Sixth blog post

Did you know I’m in the process of making a new album?  Well, I am.  It’s scheduled to be released in May.

The title track of the album, False Dawn, is inspired by a chapter in one of my favourite books of all time, In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan (Four Seasons Foundation, 1968):

A Lamb at False Dawn

Pauline began talking in her sleep at false dawn from under the watermelon covers. She told a little story about a lamb going for a walk.

“The lamb sat down in the flowers,” she said. “The lamb was all right,” and that was the end of the story.

Pauline often talks in her sleep. Last week she sang a little song. I forget how it went.

I put my hand on her breast. She stirred in her sleep. I took my hand off her breast and she was quiet again.

She felt very good in bed. There was a nice sleepy smell coming from her body. Perhaps that is where the lamb sat down.


Fifth blog post

Greetings from Bangor, Maine!  It’s been a while since I posted anything; today’s been my first chance to write in a long time.

This semester has been crazy: 3 classes with heavier than usual workloads, a part time job, plus gigs and rehearsals most nights of the week. I made it through, but I feel like I could sleep for a week. I haven’t even had a chance to relax since the semester finished, because I left for tour with Shtreiml the day after my last assignment was handed in.

I only have one semester left in my MLIS degree, and even though I’ve enjoyed the program overall, and learned tons, I’m really looking forward to finishing, for many reasons. Here are a few:

Top 5 things I’m looking forward to after finishing my MLIS degree:

  1. No longer hemorrhaging money.
  2. Having time to write music and practice.
  3. Being able to socialize with friends.
  4. Getting a library job, allowing me to finally pay off some of the dauntingly large debt I’ve accumulated over the last few years.
  5. Getting active again and hopefully rid of some (or all) of the extra weight I’ve put on over the course of the degree.

Thinking a little more short term, I’m really looking forward to having a couple weeks off between this tour and the start of the next semester. I really want to spend some quiet time at home and with friends, relaxing, watching movies, reading, and cooking.

But first, there are a few dates left in my calendar, including this tour: tonight in Bangor, tomorrow in Boston, Monday off in NYC, and Tuesday night in NYC.  After that, the Key-Lites are playing a Christmas party at the Calistoga Grill on the West Island on the 19th, and I’m playing with the Jason Rosenblatt Quartet at Upstairs on the 21st.

Fourth blog post

Greetings from Kerhonkson, New York!  I haven’t written a post in a while, and I have some time to kill before everything at the NERFA convention begins for the day, so I thought I’d be productive.

Top 5 Lists

Have you seen the film High Fidelity?  The main character is obsessed with top 5 lists.  At the time, this just struck me as quirky, and I didn’t think too much about it – until, through my friend Matt Gourlie, I read the book the movie was based on, written by Nick Hornby.  After reading the book, I found myself constantly compiling top 5 lists of everything around me.  I still keep a running tally in my head of the main lists; so it only makes sense to share them with you.

But first, I should say a few words about Matt.  I’ve known him since we were 6 years old, we were in Grade 1 together at Massey Elementary School.  A few years later his family moved just down the street from mine, so I saw him pretty often.  We went to high school together, and university as well, where he studied Journalism.

Matt was always current on popular culture, sports, and news.  He’s so deeply knowledgable about so many different things, it’s impressive.  From very early on, Matt was the one who introduced me to new music, films, books, etc.  It’s because of him that I first discovered artists like Captain Beefheart, Sonic Youth, Hal Hartley, the Avalanches, the Boredoms, Godspeed, Lester Bangs, David Cronenberg, Quentin Tarantino, and of course Nick Hornby.

Thanks, Matt!

My Top 5 Favorite* Books

  1. Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie
  2. In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan
  3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami
  4. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  5. The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkein

*Note: “Favorite” is not equivalent to “best.”  “Favorite,” to me, means that even if I don’t think it’s the best thing in the world, I can experience something over and over again, and always enjoy the experience, and always find some new and different meaning in the experience.

Third blog post

Tsutomu “Tom” Yoshida

Monday was the first anniversary of my grandfather’s death, and I would like to share a few memories of him.

