Hello to my cherished Blainreaders and happy Fete Nationale to all my friends in Quebec. I feel like I know each and every one of you, and with the new anti-spam legislation, I am legally obliged to know each and every one of you. Makes me glad I never put anyone on this list who didn't ask, but if by some fluke you don't know me (or have forgotten me) then please reply immediately and I will remove your address.
We're already at the halfway mark at the Toronto Jazz Festival and even though I'm temporarily full-time (for ten days, at least), I'm still (barely)managing...I just got the July MapleBlues off to the printer, I've uploaded a bunch of pics & videos to the Jazz Festival website and I think it's time to play a little guitar :-) ...because I'VE GOT A GIG ON FRIDAY!
Brian and the Blainettes at Monarch's Pub (Eaton Chelsea Hotel, Gerrard & Yonge) Friday Night, July 27th at 9PM. No Cover.
Colleen Allen and Carrie Chesnutt are the Blainettes, and if you can picture this, they will both be playing baritone sax on some tunes. I was inspired by the dueling trombones in Big Sam's Funky Nation (or was it Galactic...) so I think we'll have a bit of duelling baritones. Colleen was part of David Clayton Thomas' band at the festival and pulled out the bari a few times. When I told her I wanted to do dual bari's she said "...because you can never have enough bottom." Victor Bateman will be playing bass and if you want to blame someone for encouraging me to pursue my music in this town, it was Victor who heard a few of my tunes at a birthday party and dragged me over to his buddy who had a DAT machine and we recorded a demo, which became my first CD, which led to a second CD then...well, you get the idea.
Out and About:
Tonight I made two great discoveries. One was the band Galactic (even though I had them confused with Lettuce - who are appearing in a couple of days).
An amazing singer (Maggie Koerner) and a kick-ass band. The other discovery of the day is Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream. Mmmmm.
My favourite festival moment so far: Kellylee Evans at the Jazz Bistro.
I only made it for the last 3 songs but they were ripping it up. Kellylee doing some wild free-style vocals, Robi Botos digging into his keyboard making it sound like a screaming stratocaster and guitarist Justin Abedin getting some sounds like I've never heard before - twisting and turning the tuning pegs to create an amazing solo. Reminds me of the time I saw Kevin Breit do a solo where the guitar wasn't even plugged in but the amp was cranked and he was just tapping and squeezing the guitar cord to create a loud buzzing solo that was undeniably musical. I love it when conventional instruments are played in unconventional ways.
Besides this recent flurry of Jazz Festival activity (did I mention amazing sets from Shemekia Copeland, Chaka Khan, Lou Pomanti's new band Oakland Stroke, Melissa Ethridge, Robert Randolph....hey it's not sounding very jazzy with this list, but as always, there's something for everyone).
Here's Lou Pomanti pulling out all the stops:
I remember the first time I was headed out to hear Robert Randolph I was told to bring some earplugs and it's true he gets loud but I thought it would be different in the tent but they brought their own soundman and right away they had the kick drum as loud as it would go. I saw our regular sound guy making his way out of the tent subconsciously shaking his head. Don't they know we've got a sound system that can make an artist sound just like his recordings played on a huge expensive stereo. But I guess they want the live experience to be different - more like a kick in the gut.
There was a great moment when Robert Randolph spontaneously invited a 17-year old Andrew Prince to join him on stage:
This was not staged at all, Robert somehow knew this kid played guitar and when I asked Robert afterward if he does this at all the shows he said "Not lately." I guess he had a feeling this kid could play - and he certainly held his own. To take you behind the scenes a bit, Andrew and some friends had contacted the jazz festival office to see if they could somehow get into the Snarky Puppy show at the Horseshoe. Since they were all underage, that was not possible but media staff took mercy on them and invited them to this show instead. Andrew could not believe when RR pointed to him and called him to the stage and for a while, the kid couldn't figure out how to get around the barriers but he eventually found his way and was handed a guitar - and then it was RR's turn to be surprised as Andrew held his own as the two traded solos on Who Do You Love?
Snarky Puppy at the Horseshoe was the hot ticket last night and I'm embarrased to say I never heard of them (they won a Grammy, after all) but I got the buzz and I was going to check it out but then I heard them doing a couple of tunes on the radio and it was just not enough to get me into that Legendary Sweatbox, er, Horseshoe. Still, everybody's talking about it today so I guess it was pretty amazing.
At this time of year I would normally be reporting on all the music I heard at Canadian Music Week, North by Northeast and Luminato but I was on tour in Quebec during CMW, I didn't apply for a media pass to Luminato because last year even though they gave me a pass they did not give me access to any of the shows I wanted to see. And for the first time since its inception, NXNE declined my request for a media pass. Oh well, I missed out seeing hundreds of bands that mostly sound the same.
I did get to a NXNE Film Festival event (all the music festivals now have a film component). This was a film about Vann Pianoman Walls, an R&B pioneer who moved to Montreal in the 50s and was a big influence on my blues pals Stephen Barry and Michael Jerome Browne (who figure prominently in the film). And I was surprised to discover that the Director of the film, Steven Morris, was from my hometown, Sherbrooke, and remembered me practicing with my band in our garage on Prospect Street. Another film I saw was about Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper's manager and a real character. That film is called "Supermench" and is a great look at the music business.
On the home front, those who were shocked to see the X-Ray of Linda's broken knee will be happy to hear that she's recovering nicely and the knee is now bending about 40 degrees. Joel has been doing security and the jazz festival and doing a lot of web-work and not enough music. The garden is overgown and the grass needs to be cut. So what else is new
While in Quebec, I recorded a TV Show for STOP-TV and Maurice Singfield just sent me one of the tunes - Ramene Moi Demain - which has some retro visual effects that are pretty cute. You'll get a kick out of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8graLhR8Dc
See you out there, BrianB