YouTube Pick (#17) – Anouar Brahem

Anouar Brahem performing ASTRAKAN CAFE

Jazz record labels tend to have a specific persona and ethos that is consistent during their successful years. Verve Records was the brain child of jazz impresario Norman Granz and the recordings the company released in the early years bore his imprimatur. Similarly, the ethos of BlueNote records reflects the founder Alfred Lyons’ view of the jazz soundscape and, along with the masterful sound engineering of Rudy Van Gelder, created the BlueNote sound. On the other side of the Atlantic in Munich, Germany  Manfred Eicher founded the ECM label (Edition of Contemporary Music) that, like Verve and BlueNote, created a specific persona and sound. In this case it was unmistakably a creation of the founder Manfred Eischer. The ECM catalogue is filled with unique and interesting musicians and music. The label marketed, and continues to market, an incredible collection of some of the most significant jazz musicians of the day including Keith Jarret, Ralph Towner, Pat Metheny, Gary Burton, Chick Corea, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, etc.   Although,mostly a jazz recording label, it has explored many alternative approaches to music. Most notably in the recordings of Jan Gabarek, L. Shankar,  Steve Tibbetts and, of course the music of the Tunisian Oud player Anouar Brahem. My first encounter with this musician was the ECM recording Astrakan Cafe that, along with the Oud playing of Anauor, also featured the percussion of Lassad Hosni (bendir and darbuka) and the clarinet of Turkish musician Barbaros Erkose. First of all, Anauor Brahem plays the Arab Oud, an instrument that is the ancestor of all guitar like instruments. His approach is a little different from the classic Arab musician in that as well as the folkloric repertoire he explores a number of eclectic musical offerings within a number of unique musical configurations. As mentioned in Wikipedia his playing style is often compared to  the Lebanese musician Rabih Abou-Khalil who is well known for fusing traditional  Arab music with Jazz, European Classical music  and other styles. Anouar’s compositions are considered to be more mellow and spare and this he achieves by utilizing ensembles of three or four musicians and unusual combination of instruments. A quick glance at his ECM discography gives you some idea of his musical approach.

  • Barzakh ECM 1432 (1991) with fellow Tunisian musicians Bechir Selmi on violin and Lassad Hosni on percussion.
  • Conte de L’Incroyable ECM 1457 (1992) with Barbaros Erkose (Turkish) on clarinet, Kudsi Erguner (Turkish) on the Ney Flute and Lassad Hosni (Tunisian) on percussion.
  • The Silences of the Palaces (1994) Film music for the Tunisian movie of the same name.
  • Khomsa ECM 1561 (1995) with Richard Galliano  (French) on accordion; Francois Couturier (? French) on piano and synthesizer; Jean Marc Larche (?) on soprano sax; Bechir Selmi (Tunisian) on violin; Palle Danielsson  (Swedish jazz musician) on double bass; Jon Christensen (Norwegian jazz musician) on drums. The album was recorded in Oslo. Norway 
  • Thimar ECM 1641 (1998) with John Surman (British jazz musician) on soprano sax and bass clarinet; Dave Holland (British jazz musician) on double bass. Also recorded in Oslo, Norway
  • Astrakan Cafe ECM 1718 (2000) with Barbaros Erkose (Turkish) on clarinet and Lassad Hosni (Tunisian) on percussion. Recorded in a monastery in Austria.
  • Le Pas du Chat Noir ECM 1792 (2002) with Francois Couturier (? French) on piano and  Jean-Louis Matinier (French) on accordion recorded in Zurich.
  • Le Voyage de Sahar ECM 1915 (2006) with Francois Couturier (? French) on piano and  Jean-Louis Matinier (French) recorded in Lugano, Switzerland.
  • The Astounding Eyes of Rita ECM 2075 (2009) with Klaus Gesing: bass clarinet; Björn Meyer: bass; Khaled Yassine: darbouka, bendir. Recorded in Udine, Italy.
  • Souvenance  ECM 2423/24 – 2 CDs (2014) with Francois Couturier on piano; Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet and soprano sax; Björn Meyer (Swedish) on double bass; and Orchestra della Svizzera italiana / Pietro Mianiti: conductor. Recorded in Lugano, Switzerland

