YouTube Pick (#29) – Chloe Chua

By definition a Child Musical Prodigy is a young person capable of playing music at an advanced technical level with the interpretative and emotional maturity of an adult. The most famous Canadian prodigy in the recent past was pianist Glenn Gould. The most famous international prodigy, also in the recent past was Yehudi Menuhin. Both musicians started playing and performing at a very young age. Yehudi started violin lessons at age four. Prodigies are rare but not unheard of (pun intended). The big challenge for these gifted musicians is to be taken seriously and not be mistaken for “a monkey see monkey do” circus performer. Another challenge is to avoid “burn out “. A significant number of child prodigies fade into relative obscurity in later life. Having said that while their stardom is in assent in their early years it is startling to see and hear them perform. The question that always come to my mind how do they do it? While the rest of us mere mortals struggle to play a precise and accurate musical scale that can past critical muster there are children out there playing at a level that we can never achieve. It wouldn’t matter if we practiced twenty hours a day it would not happen. It’s just not fair!

Here is violinist Chloe Chua at the age of 11 accompanied by 20 year old Kevin Loh on classical guitar playing Astor Piazolla’s ‘Café 1930’ from his Histoire du Tango suite. Chua was the First Prize winner in the junior category of the 2018 Yehudi Menuhin Competition in Geneva, Switzerland. Loh, now 20, studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School in London for seven years (partially funded at the outset by none other than the Rolling Stones!).

As I said….. It’s just not fair.

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Tracy K & Jamie Steinhoff Blues Duo

The saloon bar in the Heritage Inn Convention isn’t a new venue. It has been around for  a while and has mostly been used as a venue for stand up comedians. The manager took note of the success of Auntie Barb’s Bakery and Bistro as a music venue and figured “well he could do that”. It was a good move. For music the room is ideal. Perhaps a slightly raised stage could improve the sight lines but apart from that the lighting is reasonable and the sound acceptable. And, more to the point, the room is quiet and the audience respectful. Louis (“Louie”) Cupello has lined up some fine acts to get the ball rolling.

Local singer/song writer Maddi Keiver was back in town following her recent trip to Dublin, Ireland. She opened the evening with some cover tunes before moving onto her original songs Three crows at the Funeral Home, Crystal Clear, Landslide and Hopeless. In between these she squeezed in a version of The House of the Rising Sun.

         Once again the Winnipeg / Thunder Bay musical axis strikes another blow. Every once in a while the musicians from that neck of the woods venture out into the wider world and refresh our memories of how central that axis is to the Canadian musical landscape. This time around it was the blues duo of Tracy K (vocals, guitar and blues harp) and her musical side kick Jamie Steinhoff (vocals, guitar and resonator slide guitar). Musically the duo has been around the block for a number of years;  traveling back and forth across Canada and down “blues highway 61” into the American south to savor the heartbeat of the blues.   Tracy was raised on sixties radio and her brother’s hippie records and began her professional career at twenty five while living in Toronto. She moved back to Beausejour in the 1990s, started a family and, eventually, began her solo career. She is inspired by local blues greats Big Dave Maclean and Brent Parkin, and contemporaries Rita Chiarelli, Sue Foley and Suzie Vinnick. She is currently Nominee for Blues Artist of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards in October 2018. On the other hand (so to speak) Jamie Steinhoff started his musical life as a Blue Grass banjo player. He still has a great love for the style but over the years he has slipped into a role as a blues performer.    As a duo Tracy and Jamie have traveled a lot in 2018 for folk festivals and a Home Routes Tour.

Perhaps Tracy is best known for her blues harmonica playing and her affinity for the old time female blues singers of by gone eras. In the first set she paid homage to Sippie Wallace with a version of Everybody Loves My Baby and Memphis Minnie’s Chauffeur Blues (originally recorded in 1941). Here and there throughout the evening Tracy  performed some of her original material, a jazz tune here and there and even Anne Murray / Gene MacLellan‘s Snowbird. Her sidekick, Jamie Steinhoff, when not traveling with Tracy, has a real job as a cook. His musical repertoire includes some Blind Blake, Dave Van Ronk and Brownie McGee tunes with great finger picking on both the resonator slide guitar (in open D or open G) and a wonderful Guild F-40 acoustic guitar (I love the shape of that instrument). He also dipped into the country bag with an original song called Too Low Down to Sing the Blues (so I have to sing a country song). His back up slide playing on Nobody Knowns Atlanta Like I Do was outstanding. Here are images from the concert ….                 

