Michael Kaeshammer’s jazz project balloons

Recording sessions for album spread over two countries with big lineup

IN CONCERT

What: Michael Kaeshammer
Where: McPherson Playhouse, 3 Centennial Square
When: Tuesday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $46.50-$55.50 online at rmts.bc.ca, by phone at 250-386-6121, or in person at the Royal-McPherson box office.
Note: Kaeshammer also performs Monday at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney

 Flights and studios were booked. Players were contacted and given their charts well in advance. On paper, everything with regard to recording should have run smoothly.

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But of course it did not. When it came to the recording sessions for his new album, Something New, very little went as planned for Michael Kaeshammer. And every second of the unorthodoxy gave the celebrated singer and pianist good reason to celebrate.

“It gave me this idea of doing every record like this,” Kaeshammer, 41, said recently from his home in Sidney. “Not only with the guests, but more like, ‘What is it that I want to do right now?’ Not even think about it. To only figure out, ‘How am I going to have fun with music?’ ”

Kaeshammer did not intend to spread the recording sessions for Something New over two countries and as many studios, with a lineup of starry guests. But that is what came to pass for the six-time Juno Award nominee on his 12th recording. “Looking back at it now. It’s the biggest project I’ve done — but it didn’t start out like that, and it didn’t feel like it when we did it. There was a plan, but it turned into something completely different. And that was the fun part of it. The record looked a little different in my mind beforehand.”

The liner notes to Something New will catch anyone’s attention. Sessions at Esplanade Studios in New Orleans and Revolution Recording in Toronto — both of which were produced by Kaeshammer — featured Cyril Neville (the Neville Brothers), George Porter Jr. (the Meters), Johnny Vidacovich (Professor Longhair), David Piltch (k.d. lang), Chuck Leavell (the Rolling Stones), Curtis Salgado (Roomful of Blues), Amos Garrett, Colin James, Randy Bachman, Jim Byrnes, Bria Skonberg and the New Orleans Nightcrawlers Brass Band.

“I saw myself as much as a producer as a piano player and artist,” Kaeshammer said of the experience. “It was so much fun.”

He’ll bring the songs from Something New to a pair of venues on Vancouver Island next week, for which few tickets remain (his performance Monday at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney is sold out, while available seats for his gig Tuesday at the McPherson Playhouse are disappearing quickly). That isn’t surprising; Kaeshammer remains a big draw around these parts and has not played a show in Victoria since 2016.

He has spent a good deal of time in China in recent years, however. Kaeshammer has toured China annually for the past eight years, often as the first-ever jazz musician to perform in some cities. Kaeshammer is already booked for a 2019 tour of China and the surrounding area, making it one of his most successful markets outside of North America and Europe. “They love piano,” Kaeshammer said of Chinese audiences. “In the last year, they opened 1,000 new theatres in China. Talk about a touring market.”

Though he has been a professional performer for the better part of a quarter-century, playing in China taught Kaeshammer a great deal about the intricacies of performing. He was surprised to discover that the hum of big city life, for example, has some audiences yearning for the quietcertain pieces from Kaeshammer’s jazz and blues canon provide.

“I find that they react to different things than they do in Europe or North America,” he said. “They love straight rhythms over swing. They connect to that more. And they really love slower songs.” When he performs in North America, his fans want him to come out at top speed.

“I do it the other way around in China. I start with a ballad,” he said with a laugh.

A star in his home country, he has also become a popular attraction in Europe, where his brand of New Orleans boogie-woogie blues is increasingly popular. The added bonus of European tours is that he gets to drop in on his parents, who live in Germany. They brought Kaeshammer to Victoria every summer during his youth, to visit his cousins. When Kaeshammer turned 18, his parents moved the family to Victoria from Offenburg, Germany, for good.

“I’ve always felt very Canadian from the beginning,” Kaeshammer said.

“I didn’t really have an idea about music as a career; it was Victoria that made me become a professional musician. There has always been audience for it here.”

Kaeshammer will be joined in Victoria on the Something New tour by several players from the album sessions, including Vidacovich on drums, Piltch on bass, William Carn on trombone and William Sperandei on trumpet (Vancouver’s Steve Hilliam will join on tenor saxophone). This will be Kaeshammer’s first theatre performance in Victoria since 2016, but he’s keeping with tradition.

“I don’t have a setlist when I go out and play. To me, that’s what makes it interesting, You can incorporate life, whatever the audiences likes, or whatever the instruments and sound are like. The band has to know the tunes, but after that, if I had to have a setlist, and play the same thing every night, I think I would probably stay home.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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