Saturday, May 12, 2018

Blainletter # 102 | Happy Mother's Day

What's Goin' On

Greetings Blainreaders!  I didn't realize how much was going on last month until I started collecting my thoughts for this blog - got some great little video clips (vlogs?) too. Just added a bunch of new subscribers - mostly from the house concert where I put out a sign-up list and mentioned it from the stage (which I rarely remember to do). If you just got this email and never heard of me, it means I couldn't make out the handwriting and sent it to the wrong address.  Just go ahead and unsubscribe at the bottom of this message - but I hope it's all good because I just topped 400 Blainreaders! Thanks to all for the encouragement.

Regular Blainreaders will be aware that Mother's Day has a special significance for me – I've always tried to make a special event and this year it falls on my regular Campfire night at the Old Mill.

I can announce that I've entered the pre-production phase of what will be a new CD in the fall.  I'll be trying out a  bunch of new (half-written) songs at the gig but my audience at the Home Smith has always been most supportive.  I was lucky to get Jesse O'Brien back because every time I play with him I get more than the just a piano player.  He brings something else to the party and this time he brought his Colin James bandmate Chris Caddell.  And since I was going to divert from the usual song-circle format, I decided to bring in Michelle Josef, a drummer for all seasons.  Of course it would not be Mother's Day if I didn't dig deep into the memory vault and pull out my 1973 cult classic, Don't Forget Your Mother

I'm happy to report I'll be playing the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival on Friday, June 1.  It will be a busy day starting with and acoustic set with Larry Kurtz at the local branch of the TD Bank.  It's our annual "bank job."  Then at 5pm I take to the street and play for another couple of hours.  Joel will be coming along to do the heavy lifting.

Out and About

My old buddy Scott Cushnie, "Professor Piano," celebrated his 80th birthday with a bunch of friends on the patio at The Duke.  We thought we might move inside but every table was reserved for the five o'clock show by Robbie Lane & The Disciples.  Robbie heard that Prof was on the patio and came out to say hello and checked with him if he had played the piano on Robbie's 1964 hit "Fanny May".  Scott said yes and so Robbie and the band played it for Scott.



I didn't get to take in much of Canadian Music Week –what with my own gigs and pre-production (not to mention updating the jazz festival website, and editing newsletters for the blues society and the musicians union) ...but I did check out a showcase put on by a Quebec management/booking outfit called "bonsound" – kinda reminds me of "Good Noise," my old label in the seventies.  I thought of them the other day when some old-timers were reminiscing about when they got signed and "everybody in the band got a steak dinner and a leather coat" – I had to laugh, because when I was negotiating the renewal of my contract they didn't want to give me the agreed $$$ but André Perry's wife Yael said "you can keep the coat" (a beautiful leather coat of André's that they lent me for a photo shoot).  "Plus ça change…" as they say in Quebec…

Anyway, I stayed for two bands, a very poppy outfit and loud punk band but I really had to get home and get out this Blainletter before the gig. I did get to chat a bit in French and ran into Jordan Safer who has gone from running the Music Managers Association to being a manager himself – well, at least he'll know what he's dealing with. I also ran into Ron Proulx at the Paddock on Wednesday night.  I made a special trip to hear a bluesman from France, Slim Paul who put on a great show.  I mentioned to Ron that I missed his Facebook Live blasts and I guess seeing him inspired to do a little Live Facebookin myself.  You can view it on my Facebook. Slim ended his set by laying his guitar on the floor and making it feed back – a la Hendrix (you can't see it very well in the video and I made my way out before the climax but if he lit it on fire, I suppose he had a very durable guitar for that, a steel-bodied resonator.

