The beginning of April arrived with a tremendous amount of excitement. Over the coming weeks I was to perform eleven shows in three different continents. This madness started on the 9th April.
You never know where you are likely to be playing and the first show was in Oxford with Wild in a reception of a Fitness Centre. Not the venue I expected, but yet a very organised event for some of its members. It was decided by the owners to invite its guests to a Rock n Roll party night as a way of a thank you for joining their gym. The night was very enjoyable, albeit there were only about twenty guests that paid the £15 cover charge. Everybody was up dancing by the first couple of songs and it turned out to be a great night. I have always said I would rather play to twenty people that like us, than two hundred that don’t.
The next day was a rest day before teaching again on the Monday. In the middle of a tour it is easy not to bother about teaching, but where possible, I always like to honour my lessons. Most of my students look forward to their lesson each week and so do I, so there was no way I was going to let them down.
Tuesday morning arrived with a smile. Today was the day I head out to Canada to see my long friend Pete Turland and play some shows with his band. Although my flight wasn’t due to leave until 3.15pm, I was ready and packed for Heathrow airport by mid morning. Over the last few months I had been working on a list of songs for these shows. These tracks consisted of some rare rockabilly tracks including artists such as Bobby Loller, Sonny Fisher and Rick Carty. I also had the opportunity to play some T-Bone Walker tracks. T-Bone Walker blows me away every time I hear his music. I don’t often get the chance to play this style of music back home, so to finally get to play some of his tunes with great musicians was very exciting.
I landed around 5.15pm Alberta time and Pete was ready and waiting for me at the airport. It had been a few years since we have had the chance to catch up and hang out, so inevitably it was only right to grab a few beers. Not only was I there for the shows, but also to keep my friendship alive, as we have known each other for many years. Since the last time we had got together, Pete and Danielle have had twin daughters and this was my chance to meet up with his wonderful girls. We spent that evening and the next day catching up on recent events and what we had been up to over the last few years. We may be a few thousand miles apart, but that’s no excuse for letting our friendship fall by the wayside. I enjoyed these few days as much as the shows we performed.
Thursday soon came around and before I knew it, it was time to put on my drumming head. We were due to play at Rusty Reeds Blues bar for the next three nights. Rusty Reeds is a reasonable size venue with a dance floor area and a great stage including a full PA system. The drum kit was the house kit, but luckily it sounded just the way I liked it. The first show was more of a relaxed affair with not many people showing up, but then again, it was a blessing considering this was the first time we’d played together as a band. Chris Brzezicki was to be the bass player. Chris is a major force in Edmonton with most touring musicians giving him the call as they pass through Alberta. Considering the history of these two musicians, I was certainly in the presence of giants.
The gig was very enjoyable, but I knew I had some work to do the following day to make sure things would go better. Although I had listened to the songs relentlessly, I’d failed to concentrate on the endings. The biggest thing I learnt was the standard blues ending. Like I said, I love this style of music and listen to it a lot, but I’d concentrated on the groove more than the endings. I woke up early the following day and corrected this by lying in bed with my iPod and a pair of drums sticks in my hands. Not a conventional way of rehearsing, but it must have worked, Friday and Saturdays gigs were killer. Each gig got busier and by Saturday we had almost a full house. This was a different experience for me; most of my gigs over in the UK are corporate events, which always have a captive audience. These people spent $10 to see The Pete Turland Band, for this reason I was completely honoured.
I was disappointed that the shows came to an end very quickly, but my drumming skills were still required further. We were due to go into the studio on the Sunday, hopefully to record an albums worth of material. We arrived about 12pm and got straight to it. Pete had got the track list sorted and we played all the tracks live one after another. After performing three nights previously, the recording session went really well. We managed to record eleven tracks and although there is more editing to be done, I am really pleased with the results. I should have a final copy of this album by August and have it released over here not long after.
That evening all three of us retired back at Pete’s place to enjoy a great curry and a few more beers. Obviously we also spent the night listening to the days recording, but I had a more important date with Presley, Pete’s older daughter. I had promised her I would play the Nintendo Wii with her. The game was already primed and ready to go when we arrived. Bowling was the choice and I actually thought I was in with a chance. No likely, the experience of the young was certainly Presley’s advantage. I think the phrase she used was “ I Just kick your Butt” She certainly did that, but the best thing was being called uncle Glenn so I’ll let her off.
This was my last night in Canada and I was flying back home on the Monday evening, but I still had one more drumming job to do. Carla Rugg is a music educator and music therapist working in Edmonton. She also performs around the world with her fantastic voice and country style acoustic guitar. Her work is invaluable and when she asked me to record a few tracks for her forth-coming album, I jumped at the chance. We hit the studio about 10am and managed to record five tracks and I didn’t even play with a pair of sticks. Brushes were the order of the day and what a great sound the studio engineer produced.
This had been a whirlwind trip, not only for the music, but also for finally getting the chance to hang out with old and new friends. Thanks to Kevin Lesmister for lending me his cymbals, Carla Rugg for inviting me to play on her new album and Rusty Reed for having us play for three nights. The biggest Thank you goes to Pete Turland and Danielle Turland for inviting me into their home. You are the best and I love you more than I could ever tell you.
After saying my goodbyes in Edmonton I was soon back in the UK. No rest for me though, I was due to leave for the Derry Jazz festival in a few days time, but more on that in part two.
Thank you for reading.