I’m old enough now to do a bit of storytelling, but I’ll keep it short (um?!?!). From the age of 3 to 13 I was a Suzuki violin student. I have an older sister who blazed a trail that I was meant to follow. My life in music started right at the beginning and I was probably already reading a few notes from the page by the time I started learning how to read and write. Awkward teenage years brought other instruments because, in Edmonton in the late 70’s, there was a chance of being killed if any big kids caught you at the bus stop with glasses, a violin, and a folder of music.
After many trials and failures, one day I picked up an electric bass and immediately ‘felt it’ and it was good, I liked it. There must have been quite a shortage of bassists around at that time because by day two, I was getting calls for gigs. I teamed up with a couple high school friends and we were the next Led Zeppelin (or at least the next Rush). And yes, my bass amp was bigger than my car and I had to tie it to the roof racks.
I headed off to college to play music and start learning about studios. I have my new Fender Jazz and immediately put some EMG pickups in the thing so it wouldn’t buzz when they dimmed the lights in the studio. After my time at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton, I moved on the McGill in Montreal and began playing the double bass. At McGill University I was a performance bass major with Michel Donato (bassist with Oscar Peterson, Toots Thielman, Carmen McRae, Clark terry) and also studied composition, theory and orchestration. It was during this period in Montreal I met and became involved with a great many musicians: Mike Rudd, PJ Perry, Calder Spanier, Tommy Banks, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Mike Allen, Gary Guthman, Ted Warren, Tom Bancroft, Charlie Hunter, Denzal Sinclaire.
McGill opened the door to the rest of the world, and I couldn’t help but keep moving that direction. It was recently recorded as being -48 Celsius in Edmonton on January 12, 2024, I don’t miss that. After McGill, I headed overseas and began an illustrious career as a busker with ambitions to, one day, perform indoors more often. This was one of the most fantastic bands I ever got to play with, the ‘Overexcited Band’. It was a kind of ode to Louis Jordan’s ‘Five Guys Named Moe’. The songs below were recorded on a Walkman at the Zurich Conservatory of Music, we snuck in and used one of their nice rehearsal rooms until someone noticed we were making a lot of noise and kicked us out.
After travelling to Nice, France in 1991 to hook up with the ‘Men Without Heads’ band, we played, toured, recorded, and wrote music, living in Nice, Paris, Zurich, and Amsterdam where we finally settled. In Amsterdam we became regulars on the jazz/blues/pop circuit of central Amsterdam playing The Borubon Street, Cafe Alto, Heren Van Amstel, and others. We had a regular Monday Night gig at the Bamboo Bar just off Leidseplein and we played almost every Monday night there for quite a few years. In 1993 the band became ‘Granny Smith’ and recorded the CD ‘Red Door’. We started Elstar Management and Rennet Records to handle management, touring, promotion, and distribution of the Granny Smith CD. This CD is no longer in print but I have a box of 25 somewhere in my office.
At McGill back in 1988, I had met Scottish drummer Tom Bancroft and we worked together back then. We stayed in touch over the years and when I was based in Amsterdam, we made a plan to meet up and play some more music. I took the bus from Amsterdam to Edinburgh and joined one of Tom’s tours with the Orange Ear Ensemble (yes we all wore giant plastic orange ears when we came on stage). It was also on this forst trip to Edinburgh where I met his sister and my future partner/wife Sophie Bancroft. I made numerous trips to Scotland to work with Tom, Phil, and Sophie Bancroft in various bands; The Orange Ear Ensemble, The Phil Bancroft Octet, Trio AAB, Sophie Bancroft & Gina Rae, Kilt Couture. This work involved Assembly Direct tours around Scotland in addition to the Glasgow International Jazz Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Dunoon Jazz Festival, the Banlieues Blues Festival, Paris, the Grenoble Jazz Festival, several BBC radio broadcasts, and a tour of Hungary with Trio AAB.