I have been, and still are, completely captivated by ethereal sound of the Astrakan Cafe ECM 1718 (2000) recording and the title track is one of my all time favorite pieces of music. So much so that I got my hands on a Godin MultiOud. This is an instrument manufactured in Quebec and for want of a better description it is a recent attempt to emulate the traditional Oud for a guitar friendly clientele. It is a fret less nylon strung instrument with a single bass string and the remaining 10 strings as 5 courses of unison strings. The strings  can be tuned in a number of traditional systems (Turkish, Turkish/Armenian, Arabic, Syrian or Egyptian). Godin, the manufacturer of the instrument, suggests using the Syrian  system – F A D G C F (low string to high). I believe this is the system Anouar Brahem uses. Because I play a number of other similar instruments I have chose to use a modified Syrian system – D A D G F C). Like the traditional Oud the MultiOud is played with a unique plectrum called a mezraab/mizrap in Farsi and Turkish and Reesha in Arabic. While purists are probably not convinced that the MultiOud is a valid vehicle for authentic Oud music it is, to my ear, pretty convincing. It has a number of advantages over the traditional Oud. The friction tuning pegs have been replaced with the more conventional guitar tuners. The flat backed body is more comfortable for a performer. The cut away body makes it easier to reach higher positions on the neck. The built in Fishman Tuner and pickup has a number of variable parameters to  allow the performer to sculpt a preferable sound. For guitarists one of the major hurdles to playing the Oud or the MultiOud is getting used to the fret less fingerboard. I am still struggling with the MultiOud but my ambition is to one day play a credible version of the Astrakan Cafe.  Check the above link to see and hear the tune in all its glory and revel in the incredible sound and ambience of the music and marvel at Anouar’s snappy syncopation and improvisations.

Below are a couple more links of Anouar in small ensemble environments.

Of the three, the last one Stopover at Djibouti, is my favorite.  I particularly like Björn Meyer tapping five string bass part  and Khaled Yassine adroit combination of of the Turkish darbouka and the bendir (frame drum). I believe the bass clarinet is played by Klaus Gesing. When you stop and think about it. It is an unusual combination of “instruments in the basement”, bass clarinet, electric bass and Oud all way down there with the darbouka and bendir flitting around to provide sonic relief and rhythmic integration. All in all it is very interesting stuff.

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HOME ROUTES HOUSE CONCERT – Sweet Alibi

Saturday April 8, 2017, 7:30pm – SWEET ALIBI at 5768 Haha Creek Road, Wardner. This is the last concert of this season’s Home Routes House Concerts.

It seems that Winnipeg is possibly the geographical center of Canada and at the same time it is the center of Canada’s musical universe. Maybe it is the cold winters that drives everybody indoors to play and appreciate music. Over the years the quality of musicians that have  come out of this city has proven to be exceptional. For this last concert, the trio Sweet Alibi –  Amber Rose – vocals, guitar, ukulele and a little percussion on the side; Michelle Anderson – vocals, banjo and guitar; Jess Rae Ayre – vocals, guitar, harmonica and a little percussion on the side has once again demonstrated that musicians from Winnipeg are top draw. Most of the music presented was original material written by the trio with an  occasional cover of lesser known songs such as Bob Dylan’s Gotta Serve Somebody (it was a new song to me but it maybe better known by everybody else)

Gotta Serve Somebody

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage

You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage

You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
 They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief
 
etc…………………………..
Also there was Khari Wendell McClelland’s Song of the Agitator. It is a song that remembers the Underground Railway of African Americans fleeing from the USA in the mid 1800s.  It is a song that, with the current Moslem immigrants illegally crossing the border into Manitoba had some sense of deju vu . “Every thing changes but some things seem to just stay the same”. As per their website – ” The appeal of Sweet Alibi’s sound hinges on their ability to mix elements of folk, roots, and country, then present it in the context of a tightly-structured pop song.” I think that is true. Their vocal harmonies are strong and their spartan accompaniments take the music way outside the narrow confines of current pop/rock music. The mix of the banjo and the heavy vibrato of the electric guitar provides a unique background to their songs and takes them even further away from run of the mill pop music. Three songs that had great appeal where Dark Train, Walking in the Dark and Bodacious (a famous rodeo bull forced to retire because he was way to dangerous for cowboys to try and ride). Here are some images from the evening:

