What: Michael Kaeshammer
Where: Mary Winspear Centre, Sidney
When: 7:30 p.m. May 31, June 1
Tickets: $52.50 (250-656-0275)
The Boogie-Woogie Chef? The Pan-Fried Pianist? The question is: will Michael Kaeshammer host his own cooking/music show?
It’s still in the idea stage. But if the North Saanich pianist has his way, it’ll happen.
The notion came from a Nashville company which had noticed the musician, an avid amateur chef, posts recipes on his website. Fans can replicate such Kaeshammer concoctions as cedar-plank salmon, eggplant spread and scallops with fennel purée.
The American outfit asked Kaeshammer if he’d considered hosting a PBS-style television show combining cooking and music.
“I said: ‘Yeah, of course. I just don’t know who and where,’ ” Kaeshammer said. “Hopefully, it’s gonna happen. Once you put the idea out there, it’ll happen.”
It’s not the first time 40-year-old Kaeshammer has flirted with the food business. A decade ago, Kaeshammer even considered retiring from music to open a West Coast eatery. Back then, the business side of his career was getting him down.
About five years ago, following three disillusioning experiences with music managers, Kaeshammer decided to take charge of his show-biz destiny.
Charting his own course is going great, he said. “I’ve been happy ever since.”
Cooking remains a passion for German-born Kaeshammer, who emerged as a boogie-woogie prodigy in his mid-teens and has a national following.
To ensure his ingredients are fresh, Kaeshammer grows his own herbs, tomatoes, kale and chard. Making food, he noted, is very similar to creating music.
“The whole point of cooking, for me, is watching the process of putting these things together. It’s like music for sure.”
Kaeshammer’s latest disc is No Filter, released independently last year. The album features him singing as well as playing his own compositions, and embraces a wide range: jazzy pop, boogie-woogie, gospel and New Orleans blues. It includes guest appearances by rock hero Randy Bachman (Bachman–Turner Overdrive, the Guess Who) and singers Denzal Sinclaire and Joel Parisien.
He’ll likely sample from No Filter during his two-night stint next week at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre, where Kaeshammer will be joined by local musicians. The disc’s bed-tracks were recorded at his home. Kaeshammer rented a Fazioli grand piano for those sessions, which also spawned his solo disc The Pianist (2015).
Back then, Kaeshammer embarked on an unorthodox schedule. He’d go to bed when the sun set, rise as early as 2 or 3 a.m., then start recording. He has maintained the early-morning lifestyle to this day.
“I just kind of go to bed when I feel tired, you know,” Kaeshammer said.
He’s now planning a new album. In August, Kaeshammer will fly to New Orleans to record with drummer Johnny Vidacovich (Professor Longhair, James Booker) and George Porter Jr., best known as the bassist and singer for the Meters. Kaeshammer knows both from a 2 1/2-year stint he spent living in the city, on and off. Kaeshammer, who now manages himself, was given a suggestion for the upcoming album from his American distributor. Why not make it an old-timey, 1950s-style New Orleans recreation?
While the pianist loves that era, he responded with a flat no. He’s not interested in making a museum piece. Besides, Kaeshammer has had enough of artistic interference from outsiders. He recalls previous bosses trying to refashion him as a slick crooner à la Michael Bublé or Matt Dusk.
The most annoying input came from a New York music type who felt Kaeshammer’s love of old-school boogie-woogie was passé. It was boogie-woogie, a hard-driving style of piano blues popularized by the likes of Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons, that launched Kaeshammer’s career in the pubs of Victoria.
“The guy called my management in Toronto and said: ‘He’s playing all that boogie-woogie again.’ I was like: ‘Who do you think I am?’ ”
Kaeshammer is determined to forge his own musical path. When he turned 40 in January, he sketched out a 10-year plan. He aims to eventually tour less, giving him more time to play and write at home. And he’d like to further explore a growing interest in classical music, particularly the works of Beethoven, Bach and Chopin.
Recently, Kaeshammer took a lesson from Dorothy Fahlman, a Seattle-based classical piano teacher now in her 80s. It was the first lesson he had taken since he was 13. And he loved it.
Said Kaeshammer: “I feel like I’m a little kid again with the music.”