Tom and Suki Yoshida are my grandparents on my mother’s side.  They lived in the same city as us (Regina) until they retired, so I saw a lot of them growing up; much more than my father’s parents, who we only saw once or twice a year because they lived in Edmonton.  And even after my grandparents moved out to Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island in 1989, we still would see them fairly often – we would spend long vacations there in the summers, they would occasionally visit Regina, and when I was old enough to have my drivers license, I would occasionally go out to BC with my sisters or with friends.

When we were little, my sisters and I would sometimes spend the weekends at my grandparents.  They lived on Broadway Avenue East, and their house was like our second home.  We loved sleeping over because we were allowed to watch cartoons in the mornings, and we weren’t allowed at home.  Sometimes we would be so excited we would wake up before the cartoons began, and there would only be test signals, but we would sit and wait anyways.

My grandparents always had an amazing garden – while I’m not much into gardening myself, I fully appreciate the products!  I especially loved the peas.  When shelling the peas fresh from the garden, I would eat almost as many as I left in the bowl.  One of my happiest memories from my childhood is sitting in the basement with my grandfather, shelling (and eating) fresh peas and watching Rider games on TV.

I remember having a conversation with my sister Shauna when we were very young, about what to call our two grandfathers in order to differentiate which one we were talking about.  We call our father “Dad,” so it made sense to call his father “Granddad.”  And we decided our mother’s father would be called “Grandpa.”  I don’t understand the logic now, but at the time it seemed self-evident.  Anyways, the names stuck, to the point that it jars me even now to hear my cousins call my Granddad Kerr “Grandpa.”

I didn’t realize my grandfather was a fan of jazz until I was in University, and getting into jazz myself.  I had never heard him playing a jazz record, I only remembered classical music on the stereo or radio.  But it made sense – even though he grew up in Tofino (on Vancouver Island), he went to high school in Vancouver in the late 30s and early 40s – the prime of big band jazz.  And in fact, he was a huge fan of Duke Ellington and Count Basie and the like.  It turns out that the reason I never heard him listening to jazz was because my grandmother hated it – to her, it sounded like noise.

One time when I was in BC, I went fishing with my grandfather and one of my uncles.  I don’t remember where, exactly, but it was a beautiful river in the forest.  My grandfather was pretty strict about rules, though – he wouldn’t let me fish because I didn’t have a license.  They were fly-fishing, and it looked like a lot of fun, but since I couldn’t fish with them, I went off by myself and made little nature videos with my uncle’s video camera.  I’m still a little disappointed that I never learned to fly-fish from my grandfather.

I liked how my grandfather would always mull over a questions before he answered, no matter what the question was.  He would actually and seriously think about what he would say about something before saying it aloud, and his answers were always thoughtful and reflective, and use no more words than necessary.  I admire that, and wish more people would do the same.

Second blog post

Since all my classes are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Mondays are my homework day – which means Mondays are also my procrastination day.  And what better way to procrastinate than with a blog post?

Since my last and first post, a lot of music happened: two album launches with Marie-Claire Durand (Quebec City and Montreal), a showcase with Irem Bekter, a recording session with Damon Hankoff, a show in Quebec City with Sarah Slean, and a free jazz/country duo show in Ottawa with Craig Pedersen.  I also started a new part-time job at the McGill Music Library, working as a consultant in the computer lab (which I love!).

But since I don’t want this blog to be just about music, I won’t talk about all that, except to say that it’s been a wonderful month for music so far!!  Instead, I want this blog to be about whatever happens in my life that resonates with me enough to make me want to share it with others.  So today’s blog will be about death.

Last week, MC and I were having a normal conversation, and somehow the conversation turned to death.  I told her about a bunch of different (indirect) experiences I’ve had with death in the past, especially suicide.  The details aren’t important – what is important is that it was a beautiful and deep conversation about a very important (not to mention inevitable) part of life.

I feel very lucky that I’m the kind of person who can think deeply about uncomfortable subjects such as death.  I also feel very lucky that I’m not a person with suicidal tendencies, or with any imbalance that could trigger these tendencies.  Like everyone, I occasionally get depressed, but never dangerously so.  In fact, when I’m really depressed, one of the things that never fails to cheer me up is thinking about death.  My own death, I mean.

To be clear: I’m not religious – I believe that when we die, we’re dead.  I don’t believe in an afterlife, and I find this finality comforting.

