I began studying classical music as a child and loved the obvious
composers, Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel etc. Of course the
Beatles caused me to make a huge left turn, though they didn't have a
It was when I went back and listened to the earlier blues and rock
pianists that I really found something that was a gas to play. Johnnie
Johnson, Otis Spann, Jerry lee Lewis and all the rest. And, of course,
country giants like Floyd Cramer.
I've been trying all my life to find a way to combine all these
elements into one grand style....but I expect it will take a lifetime
to do successfully, if ever.
The release of the new John Barlow Jarvis CD “View From a Southern Porch” marks the latest step in a musical journey TIME magazine describes approvingly as, “traveling without a map.”
In “Southern Porch”, John’s 6th solo recording, his piano technique blurs the lines between stride, celtic, jazz, country, classical, and even bluegrass music, all the while showcased inside original musical compositions reminiscent of Randy Newman, Floyd Cramer, and Fats Waller.
John Barlow Jarvis’s musical journey began in 1968 in Southern California at the age of 14, when, after winning numerous classical competition awards, he was signed as a staff songwriter and studio musician at Edwin H. Morris Music. By the age of 18 John was already playing piano on hits by such artists as Ringo Starr, Diana Ross, Leo Sayer, John Mellancamp, The Miracles, Art Garfunkel, Stephen Bishop (a fellow E.H. Morris writer) and many others.
In 1974, at the age of 20, John joined the Rod Stewart Band, where his honky tonk licks can still be heard on such classics as “Hot Legs”, “Tonight’s the Night” and “You’re in My Heart”. In addition to touring with Stewart, John continued to be one of the most in demand recording musicians in Hollywood up until 1982, when he decided to move his family to Nashville, Tennessee.
In Nashville John simply picked up where he left off. For the last 20 years, he has continued to hold his place at the very pinnacle of studio musicians, playing with virtually all the artists who led the country music explosion of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. His studio credits range from Vince Gill to Brooks and Dunn, from Faith Hill to Shania Twain, and from George Strait to Reba MacEntire. That’s John’s wild honky tonk piano intro on the Hank Williams Jr. Monday Night Football show, and it’s also John’s heartbreakingly minimalist piano on the Mary Chapin Carpenter classic “I Am a Town.”
John is also a two time Grammy winning songwriter, receiving both awards for song of the year, for his compositions “I Still Believe in You”, recorded by Vince Gill, and “Love Can Build a Bridge”, recorded by the Judds. His composition “The Flame” was sung by Trisha Yearwood at the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics. John’s songs have been recorded by an incredibly wide spectrum of artists, including Conway Twitty, John Denver, Waylon Jennings, Stevie Nicks, Delbert McClinton, Art Garfunkel, Brenda Lee, Steve Wariner, Amy Grant, Ricky Skaggs, Alabama, and Taj Mahal, among many others. He has won both the CMA and ACM awards for his writing, and has been nominated for an Emmy.
In 1985, John was approached by MCA, along with Larry Carlton, to be a flagship artist on the new “Master Series” label. His first 5 Cds, from 1985-1993, were universally acclaimed and all of them reached the top 10 in the new jazz category. PEOPLE magazine has called “So Fa So Good” “the best solo piano since Keith Jarrett”. TIME magazine picked “Whatever Works” as one of the 10 best record releases in ANY category for 1989. CBS news spotlighted John on their New Year’s Eve broadcast of 1989, and Jane Pauley interviewed him for the TODAY show in 1990.
John's new CD, "View From a Southern Porch", with special guests Aubrey Haynie, Brian Sutton, Eddie Bayers, Mike Henderson, and David Hungate, has a warmth, an organic energy, and a joy that can only come from people who love to play music for music’s sake, friends who, like John Barlow Jarvis”, lead with the heart and continue to “travel without a map” as they join him along his musical journey.
John Barlow Jarvis store
* Your musical inspirations?
