Saturday, February 28, 2009

Treasa, the guitar workshop and words of wisdom from Richard Bell

Last night I went to the jazz hang out where the old Montreal Bistro
regulars get together on Fridays, "Quotes" on King Street. The bandleader is
the wonderful drummer Don Vickery and his guest this Friday was the *very*
lovely and talented Colleen Allen and there she was playing all these very
legit jazz standards...that girl can do it all! If you haven't see her with
the fabulous Blainettes horn section, then please take a few minutes (nine
and a half actually) to view the little video montage I made of our show at
the Toronto Jazz Festival. It's at Sure hope I get to
play with that great horn section again this summer.

The Toronto Blues Society's Blues Guitar Workshop was at Long & McQuade's
modern presentation room above their store in Toronto. One of my new musical
friends Steve Strongman was a guest and he was playing great...alongside
John Tilden, Teddy Leonard and the great Harrison Kennedy who regaled us
with stories of Billie Holliday and Duke Ellington visiting his home in
Hamilton...and taking harmonica lessons from Sonny Terry. Harrison admitted
to only playing guitar for five years (though he's been a world-renowned R&B
singer for 45) but he has really developed his own thing on that old Stella
that his 98 year old grandma gave him. It was not the slick sound of the
other players, but he's sure come a long way since he played one of my
Motherless Day concerts a few years back. Make me think of watching Jeff
Healey as he developed his trumpet playing. He would always be down at the
Reservoir Lounge sitting in with the resident swing band. He knew the
repertoire inside out but his lip was still developing and clams would
occur. Nobody cared - that guy had so much music in him that he could make a
kazoo sound like a virtuoso instrument, and same goes for Harrison.

After stopping by at Michelle's for a great homemade pizza, I decided to
swing by the Silver Dollar to see Treasa Levasseur (Michelle's former
Bandleader). Treasa dedicated a tune to Richard and everyone raised their
glass. There is a certain immortality to being a least if
you're one who touched people with your music. I'm sure he had many other
tips, but Treasa Levasseur remembered that Richard's advice to her was:
Always be on time, be polite, and play your ass off on every song even the
ones you're not crazy about. Treasa and I were recording with Richard about
the same time, I think (with the same producer, David Baxter). Richard's
wisdom also touched me and I remember one bit that revolved around this
little repeating lick he played throughout one of the slow ballads we were
doing. I said to him after the first take that I wasn't too crazy about that
bit but he said, in the most cordial way, something like "look kid, I've
been doing this a long time and that is something that will subconsciously
grab the listener". We we left it in, and by the time overdubs were done and
the thing was mixed that little riff was really back there...but holding the
whole thing together...subliminally. He was totally right.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Where is Brian Blain?

I hope that my absence at the two big folk music conferences, OCFF in Ottawa
and Folk Alliance in Memphis did not lead anyone to believe I'm out of the
game. Let's just say I'm taking the year off to make a record.

I applied to two festivals and was invited to two festivals (but not the
same two). I don't know that I've got it in me to start writing/calling.
When I have a little music time, I want to spend it playing guitar not
hustling gigs ...or posting blogs...I'm off to play some guitar

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Grammys

*****I think I've got a new conspiracy theory: I was just watching this
commercial for a cell phone service and the slogan was something like "we
just got friendlier". Well it depends what you mean by "friendlier" - it
occurs to me that with all these touch screen phones it means now they can
prove whether or not someone made a phone call because they'll have his
fingerprint recorded.

I saw the commercial while I was watching the Grammy Awards - until I was
bumped out of my son's room (he has the only TV in the house). I guess I
could pull rank and catch a bit more of the show but I've got some
practicing to do...with said son, known in his world as DJ Coi. We're
playing together on Tuesday...

Ok, I've pulled rank and just saw Allison Krauss and Robert Plant get two
big awards...and a performance slot. A good night for Rounder records...yea
Ken & Donna! Now I'm only a couple of degrees of separation from the Grammy
Awards because I slept in the same bed as Allison...not at the same time, of
course, but it was only a week later or the guest apartment at the
Rounder mansion in Newburyport.

Beautiful to see Sir Paul McCartney sutiing right in the front rown and
singing along with Smokey Robinson and the last remaining "Top" of the Four
Tops. McCartney played I Saw Her Standing There. A blast from the past!