The more I think about death and its immensity, its incomprehensibility, its infiniteness, the more I get out of my own head and realize that the things that are getting me down don’t really matter.  Even though this is how I’ve felt since I was quite young, I’ve learned that it’s one of the main teachings of Buddhism.  I don’t agree with a lot of their teachings, but the concept of impermanence is something I can really get behind.  Does anyone else remember when that Buddhist monk came to the art gallery in the Regina Public Library and made a Mandala?

Obviously, thinking about something and talking about it are two very different things, and even though I think a lot about this stuff, I don’t necessarily talk about it.  And just because I’m writing about it now doesn’t mean I will want to talk about it later.  I feel that one’s beliefs on the subject of death are as personal as religion and politics, two other things I think a lot about but rarely will talk about.  For some reason, I felt like sharing this today.


I just realized that it’s almost one year since my grandfather died (October 27, 2013).  Since there was no funeral or service of any kind (according to his wishes), I don’t think I’ve fully accepted it and dealt with it yet.  Maybe that’s why death is on my mind a lot lately.

Tsutomu “Tom” Yoshida, 1923-2013

First blog post

I think I’ll start a blog.  Why not?

The first thing I’ll write about is this past weekend.  It was an intense, music-filled few days.  Friday night I played with the Craig Pedersen Quartet at IMOOFest in Ottawa.  The night was opened by the solo cello with looping pedal and other crazy effects of Mark Molnar, and closed with the free improvisations for the Lina Allemano ensemble Titanium Riot.

Playing with Craig is very emotionally and physically demanding.  His music is very intense, and he pushes the band is sometimes uncomfortable but always interesting directions.  In order to rehearse for the show, we ran the set twice in a row in the afternoon (immediately after driving into Ottawa from Montreal), and then went to set up and soundcheck for the show (we also ate Shawarma twice that day).  The show went super well, but I’m still recuperating from several after-effects – including muscle soreness in my hands, and a ringing in my ears.

On Saturday, I played a wedding ceremony in Kirkland with my string trio, Trio Da Capo.  It was a nice ceremony, and entertaining because one of the couple’s four kids was running around the whole time, enjoying the sound of his new shoes on the church floor.

Saturday evening I was back in the Ottawa area, playing a house concert in a beautiful mansion in Gatineau with Renée Yoxon and Chad Linsley.  The name of the concert series is the Tiny House Mansion Concerts.  The place was incredible (I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo!), and the hosts were awesome.  They had an old, slightly out-of-tune Heintzman upright piano, which Chad made sound great.  It’s a total treat to play with these two!  I always need to be on my toes, the music often takes surprising twists and turns.  My favorite moment of the evening was when I sat down to listen to Renée and Chad perform a tune I don’t play on, entitled Little Prince.  As the last note faded, there was an audible group exhalation, almost a sigh – like everybody had been released from a spell all at the same time.  Maybe not a spell, more like a beautiful enchanted dream world, and they all came back to reality when the song finished.  It was a really incredible feeling.

Sunday morning began with a great, relaxed home rehearsal for Marie-Claire‘s upcoming album launch.  Maybe I’m biased, but I think it’s a great project, with a great sounding album, and a great band (Eric Thibodeau on drums! I get to play with him in Craig’s group, too).  Marie-Claire’s composition has always floored me, I wish I could write that well.  Apparently the album has been getting some CBC airtime, which is exciting!!

Sunday afternoon was a rehearsal with Siach Hasadeh, the formation with strings.  With this group we’ve been heading into a really beautiful and interesting area, incorporating more and more free improvisation and extended techniques into the group vocabulary.  So we worked on a bunch of improvisation exercises, and worked on some new material, and the whole process was exhilarating!  Hopefully we’ll be able to do another tour this spring….

Sunday evening I got to check out Eric Hove’s new project at the OFF Jazz Festival.  It was crazy!  Wild spectral music over cool grooves.  I’ve never heard anything like it before!  It’s not often I get the chance to go to a concert, so this was a real treat, especially since the music was great.  It was also a great jazz hang!

If you made it this far, thank you for reading.  I hope to post about once a week, so stay tuned for more!

I’m off to do some web design homework.