Amber Rose

Jess Rae Ayre           Jess Rae Ayre                                           Michelle Anderson

       

So ends the marvelous musical series for this past winter. The musicians and the venues were were exceptional and the weather, at times, was a little bit of a challenge but that comes with living in the back blocks of Canada. I wish to thank the hosts, Van, Shelagh, Patricia and Gordon for opening their homes for these wonderfully intimate musical concerts and for providing the wine and treats. I am looking forward to next winter and, hopefully, another Home Routes Concert Series.

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Octave Mandolin or Irish Bouzouki?

Recently I had some discussions with friends about Octave Mandolins and Irish Bouzoukis. Here are some points that were kicked around.

Octave Mandolin or Irish Bouzouki?

They are very similar but in reality with either instrument you end up with a different sound. If you are a fiddle player or mandolin player you might lean in the direction of an Octave Mandolin. As the name implies the Octave Mandolin is tuned like a mandolin (G D A E  low to high unison strings) but an octave lower. The neck length (scale length) is way shorter (maybe around 22″ depending on the builder) than the Irish Bouzouki and that gives the instrument the tight punchy sound of a mandolin. Now, possibly, with strings you have two options on the Octave Mandolin. Mandolins, Mandolas and Banjos tend to use loop end strings that are in my opinion  (1) are fiddly and a pain in the ass when changing strings and (2) loop ends limit options in the choice of strings you may want to use. So if you can find an Octave Mandolin that uses ball end strings like a steel string guitar that would be a wiser choice. I would avoid loop end strings like poison. Ball end strings gives you a greater choice in the availability and variety of strings you may want to use.  Of course there are other considerations with custom instruments that are dependent  on how much you actually want to spend. Do you want a flat top or carved top? what tone woods are you looking for, etc?. You are more likely to find an off the shelf Octave Mandolin than an Irish Bouzouki. Octave Mandolins have some favor with bluegrass musicians so in North America you may have a better chance of finding one.

Irish Bouzouki

There are lots of options for Irish Bouzoukis as well. The scale length is usually around the 24-25″ but again that depends on the builder. The longer scale length tends to give a “looser” sound that an octave mandolin. A really long scale length adds a significant amount of sustain to the sound. There are more tuning options that can be used (eg. GDAE, GDAD, ADAD low to high).  The bouzouki can be strung in unison like the mandolin or the bass strings can be tuned in octaves like a 12 string guitar. That is just personal choice. With the octave strings (my preference) you can get a nice droning effect that is particularly suited to Celtic tunes. The disadvantage with octave strings is a compensated bridge to take into account the different gauges of strings  is pretty well a must to achieve good intonation. Particularly when using a capo. Of course ball end strings is the way to go. Also do you want flat top? carved top? and what tone woods would you want to select?

The Greek Bouzouki is in a completely different bag with wildly different construction methods,  tuning, playing style etc. Still there are some Celtic musicians, Alec Fin comes to mind,  who uses the Greek instrument.

Although I play an arch top Fylde from Britain you don’t have to go all that way to get a good bouzouki. Lawrence Nyberg on Hornby Island builds superb instruments that he ships all over the world. His instruments will cost significant dollars (around $4000 +) but it is the old story – you get what you pay for. http://www.nyberginstruments.com/    check out his excellent web site for images, options and sound bites. I can recommend Lawrence without any reservations. He is very professional in his approach and his products are top class. I had him build me a five string Cittern (tuned DGDAD) with a Headway bridge pickup installed (in retrospect I would stick with K&K contact pickups). After some initial discussions about the specifications I wanted I placed a deposit in August of the year. He contacted me in February the following year for some additional funds and I paid it out at the end of May and the instrument it was in my hands in early June. A couple of years later I had a problem with the bridge and after very brief discussions with Lawrence I had a luthier up in the Crows Nest pass build me a new bridge and invoice Lawrence for the cost of the replacement. There  was no hassle or problems. The job was done and Lawrence absorbed the cost. If I had the funds I would get Lawrence to build me an Irish Bouzouki with octave bass strings. It was a pleasure to deal with some one who was so thoroughly professional and I would do it again in a heart beat.

