Paul Neufeld career highlights
February 3, 2007
Rhythm & Truth Gospel. YFC in Belleville, Ontario. Wonderful concert supporting
Youth Unlimited. R&T featuring Lester McLean on vocals /sax, Quisha Wint,
vocals, Colin Campbell, guitar/vocals, Doan Pham, drums, Kevin Turcotte,
trumpet, Sean O’Connor, saxes, Steve Donald, trombone and PN on organ and
sousaphone. Huge snowstorm that night, but really great concert.
December 10, 2006
Rhythm & Truth Gospel Christmas. Yorkview Church in Newmarket, Ontario.
Fundraiser for homeless shelter, Inn From The Cold. Lester McLean, vocal/sax;
Scott Suttie, trombone; Colin Campbell, guitar/vocals; Doan Pham, drums, and me
on organ and keys.
August 24/25, 2006
NOJO plus Phatt Al at The Rex in Toronto. Two nights with my favourite
freestyling rapper and my big band. Absolutely killing. Phatt Al is a murderer,
as the old reggae guys would say.
February 24, 2006
Played sousaphone on a Bruce Cockburn record, with Scott Suttie on euphonium
and David Buchbinder and Kevin Turcotte on alto horns. Really fun and the
realization of a dream as I’ve been a Cockburn nut since I was a kid. Got
hooked that summer my sister Christine came home from university with Tokyo
constantly singing in her head. However, my new goal is to be audible on a
Bruce Cockburn. I figure I’m the only guy in the world who could pick out the
sousaphone part on the tune Mystery from the album Life Short Call Now. I’m
down there with the swirling basses, cellos, electric bass. Go ahead and
transcribe my part!
February 11, 2006
New Orleans, LA. Played sousaphone (borrowed down there from Tim Stambough –
thanks Tim!) with a show the CBC put on in support of musicians in post-Katrina
NOLA. It was a real privilege to meet and play with people like Johnny
Vidocavich, Mark Mullins, Brian Coogan. Got to play with Colin Linden, the
Mighty Popo, Jane Bunnett, Rich Underhill, The Soul Rebels. I got hooked into a
band needing a sousaphone player, completely on the spur of the moment – they
were marching by and needed a guy. Thanks to Sidney Wyche for including me in
the Vieux Carre parade. I’ll never forget that experience.
Also an anecdote amongst a hundred that I could include from those four days -
across the street from the House Of Blues where we are playing is the coolest
record store in Louisiana, the Louisiana Music Factory, populated by the
hippest High Fidelity types in the world, and I spy behind the counter a bunch
of caps that say SousaFunk on them, and being a purveyor of funky music on
sousaphones I figure that is the hat for me and I ask the guy behind the
counter how much for the hats and he says "You don't want the hat, they're
overpriced and not very good" and I say "no, I play the sousaphone and I play
funky music, I think I need the hat" and he says "I recommend you give up the
horn and not buy the fucking hat" and I say "OK buddy, I'll walk around the
store and think about it", by this time he is my favourite guy in the world, so
I walk around for half an hour and come back with my purchases and say "I've
thought about it and I think I need to see the hats" and he says "whatever" and
gets a few down and then says "you want it in badass black, pussy blue, or
sissy orange" and then both he and I look at my bright orange shirt and I say
"I'll take the sissy orange, please" and then he relieves me of $16 which seems
like a great bargain for a hat I like and a story that good.
December 18, 2005
Rhythm & Truth Gospel Christmas. Yorkview Church in Newmarket, Ontario.
Fundraiser for homeless shelter, Inn From The Cold. Lester McLean, vocal/sax;
Colin Campbell, guitar/vocals; Doan Pham, drums, and me on organ and keys.
The first of the gospel Christmas shows and the time when the gospel R&T seems
to really get going.
December 2, 2005
Enoch Turner Schoolhouse in Toronto. A beautiful small venue and me on piano,
Laura Lynn on vocals, and Rob Clutton on bass. We presented a program of
Christmas music with a quiet, contemplative chamber feel that left us feeling
like it was a magic night. One of those nights, like these ones in this list,
which you can’t quite describe.
