Monday, December 3, 2018

Blainletter #107 | Campfire Jam at the Old Mill this SATURDAY | Celebrating Scott Cushnie MONDAY at the Great Hall | Out and About | and...Here Comes Santa Claus

Well I hate to be the first one getting festive, but this is probably the last Blainletter before the holidays, so…Holiday Greetings to all my Blainreaders. There's been a flurry of subscriptions and I have no idea how they came about – I certainly haven't been very pro-active rounding up subscribers/fans/followers! Anyway, welcome to our exclusive little (now 400+) group who are interested to one degree or another in what I've been up to – as well as all the scandalous gossip I pass along :-)

I love this town.  I've got an interesting group joining me for the Old Mill Campfire Jam THIS SATURDAY (Dec 8, 7:30-10:30).  Julian Fauth will be at the piano – I think he was with me on my first gig at the Old Mill, and I'm happy to report they have asked me to continue with my "Second Saturdays" for the new year, though January will be an exception and it will be on the first Saturday, January 5.

On guitar, I've invited Derek Downham who I've never played with and hardly met but I've heard him play (mostly drums – but he's one of those multi-talented, multi-instrumentalists) and last night I dropped in on his regular Wednesday gig with Paul Reddick at Sauce on the Danforth to say hello.  They were making some heavy music with Paul, Steve Marriner and Michael Theodore. I thought I might hear a tune or two of Derek's but alas, he was happily drumming.

The night before I dropped in on Julian at the same bar thinking I might get a preview of what he would be doing at the Campfire but the only song Julian sang was a special request that I don't think he would bring out at the jam.  Too many chords. I did a couple of my tunes and there were many more players in the circle including a very young Japanese piano player who did a competent version of the "Maple Leaf Rag" as well as "Take Five."

I've been starting to invite some younger players to the campfire and it's always a thrill for them to jam with us "old-timers."  This time I've got  Patrick Merner on bass and he is one of the most inventive musicians you'll ever hear.  You'll hear sounds like you never heard out of a bass!

On the recording front, I've been recording demos of the new songs in my basement studio and getting comfortable with them…tweaking the lyrics, eliminating a couple and writing a couple more to replace them, but everything is unfolding as it should.  I'm not going to run off to Bora Bora with that crowdfunding money:-)

I played a great gig with Julian last month in a beautiful century-old theatre in a little town called Wallaceburg.  It was an All-Star Campfire Jam with Paul Reddick and Ken Whiteley with Michelle Josef on drums.  I should have called it a "Legends Campfire" when you consider the accomplishments of these three.  The audience loved it and we all had a great time.  I was riding with Michelle and Julian when we passed a sign for "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (yes, it's in Canada) so we pulled over and took a peek.  We set off an alarm trying to get close up but we did manage a selfie...

On Monday (Dec 10), there will be an all-day, all-night celebration of the life of Scott Cushnie, Professor Piano at the Great Hall at Queen & Dovercourt.  Lots of his old bandmates will be performing including yours truly.  I even wrote a tune for the occasion and maybe, just maybe, I will include it on the forthcoming album.  I just did a quick iPhone video to pass to Dr. Ric who will be playing some barrelhouse piano with me. Check it out and try to come by the Great Hall on Monday.

Here's a little taste of the performances by Sarah Harmer, Jason Collett and Doug Paisley performing songs from the "Al Purdy Songbook" just out on Borealis Records and packaged with a DVD of Brian Johnson’s 2015 documentary, “Al Purdy Was Here." They have put out a beautiful package honouring the legendary Canadian poet Al Purdy, with musical performances and readings by Bruce Cockburn, Margaret Atwood, Greg Keelor and Leonard Cohen among others.

