Michael Kaeshammer comes on fast, a little wave to the audience; he sits at the piano and starts out playing powerfully. His two band mates, Mark Rogers (bass) and Mark McLean (drums), are behind him, they come on in support providing superb accompaniment. He moves into "Brown’s Boogie Woogie" the band joins in adding to the excitement of the fast boogie woogie tune, a style Kaeshammer is completely at home with. He has that Art Tatum stride style, a solid left hand rhythm pounding out non stop, a stomping right foot that positions his knee above the piano, keeping time, motivating the audience to stomp along, a right hand that is blistering the keyboard.
A breathtaking entrance, two rapid fire songs that focus on solid piano playing and it’s time to say hello. A little dialogue with the audience, toss in some thank's for inviting him back, it seems he’s a regular in these parts. He adds warmth to his performance, he charms the audience, he lets the people know that there are two Oscar Peterson albums that everyone should possess, Night Train and Trail of Dreams: A Canadian Suite. The next song he played was dedicated to Huntsville from the Quebec suite, by Peterson, "Because it’s north," he explained.
He played his hit song, "My Love" a blues tune by Willie Dixon that sounds as a breath of fresh air in the voice of Mr. Kaeshammer. A pure, distinct sound. Soulful, smooth and packing a passionate punch.
An unintentional jab at the audience, he said, "This is a song everyone here should know, it was written in 1929," the audience chuckled. An older looking audience, many retirees from cottage country. He got it and replied, "Not because you’re old, because it’s a great dance song. We play it in seven four, good luck with it," a great save. He pounces into a modified tango. The trio played it hot, with drummer McLean skillfully dancing around his kit with the brushes. An excellent display of incredible tap dance dynamics from brush work alone. He switched to sticks briefly to lay down a funky groove in double time, playing triplets with rim shot accents. The bass and piano play ostinato. Returning to the bridge, the band gets crazy and a wild finale ensues. The crowd loved it.
The second set opened with a Kaeshammer solo, a display of his piano skills, mixing classical, pop and jazz all in a highly entertaining manner. The audience witnessed a cutting contest, something you would have seen in the days of Tatum, Waller, Johnson, Professor Longhair and that group of skillful piano entertainers. The contest pitted Kaeshammer against McLean. McLean was at a disadvantage, his only weapons were brushes and a snare drum, McLean is one of the most skillful brush masters around and he finessed his way through every slick piano maneuver thrown at him. The contest ended as a draw.
The performance carried on with many of the songs from Michael Kaeshammer’s newest release Days Like These (2007 Universal Music). A few twists and turns along the way. With a feature bass solo by Mark Rogers that was one of the many high light moments for me. A bass player with great intonation, wonderful suspended tone, harmonics created over the bridge of the bass, a beautiful feel for the music. A reggae number was performed in a boogie woogie style, "Stop That Train" by Peter Tosh, also included in the new album. The concert concluded with a catchy tune entitled "Cinnamon Sun" and another of the hits from the Michael Kaeshammer album Days Like These, a tune that is still playing in my head. A reminder of a wonderful performance.