Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Been A While

I know it's been too long since I added a new blog post...a combination of events and circumstances.  On this day five months ago my best friend and longtime musical partner, the brilliant keyboardist/bassist/singer/arranger Ron Casat finally succumbed to the liver problems which had plagued him for the last several years.  We toured over more than half of this huge country, and did one tour of Baja California as well.  We did countless sessions together on my recordings, his one lovely solo disc, and the projects of others. I can't remember how many sound designs for CBC Radio we did together - remember when "Morningside" ran a weekly radio drama ? Many of those were produced here and many featured Ron and myself. We were involved in several theatre projects together, including the oft-produced "Big Mama" play about the life of Big Mama Thornton .  And we were friends, the sort who could finish each other's sentences quite often because we were that in-tune, who would come up with the same idea at the same time in the middle of a recording session.  I still find myself wanting to telephone and share some tidbit with him, or bounce a musical idea off him.

So, I haven't felt like writing about it but it's time to jump that particular hurdle.  Ron's passing came while I was in the middle of a tour with Al Lerman, best known as sax and harmonica player (and founding member) of Toronto band, Fathead. Al is also a good guitar player and a lovely singer/writer, and the tour was so much fun (and so successful) we are doing it again in May of 2016. Major club dates in Edmonton and the Okanagan are in place, with more to come.  I know there have been some problems with the website calendar lately but we're working on that, and dates will be posted there.

June began with a BC tour which included the Georgia Strait Guitar Workshop, The Dream Cafe (Penticton), Pat's Pub (Vancouver), and The Campbell River Blues&Wine Festival.  My longtime drummer, Kevin Belzner, played two of these dates with me in an interesting drums/guitar duo we've been working up.  The summer continued with a second BC run (39 Days of Duncan Fest, Duncan Showroom, and Vancouver Island Music Fest) before heading off for my first ever gigs on the European continent. A tornado warning delayed my Calgary flight, causing my entire itenerary to need re-adjusting.  London leg was fine, but in Munich I had to run through customs/security with minutes to spare.  At Genoa I discovered my guitar was fine but my suitcase was still in London.

After making arrangements to have the suitcase sent ahead to Slovenia, my friends Beppe Gambetta and Federica Prina Calvinho loaded my into the van for a drive north to Trento (near the German border). We arrived to an amazing thunder and lightning storm but I still managed to sleep a few hours.  Beppe and I performed next evening at Trento's Itinerari Festival and the next day we headed south and east to Pioraco (in the mountains a few hours from Rome) for PiorAcoustic Festival (an amazing gathering of luthiers set this festival apart for me). Then the long drive to Ambroz Pod Krvacm, Slovenia (halfway up an Alp overlooking the valley where Lubliana, the beautiful capital city is located). After six days of teaching plus a student concert and a public concert (and a way-too-short afternoon in Lubliana) we drove back to Verona, where we overnighted. Truly a magic place. Next day we played in the Piazza di Sol of Santa Margherita, on the Italian Riviera, a fitting end to a great tour.

Next morning, after an effortless flight to Rome, I mis-read a boarding pass, missed a Montreal flight and entered one of those hell-zones every touring musician has a story about.  My luggage was removed from the plane and placed in the lost-and-found of Alitalia in the Rome airport (already a backlogged mess because the airport was shut by a fire two days previously). Again me and a guitar, with my toothbrush in a day pack on my shoulder.  Made alternate arrangements to fly out next morning, found a hotel' and next day was, by noon, headed for home.  My suitcase (which I have named Rover) arrived two days later.

The rest of August and the first three weeks of this month have been spent playing here in Southern Alberta, doing some gigs with Kevin and with a band lineup, and finishing paperwork and such for the new cd, So Low.  It is due out on Nov. 1st, and will apparently be joined shortly after by a trio project cd I did last year with Brandon "Yukon Slim" Issak and Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne.

In October I'll be in the maritimes for a week of house concerts organized by HomeRoutes (you can get the itinerary from their website at homeroutes.ca), and from mid-November to Christmas eve (after a stop at the Vermillion, AB folk club), I'll be joining Dave Kelly for his seasonal presentation at Lunchbox Theatre.

Festivals and guitar camps are already coming in for 2016 (one for 2017 !) and it looks like another great year !

Just before I sign off I would like to say RIP BB King. Your voice and guitar, and the way you conducted yourself in this world, were an inspiration I will always carry with me.

See you at the gig...

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