June is here and it's been pretty active so far. Last night I was at the Toronto Blues Society Talent Search Finals at the Silver Dollar Room. Barry Mack from Halifax, Big Mark and the Blues Express from Montreal and all the way from Saskatoon, a power blues trio of seventeen year-olds led by Jordan Cook.I stood watching Jordan with some of the Montreal contingent and as they watched young Jordan put on the show of his life, I'm sure they figured he was a shoo-in. But it was not to be. Despite their great playing, it was not as blues as Big Mark. There's an element of swing though not as pronounced as the young Toronto bands calling themselves swing. We won't even get into what the original "swing" players call swing...
I had a gig so could not attend the finals on the previous night (another great night of blues, I'm told, with Jimmy Helverson, the Soul Kings (with Josh Miller) and Toronto harp hero Jerome Godboo, who I have no doubt gave a phenomenal performance. I have played with Jerome and he is a consummate musician and as a front man he has no peer. But young Jordan Cook was certainly taking it in that direction with a lot jumping about and even some Guitar Shorty dance-floor antics. He played great, even laying on his back but it was probably too rock for a blues contest - that's the sort of thing that would have been said about Jerome in the past - and he was a runner-up in the same contest last year.
Things to work on:
Start a tune with a big flourish.
Do a funky tune (with drummer banging bell of cymbal).
Start a tune with drums (second line).
A zydeco groove?
Get them dancing.
Sat night I'm listening to Holger Peterson's Saturday Night Blues - a great tune from Gate who won the Handy Award for Blues Instrumentalist of the Year and he would be my pick too. Holger had a little interview clip with him and the quote I remember was "Music is medicine. I can be feeling real badly but when I get up on the bandstand I forget about what's wrong and I try to cure others."
Gate wasn't looking very altruistic when I met him a few years ago. He had just stepped off his tour bus, arriving very late for him appearance at the Toronto Downtown Jazz festival. No one from the festival volunteer crew was around so I went up to greet him and boy did he look stern, holding an elaborate carved pipe. It wasn't until the break when I was sitting with a couple of his roadies that they told me the story of how they felt they had just escaped with their lives from riot-torn Quebec City. In fact, there had been a few cars turned over and fires started on St-Jean Baptite Day in a suburb of Quebec, and the police had cordoned off the block where the band had parked their tour bus at a small motel. They knew they were going to be late for their gig in Toronto if they didn't get on their way right away so even though the police wouldn't let them through the roadblock, a young fan showed them a back way in and they quickly gathered their belongings and made their way out of what they thought was a near-death experience in a strange foreign country. But no batter how badly Gate might have felt, he played incredibly that night. He became my main man and to this day I try to find some of his recording that have the guitar sound that he produced right before my very eyes. I'll always remember him sitting on his upholstered stool with a fender amp on either side tilted up facing him.
I just heard that when I came up from my studio where I was frantically trying to lay down an idea for a new (or rather old) song called End of September. Holger was just playing a track from Rhythm & Truth Brass Band with Paul Reddick singing and playing harp. I've been doing some duo gigs with Paul Reddick and I here I was shaping this song to work with Paul - maybe even get him to sing it.
I did a gig last week with Paul - a house-concert in Orangeville in a loft above a music store called Acoustic Traditions. The store is owned by an ex-Toronto policeman called Wayne King and he was a great host. I was quite surprised by one of the audience members who told me he reads these inane ramblings in my Blues Diary. Well, maybe I'll keep it going but I've got to get rid of that "little drummer boy". I'm supposed to be getting together my "official" home page on the Northern Blues website, but I still haven't written a bio I like. The ones I do like tend to be self-deprecating and not good marketing tools
Overheard from the publicist hired to promote a northern artist showcase in Toronto: "I can't understand why anyone would want to live in that god-forsaken place"
Song ideas I'm working on:
"All I want is a statement" ( a song about record distributors)
"A Personal Private Showcase
A Command performance
"Waiting for a man called Wrycraft"