Monday, June 10, 2019

Raptors Win In Hoser City

The last time a major sports team won a championship in Toronto I was releasing my very first CD; Hoser City.

I hate to admit it but that was a long time ago. Twenty-six years ago to be exact. I remember it like it was yesterday except I have forgotten the name of the club we were playing at on Yonge St. It was on the east side, just across from the Eaton Centre. It is not there any more.
Ok, the truth is that I don’t remember that evening that well at all. What I think happened, or the way I tell the story now goes something like this.

We were excited to be playing my, eclectic electric instrumental jazz music in public after we had recorded it some months earlier at Cherry Beach Studio. Victor Bateman on bass, Brent Bodrug on keys and Kevin Dempsey on drums. Yours truly was playing my pal (and the designer of the CD cover) Steve Szigeti’s  Stratocaster and my ES-175 that I still own. My pal Andy Milne produced and played on that CD and Brian Nevin the engineer on the record and I have since become pals and play a fair bit of hockey together (hosers!)

We got to the club for sound check and the owner told me that we “didn’t have to play.” I was so disappointed. He said he would still pay us but little did he realize that we weren’t in it for the money. Some of us ended up watching the game there and taking advantage of a few free adult beverages. (you know this is ancient history as the band was getting paid and there was free beer and food for us too if memory serves me correctly)

I remember it being kind of exciting although my interest in baseball can’t even touch my passion for hockey. The part of the evening we didn’t anticipate was the crazy party the came roaring up Yonge street from the Skydome after they won. People were going crazy. Somehow we had to get our gear out of the club through this non-stop impromptu parade of people. Once again, I am not sure how we got out of there alive but we did and I am here to tell you all the details as I do and don’t remember them.

I wasn’t too well prepared for the World Series as most of my energy was going into my my music. That hasn’t changed. I still feel like I will be unprepared for the Raptors winning the big prize this year (I don’t even know what it’s really called). However, I think this time I might stay close to home or even on my couch and watch the city celebrate around me.

You can listen to Hoser City here

Friday, May 03, 2019

May Newsletter/Ontario Tour with Ronley Teper

Hi Everybody!

My May gigs start tonight! (Fri May 3) An early show with Ronley Teper's Lipliners. We are playing at the very popular Dakota Tavern.
 from 7-9pm. Walk down the stairs just north of Dundas W. on Ossington ave and you will like what you see and hear. Fun Joint! Fun band!

Lots of exciting things happening with Ronley Teper this month. We begin the recording of our new record and Ronley and I are doing a duo tour the last week of May. (please let your friends know in these towns)

Wed May 29, Diving Bell Social, Montreal
Thurs May 30, Bar Robo, Ottawa
Fri May 31,  Capers Wine Bar, Bellville
Sat June 1, Kaffe 1870, Wakefield
Sun June 2, house concert, Wolfe Island

Here is a cool interview she did recently.

Thursday May 9 is the monthly Tranzac show for Collette Savard and the Savants. We start around 1015pm!

Friday May 10 I am at Toronto's best jazz venue; The Rex Hotel. I am playing guitar with Steve Koven's Project Rex. This includes Rob Clutton, Anthony Michelli and Matt Brubeck on cello! 945pm start (two sets)

If you have friends on Vancouver Island, please tell them that So Long Seven is coming out their way in June. We have 6 concerts in a row the last week of June (including the Victoria Jazz Festival) and you can find all the details at

thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Blow Your Own Horn pt. 5: Ragtime Orioles

This is the final instalment of Blow Your Own Horn. It is probably a good thing as I am really going against my “Canadian ways”, by writing about myself and even listening to records that I have played on. Very UN-Canadian of me.

The final record and the most recent one that I played on is called Ragtime Orioles. This is under the leadership of pianist Bill Westcott. It is mildly controversial within the band why his name is not on the cover of this CD however none of that matters once you start listening.

Right away when you put the Cd on you will be drawn-in by the beautiful opener called Do Your Duty (1933). It features Brenna MacCrimmon on vocals and she will have your attention immediately. I am always amazed at how beautifully she presents these songs with a very high level of respect for the tradition. (a very wordy way of saying she is damn good!) One of the reasons I am amazed is because Brenna has spent most of her musical life focusing on Turkish music and is even quite famous in Turkey.

Bill Westcott is a fantastic piano player and I have been listening to him since he was my prof at York U in the 80s. As a matter of fact, his Early Jazz course was the best course I took in my Honours degree in music at York. His attention to detail (something I am always looking for in music)when he plays the piano is great. He knows more about early jazz than anyone I have ever met.

