Saturday, August 11, 2012

Beaches Jazz: I never miss this event (though this is the first time
I missed the media launch) but i got down to Woodbine Park on the
first week-end - it's just a short walk from my place. I didn't see a
whole lot but David Rotundo with Enrico and Alberto, two killer
Italian guitarists. Also caught Treasa Levasseur's set and was glad I
did because I missed her when she opened for George Benson at Toronto
Jazz (apparently she sold more CDs than anyone in the HMV tent).

On the Thursday night, I took in the Streetfest - I do not usually
venture onto the streetfest on the week-end when it's too much of a
crush, but I did go back Saturday but started at the east end of Queen
St. and stayed there to hang out with Terry Gillespie, who had to very
slick acts on either side of him. One was Sultans of String who have
a great show and have now broken into the soft-seater market. On the
other side was Jeannie Mackie (Sp?) who I never see out on the circuit
but who had a first class production and an A-list of sidemen
including Rob Gusevs and Gary Taylor. The material was kinda generic
but they played great. But Terry plays with so much heart and has
such an original take on the blues that even in a trimmed-down trio,
he takes you on a great musical journey.

It seemed like an army of cops on the street, with four at every
intersection, one or two at every stage and many more circulating. I
was thinking the bill for off-duty cops must have been staggering but
then I noticed that most of them had the uniform and lots of stuff on
their belt - but no gun. Then I looked more carefully and saw that
they had a "Auxiliary" on their shoulder badges - and many of them
looked like they were still in high-school. I suppose their hourly
rate is considerably less than off-duty cops with guns.

I had they feeling that there was some belt tightening at the Beaches:
you could tell from the line-up - mostly local bands - and the
hospitality backstage was not what it used to be. No more
chicken...but I enjoyed a sausage and a slice of watermelon.

As I walked towards Queen and Woodbine I was hearing a caucophony of
drums but when I got close up I realized it was Rick Lazar's Samba
Squad and it was a trip to watch them. A real cross-section of
society banging on drums, tambourines and cowbells with some pretty
intricate arrangements. As I walked a little further there was a
bigger crowd for a violinist and I figured out right away that this
was the local legend, Dr Draw (??) who I had been told would
consistently pack the street to the extent that it was impossible to
get through his crowd. Further down I saw more of David Rotudo where I
shot a little video clip of Enrico Crivallero playing on his back on
the street - hope he didn't wreck that nice shirt.

There was a great photo exhibit in a tent and I'm happy to report that
my friend "Dawk" McCarthy won first prize in the competition for his
photo of Shrimp Daddy. Dawk has taken some great pics of me over the
years and he's got a keen eye.

Sherrie Williams closed out the Saturday mainstage and I have to say I
was kinda underwhelmed - maybe it's because her piano player didn't
make it across the border and I imagine he was a big part of the show,
especially the gospel flavoured numbers where she starts to testify a
bit. You needed that piano/organ noodling in the backgroud to really
get the feeling that you're in church. She showed her irritation when
she commented cynically "You all can feel well protected from anyone
who might have had a DUI conviction in his youth or got behind in his
child-support payments"

On the other hand, Johnny Rawls who closed out the Sunday show, was
the consumate pro - grabbing the audience from the moment he hit the
stage and right through to the end where he had to introduce the band
members and obviously didn't know the names of the two Toronto
ringers, Gary Kendall and Michael Fonfara who may or may not have been
there because some of his band also had trouble getting into the
country. Once he figured out their first names at least he made up
their hometowns and introduced "Gary from Mobile, Alabama" and Mike
from some place in Mississippi. Pretty funny but very professional,
now that I think about it. He didn't want his audience to know they
were getting anything less than the full blown Johnny Rawls show.
And, of course, Gary and Michael pulled it off great. Very solid,
entertaining set. I started out the Saturday afternoon in the beer
area but with a PA that seemed a little underpowered, I couldn't hear
a word that Bill King was saying as he talked about his guest
vocalist, Stacy...

Friday I missed the action because I played a solo gig at the Hockley
Resort. I've played there a couple of times with Larry Kurtz and now
I was subbing for him. My experience there has never been very
fulfilling because you drive a long way to play for people who
couldn't care less. This time it was a little better because most of
the audience consisted of a huge family reunion and a few of them were
right into the music. Once they had left, though, I had one table
left at the back for the last half hour and I was getting pretty
tired. There was a nice comfy couch right next to where I was playing
and I toyed with the idea of moving over and playing there but then I
remembered this is the place where I got in trouble with the gal who
booked me because one of the staff had reported to management that I
had fallen asleep on stage :-) I tried to explain that I play with my
eyes closed and I guess I might have been just noodling along with my
looper because as I recall there was only one couple who were not
remotely interested in the music and a bartender that just wanted to
go home. Anyway, I wasn't about to stretch back on that couch and
take a chance that I might get too comfortable...