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Studio 64 Spring Concert Series: The Silver Screen Scoundrels

THE SILVER SCREEN SCOUNDRELS at Centre 64, Saturday March 18, 2017, 8pm

There is a long tradition of comedy duos in the cinema that have included the likes of  Laurel & Hardy; Abbot & Costello; Bing Crosby & Bob Hope; Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. These performers have all been a feature of the cinematic landscape from way back since the beginning of film making. In this day and age there are probably other personalities out there that still  fit that bill but have escaped my awareness. Also in the silent film days it was not unusual for musicians to play accompaniments to the action on the screen. So, The Silver Screen Scoundrels are part of a legacy, albeit, with a bit of a twist. They not only do the comedy bit and play the music they are also the actors, producers and directors of the silent films that are interspersed throughout the evening. The two featured scoundrels are Keith Picot  singing and playing a very beat up 1947 Kay upright bass. Although the introduction of the electric bass guitar largely replaced the acoustic upright bass in the 1960s, in their day Kay basses were the “goto” bass. The other member of the duo is Brandon Isaak (aka Yukon Slim) on vocals, drums, harmonica, acoustic and slide guitar.  The music the scoundrels perform is mostly blues based swing that is a good fit for the slapstick black and white videos up thrown up on the screen during the evening. Brandon plays wonderful “four on floor” rhythm guitar interspersed with great single string jazz solos. Keith is the raconteur of the duo. With only one the exception, a train song,  all of the tunes and songs performed were originals by Brandon Isaak.  The songs and tunes have such an old texture they end up coming across as very fresh and new. There is no modern pop music here. It is music you don’t really remember having heard before but in actual fact you have because it is buried deep in our cultural memory. The duo just bring it back to the front of our brains. Some of the original tunes included Back to New Orleans, Up and at Them (an old Twisters song) and Time on my Hands. Keith  is a masterful bass player and natural raconteur and the result is a relaxed verbal and musical conversation between  two fine performers. The show comes across with an amazing degree of humour and spontaneity and just plain old fashion fun. I think every member of the audience came away from the evening with a huge smile on their face. It was a night of great music and wonderful entertainment.Oh, before I forget, there is one unsung performer of the evening. Mostly she is off to the side and largely out of the spot light.  That is the duo’s female pal Cup Cake Betty.  I hate to break it to Keith and Isaak but I don’t think she has been entirely faithful. She seems to have been somewhat promiscuous and is known far and wide as Muffin Mary. Read into that what you will.

Here are some images from the evening:

                    

Thank you Mr. Marty Musser for bringing this duo to the attention of the organizing committee . Thanks to Nancy at the Burrito Grill for feeding the musicians and “A B&B at 228″ for providing the accommodation.Thanks to Randy and  Al for the lights and , projection. The musicians also offer a special thanks to ” Raymond, the patron saint of pain in the ass musicians” (their words) on sound.

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Don’t forget the next concert in the series, THE SULTANS OF STRING who will be performing on Wednesday April 5, 2017, 8pm. This is a return engagement for this very special group.

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YouTube Picks (#10) – Another Way to Play Guitar

The Blues as a musical influence has been around for well over 100 years.It is the basic ingredient of Ragtime, Early Jazz, Country Blues, Bluegrass, Swing, Bebop, Modern Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Soul and Classic Rock and just about any contemporary music genre you may care to mention. The internet is flush with blues based performers and performances and “how to ” videos. In the academic world of universities and Colleges, out side the specifically Classical realm, the programs are are dominated by Jazz and pop based curriculums with strong blues components. This has been going on for so long and it is so ingrained in our musical psyche that we often forget there are other musical genres and ways of playing music. Guitarists are not immune to this way of thinking. Every guitar player wants to be a “rock star”. Yet, in the vein of the old saying, “There are more than one way to skin a cat” one could also say “there are more than one way to play guitar”. Here is another way.

