Summer Concert Series

The Summer Concert Series of free concerts happens Friday nights in the Market Square in downtown Meaford

Alison Young Quintet Coming To Meaford

Friday August 3rd brings the Alison Young Quintet to Meaford for the third show of the Meaford Summer Concert Series.  Each concert is under the open sky in the parking lot beside Meaford Hall.

Alison Young is a sax player, originally from Ottawa, who has become one of the most in-demand players in the Toronto jazz scene, performing regularly in venues like The Rex, The Jazz Bistro and The Reservoir Lounge, contributing to several albums and touring around the world with a variety of bands.

“That’s basically how I travel,” she says, “I’m lucky enough to work with a lot of groups that work in Europe. Last year it was Singapore and South America. It was great!”

After playing with R & B bands as a teen, before attending the music program at University of Toronto, her featured performances in the National Youth Jazz Ensemble at the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 2001 and 2002, inspired one critic to note:

“The stun is witnessing phrasing and technique indicating decades of practice and study, coming from a girl too young to have done any of that. She plays alto with an authority and command beyond her short years…performing with the facility and inventiveness of a much more mature musician.”

Downbeat magazine has noted her “endless creativity and flair”.  Last year she was chosen as one of the ‘Best 35 jazz Canadian Jazz Artists under 35’ by the CBC.   Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen writes “her melodic maturity rises above the music”, while the Whole Note Magazine says “Alison Young takes musical chances, and has something to say”.

She knew from a very young age that this was the life for her.

“In junior high I had a really great band teacher and she actually ran a stage band.  That was the first time I heard swing music and I was like: ‘What is this?  I need to do this!’  So I got my parents to rent me a saxophone and taught myself basically for the first little while and then never looked back.”

Praised even at a young age for the maturity and tone of her playing, she explains, “I played along with records and just kind of wanted to capture that full sound.  That’s always been important to me.”

Her initial jazz inspiration from listening to big bands blended with an appreciation of R & B picked up as a teenager.

“When I was seventeen and eighteen, my first gigs were playing in a soul cover band.  We played these little bars in Ottawa and in Hull and I thought this was so cool.

“I love that music.  When they hired me they said, ‘OK, just check out the movie, The Commitments.’  It was basically that repertoire so that got me into Aretha Franklin and Solomon Burke and all these R & B artists.

“A lot of the gigs I do in Toronto are R & B gigs.  When I play as a sideman with several bands, I do that kind of music and I also play a lot of jazz.  I play a lot of both and I’m still trying to figure out which one is my sound, or can they both be my sound?  And I think I’m heading in that direction: just do both.”

But the experience of a big band in full swing still lures her.

“I’ve been playing with the Jim Galloway Big Band in Toronto,” she says, “which is all older Basie charts and Ellington charts.  So it’s like going back to my roots because that’s the first jazz I listened to and I was so excited about it.”

Alison has been leading her own band in various formations since 2012, which has allowed her to compose and arrange for combinations from duo to septet.  Among her many recorded performances as a session player, her compositions, recorded with the Heillig Manoeuvre and Red Hot Ramble, have been featured on JazzFM and CBC2.  She has a debut album of mostly originals ready to release.

“A lot of my songs are straight ahead and in the hard bop vein, a little bit funky but with jazzy chord changes.  Melody is my priority when I compose.”  She admits to influences more along the Stevie Wonder vein and isn’t through growing yet:  “I think next I’m going to try to get some rock and roll into the sound, because we’ve got Eric St Laurent on guitar and he’s a real rocker.”

The quintet playing in Meaford will include St. Laurent’s  “eclectic and energetic” guitar; Saskatchewan’s “hard swinging” Jeff McLeod on piano and organ; Chris Banks on the bass; and Chris Wallace on drums.  The repertoire for a Meaford Friday night will be “party jazz, funk and soul.”

The same precocious talent that has accelerated Alison Young’s career is evident in the opening act, singer/songwriter Miranda Journey.

Bring a camp chair and a contribution for the food bank to catch the 7 p.m. start.

Chuck Jackson’s All Star Band Plays Meaford Summer Concert Series

By Bill Monahan

On Friday, July 27th, Chuck Jackson and The All Stars headline the second concert in the free Meaford Summer Concert Series, at Market Square in downtown Meaford (beside Meaford Hall).