BRIAN ENO, BJORK, LEONARD COHEN, TOM WAITS, ELVIS COSTELLO, NUSRAT FATEH ALI
KHAN...this list could go on and on...
"When I first heard Joel Kroeker play guitar it reminded me of a modern pop version of Lenny Breau. His guitar playing, and phrasing are very reminiscent of Lenny. His playing is familiar sounding but with a new approach to standard riffs and things which gives him his own unique style right from bar one." - Guitarist Randy Bachman
"Joel is the kind of artist that True North can take around the world. I think he's got one foot where Paul Simon is, and one foot where Jack Johnson is." - True North president Bernie Finkelstein to Toronto journalist Karen Bliss on the JAM! website.
A strikingly original singer/songwriter, Joel Kroeker debuts on True North Records with the memorable album, "Melodrama." "Melodrama" is a poignant, often radiant reminder of the power--as opposed to simply the genteel charm--of contemporary pop music. The recording--12 original songs by Joel--indicates a comprehensive understanding and passion for alternative folk, rock, and jazz genres while balancing the needs of commerciality and conscience with a rare delicacy.
"For me, 'Melodrama' is the only title of this record," says Joel who resides in Vancouver. "The intense daily drama of life is only survivable when I allow melody to seep through the cracks and save me. I ride these huge dynamic shifts like tidal waves, and life takes on a musical quality...tension and resolution, tension and resolution. Peace always means a storm is coming and vice versa."
Recorded with producer Danny Greenspoon at Canterbury Sound in Toronto, the album features a band that matches Joel's sizable talent: guitarist Kevin Breit, keyboardist Gary Breit, drummer Gary Craig, bassist George Koller, and with background vocals by Kathryn Rose and Susie Vinnick. Appearing on "The Wind" is guitarist Kurt Swinghammer; and guesting on "With Me" is former Guess Who/Bachman Turner Overdrive guitarist Randy Bachman.
Joel returned the favour to Randy by performing on his 2004 album "Jazz Thing" on Maximum Jazz. Noted Toronto-based programmer Peter Prelesnik provided the drum loop programming on Joel's album for "Endings," "The Wind," "Paradise," and "The Smallest Room." With "Melodrama" Joel set out to create a timeless recording. The album has the lean austere quality associated with recordings made decades ago while each song packs a visceral punch. "Melodrama" centers on life being complicated, about it being harsh, bruising, and claustrophobic if you let it.
The album's lyrics deal with coping with pain, endings, loss, regret, sadness, weakness, humiliation, and danger--all the primitive feelings people have little control over. Joel's compositions--haunting and boldly intense--derive much of their emotional power from being coupled to personal and political insights. He's seemingly on friendly terms with demons, to tell what he knows. This is particularly evident on such tracks as "Endings," "Goodbye Jane," "Naked Beauty," "The Wind," and "The Smallest Room." On the surface "'Goodbye Jane" is a gentle, even delicate, reflection of an idyllic good-for-me/good-for-you relationship. It, however, deals with the trauma--the aftermath--of a relationship that has left emotional wounds.
"'Goodbye Jane' is actually two stories in one," reveals Joel. "It is about repeatedly trying to say goodbye to a lover while realizing that each time you say 'goodbye' their very being is burned deeper and deeper into your soul." Asked if the song is autobiographical Joel replies coyly, "Yes, but her name wasn't Jane."
"Naked Beauty" came about while Joel was in Toronto in late 2001 working with singer Patricia O'Callaghan. Its lyrics tell of two naked lovers having a quarrel in a small room. In the heat of battle each sees the other's flushed face as sheer beauty and are silently enamoured. Here is pop romanticism with both eyes opened. Will the two remain silent or will they speak and dissipate the rancour between them? "Writing with Patricia inspired that song," reveals Joel. "We sat around and listened to a lot of Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen." O'Callaghan was impressed enough with "Naked Beauty" to record it as the title track of her recent Marquis album.