As a venue The Heritage Saloon is great addition to the local music scene and I am looking forward to hearing Ken Hamm perform here on Saturday November 3, 2018.

Tracy and Jamie would like express their thanks to the house staff and the audience for their support of live music. They would especially like to thank Tom Bungay for the sound system and John Bisset for the setting up the stage

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Clinton Swanson Blues Trio at Stage 64

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.

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Tony Ferraro – The Man in the Middle

On stage, drummers are rarely up front and in your face. Usually they are buried at back, in the middle, or occasionally off to side. The best they can hope for is a raised stage behind the band. They may not always be seen but they usually are heard. Some might say that is not necessarily a good thing. By and large they tend to be loud, abrasive, and dare I say it, not always musical. However, there are exceptions and Tony Ferraro is one of those exceptions. He is the quintessential “man in the middle” with precise deft splashes of technical skill that perfectly fits the musical situations at hand. He is capable of enough powerhouse drive to fuel a big band. He can be as funky as all get out in an organ trio, or softly pulsing in a Jazz or Bossa Nova setting. He is a resident of the West Kootenays and is basically “the go to drummer” in the region. If you want to take a band to the next level then Tony is your man. We have been very fortunate in this area in that we often get to see, hear and experience such a master musician at play. He was recently in the area with Melody Diachun and her jazz group and a short time later with Lester McLean / Michael Occhipinti’s Jazz/Soul/Funk outfit.

Last June the extra fine vocalist Melody Diachun was in the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook as part of her “Get Back to the Groove Tour”. The initial kick off concert of the tour was at a Jazz Festival in Calgary. Cranbrook was the stop before the Kaslo Jazz Festival and then all points West down to the coast. With the exception of Cranbook the group played to sold out crowds. As usual Melody surrounded herself with a group of first class musicians that included Tony Ferraro on drums, Doug Stephenson on guitar, Mike Spielman on bass, Clinton Swanson on saxes and the Edmontonian Chris Andrew on keyboards. True to her promise of “getting back to the grove” she kicked off the evening with ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man and an her own original Get Back to the Grove. What I like about the Stage Door as a venue is the opportunity to really hear the music. There are no impaired sight lines, no idle chatter or bar room clatter. It’s just about the music, the musicians and the the audience. The little nuances that might be easily passed over in other environs are there to be appreciated. When Melody picked up the shakers and beat out a groove Tony was right there behind her doubling the rhythm on his snare. The resulting pulse was mesmerizing. When Clinton Swanson rolled off the end of a solo guitarist Doug Stephenson was right there to pick it up and extend the melodic line that Clinton was exploring. And so on. The evening just rolled on with magical vocals and sparkling solos. Here are some more images from the evening:

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Tucked away in a little strip Mall in the old Big Picture electronics store in Cranbrook is Auntie Barb’s Bakery. It is the brain child of Barb Smythe and Todd DeBoice  and it operates as a Bakery and Bistro that also caters to Banquets. The establishment does have another life. At the back of the main room is a  professional stage and performing area complete with a black backdrop and professional stage lighting. For musical aficionado Tod DeBoice it is dream come true. He now has an opportunity to hear and support musicians of his choice in an environment that will show case their talents to the best advantage. A couple of bands slipped into town without my knowledge and performed in this new Cranbrook musical venue. However, I stumbled on a poster in the local library advertising the venue. The names on the poster,  Michael Occhipinti,Tony Ferrero and Felix Pastorius immediately caught my eye. Michael is multiple Juno nominee and top of the pile guitarist from Toronto. I have no hesitation in suggesting that Michael is the most “over the top” talented guitarist in Canada. Over the past year or so he has performed several times in the area including a tour with the outstanding Italian vocalist Pilar.  Tony Ferraro, as I mentioned above is the “go to drummer” in the Kootenays. Although I didn’t immediately realize it at the time Felix Pastorius is the son of the late great bass player Jaco Pastorius. The leader of the band Lester McLean (vocals, guitar and alto sax) was an unknown to me but given the company he was keeping my expectations were pretty high.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018, 7:30pm – Lester McLean Soul / Funk Band featuring Michael Occhipinti at Auntie Barb’s Bakery.

