Sunday, July 25, 2004

Beaches Jazz fest

I've got to get two newsletters to the printer on Monday, a FACTOR

application due at the end of the month (and I'm hardly clear on how I

want to spend the money), I've got to remix the track to be included on

the NorthernBlues sampler (being mastered next week)...and what have I

been doing today? Yardwork, gardening...then a little time at the

office with JH scanning some pics for both newsletters...and now

writing my blog. Work avoidance, but as always lots going on. And it

seems very hot, though it's not even 30c.

last night I had a peek at the Beaches Streetfest after a screening of

that great jazz film classic "A Great Day in Harlem". The street was

crowde but not the crush they had tonight, I bet. Last night RK was in

town and we jammed away the night. I must have bored him with my

repeating pattern but I was trying out some changes for a new tune - as

of tonite, I've abandoned those changes in favour of a slow blues

approach. Just what we need for a sure chart success, a slow blues!

Anyway I laid down some ideas on the micro-cassette recorder. Can you

believe I'm sitting next to a condensor mike with a good preamp plugged

into a dual processor Mac and it's still easier to capture ideas on

this little hand-held, low-fi, micro-cassette.


(overheard at the Beaches International Jazz Festival)

"They won't dance if they don't know the words"

and if you're going to be playing a showcase at one of those music

conferences, tell them the only night you have available is the last

night - that way, you'll have time to schmooze up an audience for your


The Toronto Bluesfest may have been cancelled, but we sure had that

festival spirit at the Beaches today and especially at the Silver

Dollar afterwards. I hope I absorbed a few tips from the amazing guitar

playing I heard. Kid Ramos was at the beaches mainstage and I must say

it doesn't get much better than that. I was pretty tired and should

have stayed home after supper, but I knew he'd be heading over to the

Silver Dollar to sit in with Little Charlie and the Nightcats and sure

enough he was there and he played great again - but the tone was not

quite the same as he got through his Fender Reverb Unit and two Vox AC

30 amps. Talk about *driving*!

Little Charlie played great too. And Rick Estrin is one of the most

colourful bluesmen anywhere. He was hilarious and what a great singer.

On the break it was like a bunch of long lost brothers from California

who found each other in some far-away land (our far-away land).

Shortly after the second show started, Little Charlie took off his

guitar in the middle of a slow blues and said "we have a great blues

guitarist in the house tonight" and Kid Ramos, sitting just in front of

me, started to get up But Charlie said..."Rick Estrin!" and handed Rick

the guitar. Rick proceeded to play some respectable guitar, and Charlie

even blew some harp - a little role reversal. Then they invited up a

bunch of the Ottawa crew that was in attendance, Roxanne Potvin,

Southside Steve and J-W Jones all got to play with their West Coast

guitar hero.

Note to self: Have a tune prepared for situations when you might be

called up to do a tune and there's no guitar to play. Something I could

just sing. A tune that everybody knows. I also have to work up

something on bass - at The Porquis Blues Festival, I got up and did

Born Under a Bad Sign on bass but I need something a little more peppy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Sorry that I let June go by without any posts about all the exciting stuff that was going on in Toronto. Day after fabulous musician after another - I have to say there were moments when I just felt like putting my guitar away for good, but then there were other moments where I was inspired to go back home and do a little writing. I need to, I've promised three new tunes to spruce up the new album - these I want to record in a context that will be a "bookable" unit for festivals next year. An acoustic trio, I guess - and I'm still looking for a fiddler that can dig in and play the blues. They're not a dime a dozen.

Yesterday I got back from playing Porquis Fest (a slightly rocky flight in a Dash 8) and I went straight to the computer to re-mix the track that I had to hand-off to NorthernBlues for their next sampler - that's surely shows faith that they will eventually receive a finished album from me. Early 2005, I promise. The track is Saab Story.

Porquis was a chance for me to play two of the three songs I've just written for the album. They seem to go over great though, out in Northern Ontarion like this, I wondered about these lyrics like "making quorum" and other inside stuff (wtrite what you know). Jack de Keyzer closed out the festival and it doesn't get much better than that. Then it was tiime for the all-star jam and my guitar was back at the motel, so I ended up with a bass guitar and the only song I could think of that I could sing and play bass was "Born under a Bad Sign" so I did it - even though Jack had done a great version in his set. I could have just started into some funky jam groove, but that's a risky proposition in front of a big crowd. Note to self: have a few more blues standards you can sing & play on bass. Hell I need blues standards I can play on guitar - I realize I don't know all the words to hardly any blues standards - I've played the songs, but never sung them. I have trouble enough remembering the words to my own compositions.

So now I'm back into working on my music schedule (so why am I sitting here typing this blog?), but let me collect my musical highlights from the blur that was the Downtown Jazz Festival and other great stuff in June. On the world music front, I saw Yousoo N'Door (sp?) , a ska-group from Mexico called Los de Abajo and Guinea's Bembeya Jazz featuring the legendary guitar hero Sekou "Diamond Fingers" Diabaté. Interesting to see one of this city's most sophisticated jazz guitarists (and fellow blogger) Reg Schwager enraptured by "Diamond Fingers"

OK, my faves for the jazz fest were John Scofield, Jean-Luc Ponty and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Oscar Petrerson was no slouch either - he played a very blues set - no piano histrionics here, just some bluesy jazz with big, beautiful chords. DD Jackson opened the evening concert for the first night and he gave that Yamaha piano a good taste of what was to come - the tuner was kept pretty busy with the likes of Michel Camilo and Hilton Ruiz. Ron davis played some fine stride too.

Sorry that I didn't get out to the after-hours jams - especially sorry that I wasn't there the night Wynton Marsalis and his band closed the place at 4 am. Apparently the Montreal Jazz fest is pretty upset with us because Wynton had to cancel his appearance at their festival the next day - his lip was too swolen. At Grossman's that night, I saw the amazing youg guitarist Jordan Cook sitting in with Jerome Godboo, Al Webster and Alec Fraser.

At the hotel, I had a chance to chat with Jay McShann, who moved very slow but was not fuzzy about where he was going next and what gigs were coming up. He played with Junior Mance at the bistro - two pianos. Last time I saw that set up at the Bistro the players were Ralph Sutton and Dick Hyman. Sutton is gone now - I'll always remember shaking that huge hand. Jay also had a big hand, but softer and just his handshake enveloped you like a big hug.

The day before the jazz fest I went to a big party for publicist Richard Flohil's 70th birthday. The room was filled with music industry - musicians and behind the scenes types - lots of media guys, including your truly. There were some fine musical performances, but in true fashion, the audience refused to move down close to the stage - so there were these great performers, some of who had written songs specially for the occasion, and yet the entire crowd was way at the back of the room talking up a storm. Somebody should write a song about that!