Who is Esbjorn Svensson?

If you asked me that question a few days ago it would have been greeted with a blank stare. As it turns out while I was surfing Youtube looking for something completely unrelated (Darbuka / Turkish split finger technique) in the sidebar a group called E.S.T. (Esbjorn Svensson Trio) caught my eye. It was  a jazz piano trio playing an old Thelonious Monk tune Bemsha Swing but playing it unlike any version I had heard before. It was a knockout, more so because even as an avid jazz fan I had never heard of this group. Here is a link to the Youtube EST playing Bemsha Swing

Here is the entry in Wikipedia: “Esbjörn Svensson (April 16, 1964 – June 14, 2008) was a Swedish jazz pianist and founder of the jazz group Esbjörn Svensson Trio, commonly known as E.S.T. Svensson became one of Europe’s most successful jazz musicians at the turn of the 21st century before dying at the age of 44 in a scuba diving accident.

Svensson was introduced to both classical music and jazz very early in life through his mother, a classical pianist, and his father, a jazz enthusiast, and first showed interest in classical music. In his teenage years, he developed an interest in rock music and started a few garage bands with classmates, before going back to classical music and finally making his way towards jazz. At age 16, Svensson went to a music college, where he took piano lessons. He later studied at the Royal College of Music, Stockholm, for four years.

In 1990, Svensson started his own jazz combo with his childhood friend Magnus Öström on percussion. Both had made their first appearances on stage as sidemen in the Swedish and Danish jazz scene during the 1980s. In 1993, bassist Dan Berglund joined the duo, and the Esbjörn Svensson Trio was born. The trio released its debut album, When Everyone Has Gone, in 1993, and in the following years established itself in the Nordic jazz scene. Svensson was nominated for Swedish Jazz Musician of the Year in 1995 and 1996.

Rise to prominence, success, and death

The trio’s international breakthrough came with their 1999 album From Gagarin’s Point Of View, their first album to be released outside Scandinavia. With the release of their albums Good Morning Susie Soho (2000) and Strange Place For Snow (2002), the trio drew the attention of United States audiences. In 2002, they went on a 9-month tour through Europe, the U.S. and Japan. Their subsequent albums, Seven Days Of Falling (2003), Viaticum (2005), and Tuesday Wonderland (2006), were equally well received by critics and fans and resulted in several music industry award nominations as well as making the jazz and pop charts.

E.S.T. was the first European jazz combo to make the front page of the American jazz magazine Down Beat (May 2006 issue). Their last live album, E.S.T. Live in Hamburg, a recording of their fall 2006 concert in Hamburg, Germany, as part of the Tuesday Wonderland Tour, was released in November 2007. Before Svensson’s death, the trio was working on the concept of integrating electronic and mechanical sound expansions into a jazz trio context. E.S.T.’s last performance took place in Moscow, Russia, at the Tchaikovsky Hall, on May 30, 2008. In addition to his work with E.S.T., Svensson recorded albums with Nils Landgren, Lina Nyberg and Viktoria Tolstoy.

On June 14, 2008, Svensson went missing during a scuba diving session on Ingarö outside Stockholm, Sweden. His diving companions, including an instructor and his then-14-year old son, eventually found him lying unconscious on the seabed.[1][2] Having sustained serious injuries, he was rushed to Karolinska University Hospital by helicopter, but could not be saved. He was 44 years old, married and the father of two sons.[3]”

So it just goes to show that there is something new to be found everyday.  If you are into jazz, or even into rock check out EST.


The Rosie Brown Band at BJ’s Creekside Pub

New Menu + New Band = Packed House, The Rosie Brown Band at BJ’s Creekside Pub, Saturday June 22, 2013, 7:30pm.

