The Little Jazz Orchestra at the Key City Theatre, Saturday June 11, 2016, 7:30 pm
The Little Jazz Orchestra (LJO) with their straight ahead Jazz concept has been a fixture on the local music scene for a number of years. The original membership of the band consisted of Dave Ward (Trumpet and Fluegelhorn), Janice Nicili (Acoustic Bass), Jim Cameron (Guitar) and Graham Knipfell (Drums). From time to time they featured other local guest artists. Dave and Janice remain on board with the latest edition of the band while Jim and Graham have moved onto other endeavors. Sven Heyde has taken over the drum chair, GrahamBarnes is now on guitar and Evan Bueckert has joined the band on Keyboards. The LJO is now a quintet. In keeping with their newer slightly more funky approach Janice Nicili has switched to Electric Bass
Normally they have a regular gig on the first Thursday of every month at the HeidOut Restaurant in Cranbrook. While that venue bristles with ambience it is a fairly noisy environment and to hear the band in this concert setting was a very welcome opportunity to really hear their music. It was an evening for the band to plunder the archives and come up with a solid batch of Dave Wade’s original tunes. The tunes go all the way back to the local band Wham go the Ducks (I never did find out about that name) when Dave was barely out of High School. From that era of “Heaven and Hell” tunes (Dave’s description) they extracted Beelzebub and Heavenly Bodies. As witnessed by his tribute to his mum and dad in the tune Me and My Old Man and My Old Man’s Lady Dave is never at a lost for whimsical titles. It was also evident in his nod to two long time fans Les and Vera-Lynn in Les is More. The lyrics were hardly ground breaking poetry but the sentiment and the riffs were heart felt . Sean Heyde added some tasty low keyed drum riffs on the tune Where to, a tune written specifically for one of Janice Nicli’s bass lines. According to Dave, Make it So, was reaching for a Star Trek ambience. As a tribute to Graham Barnes and his occupation as a chef Janice named the whimsical tune It’s Chefie Pants. Sprinkled though out the sets were a couple of ballads that included the tune Nectar . One of the definite pluses of the evening was the opportunity for Evan Bueckert to show case his talents on the Hammond B3 Organ. This magnificent beast doesn’t get to see the light of day very often so it was real treat to hear one of Jazz’s unique sounds. The last time I heard the “B3” in the Key City Theatre it was when Dr. Lonnie Johnson came to town with Cory Weed and his jazz outfit. That was a night not to be forgotten. This LJO event was also another memorable night with a choice mix of original tunes and tasty solos in a very choice intimate environment. Hope fully there will be more of the same in the future. Here are so images from the evening.
LUNASA at the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook, April, 16, 2016
As a descriptor for the music of LUNASA “Banshee Wail” it is not strictly accurate. Wailing it definitely is but Banshee, well maybe not. A BANSHEE is a female spirit in Gaelic Folklore whose mournful wailing is supposed to warn of an approaching death in a household. Lunasa’s music is much more joyous than that. In discussions of art, and in particular music, there are two terms generally applied; Apollonian – characterized by clarity, harmony and restraint; Dionysian – sensual, spontaneous and emotional. Forget death and destruction. The wailing aspects of the flutes, whistles, fiddle and Uilleann pipes can only be described as Dionysian. After all it is joyous enough music to blister paint, get the feet stomping and generally bring down the roof.
LUNASA is probably the most significant band to come out of Ireland since the The Bothy Band roared onto the scene in the early 1970’s. They share the same sonic spectrum with the emphasis on flutes, whistles and fiddle. The Bothy Band used guitar, harpsichord and bouzouki to anchor the rhythm. Lunasa has gone in a slightly different direction by using the ultimate “bottom-end dweller”, the upright double bass, and along with guitar it anchors the band and creates a unique sound.The band has been around for nigh on twenty years and, if one is to believe the flute player Kevin Crawford, they continue to stick around with the hope of another Hawaiian tour at some time in the near future. Over the years the band has had a number of very prominent top flight musicians taking their turn in the line up. They include:
For the concert at the Key City Concert Kevin Crawford played Flute and Irish Whistles as well as doing double duty as the MC. Kevin plays custom handmade instruments by the Australian builder Michael Grinter . Cillian Vallely performed on that mystery of Irish plumbing, the Uilleann Pipes, and the Low D Irish Whistle. Belonging to the esteemed Vallely Family Cillian has a very honorable pedigree in the Irish music scene. His cousin Fintan Vallely edited The Companion to Irish Traditional Music and co-authored Blooming Meadows – The World of Irish Traditional Music. Both of these have a prominent place on my book shelf.
