The Nelson based Sax player Clinton Swanson has “brand name” recognition here in the East Kootenays. Over the years Clinton with his pork-pie hat and quiver of saxophones has been a frequent visitor to the area. Most recently he was with the Melody Diachun’s “Back to the Groove Tour” and also with Jon and Holly in a Cranbrook Summer Sounds Rotary Park concert. Because of that “Brand Name ” recognition it was understandable that the group was billed as the Clinton Swanson Blues Trio. In actual fact it was more appropriately the Kelly Fawcett Blues Trio with Clinton Swanson on tenor and baritone saxes and Doug Stephenson on bass. Once the concert got going it was easy to hear why Clinton said “we are part of Kelly’s trio and we are here to support him”. Kelly is a new face to most of us but he has been a long time friend and musical associate of Clinton and they have toured together frequently over the years. The other member of the trio, Doug Stephenson is also a well known Nelson musician who has also toured extensively in the Kootenays. He is living proof that to make a living as a professional musician these days one can’t have “too many arrows in one’s quiver”. I first encountered him playing bass guitar behind Gabriel Palatchi, then as a nylon string Bossa Nova guitarist with Melody Diachun, then as full on electric guitarist with Melody Diachun’s “Back to the Groove Tour”. On this particular night with Kelly Fawcett he is a stand up bass player (no pun intended). In every performance circumstance he looks like he is having way too much fun. He excels on all his instruments and that probably explains why he is in such demand. I am not sure how he is able to keep up his superb skill levels on all instruments. He must practice constantly, all day, every day. I must ask him about that.
In this day and age we are used to Blues groups being guitar based. You know the usual configuration – drums, electric bass, rhythm guitar and a screaming lead electric guitar backing up one or more vocalists. Kelly Fawcett is the vocalist and guitarist in the group, Doug is the bass player but there is no drummer. To be honest, the absence of a drummer is a plus. Without a drummer there was lots of space in the music to hear the vocals, the finger picking guitar leads and backups, and Clinton’s and Doug’s superb solos.
The night kicked of with a couple of standard tunes. Dr John’s New Orleans inspired Such a Night from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz and Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues. In the latter Kelly played some excellent open G slide guitar. From then on the night was a mixture of Country Blues, Jump Tunes (Let the Good Times Roll, Crazy About My Baby), old time tunes (Nobody knowns Atlanta Like I Do), a novelty number here and there, a Tom Waits number (Hey Little Bird Fly Away Home) and, to brighten up the sonic landscape, a few original tunes (Numbers Blues / The Gamblers Blues and Cheddar). For me there were a couple of standout tunes namely Kelly’s interpretation of Taj Mahal’s classic Fishing Blues and Clinton Swanson’s baritone Sax exploration of Harlem Nocturne. All in all another classic concert in the Fall Jazz and Blues Series. Here are some images from the evening ……..
As always, thanks must go to the volunteers, the organizing committee, The Burrito Grill for feeding the musicians and “A B&B at 228” for the musicians lodgings.
A LITTLE VOODOO – Contemporary Blues, Centre 64, Saturday October 17, 2015, 8pm. This is the third concert in the fall Jazz and Blues Festival series.
Everyone would like to play music but for a potential musician the first step is deciding to actually go ahead and do it. First step is to get hold of an instrument, take some lessons and start practicing. Then there is the whole process of developing a professional skill set to make it all worth while. It is supposed to be fun, and it often is, but as the old saying goes “10% inspiration, 90% sweat”. So it isn’t as easy as some people imagine. Then there is the search for musically compatible partners to maybe form a working band. By this time you and your musical partners have been playing for years and the aim is then to develop a really tight group sound. And, of course, if you are a rock/blues musician you have “to have the moves” for an on stage performance. At last you have arrived. The sound is tight, the moves groove, but lo, everything is not quite as it should be. It all starts to become a little to rote and stale. Even in the most popular and successful bands then comes a time when every performance starts sounding the same. The music has all been done before and even the banter in between tunes sounds just a little bit too rehearsed.There are no surprises and, often that is exactly what the audience wants, but musically it may not be that satisfying. But then along comes A Little Voodoo (Ron Burke – lead guitar; Tom Knowles – bass guitar; and Rob Vulic – drums) a Blues / Rock outfit whose avowed aim is to go beyond tight and loosen it all up a bit. Risk is the name of the game and the result is “real live music”. The last set list Ron put together was back in the 90’s so the performances are coming out of the air and everybody has to be on his toes. This Calgary band was a real treat for a Kimberley audience that may not have been used to loud, in your face blues/rock music that owed a lot to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Hendrix and the like. Never-the-less they took it in their stride and obviously enjoyed the opening tune with the refrain “I’m tired of living hand to mouth”. What followed was a night of exciting music that included a stellar version of Donovan’s (remember him, a soft sell folkie from way back in the 60s) of Sunshine Superman. There was nothing soft sell about this version!! Not to be outdone by all that came before in the evening the band finished the night with a lesson in constructive feed back. At the end of which Ron finally left his Epiphone guitar standing in the rack while it continued to echo its way through its feed back riffs. To help those riffs reverberate in your mind’s eye here are some images from the evening.
