After a very successful CD launch for “21st Century Francks” which included a live concert by Don Francks (aka Iron Buffalo) and his stellar band, I now get to follow up by checking him out at the third floor of The Jazz Bistro every Sunday this month!
They call it The Jazz Cellar because there is a wine motif but really it’s a classy-meets-cozy attic. (If it’s this nice now, I can’t wait until the patio opens!) Don performs every Sunday in March for just five bucks. He holds court along with Steve Hunter on piano. From bebop to ballads, swing to ragtime, blues and story telling…it’s a perfect early night and I hope to get to every show! But now back to the CD launch party…considering Joe Lovano had an all-star band (including Esperanza Spalding) were playing at Massey Hall that night; plus Nancy Walker had a CD launch and it was one of the coldest most miserable nights of the year, it was wonderful to see a jam-packed Lula Lounge! As always, Howard provided perfect sound and the food, ambience and entertainment was perfect.
Don opened the night with Tony Quarrington, just guitar and voice and sometimes just voice. I jumped up for our Kazoo Travesty – a medley of old songs with some kazoo bits – followed by “Swingin’ On A Star.”
After a super short break the band took to the stage and dished out a perfect one-hour set. Scott Alexander and Brian Barlow laid down groove after groove, Turner King was fierce on the sax and Steve Hunter – as always – kept everything moving at a perfect pace. As Music Director, Steve shows off such prowess in all styles on the piano and at almost every show Don has him perform a favourite Scott Joplin piece of mine, “Solitude”.
At the end of the show Melleny Melody and Clive Smith got up on stage with a ginormous cake that was made to look like “Mok” from the animated film “Rock And Rule” – a film that Clive made back in the day at Nelvana and which Don provided the voice for. After the show there was another band called Yasgurs Farm that played cover tunes. The musicianship was excellent and the singer was spot on. They broke into “Spinning Wheel” and since David Clayton Thomas was my dinner guest at Lula, he was actually still in the building. I said “they have no idea you are here, you should go up and freak them out!” I had three angels with me: Jessica, Jenica and Zeynep and they all urged him to do a song. As we walked toward the stage, one sax player (there were plenty of horns) ran off the stage and said “You’re our God; we have lots of your charts: Will you sing a song with us?”
He got up and did “God Bless The Child” and the band nailed it. It’s a very difficult chart and when they weren’t playing, the horn players were smiling ear to ear like kids in a candy store. It was a truly memorable night at Lula: Don Francks and DCT in the same night! Wow!
I checked out The Academy Awards over at Jessica Pelchat’s place. Barbie and Phil joined. The show was so-so; as always a few good laughs and a few good speeches, but none of us understood the bizarre collages of film. It seemed random and lazy. Ellen was mostly excellent – didn’t like the Liza dig, awwwwwkward – and I missed the usual corny song and dance number. C’mon. Just one!
I read on-line that a friend, Meryn Cadell, was ill and had fallen behind in rent, along with other personal stuff…he needed a hand. Lots of people came to the rescue but when I spoke to my old pal William New about it, we decided to pass that hat and do a special concert of people who played with Cadell back in the eighties. The result was hilarious and at times scandalous! It was super cold out that night so considering it was a sparse turn out the small but enthusiastic crowd put $400 into the hat when it was passed. Meryn was thrilled for some coin but also just knowing we were all sending our good vibes and art his way…way out in Vancouver.
The night featured poetry by Tony Bloo (Pontypool author Tony Burgess) with some live jamming from a cool duo called ChoBo. Alexandra Leggat, Kurt Swinghammer, Noah Minz, Jamie Browning and Blues Element all performed at this PWYC show at The Drake Undergournd. I performed with Bonzai Suzuki (everyone raved at how great Barbie, Dave and Sahra sounded in the vocal department) and later with my Inglenook High School punk band The Bee People.
Death to The Bee People! Clay and Bazl were super drunk and the gig was something I’ll never forget. Clay berated the audience in true punk fashion and Bazl rocked right off the stage! Well, he leaned back and disappeared. It was funny for a moment but then everyone realized it was a long drop…backwards…on concrete. Still, what a trooper, Bazl got up and finished the gig, uh for what it was worht… It was the worst gig of my life but in some ways a complete blast. Spooky Reuben ran up at the end and said “that was the best gig I’ve seen in a long time…ever…make that ever!” Don Allan also said “that was wild, punks aren’t supposed to play tight. I want to use one of your songs in my film”.
I went to bed laughing thinking “why am I putting so much effort in making good music when it seems I’m just as popular when I suck?” Of course, I can choose what soundtrack I want for my life so I think I’ll stick with focussing on Bonzai Suzuki pop and some really top notch jazz if you don’t mind!
I caught some other fun shows in the past two weeks including Alex Pangman at The Reservoir Lounge. She plays the first Thursday and I go every time I can. Seeing Pangman in a small room is always so much fun! I love the vibe of the place whether it’s a small crowd or totally packed. It’s a small but tasty menu (I’m especially fond of the thinnest-crust-ever pizza) and the bar tenders know who to treat a martini!
I also had a few outrageously fun jazz safaris.
While I look forward to summer I always make the most of winter and rather than mope and stay in – I paint the town. If you want to do likewise, see you at Jazz Bistro top floor this Sunday for a mellow hang 7-8 and a concert by Don Francks 8-9:30! http://www.jazzbistro.ca