The title track and the name of the band; Ragtime Oriole is our version of a banjo/piano duet originally featuring Fred Van Eps on the banjo. Brenna joined us on the snare drum too. This piece was epic for me to learn and it still requires some work before live appearances.

You are probably looking at your own copy of the CD by now to find out just who this awesome clarinet player is. Chris Robinson is someone that is well known in Toronto music circles but was unknown to me until we started playing together in this group. He really knows this music. He plays it with great ferocity and knows lots of great stories about the music’s history too.

It is a real treat to open this beautiful Cd package designed by Yesim Tosuner. She never disappoints and this time there is a fantastic little booklet writing by Bill with lots of interesting info about the music we are playing. I look forward to reading it again soon.

Bill reminds us at the beginning of the notes that ragtime was inescapable in the turn of the 19th Century. He then goes on to say that “it could be imposed on almost anything: current popular favorites, old gems, military marches-all the rage then-and well-worn hyms and folksongs.”

This is another one of the records in this Blow Your Own Horn series that was recorded and mixed by Jeremy Darby at Canterbury. I love that he can bring his magic to just about any style of music. He found a way to make the recording sound just old enough but also modern enough to massage our sensitive ears of 2019.

I am glad there are some solo piano tunes on the record. You really get to hear the way Bill has spent his life playing in this tradition.  His ornaments and time feel always different and appropriate for each tune.

I had not played a lot of early jazz on the banjo before joining this band. However, it felt so natural the first time they came over to my house I couldn’t stop smiling. I still get that feeling whenever we play together. I guess, once again my twenty some-odd years of focusing on jazz guitar paid off. I think I am part of a very small club that plays this music on a bluegrass five string banjo with picks on my fingers. Originally it would have been done on a tenor banjo with a single pick held between the thumb and index finger.

I haven’t mentioned our great bassist Andrew Downing as of yet because he is so good on this disc you almost forget about him. Some might say anyone could play bass on this music but it is not true. The way that Andrew plays each note with the right attack and decay and a beautiful pulse is a delicate art for sure. Andrew is also a great bandleader, composer, arranger and he and I even have a banjo/cello duet project.

Wow, Chris plays some great clarinet on this record! You even get to hear him say farewell with a fantastic reading of Jelly Roll Morton’s classic Shreveport Stomp (1925).

If you want to hear this record you will have to come to one of our shows to purchase a Cd or contact me at and I will try to get one to you. (it is NOT yet available on all your favourite streaming sites)

It has been fun sharing these five recordings with you. I feel very fortunate to work with all these great friends of mine. The Toronto music scene is a community blessed with so much musical talent and creativity.

I would be lucky to ever have such a productive and successful 18 months again but if I do…you will be the first to hear about it.

Time to make some new records!

Friday, April 12, 2019

say NO to guitar pedals!

Last night, I played a show with Collette Savard and the Savants (see the post below this one) without any pedals whatsoever. Yes. You heard me right. No pedals! Not even a stompbox. As a matter of fact, the amp at the club didn't even have reverb. So...I played two sets of original folk/rock music with a tele and little fender tube amp that was distorting kind of nicely.

OMG!! Who knew how much fun this could be? I felt like all my ideas were clearer. I felt like my dynamics were better. ie no volume pedal...just using my fingers and my brain and my heart!

No digital delay. No multiple reverb settings. Just music. plain and simple. I had new ideas. I had spontaneous editing-type-ideas for some of my old parts. ie. what chords or notes are short vs. long etc.

Honestly, I had no idea it would be so much fun. The only thing that is worth noting is that our drummer was unavailable. (get better soon Marty!!!) This does make a difference. I have noticed that distortion, delay and reverb all work well with certain drums, cymbals etc.

If you think I am crazy, I highly recommend trying this at least once. It will change the way you see your pedal rack for a long time. I am not sure how I will change my guitar set up for the future but I know I have new insight into the whole thing now.

Try it. I dare ya!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Collette Savard and the Savants / Blow Your Own Horn (part 4)

Once a week I am listening to one of the five records I played on in the last year and a half and writing about it. It has been fun. I needed to get this one done today as the NHL playoffs start tonight and it will be hard to find time to practice music let alone listen to it. Ha!

I have been playing with Collette Savard and the Savants for a few years now. The lineup has been the same since day one and I am very happy about that. Part of the strength and allure of this band is the individuals. So solid! So fun. 