While the western pop/rock world was going on its particular musical way during the post WWII era there were things happening in “darkest Africa”. Particularly in the Congo. “The guitar rich pop music of the Congo in Central Africa has had more impact around the continent than any other Afro-pop genre. Beginning in the late 1940s, bands in Brazzaville and Kinshasa – cities that face each other across the Congo River – began fusing Cuban music with local sounds ” (Banning Eyre). It is kind of ironic in a way. African music had a profound influence on the music of Cuba in the development of Son montuno (Son) , Salsa etc. Cuba has returned the favor by heavily influencing musicians of the Congo in the development of Soukous, kwassa-kwassa and Rumba Rock. The Three-Two Clave Rhythm from Cuba is central to the understanding of the pop music of the Congo.  Once established as a style the music of the Congo has had no problem in crossing ethnic and national boundaries with its powerful dance rhythms and before too long in 1970s and 1980s  Soukous  became the disco music of Africa.

To get the ball rolling here is Don Keller doing a cover of a popular Kanda Bongo Man / Diblo Dibala tune (Sai) that clearly demonstrates the driving repetitive rhythm of the Soukous  guitar style. Don is playing the lead over a pre-recorded rhythm section.

The thing that I immediately notice is the “up feeling” of the music. Blues at its heart is victims music and as a result there is a certain “downer” sentiment and feel in the music. Soukous is not “cry in your beer”  music. It is telling you to get up there and dance.

So how does it work? Here is a short demo video that shows just how two guitars in lock step can play poly rhythmic patterns and end up sounding like three or more guitars at once. The music is simple three chord stuff that sounds amazingly complex with an unbelievable grove. The demonstration video  is in the key of A major and the chord progressions are simple I – IV – I – V ( A major – D major – A major – E major).

So when you add bass guitar, drums, percussion, horn section and vocals you get something like this recording of Amilo, Amilo by the African super star Rocherleau Tabu Ley.

From time to time between the vocal verses there are freewheeling guitar sections called Sebene that features the cascading interplay between the guitars. As I said the mood is infectious and the groove is unmatched in any other genre of music.

For those interested in the style there is a mountain of material on YouTube. I can also recommend Banning Eyre’s publication Africa – Your Passport to a New World of Music. It is published by Alfred Music in their Guitar Atlas Series. In it Banning explores a number of African guitar styles including Palm Wine Pickers, Highlife and JuJu, Soukous, music of the Griots, Malian Blues, South African Zulu and Mbaqanga, Zimbabwe Rhumba and Mbira and the Music of Madagascar. This slim volume also includes lots of musical examples both in print and on the enclosed CD.

For those with a more academic frame of mind there is the hard cover volume Rhumba on the River – A History of the Popular Music of the Two Congos   by Gary Stewart. Equatorial Africa was a center for the slave trade in earlier times and towards the end of the nineteenth century a scene of massive genocidal mayhem. The Congas have a tortured history and if one is interested in the historical background of the region I can also recommend Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost and of course Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

I would like to thank Shayne Rodrigues for the conversation we had last Monday at the Stemwinder Bar and Grill. Although the conversation was mostly about a Blues Cruise that he embarked on recently the conversation also meandered into the realms of Paul Simon’s Graceland and of African music in general.

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YouTube Pick (#8) – “It’s more than a bag of air”

The recent performance of the Irish Celtic Band Lunasa At the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook should have been an eye (ear) opener for local audiences. I am sure it is the first time that a Uilleann Piper has graced a local stage. Cillian Vallely playing that curious collection of Irish plumbing certainly gave Lunasa a very distinctive sound and his solo piece was, for me, the highlight of the evening. This is a uniquely Irish instrument that as a Celtic mood instrument  has replaced the highland bagpipes. It is not unusual in movies these days when the story line involves the highlands it is the Irish Uilleann that you will hear on the sound track providing the appropriate mystical mood. So it would seem appropriate to have a look at tutorial video to get some idea of how the instrument works.

Also here are also some performances on an instrument that has since the early 60s has gone from strength to strength. I remember in the mid 60s pipers traveling to Ireland to literally sleep on the floor to study at the feet of the great masters who were still alive. Here are some more recent performances. First off there is the Scotsman Fred Morrison who is also a master Highland piper, whistle, small pipes, etc, etc. .

