Michael Kaeshammer turns to share a laugh with the audience during Saturday's North Island Concert Society event at the Civic Centre.

Jazz pianist leaves an improvisation

Jazz pianist and vocalist Michael Kaeshammer kicked off the 17th NICS season Saturday.

A review by

J.R. Rardon

PORT HARDY—Well, the North Island Concert Society did it again. Credit jazz pianist and vocalist Michael Kaeshammer, who also did it again.

Kaeshammer kicked off the 17th NICS season Saturday with a rousing display of improvisational jazz, with some blues and pop thrown into the mix, in his first trip to the North Island since playing at Port Hardy Secondary School 14 years ago in the society’s formative years.

The concert society, which has been faced with dwindling revenues and rising expenses in recent years, came into the final week leading to its 2014-15 season facing an alarming shortage of season ticket sales. But longtime board member Brenda Fleeton said a flurry of sales in the preceding days have the society on much firmer ground now.

Kaeshammer (pronounced CASE-hammer) may well get some of the credit for the sudden surge of interest.

“I distinctly remember sitting up in the bleachers of the theatre at (Port Hardy) high school 14 years ago, looking down at these guys,” David “Dazy” Weymer said after Friday’s show. He then turned to drummer Damian Graham, who supported Kaeshammer’s frenetic piano work throughout the evening, and asked, “You were here, too, right?”

“Yeah, I remember playing in Port Hardy,” Graham said with a laugh. “I asked (Kaeshammer) why it took us so long to come back.”

That first appearance introduced a Michael Kaeshammer skilled on the keyboard, but still seeking his identity as a performer on stage. Still a relatively young man growing in his craft, he returned Saturday owning that stage — and, in short order, the audience who came to watch him perform on it.

A throwback performer of the boogie-woogie, or stride piano, technique popularized in ragtime and 1920s-era New Orleans jazz, Kaeshammer is capable of delivering a frenetic volume of notes and chords from both hands. Yet, like the best of improvisational jazz artists, he makes each composition his own through personal, stylistic touches.

Between songs, he regales the audience not with standard, detailed introductions, but with teasing hints and jokes which keep the listener guessing what might come next.

“We don’t do requests, unless we get asked to,” he joked.

Waving a letter he was presented before the show by one patron, asking if he played Fats Domino songs, Kaeshammer quipped, “We don’t know any Fats Domino.” Then, turning to Graham, he said, “Let’s try to do a medley of songs we don’t know,” and launched into a Domino medley of My Girl Josephine, Ain’t That a Shame and Blueberry Hill, which he turned into a sing-along the crowd (or those who knew the lyrics) were happy to join in on.

Standards like The Battle Hymn of the Republic and Sweet Georgia Brown might morph into the theme from The Pink Panther, or the Muppets Show Theme, or the theme from The Flintstones cartoon.

Honky Tonk Train Blues — written by Meade Lux Lewis in 1935 — suddenly morphs into Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

From originals like Kisses in Zanzibar — yes, Kaeshammer is also a writer and composer — to a percussion-laced remake of Allen Toussaint’s Shoo-Rah, Saturday’s show sucked in the audience and left them asking for more, the ultimate aim of any performer. And for the small-town music society seeking to continue bringing quality entertainment to the remote North Island.

For one more night, it was mission accomplished.

 

Just Posted

Pregnancy Outreach Program launches in Port Hardy

North Island Building Blocks Program is called K’wi’Kwalayu or “our reason for living”

Find out what the tax increase will be in your area of the Tri-Port

The Gazette reached out to all three communities financial departments requesting numbers to crunch

Tree falls inches away from Port Hardy home

The tree narrowly missed the residence on Wolleson Street

Port Hardy firefighters to earn money for calls

Council has approved a Fire Department Remuneration policy

A memorial mural will be painted in Port Hardy

The mural will honour lives lost to substance abuse and mental health

Trans Mountain pipeline: Is it worth the risk?

Concerns range from the threat of an oil spill to the impact of tanker traffic on wildlife

Loggers Golf Tournament nearly full, sign up to play before June 1

Applewood Ford will be donating a car if a golfer gets a hole in one on the 11th hole.

B.C. to spend $181M to create 200 general practitioner jobs

Jobs will go to new medical school graduates

Federal leaders trade barbs about India trip at press gallery dinner

Justin Trudeau’s infamous trip to India earlier this year was the focus of many of the jabs

B.C. VIEWS: Our poverty reduction plan is already in place

NDP has another promise it needs to appear to keep

WestJet pilot strike averted as parties agree to mediation

Pilots had warned they could go on strike starting May 19

Most Read