“Even the Ravens were walking”

Bill St. Amand’s Open Mic Session at The Raven’s Roost Kimberley Golf Club, July 25, 2014, 2013 5-8pm.

Bill insisted that earlier in the day “it was so windy on the golf course that even the Ravens were walking”. I think that’s a story. There were a few gusts on the deck in the late afternoon but nothing more than just a little something to freshen the air. Once again Kootenay sunshine out did itself and patrons were able to kick back and  tuck into the fine BBQ and listen to some great tunes. The attraction of “open mic” sessions for musicians is to escape from playing music in the basement and socialize with their compadres. And there are always surprises in the musical mix with well known configurations of players or, as on this day, new musicians on deck. The usual performers were there with host Bill St. Amand (Martin Travel Guitar and vocals), Gary Jacklin (guitar, vocals and effects), Sam Hornberger (guitar, vocals); from almost out of retirement – The Blarney Pilgrims – Wally Smith (Irish Whistle, Button accordion) and Rod Wilson (Irish Bouzouki and percussion), the duo JR Lives – Jon Bisset (guitar and vocals) and Rod Wilson (12 String guitar) and also Mark Casey (“the folk singer with attitude”). Mark was accompanied by Patrick Stohmenger on harmonica. Patrick is fresh out of Vernon and is just infiltrating the local music scene. Here are some images from “another day in paradise”.

Bill St. Amand             Patrick Strohmenger  Patrick Strohmenger and Mark Casey


“Vinyl’s great, but it is not better than CDs”

I can remember the first time I heard a CD. It was in a high end audio store in Victoria, B.C. in the early 80’s. Needless to say I was blown away by the clarity and dynamic range of the sound produced on the in-store system. But that’s not what really convinced me of the validity of the format. I had collected recorded music for many years including 78s, 45’s, LPs and even pre-recorded reel to reel tapes. What really convinced me was the silence. Prior to the CD there was always background noise; the crackle and pop of static, dust, the sound of the needle tracking and, even with reel to reel recordings the sound of tape hiss. When a music track came to an end on the CD there it was – glorious silence. I had not ever experienced that before. So, in those early heady days of CDs there was lots of discussion in the audio magazines comparing data, charts and  the sound quality of vinyl and CDs. As we all know the CD won the battle and in the end dominated the market. That is, until the MP3 format came on the scene and changed the rules of the game. It was no longer about sound quality it was about quantity. The MP3 allowed for music in a compact format – more music in a smaller packet. For listening to music while riding on the subway, while working away at a menial job or just screening out the ambient surrounding noise it is not an unreasonable solution. Besides most of us couldn’t tell the difference in quality anyway. A number of audiophile formats (SACD, DVD) have been launched over the intervening years and have basically failed in the market place. The latest salvo in that war is Neil Young’s PONO device that, despite it’s audio claims, is probably also doomed to failure in the market place for no other reason than it’s awkward physical footprint. (“is that a Toblerone in your pocket or do you really like me?”). There is little need to go beyond the sound quality of a well produced CD and the market place has virtually confirmed that. In truth most popular music is not recorded to an audiophile level anyway and does not even take full advantage of the CD format.

However, quality is back into the discussions with proponents asserting that “Vinyl is better than Digital”; “it is a warmer sound” or “it is a truer reproduction of the original sound”  “it has more soul”. In fact most of the discussion points are hog wash. However, the sentiments seem to have initiated a movement back to vinyl in pop music with a limited number of releases in both a vinyl and MP3 format. Even the bench mark Jazz recording label BLUENOTE has re-issued a limited number of their classic recordings in Vinyl. Also in the jazz re-issue market Mosaic Records has always had a limited number of heavy weight vinyl format recordings in their catalogue. There is one sector of the recorded music industry that appears to have shown a complete disinterest in returning to a vinyl format. That is the Classical Music sector. I think that, in itself, says a lot.

The fact of the matter is that vinyl and digital (CD) are just different. The article in the link  Vinyl versus CDs  is probably one of the best explanations of the whole issue. Rather than recap the article just click on the link and read for yourself. However, there are a number telling points that have surfaced in this article and in recent discussions on the net. They include the following:

“Let’s not fool ourselves, though. Vinyl is great, but the idea that its sound quality is superior to that of uncompressed digital recordings is preposterous. They sound different, and that’s exactly the point.”

” Each format has its charms, and their overall differences in quality are often overwhelmed by differences in the quality of initial recording equipment, in mastering approaches, and in playback setup. But if you’re a vinyl collector, you also shouldn’t go around telling your friends how much purer your audio is. First off, that’s generally “dickish” behavior, but more to the point it’s false. Digital recording just is more accurate. That’s not the only thing worth considering by any means, but it does make the Puritanism of some vinyl true believers look rather ridiculous”.

“What difference does any of it make? The music being made today all sucks, so high resolution audio is just like putting lipstick on a pig”

What more can I say. Do a Google search on the net and you will see that most of it has already been said. In the meantime I have stacks of vinyl in my basement that I never play. If it is something I really like I endeavor to find it on CD.