Catherine Ashcroft playing a slow tune that only bagpipes can bring us to a high emotional state. She follows the slow piece with a tour de force on the KING OF THE PIPERS. What I find fascinating is how full the sound can be with all the drones going and various registers that can be heard when Catherine drops her wrist onto the registers. Also Maurice Dickson percussion and guitar accompaniments are more than note wothy. Celtic guitarists seem to have a lock on how to play rhythm guitar.

Just in case it is thought that only traditional Irish Music can be played on Uilleann pipes  here is a classical piece by Handel.

and of course Cillian Vallely of Lunasa fame playing the popular LARK IN THE MORNING

HOME ROUTES HOUSE CONCERT – The Bombadils

HOME ROUTES HOUSE CONCERT – THE BOMBADILS  Wednesday November 23, 2016, 7:30 pm at 8163 Gibbons Road Mayook

In a nutshell this was a concert of brilliant music.

130-sarah-and-luke

 Without a doubt one of my favourite recordings is The Lonesome Touch (Green Linnet GLCD 1181) featuring that marvellous Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes and his stellar accompanist Dennis Cahill on guitar. The recording has great sound, great atmosphere, great tunes and as a duo they are absolutely rock solid. Dennis Cahill’s accompaniments are a model of how it should be done. I never thought I would ever have the opportunity to attend a concert and hear music of that caliber. I was wrong. The Home Routes House Concert of the Bombadils was more than a step above that particular recording. As a duo Sarah Frank (5 string fiddle, clawhammer banjo and vocals) and Luke Fraser (guitar, mandolin and vocals) are also absolutely rock solid. Sarah started on violin at age 4 and with Luke graduated from the McGill University Music Program. Sarah majored in classical violin where she shared classes with Cranbrook’s Sarah Aleem.  Luke majored in Classical guitar. The program for the evening was a mixture of  traditional and original Canadian songs and tunes with great vocal harmonies, fiddle, guitar, mandolin and banjo accompaniments. They kicked off the evening with one of Sarah’s original tunes called Hazeldean. This was followed by Luke’s Train in the Night. Other tunes and songs included The Fountain, The Feel Good Times Set, the Newfoundland Sea Shanty Heave Away, Doc Watson’s The Long Journey, and an original song written by Caroline Spence called  Mint Condition. The final tune in the first set was called Squirrels Rule the Day and Racoons Rule the Night and it featured some marvelous instrumental interplay between both musicians that had them slipping in and out of spectacular unison playing. Playing in unison is, in theory, a simple musical exercise but when played up to tempo between some freewheeling solo excursions it is exciting and impressive.

For the second set, in response to some sheet music from the audience, they sight read the Swedish tune  Homage Till En Spelman that they then morphed into one of their regular Norwegian tunes. The performance was flawless. Through out the rest of the evening they played more of the same style of songs and tunes. When they played Black is the Color of My True Loves Hair there was some lively banter in the audience over it’s origins. Was it Scottish or Irish? As it turns out it was neither. It was composed by the American John Jacob Niles in the early days of the twentieth century.

Cranbrook audiences over the last little while have had the opportunity to experience some of the very best musicians that the Celtic world has to offer.  Performances have included the Cape Breton group Coig, Ireland’s Lunasa, both at the Key City Theatre, Blackthorn, Breakwater, Lizzy Hoyt, Jocelyn Pettit Band and now, on this particular evening, in this wonderfully intimate setting Montreal’s The Bombadils. It was a unique opportunity to hear the dynamics and tonal nuances of these two superb musicians. Thanks Glenn and Patricia for hosting this wonderful concert. Here are some more images from the evening.

