Since the inaugural launch of his most recent recording, Jeff Bien’s musical debut has been nominated for a National Folk World Music Award, profiled nationally on Bravo, selected by CBC as one of the releases of the year, reviewed widely, and broadcast across the country, and on Radio Canada International.
He has recorded two CD’s of poetry to music, A Taste of Creation and America & other poems, along with his first recording of song, Songs of Forgiveness & Prayer, which features his own original music in collaboration with many of Canada’s finest musicians. His music has been critically acclaimed, lauded for its vision and lyrical eloquence, and for inspiring and awakening social and spiritual consciousness.
An all-star ensemble of musicians gathered at Hugh’s Room in Toronto to celebrate the national release. Performing with Bien were George Koller (bass), Rebecca Campbell (vocals), Rick Lazar (percussion), Ravi Naimpally (tabla), John Gzowski (oud/guitar), Anne Lindsay (violin), Richard Underhill (saxophone), Ray Montford (guitar), and Kobena Aquaa-Harrison (African drum and vocal).
“This really was a testament to Jeff’s work, that so many outstanding musicians with different touring commitments put aside their busy schedules for the show,” noted Underhill, a Juno Award-winning jazz musician.
Bien’s work embodies diverse musical and cultural influences, engaging oral and formal traditions which include the migrancy of folk, jazz, classical, African and spiritual idioms. With fraternal greetings from Leonard Cohen, and accolades from Mercan Dede, David Broza, and other international artists, it is an auspicious debut.
He has performed on many occasions in Europe during tours sponsored by the Canadian Embassy and the Department of Foreign Affairs, and on each occasion was joined by Canadian and European musicians to accompany poetry and song, in lyrical performances which received enthusiastic responses. Besides appearances at such Canadian venues as Ontario Place and The Great Canadian Theatre Company, he has performed at Amadeo Roldan, Havana, and at an open-air concert at Shakespeare & Company in Paris, which drew one of the largest audiences in their landmark history.
Bien has recorded in numerous studios including, in Montreal: Frisson, Fast Forward, Study Piccolo and Silent Sound Studio; in Toronto: Canterbury Studio, Found Music, Reaction, Halla Music, and SoundHole; and most recently in Kingston at Leopard Frog Studios. He has worked with established engineers/producers including David Travers-Smith, Rob Heaney, Jeremy Darby, Morris Apelbaum, Barney Beninger, Phil Bova and Chris Coleman.
Internationally, Bien has recorded at Teatro Amadeo Roldan, in Havana, with: pianist Roberto Carcasse, composer/pianist Alexis Bosch Mendez, and saxophonist Jose Carlos Acosta Embale; and at New York Studio and Studio Ohm Sweet Ohm, in Paris, with: guitarist Pierre Chaze, and vocalist Jessica Rose Princeston (Notre Dame Choir). A number of his poems have been given musical treatment by Emmanuel Reverdi (Paris) and released internationally on CD (Access/9 Ave. B), Melodie Records, as well as EMI.
Mercan Dede, whose last album was number one in the world, arranged music to a number of Bien’s vocal recordings of his most recent poems, including them in his newest release Dünya, an album which includes music composed to a rare recording of Mahatma Gandhi, as well as lyrics of Rumi, and other prominent artists. One of Bien’s poem’s was the only track from the double CD, included in the Buddha Bar`s annual compilation, released worldwide.
He has worked with a wide spectrum of Canada’s most prominent musicians including: the late Oliver Schroer and Jamisse Jamo, David Travers-Smith, Mercan Dede, Mark Duggan, Jason Fowler, Andrew Downing, George Koller, Richard Underhill, Rick Lazar, John Gzowski, Anne Lindsay, Ray Montford, Kobena Aquaa-Harrison, Rebecca Campbell, Thom Gossage, Ken Pearson, Michel Pepin, Danny Greenspoon, Yannik Rieu, Frédéric Alarie, Rob Frayne, John Geggie, Joel Zifkin, Kim Richardson, Derek Debeer, Ravi Naimpally, Kebba Jobateh, Quammi Williams, Pierre Cormier, Armando Borg, Rob Graves, Ted Warren, Trevor Ferrier, Bill Gossage, James Parker, Robert Priest, Bob Cohen, Tim Walker, Erich Kory, Rob Frayne, Kate Mossman, Sheila Hannigan, Mariusz Monczak, Dàma Scène, Chris Coleman, Robert Windsor, Dave Gossage, Kim Richardson, Ellen Hamilton, Michel Ballèt, Julie Michels and members of Montreal’s Jubilation Gospel Choir.
In celebration of Bien’s music and most recently published book, In a Time of No Song, many of Canada’s finest writers and musicians joined together to perform and read selections of his work, in an evening aptly entitled “Song in a time of No Song”. The night was recorded and filmed for a video and documentary, as well as a live CD, to be released in 2016.
“Jeff Bien until this point has been regarded more as a poet than a musician. He’s well known world wide and major poets like Ted Hughes and Irving Layton have sung his praise over the years… He’s now released a full-blown musical album ‘Songs of Forgiveness & Prayer’… If Neil Diamond were doing a Leonard Cohen record this would be the result… A star studded cast of supporting players.”
— Mark Rheaume, CBC Radio