June 27, 2005
The Rivethead at the Bier Mkt in Toronto as part of the jazz festival. Roberto
Occhipinti on bass and Paul Antonio on drums. Michael O. and I had picked away
at The Rivethead idea for some time but this really badly attended gig seemed
to be a night where some of the ideas for a direction coalesced. A year later
we record something! Fast moving, we ain’t. A year after that it might come
June 3, 2005
A jobbing gig? Yes, but no ordinary jobbing gig. First of all it is GrooveYard,
which is where I do 90% of my jobbing but it is worth mentioning, once in a
while, how darn good and fun that band is. To listen and dance to and to be in.
But this night we played a wedding, for the wonderful Sophocles family, in
Boston. That is the only time I’ve ever got on a plane to do a wedding gig and
it sure stands out as a jobbing highlight. Besides the fact that any GrooveYard
hang is a good hang, this was an especially good hang. Loved the trad Greek
band that played whenever we weren’t playing – hats off to George Makredes of
The Sophocles family is split between Toronto and Boston, so some of the Boston
crowd had seen GrooveYard at Toronto weddings of family members and Alexandra
Sophocles, bless her heart, decided that we were the best band for her wedding
too! A wonderful time was had by all.
May 20, 2005
NOJO with strings and Phatt Al at the Distillery Jazz Festival in Toronto.
Rapping and string section. It was nice.
May 6/7, 2005
NOJO in The Netherlands. We went over as part of a celebration of the 60th
anniversary of the Canadian liberation of Holland. An amazing experience and I
learned so much that I was ashamed I never knew before about the role of Canada
in that liberation and just what the Dutch people were going through at the
NOJO Western Canada tour. Great fun playing Winnipeg, Gretna, Saskatoon, tons
of places in BC, and more. We turned off Alexis Baro’s trumpet mic after the
first night and never turned it on again. That guy can take your head clean
off! Andy Ballantyne was tearing it up too, if I recall. Romberg? Forget about
it. You missed it unless you didn’t.
April 2, 2005
Occhipinti and I lose another Juno in Winnipeg. We are great at that. Five
kicks at the can so far and only one win! You can, of course, take two
perspectives on that. We’re five for five on the NOJO records. The difference
this time is we spent our own money flying to Winnipeg.
NOJO Northeastern USA Tour. First time to the USA, except for some gigs in
Buffalo over the years. Gigs ran from amazing to utterly empty, as you might
expect for a first kick at the can. In Boston, Ryles club had just changed
management, there was NO promotion and no one except five people from Rounder
Records made an appearance. Nine guys in the band, eh? Bad enough to even be
funny at the time. However – Castleton University in Vermont? Amazing. The
Charleston Jazz Series in West Virginia? Completely great. A wonderful and very
well informed, appreciative audience. Rocking. Check out the “Steve Gets
Carded” video from that same night -
January 5-9, 2005
PN Quartet at The Top O’ The Senator. The club is gone now, which is sad. The
Walk Together band had a wonderful week there in early January, with full
houses. The music was terrific fun to make with Rob Clutton (bass), Muhtadi,
(congas) and Jesse Baird (drums).
December 19, 2004
PN Trio in London, Ontario at Northpark Church. There were whiteouts on the
highway and a traffic stoppage that almost forced us to cancel the whole thing.
The band that was going to play our intermission had to play as the warm-up
act, we were so late. We arrived frantic and freaked (me anyway) and proceeded
to play a calm, introspective concert of great beauty. Jesse and Rob were
unbelievable. A night you couldn’t have predicted.
September 22-25, 2004
NOJO with Sam Rivers
Toronto and Montreal.
May 23, 2004
NOJO + Strings
Concert at Distillery Jazz Festival in Toronto. The NOJO9 plus a 12-piece
string section. Our second kick at the NOJO Strings concept and a great thrill.
