The great 12-String Guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke started out his high school musical career as a trombone player and, for whatever reason, he later switched to guitar and the world became a better place. Similarly, Dani Strong also started out in high school on trombone. I believe her father had other ideas and gave her a guitar. Once again, the the world is a better place. I have nothing against trombone players but I imagine it is hard to develop your song writing skills on a trombone. Dani moved to the Cranbrook area about 18 months ago and, between tours and performances, she works at the Top of the World Ranch out near Fort Steel. Apart from her day job Dani is cruising under the radar as a country music artist but, in fact, she is much more than that. She is a very talented singer / song writer. She avoids all the usual cliches and tags of country music and does what all good writers do. She writes about what she knows. With the exception of a cover of Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay she presented an evening of original material. Accompanied on guitar and keyboard she played such songs as Run to the Hills, Walk the Mile (Top of the World Ranch), Dirt Road Mountain, Wishing Well, Daddy Called me Pumpkin, Gold Fever, Ashes, Out of Darkness, Mrs Jones, What You Need, Free to Be, Healing, etc. There was not a gin soaked lyric or truck driving song in the whole batch. That’s not entirely true. I think a truck was mentioned in one song. With her stage patter Dani brought the whole package together for a completely entertaining evening. Singer / songwriters always run the risk of bombarding their audience with unfamiliar lyrics and tunes. First and fore most, a good song is a story and sometimes the back story needs to be presented so the audience has a context to allow them selves to be immersed in the song. With lots of stories, dark moments and humor Dani delivered context in spades.
It was a sold out crowd. So much so the organizers had to move the show from Studio 64 to the larger space upstairs. Once again thanks to Keith, Ray and the volunteers who made the evening possible. A special thanks goes to the new guy on the lights. He did a superb job.
FIRST CONCERT OF THE FIFTH SEASON – January 22, 2020
OPENING ACT – TALL TIMBERS featuring Drew Prinn on vocals; Ken Vargas on guitars and vocals; Landon Vargas on guitars, Ukulele, congas and vocals.
MAIN ACT – KOOTENAY LATELY featuring Pam Ruby on vocals; Theresa Reichert on upright bass; Bryan Reichert on guitar and Chad Andriowski on drums and backing tracks.
Thanks must go to the organizing committee of Fisher Peak Performing Arts Society, Key City staff and volunteers and all the sponsors of this series.
SECOND CONCERT OF THE FIFTH SEASON – Wednesday February 19, 2020
OPENING ACT – Douglas Francis Mitchell: Vocal, Banjo, Guitar and Songwriter extraordinaire
Over the years Canada has been blessed with many, many singer/song writers who often defy pop culture expectations to produce songs and stories that entertain and truly document the extraordinary richness of the Canadian cultural mosaic. To the list of Gordon Lightfoot, Valdy, Murray McLauglan, Ron Hynes, Stan Rogers and others we can now add the name Douglas Francis Mitchell. Just the name of his songs tells a story. Heiden Guitar pays homage to a recently acquired instrument from the master Creston Luthier Michael Heiden; Rocky Mountain View is a happy reflection of local geography; Open Happiness and ode to demon drink (Coca Cola); Laughter of the Heart, Three Chords and the Truth, Change of Pace and the comic masterpieces Plumber Troubles, Prairie Oysters and Sibling Rivalry. With his songs and stories this open act was a tough act to follow.
MAIN ACT – CARMANAH – all the way from Vancouver Island with a musical mix that I can only describe as Van-Isle Reggae (what ever that means). The band featured Laura Mitic on guitar, vocal and fiddle; Lo Waight – back up vocals and percussion; Mike Baker – Keyboard and vocals; Pat Ferguson – guitar and vocals; Jamil Demers – bass and Graham Keehn. They presented a program of mostly original material.
