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Toronto Jazz Band
Toronto Jazz Band

 

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Toronto Jazz Band


Dan Bodanis - Drums & Band Leader

Dan started playing drums officially around the time he was five years old (1964). As legend would have it, Dan was born (1959) with a pair of “gold embossed, Head-Hunters Triple B drumsticks” attached to his hands at the thumb and forefinger, much the same way one might hold a bread and butter knife.

Although the transplant surgery ordered by his father was supposed to exchange the drumsticks for a saxophone, his tiny but powerful little hands rejected the transplant, instead opting for the comfort of those big fat triple B drumsticks.

Much to the dismay of his father Tom: virtuoso star of stage, radio, movies, and of course the saxophone, little Dan appeared to be an advocate for freedom of choice at a very young age. Dan chose to play the drums and nothing anybody said or did would change his mind.

With a sterling collection of majestic saxophones just waiting to be passed along to Dan, Tom secretly hoped that the “drumming thing” was just one of those phases little kids go through. Dan’s mother Elen knew differently, as she claims (to this day) he was playing paradiddles and ratamacues (mostly in 3, 5, 7, and 9!), while still in the womb.

Tom played along with Dan’s freakish obsession with the drums, ensnaring the very finest teachers for Dan to study with! Tom made sure that Dan learned how to read music, and could play Greek and Macedonian folk music in 7/8 time. In addition to his folkloric studies, Dan was introduced to jazz well before he could spell the word!

Dan’s passion for drumming and jazz music was relentless! Without having to ever once be told to practice, he consistently practiced until his school work suffered (only ever so slightly), or the police showed up at Tom and Elen’s to ever-so-politely suggest that the noise by-laws in Etobicoke had yet to be repealed for their son.

High School was a wonderful experience for Dan, as he found it very advantageous to study every available music course from grades 9-13… twice! This was not only supported by Dan’s good friend Paul McKay, the head of the music department, but when Dan landed a steady jazz gig, playing in Toronto’s trendy Yorkville, most of the teachers came out to listen. This provided the teachers with a profound insight into the daytime sleeping habits of their favorite drummer. (At least they pretended Dan was their favorite drummer!)

The principal: George Clendennan and vice principal: Ken Scovell recognized the fact Dan was probably going to spend the rest of his life as a studio musician/jazz drummer/drum teacher. (At least this is what Dan led them to believe!)

When the opportunity presented for Dan to go to Hollywood California to perform for really high profile LA studio people like Don Ellis and seek out a record deal, the senior management at Scarlett Heights Collegiate Institute supported the quest. Although this took Dan out of school for most of January and part of February 1976, George, Ken and Paul collectively felt that this experience would only enhance Dan’s overall education.

They could not possibly have been more accurate! While in Hollywood, Dan made the pilgrimage to the Mecca of venerable Drum Stores: “The Professional Drum Shop.” It was here that proprietor extraordinaire, Chuck Yeager, revealed the mysteries of the (drumming) universe to Dan. It was all one giant epiphany for young Dan, all inside the hallowed halls of this sacred drumstore, where all the greats had come to shop at one time or another.

It was in the backroom (literally) of the store where all the top LA studio drummers shopped, that Dan found the Holy Grail. To Dan’s surprise the Holy Grail wasn’t a chalice or religious artifact left over from Noah’s yacht, (all the “studio-cats” in LA owned yachts that were moored at the Marina Del Ray Yacht Club), but a library of drum-books.

From the floor to the peak of the 12 foot ceiling of this back room library, Dan found every drum book, he had ever heard of, never heard of, and would never have heard of, living in the drum-book starved Netherlands of Canada’s poorest literary (Literary=drum-book) city, just outside of Toronto.

As the sun shone brightly for Dan on this dimly lit back room of literary “drum-gold,” Dan was awe-struck by the fact he could not leave the premises without buying every drum-book in the place. (In later years, Dan came to realize that the very best investment you could ever make is the investment in continuing and never ending self-improvement; the trip to The Professional Drum Shop stimulated the genesis of this insight!)

With all of the cash he had left (except for ten bucks needed to pay for food on the 5 day journey home), having maxed out his visa card and having Tom and Elen wire him funds before embarking on the long drive back to Toronto; Dan actually bought and shipped home, every drum-book in the place!

This was a pivotal decision in Dan’s development. He was not only the proud owner of his very own “(Drum-book) Library of Congress;” he was also on the doorstep to actually becoming a well educated drummer! (OK, I had to throw in at least one oxy-moron: “well educated drummer?” All he had to do was return home, and with Monk-ish-like focus, lock himself away for several (more) years in the practice studio, “wood-shedding” each of these literary diamonds.

Dan felt the overwhelming need to be able to play every exercise in each book. This was due in part because of his overwhelming thirst for knowledge and a burning passion to develop his talent to its’ fullest potential; but also because his students would come for lessons, pick a book off the shelf, open it to a really difficult passage, and ask him to play it.