NOJO9 + Don Byron in Holland
A complete whirlwind of playing in Tilburg and Amsterdam. We played a cool club
called Paradox in Tilburg and had a wacky Dutch comedian open up for us. It was
a bit David Lynch-y, truth be known, but the gig was great. First time I ever
heard Don Byron play tenor sax. In Amsterdam we were the guests of the Willem
Breuker Kollektief and played a lovely theatre called the Werkteater. The
characters in the WBK were really nice to us, and it was a great show. The
green room after the gig may have been the funniest place to be on the planet
on that evening. Holland, between Christmas and New Year’s, sleep deprivation,
just finished our job….you know how that goes.
October 26, 2006
GrooveYard plays for Toronto Raptors party
Fun gig and all, but it was pretty clear that Antonio Davis was on his way off
the team. He was standing all by himself, sullenly meeting his professional
obligations. Was very pleasant when I shook his hand though. I get a bit
standoffish when I’m being moved from one multi-million dollar contract to
another, so I understood. We did a few years of this job.
October 25, 2003
NOJO9 + Strings
The first concert of the string music. St-George-The-Martyr/Music Gallery
production. I premiered the piece “St. George” of course. It was a magical
night. Not a big crowd but we all walked out feeling like something special had
September 25, 2003
Walk Together launch party at Enoch Turner Schoolhouse in Toronto. Rob Clutton
on bass, Jesse Baird on drums and Muhtadi on congas.
August 8, 2003
PN Trio, Oakville Jazz Festival
Electric version of the band, which is relevant because we were powered by a
generator that kept cutting in and out, leading to trading with the drums at
the most unexpected moments. It turned out really cool. Everyone should try it
NOJO + Sam Rivers, Canada Tour
We went out West and down East with Sam Rivers and recorded the tracks for City
Of Neighbourhoods at Sonic Temple when we were in Halifax. Sam is a singular
figure in the history of African-American music and just a great hang. He was
79 when we were on the road with him and was tireless and much less whiney than
the rest of us. You can have a conversation with Sam that you can’t have with
anyone on the planet – what was it like in Chaka Khan’s band, what was it like
in Miles’ band, with Billie Holiday, with T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Witherspoon, and
on and on and on it goes. He has been a respected professional musician since
his teens and his own groundbreaking records start showing up in the 60s when
he was already a very experienced sideman. Fuchsia Swing Song is his debut as a
leader (as far as I know) and he was 40. He’s done so much influential
recording and playing between then and now and is turning it out at a great
rate right now in his 80s. A completely inspiring musician and very enjoyable
May 18, 2003
NOJO + Phil Nimmons, The Rex in Toronto
May 11, 2003
NOJO + David Mott, The Rex in Toronto
December 23, 2002
HOHO NOJO at The Rex
December 20, 2002
PN Group, TSN Christmas Special
Played funkified Christmas tunes live on TV for the annual TSN Christmas hockey
broadcast. We did this a few times over as many years and it was pretty kooky
fun. One year I had my old friend Paul Brundtland in from Tokyo on vocals and
congas and another I had Paul Reddick on vocals/harmonica. Our synth-pop
version of Carol Of The Bells was pretty darn good! Mark Kelso on drums, Collin
Barrett on bass.
October 24, 2002
Seducer’s Diary, MacLaren Arts Centre, Barrie, Ontario
Jesse Baird on drums and me on electronics and keys. The only rule was “no
stopping” – we improvised for a couple of hours at this lovely art gallery. I
loved it and would do it all the time if Jesse weren’t so furiously in demand
that he is never around Toronto! Or he is off farming somewhere. Beautiful guy,
July 25, 2002
NOJO at Ottawa International Jazz Festival
This concert was supposed to be NOJO plus Ray Anderson, brilliant trombonist
from the USA, one of my all-time fave musicians and friend. Sadly his wife
Jackie, poet and dancer, lost her battle with cancer just days before. We had a
beautiful time with the crowd in Ottawa that day as we all sent our thoughts
and prayers to the Anderson family. The audience all chipped in as we passed
the hat (it was a very big outdoor crowd) for Ray and the Ottawa Jazz folks
contributed as well. Heartwarming.
