Monday, February 11, 2008

Winterfolk and more

Finished off a hectic week-end by sitting in my son's room watching the
Grammys (it's the only TV in the house). I didn't see all of it but I
thought it was a great musical presentation...even Amy Winehouse! And I for
one was glad to discover Alicia Keys, even though Bob Lefsetz seems to think
she's a flash in the pan. And how about that Herbie Hancock - getting Album
of the Year! How often does that happen? (well, I think Herbie said it -
more than 40 years since a jazz album won Album of the Year).

Before my TV break, I heard lots of great guitar players today. Working my
way backwards, there was a beautiful set by Michael Jerome Brown, playing
his acoustic twelve string with a heavy tremolo - which I just learned is
referred to as a "wiggler" (wiggle?) by Colin Linden. Before MJB, I dropped
in briefly at another Winterfolk venue where Wendell Ferguson and Steve
Briggs were having a "duel of the flatpickers" Amazing players! More on my
own Winterforlk gigs later.

Today was the Toronto Blues Society's Guitar Workshop, so I dropped in there
before heading back to Winterfolk. Hosting the workshop was Ken Whiteley (it
was Ken who was telling us about the "wiggler"). His guests included Steve
Strongman who I was jamming with after the Maple Blues Awards a couple of
weeks ago but now I got to see him doing his own thing and he is a
formidable guitar player. Teddy Leonard played some amazing blues and a
newcomer, Christine Bougie acquitted herself quite nicely doing some jazzy
renditions of Beatles & Elvis songs. The always cheerful Bucky Berger was
playing drums and it was great to see the wonderful Victor Bateman...whom I
regard as kind of mentor - it was Victor who first encouraged me to record
some of my tunes and he even set up the demo session. The rest is history
(as they say)...

As for my Winterfolk experience, I had three appearances and none of them
were to a real listening crowd - though Tom Leighton told me he'd never seen
the Dora Keogh (an Irish pub on the Danforth) quiet down as much as they did
for my song about Lenny Breau. For all the folks who came up to me on Sunday
saying they were sorry they didn't make it to my set, you can "relive the
magic" because we did a little camcorder recording and I'm going to post
some of the tunes onto Youtube. The night before I did a workshop with
Harrison Kennedy and Al Lerman (from Fathead) - both of whom received Juno
nominations on Tuesday. My last show on Saturday was marred with sound
problems - I brought my flat-top this time and it has a new pickup so maybe
that was part of the problem, but I must be spoiled after playing 15 venues
in Germany last November and having the most clear and natural and *big*
sound at every single venue it's hard listening (or especially playing)
acoustic music when the sound is muddy and boxy. That said, it's a free
festival and they don't have a big budget for production so I should just
shut up and be happy for the gig.

My employers and the Jazz Society put on a concert with the young singing
sensation Nikki Yanofsky but I didn't go. I saw her doing her Aretha thang
at the Women's Blues Revue and she stole the show but part of me wants to
give her a little more time before I go see her for a whole concert. I did
go to the Juno announcement press conference on Tuesday, though. There was
no musical presentation this year and they sped through the announcements
because they were live on National TV. There were a few goofy things like
the host not knowing who Feist was. I recall a couple of years back they had
Joel Plaskett playing and nobody was listening - everyone schmoozing at the
bar. It's a thankless job playing those media events (hey, didn't I write a
song about that?) but look at Joel Plaskett now - he's a big deal. Maybe it
was worth it to raise the profile a notch or two. Harrison Kennedy was at
the announcement (did I previously mention seeing his "soul revue" in
Hamilton??? I think so.) and so was the most of the Johnny Max Band...good
on 'em!

And let me tell you about last Sunday - I had an exquisite time as Raoul
Bhaneja's guest at his regular Sunday Night residency at Olivia's. It was
just the two of us, no PA system, tiny room, tiny crowd, but they got a good
show because we were having a great old time. I have to say Raoul has come a
long, long way (on harp *and* guitar) since he guested with me a few years
back at the Tranzac. There's a reason that he was chosen Now Magazine's
Blues Artist of the Year though he may not yet have that "blues cred" from
certain corners of the blues community but this young man is going places.
What am I talking about, he's already been to many places not only playing
blues but also in his acting career. I'm a big fan.




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