The Ontario towns of Port Elgin and Southampton on shores of Lake Huron buzzed last night with 17th annual Friday Night Jazz, opening this weekend’s Canadian Big Band Celebration.
We trucked over from Owen Sound to take in three of the combos, filling several venues in these holiday towns so recently packed with summer visitors. Young and old tasted the talents of local and visiting performers.
Port Elgin Legion’s spacious polished dance floor felt shoes of stately ballroom couples as well as a few whose jitterbug and jive moves are reminiscent of the 1940s. Howlin’ Dog Vintage Jazz Band’s rendition of favourites, C-Jam Blues and Flip, Flop and Fly proved once again the staying power of musicians who began their musical career many years ago. I always enjoy listening to dulcet tones of Karen Weber, lone woman in this six-piece band formed in 2002. Her bass guitar completes the dependable New Orlean’s Jazz group with a weird name; the origin of which is explained on their web site.
Harmonica player Rod Ramsay shone in the back room of Wismer House, as did Brian O’Rourke’s guitar work. Drummer Steve Morell leaned heavily on rim shots but hey, I sprang from family of dance band percussionists whose repertoire included smooth snare and cymbal variety. Tara MacKenzie, sometimes heard warbling celtic ballads is a classically trained opera singer with a local village name. She is as much at home with heavy beat blues of Big Bad Wolf combo. Double Bass player Joel Dawson belied his youthful appearance with accomplished playing that sounded like an old pro’s. Mr. Piano, Rob Gasidlo at keyboard surprised us with his versatility; we hear him play in a different jazz genre almost every time we see him perform.
Charlie Bell’s Gift to Jazz & Big Band Music
Charlie Bell belies his advancing years, turning in a whiz bang performance that wowed the standing room only Walker House crowd. Tyler Yarema, a vibrant whiz kid from Toronto, dominated the room pounding on a grand piano that I swear moved a foot from the place where it started. He led each tune with a key call and coaxed a young pianist to join in a few bars. Crackerjack drummer Mark Mariash, Andy Harsymczuk struggling to keep up with Tyler’s licks as well as polished professional Jack McFadden, a stalwart bass player of our Owen Sound Symphony Orchestra, completed this abfab chemistry. Late comers stood around or danced in front of the bar.
Some left here to cross the road to where soul and blues sounds filled Duffy’s Fish & Chips with Blackburn brothers’ dad, Bobby Dean Blackburn. Sidekick Frank deMatteis on drums and Lighthouse saxman Steve Kennedy were more than adequate for an evening’s jazz. We have heard this trio before at local eateries; Bobby Dean currently hosts a weekly Sunday afternoon gig at Wismer House – and plans to continue through the winter, I hear. Yeah!
We are sure fortunate so many jazz greats have chosen Grey and Bruce Counties for their homes. Former music teacher Charlie Bell is credited with attracting fellow musicians from Canadian and overseas to participate in this swinging weekend.
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