Collin Farrell, not the real Colin Farrell of Hollywood fame , that would have cost the Key City a bundle, but rather an imposter who was actually born in Manchester, England. As an imposter, according to Kevin, he has scored numerous awards as performer of the year, month, week, day and on this tour and on this particular night performer of the minute on a set of tunes that included The Raven’s Rock / Ruby / The Beehive. Colin brings to the stage the fire and precision of the Irish fiddle tradition that is a big part of Lunasa’s music. He also plays Low Whistle and in combination with Kevin and Cillian creates a unique trio unison sound on a number of tunes.
Although there are many guitarists out there playing solo finger style Celtic music the strength of the instrument in the Celtic context is in it’s supporting role as a rhythm instrument. It adds punch and drive to a band. Apart from that through out the evening Patrick Doocey did get opportunities to explore some of the delicate nuances of the guitar. Most notably in a set of Breton tunes and particularly in the wonderful Galician tune Aire de Pontdevedra. In combination with the upright bass player Trevor Hutchinson the guitar and bass combinationprovided the front line of Lunasa with a rock solid foundation to support their melodic explorations. Trevor’s upright bass is almost unique in Irish Celtic music. To my knowledge the upright bass, unlike in Bluegrass music, is not a common instrument in Irish Celtic music. Having said that Trevor’s contribution adds an unmistakable signature sound to the ensemble. Over the years he has graced a number of bands, including those of the Irish button accordionist Sharon Shannon. Moving around the world poses some unique challenges for a bass player . Trevor is a tall man and he requires a big instrument . The shear size of the bass is a major financial and logistical hurdle in transporting the instrument from place to place. Trevor has overcome some of those difficulties by using an instrument that literally comes apart and folds down into a more manageable package. There are a number of these instruments on the market and to get some idea of the just how that is done check the link below.
Here are some images from a memorable night of music.
Saturday March 12, 2016, 7:30 pmat the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook performing on the small stage in the foyer.
To the purists this may not really be “Celtic” music but to the rest of us it turned out to be a really interesting “mash up” (Jeff Faragher’s words) of what is a really fascinating mix of musicians, tunes and styles. Breakwater is a quartet of musicians from the West Kootenays that includes Jeff Faragher on Cello, guitar and vocals, AuroraSmith on vocals and Fiddle, Rob Fahie on Double Bass and Ben Johnson on Drums and Percussion. These musicians come from varied backgrounds with impeccable credentials. Jeff is an outstanding classical celloist who has played in a number of local solo and chamber group situations as well being the conductor and soloist with the Symphony of the Kootenays; Rob is originally from the Montreal jazz scene and is also one of the principal bass players in the Symphony of the Kootenays; Aurora is a fiddle player who teaches in Nelson and also performs as a classical violinist in a number of orchestras, including the Symphony of the Kootenays. Ben Johnson is a drummer and percussionist whose primary interest is in Balkan, Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern music. Apart from percussion he plays a number of instruments from that part of the world including Greek Bouzouki, Oud, Saz and many other instruments with unpronounceable names. With that as the kick off point it is hard to imagine the music being anything other than interesting. The central core of the repertoire is Celtic, specifically, fiddle music, to which the group adds music from the classical masters (J.S. Bach, Dvorak), film music (Game of Thrones, Pirates of the Caribbean), pop music(Coldplay), Canadian (Song of the Mira, Log Drivers Waltz), folk music (Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind), Bluegrass and just about anything else that tickles their imagination. The front line of fiddle, cello and double bass is a combination that fits well with the repertoire. To prove the point they kicked off the evening with a J.S. Bach minuet