Making Music with the SIPtones at Interactions 2014

Most of you know me as an analyst, and I'm not in the habit of putting my personal life on public display. I still get my share of spam, but let's keep this upbeat!

Music is my biggest passion, and I've been playing piano and guitar most of my life. If you follow how my youngest son, Dean, is progressing with his music career, that should give you some clues as to where that's coming from. I can only take some of the credit, though - he's got a real gift, and my job is help him take it to full potential.

He bypassed my guitar playing years ago, but I still love to play, mostly blues, R&B and some jazz. I was really happy to have a chance to do that recently with the SIPtones, who got play a long, two hour set at Indy's top blues bar, the Slippery Noodle.

The gig took place earlier this month during the Interactions 2014 event, held by Interactive Intelligence, a vendor most of you will be familiar with. The SIPtones are all consultants by day, and they've been doing this a while. By night, it's Wayne Sos on bass, Stephen Leaden on drums, Rick Hathaway on saxes, and Mike Moszynski on guitar and harp.

They were nice enough to let me guest on a few numbers, with all but one on keyboard. Towards the end of the night, I comped on guitar while Mike did a Juke-like harp raveup, Off the Wall, including playing on top of the tables in the crowd. Whoo hoo!

Rick is the bandleader, and like all good bandleaders, he documents their gigs. He put together a nine minute highlight reel of the evening, and it's been posted now to YouTube. Unless you're a SIPtones groupie, you'll never find it, so I'm being the brand ambassador here and sharing it with you.

I'm on keyboard off and on throughout the compilation, and while the sound isn't great, I'm easy to spot on the far left of the stage. When comping Mike on guitar, I'm on the far right - that clip is near the end of the video.

Anyhow, watch as much as you like, and please share it with anyone who might enjoy it - or better yet, sign the band to a mega-deal and world tour. Rick is standing by on his SIP phone, and I'll keep practicing to keep the dream alive.  :-)

Obama sings the blues - really!

You wouldn't know it from my posts these days, but music and film are my big passions - too bad they don't pay the bills. I used to blog about music, art and culture, but not so much lately. If writing was all I did, I would probably have about 6 different blogs for each of these things, but let's get real...

Anyhow, blues is my soul food, and even the President gets the blues. I came across this clip on CBC Radio's excellent new set of web music channels. They get it in terms of how radio is evolving and they have great streaming content for just about every type of music. Love it.

Back to 'Bama. Being Black History Month, the White House (how's that for irony?)hosted a mega blues jam, with a who's who of rock/blues royalty. As the site explains, the full concert will be broadcast sometime soon as a PBS special - can't wait for that.

Anyhow, Chicago is Obama's adopted hometown, and as this clip shows, Buddy Guy is running this show, and gets Obama to take the mike and sing a few bars of everybody's fave blues sing-along, Sweet Home Chicago. It's the most over-done song in blues lore, but it's the go-to song when you need to send the crowd home happy, and it's just so fun to sing.

My gut tells me this should be his re-election campaign commercial. If it worked for Clinton playing sax, it just might work here. If the blues isn't the people's music and the Democrats aren't the party of the people, then times must have changed. Take it away, Barry....

Toronto Blues Society Awards Night - Oscars for Canadian Blues

This post is just for the record, and is part of the backlog from last week I'm trying to clear up. We all have busy lives outside of work, and for me, music is one of those lives - especially blues. I'm not one to post much about my personal life, but in the blues world, this one is worth sharing.

I've been a long-time supporter and board member of the Toronto Blues Society, and one of our marquee events is the Maple Blues Awards. I've posted about this before, and the MBA is Oscar night for Canadian blues. We have a great blues scene up here, and the TBS is right in the middle of what happens here in Toronto. Over the years our MBA program has evolved into a national event, and it's a great barometer of the best blues going from coast to coast.

Last Monday was this year's event, held for the first time in brand-new Koerner Hall in downtown Toronto. The venue was a bit uptown for blues, and is really built for acoustic music, but things worked out just fine. I had to fly out early the next day for the Smart Grid Summit, and combined with a technical glitch, I haven't been able to post this until now.

