Michael Kaeshammer and his band in concert - Victoria B.C. · 28.11.15 by colin newell
When Michael Kaeshammer sits down at a grand piano worthy of his dynamic range, the genuflection towards the likes of Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, Big Joe Turner and Pete Johnson (the Grand masters and caretakers of the Boogie Woogie music genre of the 30’s and 40’s…) is immediate, respectful and unmistakeable.
Born in Germany, but relocated to Canada as a young adult, Michael Kaeshammer has toured and recorded tirelessly and brings an energetic show to virtually every stage. His visit to the McPherson Playhouse on a crisp night on November 27th, 2015 was no exception. With 6 Juno nominations to his credit and numerous music awards, Michael is a veteran of several classic musical idioms including but not restricted to boogie-woogie, Fats Waller inspiring stride piano, Chicago blues, straight ahead Jazz and The Great American Song book.
This was my third time at a Michael Kaeshammer concert and if one thing is assured, it is a sudden release of musical energy that is off the charts. Michael Kaeshammer does not simply play the piano as much as he pushes it to the outer reaches of the instruments spectrum. A Michael Kaeshammer show is a tribute to 20th Century piano history and within the realm of Michael’s humility, he makes the 88 key piano the actual star of the show with his seemingly limitless mastery of the instrument taking the piano places it has never been.
Michael Kaeshammer also leaves his ego in the dressing room as band members, Nick La Riviere on trombone, Paul Pigat on Fender Telecaster guitar, Devon Henderson on acoustic and electric bass, a nuclear powered Roger Travassos on drums, a hirsute and Miles Davis inspired William Sperandei on trumpet, and an endlessly soulful Eli Bennett on tenor saxophone take turns raising us to the stratosphere.
In an almost 3 hour show, Michael Kaeshammer and his band seamlessly cross the boundaries of a more formal tribute to a classic American musical genre into the realm of a piano masterclass. What’s quite apparent early in the 1st set is that Michael is so giddy to be back home among friends that the audience is treated to a first class jam session where there is no play list or expectations – it’s just all fun from the word go. And the McPherson audience is the sole beneficiary at this house party. By the second set the band has settled into a groove somewhat reminiscent of a New Orleans Mardi Gras street party. At one point the horn section leaves the stage with Michael on tambourine to go “walk-about” ending up in the Upper Balcony entertaining a surprised and appreciative audience, the rhythm section below never missing a beat.
In another section of the 2nd set, Michael Kaeshammer and guitarist Paul Pigat are “cutting heads” duking it out between piano and Fender guitar. To his credit, Pigat takes the classic country-rock Telecaster guitar to places normally unexplored for this 6-string, squeezing out riffs generally more suited to a Gibson or Gretsch -and doing it with experience and aplomb.
Overall, this was the most spirited outing from Michael Kaeshammer that I have seen proving again that he is an exceptional performer, a true master of the piano and a great bandleader that brings out the very best in his musical team members. Bravo Michael Kaeshammer! Good show.
You can find out more about Michael Kaeshammer at his website Kaeshammer.Com
Good Eats - Masala Lamb meatballs. · 17.02.15 by colin newell
We shared a 1/2 lamb with my sister and brother-in-law – and with that package came from great ground lamb. This was the perfect recipe for lamb. This is a fascinating mixture of spice with an intriguing Mediterranean flavour and a nice bite. This recipe was inspired from the latest issue of EAT Magazine in Victoria B.C. Canada – but we mixed it up just a little bit. You can serve it with polenta, rice or pasta. We chose pasta. Overall, it takes about an hour to prepare so make sure you have a glass of red wine in your hand while you work!
3 Garlic Cloves chopped
1 Onion chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon Cumin seeds
28 ounce canned plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 green onions shopped
1 slice brown bread
1/4 table cream
2 pounds ground lamb
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
In a food processor, puree 3 garlic cloves with one chopped medium onion and
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger.
Heat 1/4 cup oil in Dutch oven on medium heat.
Add 1 tablespoon cumin seeds and heat until they start to sizzle. Then add onion/garlic mixture.
Stir often until mixture softens and is translucent. Reduce heat to medium-low to prevent browning.
Cook 8 – 10 minutes.
Puree canned plum tomatoes with 1 tablespoon garam masala and 1 teaspoon ea. Turmeric, Cayenne and Salt. Pour into pan with Onion and Garlic mixture. Stir in one cup water. Simmer 20 minutes to blend flavour.
For the meatballs, in a food processor puree two chopped green onions with two eggs, one slice of brown bread torn into pieces and 1/4 cup table cream.
Turn this mix into a large bowl – add 2 pounds of ground lamb. 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground cumin and cinnamon. Add a pinch of salt. Gently mix until blended. Then shape into balls. Aim for a chubby golf ball size.
Makes about 20 meatballs.
Bake meatballs on baking (cookie sheet) brushed with oil. Broil until brown (6 – 8 minutes)
Then reduce heat to 375.