Piano players and, to a lesser extent, guitar players are lucky. Without the need of having any one else in the room they can sit down and play unaccompanied music. Depending on their individual skill level they can do it all. Melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics and sonic shadings. It’s all there under their finger tips. Horn players, woodwinds, string players, drummers and bass players are not that fortunate and usually have the need for other musicians in the mix to complete the musical picture. At an individual level that is a drawback but it does force those musicians into ensembles that can go beyond the limitations of individual solo performances. One such musical configuration is the jazz combo and lucky for us in Cranbrook-Kimberley area we have been recently blessed with another Jazz group. TAKE 4, featuring Randi Marchi on trumpet, fluegelhorn, valve trombone, guitar and vocals; Jim Cameron on electric bass; Steen Jorgensen on drums and tenor sax and Tim Plait on piano. All of these musicians are locals. Some, Randi Marchi and Tim Plait, have been away to other parts of Canada and the world and have returned to the Kootenays and our little slice of paradise. The group is newly formed and, I believe, this is their second engagement. For well schooled musicians such as these the advantage of playing jazz is that there is a vast standard repertoire of tunes that players can easily access. From simple tunes way up to very technical, and very complex music there is a lot of music out there to explore. Last Thursday night at Soul Foods the group served a varied mixture of tunes that included Beginning to See the Light, Satin Doll (Duke Ellington’s masterpiece), Summertime (from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess), Blue Skies, King of the Road ( Roger Miller’s 1964 Hit song), All of Me (written in 1931), Beyond the Sea (Bobby Darin’s 1959 hit) and my all time favorite, A Day in the Life of a Fool, or as I prefer to remember it as, Manha de Carnival (Morning of the Carnival) from the magnificent 1959 Academy Award winning film Black Orpheus. This film introduced western audiences to the wonders of Bossa Nova and the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfa.The second set kicked off with The Way You Feel Tonight, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (it is a 1940 classic by Duke Ellington originally called Never No Lament), and Quando, Quando, Quando ( originally a 1962 Italian Pop song written in the Bossa Nova Style).
Here are some images from the first set:
Towards the end of the evening Take 4 was joined on stage by Randy Tapp on tenor sax and Shindo Murata on valve trombone to play the tunes Flip Flop and Fly, Route 66 and Van Morrison’s Moon Dance. During these performances a young musician from the audience sat in on drums while Steen Jorgensen moved up front to join the horn section on tenor sax. For me the resulting sound brought back memories of the magnificent Gerry Mulligan Concert Band recordings from the 1960s. Bobby Brookmeyer’s valve trombone was part of the signature sound of that band.
Soul Foods seems to have become a hot bed of live music with live performances every Thursday evening 7-9 pm.
For those who don’t know the venue, Soul Foods is a restaurant located in the old Mount Baker Hotel on Baker Street in Cranbrook. The manager is a keen supporter of live music and on most Thursday evenings (6-9pm) there are live musical events. A favorite event is the open mic hosted by Keith Larsen every first Thursday of the month. Recently (Thursday, June 20th, 2019), Lonesome Jim (aka James Neve) performed two sets featuring his vocals accompanied by his stellar acoustic 6 string and 12 guitar pickings.Never one to stand still for too long he was sporting his new and improved persona. The “Willie Nelson” pony tail was gone and has been replaced by a new taunt, trim back and sides hairstyle. The looks may change but the performance, as always, was stellar. Here are couple of photos of the new Lonesome Jim.