When I used to see bassist/producer John Switzer play with Jane Sibbery back in the day I never thought we would be pals and work together someday! I didn’t know Martin Worthy’s work in the past although I do remember meeting at festival once when he was working with Pork Belly Futures. These two guys make ups such a solid rhythm section where I can always feel so comfortable whether I am playing chords, soloing or playing an integral part to one of the tunes.

The tunes are great! My respect for Collette Savard as a songwriter started strong and continues to grow. She keeps bringing in great tunes to the band. She is also a fantastic singer. I remember being shocked in the studio how she was always in tune, even on the guide tracks. I think they even kept some of them (ie. first takes) on the record.

I get to play a fair bit of lead-guitar in this band. (I don’t play any banjo!) I have good laugh sometimes when people are surprised that I play guitar in addition to the banjo. (especially since I have been doing it for 45 years) 

John Switzer is a great producer. Very chill and then always jumped in to make decisions just when we needed him. I am glad he was there to make sure I didn’t “over-play” in the studio. He certainly brought out the best in me personally. (I will keep the overplaying for the live shows!) John also mixed this record. We are so lucky to have him in this project. I can’t wait to make another record with him.

Braden Sauder did a great job capturing all the sounds at his studio Marquee Sound. I look forward to working there again someday. Braden provided and even guided my choices with some vintage amps and cool pedals that he has in his studio. He and John have a great working relationship as engineer and producer. (John is Braden’s father-in-law too)

I had forgotten that I take guitar solos on the first three songs. I think it works. It is a very strong record. I think they made great choices for the first few tunes.

This intro for the fourth tune called Check was actually my idea. I like the way it sounds with just the vocals off the top. We don’t do it that way in concert any more. Even though Collette writes all the songs we all bring ideas for the arrangements. She is very receptive to peoples input and I have a lot of respect for her and that approach.

These three women in the band are so awesome. The group is built around them if you ask me. We are a girl-power folk/rock show! So smart and so talented.  They also perform as a trio sometimes.

Rebecca Campbell is one of the busiest vocalists in Toronto. She has a reputation as a first call backup/harmony singer but she brings even more to this band. She is a solid rhythm guitarist and percussionist (and more!) BUT, her onstage vibe is constantly inspiring. Upbeat, spiritual and simply joyful.

Megan Worthy is the third vocalist in the group. She too “brings-it” every night. There is great attention to detail in her piano/keyboard playing. She always knows when to bring her jazz piano vocabulary into the mix and more importantly; when to leave it out.  She sounds fantastic playing piano on the track Fire. She is fun to rock-it with every night. (AND she is Marty’s daughter!)

The Hardest Part is our dance tune on the record. Switzer rocks it off the top with a great bass line and people go crazy for this tune. I like my wah-wha guitar on this track. (I need to get that damn pedal fixed!)

People tell me they like Collette’s lyrics. "smart" is a word that is often used to describe them.  It is a bit of a running joke in the band that I don’t know the lyrics to the songs. Sadly it is true. I hope that someday on tour somewhere, maybe a long plane trip I will take the time to enjoy them too.

The last song on the record; Top of the Trees is almost like a secret track. (I can’t remember if it is on the vinyl version) It is a cute little jazz song. It is probably the eight bars that I am most proud of on this record. Those twenty years of focusing only on jazz guitar really paid off. Ha!

Make sure you come to hear the band live. I feel like you will get what you hear on this record but everything is just “amped-up” and rocks a little harder AND we have lots of great new tunes that are not on this record.

You can find our schedule at or just come to hear us the second Thursday of every month at the Tranzac in Toronto.

Please listen here:

p.s. I love the album cover by Barbara Klunder. Thank you Barbara!

Thursday, April 04, 2019

TP monthly newsletter

Hi folks,

I still haven't found that catchy name for my (almost) monthly newsletter. I guess TP Newsletter is better than all the Toronto Maple Leaf-inspired titles I tried on for size in the last couple days since they clinched a playoff spot. 

Of course I have a gig on the first night of their playoff journey; Thursday April 11 I will be heading over to the Tranzac to play our monthly with Collette Savard and the Savants. We usually start at about 10:15. I may be there at 10:14. (hopefully no overtime on Thursday)

The other fun little project I am involved in right now includes my Blog that I have been keeping for close to 20 years and 2000 posts. Yes, I was blogging before you knew what a blog was. (I was podcasting back then too actually!)

It has been a really good run of making good records with my friends over the last year and half. So, I have decided to write a little behind-the-scenes blogpost about one CD per week and I am calling it "Blow Your Own Horn". So far I have written about So Long Seven's Kala Kalo, Ronley Teper's The Game and The Cluttertones' Leeways. Here is the link to the most recent one: 

The next two weeks will be Collette Savard and the Savants and then the Ragtime Orioles CD. Please check them out as the whole point of doing this is to get more people to hear our music. 