that morphed into the fiddle tune The Ash Plant. This they followed up with a rousing set of Aurora’s fiddle tunes (The Roaring Barmaid / The New Reel / The Tamlin Reel). After that whirlwind performance Aurora knocked it back a notch by singing The Banks of Loch Lomond followed by the band’s exploration of Jay Ungar’s classic tune The Ashokan Farewell (from Ken Burns PBS Documentary on the American Civil War). For the rest of the evening it was more of the same. Lots of fiddle tunes, including two that I noted for later research when I got home. They were The Pelican Reel (by Gordon Stobbe) and Catharsis (by Amy Cann). There were lots of songs including Jeff Faragher’s outstanding version of Song of the Mira with the tag fiddle tune Stolen Apples (another tune I will have to research). All in all it was an evening of fine music in a performance space, the foyer of the Key City, that has lots of promise. It is a more intimate arena than the performance area in the main theatre. It had good sight lines and sound. However, the lighting was really poor, and I do mean poor. It was dim and marred by undesirable tints from the overhead LEDs. They will have to work on that. A black backdrop curtain would also improve the visuals.
Sunday March 13, 2016, 7:30 pmat the Studio 64 (Centre 64) in Kimberley.
The concept of the “Small Stage” at the Key City and Studio 64 in Centre 64 is much the same. The idea is to create a small performance area with a cabaret like atmosphere with available refreshments and snacks. By and large they have both succeeded, albeit with 5 year head start Studio 64 is closer to finalization. Within the past few years Studio 64 has manged to improve the performance area with a large black back drop curtain and a sophisticated lighting system. The lighting and sound are managed by Ray’s music and the results are first class. All that remains to be improved are the sight lines by the installation of a slightly raised stage for the performers. That is in the works. On the other hand the Key City “Small Stage” is only in the first year of development. On the positive side, with the raised stage the sight lines are good but there is real need for a black backdrop curtain and an improved or better managed lighting system. The sound is good but the lighting is very, very poor.
Breakwater performed the same program at both venues and with the better lighting the Studio 64 performance had more appeal. Below are images from the latter concert. You be the judge of the visuals.
Breakwater – two fabulous concerts with great visuals and great music. I’m looking forward to their return to this area. When they do make sure to mark it on it is on your calendar.
In the past there has been a well recognized tradition where classical composers have dipped into folkloric waters to refurbish and re-invigorate their music. In fact there are whole national music traditions that have come into being as a result of that process. Every now and then folk musicians, rock musicians and jazz musicians have turned that process on its ear by enlisting classical musicians, most notably, symphony orchestras in support of music that is outside the normal symphony repertoire. Over the years The Symphony of the Kootenays has been involved in a number of those type of projects. Lizzy Hoyt’s Canadian Folk Sketches World Premier is the latest in that ilk. Lizzy Hoyt (vocals, guitar, fiddle, and harp) and her trio, Keith Rempel (upright bass and back-up vocals) and Chis Tabbert (guitar and Russian Soviet era mandolin) joined the Symphony and shared the solo spotlights with a number of the Symphony’s outstanding musicians. The rehearsals were on Saturday afternoon, February 13, 2016 in preparation for the premier concert later that evening. Here are some images from that rehearsal.
I know the instrument doesn’t make the music. It is the musician who makes the music. However, having said that, I think it is worth focusing some attention on Lizzy’s magnificent Collings small bodied guitar (probably a Collings OM1). This a truly beautiful example of modern luthiery and it further demonstrates that we are living in a golden era of hand made instruments.
As for the repertoire it always gives me great pleasure when a Canadian musician stops looking south for musical inspiration and decides to explore the rich, varied, and largely unexplored traditions of Canada.
