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.