Joel's songs have been covered by several other artists in the past year. Lee Aaron included five Joel co-writes on her 2004 album "Beautiful Things" on HipChick Records; and Toronto-based band Micro Maureen recorded another Joel co-write, "We're Still Here" on its Aquarius debut in 2003.
Joel's favourite song on the album is "Paradise" which almost didn't get recorded. "I had a few lyrics a long, long time but the song sat around forever," he explains. "I had forgotten about it in a pile of papers. I found it, and finished it just before the recording session." Joel points out that the quest for "paradise" is a common theme throughout literature, religion, fairy tales, and in Hollywood's films--in which characters usually discover a form of blissful "paradise" by the end of the reel. In real life, he further notes, money, sex, power, alcohol, drugs, or relationships hold the elusive promise of paradise. "This quest for an illusionary paradise is played out everyday in a desperation to solve all of our problems," he says. "Meanwhile, this promise always turns out to be a lie."
"Song For A Person On A Bridge," however, suggests that whatever the setbacks in life there is always something to live for. The song visualizes a person standing on a bridge contemplating the end of it all. A vaguely recognizable voice becomes audible from somewhere within (or without) and it's saying "wait...just wait." "The song is a true story," says Joel.
Endings and loss are experiences that people encounter continually in their lives: Through the death of loved ones, separation from lovers, and, of course, the inevitable end of their own life. In his song "Endings," Joel affirms that these experiences are thoroughly grounded in reality and that by acknowledging the beauty within those experiences, people can redeem themselves from the shadowy world of their subconscious. "Sky sleeping on a crooked bed of pearls. A perfect desert for a valley of desperate souls A setting sun bleeding angels for a burnt out broken world Nothing lasts very long when your spirit's only made of gold." "'Endings' is about letting go," says Joel. "It's about the setting sun mentality, and how things are always moving toward an ending of some kind. How accepting this as a basic reality can be beautiful rather than terrifying."
The majestic track "The Wind"--with its lucid line "No one is safe from a broken heart and a handful of ashes"-- was inspired by Paulo Coehlo's "The Alchemist." While reading the novel Joel came across the image of a strong desert wind known as the Levanter. The image--as a metaphor of how people's preconceived notions are frequently blown apart by life and time-- stayed in his mind. "So much of our energy is spent attempting to keep ourselves together," says Joel. "Guarding our lives with tight controls is like trying to secure a house of cards against a 40 mph wind. Anyone who has truly tasted life knows that this isn't the way things work."
The futility of fighting against controlled elements is somewhat carried over to "Simple," a song concerning the simplicity of being human. "Life has a way of becoming complicated," laughs Joel. "We get bogged down in the details of desires and assumed needs. We are actually simple creatures." There's a cool reserve to many of the album's selections, in particular "Your Painted Face," "With Me," and "Blue Moon Lounge." "Your Painted Face" came to Joel in a cohesive form almost at once. The image central to the song is a painting on the wall featuring a lover's face. Under the painting is a hole punched in the wall.
Joel's lyric--always with a passion for structure and detail--tells the story of how that hole got there. "There's a hole in the wall Right below your old portrait There's a universe inside that old hole." "I had the image, and I got the full story all at once," says Joel about "Your Painted Face." "It was just a matter of unraveling it and writing the story out over the next few hours."
"With Me" chronicles a musician in an apartment singing a love song to a neighbour he has never met. He knows her only through hearing her through thin walls living her life. Says Joel, "He hears her talking on the phone, and he pictures her longing for safety. He imagines himself-- armed only with his guitar and this song--as her hero."
The album's final track, "Blue Moon Lounge"--with its memorable line "So I'm slurring a monologue through a broken microphone"-- was inspired by Joel's stints of touring and playing to late night smoky bar crowds, and by Margaret Wise Brown's book "Goodnight Moon."