At the opening of the show Michael Occhipinti warned me that this wasn’t going to be a jazz performance. After it was over I begged to differ. It may have been masquerading as Soul and Funk but it was all jazz to me. Of course there were the Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Arethra Franklin hits and a sprinkling of Classic Rock (Drift Away and Harvest Moon). On a blues shuffle Michael Occhipinti did some romping around with his guitar set to an organ effect that made you look for the keyboard that wasn’t there. Lester played some searing alto sax solos and the giant in the back (Felix) played some blistering solos and backups on his Vinny Fodera six string bass. At one stage he was trading riffs with Michael that were over the top brilliant. This was an outstanding night of music.

           

New York may have The Blue Note and the Village Vanguard but Cranbrook has Auntie Barb’s Bakery. What more could we want.

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Sean McCann – Life after GREAT BIG SEA

Just a few years back (1993 to 2013) GREAT BIG SEA was an almost unstoppable force in Canadian East Coast music. Over a twenty year period they dominated the scene with their mix of Newfoundland traditional music and rock and roll sensibilities. A founding member, and key performer, in the group was Sean McCann. Sean is very up front about his motivation to perform. It was about “booze, sex and rock and roll”. But every thing has a price and by 2013 he knew, for his health and family situation, he needed to get off the “Party Bus”. He quit the band and relocated to Ottowa – “That’s where all our tax money goes, so why not.”  On his retirement from the band he noted he had been on the road with Great Big Sea  for 20 years….. He was 46 years old and it was time to make a change. Great Big Sea struggled on for a while but it was not the same . The band is now in happy retirement. The two key performers, Alan Doyle and Sean McCann, while still tipping the hat to the “Great Big Sea Repertoire”,  have gone onto solo careers.

For this evening, Sean kicked off the night in true Newfoundland fashion with an acapella sea song and followed that up with a collection varied material from his own stock of original songs and a few Great Big Sea staples thrown into the mix. Like all good singer/song writers Sean is essentially a story teller and the dialogue in, and between the songs wove the evening into a tapestry of his life so far. For the most part of that life he has traveled with his favorite guitar “Brownie”. A beat up old Takamine Dreadnought that shows the many scars of a hard life on the road . It is emblazoned on the deck with Sean’s mantra “Help Your Self”. To round out the team there was his second DADGAD guitar, a Takamine Jumbo, and his Bodhan (an Irish Frame drum). Part of the tapestry of the evening included the drinking song Red Wine and Whiskey and his recovery song Doing Fine. On the later there was some especially fine finger picking on the DADGAD guitar. Here are some images of a fine, intimate evening of story telling…….   @@@@@@@@@@@@@@

YouTube Picks (#23) – The Cavaquinho

The Cavaquinho – It looks like a Ukulele and so it should. The Cavaquinho is a Portuguese instrument that has, in one form or another spread around the world. In the hands of Portuguese immigrants it traveled to Hawaii in the nineteenth century and under went some changes. With the adoption of gut (nylon) strings and tuning systems peculiar to the islands it became part of a whole new genre of music – Hawaiian music.  The sound of the Ukulele instantly conjures up images of the islands – trade winds, surf, palm trees, grass shirts and hula girls. Of course since that time the instrument has traveled back across the world and, in recent years, has undergone a resurgence in popular interest. In the meantime the original Cavaquinho has remained popular in Portugal, Brazil and the Cape Verde islands. Although Portugal had colonies in Angola and Mozambique the Cavaquinho doesn’t seem to have become part of their folkloric traditions. But it is in Brazilian Choro  that the instrument has it’s most noticeable impact. Choro is the most Brazilian of all musical styles and it grew out of the European Salon music tradition imported into Brazil and spiced up with local samba style rhythms. In one form or other the style has been around for a hundred or more years. In that genre of music the Cavaquinho, the Pandiero (Brazilian tambourine), the Seven String Guitar and the Bandolin (5 course mandolin) create music that is very melodic, rhythmic and harmonically sophisticated and somewhat uniquely Brazilian.

