Monday, March 29, 2004

Monday, March 29 - Today, I'm free of my media mooch duties and can spend a few days in music mode. The MapleBlues newsletter is at the printer and I've got that happy, tingly feeling that I get when I've just written a great tune. Of course, they all seem great at the moment of writing - sometimes they don't seem to retain the greatness after the initial glow wears off... I'm not sure about this one...David Baxter told me once that what I had going for me was a "point of view" and I guess it is a relatively unique point of view. People who know me realize I don't take myself too seriously and they shouldn't either. I think that may explain why I'm not taken seriously as an artist in the industry where I'm better known behind the scenes. Anyway, let me bounce these lyrics off you:

Dear songwriter, were you talking to me?

I missed that lyric, can you send a CD?

Sorry that I had to leave your party so soon

From one of those weasels, talking at the back of the room.

Your CD launch was a great success

Except for that racket from the VIPs and press

No one at the bar could hardly hear you at all

Not one of them weasels, talking at the back of the hall

You needn't have worried that someone might have heard

When you messed up the second verse

Flo had a story bout the blues in its glory

And he had us all so immersed

"No flash photography after the second song"

They want me to leave but I still don't have a picture to run

Allright I'll go to the back at the end of this tune, you'll have

One more weasel, talking at the back of the room

One More Weasel ©Blainco Music 2004

It's got a nice bluesy groove - skips right along. I worried that the melody was too familiar...but whadaya expect from an old blues guy? I've bounced the lyrics off a couple of people but the only person who was gung ho about it is my ex-wife and she doesn't care how much trouble I get into.

Last Sat - I'm Brian the Bassman again. I did spend half of the seventies on the road continuous - playing bass with all kinds of different bands. Never had a fixed address, which is why Long & McQuade's collection department would harass poor Tom Kelly, a country singer I toured with who had signed the rental contract as guarantor of sorts. He was not too happy to see me five years later and related all the late night calls he had received on my behalf.

I've had this great Fender Precision bass for a long time but didn't get many chances to use it lately, but this time I was asked to play with my Blues Society work-mate Matt Masters. He does that cowboy country thang and I was sure I'd be able to follow along. As it was, there probably wasn't a single tune where there wasn't a moment somewhere where I made a wrong move, and It's hard to recover gracefully when you're playing bass...but we had a real good time.

On the way to the gig, I made a real commitment to bass - I bought a bass amp. Despite several bass players' litany that to have a good bass sound you have to have a "the weight", I defied them all and picked up a lightweight Fender "Rumble" amp and it was perfect for that sort of gig. All I really wanted was an amp that would be as close as possible to the sound of a string bass - only a little louder. I think we've got it with this one. It must be the port that did the trick - and a little thought put into the design of the EQ.

And what a nice surprise to open Josie Miner's Talkin Music newsletter and see a picture of "moi" - and a nice quote "always a treat for the ears"...I'm going to use that! What a switch I have more of a perspective for the musicians that read their names in my newsletters (or not)... oh...I think I just had a pang of stress. It'll pass. I'm just waiting to see who I screwed up in this issue. It's at the printer now, and of course there was no proofreading, not even another set of eyes to go over it. And me wrapping it up at 4 am...

Last month I published two different dates for the big Blues Society event. The month before that in the jazz newsletter, I neglected to announce the new CD (and release party) of my own boss, Jim Galloway. In the Musicians' Association newsletter last time, there was some other screw up...It never ends. And one day last week, the jazz festival website displayed all the performances in the database as Sat, Dec 30th!

I swear, one of these days when I screw up *real bad* on all three at the same time, they're going to run me out of town on a rail. Then I can be a real "full time" musician!

The Saturday Before - Had a great gig with Mark "Bird "Stafford at Ziggys. A new place in my part of town. I'll be back on June 5, though Mark can't make it for that one. Of course, once I took the date, I found out about all kinds of cool music happening the same night, for example James Brown!

I remember getting a call one Tuesday afternoon telling me that the James Brown Band would be playing unannounced at the Silver Dollar that evening. James was in town shooting the second Blues Brothers movie and the band had not played with him for a while so they needed a run-through before the big shoot. It was amazing to watch. They went through the whole show - like clockwork - with all the chorographed moves and antics. Different members of the band and crew covered the vocals - some better than others. It was Ultimate Karaoke. I was rivited for the whole set (and they got an encore!)