I hate to sound repetitive but the Stage 64 / Centre 64 organization have scored top marks again. Another sold out show, another stellar performance and mucho thanks to the organizers, sponsors and volunteers.
The Third Concert in the Studio 64 Spring Series – Blue Moon Marquee : Saturday May 23, 2015, 8pm.
In any story about the blues, the classic blues singer Ma Rainy explained with a refreshing lack of decorative affectation: “You got the St. Louie Blues, the Chicago blues, the gin house blues, the my-man-done-left-me blues. They all the same song with the same three chords. And you done heard ’em a dozen hundred times from a dozen hundred people. So what makes folks wanna hear it from you?” She was right of course. You can play the same old story but you have to give it a little unique twist to get peoples attention. I think Blue Moon Marquee manages to do just that.The blues is not a complex musical form. Lyrically it is just a three stanza form – a single line repeated then a final variant line. Musically it uses three basic chords. So really there is not much to it and yet here we are 50+ years down the road from the classic era and musicians continue milk inspiration from the blues. Blue Moon Marquee are a couple of young musicians from High River, Alberta that have added their own particular twist to the tradition. A.W. Cardinal is the guitar player and singer with a voice akin to broken glass underfoot in a bar room brawl. Jasmine Colette is “the little white girl with the big fiddle” (or so the aboriginal kids called her in the Yukon on a tour up there last winter). Jasmine or “Jassy” claims to have only recently taken up upright bass and like all bass players she has her own little unique dance going with that big cumbersome instrument. Have you noticed all bass players have a dance thing going on when they perform? Jasmine adds some percussion to the mix with a Hi-hat, pedal brush snare and a bass drum. The result is a surprisingly full sound for just a duo. There is just enough percussion to add accents and make the music interesting. Their theme for the night was “booze and Blues” somewhat inspired by a raucous gig in Nelson the night before. The music was a mixture of originals and some classic tunes such as Charlie Patton’s Shake it and Break It and the ever popular St James Infirmary. Unlike the deep south Alberta does not have cotton fields but is does have pipe lines. As an Alberta boy A.W. did his share of labor in the the oil patch so it was fitting for him to perform “Moon” Mulligan’s Pipeliners Blues. Here are some images from the evening:
Once again the the organizing committee have hit the jackpot with another amazing concert. They would like to thank the following sponsors and volunteers: The Burrito Grill, Mountain Spirit Resort, “The Bulletin”, Christine, Irma, Ray (for sound and lights) and Rod Wilson (photography). The MC was Keith Nicholas.
Note: That Studio 64 is the downs stairs room in Centre 64.
Here is a little taste of what we experienced at the concert – a Youtube video of Sugar Dime and Driftin’.
Doc Maclean and Morgan Davis: The National Steel Blues Emergency Tour at Centre 64, Monday October 29th, 2012, 8pm.