“The Highland Clearances were horrific events in Scottish history. In the 19th Century Crofters were forcibly evicted from their homes in the Highlands of Scotland and those that survived starvation and death ended up scattered all over the world. “It was an ill wind that blew some good” and this “ill wind” was responsible for the Scots settling in Cape Breton. With the new settlers came all the elements of the Scottish Highland Culture. It included the Gaelic language, music, dancing and story telling and some say this transplantation of the culture is responsible for the very survival of the Scottish Fiddle tradition, not only in Canada, but in Scotland itself. By the time the CBC aired a TV show called “The Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler” in 1971 the Cape Breton style of fiddling had been in existence for well over a hundred years. The CBC show lamented the decline of the tradition and predicted the inevitable demise of the Cape Breton fiddler. Boy, were they ever wrong with that conclusion. Within a few short years of the airing of the show the tradition became revitalized and went though a period of explosive growth. As well as a whole cadre of older and younger fiddlers, part of the positive change can be laid at the feet of at least two master fiddlers, Jerry Holland and Buddy MacMaster.” Both of these musicians have since passed away but their children, grand-children, students and disciples have continued to re-invigorated the tradition. COIG (Gaelic for Five) is part of that on going process. Originally this was a quintet formed to promote the Cape Breton Celtic Colours Festival. The original members were all basically Cape Bretoners who have grown up in the tradition and are thoroughly familiar with the traditional fiddle and piano music of the region. The original members were Chrissy Crowley (fiddle and viola), Rachel Davis (fiddle and viola), Jason Roach (keyboards), Darren McMullen (tenor banjo, bouzouki, mandolin, guitars, and Irish Whistle), and Colin Grant (fiddle). Coig performed as a quartet at the Key City without Colin so I am not sure if he is still part of the group.
It goes without saying this was a night of brilliant music with lots of foot stomping fiddle duets, tenor banjo, bouzouki and mandolin leads all backed by Jason’s thunderous Cape Breton piano. The band performed a selection of tune sets from their album Five. Tunes included Bad Day at the Beach, The Oak Tree Set, Choufflé Soufflé, SR (Strathspey/ Reel) Set and others. Rachel Davis sang Bob Dylan’s classic ballad Tomorrow is a Long Time and Dougie MacLean’sShe Loves Me when I Try. On keyboard Jason Roach performed an extended solo set that included Sleepy Maggie. Here are some images from the evening.
Musical Notes (pun intended). Darren McMullen is a “highly sort after multi-instrumentalist, switching between, guitars, mandolin, bouzouki, banjo and whistle”. His arsenal of instruments is only restricted by travel requirements. In this instance he did not play guitar. For most of the audience that may, or may not have passed unnoticed….. when was the last time we have heard a musical ensemble that was not guitar based? Actually it was refreshing not hear a batch of guitars thumping away. After all there is more to music than three guitars and a thudding back beat. Without guitars and with the addition of bouzouki, banjo and mandolin the music had a whole different sonic ambience. On this trip his arsenal was restricted to just the Irish tenor banjo, mandolin and Irish bouzouki. There is only so much excess baggage that you can cram onto a plane. Darren plays a 19 fret Irish tenor banjo tuned GDAE played mandolin style with a pick. It requires a different musical approach to the usual Bluegrass and Clawhammer styles of banjo playing. This instrument is not necessarily a chordal instrument. Rather its strength is in single linear melody lines and leads. When played solo it does not have a pleasant sound. However, in ensemble situations its loud percussive notes adds rhythm and punch to melody lines. It is particularly effective when played in unison with other melody instruments such as fiddle and accordions. Darren also plays a Bruce Weber Irish Bouzouki. For those unfamiliar with the Irish bouzouki it is a mandolin styled instrument (“a mandolin on steroids”) that originally started out as the Greek Bouzouki before Irish musicians adopted it in the mid-1960s. Darren’s instrument is a custom built instrument designed to have a high tight sound that doesn’t conflict with the bass register of Jason’s Cape Breton style piano. Last but not least is hisMark Franzke Dog Boys custom built A- style mandolin.
This was a night of exciting Canadian Music and one that may be repeated in the future. There are already rumours that the band will be back. If so Coig is not to be missed.