NOJO Canadian tour
Massive, by our standards, cross-Canada tour in support of Highwire.
November 12, 2001
Isabel Neufeld is born to Ilona and Paul! Not a career highlight, but how can I
avoid mentioning it? Kids are better than careers in this house anyway.
September 10, 11, 12, 2001
NOJO in studio recording Highwire
Famous date in that list. We were recording with Don Byron on clarinets, Hugh
Marsh on electric violin, and the NOJO16 at Phase One in Toronto. Day one went
well and Don was up from NYC and we were all having a good time. On the morning
of day two, the fateful 11th, we were expecting Ray Anderson in from NYC as
well. It was Ray himself who called me from the roadside in Long Island, on his
way to the airport, to tell me the news about the smoke flying out of
Manhattan. He was on a hill that allowed him a vantage on the scene and it was
during this phone call that the second plane hit, while I watched on TV and he
stood by his car. An unbelievable moment.
I went to the studio and met up with everyone in the band. Don was distracted
by making lots of phone calls and assuring himself that all was well with
friends and family. As a life-long New Yorker he has a lot of connections to
check on and, as you can imagine, much worry.
After talking and talking and talking, we decided we should get back to work.
We recorded some good material that day but none of us can go back and listen
to it without thinking about the circumstances. Michael and I wrote about it
more in the liner notes to the CD.
September 13-16, 2002
Rhythm & Truth, Fredericton Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival
I put this one out of order because it relates to the 9/11/01 story. It was
very strange flying out of Toronto that day as you can imagine. Security wasn’t
exactly high so much as odd. Everyone was still dazed I think. Anyway, half the
band couldn’t make the gigs because of security issues at the airport and very
few planes flying, and we cobbled together an outfit based on who was around at
the festival. Turned out pretty well, but such an atmosphere at that time! The
musicians and audiences alike were elsewhere in their thoughts and yet all
together in a bonded experience.
August 18, 19, 2001
NOJO + Sam Rivers
Hal Hill presented NOJO with Sam, first time ever, at the Markham Jazz Festival
which allowed us to then book two nights at the Top O’ The Senator in Toronto.
The line-ups were well into the street and the nights were unbelievable.
Michael and I have always been grateful to Hal for getting the ball rolling on
July 1995 to July 2001
Rhythm & Truth at the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal
I spent a week in Montreal every July in those years with different versions of
Rhythm & Truth. It began as Ilona and I were driving back from our honeymoon in
Charlevois, Quebec. We ended our honeymoon with a week of gigs supporting my
first CD – Daddy Long Legs. The FIJM put us up in an extra nice suite, knowing
our circumstances. Very nice! They never did that in the years when I roomed
with the likes of Paul Reddick or Steve Donald, I tells you what. There are so
many memories of those gigs and times in Montreal, I really don’t know where to
begin. For now then, I won’t.
June 24, 25, 2001
Ray Anderson with the PN Trio, Toronto Jazz Festival
We had played the day before as NOJO + Ray and it was great BUT, the real
highlight for me was small band with Ray for two nights. What an experience. I
still think back to it when I’m feeling stale. Ray will let you know everything
that is great about real jazz music. From Jelly Roll to Professor Longhair to
Albert Ayler and everywhere else in a completely unified groove. Rob Clutton,
my old compatriot, on bass and Anthony Michelli on drums.
