Tag Archives: Serena Ryder

Patricia Wheeler Quartet Brings Jazz Concert to Meaford

Sunday afternoon, April 29, from 3 to 5, the first in a series of concerts at Meaford’s Christ Church Anglican features a performance from Patricia Wheeler’s Jazz Quartet.  With Patricia on sax and flute, the quartet features Mike Cado on guitar, Ben Riley on drums, and Ross MacIntyre on bass.

“I’ve known the other three musicians for a long, long time,” Patricia says, “and played with each of them in different situations, not only jazz but rock ‘n roll, hip hop, funk, pop, country and western.  They’re very versatile.”

Mike Cado is a faculty member at York University where he directs the York University Jazz Orchestra along with a 15-piece R&B band, Soul Collective.

Ben Riley, for fifteen years co-leader of the soul/R&B band Planet Earth, has been in demand as a touring and session drummer for over twenty years, playing with the cream of Canadian artists from Moe Koffman to Domenic Troiano.

Ross McIntyre is a legendary bassman who tours with Emilie-Claire Barlow, plays on hundreds of sessions and has worked with artists as diverse as Wynton Marsalis, Ed Robertson and Jim Cuddy.

Patricia is, in a sense, bringing these old friends to show them where the music began for her.

She grew up with good music always being played in the house.  She says her father was “a very good amateur pianist and accordion player.  My mom started her record collection back in the era of the 78’s and still has most of those discs, so I just grew up being surrounded by good music.  My dad taught ballroom dancing for many years and my mom often helped him with that. He was always sourcing out new recordings to teach with and so that kind of music was always being played.”

She was lucky enough to live in a town where music was taught at an early age.

“I was very fortunate to go to school in Meaford where band music started in Grade 7 at Meaford Elementary School.  We did half a year with orchestral string instruments, like violin, and then the other half with band instruments.  We did festivals, concerts. 

“The teacher was a man named Ron Knight, who was exceptional. For any of the students who really enjoyed it he would give us opportunities to just go to another room and practise.  And then we would feed into Georgian Bay Secondary School and Charlie Strimas took over. He ran the music program for many, many years.”

Blackie And The Rodeo Kings To Play In Collingwood

Blackie And The Rodeo Kings will be playing at concert at Collingwood’s Historic Gayety Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 26th, the second stop on their new tour to promote their latest album “Kings And Kings”, released late last year.  After the kickoff concert at Massey Hall the night before, they will coming up to the southern shore of Georgian Bay at the behest local music promoter Steven Vipond.  “Steve’s an angel,” says Blackie co-founder Tom Wilson, “and you need guys like that in the community who do it for the music”.  Local fans can be grateful indeed to have a chance to see a band of this quality.

Willie P. Bennett

Although they are categorized as “Americana” music, Blackie And The Rodeo Kings are to some extent the archtypical Canadian band.  They began as a gesture of love toward the legendary singer-songwriter Willie P. Bennett (taking their name from one of his songs), who ranked high in their collective esteem.  “Willie’s music was just so powerful,” says Wilson, “but just when it looked like success for him was just down the road, he would always take a turn right into the ditch.  This was our way of supporting what he gave all of us”

The three principals who came together to make up Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson were already highly respected Canadian talents at the time, with Junos, platinum sales and even film appearances in their individual histories.  It wasn’t so much a matter of them hitching their fortunes to Willie P. Bennett’s as it was of hitching his star to theirs.  And this reflects an essential element of the band’s mindset: they exist not just to promote their own (formidable) talents but to share with their audience the talents of other (mainly Canadian) artists for whom they have the greatest respect.

It began with “High or Hurtin’: The Songs of Willie P. Bennett” twenty years ago.  As they continued to record new albums, they added tributes to other great and sometimes underrated Canadian tunesmiths such as Bruce Cockburn, Fred J. Eaglesmith and David Wiffen.  In a band that had excellent songwriters built in, it was inevitable that they would eventually record albums that were all originals of their own.  But that would never be a permanent situation.  Their sixth album, “Kings and Queens” was a collection that brought their favourite female artists to join them on each track.  Along with high profile American artists like Roseanne Cash and Emmylou Harris, they included such Canadian treasures as Mary Margaret O’Hara, Holly Cole, and Serena Ryder.  Their sequel, “Kings And Kings” teams them up with another mix of great talents, male this time, that includes vocal as well as composition credits from Bruce Cockburn, Rodney Crowell, Nick Lowe and Dallas Green, among others.  And they haven’t forgotten Willie P., including on the album his song “This Lonesome Feeling” brought to life by Vince Gill.

Blackie And The Rodeo Kings have become, as a band, a great Canadian treasure in their own right.  But they have never forgotten nor ignored the idols of their youth, stretching back to the days when Colin and Tom haunted the coffee houses of the day to catch performance by the artists they continue to pay tribute to.

These days you can count the Canadians winning Grammy Awards to find ample evidence that Canadian music is appreciated well beyond our borders, but it wasn’t always that way and these three guys have been around long enough to remember how tough it has always been for Canadian talent.  If you listen to songs like David Wiffen’s “Coast To Coast Fever” or Willie P. Bennett’s “White Lines” you get a stark portrait of how difficult it has been in the past for Canadian original talent to succeed.  Wilson says they still end every concert with “White Lines”, a song that inspired him to make music his life’s work.

Tom Wilson with his paintings

Tom Wilson has always been a triple threat creative artists and, like his bandmates, he pursues other projects outside of Blackie.  One of Colin Linden’s recent gigs has been as technical supervisor on the TV show “Nashville”.  And Stephen Fearing, in order to join the others on this tour, has had to insert it into his own solo tour, flying in from the U.K. just before the kickoff Massey Hall show, and then picking up his own tour after this tour ends in mid-March.  Tom Wilson has always been musician, artist, and writer simultaneously.  These days he earns a third of his income from his paintings and he’s currently contracted to Random House for a memoir he’s writing with Dave Bidini of The Rheostatics, due out this fall.

To itemize the careers of these three extraordinary creative artists would require a book in itself but it is worth spending a few moments looking at another Tom Wilson project because of what it says about Canadian music and his personal dedication to it.  That project is a band called LeE HARVey OsMond, formed by Wilson in 2009 as a collective that includes members of The Cowboy Junkies, The Skydiggers and 3’s a Crowd (along with Suzie Vinnick).  Like Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, it’s a band that also carries the history of Canadian folk-rock in its personnel, and it is a band built around a specific vision.