Monday, March 23, 2009

Quote of the day

"The artist is here to give the listener the opportunity to dream, a very
profound and special gift even if he's minimally successful." John

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Canadian Music Week - Short Takes

I'm sitting in the same spot in the rivoli where I wrote the lyrics for "One
More Weasel" a few years back. It was a CD launch for a hot act and people
were talking so loud you couldn't hear the earnest young folksinger who was
doing an opening set. Now I realized that I was surrounded by industry types
and if the music hadn't started I was about to take out my phone then I
really would have looked exactly like the rest of them (only older).

The singer on stage is a younf lady known as "Billy The Kid" - after her set
I tell her that the recurring theme at the music conference sessions was
that "music is about emotion" and she certainly had that covered. She
actually broke up a little in the middle of a song about a drug-addicted
friend (my bet is that she probably died). You could hear a pin-drop in the
Rivoli, quite "au contraire" from the night I wrote those lyrics.

Before the Riv, I went to the Gibson Guitar showroom, mostly to see what the
venue was like...I wasn't sure what the music was going to be but I soon
realized that we were seeing what's left of the "star-maker machinery" in
action. Even with that clout, they weren't able to get as many people out as
the band themselves did with their Facebook invite. That audience was all
pre-pubescent screaming girls and the band was a very accurate clone of the
Jonas Brothers. They were called The Latency

After poking in and out of a few places I determined that I would find
something worthy and sit it out for thge whole set. I found myself in the
tiny upstairs room of the Reverb/Kathedral...formerly BigBop. Three floors
of music...I like that. In Holy Joe's upstairs I found a band playing to
two or three people so I took a spot. They had two drummers and every once
in a while one of them would grab a Kaoscillator, Joels favourite new toy,
and create some synth sounds. I watched the whole set and ended up chatting
with the leader who told me they were from Brazil. They were called Cassim
and Barbéria.

I heard a lot of bands but they all morphed into a big blur. There are now
so many bands that sound the same that it;s well-nigh impossible for the
cream to rise to the top. It's ironic that the biggest news at Canadian
Music Week was the debate/pissing match between Gene Simmons and music
industry commentator Bob Lefsetz rather than any new artist.

Terry McBride said in his speech that 3 years ago he had made several
predictions that did not endear him to the audience of record executives but
that 90 or 95% of those predictions were now true. This session he was
saying don't worry about downloading - it will soon be a moot point. We will
all have smart phones that "pull" music out of the clouds whenever we want.
An d these smartphones will even flag tunes that we might enjoy (based on
our past selections). Smart phones are only 5% of the market right now but
that will soon change. Dig this: Third party applications for the iPhone
have garnered sales of One Billion dollars already and they have only been
available for a year. The fellow I was sitting with was using his phone for
a light to read the program, then he said there was an application that
would make the screen all white and as bright as possible and a few clicks
later he had downloaded the app and installed it on his iPhone.

He claims the iPod will soon be extinct by smart phones that can do all that
and more.

What are? Shazam, Tunecore, Rapidshare, slacker raduio, audiolife, Spotify, and finally Twitter, which I had demonstrated at that table at
the Rivoli. If I had any steam I might try to rwesiter now but I think I'll
go to bed instead. We shall twitter away but not today!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Morgan Davis tribute to Rod Phillips

Rod Phillips was a heart and soul kinda musician. His joy came from playing
the music, not playing the "industry" game, consequently, he was not a
household name. Nevertheless, musicians knew about Rod, and it was always a
gas to share the stage with him.

I came to know Rod by sitting in on the Sunday matinees at the Blue Goose.
He and the Pie Guys would kick things off with a few standards and I was
always mesmerized by Rod's groove and passionate singing. Along with our
love of groovish music, we shared an interest in herbal medicines, and would
often spend time between sets discussing the merits of herb in the parking

Our friendship led to Rod playing on my "Painkiller" disc, and in the studio
Rod was so helpful in laying down so many grooves, establishing such a
wonderful mood, and displaying not only his great Hammond sounds, but
surprising the hell out of me with his performance on the piano, which I had
not heard him play before. He was right at home with Howlin' Wolf.

Rod was a most humble and gifted musician. We shared a lot of grooves and a
lot of laughs. I'm missing him.


(from Morgan's website

Monday, March 9, 2009

Jerome at the Sky

Last Sunday I took a trip out to the hinterland of Mississauga where I have
rarely tread. I saw Gary Kendall's matinee at Hollywood on the Queensway
(though I missed their special guest, Steve Strongman) and I visited a new
venue, The Sky Restaurant out at Eglinton and Renforth. There on a big
stage with great production was Jerome Godboo and Friends including the
amazing Dave Murphy on keyboard and guitar (dare-I-say) "legend" Pat Rush.
He's certainly a local legend and he's made his mark around the guitar world
too. Pat was getting a great sound out of a cheap Fender Squire guitar and
when I asked him if he had modified it he said is was right out of the box.
$135 at Long & McQuade. It's amazing what they're able to turn out these
days. I tried Pat's guitar and although the neck did not feel as welcoming
as my beloved Strat, I think I could manage quite well with one. I never was
too fussy about guitars as long as they stay in tune.
AnywayŠJerome invited me to be a special guest at the Sky's big Mothers Day
show. Layla Zoe will also be guesting. Mark your calendars. I may yet
organize some kind of Motherless Day concert around thatŠI would like to
maintain the tradition, but if that doesn't come together I'll get to sing
"Don't Forget Your Mother" for the west end crowd (to read more about that
tune and how the drummer ended up killing his mother with an axe go to my
Mar 7, 2004 blog posting)

