Sunday, June 24, 2007

recent gigs

The Impressions in Jazz Orchestra just wrapped up its Spring series of concerts. We had three shows in three weeks, with around 60 pieces of music to learn in total. The first and third gigs were part of a series at the Billings Estate, with the orchestra playing 1920's music and 1940's respectively, and the middle gig was part of our own series of concerts at the Crowne Plaza (photos from these shows can be seen here). In amongst these gigs I of course had other shows to do, but these ones stood out.

The 1940's gig was especially fun for me, as not only my brother Mike and his wife came out (they have come to some of the other IJO gigs), but my mom and step-dad made the trip up from Kingston to see the show. Mom is 86, and does not get around as easily as she used to, so it was great that she was able to make it. Even more so because I was playing music that she grew up with, and I'd discovered on my own years later. As a kid I of course listened to the Beatles, since my older brothers had all the records, but when I discovered the famous Benny Goodman "Carnegie Hall Concert" in my parents' record collection at age six I was captivated by the swinging sounds and the extroverted drumming of Gene Krupa. Mom must have heard me bang along to "Sing Sing Sing" a few thousand times, so it was great to have her come to the show and see that it all paid off in the long run. ;)

This morning I had another interesting gig, playing jazz in an Anglican church! Yes, on Sunday mornings I'd normally be playing my regular gig at the Metropolitan with Steve's quartet, but we've been rained out so much on that gig (and don't get paid when that happens) that when bassist Tom got called for this one he took it and asked me to join in (we both sincerely hope that Steve got by just fine with our substitutes. hehe). The Reverend Dr. Tim Elliot was doing the sermon, and he is also a jazz pianist, so with the Jazz Festival currently running in Ottawa Tim thought having some of this music as part of his sermon would be a good thing, and it was!

We played standards, so no rehearsal was needed aside from meeting up ahead of time to compare notes (pun intended). Being a church the acoustics were lively, and since a real piano was being used instead of an amplified digital one I played with brushes for the entire set, and it made for a nice, light feel. The parishioners seemed to enjoy this change in routine, and while we were in between tunes Tom and I sat back and enjoyed the three fine singers that subsituted for a full church choir (though as a professed agnostic and lapsed Unitarian I had to tune out the lyrics to a fair degree...).

I've been forgetting to take my camera with me on recent gigs, and one thing I wanted to capture today was a little bit of fun on the part of the church's builders. As I set up near the choir stalls I looked down to see a mouse! Well, it was a carved wooden mouse, sitting on the foot of the rearmost bench. I mentioned it to Tim and he said "Oh yes, and there's another one over here" pointing to the Bishop's Seat, and sure enough there was a similar one peeking out of the rear of that. It's nice to see some humour in what was otherwise probably a rather strict design criteria. ;)

Oh yes, of course I rode the trike. And the electric assist came in very handy for climbing back up Nanny Goat Hill (yes, that's the name of the escarpment where Bronson heads up to Laurier Ave.).

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Longest trike ride yet!

This past Saturday night I had a gig out at the Nepean Sailing Club, which is about 12km west of my place downtown. Now, 12km is an easy ride on most bikes, but of course a heavy trike with at least 200 lbs. of gear in the back makes it a bit more of an effort!

Once again, this was really only practical due to the electric assist. I have pedaled out to Britannia Beach (10km), but that was with little weight and having a fun ride day with friends, so we could take our time. Saturday night meant not only a full load, but also a specific arrival time. And it was around 30C, so I was going to get a little sweaty no matter what. Fortunately it was a casual gig in the bar, not a formal event with the associated suit to put on (those gigs require me to get changed and wash up and try not to look dishevelled and sweaty for the clientele).

And it ended up being a really nice ride with no hassles whatsoever. And I stayed on city streets the entire route. While there is a nice riverside bike path all the way out there, the trike, while it does fit, is a bit bulky and I'd rather ride a more direct route. And besides, it's fun to get out there and take the whole lane, because I have no choice but to do so! ;)

I would normally have taken Gladstone Ave. for the first leg, but it was blocked by both a street party at one intersection and contruction a few blocks further on, so instead I took Somerset St. and then back up to Gladstone via Bayswater. From there I did the jump from Parkdale to Holland and then onto Byron. And Byron remains my fave westbound route. It's in pretty good shape, the single lane each way is quite wide, and all the main traffic is over on Richmond Road (which ends up running alongside Byron for its westernmost 2km). And once past Churchill there are maybe two stop signs and then it's open all the way to Woodroffe.