Dark Fire Cloud, Lightning and Sunny Day at Summer Sounds

No this is not a weather forecast. It is the entertainment line up for Saturday’s Summer Sounds in Rotary Park.

Dark Fire Cloud and the Lightning Band Saturday July 12, 2014 11-12 noon. check their website  Dark Fre Cloud and the Lightning Band-ed

I am a sucker for the unique and Dark Fire Cloud and The Lightning Band certainly filled that bill. Led by Dark Fire Cloud (Thadeus Prejean) on vocals, guitar and “echo” harmonica, with Jay Buttle on upright bass and Shuggy Mulligan on drums / vocals this band looks unique and sounds unique. There aren’t too many Zydeco / Reggae bands in this neck of the woods. Appearances alone would make them stand out in a crowd. Thadeus is a tall black “drink of water” with a frightfully manic hairstyle; Shuggy Mulligan with his mammoth set of dreadlocks must be an extremely rich man with all the money he has saved on haircuts; Jay Buttle looks so “straight” that he is a startling contrast to the two other musicians. All musicians bring their own little kink to the music. Thadeus with his guitar and Echo Harmonica – I think it is a double reed Instrument that sounds remarkably like a Cajun button accordion – provided a creole sound that would probably be at home in Lafayette, Louisiana. Shuggy Mulligan’s drumming is something else. As most people know I am not overfond of drummers (they are usually just too loud and clutter up the sonic envelope) but every now and then there is an exception. Shuggy is an exception. Yes he is loud and he does from time to time play with the thick end of the sticks but I forgive him for that. The time he spent in the West Indies has left a rhythmic mark on his drumming that took me back to a 60’s recording of the Dizzy Gillespie band in Barbados. That recording stamped in my mind  a hi-hat beat with the snappy snare accents that just gets the hands and feet twitching in joyous sympathy. Shuggy had that West Indian rhythmic punch that I just love to hear. Jay Buttle is another example of why the upright bass has come back into favor. He has that big round sound that blended so well with Shuggy Mulligan’s drumming. With the exception of the old Creole standard Jumbalya the music was mostly original material. That didn’t seem to be a challenge for patrons at the Byng Roadhouse on Friday night. They kept the band on stage until 2 o’clock in the morning. Unfortunately I missed the show but if they come back I will be there in spades. Here are some images from a day in the sun at Rotary Park on Saturday.

Dark Storm Cloud   Shuggy Mulligan   Jay Buttle Jay Buttle   Dark Storm Cloud   Shuggy Mulligan  High Hat Shuggy Mulligan    Dark Fire Cloud   Jay Buttle

 Dark Fire Cloud Dark Fire Cloud    Shuggy Mulligan    Jay ButtleDark Fire Cloud Cymbal

Sunny Day Saturday July 12, 2014 12 noon to 2pm (Brian Noer, Dave Prinn and Bill Renwick). Sunny Day

Right off the cuff Dave Prinn admitted that this was a made up band name for this spectacular day in Rotary Park. Considering the great weather and the sunny disposition of the performers the name is more than appropriate. It is also a nice counterpoint to the name of the opening act, Dark Fire Cloud and the Lightning Band. Dave Prinn (vocals and Guitars) is a troubadour who is always in top form. Bill Renwick (guitar and vocals), his compadre from the duo Vested Interests has a voice that if Neil Young could really  sing he would sound like Bill. Brian Noer (bass, lead guitar and back up vocals) from the Heather Gemmell band is a consummate musician who manages to control his thrasher guitar instincts to provide some really tasty lead guitar and bass. As a group the vocal harmonies were superb. Dave kicked off the afternoon with Kansas City and from there on out it was a steady diet of classic rock with songs such as Southern Cross, Steam Roller Blues, I’m Already Standing, Heart of Gold (Bill outdoing Neil Young), I Saw Her Face (The Monkees), Wanted Dead or Alive (Bon Jovi), Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For (U2), Angel from Montgomery (John Prine), City in the Grass (a Dave Prinn original), Wake Up Little Suzy (The Everly Brothers), etc. Two hours later the sun was still shining and the audience was smiling from ear to ear. Another great afternoon in Rotary Park with Summer Sounds.

 Dave Prinn    Brian Noer   Bill Renwick Dave PrinnBill Renwick    Brian Noer Dave Prinn   Brian Noer  Bill Renwick Double Trouble


The Visual Arts this Summer

There are two major shows in the area this summer. There is the Cranbrook and District Arts Council photography exhibit at the Artrageous Gallery in Cranbrook and the annual Kimberley Arts Walk sponsored by the Kimberley Arts Council

Photography Exhibit Artwalk page 1  Artwalk page 2

In a shameless bit of self promotion here are some of my images that will be spread across both exhibits.  Rainy Day Plant  Shauna Plant Joe the Plumber's daughterStacey DecoseOld Timey MusicHot Jazz - Dave Ward163c. Hot Jazz Guitar - Marc Atkinson Jaclyn Guillo  Piotr Lemanczyk Anneke Rosch Natassja



All Blues at the Heid Out

THE LITTLE JAZZ ORCHESTRA PLAYS THE BLUES at the Heid Out in Cranbrook, Thursday July 3, 2014, 6pm.

