Saturday, September 30, 2006

Small World Music, Blackie, the Jennys and one gig gone south

Just in from the Blackie and the Radio Kings show at the Horseshoe - first
of two nights. A full house but not overflowing. Strange not to see Richard
Bell at the keyboards. Colin said they had been to see Richard before the
show and that he promised he'd "be there for the next time". For a few
seconds there was a lot of good energy directed at Richard.
Producer/Engineer John Whynot (who has played keyboards on many Blackie
albums but had never played on stage with them) did a fine job, though he is
not the strong soloist that Richard is. And, did I mention, the band played
great. They have some hard-core fans - folks who put a Blackie CD into their
CD changer and never take it out. I call that the "Harry Manx Effect" and
that is what it takes if you want your career to really take off.

Last night was chock full of music. First a stop at the Black Swan to hear a
bit of the Long-McQuade harmonica workshop with Hendrik Meurkens. When I
walked in, he was giving lots of good advice to a roomful of harmonica
players including Carlos del Junco and Jerome Godboo. In response to one
questioner about whether such-and-such could be played on the harmonica, he
said that of course it could be played, but the question was rather *should*
it be played on a harmonica. He explained how it's more important to find
the right "fit" - some tunes are going to sound better on that instrument
than others and the secret to success is to find the tunes that will sound
really special, magic when played on whatever instrument. I've thought the
same thing about my I occasionally happen upon a phrase that's
in just the right key for my voice and the sound just pours out, strong and

After Hendrik had played a tune, I had to split because I wanted to hear
some of the Wailing Jennys at the Mod Club. These girls have that 3-part
super-sweet harmony thing happening and it's so seems unreal.
Is it possible they're singing through "auto-tuners"? And every instrument
perfectly in tune, too. At the start of one tune, drummer Mark Mariash
started a little rhythm groove with his hands (on the kit) and I was hearing
a distinct melody from his drums. I wondered to myself if the guitar would
be in the same key when it kicked in and sure enough, it was. Mark did not
play a lot - sat out of many tunes and played simple shakers in others but
everything he did fit perfectly. An exquisite drummer for what must be a
very demanding musical group. Now I really want to hear what he did on the

Stayed till the end at the Jennys because I figured I'd never make it in
time to hear the first act in the Small World Festival at the Lula Lounge -
Didgeridoo player Ash Dargan from Australia. Before I left the the Mod Club,
my buddy Dr. Ric (who reads this blog, I gather) pulled me aside and
introduced me to Canadian Music legend, John Brower. Brower hadn't been to
Toronto in 13 years. He spoke about his new project - a young band that had
just made their debut on Chinese television performing at the unveiling of
the "mascots" for the 2008 Olympics.

The next band at the Lula was Mr. Something Something, a group that has been
touring relentlessly and building up a huge fanbase. They've combined a
world and funk groove - the drummer working very hard, the guitarist doing
his "chinky-chink" and...a go-go dancer. Richard Underhill was sitting in on
baritone sax and played great. CBC was recording.

And what about my musical activities, you ask? (or not)

Well the only gig I had scheduled after I get back from Europe at the end of
October were three night at the new jazz club in town, Sopra. Except, it
will now be known as the jazz club that didn't happen. They have "taken a
new direction" (meaning a DJ instead of jazz bands) and I got a perfunctory
telephone message saying it had nothing to do with my music but they were
canceling my gig in November. THREE nights with a full band - I was even
thinking of going into the studio to cut a new album right after because how
often do you get a chance to play three nights in a row? We would have been
really warmed up after that! I presume a lot of the leading jazz players in
town got the same message as me. I think Mr Massimo is going to have to
rehire the publicist that did such a great job putting his place on the map
to do same damage control because he's going to have a big black eye for not
honouring his commitments. Musicians do not take such treatment lightly, and
of course they all have a lot of people/fans interested in what they have to
say and eager to rush to their defense.

Anyway, it's almost 4am - time to turn off Reiner Schwarz (who is once again
playing a phenomenal selection of music on Jazz-FM, not to mention his
precious commentary). Friday nights will never be the same.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Birthday to Remember

On stage I had Juno and Maple Blues Award winners, Canadian jazz greats, Canada's pre-eminent music attorney, the head of music at the Canada Council, and a historic reunion of two Canadian folk icons who hadn't performed together in 30 years, Fraser & deBolt (pictured above with me in the middle)

As someone remarked, it's pretty nice to have an event like this while you're still alive - not at some memorial service when you can't be around to enjoy it.

The Silver Dollar never looked so good - Elaine Cooledge transformed it with so many little touches - some things I didn't even notice until I was looking at a picture then I would see a little shiny "60" in the background. If anybody's having a 60th birthday party, contact because she's got the fixins - lots of shiny 60's and much more. Come to think of it, maybe it could also work for a 90th:)

My heartfelt thanks to those who came out and played: Julian Fauth, David Rotundo, Dan Dufour, Paul Sanderson, Mr. Rick, Tony Quarington, Marg Stowe, Suzie Vinnick, Lily Sazz, Ed Vokurka, Allan Fraser, Daisy DeBolt, Donna Louthood, Mark Sepic, Gary Kendall, Michelle Josef, Zoe Chilco and Tony Springer. There were many more great musicians who never quite made it to the stage - Mike Fitzpatrick and Ric Levenston come to mind but I know there were lots of players who wanted to come (thanks for your good wishes) and lots more that I meant to contact myself but never quite did (and I've heard from a couple of you, too). The Colorblind Coordinating Committee consisted of Alyson MacGregor, Lily Sazz, Mary Jane (MJ) Russell and Barbara Isherwood but there were lots more folks working behind the scene to make a smooth party and to help with my general career development (as much as you can develop a career at this stage in the game).

Thank you to Rob Boyd, the Dollar's sound guy extraordinaire and Jon Long for putting together the back-line. Hey musicians, Long & McQuade is having their "Attic Sale" September 22nd and 23rd at the Bloor Street store only.

Sorry that I got so smashed at the end that once I crawled onto that stage I never made my way off to say goodbye to anybody. Thanks to everyone who came out to "make my day."

You can view party pics by visiting and searching for "Brian Blain". If you took any pics yourself, please feel free to add them to the gallery.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Brian Blain at Hallmark Studios, Toronto

That little mixer in the background had the first slider pots in that studio. Before that, everything was big rotary pots. As the junior copywriter, I got got to come along with the ad agency crew for a few jingle sessions in the afternoon (usually linked to a roast beef dinner at Ed's Warehouse) but the fun was late at night when I got to mess around with some musician friends. Doug Elphic who worked there as an assistant had some friends, Peter & Sunny and he would record them. My pet project was "Breakfast", Allan Fraser and Sue-Ellen Lothrop.