More Out and About

As I look through my computer I'm finding more great video clips from November but I think this will be enough for now.  I did get some feedback that people weren't really watching everything I was putting up in the last Blainletter (there were a lot of video clips) so maybe I'll go easy on you this time. Suffice to say I heard some great organ playing at my optometrist (you heard me right).  Opticionado on Dundas West hosts regular music events right in the shop (I'll be playing there on February 10th) and this month it was an organ showdown with 2 B3 Hammond's battling face-to-face with the B3 elite of Toronto, John T. Davis, Kingsley Etienne, Lance Anderson, Bernie Senensky and Denis Keldie. Last week I saw harmonica virtuoso Carlos del Junco at Hugh's then went down the road apiece to catch a bit of Bad Luck Woman at the Local and they had the place jumping and here's an Algerian guy playing some funky instrument

And then there's all the great shows I didn't make it to….Rob Lutes for one.  Oh well, next year…yes, it's just around the corner.  Hope you send off 2018 with a big bang and we'll see you out there,

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Friday, November 9, 2018

Blainletter #106 | Crowdfunding Over - Thank You Blainbackers | Campfire Jam at the Old Mill Saturday w/Casey Van Gorkom, Alec Fraser and Ken Whiteley

November 2018

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Greetings Blainreaders! I'm happy to announce the "Surprise Guest" at tomorrow's Campfire Jam at the Old Mill will be Casey Van GorKom.  Casey was a regular at Hwy 61 BBQ on Bayview when we were doing the Campfire up there, and he has since gone on to build a great band – Turbo Street Funk – who started out busking on the streets of Toronto and can now fill big halls.  They bring a real party vibe (how could you not, when you have a tuba in the band?) He will be joined by veterans Alec Fraser and Ken Whiteley who, between them, have probably produced and played on a thousand records.

There will also be an "All-Star" Campfire Jam on November 17 at the Jeanne Gordon Theatre in Wallaceburg. Yes, we're taking the Campfire on the road!  If you have friends out that way, let them know there will be a very special show in Wallaceburg.  And look who will be jamming: Paul Reddick, Julian Fauth, Ken Whiteley …and moi, plunking on the bass and playing some of my new tunes.

And the new tunes just keep on coming.  I have to put on the brakes because it's going to be hard to decide which tunes to include on the new CD.  Yes, the recording process has begun and it's coming along.  The Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign brought in another $1500 which will help cover the costs of production and musicians. I have learned that you can't skimp on the mixing (though I may have to skimp on the mastering) but we'll see how much recording we can get done in my own basement studio where the overhead is low – literally, if you're a six-footer you will be bumping your head. I can't wait for you to hear the new tunes – you already have, if you've been watching my Facebook Live appeals.  Of course, these were early versions of the songs and I'm still polishing and tweaking.

I think we'll be doing a regular Facebook Live Blaincast every Friday (as long as there's a few folks out there to watch it).

Gone But Not Forgotten

As I was driving along tonight, I got to thinking about my old buddy Scott Cushnie (aka Professor Piano) who I've gigged with many times and was just over at his place jamming with him in the last few months.  You probably heard on the news how he took a fatal fall on the Danforth in the aftermath of that huge storm we had in August and was buried under another man's name in a bizarre case of mistaken identity. Now that they've figured out what happened,  there will be a great "Celebration of Life" for Scott – details to be announced later.  There's a great story on Scott in this month's Maple Blues. Last month, there was a beautiful Celebration of the life of Kiki Misumi (Mrs Reg Schwager), who was the most beloved spirit in the Nichiren Buddhist community as well as on the local jazz scene.  I was imagining that as Scott wandered into the afterlife that he would encounter Kiki's spirit and she would guide him through this new adventure.  Another passing was Paul Trotter who was the Technical Director at the jazz festival when I joined them in the 90s and in more recent years, he and his wife Arlene ran Reba's Café where I did my live recording, New Folk Blues, with George Koller.  They had a great party for him at The Cadillac Lounge and I did a couple of tunes (thanks to Dennis Pendrith passing me his bass).