Classical music may be the composer’s art, but not entirely. Jazz may be the performer’s  art, but, again, not entirely. I suppose it is just a question of degree. The rules are a little more rigid for the classical performer and in Jazz the performer can take a few more liberties at the composer’s expense. And, once again at their regular first Thursday of month gig, The Little Jazz Orchestra (LJO) goes about taking lots of liberties. This time it was with the blues. The bands regular musicians, Dave Ward (trumpet, fluegelhorn), Graham Knipfel (drums), Janice Nicli (this time on electric bass) and Jim Cameron (this time on Fender electric telecaster) “amped” up the music  for their special ramble through the blues repertoire. The night got off to a bit of a rough start with some electronic malfunctioning with Janice’s electric bass and as a result the Miles Davis 6/8 classic All Blues didn’t quite make it out of the gate. It was an unfortunate hiccup but the only one of the evening. With a different bass in hand Janice was back on deck for The St Louis Blues and a full blues drenched evening. As with Graham Barnesprevious themed nights the band enlisted the help of their jazzy friends. It was case of “double trouble” with Graham Barnes on electric guitar, joining Jim Cameron for the classic Kenny Burrell tune Chitlins Con Carne. It is not often we see two jazz guitars in a band line-up.There was also “double trouble” from the Knipfel clan when “Big Daddy” Murray Knipfel joined the band Big Daddy Murray Knipfelon stage for an opening salvo of vocals. Later in the evening Murray switched to tenor sax. Murray was not the only vocalist of the evening . Jim Cameron stepped up to the plate with Kansas City and Janice Nicli did her Jump Jive party piece. I think everybody was in the mix on Flip,Flop and Fly with some nice Telecaster slide from Jim Cameron.  In an appropriate nod to the cast and crew of  Calender Girls in the audience the band launched into a version of The Stripper. Other tunes served up included Georgia, Saint James Infirmary, Blues in the Night and a Dave Ward original dedicated to the Heid Out’s owner,  Heidi Romich, called (appropriately) Blues for Heidi. As luck would have it Laurel Ralston (trumpet) had just arrived back in the area and towards the end of the evening joined Dave and Murray on stage for a two trumpet / tenor sax line up that finally rode out the evening on Duke Ellington’s C Jam Blues.

Dave Ward    Janice Nicli   Graham Knipfel

 Murray "Big Daddy" Knipfel    Jim Cameron    Dave Ward Graham Barnes and Jim Cameron Janice Nicli   Jim Cameron  Murray "Big Daddy" KnipfelBig DaddyJanice Nicli           Janice NicliDave and Big Daddy   Jim Cameron Laurel Ralston Graham Knipfel   Dave Ward    Janice NicliJim Cameron Graham Barnes   Big Daddy   Laurel RalstonLaurel Ralston Jim Cameron
For those interested, check out the following YouTube links

Miles Davis ALL BLUES (audio only) from the classic 1959 album KIND OF BLUE

Kenny Burrell’s CHITLINS CON CARNE   this is from the classic 1963 Blue Note album Midnight Blue that featured Stanley Turrentine on tenor sax, Major Holley Jr on bass, Bill English on drums, Ray Barretto on congas and, of course Kenny Burrell on guitar. The blues don’t come much better than this.


Back on Deck at the Ravens Roost

Bill St Amand hosts the ‘Open Mic” session, Friday June 27, 2014, 5-8pm  at the Kimberley Golf Club.

Last summer the ‘Open Mic” sessions on the Ravens Roost Deck of the Kimberley Golf Club were such a raging success that the club had no choice but to continue with the sessions for the 2014 summer season. Last year the weather was more than kind with many days of brilliant sunshine and limpid air. With overcast skies and the threat of rain the weather was not so kind for the first session of the 2014 season. Not to be deterred the session was moved indoors and true to form there was great music, good food, refreshments, the usual appreciative audience and a salubrious ambience (whatever that means – salubrious just seems to be the right word to roll off the tongue).  Musicians from last season were back out in force (Bill St. Amand, THE HEARD – Chris Datson, Shanyne and Merridee Rodrigues, Rod Wilson, Sam Hornberger) with the well known local troubadour Tom Bungay on deck for his first session. It was an evening of old fashion Rock and Roll, a little Reggae, Country, Down East ballads, Canadiana (Valdy, Gordon Lightfoot etc),  and some Celtic Ballads, Reels, Hornpipes and Jigs. The weather may not have been kind but the session appear to off to a roaring start.

 Tom Bungay     Patrons at the Ravens Roost Back on Deck     Sam Hornberger