With the help of FACTOR, these 10 Canadian artists are looking to take their music to the next level
By Adam Feibel2022/02/07
For musicians across Canada, making a living is more challenging than ever these days. And it’s never been easy.
“Let’s be honest: Canada is a beautiful, diverse, peaceful, free country, but it is not an easy place to be a musician,” says vocalist Ori Dagan. “Due to its vast geography and small population, this has always been a challenging market. And with the 21st century challenges of dwindling revenues from sales, grants have become all the more crucial to the survival of this ecosystem.”
The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings — more commonly known as FACTOR — is one of the major ways of securing the funding they need to bring their projects to life. The public/private partnership has a number of different grants that are designed to help Canadian musicians record an album, market their music, tour nationally and internationally, and more.
Since the 1980s, the organization has funded hundreds of artists as its budget has grown to more than $11.5 million annually. Some of FACTOR’s success stories include Polaris Prize winners Cadence Weapon, Haviah Mighty, Jeremy Dutcher, Lido Pimienta and Tanya Tagaq, along with many of the major players in Canada’s jazz scene such as Laila Biali, BADBADNOTGOOD, Dominique Fils-Aimé and Ernesto Cervini.
“I believe that Canada is so incredibly fortunate to have a funding body like FACTOR,” says oboist Colin Maier, who has released a total of five albums with the help of the foundation. “There is so much music produced from the beginning stages to mega stars and from indie to large record labels that could not have been done without [it].”
Below, we highlight 10 artists in Canada’s jazz and blues scenes who are making use of FACTOR in the hopes of taking their careers to the next level.
Vocalist, composer and poet Lara Solnicki received her FACTOR grant just in time for the promotional cycle of her third album The One and the Other,an ambitious project combining jazz composition, poetic impressionism and free improvisation. “I am very grateful and indebted to FACTOR for this,” she says. “The timing was incredible.” The recording highlights Solnicki’s captivating voice and bold, unique style, backed by an excellent band that includes the talents of bassist Rich Brown and drummer Davide DiRenzo. Solnicki has been busy promoting the record since releasing it in March of 2021; meanwhile, she’s already working on several more projects in both music and poetry. “Let’s see what surprises and adventures 2022 has in store as it unfolds.”
Through her work with Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, David Clayton-Thomas, Larnell Lewis and now a burgeoning solo career, Joanna Majoko has established a reputation as one of Canada’s most exciting young singers. Last year marked her debut solo release, No Holding Back. It’s a four-song EP of rich, modern neo-soul that’s lyrical, fun and groovy. The result of several years of thought and care, No Holding Back is a celebration of individualism and of “realizing your magic.”
Comprising oboist Colin Maier and accordion player Charles Cozens, this duo puts the spotlight on two instruments rarely heard in jazz. “Obviously, the oboe is not the first instrument that comes to mind when making a jazz album, so I thought it would be next to impossible if I had to wait for someone to give me a call asking to be on their jazz album,” says Maier. “So, Charles and I had to do it ourselves with the incredibly generous support from FACTOR.” The pair’s self-titled debut album, released in late 2021, is a mix of jazz, ragtime, blues, tango, gypsy and klezmer — all with an emphasis on personality, storytelling and improvisation.
Bassist, composer and educator Marika Galea’s work has spanned the realms of jazz, pop, folk, indie, hip hop and more. An alumnus of the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band, Galea has since worked with notable names in jazz including Terence Blanchard, Cyrus Chestnut and Warren Wolf. In early 2020, Galea released her debut album Nuance, featuring 10 original compositions that feature an eclectic mix of styles and textures while exploring what it means to be alive.
Over the past 20 years, vocalist Ori Dagan has become a fixture of the Toronto jazz scene. He’s been known for singing standards and jazz arrangements of pop tunes — including his 2018 record Nathaniel: A Tribute to Nat King Cole — but his upcoming fourth album Click Right Here is his first recording of all original songs. “FACTOR’s support allowed me to create the album of my dreams,” he says. “Simply put, without this grant, this album could never have happened.” Look for the new album to be released in the spring of 2022.
Originally from Edmonton and now based in Toronto, Jenie Thai plays a fiery blend of blues, pop, R&B and soul that’s influenced by the likes of Tom Waits, Nina Simone and Bonnie Raitt. Thai is a tireless performer whose gigs include touring in support of the Downchild Blues Band, playing at Massey Hall for the Toronto Women’s Blues Revue and various live shows across the country (including a well-received live performance at the JAZZ.FM91 studios). Her latest album Night on Fire is a self-assured record full of funky guitars, soulful keys, big brass and Thai’s sweet ‘n’ salty voice, all of which are sure to get you moving.
Montreal-based singer-songwriter and educator Renée Yoxon has released four full-length albums while also building a career as a highly respected trans voice teacher. Their latest album, 2020’s Beautiful Alchemy, is the soundtrack to a documentary directed by Teagan Lance that paints a portrait of Yoxon’s struggles and triumphs with identity, disability and artistic ambition. It’s a crossover jazz album with lovely songwriting, emotional depth and broad musical appeal, with Yoxon’s crystal clear and expressive voice filling their songs with life and personality.
You can find elements of jazz, R&B and hip hop in the music of guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Wes Carroll. A past participant in JAZZ.FM91’s Jazzology program, Carroll has held down regular gigs at the Empress Hotel in his hometown of Victoria, B.C., while also performing six times at the Victoria Jazz Festival. He has recorded four albums to date, with the latest being the 2020 trio recording Elephant in the Sea. Evoking the work of artists like Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and Anderson .Paak, the Wes Carroll Confabulation has an impressively focused sound that shows their innate understanding of the various styles from which they draw.
Annabelle Chvostek’s globe-trotting latest album String of Pearls brings together her Canadian singer-songwriter tradition and the tradition of her East European heritage with a long-standing connection to Uruguay. Put it together and the Toronto-based vocalist and composer’s music recalls 1930s tango, vaudeville cabaret and swinging Hot Club jazz. Here, she shines a spotlight on “jazz manouche,” the European style popularized by Django Reinhardt.
With a soulful, timeless voice honed by years of admiration for the likes of Amy Winehouse and Stevie Wonder, Toronto’s Erez Zobary is a pop and R&B artist known for her raw, vulnerable and uninhibited style. Over the last five years, Zobary has played sold-out shows at venues like Lee’s Palace and packed theatres in Kingston and Calgary, as well as a performance at the JAZZ.FM91 studios as part of the Discover Women in Jazz program. Her latest project To Bloom, released in 2021, is an album that oozes effortless self-empowerment, earning her positive reviews and a nod as one of Exclaim‘s artists to watch.