Canada’s current Boogie Woogie maestro touched down onto the stage of the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre and delivered two sets of dazzling keyboard dynamism that began with a feisty rendition of “The Sheik of Araby” and didn’t let up until the final notes of “Caravan” came home to rest.
From solos to quartets (Chris Gale, tenor/soprano sax, Marc Rogers, bass, Davide DiRenzo, drums) Michael Kaeshammer and his merry band left their fans tappin’ along to a harmonically fanciful setting of “The Saints” and first a tease then a full-blown incarnation of Ravel’s Bolero. The former a breath of fresh air, the latter nowhere near the magical hypnotism of the original. Some things are best left alone.
As has been already documented on CD (cross-reference below) Kaeshammer’s singing abilities add greater depth to his keyboard genius. “Comes Love” is a great chart, but needs the distinctive quality of the likes of Harry Connick Jr. or Michael Feinstein (cross-reference below) to lift it from good to extraordinary.
His talented colleagues are very much “with the program.” Rogers flies across his strings like a man possessed, bending and pushing at will; going miles beyond “laying down the bottom” (including a few fearless moments as assistant percussionist). Very little got by DiRenzo. His satin-snare contributions were a constant pleasure and cymbals-as-bells a refreshing delight. Whether wailing through the sultry “St. James Infirmary Blues” or melting keys in the frenetic “Song for Helmut Lipsky,” Gale proved as dependable as he was sensitive and nearly matched that level on the regulation soprano horn.
But there’s never a doubt that this is Kaeshammer’s show. His monster technique gave the long-suffering Bosendorfer a month of workouts in just two hours. Countless hours in the practice studio and study of the masters have imbued his hands with octaves to burn and the savvy understanding and special knowledge of how and when to use the entire spectrum of pianistic colouring. Throughout the night, snippets from others (J.S. Bach “Inventions” to a moment of the “A Train” to “La Comparsita”) added extra spice and bits of familiarity that play with mind and memory even as new tracks are recorded.
Homage to the masters was both respectful (Oscar Petersen’s Canadiana Suite—“Places St. Henri”) and inspired (Fats Waller’s “Handful of Keys” a concert highlight).
Future visits and further CD releases are eagerly anticipated. With such an obvious abundance of chops, inventiveness and stamina, will Kaeshammer find the all-too-rare royal jelly of “less is more” and go to the head of the pack? Can’t wait to find out! JWR