It literally took Dan six years of practicing seven days a week, (with no days off) to be able to play through all of the books in his library. During this period (from 1976 to 1982), Dan played six nights a week in show bands, did a lot of studio work during the day, taught a lot of students, and still managed to work out every day.

Around 1979, Dan was playing in a number of Big Bands, playing Greek/Macedonian weddings on Sunday nights, and performing on the TV show: Live It Up. He was also playing six nights a week at the Constellation Hotel with the “punmeister himself” Tony Mergel (hereto referred to as: “The Merg!”) (The founder of the Humber College Music programme) (Canadian spelling of the word “programme”), and the puniest guy you’ll ever meet.

Through his (guilt by) association with “The Merg.”, Dan met and played with several world class acts (and some really great musicians too!), from Vegas and even did a short stint with: “The Unknown Comic” from the Gong Show. The “six-nighters” lasted well into 1987!

1983 was the most important year of Dan’s life (next to 1959 and 1964). This was the year while playing a gig with “The Merg,” he met, courted, and conquered, the woman that he would ultimately drag kicking and screaming to the alter. (No, not the sacrificial alter!) To this day Dan thanks “The Merg,” and Kelly holds him in contempt”.

Please Note: It is a well known fact that Dan retired his cannibalistic rituals back in the late ‘70’s, when he traded his consumptive capacities for eating live humans for eating raw alligator meat, while the animal was still alive and wrestling!)Kelly Bodanis

Dan maintained a very full schedule of performing and teaching, right up to Easter Sunday, 1983. It was on that fateful day that Dan decided to dramatically change his life by joining the ranks of respectability. Dan proposed to (Miss Dance Canada, Model, Singer, and Actress), Kelly Schrempf.

The initial reaction that Dan received was not quite what he had expected, nor did he like it very much. When Dan “popped the question,” Kelly immediately burst into uncontrollable fits of laughter that seemed to last for an indeterminable amount of time.

It must have been the profound look of disappointment on Dan’s face and the pity Kelly immediately felt for Dan, coupled with Kelly’s “drummer fetish,” that gave cause to Kelly’s positive response. Kelly and Dan were married in the eyes of the Catholic Church, and about 400 people that wanted to make sure that neither of them bolted, on November 2, 1985.

Although Dan managed to maintain the same rigors of his schedule before marriage, he acquired “additional girth magnitude,” due in complete fault to Kelly. Unbeknownst to Dan in his unsuspecting capacity as: hunter, drummer, conqueror, and husband, Kelly had a deep dark secret.

Yes, it was too late. Poor Dan! It was discovered soon after the exchange of nuptials that Kelly was indeed a “closet gourmet chef.” (To be clear about it, this did not mean that she prepared really good meals in small rooms!) The two years following Dan’s trip down the aisle found him sporting an additional 30 pounds of pure love.

As a point of interest (and to make every other drummer pathetically jealous), Kelly would encourage Dan to practice while she prepared three squares a day. She liked to dance in the kitchen while Dan was still learning how to play the drums. To date (2004), Kelly has gracefully tolerated three hours a day of drumming, whether it is on the drum kit or the practice pad, with metronome blaring at 35 BPM.

From 1978 to 1987, Dan’s parents hosted a weekly jazz-jam session at their home in Etobicoke. Several soon to be, world-class musicians, would come to refine their skills in Tom and Elen’s basement. (This would be a great place to fortuitously name drop, however, there were so many great musicians that came out to play, I fear I may forget to mention certain names, running the risk of being reported to the “Jazz Police and alienating those that were not already alienated by my playing.”)

Then the music stopped. Dan shifted gears rather drastically.

Having been positively influenced by his financial planner, Dan decided to become a financial planner himself. Dan was told that he had to be very focused if he really wanted to succeed, and took that advice to heart. Dan stopped playing drums for 10 years and totally dedicated every minute of his business life to learning the profession of financial planning!

This strategy seemed to work for Dan and those that he served in his new capacity as: “Financial Planner.” Clients liked his passion and enthusiasm for helping them to achieve their financial goals and they kept Dan very busy with what seemed like: “an endless stream of great referrals. The strategy to trade his drumsticks for a calculator proved to be a very positive move!

Dan barely touched a drumstick for all that time. The education derived from all the courses he studied, coupled with helping so many sincere people in such a profound manner, would ultimately shape his future perspective as a philanthropist, business person and band leader.

Then there was Virgil, and there was light!

March 11, 1997! What a day! In the middle of a very intense week of sequestered programme studies for the Certified Financial Planner designation, Dan and two friends made the long journey to the Canadian Mecca of Drumming: “Drummers Choice,” located half an hour outside of Toronto in a city called “Brampton.”