The Rosie Brown BandThis was a much anticipated event. Of course it was much anticipated – the band had wetted audience appetites with a couple of preview performances at local coffee houses. This lovely group of ladies are well known musicians on the local scene and their coming together in this unique configuration  was just so, so,  right. The banjo player Paige Lennox had moved to the area a few years back with the burning Paige Lennoxambition to play in a Bluegrass band. That did happen for a while but the whole band thing kind of fell apart. Paige faded from the scene slightly for a while until the flame was re-ignited with the purchase of a new banjo and a trip to the Bluegrass camps at Sorrento (BlueGrass Camp). In fact the Sorrento workshops can be held responsible for moving other Shauna Plantmembers of  the Rosie Brown Band in the same direction. Singer and mandolin player Shauna Plant was a founding member of the well known East Kootenay Band As the Crow Flies. She also has spent time at Sorrento. On the other hand and in another band, Heather Gemmell is best known for her for blues inflected guitar playing as a Heather Gemmellsoloist and with the blues/rock outfit Heather Gemmell and the Peaks. She has recently acquired a dobro and has also spent time in Sorrento honing her bluegrass chops. Cosima Wells is best known for her vocal work with any number of vocal groups around the area.Cosima Wells She also plays guitar and has also spent time at Sorrento. Last, but not least is the anchor of the group, Janice Nicli. Janice plays upright bass in this band but Janice Niclihas been known to play electric funk bass with Billy Jive’s bands. She is also the Jazz bass player in The Little Jazz Orchestra. There you have it. Five fine ladies with a great stack of songs, great vocal harmonies, stage presence and obviously having the time of their lives on stage. So what more could anybody ask?  The pub was packed way before the music started. In fact some patrons showed up at 5:30 to ensure that they could get a table. By 7:30 people were being turned away at the door. From then on, as Cosima would say, the band and the audience were “pumped”. This was not the usual Bluegrass band. The emphasis was on the vocals with some tasty banjo, dobro and mandolin solos sprinkled though out the performance. Manic, testosterone driven instrumental breaks were absent and that was a good thing. The repertoire was also a slight step away from the usual with Michel Shocked Blackberry Blossom, Cosima’s original tune Blood From a Stone, the Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt’s ballad Rough and Rocky, Heather Gemmell’s reworking of An Angel from Montgomery, an acapella version of Coal Warthe Carter Family song Bury me under the Weeping Willow Tree, some Stephen Foster tunes, and Janice Nicli’s  standout rendition of the John Prine comedic masterpiece Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian.The audience refused to let the band go and they were forced to recap their first set. It was an absolutely outstanding night of music and bodes well for the band’s future. If Calgary can weather the current flood situation and get things back on track The Rosie Brown Band  will be performing at this year’s Calgary Stampede Showcase – good luck ladies.  Here are some more images from the evening (click on the images for a larger view).

Janice, Shauna and Heather       Cosima and Janice      Shauna and Heather Downstairs for Dancing       Dobro   Janice Nicli             Shauna and Heather Paige, Cosima and Janice                  Heather Gemmell  Janice Nicli   Dobro Jewelery   Shauna Plant  Rosie Brown Header Janice, Shauna and Heather              Janice Nicli  Heather Gemmell             Shauna and Heather  Shauna and Hather     Cosima WellsPaige Lennox       Heather Gemmell on Dobro      Heather Gemmell



Don Alder, Guitar Player Extraordinaire

DON ALDER GUITAR WORK SHOP at AM Music (Blast Beats) Cranbrook, Saturday June 22, 2013, 3pm.

Back in the days when men still wore neck ties finger style guitar players were a pretty rare breed. The earlier players of note were country players like Chet Atkins, Doc Watson and Merle Travis. Then came the folk boom of the early sixties with a focus on the roots music of old time blues players like Mississippi John Hurt and Elizabeth Cotten. That set in motion a whole process of development, innovation and adaption of guitar finger picking styles to all kinds of music. The musicians of note in that era include John Fahey, John Renbourn, Burt Jansch, Dave Van Ronk, Joseph Spence, Ry Cooder, Nic Jones  Don Alderand Stephan Grossman. The process that started with them still continues to move forward with the likes of Michael Hedges, Martin Simpson, Peter Finger, Alex Degrassi, Adrian Legg, Tony McManus, Tommy Emmanuel and, in Canada, Don Ross and Alex Houghton. And to that list we can now add Vancouver native Don Alder. Don was in town this weekend to do a concert at The Studio/Stage Door and, thanks to Yamaha Music and AM MUSIC, he was able to promote the A Series of Yamaha guitars and do a work shop for finger style guitarists. He kicked off the afternoon with a demonstration tune in a guitar tuning of his own invention (DADFCE) in which he brought into play a whole host of percussive techniques, artificial harmonics, vibrato and the like. He followed that with a hands on lesson designed to develop rhythmic independence of left and right hands. For this purpose he used the melody of the Beatles tune Day Tripper. The idea was to tap the melody  with one hand while tapping the basic four beat with the other hand. Also covered were the various types of vibrato (Side to Side, Up and Down, Neck Bend and Body Pressure and Release techniques) and the various percussive techniques that use the whole guitar (top, back, sides and neck).  Don uses glued on nails and there was a lot of discussion of the advantages, disadvantages and pitfalls associated with artificial nails, including a horror story of when his real nails started become detached from the underlying nail bed.  Throughout the afternoon the various playing techniques were demonstrated on his own personal Yamaha A Series Guitar and, to prove a point, he lifted a stock Yamaha guitar straight off the shelf in the shop and put it through the same paces. The Yamaha A Series features solid woods, state of the art electronics all at a price that in the 60’s would not have been believed. This is one of the “best bangs for the buck” in the current guitar world.