100-sarah-frank110-luke-fraser    120-sarah-frank116-sarah-frank122-luke-fraser   124-sarah-frank126-luke-fraser142-sarah-frank   140-luke-fraser150-sarah-frank160-luke-fraser154-sarah-franks  156-sarah-franks164-sarah-franks010-sarah-header166-sarah-franks   168-sarah-franks186-luke-franks   144-luke-fraser184-sarah-franks

A small technical Note: Both musicians play superb instruments. Sarah plays a five string fiddle tuned CGDAE (from the bass to the treble side). Effectively it allows Sarah to cover the full range of the violin and the viola on a single instrument. Luke plays a Collings Dreadought guitar and a Michael Heiden mandolin. Michael, who is one of the world’s great luthiers, has a work shop just down the road from here in Creston. Here is the manuscript for Homage Till En Spelman that was thrown into the arena by a member of the audience:homage-till-en-spelman

Now, as I said it was a brilliant concert and you had to be there but if you couldn’t make it here is a taste of what you missed:

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STUDIO 64 JAZZ AND BLUES SERIES – THE 6L62

STUDIO 64 JAZZ AND BLUES CONCERT SERIES –  THE 6L6S  Saturday November19, 2016, 8pm

fall-concert-series

Studio 64 has done it again!. They concluded the fall Jazz and Blues Concert series with a crack-a-jack blues outfit – The 6L6S featuring Mike Watson – guitars and vocals; Tommy Knowles – Bass Guitar; and Kent MacRae Drums). This band came out of Calgary to especially warm up this frosty night in Kimberley. They are a full on LOUD electric band with obvious affection for the roots of the music and featured many songs from deep within the acoustic blues traditions of the 20s, 30s, and 40s. They included their special interpretations of songs by Leadbelly, Blind Blake, Robert Johnson, Elmore James (Dust My Broom) Willie Dixon (Diddy Wha Diddy) Cripple Clarence Lofton  (Strut that Thing), Little Walter / Muddy Waters (My Babe) and a couple of early rock and roll classics including Maybe Baby and a tune by Link Wray. It was a boisterous night with Studio 64 patrons adding an appropriate touch by “dancing in the isles”. It was a fitting conclusion to another very successful concert series. For now we just have to hang tight until spring rolls around with another Studio 64 Concert Series. Here are some images from the night:

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HOME ROUTES HOUSE CONCERT – Blue Moon Marquee

red-square-cranbrook

BLUE MOON MARQUEE: HOUSE CONCERT AT 8163 GIBBONS ROAD, WARDNER (MAYOOK), Tuesday October 25, 2016, 7:30 pm

From their website: “Blue Moon Marquee is a Gypsy Blues band that stem from the wild rose foothills of Alberta. A.W. Cardinal (vocals/guitar) and Jasmine Colette a.k.a. Bandlands Jass (vocals, bass, drums)  write and perform original compositions influenced by anything that swings, jumps or grooves. Artists such as Lonnie Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Blind Willie Jonson, Charley Patton, Howlin’ Wolf, Bill Jennings, Big Bill Broonzy, Tom Waits, Memphis Minnie, & Django Riendhart to name a few.” Although they originally hail from Rocky Mountain House in Alberta they have recently relocated to the blues drenched valleys of Vancouver Island. Who would have thunk it. Never-the-less they are back near their old stomping grounds to perform a series of House Concerts under the umbrella of Home Routes / Chemin Chez Nous (a non-profit organization spreading live music throughout Western Canada). This particular concert was held in a large, spacious room of a private home out near Wardner. It was not the first time the duo has performed in the area. They were part of Studio 64 Jazz and Blues Concert Series  held in Kimberley March last year (check my review below)