Chuck Jackson, from his home base in Port Credit, has become familiar to fans of the blues in the Southern Georgian Bay area, where he has brought his talents to a number of different venues, with different band line-ups.  He is a highly respected blues singer and harmonica player, honoured in 2002 with a Blues With A Feeling Award from the Toronto Blues Society in recognition of his distinguished career.  He’s also won Maple Blues Awards in 1999 and 2007 for Male Vocalist of the Year.

Chuck Jackson with Donny Walsh of Downchild

Although he originally made his name as lead singer of the Cameo Blues Band, he joined the Downchild Blues Band in 1990, replacing their original vocalist Hock Walsh, and has been touring with the band ever since, along with contributing original songs to the band’s repertoire.  His All-Stars line-up usually includes Michael Fonfara and Pat Carey from Downchild as well.  He has often teamed up with Tyler Yarema, including a duo concert last year which packed the Gayety Theatre in Collingwood as a Chris Scerri Presents event.

In addition to his busy career as a performing musician, Chuck is the founder and director of Port Credit’s popular annual fall bluesfest, called the Southside Shuffle, which has been running for twenty years.  He relishes the opportunity through the festival to introduce some new acts to a devoted audience alongside the well-known headliners.  In an interview last year with Mississauga News, he pointed out the he had introduced Jimmy Bowskill to the festival when he was just eleven years old, and since then Bowskill has gone on to win Maple Blues Awards and has become a member of the Sheepdogs.

Chuck Jackson and Tyler Yarema

Chuck Jackson and Tyler Yarema

It’s expected that Tyler Yarema will join the All-Stars for the show in Meaford, which starts at 7 pm and runs rain or shine.

Opening for the band will be Sophie Wensley, a rising local talent with an engaging R & B style.

The Best of The Best To Start the Meaford Summer Concert Series

Joey DiMarco has been the go-to drummer for decades for gigs and recordings, working from his home base in Burlington.  He teamed up with Gabor Szepesi, who’s been providing keyboards for recordings and TV shows as well as live gigs since the 70’s.  The pair decided to draw on talented friends from their many years in music to create a gigging band they called The Collective.  The quality of their friends means The Collective is always on the money with a world class groove.

The Collective will be kicking off the Meaford Summer Concert Series on Friday, July 13th.  The band is made up of the best players you’ll hear anywhere.  When Chris Scerri says they have played with the Who’s Who of rock and R & B, movies and pop music, he means names like Iron Butterfly, Better Midler, Jack Dekeyser, Greg Godovitz, Grant Smith & the Power, Long John Baldry, Daniel Lanois, Etta James, Sharon, Lois and Bram as a small random sampling.

Guitarist Danny Weis co-founded Iron Butterfly but quit after their first album to co-found Rhinoceros.  After an album and a tour with Lou Reed, he was tapped to provide the sound track music (and hit song) for Bette Midler’s movie The Rose.

Danny had been born into music, the son of Johnny Weis, the famous Western Swing guitarist who once played with the Spade Cooley band.

“I fondly remember the years I would go see my dad, Johnny Weis, play guitar, backing people from the Grand Ole Opry at Bostonia Ballroom in El Cajon,” says Danny on his website, “I was age 9 to 12, and I used to stand right in front of the stage and lean on it with my elbows. I wasn’t too tall then, I guess. I remember Johnny Cash playing right in front of me with my dad backing him on guitar with the band. [Cash] always remembered me and would stoop right in front of me, saying, ‘Folsom Prison?’ I said yes with joy.”

In 2005 Danny Weis released a beautiful jazz album called “Sweet Spot”, about as far from Iron Butterfly as you can get.  Like the other players in The Collective, his wide ranging musical taste and pedigree can take you in any direction.

A common thread among the players in The Collective is that most of them played at one time or another in a legendary blues band called Sweet Blindness.  Lead singer of The Collective, Donnie Meeker rotated as lead singer in Sweet Blindness with the late Bobbi Dupont.

“The Toronto sound was the original Bluenote,” Michael Williams told Cashbox magazine, “we always had a soul thing going on because we were so close to Buffalo and Detroit…The big time for Sweet Blindness was opening for Kool and the Gang.”

In addition to touring with Sweet Blindness, Donnie Meeker becomes “Downtown Donnie” when he does a Blues Brothers thing with his own blues brother “Dirty Bertie”.

Max Breadner opens the show

Bring a camp chair and something for the food bank in time for the show to start at 7 pm with Max Breadner.  Max is a notable young local talent who has progressed from performing to song writing.  He’s played the Meaford Summer Concert Series before, and last year he opened for John Brownlow at The Red Door.