OK, for any stakeholders reading this, I'm off to work on my album now (editing and exporting tracks - the dark and dirty job). A Bientot

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Saturday Night. First I head down to the Rivoli with Jacquie to see Taxi Chain - their CD release looked like a regular Taxi Chain gig - but a helluva show it was. The two-bagpipe thing is invaluable. I overheard more than one person asking at the door "This is the band with the bagpipes, isn't it???". That's good branding.

The guitar player was amazing, close to over-the-top. What you could call that "Kevin Breit" style of playing on the edge of a slippery slope. I meant to suggest to young Roxanne Potvin, who I saw later in the evening, that she should crank up the reverb too, and throw caution to the wind. Roxanne cut a fine figure on stage at the Silver Dollar. elegant black cocktail dress and high heel shoes. She played a lot of fine guitar too, digging in to the solos. Harrison Kennedy had a real "take charge" presence. He played after Roxanne and I like the way he just weaves a mood and just entices you into his space. Powerful.

A couple of days later I'm at a CD launch for Michael Kaeshammer, which must have cost 5000 times as much as Taxi Chain's (5000 times nothing!). This event was celebrating a new alliance - Alma Records and Universal. And Michael Kaeshammer is one of three new releases. Michael played a few tunes for the assembled media and "music industry" folk. I saw KD, a well-known music writer and recited to him the words of a song I wrote the night before:

"Hey Songwriter, are you talking to me

I missed that lyric, can you send a CD?

Sorry that I had to leave your party so soon

From one of those weasels, talking at the back of the room"

He said "The songwriters will get a kick out of it"...but maybe I'm alienating people that could help me advance my career! Oh well, I've been doing that all along.

Still trying to get a promo pak together - some festivals apparently don't want to visit websites to hear mp3's. I guess their computers got locked up one time too many, but now with faster connections and more powerful computers, it shouldn't be such a worry. Still, I've said it many times myself... there's no substitute for a hard copy.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Tragic Drummer Story

Just got forwarded an email from someone who's working on a biography of the legendary drummer, Jim Gordon. Legendary because he co-wrote Layla with Eric Clapton and was the drummer in Derek and the Dominoes...but then the dark side, the drummer who murdered his own mother and (I think) died in an institution for the criminally insane.

Frazier wrote:

I'll forward this to someone who remembers everything. I do remember

that Jim forgot his drums and used an old junk set made up of assorted

drums and cymbals we found around the studio. He made them sound great.

The tunes...can be heard. Perhaps Brian remembers the url where some

live. BTW: One of the songs is called "Don't Forget Your

Mother"(somewhat ironic considering Jim's later actions) we beleive this

to be the last recording Jim has played on.

My response:

*****could that be? I just did a little web search myself and discovered that Jim was in Montreal playing with Frank Zappa (informally known as the "Petit Wazoo" Tour) October 27, 1972. It looks like that was the first date of the tour. As I recall, they arrived at the studio after that gig, Jim and Tom Malone (on bass) cut the rhythm tracks with me and I remember Jim as a rather dashing, clean-cut fellow who fit my pre-conceived idea of an L.A. session guy. He was very businesslike, but seemed a bit remote. I don't think he "got" the humour/tongue-in-cheek pathos of "Don't Forget Your Mother" - you don't suppose that's what put him over the edge, do you? I'd be interested to know the actual date of the crime. You can hear an mp3 of that tune at BrianB

A few months back there was a discussion on the folk listserve when Canadian folksinger James Gordon got confused with drummer Jim Gordon and I jumped in with my story. James Gordon is a busy touring artist and prolific writer - I finally got to hear him play at Winterfolk.

Janis Ian's Recording Diary

Here I am, in work avoidance mode again. I'm actually out of the publishing blitz so this is music time, but I've got a cold, I feel like shit and I just can't get motivated to send out promo packs to festivals that aren't going to hire me anyway.

I just came upon another reference to the Janis Ian site,, and decided to stop what I was doing and finally check it out. Well in addition to her famous internet tirade, there is a very detailed diary on the recording of her last album. Fascinating. I've just spent the last couple of hours going through it and I'm sure picked up a few useful tips. Moreover, I felt a little sense of vindication for some of the battles that I've gone through on the making of my record. And continue to go through, we've still got to mix the sucker and I still hope and pray that one more tune will appear - maybe a solo guitar piece.

