Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hoser City: 20 Years Later

I am sitting and listening to my first CD; Hoser City. This is not something I do very often. As a matter of fact, most jazz musicians rarely listen to their own records. I suppose this is mostly because we hope that immediately after we record we get even better by continuing to work hard at our music.

The reason I am listening is that it was 20 years ago today that I released my first CD; Hoser City on my label Guildwood Records. Some will remember it as the night the Blue Jays won the world series but I remember it as my first ever CD release party. (on Yonge St. no less!!) The manager of the restaurant across from the Eaton's Centre asked us not to play once the game started, but we still got paid.

I still really like many things about this record. The opening track, Hoser City is still a fun tune to play (it even works on banjo) with an interesting form and phrasing. I remember how much I had to stick to my guns to get the guys to play some of these parts. Most memorable was Kevin Dempsey on the drums as he had never made a record before where most of the drum parts were written out for him. In the end, he took what I wrote home, worked on it and always went way beyond it as the tunes progressed. I still do the occasional gig with Kevin but you should watch for him at Toronto jazz clubs like The Rex Hotel.

Andy Milne was (and still is) one of my best pals and I was happy to have him onboard playing piano, keyboards and producing with me. I remember we spent a major part of our first day looking for a different bass drum for Kevin as Andy was just not going to have the old, floppy sound of Kevin's jazz bass drum he had brought to the session. Telephone Song, the third tune has some pretty great Andy Milne and Kevin Dempsey interplay. It too is an interesting form and composition. (if I do say so myself!)

Terminator is the next tune. It is a strange and intense track. It reminded me at the time of the music from the Terminator movies. When I listen to it now it reminds me more of Rush. (ha!) Dempsey certainly plays some Neil Peart-like fills in his drum solo near the end of this tune. However, Victor Bateman really holds this one together on the electric bass. I remember the funny faces he would make playing this relentless bass part. Victor is a great guy and still making lots of great music here in Toronto.

Some of my guitar sounds are pretty odd. I played a Strat that I borrowed from my oldest pal Steve Szigeti who also did the design for this disc. I was very influenced at the time by David Gilmore who was the guitarist in Steve Coleman's Five Elements. Steve Coleman was a big influence on this record as Milne and I had gone to Banff and hung out with Steve and Andy was starting to play gigs with Steve in New York. Of Course, he went on to join that band and travel the world with them for almost a decade.

Tippy n' Stretch was named after a couple dogs in the house where Milne and I were working on the pre-production of this record. I remember now that I was trying to have some less regimented, looser melodies, guitar playing etc. to go along with the complex, overly accurate vibe that permeates most of the record. This tune is an example of that. It is fun to hear Brent Bodrug playing a synth solo while Andy comps for him on the piano. Although Brent was already a good young piano player (having been recognized early on by Oscar Peterson) he had a great interest and nice touch with synths. Brent has gone on to be a very successful producer/engineer and studio owner. This is a fun tune to listen to loud as it turns into a crunchy jam on the way out.

Ha! Track 6, Too Much Music is a pretty funny response to the last track. It is kind of a smooth jazz vibe. (however there are some interesting rhythmic subtleties to it)

The engineer on the session was a guy that "came with" the Cherry Beach studio and his name is Brian Nevin. My memory of Brian is of him being very friendly and quick at what he did. Whenever we needed an opinion he was tuned in and ready to offer up his thoughts. We have recently been re-aqquainted as we play a regular Sunday night shinny hockey game together. (he is a great player!) Don't blink or you might miss She Danced For Gordie Howe. I think I had to put that little excerpt on there just because I loved the title so much.

I wish we recorded the plastic woodblock differently on the next track; The Real Thing. I think it should have been more present or up front. When I wrote this drum part Kevin hated it and said it couldn't be done. He did it eve
ntually. Some of my playing on tunes like this one make me cringe. Maybe I should go back and re-record all the guitar tracks but on the banjo. (I have threatened to do this and still have the original two inch tapes!)

Steve Szigeti was a great pal in designing the CD cover and package for me. He was always drawing as we grew up. It was fun hanging out and choosing these old images from old Sears catalogues. The inside pictures are fun. Good memories. The photo of me, taken by Bruce Zinger is quite a classic mullet.

Squirrels can Fly, is probably the tune from this record that I have played the most since then. We really played it fast back then. It brings back memories of some of the little run-out weekend gigs this band would do in Quebec City. I miss those days. We did a national tour too. Vial Rail gave us all passes and we took the train for a big part of the travel. Thanks to the Canada Council touring office (as it was called back then) it was quite a success.

This record is dedicated to the loving memory of my Mom; Isobel Posgate. She died before I made this record but she was with me for the whole thing and I feel her presence with me still today. I am tearing up writing this as I was when I recorded Mom's Birds for her. In her last days, she enjoyed the life and vitality of the birds feeding by her bedroom window in Burlington, Ontario.

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