For all kinds of reasons, I'm happy to do shout-outs like this for the TBS, especially in 2010, as we mark our 25th anniversary (and I've been there since Day 1). The Canadian blues scene is world class, and if you like the blues, there's a lot to like about our artists. The MBA showcases this in spades, and if you're in Toronto next MLK Day - an appropriate date for the awards - you really should attend.

For this year, the full list of winners and nominees is summarized on our website. These won't be household names to most of you, but that shouldn't matter. The music is first rate, and I'll share a couple of photos here. If you poke around the Net, I'm sure you can find some video clips as well. Better yet, come to TO, and I'll take you around to the clubs. And - if it's a Tuesday, you can check out my 13 old son and myself at a local blues jam!

The Maple Blues All Stars - the best blues band in the land - really...

The Twisters - these guys were FUN...

Toronto Blues Society - Maple Blues Awards Event Highlights

I haven't posted about the Toronto Blues Society for ages, but this one needs to get done before the week is out.

On Monday of this week, I attended the Maple Blues Awards, which is Oscar night for the Canadian blues community. As always, it's a great event, and this is the first chance I've had to post about it. I've been involved with the TBS since inception (1985), and an active Board member for most of that time, so pardon my cheerleading here. That aside, Canada has long been a world-class producer of blues talent, and our work at the TBS plays a big part in keeping the blues alive.

The MBA event is a great showcase for just how good the blues can be in Canada, and is a testament to the commitment of blues lovers to support the artists as well as live music in general. The reticent musician in me has a hard time getting off that soapbox, so I'll stop now.

The MBAs are a great celebration of the Canadian blues scene (and if you're in the roots music biz, the event capped off the weekend-long Blues Summit IV, which is the biggest event on our calendar), and this will either be very familiar or very foreign to you. For that reason, I'm not going to run down all the winners here - better you read up on it at our website, and explore what else we're up to. If you follow Canadian blues artists, you probably know the results by now anyway - and if don't, then you should! So maybe - just maybe - this will be your entry point into the blues, and if you like what you see, then c'mon and join the TBS.

I'll leave you with a few photos, which are just ok. I recently got the BlackBerry Bold - love it - and am still figuring out how to get decent photos. Plus, it doesn't help to be shooting in a dark nightclub. Anyhow, there will be much better photos taken by others coming soon on the website, as well as in the newsletter, which we do post online. Enjoy - and if you ever want to talk about the blues, I'm your man.

View from the bandstand before showtime

The Maple Blues Band - as good as it gets

Treasa Levasseur and The Sojourners - perfect blend of gospel and blues - magic

For many, the biggest highlight of the night was a video tribute to local legend, Jeff Healey, who sadly passed away way before his time about a year ago. Any fan of modern electric blues guitar will know his name, his amazing talent and unparalleled lap-style technique. The video tribute was prepared by local music entrepreneur Mako Funasaka, who also posted a very sharp photo gallery of the event on his site. Great stuff. Of course his photos will be much better than mine, but I did manage to get this shot showing Jeff's style of playing off the monitor showing the video.

TBS President Derek Andrews and Jay Sieleman

Shakura S'Aida - fabulous singer - see her if you can - or get her CDs

Shooting the shot - my neighbor, Frank Nagy photographs live music for a living, and his work is first rate. Got this impromptu photo of Frank lining up a stage shot.

And...bonus coverage - I shot a few short video clips during the performances. The quality is so-so - both audio and video - and it's nothing like what I used to get on the Nokia N-Series phones. Well, it's better than nothing, and here's the best clip of the bunch - and runs about 3 minutes. This will give you a nice taste of the music, and the clip features Toronto's own - Amos Garrett (of Midnight at the Oasis fame) - jamming with the Maple Blues house band. He's 67 years old, but don't let that fool ya, and is a great example of how music keeps you young! Enjoy.