Collette Savard and the Savants will be at Grossmans on Easter Monday April 22. 6-9pm means that you might be able to attend! It is a very cool local dive with a lot of history. 

Thursday April 25 Andrew Downing and I are back at Sellers and Newel bookstore. This is such a cool venue. (talk about intimate!) I recommend advance tickets. (you can email Peter online or just drop into the store) Banjo/Cello duets in a bookstore...tell your friends!

Friday May 3 I will be at the Dakota for an early show (7pm) with Ronley Teper's Lipliners. (Ronley and I are touring at the end of May too but more in the next letter on that) 

Thanks for reading, hope the spring brings great new things for us all!


p.s. Go Leafs Go!!!!

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Cluttertones/Leeways part 3 of "Blow My Own Horn"

As is my new weekly habit, I pour myself a drink and start listening to one of the records that I played on in the last 18 months. Tonight it is the Cluttertones; Leeways.

Cluttertones are probably the most critically acclaimed group I have ever been a part of. Some of my favourite music writers have written beautifully about both our records, I have heard suggestions (even demands!) of a Polaris Prize shortlist.  Yes, those that know and love this group are very passionate. (this record was number one on the Canadian college radio jazz charts)

Individually there is really something going on here. Bassist and composer Rob Clutton (one of my oldest and best pals) has made numerous recordings including a couple solo bass albums that have been highly regarded. His compositional curiousity and expermination always leads to interesting new forms, shapes and pieces of music for this group. Trumpeter Lina Allemano has captured the hearts and ears of the creative music scene in Toronto and Berlin (where she spends half her time these days). Ryan Driver plays analog synth and piano on so many records and is part of so many bands I can’t keep track of what he is up to any more.

Collectively there is nothing like the Cluttertones. 

I love the way this record opens. Gull has such a non-idiomatic starting point and the band stretches it from A-Z (sorry for the writing cliché) a couple times anyways.

In the ten years I have been playing banjo and guitar in the Cluttertones there have been a few tracks that come out of the folk-music section of Rob’s brain.  The second track; Bears is certainly one of them. This track always gets a great response when we play it live. Ryan sings Rob’s abstract poet lyrics that I never get tired of. (I also never really understand them either) fyi, there are very few people who sing anything like Ryan Driver.

Lina Allemano is a Canadian treasure. She is taking the trumpet to new places and has been celebrated in at festivals in New York, Berlin and across Canada and has quite a local following here in TO with her bands Titanium Riot and The Lina Allemano Quartet where she performs monthly at the Tranzac. She is featured on the third track called Julio. Her extended trumpet techniques will leave you wondering if there is anything she can’t do on the trumpet.

This CD is beautifully recorded by Jeremy Darby at Canterbury Sound. (on the fringes of my neighbourhood at Dufferin and King…pretty sure I biked to these sessions)

I always go out of my way to hear Rob Clutton play solo bass shows. (he does a few every year in Toronto) The opening for Septiembre is a great bass solo and I hope lots of young bassists get to hear this track. (it includes some band accompaniment including our special guest Lee Pui Ming on piano)

The album is called Leeways as the second half of the record is a suite that Rob wrote for our friend, pianist Lee Pui Ming. She is a very special musician and a great person. The suite has five parts where one person is featured in each part.
We worked hard with Pui Ming to get this together. Having a special guest in this group was a lot of work but it all paid off. She has great instincts and also a real thinker. She is always fun to be around too!

Special shout out to Randi Helmers who did the beautiful artwork for the cover of both of our records. She is a great painter and I am always looking forward to her next show. Yesim Tosuner did a great job laying out this Cd as did Dawne Carleton writing the liner notes. (Dawne was also the choreographer for the dance piece we did to release the first CD)

Each time I hear this Leeways suite I am struck by the balance Pui Ming has between the strength and rhythmic creativity while she attacks the piano and the subtlety with which she plays the other half of the time on the bench. (although she is often up off the bench)

Special thanks to Scott Thomson and the Guelph Jazz Festival for hiring us to debut this piece a couple years back before we went into the studio to record it. I feel very fortunate for my ongoing relationship with that festival that has consistently inspired artists to continue to do what they do and encouraged music fans to support the music that we are making.

I have tried to describe this music to people over the years but never really succeeded. I will say that it might be the strangest band you have ever heard. I would also suggest good headphones or speakers and just let the music wash over you. It is quite an experience.

Listen to (and buy!)  Leeways here:

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