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Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE
Band Jazz Singer/Songwriter


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"On The Beat - Serafin Live"

On The Beat
Serafin Live
By Kerry Doole
Originally Published: 2010-11-07

SERAFIN: This highly-talented Toronto jazz singer has long been under-rated locally, and that was reaffirmed by the rather sparse turnout at his recent CD release party (for Love’s Worst Crime) at Lula Lounge. Undeterred, he delivered a superb first set that comprised sensitive takes on jazz standards (“Don’t Explain” and “Comes Love” were highlights) and new original compositions that, as on “Telescope,” show his growth as a songwriter. His witty stage banter was a plus, as was the top-notch playing of an A-list of local musicians, including GREAT BOB SCOTT, GEORGE KOLLER, ace guitarist TONY QUARRINGTON and multi-instrumentalist CHRISTOPHER PLOCK. Upping the tempo with a couple of boisterous tunes was local veteran BIG RUDE JAKE. Word that Serafin is gaining a following in California is welcome news. A pity that Toronto is rather missing the boat. - Tandem

"Love's Worst Crime"

Love’s Worst Crime
Independent, 2010
When this record begins you immediately ask yourself, "Is this a boy or a girl?" Tough to say. Serafin LaRiviere's androgynous voice can operate in five octaves, and it operates very well. The music behind the voice is in itself a leather couch on the relaxation scale. Every song is it's own, holding your attention firmly throughout. There are hints of Joni Mitchell and even Joanna Newsom, but on the whole, Love's Worst Crime is a unique and surprising offering to the jazz gods. - VUE

"Serafin Love's Worst Crime"

Canada is known for many things. While we’re one of the world leaders in indie rock, hockey jerseys, and natural resources, the territory comes with a whole lot of stereotypes. This is where Toronto based jazz singer Serafin comes in. Touting a healthy dose of traditional jazz influence blended with experimental elements, Serafin is working hard to put Canadian jazz on the map. Love’s Worst Crime is Serafin’s third full-length record, and features a largely stripped down version of modern day jazz. The band (fronted by Serafin LaRiviere) is an active three piece, using bass, tenor sax, and vocals as the base for every song.
While the writing and musical talent is definitely present (and vast) in this release, I definitely wouldn’t deem it everyday listening. Given the opportunity, every member of Serafin’s band proves their worth at one point or another throughout the duration of the album; talent is not the issue here. Perhaps the issue is accessibility. While Love’s Worst Crime won’t be my go to album on an autumn bike ride, it proves itself to be a serious contender for the soundtrack to my traffic jam. There’s nothing as calming as putting on a well written, well thought out jazz record to calm oneself down when it seems the world is pushing down on you, and Serafin is no exception to that. In addition, the large instrumental breaks and free jazz influences make it ideal study music. But then again, new and exciting music is never without its genre restrictions.
Not to discredit the instrumental work present, but as you would guess with the eponymous title, the vocal range is hands down the most stimulating element here. Serafin has a five octave vocal range, which for those unaware, is very impressive. But most importantly, he is neither hesitant nor uncomfortable with singing in any one. This is not to overshadow Serafin’s writing ability. He takes writing credit for all but four songs, which are all his versions of some of the genres most prestigious songs. This change in artistic pace provides an essential break in the flow of the album, and keeps it from moving too fast to perceive. If you’re a fan of jazz, or even if you’ve never opened yourself to the genre, then this criminally unknown Canadian act will bring you to the forefront of the genre, without missing a single ode or influence to the genres extensive back catalogue of influences.
Reviewer rating: 3.5/5 - The Ontarian

"On Wings Of Song"