This is a rare treat. An opportunity to spread the word about an exceptional local talent. Douglas Francis Mitchell is an East Kootenay singer song writer with, to my knowledge, well over a hundred songs in his repertoire. There are new songs rolling off his counter top each day. He is a topical song writer with a great belief in the need for artists to dip into what they know best. That is, the personal experiences, the work environments, and the relationships in the world that surrounds us. He does not write “moon, June, spoon” songs of youthful love and loss. He does not write “hurtin’ songs”. Nor does he write songs full of youthful angst. That sentiment is long gone and there is much more weighty and comedic material around to feed his creative impulses. What he does write are clear and honest songs about events and personalities that inhabit our world. One of his most recent efforts is Better get Used to It. This came about in response to the devastating fires of last summer. The sentiment is basically one of “It doesn’t matter which way you vote, Climate Change is no joke”. The song was recorded at James Neves’s studio out at Wycliffe. Doug sings and plays guitar, Rod Wilson provides the percussion and the sound effects. The fiddle playing and back up vocals are by Ally Blake. Murray Hayward created the video……
The Nelson based Sax player Clinton Swanson has “brand name” recognition here in the East Kootenays. Over the years Clinton with his pork-pie hat and quiver of saxophones has been a frequent visitor to the area. Most recently he was with the Melody Diachun’s “Back to the Groove Tour” and also with Jon and Holly in a Cranbrook Summer Sounds Rotary Park concert. Because of that “Brand Name ” recognition it was understandable that the group was billed as the Clinton Swanson Blues Trio. In actual fact it was more appropriately the Kelly Fawcett Blues Trio with Clinton Swanson on tenor and baritone saxes and Doug Stephenson on bass. Once the concert got going it was easy to hear why Clinton said “we are part of Kelly’s trio and we are here to support him”. Kelly is a new face to most of us but he has been a long time friend and musical associate of Clinton and they have toured together frequently over the years. The other member of the trio, Doug Stephenson is also a well known Nelson musician who has also toured extensively in the Kootenays. He is living proof that to make a living as a professional musician these days one can’t have “too many arrows in one’s quiver”. I first encountered him playing bass guitar behind Gabriel Palatchi, then as a nylon string Bossa Nova guitarist with Melody Diachun, then as full on electric guitarist with Melody Diachun’s “Back to the Groove Tour”. On this particular night with Kelly Fawcett he is a stand up bass player (no pun intended). In every performance circumstance he looks like he is having way too much fun. He excels on all his instruments and that probably explains why he is in such demand. I am not sure how he is able to keep up his superb skill levels on all instruments. He must practice constantly, all day, every day. I must ask him about that.
In this day and age we are used to Blues groups being guitar based. You know the usual configuration – drums, electric bass, rhythm guitar and a screaming lead electric guitar backing up one or more vocalists. Kelly Fawcett is the vocalist and guitarist in the group, Doug is the bass player but there is no drummer. To be honest, the absence of a drummer is a plus. Without a drummer there was lots of space in the music to hear the vocals, the finger picking guitar leads and backups, and Clinton’s and Doug’s superb solos.
The night kicked of with a couple of standard tunes. Dr John’s New Orleans inspired Such a Night from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz and Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues. In the latter Kelly played some excellent open G slide guitar. From then on the night was a mixture of Country Blues, Jump Tunes (Let the Good Times Roll, Crazy About My Baby), old time tunes (Nobody knowns Atlanta Like I Do), a novelty number here and there, a Tom Waits number (Hey Little Bird Fly Away Home) and, to brighten up the sonic landscape, a few original tunes (Numbers Blues / The Gamblers Blues and Cheddar). For me there were a couple of standout tunes namely Kelly’s interpretation of Taj Mahal’s classic Fishing Blues and Clinton Swanson’s baritone Sax exploration of Harlem Nocturne. All in all another classic concert in the Fall Jazz and Blues Series. Here are some images from the evening ……..
As always, thanks must go to the volunteers, the organizing committee, The Burrito Grill for feeding the musicians and “A B&B at 228” for the musicians lodgings.
On stage, drummers are rarely up front and in your face. Usually they are buried at back, in the middle, or occasionally off to side. The best they can hope for is a raised stage behind the band. They may not always be seen but they usually are heard. Some might say that is not necessarily a good thing. By and large they tend to be loud, abrasive, and dare I say it, not always musical. However, there are exceptions and Tony Ferraro is one of those exceptions. He is the quintessential “man in the middle” with precise deft splashes of technical skill that perfectly fits the musical situations at hand. He is capable of enough powerhouse drive to fuel a big band. He can be as funky as all get out in an organ trio, or softly pulsing in a Jazz or Bossa Nova setting. He is a resident of the West Kootenays and is basically “the go to drummer” in the region. If you want to take a band to the next level then Tony is your man. We have been very fortunate in this area in that we often get to see, hear and experience such a master musician at play. He was recently in the area with Melody Diachun and her jazz group and a short time later with Lester McLean / Michael Occhipinti’s Jazz/Soul/Funk outfit.
