Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blainletter #51 – May 1, 2012

Greetings Blainreaders – I’m thrilled to say I have a few gigs to announce here. For someone who announced my “semi-retirement” and would “play when invited”, I seem to be getting as many (or as few, depending how you look at it) gigs as ever. There was even an inquiry from another festival this week – we shall see.

(If you’re reading this on Saturday Afternoon and you’re near downtown it’s not too late to catch Steve Strongman’s CD Launch at the Delta Chelsea – I’m trying to get the word out anyway I can because I published the wrong date for this gig on the cover of the MapleBlues…apologies to Steve and anyone who showed up at the Delta last Saturday)

Upcoming Shows

Sunday, May 13, 1-4pm Reba’s CafĂ©, 3289 Dundas Street West, 1-4pm Brian’s Motherless Day Blues Concert (with Clayton Doley) PWYC This show will be dedicated to the memory of the mothers of two great friends, Linda Turu and Jocelyn Macleod who both just lost their beloved mothers.

Monday, May 28, 7-9pm The Bandit Coffee Shop, 1925 Gerrard St. E. PWYC

Thursday, May 31, 9pm Fionn McCool’s, Orangeville – opening night of the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival

Fri & Sat, June 1 & 2, 7-9:30 pm, Il Corso 20 Dawson Road Orangeville, (519) 941-1009 (part of Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival)

Some shows I played last month:

I’ve been doing some gigs with Robert Davis and Malcolm Gould – turning into a tight little trio. I’m hoping more gigs will materialize. Also played a couple of gigs in the Orangeville area with Larry Kurtz and that is always a lot of fun. One of them was a band gig with the formidable Douglas Watson on bass. Then I did a gig backing up Zoe Chilco – not my forte being a sideman but we had a good time. Also had a lot of fun playing with my “Bluesgrass Boys,” Chris Quinn and Andrew Collins at the Woodbine Racetrack on Kentucky Derby Day (and yes, I did bet on that race…and won!). I will be doing some recording with these boys as part of the ongoing “living album” project and a big shout-out to those who have helped (and continue helping) finance the project

As advertised, I did a show with my son the DJ last week and neither of us knew how it would unfold. Joel arrived from Vancouver the night before so there was not much time to get our two laptops talking to each other (each running Ableton Live). I played my Fender bass through a MIDI converter and he made the beats. The bass was also triggering MIDI sounds and loops. It’s a trip.

Some shows I saw last month:

Last night I went to the Berkley Street Theatre to see my buddy Raoul Bhaneja workshopping a theatrical production that he has been writing for years and it looks like it’s come one step closer to realization. Raoul recounts his introduction to the blues and overlaps with stories of Paul Oscher’s introduction to the blues and I think this might have started out as a collaboration – Oscher certainly gets a lot of acknowledgement in the show. The music was perfect, blues classics dropped in throughout Raoul’s monologue by a combo that included Raoul’s regulars in the “Big Time,” Terry Wilkins, Tom Bona, Tyler Yarema and Jake Chisholm. It sounded great in a theatre – perfect balance between the instruments just like an old Muddy Waters record. Jake is not a flashy guitarist by any stretch but he fit the bill perfectly for this occasion – he knew just what to play on the Gold Top. The hidden gem of this show (though she was quite prominent on stage throughout) was Miss Divine Brown who did some talking/acting, gospel singing, and a killer version of “At Last.”

After the theatre, me and the family (my son visiting from BC and his mom visiting from the States) went to my old haunt the Gladstone Hotel to hear Soozi Schlanger’s new project which is quite different from her Zydeco thang. More of a country sound, with Tony Quarington playing some twangy guitar and my old buddy Victor Bateman on the bass.

Speaking of reinventing yourself, Robin Banks was at the Trane last week with her “jazz group” and the show was full of material I never heard before sung with her usual confident delivery of the lyric and this time surrounded by players taking it to a very high level of musicianship. Though she calls it her jazz band, none of the players are names immediately associated with Toronto “legit” jazz; Bucky Berger, Mitch Lewis, Terry Wilkins and recent arrival, Clayton Doley (from Sydney Australia). Clayton’s name will certainly be spoken in awe by anyone who’s seen him in full flight – he can play jazz and anything else his heart desires. The others have been regulars at that swing/jazz oasis, The Reservoir Lounge. Terry once told me to play jazz you only needed to know the 20 or 30 basic turnarounds but I think there’s a lot more to it than that.

Here in Toronto we have a wealth of great guitarists – this is a guitar town, but there was always (in my mind) a special place reserved for Kevin Breit. He is in a league of his own…except I have to say after a little club hopping on Thurs night I have to say that both the guitarists I heard did such jaw-dropping performances that I think maybe Kevin Breit will have to make a little room in the category which I shall call “Guitarists who take it to the edge and blow my mind every time they take a solo”. I am speaking of Shawn Kellerman (who was playing with Jerome Godboo at the Delta) and Mitch Lewis (who was playing with Robin at Trane). Pretty damn amazing guitar players.

Just in from the Jon Brooks CD Launch at the Gladstone. Jon’s material is a little dark (in fact, one publicist – not his – said after hearing three of Jon’s songs he wanted to slit his wrists) but has a special touch on the guitar, He would play very lightly with the guitar cranked up and you could hear all the little subtleties and harmonics in the guitar as he played wih a very light touch with the volume up high – sometimes approaching feedback. A subtle tremolo and then he would play with a capo up on the 5th or 7th fret and use an “octave” pedal to replace the lost octave. Brilliant.

Overheard at Canadian Music Week

I meant to include a few observations from Canadian Music Week in the March Blainletter but I was probably rushing to get it out to promote a gig – and here I am again rushing to get this out the day before my Motherless Day concert but let me pass along a few tips and tricks for musicians who want to use the social media juggernaut:

- next time you have a gig, take a picture of the audience, post it on your Facebook page and invite them to tag themselves (I haven’t tried that and I don’t know if it would work for me because half the time I know just about everybody in the audience)

- Populate your Facebook timeline with photos that show your early history

- Have your own mailing list – don’t depend on Facebook/MySpace friends

- Have your own website (good advice though I have moved everything over to my blog and that’s working for me)

- Engage your fans – one example was to have a “contest” where you could invite fans to help you finish writing the lyric to a song

- ….and one last general piece of advice for internet entrepreneurs: “Figure out something that consumers want and find a way to monetize it without scaring them away”

Funny, at Canadian Music Week conference last year it seemed that every second person had an iPad and this year, not so much. Maybe everyone was showing off their new toys and now they didn’t feel the need.

On a personal note, some of you Blainreaders were great fans of Daisy DeBolt and I have to report that her son Jake is not faring very well in Toronto – he came from BC when she passed away but he has not had much success finding work in TO and now it looks like in the next few days he and his dog will be homeless and all of Daisy’s belongings risk being lost. If you are in a position to help find Jake some work or a place to stay or storage/moving for all that stuff please contact me (or Jake directly at

Thanks for reading this far, see you out there