Out and About

October kicked off with the Toronto Blues Society's "Road to Memphis" competition at the Dakota Tavern (now under new ownership – Anthony Greene of Castro's Lounge).  I was asked to be the emcee and had a great time. It was a shoot-out with the veteran Jack de Keyzer Band going head-to-head with newcomers Bywater Blues (who won the TBS Talent Search last summer).  Jack took it, but Bywater put on a great show. I love this band but when I tried to complement them by saying they were like Tedeschi-Trucks,  Meghan said something like "we're trying to get away from that…."  Ooops.  Anyway, they're terrific whatever direction they want to go.

It was great to hear Robert Davis and Fraser Melvin doing a set at the Intersteer (he has a new CD coming out – recorded in Cuba).

Robin Banks was ripping it up with Teddy Leonard and the "Big Groove" rhythm section of Gary Kendall and Mike Fitzpatrick.  She also brought along a guitarist who was new to me, Maurice Gordon, and he added a lot of flavours. As it turned out, this was the last Sunday at the Goose as the club has been sold and will be re-invented as a micro-brewery.


I also checked out the 120 Diner on Church Street which has had many incarnations as a music venue (Rockit!) where I was intrigued by a facebook post that advertised "Peter Hill will be singing"  This I wanted to check out, and having maestro Reg Schwager on guitar was even further reason to make the trek.

I was looking forward to hearing the legendary Ramblin Jack Elliot at Hugh's Room but just before I was to head out I got a notification of a Facebook Live event from Moog Audio in Toronto.  I watched a bit of Clara Venice playing the theremin and giving a little history lesson.  I decided to make a detour and hoped I would get there in time to see the remarkable Moldover doing a demonstration of some of his latest musical gadgets – he is the maestro of "controllerism".

If you've never seen a balafon, check out Fatoumata Kouyaté who was playing at Lula Lounge. The balafon is sacred Guinea tradition and traditionally only played by men. The first was made by the King of Susu (former African empire in the 11th century) and was given to the griot Balafaseke Kouyaté. The Kouyatés have been an important family of storytellers through the generations. Fatoumata is a direct descendant and one of the first African women to play the balafon, breaking an age-old taboo of the Manding Empire.

Finally, tonight I was invited to an old school jazz concert at the big room in the Old Mill and we enjoyed  champagne, chicken & salmon, sweet desert and old-school jazz from some legends like Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen, Guido Basso, Warren Vaché and some local stars including the aformentioned Reg Schwager.  On the way home, I swung by Hugh's Room to catch the last set of Montreal guitarist Jordan Officer who put on a great show including how to do one-arm push-ups while drinking a gin – it's one of the lines in his tune so he just wanted to demonstrate that it can be done. Watch the vid:

Thanks for reading this far and a really big thank-you to all the folks who pre-ordered a CD or contributed above and beyond.  You'll be hearing from me personally and you can look forward to a highly entertaining CD in your mailbox in February.   And, of course, if you are a blainfan and never got a chance to contribute to the Indiegogo campaign, it's never too late to add to the pot by contacting me directly.  I will be eternally grateful. See you out there, BrianB



Saturday November 10, 7:30-10:30pm Brian's Blues Campfire Jam with Ken Whiteley, Alec Fraser and Casey Van GorKom. The Home Smith Bar at the Old Mill Toronto, 21 Old Mill Road.  No Cover ($20 min food & beverage)

Saturday, November 17, 8pm  Brian All Star Campfire Jam with Paul Reddick, Julian Fauth and Ken Whiteley at the Jeanne Gordon Theatre, Wallaceburg, ON

I call it my "living" album because it started life as a solo "live" recording with bassist George Koller and has now been "sweetened, stacked, mixed and mastered" with new instrumentation on all the songs. It starts with New Orleans marching horns from Alison Young and Colleen Allen on "Forgotten",  “Alice“ gets violin and banjo from Drew Jurecka and Tim Posgate. There's a reggae percussion workout with Trinidadian Wayne Stoute and the wonderful Michelle Josef, some sweet slide from Harry Manx on the French tune, barrelhouse piano from Toronto expat Patrick Godfrey and organ grooves galore from Australian B3 sensation Clayton Doley. "The Ghost of Clinton's Tavern" is a full-tilt electronic ambient remix by my son the DJ. 




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