Last June the extra fine vocalist Melody Diachun was in the Studio Stage Door in Cranbrook as part of her “Get Back to the Groove Tour”. The initial kick off concert of the tour was at a Jazz Festival in Calgary. Cranbrook was the stop before the Kaslo Jazz Festival and then all points West down to the coast. With the exception of Cranbook the group played to sold out crowds. As usual Melody surrounded herself with a group of first class musicians that included Tony Ferraro on drums, Doug Stephenson on guitar, Mike Spielman on bass, ClintonSwanson on saxes and the Edmontonian Chris Andrew on keyboards. True to her promise of “getting back to the grove” she kicked off the evening with ZZ Top’s Sharp Dressed Man and an her own original Get Back to the Grove. What I like about the Stage Door as a venue is the opportunity to really hear the music. There are no impaired sight lines, no idle chatter or bar room clatter. It’s just about the music, the musicians and the the audience. The little nuances that might be easily passed over in other environs are there to be appreciated. When Melody picked up the shakers and beat out a groove Tony was right there behind her doubling the rhythm on his snare. The resulting pulse was mesmerizing. When Clinton Swanson rolled off the end of a solo guitarist Doug Stephenson was right there to pick it up and extend the melodic line that Clinton was exploring. And so on. The evening just rolled on with magical vocals and sparkling solos. Here are some more images from the evening:
Tucked away in a little strip Mall in the old Big Picture electronics store in Cranbrook is Auntie Barb’s Bakery. It is the brain child of Barb Smythe and Todd DeBoice and it operates as a Bakery and Bistro that also caters to Banquets. The establishment does have another life. At the back of the main room is a professional stage and performing area complete with a black backdrop and professional stage lighting. For musical aficionado Tod DeBoice it is dream come true. He now has an opportunity to hear and support musicians of his choice in an environment that will show case their talents to the best advantage. A couple of bands slipped into town without my knowledge and performed in this new Cranbrook musical venue. However, I stumbled on a poster in the local library advertising the venue. The names on the poster, MichaelOcchipinti,Tony Ferrero and Felix Pastorius immediately caught my eye. Michael is multiple Juno nominee and top of the pile guitarist from Toronto. I have no hesitation in suggesting that Michael is the most “over the top” talented guitarist in Canada. Over the past year or so he has performed several times in the area including a tour with the outstanding Italian vocalist Pilar. Tony Ferraro, as I mentioned above is the “go to drummer” in the Kootenays. Although I didn’t immediately realize it at the time Felix Pastorius is the son of the late great bass player Jaco Pastorius. The leader of the band Lester McLean (vocals, guitar and alto sax) was an unknown to me but given the company he was keeping my expectations were pretty high.
Wednesday, August 22, 2018, 7:30pm – Lester McLean Soul / Funk Band featuring Michael Occhipinti at Auntie Barb’s Bakery.
At the opening of the show Michael Occhipinti warned me that this wasn’t going to be a jazz performance. After it was over I begged to differ. It may have been masquerading as Soul and Funk but it was all jazz to me. Of course there were the Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Arethra Franklin hits and a sprinkling of Classic Rock (Drift Away and Harvest Moon). On a blues shuffle Michael Occhipinti did some romping around with his guitar set to an organ effect that made you look for the keyboard that wasn’t there. Lester played some searing alto sax solos and the giant in the back (Felix) played some blistering solos and backups on his Vinny Fodera six string bass. At one stage he was trading riffs with Michael that were over the top brilliant. This was an outstanding night of music.
New York may have The Blue Note and the Village Vanguard but Cranbrook has Auntie Barb’s Bakery. What more could we want.