Don also demonstrated the Harp Guitar. To be honest the appeal of this instrument alludes me. It is an archaic instrument from the late 1800’s that is cumbersome and difficult to play. It was resurrected by the late Michael Hedges, had a brief flowering of Don Alder and the Harp Guitarinterest, faded out for a while but now seems to making a come back with new luthiers building modern instruments based on the classic design. The idea is to expand the range of the conventional acoustic guitar. This is the part that puzzles me. Modern Luthiers, particularly in the classical guitar realm have addressed this issue a number of times. The esteemed guitarist Narciso Ypes collaborated with the legendary luthier Jose Ramirez and in 1964 premiered a 10 string guitar that he used for many years. That instrument addressed a number of issues including the expansion of the range of the guitar. A Google search of 10 string, 9 string, 8 string and seven string guitars will turn up a lot hits. Rock and Roll guitarists have tried to address the range issue by employing double necked instruments that are essentially a bass guitar and a conventional guitar on the same body. It kinda works but in reality the player is only playing one instrument at a time and the ability to play accompanying bass lines is limited. The advantage of the double neck is that there is no need to physically switch instruments. The luthier Ralph Novak, in collaboration with guitarist Charlie Hunter ( Charlie Hunter – Recess  ) arrived at a more elegant solution to the problem with an 8-string  fan fret design. The interesting thing about Charlie Hunter and his Novax guitar is that he plays it finger style and is able to play moving bass lines while he improvises his jazz solos. A little searching on the internet will turn up a number of similar elegant designs that the Harp Guitar was initially intended to address.

Don Alder        Don Alder       Don Alder

The guitarists of Cranbrook would like to thank Don Alder for his instruction and insights into finger style guitar playing. Thanks should go to Yamaha guitars, AM Music (Allen Munro & Ricky D’Orazio) and Ferdy Belland for their support of this workshop.

Ferdy and Don          Staff of AM Music, Ferdy Belland and Don Alder.


David Simard & Jenny Berkel at the Driftwood Concert House

Friday June 14, 2013 8pm: DAVID SIMARD & JENNY BERKEL at the Driftwood Concert House. This is David`s second concert at the Driftwood. Contact Darin Welch at darin.welch@gmail.com for future concerts.  Also check the websites www.davidsimard.ca www.jennyberkel.com Jenny and David

The light was soft and the evening outside tempting. Never-the-less the promise of being able to hear both Jenny Berkel and David Simard in an intimate acoustic environment was Jenny Berkelenough to draw a small crowd to the Driftwood Concert House. It was an an evening of exquisite music. Both of these musicians have just returned from a tour in Europe and were on their way the the Tiny Lights Festival in Ymir the next morning. Like a lot of creative musicians that fly under the radar their music does not easily fit into a genre. They are not pop, jazz, country, bluegrass, Celtic, Balkan, hip/hop, rap or any of those myriad of labels that become attached to music these days. Simply said they are singer / song writers exploring the their personal environments. The evening of mostly original material opened with Jenny Berkel performing  Beyond the Back Door and Lilac City. She was joined by David Simard for a gorgeous duet on a short love song called Watching the Ghost. A song about secrets, Tall Tales, had a nice rhythmic pulse that set the audience’s feet tapping. Of the two covers that she performed Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel was the most familiar. Green Rocky Road / Virginia Blues, attributed to the virtually unknown “folkie” Karen Dalton was new territory for me. I will do a little research on Karen in the near future.

Doreen (the song) is an old fashion name and one that has some cultural associations for me. But was David Simard singing about Doreen, a love that might or might not have been, or Dorreen, a place on the north side of the river between Hazelton and Terrace in David SimardNorthern BC? It seems that Doreen the place could also have been a home that was never really home but should have been. Either way it was nice evocative piece of music. David also performed the travellin’ song My Shoes, an ode to Lucy (“Lucy you’re a song I’d Like to write”), a love song for Big Oil, Good Clear Water, that didn’t go over all that well in Alberta, and another dedication to the Doreen (the place), The Fire and the Flood.
He settled on a nice little grove in a piece called The Night.  For the encores he stepped up to the plate with John Prine’s  Long Monday. As always the Driftwood House again delivered up another tasty morsel of beautifully intimate music. Below are some images from the evening and the photographers dream that is the Driftwood Concert House (click on the images for a larger view).