Just tonite we've been doing a major computer upgrade (upgrading to Panther for those who care about these things). It has no effect on my existing tracks because those still require the earlier system 9, but after this album is done, I'm into OSX and never looking back. I'm never the first to leap into a new system, but I recognize when it's time. Joel called me in to try the guitar synth with a new plug-in, a re-creation of the Mini-Moog. I was telling him how Robert Moog himself once came to Toronto in the late 60s and did a presentation for a bunch of ad-agency producers - showing us how great this new invention called the synthesizer could work great in commercials, I guess. At that time, the only synthesizer music I was aware of was the album Switched on Bach by Walter (later, Wendy) Carlos. I remember Moog played some tracks from an album that was to be called "Switched on Bacharach" but I don't know if it ever saw the light of day.

Sunday, March 7, 2004

My Canadian Music Week

Music Week is over and I think this year, I've set an attendance record of sorts. I, who used to media mooch my way through every panel discussion, two or three events and at least 6 or 8 showcases a night...this year I got to exactly ONE show...and it wasn't a showcase, it was Byther Smith's show at the Silver Dollar which somehow got wrapped into Music Week but was his usual 2 x 70 min shows. Even though Byther said "Now it's time to go home" after every tune, he just kept playing, even after promoter Rico ferrara walked right in front of the stage making hand signals for "just one more". Two songs later, he walks up at the end of the tune putting a stop to the set ...even as Byther is being tempted into an encore by some noisy patrons.

This was the only Music Week even t I got to in the whole week. Thursday night I had my whole team scrambling to meet a deadline (which, as it turned out was for naught). And Friday night there was some great stuff, in addition to a CD launch for Rita Chiarelli at Hugh's room but I was not feeling that great and knowing I had to be playing the next afternoon, I decide to stay home and change my strings and make a set list and get to bed early (and I did two out of those three things).

Before Byther, I was at the Montreal Bistro listening to Jay McShann. Eighty-eight years old and 88 ought to be his middle name because his large, supple fingers danced beautifully over the piano keyboard. T.O. said Jay wasn't wearing his hearing aid which means he's not hearing very much of the band as he's playing. The rhythm section, Don Vickery and Rosemary Galloway have to keep a real close ear on Jay, becasue they can't get a groove of their own going because it might drift from Jay and he wouldn't hear it. I think it hurt his singing a bit when he was doing the more delicate things. But who cares, he has the groove. (As I write this, I'm listening to a tape recorded earlier this evening of the Saturday Night Blues radio show with Holger Peterson. Holger's announcing a concert by Duke Robillard but I think the tape will have run out by then. But ironic that I'm missing the radio concert because I'm attending the live concert of Jay McShann, Duke's favourite frequent collaborator these days.

T.O.s Quote of the day: The Blues has been hijacked by guitar players and jazz has been hijacked by girl singers.

I skipped out of Jay to hear Byther Smith and it was admitedly rougher, but if I'm going to benefit from all these media passes and freebies, I should focus on the ones that can help with my own show, and there were several things I picked up in Byther's show, in particular, being more confident in the endings of my tunes.

Oh, did I mention I did a gig of my own this afternoon. What a pleasure to get together again with Rod Phillips and Mike Fitrzpatrick again. We had a hot little organ trio going a few years back. Larry goodhand was playing guitar, and I had never played with him before. I enjoyed having another guitar player there even though I'm always claiming that I want to be the only guitar player in my band. The fact is, I played far fewer solos than I normally would but I didn't mind at all. It was fun playing more rythm - I'd have as much (or more) fun playing bass. The audience in Brantford was so much more appreciative than the Toronto crowd. Clapping after the solos - shouting out your name, even. Then two noisy encore demands.

This is how I want to spend every day. Playing a little music, then hearing some more...I can't believe my luck having this media job so I can just walk into clubs like the Dollar or the Bistro and not have to pay the exorbitant cover and sometimes even get my Coke for free. I even know the secret parking spots that are close by so it's so transpartent. I musn't take this all for granted, because it could end "just like that". (I've often thought if I ever had major screw-ups in all my publications the same month I'd be run out of town on a rail" ...and maybe that's what it'll take for me to put the music carreer into full gear).

