Blog

Thoughts on music, the arts, and interviews with friends.
Click the title of each post to read on.

Hee-Haw wasn’t that funny to me. I watch it now and actually laugh at the jokes. But when I was younger, it was the music that seduced me. I felt like I had to sit through the jokes and the girls sitting on hay bales in order to get to Roy Clark. The first instrument I ever wanted to play was a pedal steel guitar. I saw someone play one on the Tommy Hunter Show. I was maybe 7, possibly younger. “How can you sit down and play music?” I thought. “This is for me.” For several years, Mark Bragg left his...

My love of The Shaggs is no secret. Their music intoxicating and pure. My journey towards them led to Brittany Anjou. Out of the blue, I contacted her about her work with Dot Wiggin and she graciously agreed to answer these questions in detail.  Brittany wrote to me from the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center Music Academy located in the Kuwait Opera House where she is currently in residence. On a planet full of original musicians, Brittany stands out. I am deeply moved that she has taken them time to answer questions about The Shaggs and her own music. Read on...

I feel sad writing this next sentence in the past tense. Roy Hargrove was an incredible musician. He died this weekend at only 49. As a trumpeter and musician, he stayed open. He found a way to bring his unique sound and ideas into a range of situations. To me, that’s about the best you can ever hope for. Here are some personal favourite Roy Hargrove moments. The Jazz Futures played at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1991. I taped this concert from PBS and watched it a hundred times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kMh4r2Bkdc   Roy Hargrove - trumpet Benny Green - piano Christian McBride - bass Carl Allen -...

My new record “After Forgetting” is finally out. This one took a while to get together. It features my dear friend Bill Brennan on piano. Bill and I have a great relationship on and off stage. We know how to make each other laugh and we’ve really been there for each other through the years. On bass, you’ll hear Mike Downes. Many moons ago, I cold-called Mike to play on a different project. We have since become great friends. I love Mike as a bassist but I’m also drawn to his compositional mind. He contributed a great deal of direction...

31. Frank Zappa – Hot Rats (1969) Many moons ago I inherited/borrowed/stole many dozens of records from my uncle. Mainly Beefheart and Zappa. So this music has been a big part of me since grade 9 – not yesterday. The jazz inspired aspects of this record stand out for me, but it is in many ways an outlier in the Zappa catalogue. It’s not his funniest or most musically dangerous record. And yet it’s my favourite. It unites a post-bebop language with advanced forms and electric instruments. In grade 9, when learning the first four chords to “Teen Spirit” was a major...

26. Weather Report – Mysterious Traveler (1974) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3qDGChRDDY This is like all of the music of the world at once. How many hours did I spend in the Music Resource Centre listening to this on vinyl with the headphones smushed right into my wear? That years later my love of this record was shared and confirmed with pals Jim Vivian and Ed Squires. For the range of forms and timbres and for the spirit of teamwork throughout, Weather Report loom very large in my life. It is the well I always return to. Zawinul is a guy I’ve transcribed through the years. His...

17. Dave Douglas – Charms of the Night Sky (1998) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opNFFsZ-5T4 People always ask me “what trumpeters do you like?” I know they don’t mean anything by that question, but when I hear it I am reminded that I am musician who happens to play trumpet. I sometimes wish I picked something easier, something that didn’t transpose, something that required less of my body. But yet all of those “obstactles” contribute to my love of the instrument. Anyway, my answers inevitably involve “Dave Douglas” in some way because in Dave, I hear a musician who also happened to play the trumpet, whose body...

16. Alison Krauss - Forget About It (1999) Alison Krauss phoned my house on Thursday November 23, 2000. Yes, the Alison Krauss. I was at York U taking Rob Bowman’s Popular Music course. Rob loves music more than anyone. One of the very best teachers I’ve had. Right at the top. By age 21, his life was already more exciting than 1000 people put together. I loved that course and count myself lucky to have been in it around Rob and so many interesting students. Anyway, I knew I wanted to focus of bluegrass for my final paper in the course. Specifically, I...

If you're just tuning in, this is what I am up to. 11. The Artistry of Christopher Parkening (1993) The next few albums on this list relate to a specific time in my life governed by the anxiety of Columbia House and the urgency of the guitar. The first CD player I ever got was a Hitatchi boom box, still functioning in the room it has been in since 1990. I needed to feed it. CDs were expensive and the Columbia House deal was too good to pass up. The secret shame of receiving a selection from them, their choice, and having...

4. The Shaggs – Philosophy of the World (1969) In my UVic Jazz Theory class, we discussed The Shaggs and what it means to be an original. It was a thrilling class and I really enjoyed hearing so many insightful and differing opinions expressed with such passion. Love or loathe them, The Shaggs challenge ideas around intent and execution in popular music. This list I am creating is not officially ranked in order of preference, nevertheless this particular record tugs at my heart way, way more that most. It could even be #1.5. I can’t listen to it while driving. Too intoxicating....