"Melodrama" developed after Joel came to Toronto in late 2001 and met for lunch with True North president Bernie Finkelstein. "I loved Bernie from the word go," says Joel. "We got along very well." While in Toronto, Joel had performed at several showcases attended by Universal Music Canada's A&R reps Allan Reid and Dave Porter. The two tipped off Universal president/CEO president Randy Lennox about Joel. A few months later, Joel was signed to a True North/Universal co-venture. "Bernie and I were both admiring the demos from Joel," Lennox told Karen Bliss on the JAM! website. "We decided to do it together 50-50. Since we're Bernie's distributor, it made sense."
Born in Winnipeg, Joel lived there for 9 months until his family moved to Fresno, California for a year, then to Chicago for another year; followed by Hillsboro, Kansas for seven years; back to Fresno for three years; and finally returning to Winnipeg. "My father is a journalist," explains Joel. "The first 13 years of my life was mostly in the U.S. With his family having such mobility, Joel experienced an unique developmental process while growing up. Geographic mobility, and separation of friends made him more worldly even if he often had the anxiety of being an outsider. "My life was so split up," says Joel. "When we moved from Hillsboro and Fresno I lost all my friends. By the time I got to Winnipeg. I thought, 'Do I even bother making friends.' I definitely can adapt to certain situations."
Both of Joel's parents have performed. His father played trumpet and played classical guitar; his mother continues to be a semi-professional singer; and his older brother played saxophone. Joel played trumpet through much of his teen years. "When I was 4 or 5, I was singing in church with my family," recalls Joel. "The four of us would perform hymns and folky tunes to 1,000 people in different churches." Joel first heard music from his parents' record collection. "My dad had stuff like Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, the Kingston Trio and the Weavers," says Joel. "My brother was into jazz and heavy metal. He got me into John Coltrane. I didn't get into the heavy metal as much as he did, but I certainly went through a rebellious stage in junior high." Joel, in fact, describes high school as "a rough time." until he began playing guitar.
"Playing guitar saved me from everything," he laughs. Within a month of teaching himself to play guitar on an Ibanez Roadstar II with Van Halen's "Eruption," and Randy Rhoads' "Dee," Joel was playing in a band called the Crunge, named after the Led Zeppelin song. Soon afterwards, the band performed in the auditorium of their high school. Over 400 people showed up. "We made a load of money, and we thought we were ready to be a big rock band," laughs Joel. "From there on, it was disappointment after disappointment for three years.
Following high school, Joel moved briefly to New Zealand. Returning to Canada, Joel entered the University of Winnipeg, taking general arts. Then he completed a Bachelor of Music in Composition and Guitar Performance at the University of Manitoba. "I got into avant-garde and acoustic music, and learned how to use computers to make music," he says. At the same time, Joel played guitar and did some writing in a promising Winnipeg band called Kin--a cross between the Cranberries, the Sundays, and Elvis Costello's early Warner period.
Next Joel completed a Masters Degree in Ethnomusicology and Popular Music Studies from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. His thesis focused on the relationship between Western Canadian singer/songwriters and the music industry. During this time, he became immersed in varied musics, and began to hear music differently. "I was so fascinated with music," says Joel. "I studied different instruments, including sitar, and tabla. I played tabla in Indian ensembles, and played guitar in Celtic bands." In 1999, Joel won the Old Strathcona Singer/Songwriter Competition held in Edmonton. The following year he won top prize in Alberta's CBC Performance 2000. For his Old Strathcona win, Joel was awarded six hours of studio time. He recorded and mixed six songs, and finished up an album at a friend's home studio. Joel's debut CD "Naive Bohemian," released independently in 1999 by his Dancing Monk Productions, reached # 7 on the Canadian National Campus Radio Specialty chart. "The album was really just a hodgepodge of demos," says Joel. However, the success of "Naive Bohemian," distributed nationally by Edmonton-based Spirit River Distribution, led to Joel being named Best New Recording Artist by the Alberta Recording Industry Assn. in 1999.