008.Jenny Berkel                  Jenny BerkelDavid Simard                                  Jenny Berkel   Jenny Berkel                                    014.    Jenny Berkel       Jenny BerkelDavid Simard                 Jenny Berkel    David Simard David Simard and Jenny Berkel          part of the atmosphere                  David Simard                      David Simardpart of the atmosphere



MOUNT BAKER MUSIC – SEASON FINALE : GRAD SHOW CASE, June 15, 2013, 7:30 pm, Key City Theatre.

Once again MBSS (Mount Baker Secondary School) Music Department, under the direction of Evan Bueckert, has rocked the Key City Theatre with a huge load of local talent. The formal program was given over to the The Mount Baker Jazz Band, The Mount Baker Vocal Jazz Ensemble, The Mount Baker Concert Choir, The Mount Baker Orchestra and the Mount Baker Performance Ensembles with the informal garnish of showcased talent from the graduating class of 2013. What were the standout performances? Take your pick – it was all good. Here are some images from the evening (click for a larger view):

Evan BueckertMBSS Principal                        Jazz BandSax Section                         Rhythm Section - Davis Yates, Holden Perpelitz    Trombone solo     Will Nicholson      Davis Yates Jazz Band                         Angus Ledtke                        Fox Derech and Davis Yates                            Dirty Laundry Davis Yates                       Angus MacDonald        Evan BueckertAngus Ledtke



Kootenay Brass Quintet

Sunday June 2 , 2013, 2 pm: THE KOOTENAY BRASS QUINTET at Kimberley United Church,  Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for students, available at the door or online at www.kootenaybrasskimberley.eventbrite.ca. For more information, contact Laurel at 250-427-3050.

Kootenay Brass Quintet

“After years of talking about it, longtime Symphony of the Kootenays colleagues Laurel Ralston (Trumpet), Tim Bullen (Trumpet), Keith Todd (Trombone), Arnie Satanove (French Horn), and Robin Clegg (Tuba) finally got together in August 2012 to form the Kootenay Brass Quintet. The first rehearsal was so much fun that they decided not to let distance get in their way – Laurel lives in Kimberley and the rest of the gang in Nelson – in their quest to play and perform jewels from the brass quintet repertoire. The group made their debut in November 2012 in Castlegar as part of the Kootenay Gallery Concert Series and in Nelson through Selkirk Pro-Musica. The Kootenay Brass Quintet now brings their signature sparkling sound to the East Kootenay for an early summer tour featuring everything from Renaissance to rock.”

I’m getting old (aren’t we all) and it seems that everything of note these days sends me into a spiral of nostalgia. Case in point is the Kootenay Brass Quintet on Sunday. This music took me back to when I first arrived in Canada and spent time in Smithers B.C. There I met a group of Dutch Canadians (or is it Canadian Dutch) who were fanatical about brass band music. They introduced me to the music of the British Colliery bands of the pre-Thatcher days. So, along with Bagpipe music, I have a soft spot for music that transcends the popular fashions of the day and digs deeper into wellspring of our cultural roots. So the setting in the Alliance Church, with the light streaming in through the windows, and the fine acoustic environment  was perfect for an afternoon of fine music for Brass played by the Kootenay Brass Quintet. There was smatterings of British Music with  Robin Cleggofferings from Ralph Vaughan Williams that illustrated his his fascination with English Folk music. There were some Swiss tunes that included some humorous forays by Robin Clegg on Tuba (The Cuckoo), music by Gustav Holst, music from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story (Maria – a Tango & the love duet Tonight ), a couple of Cannons including a little dip into Led Zeplin’s treatment of the  Pachenbel Cannon.  Brass Band music has associations with marching and this was ably taken care in a Spanish March with an un-spellable (is that a word) title. The mandatory Canadian content was there with A Newfoundland Sketch. A full step away from music written for brass, and one that sounded so right, was Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer. Included in the program was some technical insights into the playing of Brass instruments and the plumber`s nightmare of all that brass tubing. In comparison string players have it easy.   I can`t think of a better way to spend a pleasant Spring afternoon than listening to the Kootenay Brass Quintet. My only regret was fueled by a sense of guilt in having missed the Sonatina Sunday in Cranbrook. It was  was scheduled for the same time in the Cranbrook Knox Presbyterian  Church in  Cranbrook.