The days of the classic blues performers and race recordings of the 1930’s are long, long gone. Even the days of folk/blues renaissance of the 1960s are fading into the mists of time. That was the last opportunity for a younger generation to touch bases with and be inspired by the likes of Mississippi John Hurt and the Rev. Garry Davis. Blues promoters of that era managed to find a few long retired classic blues musicians and coax them back into the public limelight for largely white college kids. The blues lessons from these old performers was taken to heart and basically it ignited and rejuvenated a blues scene that spilled over into the British rock scene and changed the face of popular music. What came about was not exactly blues in the old country tradition of the rural south. It had moved up town, discovered electricity and was brash and loud. Never-the-less it created an atmosphere where blues of every shade and persuasion continued to survive. Doc Maclean and Morgan Davis are among a number of performers who didn’t move up town but rather stayed true to the country traditions. Of course nothing ever stays exactly the same. Doc and Morgan both use electricity and amplification but in a manner that is a far cry from the “enormodome” theatrics of huge arena shows. They are probably two of a hand full of musicians who can actually reach back to the authentic musical experiences of the bye gone classic blues. The classic tradition was about blues but it also incorporated gospel, ragtime, novelty tunes and an abundance of stories. Folk musicians in every tradition are essentially story tellers. Saturday night’s performance was a skillful weaving of songs, humor and stories into a spell binding traditional tapestry that links us to a long gone era. The tools of their trade were some pretty old guitars (an old old Stella and a National Steel), blues harp, washboard, a three stringed cigar box guitar with an incredible sound (tuned A E A) and a couple of old off the shelf electric guitars. Doc’s slide of choice was a 11/16 inch Mastercraft Socket Wrench, Morgan was more inclined to use a 5/8 inch. So there was lots of finger picking, slide, subtle percussion, blues harp and a plethora of songs from all across the rural south. Songs included, Robert Johnson’ “When You Got a Good Friend”, Sleepy John Eastes’ “Going Down to Brownsville”, the classic “Stagger Lee”, the novelty song “Cats” (“dogs have people, cats have staff”), Sonny Terry and Brownie Magee’s “Come on if you’re Coming”, the gospel song “I will meet you on the Other Shore”, “Jelly Roll Blues” and “Reefer Smoking Man”. Interspersed with the songs was some marvelous stage patter. Even the sales promotion of their CDs received a round of applause. Here are some images from the evening:
The Kimberley Centre 64 engagement is about two thirds the way through a 60 show tour that started out in Quebec City on September 5, 2012. The tour crisscrosses back and forth across the country to finish in Winnipeg on November 16, 2012. That is a grueling schedule of almost back to back shows and despite the pressure the musicians appeared to be relaxed and in full command of the stage. It was an excellent show and it had what I always appreciate in a performance, music that had room to breathe. There was lots of space in the music.There was no helter/skelter on this stage. If the opportunity presents itself go see these two master blues players.
JUST ANOTHER FRIDAY NIGHT OF LIFE WITHOUT A DRUMMER.
HEATHER GEMMELL at the Pickled Bean Cafe (Cranbrook International Airport), Friday August 3, 2012 5pm. The weather is heating up and so is the local music scene. No sooner had I pronounced the local scene dead than things have started to happen. Heather has managed to string together a series of solo engagements and that meant no drummer. I, for one, didn’t mind. It was an opportunity to hear some of Heather’s especially fine guitar work. And judging by the audience response, airport and cafe patrons were more than happy to kick back and enjoy a more mellow version of Heather`s rootsy/blues offerings. I have this wish list. I would like to see and hear more of Heather in a more jazzy laid back environment. I have this image of her performing with an upright bass player and a really hot soprano sax player as a perfect foil to her voice and bluesy guitar. With lots of space in the music I think it would be a really cool combination. This engagement was part of the Airport and the Pickled Bean Cafe`s Summer Artist Showcase series. Keep in mind that on most Friday evening, 5-7pm, local performers have an opportunity to play for anybody passing through the airport.Over the next few weeks Daze of Grace, Leather Britches and Tom Bungay will be performing.
(Click on the images for a larger view)
THE JAZZ COUNCIL at Ric’s Lounge in Cranbrook, Friday August 3, 2012, 7 pm. Well, I never did get the story straight about their drummer Sven Heyde. He either got lost, was ditched by the band or he was away in a huff because the bass player Joel Kroeker and Tim Plait are leaving the band. Without the drummer Laurel Ralston (trumpet and fluegelhorn), Bernie Primbs (baritone sax) Tim and Joel soldiered on. It was not a hardship. In fact, on a couple of piano / bass duets the drummer would have only been clutter (sorry Sven). Even without the drummer it was another very civilized night of music, food and refreshments. The band kicked off the evening with a tune long associated with Armad Jamal and Miles Davis – “If I Were a Bell“ – complete with the corny, but essential, piano intro. The band and worked their way through such jazz standards as “Summertime“, “Moonglow“, “I`ve Got You Under My Skin“ and “It had to Be You“. My favourite of the evening was Luis Bonfa`s “Manha De Carnaval`(Morning of the Carnival`) from the wonderful 1959 classic film “Black Orpheus“. This is a tune definitely touched by the gods and Joel`s exploration of the melody was especially fine.
Keep in Mind THE JAZZ COUNCIL will be performing at the Arts on the Edge Gala at Centre 64 in Kimberley next Friday and will be giving a farewell performancenext Saturday at the Studio – Stage Door for Tim Plait who is heading off to Germany and Joel Kroeker who is taking up a teaching position in Sparwood.The Jazz Council will be back in the fall with a new line up and some exciting musical adventures.