March 29, 2001
PN Trio, San Fillipo fundraiser
Our friends Elizabeth and Randall Linton have a daughter named Elisa who has a
terrible disease. Check out this for more information on them and San Fillipo
Syndrome - http://www.alifeforelisa.org
While I was doing this gig in support of these good people, Ilona and I had
decided we’d make a donation by way of something in the silent auction. So she
was hunting around while I played and found an abstract painting that she
loved. No one had bid on it so she went in with the minimum and when I was on
break I agreed that we should go for it. It was large and orange and apparently
we were the only ones who liked it because that minimum bid never got
challenged. We took it home for $150 not knowing anything about it except that
we liked it! Did a little research after our purchase and discovered it was by
a fellow named Ray Mead who was member of the Painters Eleven in Toronto in the
Turns out that painting is worth a lot more than $150. That is one of those
things that sometimes happens to other people, you know. Never to you though,
just to other people. We love the painting still, it is called Tidal Orange.
October 21, 2000
Maple Blues presents PN’s Jazz/Blues Connection
The Toronto Blues Society hired me to put on a show showing the connections
between jazz and blues – not a big stretch by my standards! But maybe for some.
I had a great time doing it with an expanded version of Rhythm & Truth. We
added Molly Johnson, Jackie Richardson, on vocals to Paul Reddick from R&T and
Rob Clutton on bass and did a big mix of music that showed connections between
the two worlds. Really great night. I wrote an article for their magazine for
it as well. http://www.torontobluessociety.com/0010cov_jazzblues.htm
June 29 to July 3, 2000
NOJO Cross Canada
Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver in four days. The funny memory for me is
that Ilona and Madeleine (then 2 going on 3) and I moved out of our house at
Bayview and Steeles on June 28, I went on the road June 29, they checked into a
hotel for a few days until we took possession of our house in Aurora on July 4,
and I came back on the 3rd. What a crazy week! In a couple of hotels while on
the road I had to fill in a form with my home address and I could honestly
write the hotel’s address. My little family was adrift and I was hanging with
April 15, 2000
Rhythm & Truth opening for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Comfort Zone, Toronto
A great thrill for me, as the Dirty Dozen were the reason I took up the
sousaphone at age 25. They mopped the floor with us and were so nice about it!
NOJO + Don Byron, Italy, Umbria Jazz
The day after New Year’s Day of the new millennium. The day after we were all a
little worried the planes would be dropping out of the sky, NOJO and Don Byron
flew to the Umbria Jazz Festival in Orvieto, Italy. We had an unbelievable
time; I still think about it. Usually at meal times. We got wonderful press
coverage, a nice thing on RAI Uno about us. We did a show where Cecil Taylor
went on before us. Yowza. Then, it was cheaper to stay and hang in Rome for a
few days than fly back mid-week, so we did. A NOJO16 joint vacation. Too much
fun and the greatest food on the planet.
NOJO in Northern Ontario
We did a few gigs up north. Started in Sudbury and ended up in Kapuskasing,
about 12 hours north of Toronto. We had a fabulous time in the Kap. It is
fondly remembered by everyone in the band who was there. The folks there
treated us so well! The night at the Legion Hall sitting in with the rock and
roll band, the tour of the pulp mill, the little lecture thing Michael and I
did for young folks, the concert at the really nice hall. Does that sound like
I’m goofing? No way, it was great.
NOJO + Ray Anderson
The first time with Mr. Anderson. We did two shows, London, Ontario and
Toronto. Huge blizzards for both shows and yet, great turnouts. Get this - Ray
Anderson, hero of mine, while I’m cleaning up the CD sales in London is outside
clearing the ice off my car. The first indication that this was the kind of guy
you can work with! Wonderful fella Ray is.
February 6, 1999
The Paulist Brothers, Sir Sam’s Inn, Haliberton, Ontario
I almost forgot about the Paulist Brothers! For years, Paul Reddick on
vocals/harmonica, Paul Brundtland on drums/vocals, and me on piano, did gigs in
little pubs and sports bars playing old time barrelhouse blues. We did a ton of
gigs for about three years. Then we made a demo and it was all over. Then Paul
B., Peebs to us in the band, moved to Tokyo. We named ourselves after the
Catholic Order The Paulist Fathers. We used to have to regularly produce ID to
prove we were all called by the same name. Like we were the Ramones. Playing
blues in pubs.