Oh, Grandfather, the music business has changed considerably since you were playing in the pit accompanying silent movies in the 20s. Music notation, still exists, you'll be glad to know. And just tonbite my friend Terry Wilkins was describing some of the subtleties of these musical "maps." Terry was subbing for Byther Smith's bass player at the Silver Dollar. The Byther show is the closest to any Music Week event. These last few days are what's known as Canadian Music Week when hundreds of bands come from all over the country to play for a measly hundred bucks and the off chance that someone may attend their showcase and give them some work. In truth, it's all pre-ordained and the only bands who benefit from these events are those who've arranged in advance for whatever buyers/agents they want to showcase for. And, I suppose for every 20 promises to attend you get 2 or three that show up.

I shouldn't be going on about Music Week and similar events because I can't say I've ever been selected to showcase because I've never applied. I did play North by Northeast a couple of years back - only because they were desparate to put together a blues evening and I think I gave Yvonne some numbers. I did the gig with Paul Reddick on harmonica but, as I recall, there was hardly anybody in the audience, and I think the only industry honcho that was there was the one that came with me, Rounder Founder Ken Irwin.

Anyway, I've yet to do a "showcase" . And I remember being told a long time ago that the best showcase was a festival appearance". I haven't been very aggressive about getting some festival gigs. I'm too laid back to worry about becoming a nuisance. . Once again, I will be entering the Song from the Heart contest - and I'm entering the same song for the third year. Until I write another song that is as much "from the heart" as that one, I'm going to keep entering it until I win.

Oops, Fred Litwin is about to be interviewed by Holger on the radio, so I think I'll stop now and listen to that. Betcha ten bucks he doesn't mention my eventual upcoming release on Northern Blues. I think at this point, he'll believe it when he sees it".

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Sunday - Well that was a great way to say goodbye to February - The Toronto Blues Society Guitar Workshop was held on Sunday afternoon, the 29th (yeah, Leap Day!) I was the host with the most and my guest were formidable guitar players, Michael Jerome Browne, Adam Solomon and Teddy Leonard and Norm Robinson doing a fascinating demo on amps & tubes & bias...

Because we did it like a country-style "guitar pull" it was very different than previous workshops, which were more like showcases with 4 short sets. It was a beautiful, warm Sunday afternoon and I bet a lot of folks would have rather been outdoors than a basement blues bar but we had a good turnout.

By the end of the workshop, probably getting the Afro vibe from Adam, we were all doing songs with one chord. I always said I needed a change from thaose same old 3-chord blues so it was great fun to explore the possibilities one *one* chord.

Friday Night was a night of many chords - first from legendary jazz guitarist Marty Grosz who was playing at the Downtown Jazz Party, a gathering of swing-meisters from the old days...some of them in their nineties. Jake Hanna was there playing drums, he's played with all the greats.

I snuck out of the jazz party to catch Robben Ford at the Horsheshoe - He played a phenomenal set. I was knocked out. A perfect example of how every tune is a showcase and takes you on a little trip - even songs that were nothing more than R&B standards, but he tore them inside out. He was hot and I found out later he was hot off a long tour, so that might explain it. After Robben, I slipped over to Healeys to hear Tinsley Ellis, who hasn't been in Toronto for nine years. I only caught the last few tunesm but he was on fire too - more predictable than Robben, though.

On Thursday, I did a live radio show on CIUT with Steve Fruitman. That was a gas - I used up the whole hour myself, rambling on about my musical life. I even brought steve an old 45 I recorded in 1972 - he got a kick out of that.

Wednedsday I got a call from Fred, the president of my label NorthernBlues. I've delayed my CD so much that I thought this was it - he's going to tell me that it's over and he's found some other great blues artists with finished CDs, but no, he was patient and committed. It will be worth the wait.

Tuesday was the National Jazz Awards - big gala evening. Here was Ole Colorblind starring at a pair of socks trying to figure out if they are black or brown. This is a dressy affair and I want to have black socks with my black (or are they blue) pants. I see lots of familiar faces at the awards evening and there was some great music played, a beautiful guitar trio tribute to Ed Bickert who received a special award. The CBC was broadcasting live so they kept things moving along at quite a clip but the minute their broadcast was over, the whole thing fell apart - there was a long gap and half the audience cleared out, most thinking that it was over. I think they better put the off air stuff on *before* the broadcast next time - that is, if they're still speaking to the CBC