In all my years going to these conferences and festivals, this was the first time I left the house without my pass.  The earnest young volunteers at the door of the Paddock were not buying my excuse but Nico, the owner, went over and put in a good word for me. Still, I figured it would not be a night for a club crawl so I stayed put at the Paddock and heard a great young singer songwriter, Laura Mitic from BC – a fine guitarist playing a fine guitar (a Jeff Tweedy signature Martin, she told me). Then I saw Shawn Clarke who I met a few years back when he was working with Kaya Fraser, Allan's daughter. He put out his album on vinyl – old school! During Shawn's set, the room got awfully noisy - he was visibly annoyed - and finally I turned around to see who was making the racket and there was a woman I recognized as the poster girl of modern independent labels and I suppose the others were all music execs too...I think I wrote a song about this....

Don't know how much CMW I'll see tomorrow but I'm mostly looking forward to seeing Harry Manx at Hugh's Room.

Last week, I got to check out the tiny perfect venue called the Senator Wine Bar, right next to the Jazz Bistro.  Owner Bob Sniderman was not ready to be out of the music business so he demolished his office space above the Senator Restaurant (the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the city) and managed to wrangle 24 seats, a cocktail bar and a Heintzman upright piano into that narrow space.  Julian Fauth plays there on Fridays and usually has a guest.  This time he had a couple of old buddies from the days when they were all living in Kensington Market and one of them even sang a tune written by the notorious Kensington Market character, Ricky Atkinson.  It's a biographical tune about all the banks he robbed and purses he snatched but he "never hurt a woman."

A couple of weeks before that, the week-end of the relentless freezing rain, it was a birthday celebration for Paul Trotter and Arlene at the Cadillac Lounge.  Paul and Arlene were a big part of the Toronto Jazz Festival when I started there in the early 90s.  Paul was the Technical Director and Arlene was in charge of the "hotline" – imagine, before the internet we had a phone number where you could check the schedule "online" (ie, on your phone). I remember she had that great Canadian announcer, Fred Davis, in a little closet reading all the artist names and where they were playing. He was not having fun.

I saw some old colleagues I had not seen for years. I was invited to do a couple of tunes and looked over to see the legendary roadie, "Brillo". WhenI introduced my song about Kathi MacDonald, "Bulletproof," he was quite overcome -  it turns out Brillo had been on the road with her and could relate to the lyrics.  He was quite emotional and I thought it was great that I could keep Kathi's spirit alive in some small way.  Trotter had discovered an old piece of film shot at a festival in the 70s and he had it restored for the event and it turns out it's a very young Willy P. Bennett. 

More Ancestry

I used to call it my "Motherless Day Blues Show" in reference to my being a "foundling" and adopted by Mr & Mrs Blain (the whole story is related in my song "Enfant Choisi."

Now there's a whole new development …as a result of my DNA test, my geneaological consultant Marg Stowe has narrowed down my birth parent(s) to the point that I think I just made a Facebook friend request to someone who is probably a half-sister and there's more to come.  I've been hesitant about all of this business, but Marg has been dogged in her research and it looks like I'll soon be enjoying an extended family.



Saturday May 12, 7:30-10:30pm Brian's Mother's Day Special with Chris Caddell, Jesse O'Brien and Michelle Josef  The Home Smith Bar at the Old Mill Toronto, 21 Old Mill Road.  No Cover ($20 min food & beverage)

Friday June 1, 12:00 noon  Brian Blain & Larry Kurtz  TD Bank, Orangeville Mall (part of Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival)

Friday June 1, 5:00pm  Brian Blain w/Jesse O'Brien and Michelle Josef  Blues Cruise - on Broadway (part of Orangeville Blues & Jazz Festival)

I call it my "living" album because it started life as a solo "live" recording with bassist George Koller and has now been "sweetened, stacked, mixed and mastered" with new instrumentation on all the songs. It starts with New Orleans marching horns from Alison Young and Colleen Allen on "Forgotten",  “Alice“ gets violin and banjo from Drew Jurecka and Tim Posgate. There's a reggae percussion workout with Trinidadian Wayne Stoute and the wonderful Michelle Josef, some sweet slide from Harry Manx on the French tune, barrelhouse piano from Toronto expat Patrick Godfrey and organ grooves galore from Australian B3 sensation Clayton Doley. "The Ghost of Clinton's Tavern" is a full-tilt electronic ambient remix by my son the DJ.