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It’s always difficult to know what to say when writing about someone that not many others have written about. Sometimes the liner notes for the subject album are a help, but that is not the case tonight.
Toronto pianist Michael Kaeshammer was born in Offenburg, Germany, on January 7, 1977. None of the all-too-brief biographies of him that I have been able to find mentions at what age he began to play the piano. They all skip over his earliest years and land on the age at which he discovered boogie woogie: 13. By the time he was 16, he was playing professionally, and by the time his family emigrated to Canada when he was 17, he was ready to embark on a career in music.
If you were one of my listeners when I was doing “Saturday Night Jazz” every week, you may remember that I happen to love boogie woogie. Coincidentally, the album I’m going to tell you about tonight just happens to have several boogie woogie tunes on it. You may also remember that I enjoyed playing a few songs from this particular album from time to time.
No Strings Attached, 2000, Alma Records
I’m talking about Kaeshammer’s 2000 release, “No Strings Attached.” This significance of this album is highlighted by the fact that Kaeshammer was only 23 when it was recorded.
The personnel for this outing vary considerably from one track to the next. Mostly, they consist of:
Michael Kaeshammer, piano
Eddie Bo, piano & vocals (track 7)
Neil Swainson, bass (tracks 1, 5, 9, 11)
George Koeller, bass (tracks 2, 8, 12, 13)
James Singleton, bass (tracks 3 & 6)
Jorn Andersen, drums (track 2, 8, 10,
Bob McLaren, drums (tracks 1, 5, 9, 11)
Johnny Vidacovich, drums (tracks 3 & 6)
Terry Clarke, drums (tracks 8, 12, 13)
Vito Rezza, drums (track 8)
Art Neville, Hammond B3 organ (tracks 2 & 7)
Kevin Breit, guitar (tracks 2, 8, 11, 12)
Armando Borg, congas (tracks 2, 8) and percussion (track 10)
Guido Basso, flugelhorn (track 3)
Bratislava Symphony Orchestra (track 1)
(David) Rockin’ Dopsie Jr., washboard (track 10)
Anthony “Dopsie” Rubin, accordion (track 10)
“No Strings Attached” is a big album, containing thirteen songs. Seven of them were written or co-written by Kaeshammer, with the others penned by such piano masters as Albert Ammons and Thelonious Monk.
First up is “Snow At Lake Simco,” written by Kaeshammer and Paul Pigat. This opens quietly, befitting the title. Kaeshammer delicately works his way along while drummer McLaren and the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra back him. The pace quickens as the piece progresses, then everyone except Kaeshammer and the strings fall silent for the runup to the closing bars.
The next song was made for Saturday nights, a fact attested to by the title, “On A Saturday Night.” This one was written by Kaeshammer and D. Graham, and features Kaeshammer’s more than adequate vocal. Neville brother Art throws his weight behind it on the Hammond B3 and makes this a lively, funky little boogie woogie ode to a young man’s myriad Saturday night pleasures. The ending is somewhat unusual, being a collection of crowd sounds, a man’s voice saying “We’re being followed,” and “Is he still here?” Then a last little bit of honky piano and someone laughing as it all fades away.
“Kaes Closed” follows, and it probably will come as no surprise that this one, too, is a Kaeshammer original. Vidacovich’s drums beat out a military marching cadence at the opening, followed by Kaeshammer’s piano. You’ll find this delightful tune full of surprises, packing more originality into less than three minutes of playing time than many artists give in songs running twice the time.
Kaeshammer solos on “Maple Leaf Rag,” Scott Joplin’s paen to Kaeshammers adoptive country, Canada. Joplin’s classic honky tonk rags put one in mind of simpler time, and Kaeshammer does well by this one.
Les McCann’s “Fish This Week, But Next Week Chitlins” is next. The song is superb, as one would expect considering the composer and the player. It’s a lively, spirited exercise, and it’s easy to imagine the guys had a great time with this one. Drummer McLaren and the rhythm section blast their way through this one, then step aside for bassist Swainson to take it away for a while. Swainson was the subject of JFASN #52 last September 29, and he does a superb job here as well.
“West Broadway,” another one of Kaeshammer’s songs, moves right along from the opening, with only a trio consisting of Kaeshammer, Vidacovich on drums and Singleton on bass. Everything proceeds like any other jazz song for the first three minutes or so. Then all hell breaks loose at about 3:18 when the boogie woogie roll really jumps to the forefront and carries it on almost to the end.
I’m running out of time with way too many songs left, so I’m going to jump ahead to the one I like more than just about any other on this disk. By my count, I played this song eight times during the five years I had this CD before I ended my association with KMHD. That is actually a lot of times for one DJ to play one song.
I’m speaking of the Albert Ammons masterpiece, “Boogie Woogie Stomp,” with a rather unique intro courtesy of Kaeshammer and some falling equipment. After the delightful opening nonsense is out of the way, this song takes off running and doesn’t stop. In the 21st century it’s not often you hear someone playing the washboard on a major jazz release, so you are in for a rare treat here! I loved this song when I played it on my radio show, and I love it now. I believe you will too.
As luck would have it, the two videos I found for this album are of songs that I didn’t have time to write about. I think you’ll like them despite that! 😉
Here is Michael Kaeshammer performing “Nora’s Boogie” featured on “No Strings Attached.”
And here is Michael and a different group doing “On A Rainy Day,” also featured on “No Strings Attached.”
With that, I’m going to have to stop and let you discover the rest of this fantastic album for yourself. Safe to say, I am absolutely convinced that you will find Michael Kaeshammer’s “No Strings Attached” to be an excellent addition to your own personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!
“No Strings Attached” is available for purchase at all the usual places. To learn more about Michael Kaeshammer and his music, visit his web site. There is somewhat of a biography of him available on the Canadian Jazz Archive web site.
As a side note for any Portlanders reading this, Michael Kaeshammer will be appearing live at Jimmy Mak’s in Portland on March 1, 2013, with shows at 7pm and 9:30pm.
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Thank you! 🙂

Copyright © 2013 by Al Evans. All rights reserved.