Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

January/February 2016: Seamus Blake

Michael Kaeshammer: Piano Man

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Michael Kaeshammer is no stranger to audiences here in Winnipeg. The German-born pianist, who settled on Canada’s west coast as a young adult, has been one of Canada’s busiest and most popular performers. With six Juno nominations to his credit, and several Western Canadian Music Awards, Kaeshammer is known for his energetic performances, his easy warmth with audiences, and his love for the early jazz piano stylings of boogie-woogie and blues. He has criss-crossed North America numerous times, and he’s just recently returned from his fifth tour of China.

Kaeshammer grew up in Germany, and began studying piano as a young child. When he was 13, he discovered boogie-woogie and stride piano as played by Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, and Pete Johnson. It ignited him—within three years, he was out playing in clubs and festivals around Europe.

He’s been performing ever since.  He’s a charismatic entertainer—“all puckish energy and technical virtuosity,” as the Halifax Chronicle Herald puts it—and audiences know him for his livewire band and his crooner-style vocals. But he’s striking off in a new direction with his latest recording project, The Piano.

With this recording, he had equipment set up in his quiet Victoria home, and rose every day before dawn to record all alone. The result is a more intimate version of Kaeshammer, and a chance to hear a more mature musician at work. There’s still all that brilliant technique and joy in old-style jazz piano, but there’s less flash, more depth, more trust in his own experience.

He’s had some pushback. His music distribution company cautioned him that stripping away the vocals would reduce this project’s commercial traction, but Kaeshammer held steady. “This was more for myself than anything else,” he told the Victoria Times Colonist. “I didn’t even do publicity for it. Nothing.”

His fans don’t need the hoopla. They’re lining up to hear him, up close, personal, and charming as ever, as he tours with The Piano. He’s on stage at the West End Cultural Centre on February 24—advance tickets are a very good idea!

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