Add meatballs to sauce in Dutch oven. Cover and bake until sauce is bubbly and meat balls are cooked through. 10 – 15 minutes.
Finish with fresh mint and crumbled feta cheese.
We served over Penne pasta. Serves 4 – 6.
We interview jazz diva Maureen Washington - home at Christmas · 11.12.14 by colin newell
Bonus Interview –
It was a windy and wet Thursday night at Habit Coffee & Culture on Yates Street at the Atrium in downtown Victoria when we spoke with the lovely Maureen Washington – Jazz singer, mom of five, vocal coach, and mentor.
Born and raised in Prince George, British Columbia, Ms. Washington draws upon roots in frontier Canada with connections to Mississippi. The granddaughter of a musician, a singing cowboy no less, her musical fabric draws upon influences as diverse as Etta James, Holly Cole, and (to my ears) a very young Momma Thorton.
There is a certain purity, drive and laser focus in the work of Ms. Washington that defies explanation. It’s visceral, heartfelt, uncompromisingly grounded and targeted directly at the heart.
Some of the greatest music of all time is born of pain and is germinated and cultivated in disparity and conflict. Examples include some of the best works by the likes of The Police, Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles and others. Ms. Washington has certainly had her share of challenges but she processes life differently than most of us. She takes life’s most unpredictable curve balls and turns them into positivity. She then distills that positive energy into a musical phrase and the amalgam of this life experience is a beautiful sound, boiled down to its rhythmic essence. For the ears and the heart, it’s a wonderful thing.
Our conversation moved towards Christmas and why, according to Ms. Washington, “it’s the best time of the year and the toughest time of the year.” Her voice takes on a very special strength when tackling some traditional and seasonal material, as it does in her latest Christmas album (available over on CD-Baby). What could have been a painful journey is, in fact, a love story to her husband, her family and the world around her. In her latest CD, “Christmas Is…” Maureen Washington offers up a compendium of seasonal favorites. When taken as a whole, it illustrates a woman’s journey through adversity, guiding us into the now and is a pure celebration of the moment.
I love the overall sound of this CD. It has timeless classics delivered by a skillful vocalist. Ms. Washington comes across as everyone’s next door neighbor during a time of need with a hug and a hot cup of coffee on a snowy Christmas eve.
Ms. Washington is an artist to watch and performs locally and throughout British Columbia. You can visit her webpage over here. Catch her while you can!
Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3 download.
Long time companion moves on to the infinite pasture of joy · 14.08.14 by colin newell
Just got the news that my sister’s devoted companion of so many years, Sasha, has moved on to the next leg of her journey.
Sasha has been the family canine companion, living with my dear sister Lisa, for many a year. And as everyone knows, the family pooch is often the cornerstone of this thing we call home – often bringing everyone together, giving us all a reference point – focusing on the love, purity, devotion and pureness of heart that is the family pet.
Life often revolves around our domesticated charges – and so it should be, as these loving creatures have been at our side since the dawn of time. We depend on them as they do on us. We give them what we give them and in return, they give us the silent unspoken love and loyalty that is available from no other creature.
Sasha has been Lisa’s steady compatriot through her travels in and around Victoria – has seen a few changes of location, sunrises, sunsets and all manner of weather. Sasha was something of a rescue pooch – and from our perspective, she had the greatest life possible with Lisa. As has been spoken, “No one could have treated her better – and she could not have been more loved…”
Sasha now leaves us, moving on to her spiritual realm and within the living legacy of our memories for her. She will not just be missed but will forever change the fabric of the community in which she lived… and loved.
We will never forget you Sasha – and with all the love that we have left over, we will pass it forward to the next doggie needing our love.
Safe journey my little friend!
This house - a new series - Chapter 1 - welcome home · 3.08.14 by colin newell
This is the first in a series of many, many blogs to come on the joys of home ownership in Victoria B.C. Canada.
After a search of what feels like 20 years (yes, it can and often does take that long to find the right forever home on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island.) we are finally here. And it still feels somewhat (at times completely) surreal.
We have been living in a 2 BR / 2 BTH unit for the last 16 years or so – a large 1250 sq. ft place that made up for its flaws with a 270 degree water and mountain view – and I dare say that the view never got tired in all that time. That said, there was no real house pride because one could not really impart ones own sense of style on it. And now, with a house, it is a moderately blank palette.
One of many questions that comes up for me personally is: Why have a house and a backyard anyway? What about all the work and the stuff that needs to be maintained. Well living in a flat, apartment or condo requires maintenance – it is just that you pay someone else to do things that you can likely do yourself… cheaper and at times better… and learning new things at the same time – because learning keeps you sharp and fresh and prepared.
It also comes down to “you have to live somewhere…” and pay someone for the privilege – so you might as well pay yourself (and the bank…)
I will not spend too much time on the journey to get here because everyone knows how desirable it is to live in the city and country around Victoria and Vancouver Island… and how pricey it can be.