My encounter with A432

A couple of months ago I received a call from a rather intense young man who
wanted me, as editor of the Toronto Musicians Association newsletter, to
know about from a gentleman who was very excited to let all musicians know
that they should tune their instruments down to A 432 hz (from the standard
pitch of 440). It's a miniscule difference but you can hear it

Norbert Brainard was a violin virtuoso. He founded the Amati String Quartet.
He passionately supported the use of the "Mozart A" (aka the Verdi A) of 432
Hz "in opposition to today¹s absurdly high 'Karajan tuning' of A well above
440 Hz." He recorded certain tones (and their octaves) both in the low and
high tuning, did a spectral analysis, and discovered the lower tuning
created a larger sum of overtones, which explains the fuller sound; it was
also proven, that Brainin¹s Strad had its best resonance by far at exactly
C=256 Hz, which is about A=432 Hz." Other theories abound that involve
sacred geometry and the dimensions of Egyptian pyramids and now there is a
new movement advocating this pitch as being a healing factor and more
consistent with our natural state. There is even a conspiracy theory that
Nazi madman Goebbels had orchestrated (pardon my pun) the move to 440 as the
"standard pitch" just to hold the population from spiritual growth and
making it impossible to "Transform to the Light"...OK this is getting a
little weird but I had to see (hear) for myself so I went and bought a
guitar tuner that could be calibrated at 432 hz and I tuned one of my
guitars with it. This was my resophonic guitar, pretty loud to start with,
but once I had it tuned and strummed a big chord it sounded much bigger and
fuller. No doubt in my mind (ears). I have since tuned my flat-top to 432
and recorded about a half hour of my usual guitar noodling. I didn't really
notice a dramatic difference this time but I'm going to get it online but I
haven't figured out how just yet - it's a pretty big file. Now I'm going to
tune the old Epi back to 440 so that I can go out and jam with the rest of
the universe but I am quite fascinated by this.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Treasa, the guitar workshop and words of wisdom from Richard Bell

Last night I went to the jazz hang out where the old Montreal Bistro
regulars get together on Fridays, "Quotes" on King Street. The bandleader is
the wonderful drummer Don Vickery and his guest this Friday was the *very*
lovely and talented Colleen Allen and there she was playing all these very
legit jazz standards...that girl can do it all! If you haven't see her with
the fabulous Blainettes horn section, then please take a few minutes (nine
and a half actually) to view the little video montage I made of our show at
the Toronto Jazz Festival. It's at Sure hope I get to
play with that great horn section again this summer.

The Toronto Blues Society's Blues Guitar Workshop was at Long & McQuade's
modern presentation room above their store in Toronto. One of my new musical
friends Steve Strongman was a guest and he was playing great...alongside
John Tilden, Teddy Leonard and the great Harrison Kennedy who regaled us
with stories of Billie Holliday and Duke Ellington visiting his home in
Hamilton...and taking harmonica lessons from Sonny Terry. Harrison admitted
to only playing guitar for five years (though he's been a world-renowned R&B
singer for 45) but he has really developed his own thing on that old Stella
that his 98 year old grandma gave him. It was not the slick sound of the
other players, but he's sure come a long way since he played one of my
Motherless Day concerts a few years back. Make me think of watching Jeff
Healey as he developed his trumpet playing. He would always be down at the
Reservoir Lounge sitting in with the resident swing band. He knew the
repertoire inside out but his lip was still developing and clams would
occur. Nobody cared - that guy had so much music in him that he could make a
kazoo sound like a virtuoso instrument, and same goes for Harrison.

After stopping by at Michelle's for a great homemade pizza, I decided to
swing by the Silver Dollar to see Treasa Levasseur (Michelle's former
Bandleader). Treasa dedicated a tune to Richard and everyone raised their
glass. There is a certain immortality to being a least if
you're one who touched people with your music. I'm sure he had many other
tips, but Treasa Levasseur remembered that Richard's advice to her was:
Always be on time, be polite, and play your ass off on every song even the
ones you're not crazy about. Treasa and I were recording with Richard about
the same time, I think (with the same producer, David Baxter). Richard's
wisdom also touched me and I remember one bit that revolved around this
little repeating lick he played throughout one of the slow ballads we were
doing. I said to him after the first take that I wasn't too crazy about that
bit but he said, in the most cordial way, something like "look kid, I've
been doing this a long time and that is something that will subconsciously
grab the listener". We we left it in, and by the time overdubs were done and
the thing was mixed that little riff was really back there...but holding the
whole thing together...subliminally. He was totally right.