Here is a YouTube clip just to give us an after taste of the concert:
THE TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD ORCHESTRAat the Key City Theatre, Thursday May 14, 2015.
I like pleasant surprises and The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra is one of several in this spring’s concert season. Others worth mentioning are The Love Bullies and Guy Davis who both recently performed at Centre 64 in Kimberley . The Love Bullies did their outrageous take on 50’s rock and roll and Guy Davis did the classic acoustic blues trip. Also worth mentioning is the Quebec band Vent du Nord and their foot stomping French Canadian music at the Key City.
At first, the name Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra, was a bit of puzzle but once deciphered by the MC Galen Olstead it made a lot of sense. The name is a clever word play on the title of Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mocking Bird. And, as in the novel, these mocking birds provide pleasure with their songs by singing their hearts out and, for good purpose, they add in a hefty dose of virtuoso instrumental accompaniments. The Tequila in the name probably references the intoxicating influences of various Hispanic cultures that keep popping up in the music. What is instantly attractive in the music is the instrumental line up. This is no run of the mill rock and roll quartet.There is only one acoustic guitar, played by Kurt Lowen, in the mix. The upright bass played by Keith Rodger adds a big fat round sound to the bottom of the orchestra. Have you noticed that over the past decade the acoustic upright bass has re-asserted itself in the sonic spectrum? With the invention of the electric bass guitar in the late fifties it was quickly abandoned for the more portable instrument. It is nice to see that trend has finally been reversed and a lot of credit must go to those musicians who are prepared to transport and suffer the consequences of dedicating themselves to such a large unwieldy instrument. A solid rhythmic foundation for the orchestra is provided by Paul Wolda who plays an abbreviated standard drum kit that includes a Djembe and Cajon. Paul comes armed with a bucket load of experience that includes working and studying with the Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji and a period as an exchange student in Brazil when he was eighteen. For a percussionist that is like dying and going to heaven. You will have to go a long way before you will come across such an accomplished percussionist. I had a fortune few minutes with him after the show when he demonstrated on my congas just what one could do with a set of three tuned congas.
What I find missing in most bands is the presence of strong melodic voices. Not in this band. A strong melodic element is provided by Mack Shields on fiddle and Ian Griffiths on Accordion. Mack is a newer member of the band and is described as “a song writer, a fine fiddler, and a comedic genius”. One of his major contributions to the repertoire of the orchestra is lovely waltz with a classic old-time feel. It is unfortunate that accordions are generally held in such low esteem. I think that situation is unwarranted. Violins, keyboards and guitars may be the most popular instruments of the day but a casual review of music across the world will reveal that the accordion is one of the most pervasive instruments on the planet. North, south, east and west there is always an accordion within ear shot. Ian started out on a “toy” accordion that he eventually destroyed by over use. He has since graduated to a high class Italian Beltuna acoustic instrument fitted with three internal microphones. He is currently experimenting with a Roland Digital V-ACCORDION. He also plays a small hand operated harmonium that contributes drones that are commonly found in world music.
Given the strong interplay of the instruments, the finely crafted arrangements and the free wheeling virtuosic displays of the soloists this is more than a band. This is an orchestra in the full meaning of the term. They play a wide spectrum of music that could be defined as “world music”. My favorites of the evening were the waltz written by Mack Shield , the tango XO Tango and Mountains on Fire. Here are some images from the evening:
Once again the Key City Theatre enhanced the pre-performance ambience with the music of Dean Smith’s jazz group featuring Dean Smith on Piano, Ben Smith on upright bass, Zach Smith on tenor and soprano saxes, Jared Zimmer on drum kit and Rod Wilson on congas and percussion.
Thanks need to go to the following sponsors – Columbia Copiers, The Prestige Inn, St. Eugene Resort and Selkirk signs. Sweet Gesture add a chocolate taste experience and the numerous staff and volunteers contributed to the smooth running of the event.
