Those not familiar with pianist Michael Kaeshammer's work might find it a bit baffling that the Gold Coast Jazz Society chose a 36-year-old German-born, Canadian-raised singer-songwriter to headline the Mardi Gras-themed February edition of its 21st Anniversary Jazz Concert Series. A closer inspection however reveals that Kaeshammer -- touted as Canada's triple-threat for his virtuosic piano playing, pristine vocals, and glistening persona -- has the Fats Waller-inspired chops to pull off such an endeavor.
No stranger to the lively and animated take on the blues, the debonair musician has been tickling the ivories in true New Orleans' boogie-woogie fashion since the age of 13. He tells New Times that he just wrapped up work on his next studio release, due out in May, a reworking of 20 songs originally recorded and/or produced by influential New Orleans R&B maestro Allen Toussaint. "It's everything my dad had in his record collection," says the personable Kaeshammer. He's quick to point out that the album is "not a period piece," rather, he rewrote a great deal of arrangements to fit his backing band and give it a modern sound.
Kaeshammer was in his Victoria, British Columbia home at the time of our interview. This Gavin Rossdale lookalike was gearing up for his 17-date world tour, which kicks off this Friday in Fort Lauderdale. His performance at the Parker Playhouse marks the first time the talented songsmith has ever performed in the area. But like most Canadians during this time of year, Kaeshammer looks forward to basking in South Florida's sun. He admits that finding that extra down time is going to be difficult this trip, however, because he has no days off on this tour.
When asked how, as a pre-pubescent pianist, he stumbled upon the boozy bluesy sounds of New Orleans' Jazz, Kaeshammer attributes this to a youthful fascination with his dad's vinyl. Thumbing through Fats Waller, Clarence "Pine Top" Smith, and Meade "Lux" Lewis albums, a young Kaeshammer forged a childhood love affair with the Crescent City. This budding romance came to a head when, as a grown man, Kaeshammer decided to vacation in New Orleans.
Kaeshammer says these sweaty and lively five-hour-long Bourbon Street jam sessions "shaped" him into the performer he is today. When I went down there, I said to myself, 'holy shit,' I had never been in that scenario. There were plenty of times I got heckled at by drunk people," the musician admits, "that was like going to the university but for real. I learned the kind of stuff you dont learn in a classroom."
It all adds up now, doesn't it? Michael Kaeshammer's boogie-woogie is as Cajun as a steaming plate of jambalaya; the ideal choice to host a night of Mardi Gras music.
Going to the Mardi Gras with Michael Kaeshammer. 7:45 p.m., Friday, Feb 8, at the Parker Playhouse, located at 707 NE 8th St in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $40. Call 954-462-0222 or visit www.parkerplayhouse.com for more info.
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