Victorias German wonder
Boogie woogie piano player does Showcase 2000
WHO: The Michael Kaeshammer Trio
WHERE: Catholic Community Centre
WHEN: Dec. 8, 8 p.m.
Perhaps there isnt any so called "major Canadian talent" booked for the Telus Mobility Whistler WinterStart Festival this year, but there are a few gigs falling into place which should be sold-out shows, and one of them will take place at the Catholic community centre on Lorimer Road, below Tapleys Farm.
The notion, or more specifically the image, conjured up by the term boogie woogie brings to mind a lively room which has the piano player pounding away relentlessly on an upright jammed into a corner of a small stage, with accompanying musicians sweating it out trying to keep up with the crowd of beer swigging music lovers dancing up a storm.
These romantic ideas of music the old fashioned way are how Victorias Michael Kaeshammer broke into the business. Kaeshammer left his name at the door of a little pub in Germany after he and his father, a rag time piano player with a classical background, left the establishment disgusted at the state of one such piano player. And at 16 years old, (the legal age for drinking in Germany), Kaeshammers professional career began.
Now 23 years old, he is considered a virtuoso. Speaking to Pique from his apartment in Kitsilano, Kaeshammer said the entertainment profile pieces and music reviews/previews on his 1998 CD, called Tell You How I Feel , dont affect his psyche hours before a gig. He takes all the attention the way a veteran performer might, and after seven years as a pro, he is a veteran.
But being called a "rising star in the jazz universe" by seasoned jazz critics who have been won over by his boogie woogie piano playing has to have an effect on you.
"It doesnt really bother me about previews," Kaeshammer said. "If somebody wants to write about me, then you have to show them. You have to win the audience over. I dont think about praise. Its nice but I dont feel on top of the world. It just makes me happy."
Although Cincinnatis Big Joe Duskin, the first Boogie Woogie Hall of Fame inductee, was showcased on two Kaeshammer tours, the notes I scribbled from the first listen of Kaeshammers latest release, No Strings Attached , go something like: Intro to track 2 sounds like Dr. John from The Band Track 3 has what sounds like a trumpet-piano harmony intro, played over a shuffling drum beat . Prominent stand-up bass on track 6. Could be rim shots or drum stick clicks . Keyboard/organ solo below the piano on track 7, way different from standard boogie woogie .
The fact is at his age, Kaeshammer is in a position to bring this music mined from authentic blues, some say straight from the Mississippi Delta, back to popularity. Rooted in 12-barre rhythm, its repetitive nature is why almost everybody can relate to it. Kaeshammer knows he is promoting a century-old craft, but he says thats not what keeps boogie woogie from returning to mass popularity the way swing music did in the 1990s.
"Clubs are dying, especially blues clubs," Kaeshammer explained. "Its not just me, thats what Im hearing. I think the no smoking and road checks are keeping people away. As far as a local scene for boogie woogie piano players, I dont know. We dont play that many local gigs. Were on the road a lot and when I come home I like to re-group and write songs."
Kaeshammer says the most important thing about a live performance is the dedication to the craft. So, when his trio plays Whistler, Simon Fisk will be on stand-up acoustic bass. Damian Graham will play drums.
The second thing is his passion for the music. Influences include Oscar Peterson, Professor Longhair, and even Fats Domino. "You have to express yourself. So you have to think about it as if youre talking. But everyone is featured in the trio. You should hear the drummer," Kaeshammer says with a knowing snicker. "And the upright bass is an amazing instrument, really well suited for this music."
Not everybody knows the pioneers or practitioners of authentic boogie woogie. Names like Albert Ammons, Pinetop Smith and Cow-cow Davenport dont garner instant recognition, but the Beatles Lady Madonna is considered a modern disciple of the genre. If thats the case, then maybe Burton Cummings solo work, namely the intro on My Own Way to Rock, is also a boogie woogie hand-me-down.
"My girlfriend loves that stuff," Kaeshammer said. "I dont know if Ill ever be in a band like the Guess Who. If the people are right, maybe. I wouldnt do it just for the money. At 23, I do have a whole career ahead of me.
"Basically what I have to say is that I will always play music and if I look down the road, I dont expect anything. But what I want to happen is make the fan-base bigger."
Tickets for this show, $20 at the door or $18 in advance, are available at the Whistler Conference Centre box-office. Kaeshammers show is the second of the Whistler Community Arts Councils Showcase 2000 Series. Memberships will give locals 25 per cent off box-office prices. Ask about the three-show series discount that gives you 25 per cent off regular ticket price. Call the centre at 938-0498 for more information.