Byron continues for a bit past Woodroffe, but through traffic is blocked by a concrete divider, so at that point I got onto Richmond Road, a mostly 2-lane arterial. I followed that until turning onto Carling Ave. and then 2.5km to the Club. Carling Ave. is a major arterial, and I would not have really enjoyed that leg of the trip during a busy weekday, but at 6:30pm on a beautiful Saturday it was fine. Anyone coming up behind me just passed in the other lane, with a few vehicles giving light toots on the horn and waving or giving thumbs-up as they passed. I made the 12.5km trip in 35 minutes, with the assist being used to various degrees much of the time, just to see how quickly I could get there.

The gig was great, folks marvelled at the drummer showing up by bike, and then at 11:30 it was time to head home. I took Carling Ave. directly back to Woodroffe (being west-end suburbia there was almost no traffic at that time of night), and then after turning onto that street it narrowed to one skinny lane each way, so I turned off into the leafy residential area and angled my way NE to Byron, and then retraced the same route I took out. Along the way there were a few people out for stroll or walking their dog, and it was kind of fun to perhaps make their evening a bit more interesting as the lit-up cargo trike quietly glided past them... I was home by midnight, which meant that either the slight route change or the fact that I was going very slightly down-river shaved the time down to an even 30 minutes. That means a rough average a speed for the round-trip of 23 km per hour!

And that would not have been remotely doable without the electric-assist. I imagine that it might have taken almost double the time to make the trip without it, if only because to maintain that speed I would've had to take a few breaks! :P And after an evening playing a show it's no fun to take an hour or so to get home by pedal power, so without the assist I would have arranged for a lift of borrowed a car for this gig. So the assist is a real benefit (I did bring the battery pack's charger along, as I thought it best to keep the pack topped up for the return trip), and the recent boost to 48V and the bigger batteries has greatly extended the trike's functionality - this recent trip really proved that to me.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Where I work #4 (or 5, or something...) (formerly ATWAS)

This past Thursday the quartet played at Stornoway, the residence of the Leader of the Official Opposition (currently it's Liberal Leader Stephane Dion). It was some sort of networking event for the Liberal Party, in the back yard under cover of one of those huge white tents (which was mainly open on the sides since it was beautiful day). There must have been over 200 people there, and we were in a corner just playing standards as usual. There were a lot of younger people, mainly in their 20s and 30s, all connected with the Party somehow. As I chatted with a few folks on my break it was fun to say "I used to vote Liberal, but have voted either Green or NDP for the past ten years". hehe

Stephane Dion arrived and I think shook the hand of everyone there. Even us, though it was a bit awkward since we were in the middle of a tune! The other guys can stop playing for a moment, but it's really noticeable when the drummer does this, so I just tucked a stick under my arm and kept playing with feet and one hand as he reached over the kit...

To do this gig the group had to sub out of our usual Thursday gig at the Metropolitan Restaurant (which is ironic given that so many of our Thursdays have been weathered out there) as the time slot was exactly the same (5-8). And when the gig ended Steve and I had to pack up and boot it over to an IJO rehearsal, so this was a day of travelling by van, not by cargo trike.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

IJO - Such Sweet Thunder

The Impressions in Jazz Orchestra has another fabulous evening planned for this coming Tuesday. This time we'll be playing the music Duke Ellington wrote for the Stratford Festival (the first Canadian performance in 50 years!), and there's more than just the IJO involved. Full details at:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007, 7:30 PM
International Ballroom
Crowne Plaza Ottawa Hotel

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

House move by pedal power - again!

Well, two weeks have passed, so it must be time for another pedal-powered move!

This time we helped Greg (Director of the Just Voices choir) move house. It was easy in terms of distance (four blocks) and aside from a 4-drawer filing cabinet that felt like it was made out of cast iron, also pretty easy in terms of items needing to be moved. And while we didn't have any appliances to deal with this time around, we did have Greg's musical instruments! And the best part was that the entire move was done by pedal power. And since we were travelling on flat ground I didn't even need to use the electric assist.

Oh, and speaking of musical instruments, I decided to play Greg's helicon (a predecessor of the sousaphone) while riding the trike. And of course we had to get that on video...

Richard loads my trike while his son Nico watches, and Stuart takes a rest break in the stoker seat of the Greenspeed tandem.

Since we're not going very far or very fast, Nico takes a ride in the trike's cargo box.

Greg inspects the final load (after 6 hours of moving) with Jason behind. I think at least 10 people helped out during the course of the move.

Richard also took a bunch of fabulous photos.

Oh, and Greg, thanks for letting me fool around with that nice old instrument. Hmm... perhaps a new twist to my music career, serenading the local citzenry while riding the trike? Hey, I could offer rides in the back, and THEN serenade them. I would make my money by letting them ride for free, but then they'd have to pay me to stop playing! ;)