He also won Film Score of the Year for the documentary "Tokyo Gardens." Joel also went on to share stages with such top Canadian acts as Sarah Harmer, Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, Andy Stochansky, Colin James, and the Payolas. "After the album, I began to play 100 shows a year," says Joel. "I got gigs by calling people up. I did a ton of sales offstage."
As well, Joel has since co-written with such Toronto-based songwriters as Stephan Moccio, Liam Titcomb, David Martin, and Thomas "Tawgs" Salter; Newfoundland's Barry Canning; and The Weekend's Andrea Wasse. Joel's future plans include some possible film scoring. In 2002, he scored three independent Canadian films: the short ("SF Seeks" featuring the cast of TV's "Andromeda"); the documentary "Safe Haven" about the underground railroad in Canada during the Vietnam War; and the short film "Fallen."
"Melodrama" is a map of Joel's music; it defines the territory he claims without quite fixing his limits. "There's lots of angst, lyrical significance and weight to the record, but it still has a melodramatic quality," says Joel. "Anybody who knows me would probably say that's part of my personality."
* Your musical inspirations?
In my teens I was listening to The Band, early Randy Newman, Simon &
Garfunkel, the melodic sensibilities of The Beatles, the harmonies of
The Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell, etc. Also I listened and performed a
lot of classical music. Baroque music especially resonated with me and
* Any CD's or songs which are meaningful to you?
Nothing truly stands out. Music in general is my best friend.
* How has music inspired you?
Like falling in love does. It is my constant unquestionable drive. It
is also the voice through which I speak. It has been the stage of life
* Has music helped you thru a difficult or traumatic time in your life?
Only in that it has contributed to my own development and thus the
means I have to deal with the hard times.
If you have come in contact with Canadian music at all over the last number of years chances are you have either seen or heard the work of Kevin Fox. Kevin's abilities as an instrumentalist, singer, composer/arranger, performer and songwriter have offered him the opportunity to work with numerous artists in a variety of capacities throughout the years that he has been active within the music community.
Come this spring Kevin will be releasing his debut album Come Alive, a collection of eleven songs featuring the strength of Kevins stunning voice as well as his abilities as a songwriter and orchestral arranger. The albums production embraces the songs pop sensibilities within the world of classical orchestration and electronics. The result is a powerfully beautiful, lush sound that holds echoes of the past while standing out as fresh and innovative.
Born in 1968 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Kevin quickly became absorbed with and excelled in the arts. By the time he left for Montreal to study composition at McGill University in 1986, Kevin had already written songs for eight years, composed orchestral pieces for four, toured with orchestras and choirs, started a band and performed his own songs and orchestral pieces on local stages.
In 1991 Kevin moved to Toronto where he picked up an electric guitar for the first time and auditioned to join a band led by established MCA recording artist Andrew Cash. Thus began his career as a side musician. With his abilities to play numerous instruments including the cello, acoustic, electric, and bass guitar, as well as sing, Kevin has since worked in the studio and on stage with a variety of artists from Sarah Harmer to Tom Cochrane to Celine Dion.
Kevin's talents in composition have placed him in the position of being a highly respected orchestral arranger in his musical community. Drawing upon his experience and studies, arranging is a means through which Kevins abilities to intertwine his influences and enrich the beauty of a song is evident. It allows him to step beyond the singular voice of his cello and offer the same beauty and intensity with which he plays, through the voice of an ensemble. As a composer/arranger, Kevin has to date composed music for film as well as arrangements for such artists as Damhnait Doyle, Lennie Gallant, Julie Black and Dolores O¹Riordan of The Cranberries.
Kevin's songwriting continues to grow after twenty-five years of developing his craft. Through co-writing and the recording of his songs by other artists his work has been featured on american television programming such as Baywatch Hawaii and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and received radio airplay across Canada and the United States.
Awareness of his talents as a singer/songwriter is quickly spreading and come the release of Come Alive, Kevin will already have established a growing fan base. Whether due to his continued work as a freelance musician and composer or his emerging career as a solo artist, the music of Kevin Fox will in the future be hard to miss.