Jazz and boogie woogie pianist extraordinaire Michael Kaeshammer returns to Victoria for the first time in two years, with live performances Dec. 10 at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney and the next night at the McPherson Playhouse. Photo by Tine Acke

Juno Award-winner laying the Hammer down in Victoria

Jazz and boogie woogie pianist Michael Kaeshammer returns to where it all began

To say the world is Michael Kaeshammer’s oyster is an understatement for this talented pianist and composer.

Over three weeks in October and early November, the two-time Juno Award winner (and eight-time nominee) played 18 well-attended shows in China. It was his eighth time touring the country: while he admits to knowing knows few phrases in Mandarin or Cantonese, his musical language “is universal.”

Home for a well-earned rest on the Saanich Peninsula for a handful of days afterward, the German-born, Victoria-raised jazz/boogie-woogie piano king jetted over to Europe for a Nov. 24 concert in Barcelona and visited family along the way.

Kaeshammer is looking forward to the upcoming dates at home, his first theatre shows here since 2016: he’ll play a sold-out show Dec. 10 at the Mary Winspear Centre and a Victoria Blues Society-hosted concert Dec. 11 at the McPherson Playhouse. At 41, many years removed from his days as a teen sensation playing at Hermann’s Jazz Club, he said he’s enjoying playing and connecting with audiences around the world more than ever.

But getting back home?

“It’s the best,” he told Monday in between loads of laundry during his brief pit stop here. “First of all, I’m in love with Vancouver Island and I’m so happy I live here.”

Known for being productive on the road, even during his down time – he wrote much of the material for his new album, Something New, on the trains in China between shows last year – he also takes full advantage of just being home, noodling around on his piano with whatever style of music he wants, for his own enjoyment. “I love playing at home, as much as I love performing for the home audience.”

That said, he figures as long as he can communicate on stage the joy he feels in performing and creating musically, he’ll keep on touring.

Local audiences are in for a treat, as the rhythm section that joined Kaeshammer on the album – drummer Johnny Vidacovich (Professor Longhair) and bassist David Piltch (k.d. lang) – will help present songs from Something New, as well as a selection of the pianist’s favourites.

For the new album, recorded in New Orleans at the historic Esplanade Studios in the heart of the Treme district, producer Kaeshammer shared the spotlight with a series of guest performers that included the likes of Colin James and Randy Bachman, Cyril Neville, Jim Byrnes and Amos Garrett. The result is a combination of blues, jazz and soul that further expands the piano man’s repertoire and demonstrates his versatility.

“New Orleans and the whole piano culture, it’s like the records my dad introduced me to,” he said. “And instead of recording and creating the touring band (in Canada), we decided to record where the sound already is. That was really fun.”

His previous album, No Filter, his first effort at self-producing, was nominated for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year at the 2018 Junos. While he’s not one for awards galas, he attended the event in Vancouver and enjoyed connecting with former collaborator Michael Buble. While the record didn’t win, Kaeshammer said being nominated helped prove to himself that taking on the producing role as well didn’t mean any compromises in the quality of the record.

But he still has special memories of the old days, when he would scour Monday Magazine to find venues to pitch gigs for himself.

“Playing in Victoria is such a special thing for me. I remember seeing some great shows at the McPherson; for me it’s reminding me of when I was 18.”

Tickets for the Dec. 11 show, if still available, can be purchased online at rmts.bc.ca, by calling 250-386-6121 or stopping by the Royal or McPherson theatre box offices. To find out more about Kaeshammer, visit his website at kaeshammer.com.

editor@mondaymag.com

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