Blue Moon Marquee at Studio 64

These folk are hard working touring musicians who have crossed Canada back and forth at least four times this past summer. They performed at a number of well known festivals, including the Montreal Jazz Festival. European performers do not know how easy they have it. The distances covered between gigs in Europe are minuscule compared to those in Canada – “In Britain 100 years is a short time and 100k is a big distance. In Canada 100 years is a long time and 100k is just a drive to the local pub”.  Then, of course in Canada, the climate almost forbids extensive touring in the winter. So it is is with great appreciation audiences welcome Canadian performers who spend some much time and effort on the road to provide live music in our communities. This particular venue was perfect for the duo. Apart from some mild amplification of the electric guitar it was basically an acoustic performance. The sound was well balanced with their acoustic vocals soaring over the top of the accompanying instruments. The lighting was great and the seating very comfortable. As with their last performance in Kimberley the majority of their original material was heavily flavored with blues and gypsy jazz. Every now and then a little fragment of  “DjangoReinhardt’s  Minor Swing would sneak in and liven up the “hot jazz” atmosphere.Their original material included Dancing with the Wrong Man’s Wife, Gypsy Blues, Hoodoo Lady, Sugar Dime, Troubles Calling, In the Hen House, Runaway Lane, Saddle Sore, Black Rat Swing  (?), Shading Tree and others. They did perform a couple of  “covers”, well not exactly “covers”, their re-interpretation of  a Memphis Minnie classic and one of Lead Belly’s songs  put those songs back out there in a whole new way. As promised, A.W. Cardinal’s guitar swung unrelentingly throughout the evening and Jasmine Colette’s acoustic upright bass and her innovative percussion added to the swing and punch of the music. I had a hard time trying to figure out how she managed to play  the  “hi-hat” and the snare drum at the same time she was playing bass and singing. Here are some images from the evening:

204a-a-w-cardinal206-jasmine-colette  208-jasmine-colette   220-jasmine-colette210-a-w-cardinal  212-a-w-cardinal 216a-a-w-cardinal224-jasmine-colette218-a-w-cardinal228-a-w-cardinal232-jasmine-colette  246-jasmine-colette234-jasmine-colette238-a-w-cardinal242-a-w-cardinal  250-jasmine-colette256-a-w-cardinal264-jasmine-colette260-jasmine-colette   262-jamine-colette266-a-w-cardinal286-jasmine-colette288-jasmine-colette290a-a-w-cardinal012a-blue-moon-header

Thanks Patricia and Glenn for hosting this great concert in this great series. Patrons, don’t forget the next concert THE BOMBADILS, a Celtic based group performing at this same venue on Wednesday November 23, 2016, 7:30pm.

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SummerSounds: Clayton Parsons

SummerSounds presents Clayton Parsons in Rotary Park, Cranbrook, Saturday August 13, 2016, 5pm. Clayton’s special guest is Joelle Winkel

112. Clayton and Joelle

The value of the average Singer / Song writer is in serious decline. It is not a question of quality, although that is part of the equation, but rather a question of supply. There are just too many singer / song Writers out there looking for gigs. It seems that every high school kid who plays guitar has ambitions to be a singer / song writer. Even if the quality was over the roof the market cannot absorb an unlimited number of such performers. There are some reasonable word smiths out there who, given time and maturity will put out some reasonable material. One of the kickers is that most only  play guitar at a very modest level. Most are just three chord strummers. What we need are superior word smiths with above average guitar skills. I think Clayton Parsons is a performer who fills that bill. Clayton is young man in his early twenties raised here in Cranbrook with an  honest artistic pedigree. His father, Reg,  is the well known for his bronze sculptures, his sister  Jani is a concert pianist and, I believe he has a brother who plays banjo. Clayton is an honest heir to the singer / song Writer tradition that stretches back to the beginning of the last century. He is following in the footsteps  of the likes of Woody Gutherie, Rambling Jack Elliot, Bob Dylan, Ian Tyson and John Prine. He has a strong clear voice, killer acoustic guitar chops, great stage presence and, above all, songs that reek of authenticity. He seems to have the uncanny ability to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. A midnight shift at the Skookumchuck pulp mill during shut down would seem to be a pretty ordinary life experience and yet in his hands it becomes a classic piece of art called September Sunday. He also freely plunders the tradition with such classic re-interpretations of C.C. Rider, Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky, and a wonderful reworking of You are My Sunshine that segues back and forth into Gershwin’s Summertime. His partner in crime for this particular performance was Joelle Winkel with some pretty sweet backup harmonies. If I have the story right Clayton and Joelle are just back from a 20 concert tour that stretched from Winnipeg to Victoria. Here are some images from a very pleasant summer evening at Rotary Park.

100. Clayton Parsons118. Joelle and Clayton116. Clayton Parsons  120. Clayton114. Clayton Parsons134. Joelle Winkel   128. Clayton Parsons

An Appreciative Fan

An Appreciative Fan

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