Story by John Karastamatis

Saturday, October 08, 2005

It's a Monday night at the Montreal Bistro. The place is packed. On the wall of this legendary jazz club hang photos of the greats, everyone from Oscar Peterson to Diana Krall. "I gave Diana her first break," Bistro owner Lothar Lang says.
The crowd has gathered tonight for a concert to mark the release of the debut CD of a newcomer who seems to have emerged fully formed from nowhere. "I always believe in giving the next generation of artists a chance," Lang says.
The audience is certainly diverse: young and middle-aged heterosexual couples; groups of gay men and women; other performers on their evening off. At a table close to the stage, two immaculately groomed women wearing flapper dresses and what looks like good jewellery sip white wine. Except they aren't women; they're transvestites.
The band of eight, featuring some of the city's best jazz musicians, is squeezed on to the stage. The vocalist steps forward. The band rings out the first chords of Etta James's timeless At Last, and the singer belts out the opening: "At last, my love has come along / My lonely days are over / And life is like a song."
The voice startles the audience. You can see people sitting up, their bodies swinging back as if something physical has just hit them. The singular sound is somewhere between man and woman, human and angel.
The performer's look is also in-between: a hulking six-foot-four giant dressed in a nondescript black vest and pants, with long wisps of red hair framing a big face punctuated by tweezed eyebrows and bold eye makeup. Man or woman? you wonder. The singer's name doesn't help to assign sex: one word, Serafin, from seraphim, the ancient Hebrew and Greek term for three-winged celestial beings.
The song ends. The applause is rapturous.
"The first time I saw Serafin, I didn't know if he was a guy or a girl, and I loved not knowing," says Jaymz Bee, the jazz impresario who produced Serafin's CD, 2 AM at the Torch Bistro.
The confusion isn't lost on Serafin. "I imagine people look at me and say, 'Who is that freak?' You know, they see me and think, 'What is that, a big, strapping, red-headed ugly farm girl, or what?' "
But when they hear the voice, which has a five-octave range, people are enthralled. Says Bee, "It's such a unique voice it can't be compared to anything else. Serafin creates music that's so big it goes beyond traditional jazz."
At the CD launch, one of the performers in the audience is David Clayton-Thomas, the Grammy Award-winning frontman of Blood, Sweat and Tears. Hearing Serafin sing, he jokes, "I love that voice. I'm thinking of getting neutered so I can sound like that."
Others wonder where Serafin has come from and why they haven't heard of him before. Serafin is happy to answer.
Raised by his grandmother and Aunt Betty in Vancouver, Serafin was the only child in the household.
"It was Nanny who called me Serafin," he says. "She came from Ireland and angels were a big thing for her. She was this otherworldly figure to me."
When Serafin was eight, he went to live with his parents in a town outside Peterborough, Ont. "It was a rude awakening. I was no longer Serafin, I was Sean. And I was a sissy little thing. I probably was programmed to be such, but who knows for sure. Being raised by two women certainly intensified the femininity. My parents were horrified. My earliest memories are of them telling me: 'Don't stand like that.' 'Don't walk like that.' They tried to reprogram me and I didn't quite get the hang of it."
On wings of song: Is Serafin male? Female? Androgyny is almost beside the point when you sing like an angel
Serafin loved to sing, but when he went to live with his parents they wouldn't let him, deeming his voice too girlie. He did anyway, when they weren't around.
He recalls his parents renting a video of Victor/Victoria, in which a woman vocalist (played by Julie Andrews) pretends to be a man pretending to be woman. When his parents got the gist of it, they made him leave the room. But Serafin was intrigued by the gender playfulness -- and the notion of a career on stage.
When he came out to his parents, they threw him out. He supported himself with menial jobs, living for a time in an old car his grandfather had given him, then in a renovated chicken coop. His landlords, who owned a video store, gave Serafin free access. He saw almost every film they stocked, including Victor/Victoria.
His voice hadn't changed much since his early teens, and he began singing again, this time in earnest. He auditioned for a professional production of the musical Fire in Peterborough. Fascinated by his looks and voice, the director hired him even though he had no experience. One of the actresses in the show, Thea Gill (who appeared in Queer As Folk), encouraged Serafin to move to Toronto and pursue his career.
Once here, he got a few roles in small theatrical productions, while taking formal vocal training. When Aunt Betty fell ill, he moved to Vancouver to nurse her until her death four years later. He continued to train, though he had no time to perform.
Now, at 36, Serafin is back in Toronto and finally doing what he was meant to do. At Last, which sums up his feelings about his career, has become his anthem in the year since he started performing professionally.
As a jazz vocalist, he sings not just the standards but also interprets pop songs in his singular style. He can take songs everybody has heard on the radio hundreds of times, like The Crying Game, Everybody Hurts or Here Comes the Rain Again, and reimagine them.
"It's appropriate that it's torch songs that Serafin sings," Bee says. "He has the real-life experience to make these songs achingly real."
Serafin describes the songs he specializes in as "the lover's dirge, the gay man's anthem, the shy girl's lament."
Adds Bee, "Serafin follows on a long tradition of androgyny in music: Johnny Ray, the great Nina Simone. Many people thought she was a man -- Boy George."
The tradition is also resurfacing in United States, where avant-garde New York vocalist Antony is causing a stir with his gender-twisting performances. In fact, Antony and Serafin look very much alike and share a similar vocal range.
"The androgynous thing is here to stay," Bee says. "Even heterosexual guys in the audience are yelling out, 'I love you, Serafin.' "
© National Post 2005
- The National Post

"Assorted review quotes"