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Meaford Summer Concert Series Back For Third Year

By Bill Monahan

The third annual Meaford Summer Concert Series kicks off on July 13th at the Market Square with the first of four free live concerts lined up for Friday nights in July and August. Once again the series will feature young local performers opening for more seasoned acts.

“The idea behind the whole series when we first started it was to bring people to the downtown core,” says Chris Scerri, who originated the series and has organized it again this year. The concerts are designed to bring “tourists, residents, even cottagers enjoy a free show and bring some business into downtown Meaford.”

Chris has put together a program that brings together some of the great musicians he has seen and worked with in the area.

“I try to have different styles of music through the summer,” he says.

As the series of You Tube videos below indicates, what these acts have in common is an ability to capture the soul of a song in their performance.

The series kicks off on July 13th with The Collective, a band of seasoned veterans led by legendary vocalist Donnie Meeker, With many stages and stadiums in their collective past, these players have recently built a local following performing regularly at The Harbour Street Fish Bar in Collingwood.

“They are a collection of amazing artists that have played with the who’s who of rock and roll and everything else in North America over the last few decades. They play a bunch of Motown stuff, a little bit of rock and roll and a little bit of blues but it’s kind of like the hits of a few decades ago. And they’re amazing players. They have a lot of energy.”

 

Energy is an important component when choosing the acts.

“I try to bring in bands that have energy so that people are up and dancing, jumping around rather than just listening. I think that an outdoor festival should have a lot of those kinds of things.”

For the July 27th show, Chris has brought Chuck Jackson and the All Stars for a night of blues.

“Chuck Jackson is the front man for the Downchild Blues Band but he’s also had a band called Chuck Jackson and the All Stars going for many, many years,” Chris says, adding “In Port Credit they have a matinee they play every Sunday at the Rock ‘n Docks which is full every week. Usually it’s Pat Carey from Downchild that plays sax with him and Tyler Yarema will sit in on keyboards. When they’re playing here this summer it will be Tyler on keys, Pat on sax and they’ll have a drummer and bass player with them as well.”

The opener on that night will be Sophie Wensley, a young local R & B singer.

The concert on August 3rd features the Allison Young Quintet.

“Alison Young is a swing jazz sax player that was part of our show at the Marsh Street last year for their 90th Anniversary,” says Chris, “and she’s also a great singer and so she has a band that she’s going to bring up and they’re going to be more of a swing band and that’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Opening for her will be singer-songwriter Miranda Journey from Wasaga Beach who has impressed local audiences as part of Auburn Falling, a duo in which she performed with James Stephens.

Sean Cotton has played as a solo performer a few times at The Leeky Canoe, but his show on August 24th includes The Muskoka Connection.

“He’s phenomenal on his own,” says Chris, “but he’s a rock and roll and country kind of a guy and with a full band he’s a great electric guitar player and singer. He lives in Muskoka right now and he’s made up a great network of great musicians from there. So he’s going to bring a group of them down to play with him.

“And he has ties to Meaford too,” Chris adds, “He has family in Meaford as well so he’s indirectly local.”

Opening for Sean Cotton, Emma Wright will be playing with a full band, which includes some of the area’s best musicians: John Hume on keyboards, Rob Elder on guitar, Jaret Koop on bass, and Mike Weir on drums.

As usual the concerts are free and you are being asked to bring a contribution for the food bank, along with a camp chair. “There are some picnic tables there on site but it’s suggested that you bring a camp chair,” says Chris, “They are more comfortable and it guarantees you a seat wherever you want to put it.”

The shows start at 7 pm, giving you the chance to catch dinner at one of the restaurants across the street or you can “call in for an order and go and pick it up between sets”.

Chris is asking local artisans to be on hand so that “people will be able to come in to the area there and look around and talk to these artisans and then the music will start around seven o’clock with the young musicians opening. They’ll do maybe a half hour, forty minute set and then the headline band will start just before eight o’clock and play until ten.”

Again this year, it is the support of local sponsors that makes the Summer Concert Series possible.

“The BIA is again our key sponsor along with the Meaford Culture Foundation and the Municipality of Meaford. The Rotary has come on board as a sponsor this year and Long and McQuade always helps us with PA. Bill at Valumart and Dave at New Orleans feed our musicians and our sound guys and Peak FM and Bayshore Broadcasting work with us too to get the word out. I’m working with RTO7 as well to do some social media advertising with us this year.”

Through this community effort, we can look forward to four more summer Friday nights of great live music to ring through the streets of downtown Meaford.