MUSIC PREVIEW: Michael Kaeshammer with the ESO

When I first heard him play in a non-descript nightclub in St. Albert during the Jazz City Festival in 1997, there were only about five or six individuals in the place.  I saw this scruffy-haired kid play boogie-woogie piano like I had never heard it played before.  But the amazing musicianship and rhythmic control of the pianist was overwhelming.  I knew at that moment, that that unknown (at the time) jazz keyboardist would soon be hitting the big stages of Canada.

Since that event, German-born Michael Kaeshammer has clearly shown his musical mettle.  He would have been barely out of his teens at the time, and his family had just moved from Europe to Victoria only a year or two before then.  Now making his home in Toronto, Kaeshammer draws enthusiastic acclaim from his performances in the most auspicious concert venues around the world. 

Although he initially studied classical piano, Kaeshammer was soon seduced by boogie Woogie and stride piano.  “When I was a kid, I remember these moments where my dad played some blues and ragtime tunes and I would watch him, and I just thought he was the coolest guy.”  It also didn’t hurt that the self-taught jazz virtuoso had also bee strongly influenced by listening to recordings by the likes of Albert Ammond, Pete Johnson, Fats Waller and Oscar Peterson.  “The whole rhythmic aspect of it was a huge attraction to me.”  Writing his own music also led him to singing his own material.  Having mastered the keyboard style himself,  Kaeshammer obviously loves what he does and it shows.

Kaeshammer’s performance with the ESO will only be his third ever with a symphony orchestra.  “I remember the first one we did was in Victoria and I just remember that initial feeling when the symphony came in at rehearsal for the very first time how I just fell in love with the sound of how my trio sounded with the symphony and I was really excited to have this as part of my thing.”  From a musician who was more used to playing0 with trios and sextets,  “[t]o have another outlet like that is really, really cool.”

Although they have known each other informally for several years, he and Jill Barber first performed together at last year’s Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton, NB where they played four shows as a double-bill.  With some influences from their respective band members, it was a natural progression for the two of them to recommend touring the country together. 

Folk singer/songwriter and recent author of a book for babies, Jill Barber, who has a university degree in philosophy, was first drawn to music through her brother Matthew, who taught her a few chords.  “I think what first drew me to it was as a teenager, I wanted to kind of  express myself.  So as soon as I could string a couple of chords together, I was writing songs, and I haven’t stopped since.”  She and her band will perform the first set, without orchestra.    They will perform music from her current album Chances as well as from her forthcoming recording Mischievous Moves.  Kaeshammer will be joined by his trio and the ESO after intermission.

Both Kaeshammer and Barber enjoy cooking and working with food in their spare time.  Michael has an interesting perspective on that.  “I think there is a very close parallel between food and music and how you approach it and work with the stuff.”

Michael Kaeshammer, with Special Guest Jill Barber
ESO Symphony Special – Winspear Centre
Tuesday, November 30, 7:30 p.m.

more in Music Preview     |     posted Nov 25th, 2010 at 10:30am     

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