It had been ten years since Dan had played drums. No practicing, no teaching, and no gigging. Ten years! (Was this the musical equivalent of “40 years in the desert?”) Dan’s former drum student and now manager of Drummers Choice, Angelo Fasulo, called to inform Dan of a pending “Tsunami on its way to Brampton from Australia.”

This tidal wave of incredible talent arrived in a very together package, otherwise known as “Virgil Donati.” Virgil was a legitimate “freak of nature.” Virgil was the featured guest artist, brought to Brampton by visionary drumstore owner: “Dave Harvey.”

(Every major business school in the country should conduct a study regarding the manner with which Dave runs his business: Drummers Choice. He has created a “business model” that includes personal coaches working with his employees, and does so much more for his employees than just “employ” them!)

To this point in his life, Dan had never witnessed anyone playing the drums like Mr. Donati. Something about Virgil’s performance spoke to Dan in a manner no one could have guessed.

Dan was so inspired by Virgil’s performance; he actually asked and then begged Angelo to open up Drummers Choice, at midnight, and sell him a practice pad, pair of Head-Hunters Triple B drumsticks, and a rudimental book for technique development.

Back at the Hotel (where Dan was sequestered for his course) by 1:00 am, with his new pad, book, and sticks in hand, Dan literally practiced for four hours. In class at 8:30 am that same morning and totally “charged” after seeing Virgil perform, Dan began the ascent back toward having some semblance of technique and independence*. (*Drummer-speak for being able to walk and chew bubble gum at the same time.)

Virgil had such a profound impact on Dan; the next year went by in a flash, with Dan averaging 3 hours a day of practicing: seven days a week! Of course this came with the added bonus of tendonitis, but thanks to the barrage of great Chiropractors, Shiatsu Therapists, Acupuncturists, and ice packs, Dan managed to maintain a very dedicated focus.

It was exactly a year to the day when Dan started back to his weekly jazz-jams at Tom and Elen’s. Elen was up to her old tricks, making a feast every Tuesday that you would only get at an Italian wedding. There would be two different types of pasta, usually gnocchi and penne; there would be two different types of cutlets: chicken and veal; there would be a salad made from vegetables Tom grew in his backyard, and of course, Elen’s famous chocolate chip cookies. Every Tuesday… no kidding!

This time all the great Toronto Jazz Legends (and soon to be legends!) were coming to play on a steady basis. Russ Little, Eugene Amaro, David Caldwell, Jimmy Amaro, Tom Skublics, David Braid, Adrian Farugia, Tony Zorzi, Nancy Walker, Drew Waters, Chris Banks, John Poon, Chris Mitchell, Levon Ichkanian, Quincin Natchoff, Kenji, Brandy, The Ali Brothers (Nick & Marcus), Al Henderson, Lino Varano, Al Hirsch, Anthony Panacci, Joey Goldstein, Jack McFadden, Dave Patterson, Willie Jarvis, Andy Gravitis, and several more great musicians came to play on Tuesdays.

It was also during this time that Dan began to play in the Al Hirsch Big Band. Ask any professional musician and they will tell you: “Al Hirsch has the best rehearsal big band anywhere!” He draws amazing players to each rehearsal because of the great vibe in the band and he has a library of blistering big band charts that would rival anything that Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, Count Basie, or anyone else for that matter, would possess!

Over the years between 1998 and 2000, Dan gigged like crazy, with anybody and everybody, to get his playing up to a level where he felt comfortable. It was shortly after a big band concert featuring Dan and international Vibraphone Legend: Peter Appleyard, at the Living Arts Center in Mississauga Ontario on November 23 1999, that Dan decided to formally start booking “The Dan Bodanis Band” on a regular basis.

The first Tuesday in January 2000 saw the beginnings of what has grown into (sub-atomically mutated?) what Dan considers: the best band he has ever played with! Joining Dan on a weekly basis were Dave Field on Bass, and Eric Boucher on Piano. The horn players would occasionally change, but the nucleus had been formed!

Between weekly jazz-jams that ultimately grew into formal rehearsals, coupled with a very active performing schedule, The Dan Bodanis Band began to average about 70 playing opportunities per year, during the years: 2000, 2001, and 2002. Dan began to dream of returning to one of his “old haunts:” Grant Avenue Recording studio, to record with his well respected band-mates.

Owned and operated by “uber-producer:” Daniel Lanois, and having recorded more internationally famous bands than almost any other studio in Canada; Dan dreamed of taking his band back into the studio where he had played on numerous recording sessions over a period ranging from 1978 to 1984.

July 23, 24, & 25, 2002, were the dates booked to go into Grant Avenue and record the band. By this time Daniel Lanois had sold the studio to his long-time friend and super-engineer: Bob Doidge and he moved to Beverly Hills California to produce Bono, U2, Robert Plant, Brian Eno and several other very high profile superstars.