September 25, 26, 1998
NOJO + Joe Lovano, Toronto and Buffalo
July 31, 1998
Madeleine Marika Kiss Neufeld enters the world!
June 7, 1998
Hu-Tsa-Tsa, Gypsy Co-Op, Toronto
For a couple of years I played tuba in Jonno Lightstone’s klezmer band. We
played a lot at the Free Times Café for wonderful Sunday bruches called, if I
recall it correctly, “Bella, Did Ya Eat?”. This gig was a wedding, I think! The
old daytimers are helping less as we go further back in the memory.
Overall, the old daytimer leads me to believe there was a lot of blues and
klezmer played by me that year. Also, NOJO with Bryon at Harbourfront and a few
cool little Rhythm & Truth things, including the FIJM.
R&T at the Montreal Jazz Festival, lots of blues with the Paulist Brothers,
and klezmer tuba with Hu-Tsa-Tsa. NOJO at the Art Gallery of Ontario was a
standout. Had a Juno nomination for FireWater. Did a really fun week at The Top
‘O The Senator in Toronto with my small group at the time which was drums,
percussion, two double bassists, violin and me. That was a great band, as I
look back on it.
Again, lots of blues with the Paulists. I notice the 2nd annual HOHO NOJO was
held at the Mockingbird (now defunct), the last before we ensconced at the Rex
for all eternity. I also did some gigs as a “lounge” trio promoting a line of
cds on the EMI label – funny. NOJO played at the Bamboo; I miss the Bamboo.
Played the Montreal Bistro with my sextet. Rhythm & Truth at the Ottawa Jazz
Fest. Michael Occhipinti gets married this year and I threw him a stag. We made
him wear a mouse mascot costume the whole night as we went drinking. That mouse
could really hold his liquor, we were all disappointed to learn. NOJO at the
Hillebrand Jazz Festival. R&T at the FIJM. NOJO wins a Juno! R&T in Brandon,
Manitoba. Did some playing with two bands of friends that I remember enjoying a
lot – Steve Donald’s Jellystone, and the Paul Brundtland Project.
The year Ilona and I got married! June 17 to be exact. Lots of R&T this year.
Our first week at the FIJM, a gig at the Ottawa National Library, lots of
things in Toronto. R&T didn’t have a dedicated vocalist back then, we were a
six-piece. It was a fun version of the band though, and Daniel Barnes on drums
did step up to sing sometimes. NOJO did months and months of Saturday
afternoons at The Rex getting ready to record out first cd. Right after it came
out we went into the studio to make FireWater. A productive year for NOJO. NOJO
also did the only gig ever without me – June 27. I was on honeymoon. I made my
first two records in the months leading up to the wedding. I probably would
have been useless as a help to Ilona anyway, but this gave me an excuse to hang
it on. 1995 had lots of blues with The Paulists.
The first HOHO NOJO at the Rex. R&T open for the Sidemen at the Horseshoe in
Toronto and Paul Reddick and I get reacquainted after meeting once many years
earlier. We begin a musical relationship that still continues and he becomes
the first singer for R&T. Then he started touring too much and I sacked him and
started using Paul Brundtland, then he moved to Tokyo and I got Lester McLean!
That is working out great. NOJO plays at The Pilot Tavern in Toronto in 1994.
