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".