Sunday January 28, 2018 12:30 – 3:30 pm: OPEN MIC AT THE BEAN TREE IN THE KIMBERLEY PLATZL hosted by Bill St Amand
This is a throw back to the good ole’ days when the Bean Tree was pretty well the only venue offering live music on a regular basis in Kimberley. Sound wise and audience wise this is probably one of the best, if not the best music room in the area. For musicians it is a joy to perform in a great room for quiet attentive audiences. This second session lived up to those expectations with performances by Bill St.Amand (guitar and vocals); AlphonseJoseph (“Fonzie”) on his new Taylor guitar with vocals; Rod Wilson on 12-string guitar, vocals and percussion; Wally Smith on Irish Whistles, button accordion and percussion; Lane on guitar and vocals and Jordan Vanderwerf on guitar and vocals. Here are some images from this relaxing, family style afternoon of acoustic music.
Once again, this was so successful that Bill will be hosting another open mic next Sunday February 4, 2018, 1-4 pm. All patrons and musicians are welcome.
From the get go, it was a full night of rock and roll and reggae. Even the poster had a 1968 vibe. The first band up was The Choice, featuring James Neve – guitars and lead vocals; Rick Parsons – back up vocals and multiple keyboards and Brian Hamilton – drums and back up vocals. They served up a full platter of rock and roll favorites and in the process punched a lot of nostalgia buttons in the audience. James Neve is probably better known as a singer / song writer and was a key member of the band 60 Hertz. He also masquerades as a wayward solo performer known as Lonesome Jim. I get the impression that for this night James was living the dream of a 1968 rock and roll musician. He looked so happy……… Rick is also a well known local musician who just loves to hammer away at the keyboards. That gutsy, funky organ sound is no longer a feature of modern rock and roll and the scene is the poorer for it. It’s nice to have it back in the sonic arena and hear it bouncing off a dance hall wall. Who needs a bass player when you can have a full throttle organ doing the job? Brian Hamilton is just back in the area and rounds out the band with his “in your face drumming”. For just a trio this band generates a lot of music and a lot of excitement.
The Choice traded off one hour sets with the Reggae band The Meditations. The band featured the young Moroccan musician Mehdi Makraz on lead guitar and vocals. Mehdi has been in the area for a while and at a recent Summer Sounds concert in Cranbrook he played electric bass with The Dark Fire Cloud and Lightning Band. The back up vocalist Syama Mama was also featured with that band. The drummer with the mandatory dreadlocks was Morgan and along with the well known local musician Peter Warland on electric bass locked down the rhythm section. Randy Tapp is a local musician and dance instructor and he played Alto and Tenor Saxes. Normally the band has a keyboard player (Landon) but he was not available for this performance.
At the intermission, if that’s the right word, the catering crew from the Green Door dished out Tacos for the dance patrons. After that it was back to the music. More vintage rock and reggae spiced up with some original compositions from Mehdi and his band mates. Here are some more images from the evening.
The only thing missing from the evening was a Creedence Clearwater Revival tune, but as James Neve explained, there were so many great tunes and so little time that with much regret the CCR tune had to fall on the cutting floor. Better luck next time.
AUTUMN TONES is a chamber music ensemble of local musicians with Nicola Everton on clarinet, Sue Gold on piano and Martine denBok on violin and viola. All three musicians are associated with the Symphony of the Kootenays as either members of the orchestra or as visiting soloists. Nicola and Sue have performed many times in the area, along with cellist Jeff Faragher, in the classical chamber music ensemble THE SELKIRK TRIO. In both the Selkirk Trio and Autumn Tones the intent seems to be to explore the modern edge of classical music as well as excursions into the realms of the traditional classical repertoire, Jazz, Latin, Klezmer or anything else that strikes their fancy. On this beautiful fall afternoon in the lobby of the Key City Theatre that is the musical realms they set out to explore.