Our first gig ever was there on March 15. We got a nice bit of press in the
Globe & Mail after and it was a real shot in the arm. I’m grateful to Mark
Miller for being supportive of us on that very first night. It was just what
Michael and I needed to encourage us in the endeavor. 1994 had a bunch of gigs
for R&T that I’m not sure how I got, as we had no disc yet. I think I had a
cassette demo of some Dirty Dozen Brass Band covers that we did. I played in
the band of a singer/songwriter from Brazil named Satranga and we did some
funny gigs, especially the one in Montreal at Foufounes Electric where he had
members of Cirque de Soleil doing trapeze over our heads. Satranga remains the
only bandleader that ever took me and the band shopping for outfits. I also
played solo piano pretty regularly at Thumpers in Parkdale. I met a lot of
Did solo piano at Thumpers and at Capriccio’s. Capriccio’s was booked by my
friend, trombonist Steve Donald, that’s how I met him, hassling him on the
phone for gigs. Capriccio’s is now the Orbit Room but at the time they had a
grand piano and it was a nice place to play. I did some duo gigs there and
elsewhere with my future sister-in-law Katalin Kiss on vocals. 1993 saw
infrequent NOJO rehearsals as Michael and I wrote our first music for the band.
We’d call a rehearsal and produce two or three more charts and that is how we
grew the repertoire and figured out who the best guys were for the band. Did
some rehearsing in my parent’s basement in Etobicoke. I played as a busker at
Lollapalooza! Me on tuba (I really stunk at that in 1993, I had only just
started) and Mike Smith on trombone. We were official buskers, and I don’t know
how that happened. The best thing was that Anthony from Fishbone (of whom I was
a big fan) marched up to us and said we “had it going on.” That was still a
relatively cool thing to say in 1993 and it made my week at the time. Did a
bunch of gigs this year and 1994 as Soul Station, which was Paul Brundtland on
vocals/drums, Michael O. on guitar and me on keys. A precursor to Grooveyard.
Played keys with Satranga. Played typewriter at Cagewake for John Cage. I did
my first gigs as a bandleader running my own quartet, played a place called No
Jacket Required and also C’est What in Toronto. Played blues with an old
singer, now passed, named Bob Robinson. I particularly remember playing in
Fenlon Falls with Bob, and I think Ken Harper on drums, and staying in his
trailer. He smoked so much, the addiction would wake him up every couple of
hours all through the night! Not the best nights of sleep I ever got. Did duo
gigs with Katalin Kiss in 1992. I finished York University’s music BFA in 1992
and that should count for something.
1988 to 1992
York University in Toronto. It is all a blur pretty much. Michael O. and I lead
our first band together, Five Nude Men, doing my first original compositions
with a band. Michael had more experience than I on that front, coming from a
musical family and having lots of high school rock band experience that I
didn’t. I learned a lot from him then, and still do actually. We also played in
differently named versions of a funk band (Mikhail Gorbachev is the only one I
remember right now because Doug Cameron sang everything in a Russian accent,
including DMSR by Prince. Remember? That was awesome) that was my first
experience in anything like that. I also recall playing in Simon somebody’s
fusion band, a job I was not well prepared for but I fought my way through and
got better. Played in Brass Traxx, a calypso outfit. Did my one and only cruise
ship gig. Learned about “jobbing”. Studied with James Tenney and David Mott and
Casey Sokol, all influential folks. I’ve always said that if David Mott had not
been the one who auditioned me to get into York, I wouldn’t have gotten in. He
saw through the bad playing to the potentially interesting musician underneath.
It has probably been a terrible disappointment for him, but I’m still grateful.
I came to music school with nearly zero experience with musicians and very weak
skills. I left with much more experience.
Hardly worth mentioning! I played a bit of punk guitar and fooled around on
piano. Pond Scum was a band we had that was lots of fun and did a couple of
friend’s parties. Jon Lee and I would spend quite a bit of time making sounds
on synthesizers. I still do that, and Jon got me started. He had a Jupiter 6,
which rocked. I bought a Korg DSS1 that was a very big deal for me. I did start
studying jazz piano with Brian Rudolf towards the end of my high school career
and that was very good. I sure was a big music hound though. Modern orchestral
music, pre-war blues, avant-rock, free jazz, reggae, whatever wasn’t on the
radio I was consuming in a very intense fashion. Pink Floyd in great quantities
also. That is what turned me into a musician, not the playing experience or the
feeling that I was good at it, but just coming at it from a fan’s perspective
and wanting to be involved. Things have worked out great on that front!