Toronto flutist flaunts first Grammy nod

Ron Korb gets his first nom­i­na­tion in 30-plus al­bum in­ter­na­tional mu­sic ca­reer

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT - NICK PATCH EN­TER­TAIN­MENT RE­PORTER

As the Weeknd, Drake and Tay­lor Swift ac­cu­mu­lated Grammy nods like points in a pickup bas­ket­ball game this week, one hon­our ar­rived with sig­nif­i­cantly less fan­fare: a best new age al­bum nom­i­na­tion for Toronto-based flutist Ron Korb. Two week­ends from now, while Abel Tes­faye mounts sold-out shows in Miami and fel­low nominee Justin Bieber head­lines At­lanta’s Jin­gle Ball, Korb will be per­form­ing Christ­mas con­certs at churches in Ajax and Oakville.

And on that scale, just one Grammy nom­i­na­tion weighs a ton.

“Even just get­ting nom­i­nated, it changes your whole life,” an elated Korb said Mon­day, hours af­ter his Asia Beauty was named a Grammy con­tender.

“If you had said a year ago that I was go­ing to be nom­i­nated for a Grammy, I would have laughed in your face. It’s that far away from a dream. It’s like say­ing you’re go­ing to go to Mars.”

As Korb chats, his at­ten­tion oc­ca­sion­ally wan­ders to the never-ceas­ing flow of con­grat­u­la­tions set­ting his phone aglow. Plau­dits have ar­rived from artists all over the mu­si­cal and phys­i­cal globe. He’s heard from rap, Euro­pean pop, R&B and Klezmer artists, and con­grat­u­la­tory emails have chimed in from Rus­sia, Ja­pan and France.

The worldly na­ture of Korb’s cheer­ing sec­tion shouldn’t come as a sur­prise.

Aside from his proven fa­cil­ity for Ir­ish, Celtic and Latin sounds, Korb has es­tab­lished a par­tic­u­larly ro­bust fol­low­ing in Asia since first study­ing mu­sic in Tokyo as a fresh graduate from the Univer­sity of Toronto in the early ’90s.

He’s now launched 25 tours in Asia, where he’s earned both renown and a litany of colour­ful nick­names, in­clud­ing Dragon Flute in China, Thun­der Bless­ing in Tai­wan and Prince of Flutes in Ja­pan.

Asia Beauty — a con­cept al­bum that comes bun­dled with nearly 40 pages of liner notes — was recorded in Toronto, with help from dozens of lo­cal mu­si­cians han­dling a range of rare Chi­nese in­stru­ments in­clud­ing dizi, dadi, xun, bawu and the guqin.

Prior to the Grammy nom­i­na­tion, there were signs the record was res- onat­ing: Korb fetched col­lab­o­ra­tion re­quests from rap­pers and EDM artists, and the al­bum won best of show at the Global Mu­sic Awards.

“But I’ve never seen any award be any­thing like this,” he said.

In­deed, Korb has re­leased more than 30 albums since 1989’s de­but Tear of the Sun, and only sub­mit­ted this one for Grammy con­sid­er­a­tion as a sort of lark.

So the fact that pop mu­sic’s big­gest pageant is con­sid­er­ing his Asia Beauty at all seems un­fath­omable.

“It’s ac­tu­ally my wife who thought I should sub­mit to the Gram­mys. I thought, OK, let’s try it, but I had ab­so­lutely no expectations at all,” he said.

“Now, I just can’t be­lieve it. It’s such a huge thing. If I said, ‘OK, you just won $100 mil­lion’ — you just can’t really digest it.”

Now, the Prince of Flutes can add a new pre­fix to his stacked list of monikers.

“From now on, I can put ‘Gram­mynom­i­nated’ in front of my name.”

“I just can’t be­lieve it. It’s such a huge thing. If I said, ‘OK, you just won $100 mil­lion’ — you just can’t really digest it.” FLUTIST RON KORB

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