Sunday, February 15, 2004

Dear Grandfather, it's Sunday morning and I woke up to a radio broadcast of a documentary on an American GI called Mike Boranowski who brought a reel-to-reel tape recorder with him to Viet Nam and sent home tapes he made - trying to sound like a war correspondent though he was probably just a kid with a dream. He never made it back, but in 1997 the tapes were discovered by one of his war buddies who created this award winning documentary. Very moving.

I got my first reel-to-reel tape recorder about the same time he was recording his war stories. My mom bought this bulky Phillips tape recorder from a guy she met at A.A. Yes, your daughter went to A.A. after you were long gone. I never thought she or my dad were very supportive of my musical ambitions but that machine certainly was life altering for me. For one thing, I must have been one of the few kids in Sherbrooke who had a tape recorder and I think it's one of the reasons I got to know Allan Fraser when he moved to town - that, and his interest in my sister.

Allan and I started a little folk trio with my cousin Karolyn - we called it Trio BAK (Brian, Allan, Karo...get it?) In 1963 or so a local entrepreneur heard us and brought us up to the big city (Montreal) for a recording session. The session was its own reward, as it were, along with the trip and the steak dinnner in a fancy restaurant. We recorded our 3-part harmonies on a bandtrack that had been recorded in France. The song was in French, of course ("moi, je construis des marionettes...") and was part of a series of 45s that were given out as premiums by the local bread delivery man. Now *that's* distribution - everybody needs bread.

One other story about the tape recorder came back to me lately and I'll relate it before I get down to my current adventures. I had been studying classical string bass for about six months with Mr. Horace Boux, who was the first violinist for the Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra. I always brag that I've never had a guitar lesson in my life nor did I practice but I certainly practiced that bass and as a reward for my diligent practice I was invited to sit in with the bass section of the Symphony for their annual performance of Medellsohn's Midsummer Night Dream. The symphony always broughy it some ringers from the Montreal and Quebec City orchestras and at the first rehearsal I found myself playing bass next to the first black person I'd ever met in my life. Wish I could remember his name - I think he had a long illustrious carrer in classical music. He was very friendly and giving me some bow-handling tips and when the lunch break came I invited him to come over to my folks house for lunch.

He was happy to oblige and we had a nice dinner and afterwards I invited him upstairs to see my new tape recorder. The only tape I had that wasn't just me fooling around was a recording of Rev Gary Davis so I played that for him. You could tell he'd never heard anything quite like that in his life. It was pretty raw and might have offended his sensibilities and trained ear at first but at the same time it was quite a revelation for him. I'll never forget that moment - a 15 year-old white kid in a small town introducing a French-speaking classically trained black musician to the blues. Look at that! Even then, I was promoting and preserving the blues.

Enough about the tape recorder (well, one more thing I just thought of - I still have a box of tapes from those days...hmm, maybe someday someone will make a radio documentary out of them - or not!)

Let me try to recall what's been happening since my last post. I did a couple of gigs at the Winterfolk festival. What a treat to play two days in a row - I should do that more often. The first was a Delta Guitar Workshop with Mo Kauffey, who has just been forced to move back to the US even though he married a Canadian gal), Rick Zolkower and a guy I just heard fro the first time, Manitoba Hal. I met him at the OCFF conference in October but didn't get to hear his showcase. He even gave me a CD but when I went looking for it the other day, I saw that I had filed it and the shrink wrap was still on it. Shameful. I'm as bad - worse, really - than all the other media mooches who get all kinds of CDs and never even give them a listen. I must try to be more conscientious but I can't be blamed for trying to use what little music time I have to make my own CD. Anyway, I was very impressed with Manitoba Hal and disappointed to find that he didn't have a showcase set in the whole festival. I would have been so there!

On Wednesday I got to play with Lance Anderson at a meet & greet party for the Jazz festival. He provided the backgroud piano sounds on the old upright in the office - it was like a New Orleans rent party. I got up and did a few tunes with him then got Jim Galloway to join me on Saab Story, a tune that Jim plays on on my upcoming CD (....yes, the ever-upcoming CD). That was a real treat!

Anyway the CD is progressing. On Monday I'm heading up to Inception Sound, on of the best studios in the city, to do some mixing with engineer Mike Haas. It was quite reassuring when I was at the announcements of the JUNO nominees and saw his name flash by on the big screen as a nominee for Engineer of the Year.

Enough chit chat. I think I better get back to exporting the tracks off my computer so that I have something to bring him on Monday. Lots of other stuff happened in the last week, but I'll have to relate it another time.