(What Canada knew, LA and the rest of the world was finding out: Daniel Lanois was “the Wolfgang Puck” of the gourmet, ultra exclusive studio scene! Daniel could serve up a finished track, garnished with the most incredible aural flavors; that would suit the most discriminating sonic palate. He was truly in a league of his own!)

Ah, but once again, I digress! (But ever so tastefully J )

The Dan Bodanis Band had been performing consistently as a quintet, featuring Dave Field on bass, Eric Boucher on piano, Michael Stuart on Sax’s and Linda Cara on Vocals.

Dan decided that he wanted to capture the true spirit of the band and informed everybody that all recording for this CD would be performed: “live to two-track, off the floor.”

What this meant was: there would be no over-dubbing, no studio editing, no “pro-tools,” and no second-chances. Everything had to be “first-take!” The band would play as if performing a concert that was being recorded, with no chance of doing another take. (For the uninitiated, this is the equivalent of performing a high wire act between sky-scrapers, with no parachute or safety net!)

With three days booked at Grant Avenue, legendary Engineer/Producer: Bob Doidge at the mixing board, a well-rehearsed band, and a great selection of jazz standards to record, Dan felt that the band was more than ready, but a couple of things were missing.

Dan’s dream had always been to record with his own band, on his terms, at Grant. His terms included: Paying the musicians really well; filing contracts with the Toronto Musicians Association and the American Federation of Musicians, Making sure the musicians were really well fed, and (most importantly) having an athletic massage therapist and shiatsu therapist at the studio to work on sore and aching muscles between takes.

With Izzy on lead catering, Don Norton as athletic massage therapist, and Yaz Yamaguchi as Shiatsu Therapist, Dan and the band descended on Bob Doidge and the crew at Grant Ave. Three days later, they emerged with rather satisfied grins on all of their faces, and one broken arm. Yes, you read it right: “one broken arm!”

The band recorded 25 tunes! It turned out that this was enough material for two full-length CD’s. The first CD featured the amazing vocal talents of the extraordinary Linda Cara. The second CD featured the band in full sartorial instrumental splendor!

The final mix for the vocal CD was engineered by Tony Padalino. If there ever was a piano player/writer/arranger/composer/engineer/producer, that deserved to fly around all day in a Superman costume, it’s Tony!

(For those of you wondering - “Hmmm, where have I heard that name? Tony is the keyboard player on a very successful Canadian talk show called: “Open Mike with Mike Bullard.” The show is seen across Canada and into the United States, at least five days a week on the Global Broadcasting Network.)

The following two years (July 2002 -March 2004) since recording those two CD’s at Grant, saw the band busy rehearsing and performing as many as 80 times a year. Dan was actually so busy during this time, maintaining his Financial Planning practice, performing with the band and yes: still practicing the drums, 3-4 hours a day, he had no time to bring the CD project to completion.

Dan claims that he is much closer now to completing the CD then ever before. As a matter of fact, you can now go to the “Listening Gallery” to check out a variety of cuts from both the CD featuring the great “song-styling” of Linda Cara, and the instrumental CD.

Dan has some very clear cut objectives for The Dan Bodanis Band that he would like to see it achieve over the coming years.

Here are a few of them:

  • Perform live for appreciative jazz fans at least once per week, ad-infinitum.
  • Continue to rehearse once a week, ad-infinitum.
  • Sign a contract with a major jazz label that really focuses on CD promotion and distribution.
  • Go back into the studio and record at least one CD every two years, beginning summer of 2004.
  • Package and distribute, with considerable radio airplay support, the first two CD’s.
  • Set up an online retail shopping page on The Dan Bodanis Band website.
  • Sell 100,000 copies of The Dan Bodanis Band CD’s through this website.
  • Successfully line-up and perform at a number of major 2005 European Jazz Festivals.
  • Have all of the travel and hotel arrangements paid for in advance through various cultural exchange grants from the Canadian Government.
  • Perform at a number of major Asian jazz festivals with the same arrangements.
  • Do the “Aussies” have major jazz festivals? We do not want to neglect them! (Someone please e-mail us to let us know. We’ll come to play in your country as long as you hold out the promise of feeding us with some “shrimp on the Barbie!”)
  • Perform at a number of major US jazz festivals with the same arrangements regarding travel, hotels, and grants, as the European Jazz Festivals.
  • Perform at all of the major Canadian Jazz Festivals.
  • Land at least one steady gig per week at a venue that supports and appreciates Live Jazz!
  • Record a live CD at Summit Garden Chinese Restaurant and call it: “Jazz at the Summit!”
  • To perform and support as many Charities as possible. (Note to Charities: the band will perform for charities in support of good causes at a reasonably reduced fee scale.)
  • To always be well compensated for performing.
And of most important significance, with never an exception made:

To Always Be Fed When We Perform!



 

 

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