THE PRELUDE: THE DEAN SMITH TRIO IN THE FOYER OF THE THEATRE
I can’t think of a better way to start a musical evening than to hear a Duke Ellington tune drifting out through the main doors of the Key City Theatre. This musical prelude to the evening was provided by Dean Smith on piano, Ben Smith on bass and the very youthful (grade 9) Micah on drums – The Dean Smith Trio.
THEME AND VARIATIONS: THE MUSIC OF QUEBEC
As presented by Le Vent du Nord – Nicholas Boulerice (piano, accordion, hurdy gurdy & vocals); Olivier Demers (fiddle, Quebecois foot percussion, guitar, vocals); Simon Baudry (Irish bouzouki, guitar & vocals); Bejean Brunet (accordions, jew’s harp, fret-less bass guitar & vocals). From the first number the band ripped into music that literally rocked the room. The foot stamping Quebecois foot percussion delivered the unmistakable sound that could only be French Canadian. For the average non-francophone this music probably came as a surprise. It is so lively and vibrant and so unlike any other north American pop/rock/roots music that it is truly unique. As Canadians we tend to look south for our musical inspiration from the world of rock/pop, Bluegrass, jazz, Cajun, folk and what ever. We forget that within Canada there are enough unique vibrant regional musical styles to inspire any generation of musicians. We seemed to be too hung up on being second-rate Americans to notice. Well Le Vent du Nord certainly served notice with their entertaining evening of great instrumentals, songs, vocal harmonies, humor and unique collection of instruments. Fiddles we know; accordions we know (perhaps not the variety played this evening); bass guitar we know; piano we know; guitar we know; the Irish Bouzouki we sort of know from the band Great Big Sea and the many Celtic bands that have played in the area; Jews Harp, although an ancient instrument is probably new to us; If you have ever listened to Quebecois music in the past the foot percussion, that is pretty distinctive, would be instantly recognizable; Now, the Hurdy Gurdy is probably from way out in left field. When was the last time (or the first time) you actually heard a Hurdy Gurdy.The name, for me, conjures up images of the Swedish Chef on the old Muppets TV shows chattering away in that fake Swedish accent “dis here is de huuurdy guuurdy”). Nicolas teased the audience about the instrument before he risked arrest and incarceration for “indecently exposing his Hurdy Gurdy”. He removed the cover to reveal the crank operated rotating wheel that rested against the drone strings that ran along both sides of the instrument. He then next flipped open the cover to reveal the inner workings of the instrument. The main melodies are played on what appear to be violin strings that react to levers to produced the individual melody notes. The player rotates the crank with his right hand, the wheel rubs against the strings to produce the required drone and melody notes while the left hand manipulates the levels that change the pitch of the melody notes. It is easy to see why the instrument has been called a wheel-violin. The Swedes have a very similar instrument called a Nykelharpa that is played with a bow rather than by cranking a wheel. Some much for the esoteric part of the show. Here are some more images from a very memorable night of unique Canadian (or is it Canadien?) music. (click on the images for a larger view)
So ends a spectacular night of “REEL” music.
Here is a special treat – a YouTube clip of the band
It was by pure coincidence that over the Christmas break the family sat through the entire eight Harry Potter movies. Not exactly kid stuff to my mind, particularly late in the series where the content becomes some what dark. But good does triumph over evil and that was probably the whole point. Through out the movies I was not completely oblivious to the music. It was there and it enhanced the movie without becoming a distraction. That, in itself, is an indication of the quality of the music score. However, at the Symphony of the Kootenays rehearsal on Saturday the true scope and magnificence of the movie scores positively leapt out at the audience. It was big music and it required a big orchestra. The program listed nearly 50 musicians that included the string orchestra, 6 percussionists and a big horn section. To hear the music unimpeded with visual distraction was to become aware of the magnificent orchestrations and its modern musical language. I don’t mean modern in a rock/pop sense. I mean it in an academic scholarly sense. That may sound kind of dry and dull with a possibly teeth on edge sensibility. The music of John Williams is none of that. It is startling and entrancing at the same time with lots of melody and dramatic effects. Here is the program from the concert and some images from the rehearsal.