Keith Todd        Arne Satanov warming up        Tim Bullen, Trumpet  Robin and Keith                   Tim Bullen, Trumpet Arne Satanove & Keith Todd                    Robin Cleg, Tuba Kootenay Brass Quintet

Now, here`s a thought. The members of the Kootensy Brass Quintet are an integral part of the Symphony of the Kootenays. It would be nice to see them step out from behind the strings in a Symphony concert and do a ensemble piece as a quintet in front of the orchestra. After all, in a bygone day and in a different genre, Benny Goodman used to showcase his trio, quartet and sextet with his big band. So why not break some new symphonic ground and add variety to a Symphony concert?

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A Friend Returns in Better Health

I had been worried about her for some time. For at least a couple of years in fact. She had been losing her voice for some time and physically she had been deteriorating to the point where  I was worried about a complete physical collapse. She was spending too much time in solitude. Moping around in the corner and not participating in the world around her. I spent time trying to find her help but it wasn’t until I managed to contact Kevin Turner in Coleman that I felt there was glimmer of hope in getting her back on her feet. Kevin took her into care and spent three weeks of environmental therapy with her before he began working on her rehabilitation. The first step was examining the symptoms then diagnosing the problem. The obvious symptoms were the two cracks in her top, small stress cracks on either side of the sound hole,  the shim under the bridge, the string / fret rattles and an obvious deterioration in her vocal tone. Finally, the diagnosis was in. The crack in the top may have been caused by careless replacement of the pickup battery (the sound hole is small and getting one’s hand inside to replace the battery has always been a problem), but Kevin felt that the crack was more likely due to serious underlying problems. Namely, an under built neck block and mismatched strings sets on the bass and treble sides. The under built neck block was serious but could be repaired. The mismatched string tensions was caused by my experimentation with various string gauges while searching for a tuning system. The result was a 20 lb difference between the treble and bass sides. Ideally the tensions should be fairly close together. This is not a good thing but could be quickly remedied by switching out the bottom 0.042 brass wounds for  heavier 0.053. The remedy for the major neck block problem was to repair the crack and brace the top in that area of the instrument. Kevin went ahead, repaired the crack, braced the neck block, redressed the frets, relocated the battery and generally got the lady back into top shape. There are still a couple of significant issues that will need to be addressed in the future. The top appears to be under braced near the bridge and there is still a danger of a significant collapse around that area. The tail piece of carved ebony is also cracked and should be replaced in the future. However, she is back in play and it is great to hear her back in full voice.

Disclaimer: The instrument, the lady in question, is a Koa back and sides / spruce top long scale Cittern with a Highlander internal microphone and under-the-saddle pickup and a custom built Carlton case. This is a magnificent instrument built by local Cranbrook luthier Jamie Wiens back in 2001. It was the first and only Cittern built by Jamie and it is a one-of-a-kind. The instrument was an experiment for both Jamie and myself. For Jamie there was all the research, the developing of templates,  building the instrument including the difficult carving of the ebony tailpiece string assembly and the grinding of the custom brass tail piece. For me it was the search for a suitable tuning that could work, and learning to play a completely new  and foreign instrument. By and large I think we both got it right. When I was worried about a possible collapse of the instrument I decided I needed a backup to cover for eventualities. It is just not possible to walk into a music store and buy another Cittern. These are not off-the-shelf instruments so I had Lawrence Nyberg on Hornby Island custom build me another Cittern with a shorter scale to improve playability. With Rosewood back and sides and a spruce top and a Headway pickup with a custom battery insert it is a great instrument. It is a little easier to play and has lots of punch but it cannot match the superb sound and sustain of the Wiens instrument. And thanks to the magnificent repair work by Kevin Turner of Chinook Guitars that sound is back in my world. (check Chinook Guitars)

 The Wiens Cittern in her youth: Wiens Cittern when new.

The neck block area The neck block area & detail One of two cracks in the top    Wiens Citern - crack (detail)

Bracings for the top         Bracings for the topBracings for the top          repairs underway Cittern -  new battery location    new battery location

The Lawrence Nyberg Cittern The Lawrence Nyberg Cittern - June 2, 2010@@@@@@@@@@@@@