“This is one of the most intriguing albums I heard in the last couple of years. Usually I choose one or two numbers to listen to in advance, but this time I listened to all of them. I'll have this album as CD of the month in our program After Dinner Jazz. I hope to hear more from Serafin. It's most wonderful.” -John van Eijsden, Radio Hoogeveen, Netherlands

“2am (at the Torch Café) is the kind of sound that you just kick back and enjoy. This is good music.” -J. Otis Williams, KSDS 88.3 FM San Diego California

“I played Bang-Bang on my jazz program today. Your record is really handy in a jazz program because of the contemporary material. Who'd a thunk Crying Game had such a great melody - a perfect torch song.” -Tad Graham, Noosa Community Radio FM 101.3FM, Australia)

“Great voice and music is getting plenty of play.”
-David Mcrory 2NVR 105.9fm / 2bbb 93.3fm, New South Wales, Australia

“This album definitely displays the talent of Serafin.”
-Pascal Dorban Radio ARA , Luxembourg

"Wow great!" -KDHX 88.1FM Missouri St Louis USA

“You need to have this CD in your collection."
-Upper Room Radio show Bridgeport Connecticut USA

"Serafin, 2 AM at the Torch Cafe" somehow for me recalls the halcyon days of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday,
and plums the depths of the common-life emotions that the music of their era
express. Serafin's rendering of "My Funny Valentine" is particularly
poignant. Looking forward to a sequel.” -Western's Public Radio (4 stations)

"A great surprise with this young singer...I like his voice and unique style."
-FM Urquiza 91.7 MHZ Buenos Aires Argentina
- Assorted


Love's Worst Crime (2010) - Serafin.
Singles for My Baby Just Cares for Me, Don't Explain and Comes Love added to playlists across the US.

Nothing Goes Quietly (2008) - Serafin LaRiviere, featuring Waylen Miki and the Littlest Jazz Orchestra.

2am at the Torch Cafe (2005) - Serafin
single for My Funny VAlentine added to JazzFM Toronto and AM740, CBC airplay.



With a 5-octave vocal range that runs the gamult from tender to tempest, Serafin has cultivated a cross-genre audience that embraces Jazz, Torch and even Classical music.

His third album, Love’s Worst Crime, features Serafin’s largest contribution of original material yet, penning seven of the album’s 11 songs himself. From sweet melancholy of his song I’ll be the Boy, to the Parisian-flavoured He Walks Two Steps Ahead, Serafin creates intensely personal music drawn from his own life.

Serafin finished Love’s Worst Crime while living and singing in San Francisco, California. Regular gigs at Rassella’s Jazz Club & Restaurant and Savanna Jazz in San Francisco introduced Serafin to an American audience, and the opportunity to perform with Dee Spencer, frequent pianist to Little Jimmy Scott, one of Serafin’s long-time idols.

Love's Worst Crime hit #10 on Earshot's national Jazz chart in November of 2010.

Recently, Serafin’s cover of the Barry Mann classic “I’m Gonna Be Strong” (from his second album, Nothing Goes Quietly) has been added to a Readers Digest International compilation CD Timeless Favourites, which also features artists like Glenn Campbell, Bonnie Tyler and Captain and Tenille).

Serafin’s previous CD, 2am At The Torch Café, peaked at Number 7 on Canadian college radio Jazz charts, with over 3000 downloads through Internet music sites like iTunes. Nothing Goes Quietly premiered at Number 9 on the same charts, reaching Number 1 within a week on CHUO radio in Ottawa.

Serafin currently splits his time between homes in Regina Saskatchewan and Toronto Ontario.

"Serafin Lariviere may have a five-octave voice, but it's his emotional range that really kills. If your heart has ever been totally broken at sundown only to be mended by someone new at sunrise, then you'll know and love the musical messages he conveys."
-Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic for the Toronto Star

“One of the most distinctive voices in the country, an emotionally loaded and tremolo-laden alto that’s pitched at the edge of gender identity.”
- Stuart Broomer, Toronto Life Magazine

“A singular sound that is somewhere between man and woman, human and angel.”
– John Karastamatis, The National Post, Canada

“With every note, Serafin sings out courage and breathes in hope.”
- Ralph Benmergui, JAZZ.FM91

"Like the medieval 'seraphim' angels, the sweeping vocals of this Serafin take us to all the emotional highs and lows we can have"
- Gene Stevens, AM740 Radio
“One of the most intriguing voices I heard in the last couple of years.” -John van Eijsden, After Dinner Jazz, Radio Hoogeveen, Netherlands

"A great voice and unique style."
-FM Urquiza 91.7 MHZ Buenos Aires Argentina