They kicked off the afternoon with Darius Milhaud’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano.For me it was a moment of unbelievable synchronicity. On the drive to the theater I had been listening to some Brazilian Choro on the car CD player (yes, some of us still listen to CDs). On this beautiful fall afternoon what could be more appropriate than bouncing down the highway to the warm rhythms of Brazilian Choro. From the opening bars of the Milhaud piece the choro music I had just been listening to immediately came to mind and I began mentally adding in the percussive sounds of the Brazilian Pandeiro to the trio on stage.The Pandeiro is a Brazilian tambourine that is the heart beat of samba. That mental notion is completely understandable when you consider Darius Milhaud’s musical associations with Jazz and Brazilian music. He was one of the most prolific modern classical composers of the last century and was influenced by the sounds of Jazz and Brazilian music. While it is not his only claim to fame he was a musical mentor to the Jazz musician Dave Brubeck. So much so that Brubeck named his son Darius after the composer. One of Milhaud’s former students was the popular songwriter Burt Baccharach. Milhaud is reported to have told Bacharach, “Don’t be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don’t ever feel discomfited by a melody.”. This Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano lived up to that standard with lots of melody, rhythm and musical interplay between the instruments.
Popularity in music usually means world tours and mega arena performances. Modern classical composers do not rate that sort of popularity or attention and yet, in the realm of classical music, Arvo Part is probably the most popular modern classical composer of the last few years. This Estonian composer of classical and religious music uses self invented compositional techniques in the minimalist style (think Phillip Glass with darker Eastern European overtones). For this afternoon’s performance the trio selected Part’s popular Spiegel im Spiegel written in 1978. “Spiegel im Spiegel” in German literally can mean both “mirror in the mirror” as well as “mirrors in the mirror”, referring to an infinity mirror which produces an infinity of images reflected by parallel plane mirrors: the tonic triads in the composition are endlessly repeated with small variations as if reflected back and forth. The piece was originally written for a single piano and violin. Other versions exist with cello or viola, double bass, clarinet, trombone, flute etc. This performance is for piano, clarinet and violin and is in F major in 6/4 time.
Aram Il’yich Khachaturian (1903 – 1978) was a Soviet Armenian composer and conductor and is best known for his composition the Sabre Dance. He was the most renowned Armenian composer of the 20th century and is considered one of Soviet Russia’s leading composer. While following the established musical traditions of Russia, he broadly used Armenia and, to a lesser extent, Caucasian, Eastern & Central European, and Middle Eastern peoples’ folk music in his works. His style is “characterized by colorful harmonies, captivating rhythms, virtuosity, improvisations, and sensuous melodies”. The trio performed movements 1 and 3 from his Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano.
In the vernacular the clarinet has been referred to as a liquorice stick. Maybe it is the colour of the instrument but I like to think it is because of the liquid smoothness of the music of Mozart when played on the clarinet. Autumn Tones pulled us away from the “edginess” of contemporary classical music into the smooth mainstream of WolfgangAmadeus Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio, K498 in E flat Major for piano, clarinet and viola. No composer before Mozart had written for this combination of instruments. The origin of the nickname Kegelstatt is interesting. The German word Kegelstatt means “a place where skittles are played,” akin to a bowling alley. Mozart is reputed to have written this while playing skittles. At the time the clarinet was a relatively new instrument and in the first performance the then vituoso Anton Stadler played clarinet, Mozart the viola, and Franziska von Jacquin the piano. This trio composition, along with his Clarinet Quintet and Clarinet concerto helped increase the instrument’s popularity. The piece is in three movements: Andante / Menuetto / Rondeaux: Allegretto
For the final piece the trio took us back to the edge for a little slice of Yiddish Klezmer in the tune Moldavanke. This style of music is mostly associated with Eastern European Jewish traditions and is performed in a lively bouncing style with overtones of Jewish humor and melancholy. Nicola has fallen in love with the style and wants to put together a Klezmer band.
Autumn Tones would like to thank The Kootenay Cultural Alliance and sponsors that have made this tour possible.
A BONUS: By it’s very nature music is of the moment. As soon as the musical note leaps into the air it is in the process of dying and until the invention of sound recordings that was it. All we had left were memories. The recording industry has changed all that and performances can become more permanent if they are recorded. Unfortunately not all performances make it “onto wax”. This concert by Autumn Tones is now but a pleasant memory. Perhaps some day Autumn Tones and The Selkirk Trio can be persuaded to record those musical gems that over recent years they have cast to the winds. To make up for that here is a bonus for you from YouTube –
Darius Milhaud: Suite op.157b for Clarinet, Violin and Piano – Cologne Chamber Soloists