A different shade of blues 

Lester Quitzau gave up his board for his music

WHO: Lester Quitzau

WHERE: Maxx Fish

WHEN: Friday, June 1

Deep breath in… is that fresh air? Through the overpowering wafts of Whistler punk, hip hop and house, there’s a hint of something just a bit different. At first, it smells like smoky blues, but another quick sniff reveals rock zest and lingering soul.

Lester Quitzau (pronounced quit-saw) makes his way to the resort for the release of his seventh recording So Here We Are. The Alberta musician will be appearing at Maxx Fish, a slightly unusual place to house the blues considering The Fish’s dedication to cutting edge underground music. But a few listens through the 12 song CD and I could easily envision the Whistler population parking their snowboards and mountain bikes at the door to settle in for an evening of irresistible grooves, even if they are a shade bluer than the Fish’s norm.

"There’s a lot of other elements and textures (in my music) that bring in other styles of music," says Quitzau. "The foundation is roots blues, but it’s more than that. There’s a lot of different ingredients, sort of like a stew. It’s not one dimensional."

Quitzau’s updated sound also comes from his desire to be part of a fresh scene of blues musicians springing up in Canada. It’s rare that the blues are given top billing, but a resurgence of artists and listeners is beginning to pump up the demand.

"I remember 10 years ago when it was almost an underground form of music, but now it has reached the masses," Quitzau explains. "It’s constantly evolving. It’s traditional music, but tradition to me is innovation. All the great jazz musicians were innovators. Same with the blues. I want to represent that innovation as opposed to stagnation. I don’t want to be a museum piece."

The song Rollin’ and Tumblin’ is an obvious example of the old meeting the new. Quitzau uses the traditional blues technique of lyric repetition to paint his woeful story. ( I Rolled and tumbled, cried the whole night long. Rolled and tumbled, cried the whole night long. Woke up this morning and all I had was gone.) But the bass line reeks of funk and Quitzau’s electric guitar riffs will inspire you to take those emotions to the dance floor, rather than searching for answers at the bottom of a beer glass.

Quitzau credits his bandmates, Greg Johnston and Lyle Molzan, for helping to keep him out of the museum. The two are younger than Quitzau and don’t necessarily come from a blues background. Quitzau enjoys their intensity and passion for music overall and says that energy translates into a freshness that appeals to many ages and musical preferences.

"They’re like the next generation," says Quitzau. "Instead of getting an older guy to try and play hip, I prefer younger musicians who are open to roots music."

The Whistler generation may also find themselves open to Quitzau’s music because of his roots. He was a guest nearly 10 years ago on the resort’s fledgling music scene. He was also a pioneer on Canada’s snowboarding front in 1984 with Whistler’s own Ken Achenbach. Quitzau had to make a conscious decision many moons ago to pursue music rather than snowboarding as a career.

"I won’t have time to play (in the snow) in Whistler. We have to head out the next day for Kelowna," he sighs. "I’m just grateful to be playing my music. It’s what I love."

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