Kaeshammer ready to wow ‘em at Jazz At The Lake

Renowned pianist/singer brings first-class musical talents to Sylvan

Jazz fans won’t want to miss out on this year’s rendition of the popular Jazz At The Lake Festival, running Aug. 18-21 at venues around Sylvan Lake.

Featured artists include the internationally-renowned pianist/singer Michael Kaeshammer, who will be wowing audiences with cuts from his latest CD KAESHAMMER.

“The happy-on-life feeling having only intensified over the previous few years, the material on this album is purely what is on my mind and heart,” he explains of the project which was released this past spring.

“Lyrically this is me at my most vulnerable, musically it’s some of the most fun I’ve had playing the piano and singing.”

Described as a ‘feast for your ears’, the disc deftly blends jazz, soul, pop and R&B influences from the syncopated charms of Kisses in Zanzibar to the sleek, joyful Rendezvous.

His first three recordings, 1996’s Blue Keys, Tell You How I Feel (1998), and No Strings Attached (2000) reflected an increasing maturity and artistic evolution.

After studying classical piano for seven years in his German homeland, a 13-year-old Kaeshammer discovered boogie-woogie and stride piano as played by Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Pinetop Smith and Fats Waller.

His father also loved to play the piano at house parties and ragtime was the genre he was drawn too.

Kaeshammer, 34, still recalls folks gathered around the piano, wine glasses in hand, enjoying the music as much as his dad relished performing. “It had a groove and a rhythm.”

He also remembers checking out a jazz pianist’s concert one night with his dad, but the performer was pretty much wasted and kept playing the same song over and over. Kaeshammer later approached the club’s owner and asked if he could line up a few gigs. As a teen, he was also brimming with confidence so hitting the stage seemed natural. “I was eager. At that age, you also want to show off,” he recalls with a laugh. “Half of the audience was my family anyways.”

In just a few short years, he was playing boogie-woogie piano in clubs, concerts, and festivals all over Germany.

It wasn’t long before a career path was born. Kaeshammer moved to Canada when he was 18, settling first in Victoria but eventually calling Toronto home. He attracted attention right off the bat, performing at blues and jazz festivals across the country during the summer of 1996.

And from the start, he was passionate about his new country. “I felt so at home. And even to this day, as much as I love visiting Europe and Germany, I feel homesick for Canada.”

For Kaeshammer, any other line of ‘work’ is unimaginable.

“For me the performance is as much about the energy coming off the stage as the energy coming from the audience,” he says. “It’s about being myself, writing from the heart and showing my love for life. That’s what I want to convey.

“After the show, people ask me, ‘Do you really have that much fun?’ And I say you don’t know the half of it. It’s even more exhilarating than it looks.

“I love playing more now than ever.”

Kaeshammer performs Aug. 19 at the Stevenson Performing Arts Centre.

Also promising a memorable performance is Tommy Banks on Aug. 20.

Recognized as an accomplished pianist, composer, conductor, producer, recording artist, broadcaster and music educator Banks, a winner of a special achievement award from the Society of Composer, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, needs little introduction.

He made his jazz-playing debut in 1950 in the touring band of saxophonist Don Thompson. Since then, he’s played jazz throughout North America, Europe, Japan and southeast Asia. Besides performing Saturday night, Banks will lead a free jazz workshop in the afternoon.

Also performing on Aug. 20 is Donald Ray Johnson. After about 40 years in the music biz, this Texas-born bluesman is still going strong. Now living in Calgary, Johnson has become a respected member of the Canadian blues community.

Johnny Summers performs Aug. 18. Summers has traveled from Spain and Britain to Hawaii, Los Angeles and New Orleans to play with outstanding musicians and is drawing an ever-growing following. Always on the lookout for the next musical venture, he formed the Calgary Jazz Orchestra in 2004 with 17 of the ‘best of the best’ jazz artists.

He performs with his ensembles which include the Johnny Summers Trio, quartet, quintet and the eight-piece Little Big Band, which will be the configuration of his band for the swing dance/concert at this year’s Jazz At The Lake.

Other highlights include performances by the H.O.T. Dixieland Jazz Band of Calgary, the F-18s, jazz jam sessions, the Jazzamatazz Band and the Red Deer College percussion, big band and faculty jazz bands. A jazz pub-crawl runs on Aug. 21.

Check out www.jazzatthelake.com.