Although the instrument is not in common use in Canada, Godin Guitars in Quebec manufactures a unique version of the instrument that can hold its own in the company of the more traditional instruments. It is a hybrid steel strung instrument tuned Brazilian style D G B D. Basically, that is an an open G tuning,  a octave higher but almost identical, to the top four strings of the acoustic guitar. The difference is that the top  string on the Cavaquinho is tuned down  to D. Speaking from experience it was tempting to just tune the guitar like a Cavaquinho and play it as such. It was good idea at the time but basically it doesn’t work.  The Cavaquinho has a very short scale length and the normal Cavaquinho Choro stretches from the 1st  and 2nd to  seventh fret are dam near impossible on the guitar. Beside it does not have the nice high traditional Cavaquinho sound. D’Addario manufactures stainless steel ball end strings (EJ93, gauges 11-13-23w-28w) specifically for the Cavaquinho and are available from a number of on line sites. It is unlikely you will find them in your local music store.  The Godin instrument is equipped with their signature on-board electronics that is virtually free of feed back. In that regard, and in  other manufacturing details, the Godin Cavaquinho is similar to their acoustic and semi-acoustic  Nylon Classical, Multi Oud  and Seven String Guitars.

So, that’s the background so now for the sounds. The first three videos below demonstrate, for me, the attraction of the Cavaquinho and Brazilian music in general. These young musicians look like they are having fun. The guitar in the first and third videos are obviously Godins. In the third video the guitarist is throwing in some very interesting chord progressions. All three tunes are pretty well classics in the Brazilian Choro repertoire.

There a lots of Cavaquinho tutorials on YouTube and the approach they use to teach the tunes has, for me, a lot of appeal. The first tutorial, Garota de Ipanema is better known as the The Girl from Ipanema, by the well known Brazilian composer Tom Jobim. The tune is probably the most recorded composition on the planet. I have lost count of the number of Cavaquinho and Brazilian Guitar tutorials that are available on YouTube so there is plenty out there to explore.

I know local musicians aren’t likely to stumble on or acquire a Cavaquinho but the above videos might just attract some interest in the instrument  or also in that very rich and varied world of Brazilian music. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

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Open Mic Session at the Bean Tree

Sunday January 28, 2018 12:30 – 3:30 pm: OPEN MIC AT THE BEAN TREE IN THE KIMBERLEY  PLATZL hosted by Bill St Amand

This is a throw back to the good ole’ days when the Bean Tree was pretty well the only venue offering live music on a regular basis in Kimberley. Sound wise and audience wise this is probably one of the best, if not the best music room in the area. For musicians it is a joy to perform in a great room for quiet attentive audiences. This second session lived up to those expectations with performances by Bill St.Amand (guitar and vocals);  Alphonse Joseph (“Fonzie”) on his new Taylor guitar with vocals; Rod Wilson on 12-string guitar, vocals  and percussion; Wally Smith on Irish Whistles, button accordion and percussion; Lane on guitar and vocals and Jordan Vanderwerf on guitar and vocals. Here are some images from this relaxing, family style afternoon of acoustic music.

 

Once again, this was so successful that Bill will be hosting another open mic next Sunday February 4, 2018, 1-4 pm. All patrons and musicians are welcome.

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Dean Smith Quartet at Frank’s Restaurant

A fine and mellow Christmas at Frank’s Restaurant in Cranbrook with the Dean (Dino) Smith Quartet featuring Dean Smith on Guitar,Trombone and Vocals; Zach Smith on Alto Sax;  Ben Smith on Bass and Guitar and Jared Zimmer on Drums. The favorite Christmas carols, pop songs and show tunes of past eras were all there – We Three Kings, Let it Snow, Frosty the Snowman, Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Dreaming of a White Christmas, Joy to the World, Jingle Bells and Greensleeves and many, many more. 

  

Saturday, December 23, 2017 may have been very frosty outside (minus 20 degrees centigrade) but inside Frank’s it was was warm, cosy and very “Christmassy”.

