|JGQ, Nisapa Productions, $12.95. Jefferson Grant Quintet.
Here's a quintet to watch for in the record stores and the nightclubs, a group that's been called "the most exciting and musically sophisticated of Montreal's young working bands," and their premiere CD makes it clear why they've garnered rave reviews since their formation in 1995.
Saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, BMus'92, and trombonist Kelsley Grant, BMus'93, met as students in McGill's Jazz Studies program, and both continued their jazz training at the Manhattan School of Music before returning to Montreal to start their quintet. All the tunes on this debut disc are original compositions and most are gems, mainstream in sound but unrestrained enough for those looking for a little harder bop and adventurous soloing.
JGQ's songs are all about ten minutes long, and while in lesser musicians the extended format could have resulted in immoderate intellectual noodling -- boredom, in a word -- the playing is inventive and the rhythm section so energetic that everything falls together winsomely. Trombonist Grant conjures up some gorgeous playing and will make you forget everything you ever hated about trombone. This one just sings, and often puts the listener more in mind of the halting, breathy lines of a flugelhorn rather than the traditional raucous, brassy bellow. It's also a nice twist on the usual quintet sound. Likewise, Jefferson's work on various saxophones is tremendous (in New York, he won a Downbeat magazine Student Music Award).
Special guest Michel Cusson sits in on the ballad "September Never Came," adding nice colour on nylon-string guitar. Standout tunes are the CD's swinging opening cut, "Jordan's Back," and "The Adirondack," which showcases the rhythm section. It would be nice to hear them tear the stuffing out of a standard, but as composers, Grant and Jefferson for the most part have a deft touch.
The players also have an impressive history, having played with the likes of Joe Henderson, Oliver Jones, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Slide Hampton, Maynard Ferguson, Nicholas Payton, and the album's producer, avant-garde Quebec sax player Charles Papasoff, to name but a few. The rhythm section, made up of pianist Guy Dubuc (who some will recognize as the pianist from Julie Snyder's Le Poing J on TVA), George Mitchell on bass and former McGill music student Martin Auguste, is one of the best you'll hear in Montreal, and together with Jefferson and Grant they sound like something you'd come across in a New York club, not in your own back alley. Don't miss them. They'll soon be on to bigger things.
by Andrew Mullins
Bad Jobs, Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver, $16.95, edited by Carellin Brooks, BA'93.
This book doesn't really need its subtitle, My Last Shift at Albert Wong's Pagoda and Other Ugly Tales of the Workplace. Just plain Bad Jobs says it all, and every reader will identify with something here. After all, who hasn't at some time worked for minimum wage (or less) at a loathsome job that was either crushingly boring, physically exhausting or dangerous. In Bad Jobs, some of the work described is all three.
Brooks, a McGill Rhodes scholar in 1993, says she was inspired to compile the book when she returned to Vancouver from Oxford and started looking for work. She finally found a part-time job doing market research by phone. At the beach one day she met a woman with a master's degree who worked at Starbuck's. When Brooks offered sympathy that a postgraduate degree had led to serving coffee, the woman replied, "Oh no, it's a great job. You see, everybody who works there has a degree."
A Eureka! moment for Brooks. "There was my anthology in a nutshell."
As she points out in her introduction, there have always been horrible jobs, but we were told we could escape them by pursuing an education. "What's happening now," says Brooks, "is that the people who never thought they'd have to settle for a bad job are finding that's all they can get. The old work/education connection isn't holding up."
Brooks's 30 contributors describe their Mcjobs mostly in first-person accounts ranging from hilarious to painful, with a few offering comics or a poem. One young woman describes giving phone sex while she thumbs through Ms. Magazine; a factory worker tells what "extras" occasionally get added to bags of crushed ice. Some are bemused by their situation. Says one PhD, who is a job counsellor trainee, "This is not a place where many of us can say, 'This is what I expected to be when I grew up.'" She adds wistfully, "The last time a job was posted in my discipline at the U of T, I was 12." Others are angry. A woman who handles complaint calls for a catalogue company says, "There are only two things I hate about my job: the customers and everything else."
Next time you read about computer engineering grads being recruited with blank cheques by software companies, spare a thought for those who are out scuffing for their next bad job.
by Diana Grier Ayton
Social Work and HIV: The Canadian Experience, Oxford University Press, $23.95, edited by William Rowe and Bill Ryan.
This easy-to-read volume constitutes the definitive work to date on the Canadian social work experience in regard to the HIV epidemic. Edited by two senior scholars at the McGill School of Social Work, this compilation of essays by leading researchers and front-line workers describes the complexities of the HIV problem and its impact on Canadian society. At the same time, the chapters also detail the important successes of community activists, scientists, and, of course, people infected by HIV, in confronting this disease.
The 16 chapters in the book are divided into three major sections: prevention of HIV infection; care of those infected by HIV; and public policy. The chapters on prevention are thoughtful yet provocative, and address the important issue of harm reduction as a means of reducing the spread of HIV. They also deal with the different approaches to prevention in different urban centres, and demonstrate that the strategy should be tailored to the needs of the community in question.
The section on care should be required reading for Canadian politicians as well as people in the field. The issue of who should pay for treatment is addressed in compelling fashion. The point that governments actually save money by paying for anti-retroviral drugs -- since effective treatment keeps people out of the hospital and in the workplace -- cannot be over-emphasized. The need to maintain active vigilance, to deal effectively with families affected by HIV, the problems of street youth, aboriginals and injection drug users, and the need to grieve are all discussed in an intelligent, forthright, and sensitive manner.
The chapters on public practice and policy and the need for political activism are also excellent. These include essays dealing with confidentiality and ethics, the needs of hemophiliacs and other blood product recipients, and the need for an integrated approach in dealing with HIV/AIDS.
William Rowe and Bill Ryan are to be congratulated for their initiative in compiling this volume. If there are any omissions -- and no book of this type is without them -- it is in the area of women and HIV disease. Although this topic is addressed in several of the essays, it would have been instructive to have included more details of how women's tolerance of anti-retroviral drugs is often different from that of men, and how variations in toxicity profiles affect attitudes toward pill-taking and adherence to difficult drug regimens. A fuller discussion of the need for topical vaginal microbicides would have been desirable, alongside clearer recognition of the fact that women at risk are often not sufficiently empowered to insist on condom use when having sexual relations.
However, these are relatively minor shortcomings in a book that uses the Canadian experience to define problems and potential answers in a fast-changing field.
Dr. Mark A. Wainberg, BSc'66
Dr. Wainberg is Director of the McGill AIDS Centre, based at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, and President of the International AIDS Society. Books Received
The Bird Almanac: The Ultimate Guide to Essential Facts and Figures of the World's Birds, Key Porter Books, 1999, $24.95, by David Bird, MSc'76, PhD'78.
Soldiers of Diplomacy: The United Nations, Peacekeeping and the New World Order, University of Toronto Press, 1998, $35, by Jocelyn Coulon, translated from the French by Phyllis Aronoff, BA'66, and Howard Scott.
Le Devoir, visited UN posts in places like Cambodia, Bosnia and Somalia to interview soldiers, officers and officials. First published in 1994 and updated for the English version, Soldiers of Diplomacy raises important questions about the role of these "new world warriors," who often find themselves serving political ends through their peacekeeping missions.
Legacy of Stone: Ancient Life on the Niagara Frontier, eastendbooks, 1998, $26.95, by Ronald F. Williamson, MA'80, PhD'85, and Robert I. MacDonald.
Feminism and World Religions, State University of New York Press, 1999, $38.50, edited by Arvind Sharma and Katherine Young.