The much anticipated release of "Songs of Forgiveness & Prayer" is Jeff Bien's first recording of song and features his own original music in collaboration with many of Canada's finest musicians. With fraternal greetings from Leonard Cohen, and accolades from Mercan Dede and a host of other international artists, it is an auspicious debut. 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.
An all-star ensemble of musicians gathered at Hugh's Room in Toronto to celebrate the fall 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.
Since the launch of "Songs of Forgiveness & Prayer" Bien's music has been nominated for a National Folk Music Award, received repeat airplay across the country, been profiled nationally on Bravo, selected by Fresh Air, CBC, as one of the releases of the year, broadcast on Radio Canada International, and a live video recording of the concert will soon be released.
Bien, an internationally acclaimed poet, has been published and translated in more than twenty countries. His songs have been praised for their vision and lyrical quality, and for inspiring and awakening social and spiritual consciousness.
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.
He has recorded two CD's of poetry to music, A Taste of Creation and America & other poems, along with his premiere recording of song. 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 lyrical performances and songs which received enthusiastic responses.
In Canada, his performances, have often accompanying readings, and have included: Hugh's Room, The Rivoli Theatre, The Free Times Café, Arts Court, Ontario Place and the Great Canadian Theatre Company, as well as concert venues, temples, monasteries, bookstores and other venues throughout the country.
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.
In addition to the musical guests who joined him for the CD launch, 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, Thom Gossage, Ken Pearson, Michel Pepin, Danny Greenspoon, Yannik Rieu, Frédéric Alarie, Rob Frayne, John Geggie, Joel Zifkin, Kim Richardson, Derek Debeer, Kebba Jobateh, Quammi Williams, Pierre Cormier, Armando Borg, Rob Graves, Ted Warren, Trevor Ferrier, Bill Gossage, James Parker, 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.
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.