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Deja Vu all over again

From the get go, it was a full night of rock and roll and reggae. Even the poster had a 1968 vibe. The first band up was The Choice,  featuring James Neve – guitars and lead vocals; Rick Parsons – back up vocals and multiple keyboards and Brian Hamilton – drums and back up vocals. They served up a full platter of rock and roll favorites and in the process punched a lot of nostalgia buttons in the audience. James Neve is probably better known as a singer / song writer and was a key member of the band 60 Hertz. He also masquerades as a wayward solo performer known as Lonesome Jim. I get the impression that for this night James was living the dream of a 1968 rock and roll musician. He looked so happy………  Rick is also a well known local musician who just loves to hammer away at the keyboards. That gutsy, funky organ sound is no longer a feature of modern rock and roll and the scene is the poorer for it. It’s nice to have it back in the sonic arena and hear it bouncing off a dance hall wall. Who needs a bass player when you can have a full throttle organ doing the job?  Brian Hamilton is just back in the area and rounds out the band with his “in your face drumming”. For just a trio this band generates a lot of music and a lot of excitement.

  

The Choice traded off one hour sets with the Reggae band The Meditations. The band featured the young Moroccan musician Mehdi Makraz on lead guitar and vocals. Mehdi has been in the area for a while and at a recent Summer Sounds concert in Cranbrook he played electric bass with The Dark Fire Cloud and Lightning Band. The back up vocalist Syama Mama was also featured with that band. The drummer with the mandatory dreadlocks was Morgan and along with the well known local musician Peter Warland on electric bass locked down the rhythm section. Randy Tapp is a local musician and dance instructor and he played Alto and Tenor Saxes. Normally the band has a keyboard player (Landon) but he was not available for this performance.

  

At the intermission, if that’s the right word, the catering crew from the Green Door dished out Tacos for the dance patrons. After that it was back to the music. More vintage rock and reggae spiced up with some original compositions from Mehdi and his band mates. Here are some more images from the evening.

            

The only thing missing from the evening was a Creedence Clearwater Revival tune, but as James Neve explained, there were so many great tunes and so little time that with much regret the CCR tune had to fall on the cutting floor. Better luck next time.

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Moulettes at Centre 64 in Kimberley

On the poster Moulettes describe themselves as a British Touring Electric Art Rock Band. That is quite a mouthful. When I checked out their YouTube video clips I ended up with some sense that the band may be an up dated version of the classic British Folk Rock Band Steel Eyed Span. Now, having seen and heard them perform I don’t think I could have been more wrong. There is almost no element of “folk” in their performance but the concept of “Art Rock” is probably the right descriptor. This is no “lead guitar, rhythm, bass and drums” rock and roll outfit. This is a completely original band with a configuration and a performance that is so completely out of the box that it is outside any of my frames of reference. I am speechless. I overheard a member of the audience suggesting that the performance reminded him of Frank Zappa’s music. Although I am vaguely familiar with Zappa’s music I really can’t authenticate that observation. But he could be right and that may be as good a hook as any on which to hang Tuesday’s night performance. Here is some information from their web site:

What is Moulettes?

  • moulette /ˈmu.lət/ noun
  • 1. (physics) a unit of force exerted by group of small objects/persons- energy exerted results in force disproportionate to their size.
  • 2. (botany, biology) a seed, cell or embryonic vessel containing a hatchling.
  • 3. a type of barnacle or sea mollusk, known for their resilience and traction. Free-swimming as larvae; as adults form a hard shell and live attached to submerged surfaces such as reefs, hulls and wharves.
  • 4. a small morsel of food believed to have aphrodisiac qualities.
  • 5. a short story or song, both factual and fantastical in its themes; a refrain, spell, sound sequence or chorus.

They are not ‘The moulettes’, their songs are ‘Moulettes’. Welcome to the multi-verse of Moulettes.

  • Band Members:Hannah Miller – 5 String Cello, Cellola, Vocals, Guitar, Synths, and Autoharp.
  • Raevennan Husbandes – Electric Guitar, Vocals, Acoustic guitars & Dobro.
  • Ollie Austin – Drums, Guitar, Synth, Vocals.
  • Jim Mortimore – Bass, Double Bass, Moog, Vocals

 Here are some more images from the concert.

                

This was a night of very original music from a band that obviously put a lot of work into their arrangements and performance. I only have one small negative comment. The volume of the sound re-enforcement was too loud  for me to really hear all the nuances of the music.

The band would like to thank Keith and the committee for arranging the concert and they would also like to thank the volunteers and the sponsors, Burrito Grill for the food and Trickle Creek Lodge for the accommodation.

An Art Rock Band deserves an “arty” finale to this blog entry – and here it is – a technicolour abstract photo of Jim Mortimore in full flight on electric bass.

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