Cootes Paradise is a collective of six musicians (see bios below) who chose to play together based not only on their talents, but who they are as people. The business of music can be a cold and punishing enterprise, so forming a group comprising of kind, enthusiastic, collaborative individuals was the goal that founding member Lily Sazz had in mind when she began to recruit the musicians. The hope was that if these gifted individuals gelled personally, great music would follow. And she was right.
Cootes Paradise specializes in roots based music that is bluesy, funky, and filled with soul. Featuring lead vocals by the legendary Sue Leonard (k.d. lang, Bruce Willis, Bon Jovi), and Wayne Krawchuk (Sidestreet, Tight Little Island) supported by Mark Volkov (a triple threat, playing flute, sax, and violin), Lily Sazz (keyboards, vocals), Amy Di Nino (drums, vocals), and Ian Taylor (bass, vocals), the result is an infectious, groove-based sound with a mix of super cool covers and originals that easily stand up to the rest of the repertoire.
“Cootes Paradise”, their self-titled CD and first release, hit the airwaves in November 2017, and is quickly gaining traction and impressive reviews. It’s a collection of 12 songs that reflects the diverse songwriting styles in the band, and collaborative arrangements that shine a light on the quality of the music.
The name Cootes Paradise comes from a local wildlife sanctuary, named after Captain Thomas Cootes. It was also the original name of the community that later became the town of Dundas, now part of Hamilton, Ontario, where the band is based. According to a brochure published by McMaster University, against which Cootes Paradise borders, “people have been drawn to Cootes Paradise for centuries. From AD 500 to 1000 this area was occupied by the Princess Point people, named after archaeological discoveries which indicated they were the first to bring agriculture to the region.”
Band Bios (in alphabetical order)
Amy Di Nino (drums): Amy has degrees and diplomas from University of Windsor, University of Toronto, and Humber College, and is currently completing her Masters of Music Therapy at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She is the leading lady of ADD Music Wellness, a music therapy clinical practice serving clients throughout southern Ontario. Previously, Amy provided music therapy at the world renowned W. Ross Macdonald School for the Visually Impaired, Blind, & Deafblind, where she was the recipient of the 2012 Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence in Ontario. She is the conductor/artistic director of the Grand River Voices, a 80+ voice community choir based out of Kitchener, ON. Amy is also the music director and organist at Sydenham Heritage United Church in Brantford, and holds the position of Principal Percussionist with the Guelph Symphony Orchestra. Amy is endorsed by Murat Diril cymbals.
Wayne Krawchuk (guitar/vocals): Wayne Krawchuk is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist from Hamilton, Ontario, who has been a professional musician for over 35 years. He started his music career as a teenager busking on the streets of Toronto, graduating to opening spots in coffee houses and clubs, where he was influenced by Canadian artists such as Brent Titcomb, David Bradstreet, Stan Rogers, Willie P. Bennett, David Essig, Scott Merritt, and others. Wayne has toured and performed extensively with numerous groups, including r’n’b favourites, Sidestreet, with whom he appeared at the World’s Fair in New Orleans, the Red River Festival in Shreveport Louisiana, and the Fiesta de October in Guadalajara, Mexico. Their EP was recorded with Canadian artist Ian Thomas. He also performed with Tight Little Island, performing at Mariposa, Summerfolk, and many other festivals, and recorded with Ken Whiteley. He is currently working on his second CD as a solo artist.
Sue Leonard (vocals): Born and raised in Hamilton Ontario, Sue has toured the world with k.d. lang as background vocalist with The Reclines in support of “Absolute Torch & Twang” and “Ingenue”. The Reclines were awarded “Best Backup Band Of The Year” two years running at the Canadian Country Music Awards. Her voice is featured on the backgrounds for k.d. lang’s hit “Constant Craving”. Sue has recorded with Bon Jovi (“New Jersey Album”), co-written for Zakiya Hooker (“Another Generation Of The Blues”) and Billy Thompson (“Better Man”). She’s also performed with Bruce Willis and Johnny Neel. You can read more about Sue, including her discography here.
Lily Sazz (keyboards/vocals): Lily is a seasoned veteran of the music business, having performed regularly with various groups since the mid 1980s. She has formed several successful groups garnering nominations, awards, and critical acclaim. She is a member of the prestigious Toronto Blues Society Women’s Blues Revue band, performing at Massey Hall every year, as well as performances at the National Arts Centre, and other major concert venues. Lily has performed with many notable performers, including Molly Johnson, Jackie Richardson, Shakura S’Aidah, Kellylee Evans, Tom Wilson, Paul Shaffer (from the David Letterman Show), Lee Aaron, Serena Ryder, Ray Materick, Carole Pope, Sass Jordan, King Biscuit Boy, and many more. Besides Cootes Paradise, Lily is also performing with Rita Chiarelli (as part of her band “Sweet Loretta”. See www.lilysazz.com.
Ian Taylor (bass): Born in Southampton, England, Ian started playing guitar at the age of 8 and played his first gig at age 10. During his teens he was the guitarist and vocalist in several local bands. When a rock band asked him to substitute for their emigrating bass player, he quickly learned simple bass lines on a borrowed bass to get the gig. Soon hooked on the instrument, he took private lessons with a local professional bassist studying music theory, upright, and fretted bass. This commenced a stint of rock and country band gigs with local semi-pro bands around the South of England, which included variety shows, large conferences and major military venues. Ian relocated to the US (Boston area) in 1980 and became good friends and rehearsal buddies with Brooks Wright (Pat Metheny’s schoolfriend and first drummer), a period which Ian attributes as a major step forward in his playing style. Moving to Canada in 1982, saw the start of a long career playing bass in local Ontario bands playing blues, soul, funk, rock and country at such venues as Earth Day Festival, Burlington’s Sound of Music Festival, Canada Day festivities, Parks Canada, Casino Niagara, etc. Ian can also be found performing with “Rhythm and Bones” a band he co-founded in 1996 and “The Amy Project” the story of Amy Winehouse.
Mark Volkov (flute, violin, sax): Mark was introduced to music at the age of 7 when his grandfather, Herman Liebman, a classical violinist, composer and teacher in New York City, gave him a ½ size violin and taught him the rudiments of music. He continued his studies in Hamilton, Ontario at the Royal Conservatory and then with the late Marta Hidy, a violinist of international renown. Mark took up the flute and saxophone while still in highschool, eventually landing positions in the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, The McMaster Wind Quintet, the McMaster Symphony, and more. After university, Mark pursued a career in pop music, playing with numerous big bands with horn sections, and toured extensively throughout North America with many groups, including Crown Affair, Toronto funk band “Brainwave” (previously known as “A Chocolate Affair”, featuring a young Molly Johnson), The David Sebastian Bach Show, and The Dublin Corporation. After returning to live in the Hamilton area, Mark played regularly with numerous groups, including Sticky Fingers, a Tribute to the Rolling Stones, Harrison Kennedy, Trickbag, Banned from Heaven, The Barchords, and many more. With his multi-instrumental versatility, he has contributed to many recording sessions and commercial jingles.
A little more about Cootes Paradise (the place):
Cootes Paradise is part of the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve and links to the Bruce and Waterfront trails in the Hamilton Area. It’s also part of the Royal Botanical Gardens. Here’s a brochure with more information.
The Town of Dundas, (originally called Cootes Paradise), is a fantastic way to spend a day strolling about. There are many unique restaurants and businesses that make for a great place to spend some time. We recommend parking your car at one end, and exploring both sides of the street at your leisure.
More interesting links: