
which for me is what cooking should be all about. Coupled with the stellar ingredients
of the Mediterranean can turn into mouthfuls of bliss.

* From Where I Sit!
June 22, 2015

* Tapas, 24 Montréal
420 Rue Notre-Dame West (near McGill St.)
Old Montréal, H2Y 1V3
(514) 849-4424

Friday, May 15, 2015

Movie Review - 'The Brave One' (2007)

'You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, and you
may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I'll rise!' ~ Maya Angelou

As I set out for my cinematic fix, I scroll through my PVR list until a title
talks to me. 'The Brave One' a 2007 film by Neil Jordan ('The Crying Game'
(1992), 'The Good Thief' (2002)... another gem) about the safest big city…
New York.
There are certain actresses that I admire, who time and time again, deliver
first-rate, top-notch performances…regardless of the role, the movie or the
quality of the writing. One that keeps making me smile is Jodie Foster, think
'Panic Room' (2002), need I say more. I saw her in a film some time ago, I
won't mention the film, but it was a minor part in a forgettable movie... but
she turned her bit part in the only thing I remember about that fiasco.

'The Brave One' exploits middle-class fears about urban crime and violence.
Radio host Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) keeps announcing 'The Safest Big City'
On her show as an intro to her daily segments about the inner city titled 'Street
Walker'. About her (Erica Bain) moves about the city and records sounds of
anything that tickles her fancy... and then narrates on her show while it plays
in the background.

With an A-list director at the helm and top-flight talent the plot engages when
good people make the mistake of crossing into a land where rules of civilized
behaviour do not apply. Erica has a wonderful life she loves and her fiancé,
Dr. David Zirmani (Naveen Andrews 'Lost' (2004–2010) which she adores. She's
even gone out to pick invitations for their nuptials because his mother loves
that. One evening, while walking the dog in Central Park, he distractedly throws
a ball into a darkened tunnel. Predictably, they subsequently venture forth into
this isolated structure to discover what has become of the animal. A group of
lowlifes step from the shadows, beat them to a pulp, rob the couple and leave
them for dead. She awakens from a coma twenty-one days later to a radically
changed world, and a dead fiancé. Also to her shock, discovers from the good
doctor's mother, they went ahead with the funeral, unaware if she would ever

Unable to move past the tragedy, she can't seem to leave her apartment. The
woman, who hosted the talk show that extols the joys of New York City, now
fears that very place. Eventually, she convinces herself to purchase a firearm,
and begins prowling the city streets at night to track down the men she holds
responsible. The weapon is suppose to be for protection only, but one night in
a convenience store in a strange case of self-defense, she takes her first step
in her transformation into an urban hunter. This is the turning point, and why
her talent is undeniable.
The two-time Oscar winner for 'The Accused' (1988) & 'Silence of the Lambs'
(1991), exudes mesmerizing intensity in her transformation from frightened
victim to vigilante, and it's all there, as clear as day, on the screen. She
projected it so well that you understand at that precise moment, which was
short of an epiphany, what true talent is. That is a calibre above the fray,
and Jodie Foster is in that rarefied air.

Her dark pursuit of justice catches the public's attention, and the city is
riveted by her anonymous exploits. Soon, the tabloids are full of the escapades
of this local hero. Erica is wracked by guilt, but has enough presence of mind
to cover the case on her show and to befriend Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard
'Empire (2015– ), a good cop who believes in the justice system, who takes
charge of the investigation, vowing to catch someone he regards as no better
than the murdered criminals. He says, "The vigilante disgusts me." Being hot
on her trail, she must decide whether her quest for revenge is truly the right
path, or if she is becoming the very thing she is trying to stop.

As a general rule, I don't reveal endings, but in this case I'm making an
exception. At the conclusion of her righteous killing spree, Erica tracks down
the ringleader of the gang who killed her fiancé and Detective Mercer helps
her kill him, even taking a bullet himself in order to ensure she's never caught.

'The Brave One' may raise the question whether Erica's actions are right or
wrong, whether in some case the right thing to do is to get out of harm's way
or not put oneself in jeopardy, etc., but that everyone deserves what they get
is pretty much a foregone conclusion. By confronting Erica with uniformly
despicable thugs who consistently present a clear and present danger to Erica
and to others, 'The Brave One' makes their murders as gratifying as possible
to the viewer. Jodie Foster has suggested in interviews that the film is anti-
violence, and I wouldn't be surprised if Neil Jordan agrees as well.

* From Where I Sit!
May 15, 2015