Michael Kaeshammer is one of the most exciting, young, jazz pianists in the country today.
Still in his mid-20s, he has released a series of award winning, critically acclaimed recordings and has developed a large, international following through his dynamic live performances.
As a charismatic performer who was classically trained in Germany, he fell in love with boogie-woogie piano at the age of 13. By the time Kaeshammer and his family moved to Canada four years later, he was a veteran of the German club, concert and jazz festival circuit. In 1996, still as a teenager, he released his auspicious debut recording, Blue Keys. Critics hailed Kaeshammer’s “prodigious technique and thunderous left hand bass lines on a repertoire of brilliantly reshaped traditional jazz and blues classics.”
Kaeshammer followed with Tell You How I Feel in 1998, his first recording for Alma Records and producer Peter Cardinali. It featured a team of Canadian jazz stars on a series of studio performances demonstrating Kaeshammer’s mastery of a dizzying variety of jazz forms.
On 2000’s No Strings Attached, Cardinali took the young pianist down to New Orleans to record with Big Easy legends Eddie Bo, Art Neville and Johnny Vidacovich. Canadian jazz stars Neil Swainson, Guido Basso and Terry Clarke also contributed to Kaeshammer’s eclectic repertoire on his acclaimed third CD. It’s an impressive collection of daring originals, funky blues, and thoughtful reinterpretations of ragtime and boogie woogie classics. The recording’s combination of roots music and modernity garnered a JUNO nomination and a West Coast Music Award for Male Artist of the Year in 2001. In 2002 Michael received two West Coast Music Awards, Performer of the Year and Musician of the Year. Strut has been nominated for a 2004 Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year Juno Award.
To create the ideal environment to record 2003’s Strut, drummer Johnny Vidacovich and veteran bassist Ben Wolfe (Diana Krall, Harry Connick Jr.) joined Michael in a studio that Cardinali and noted engineer Denis Tougas set-up in a big, old barn at a house on Stony Lake, just outside Peterborough, Ontario.
“Going down to New Orleans and recording with Johnny on No Strings Attached really influenced me, but this session was even better,” Kaeshammer explained. “It was so warm and so much fun, a really relaxed atmosphere that produced some very beautiful, soulful music.”
Guitarist Kevin Breit (Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson, kd lang) contributed some succinct, tasty licks to the trio’s rhythmically sophisticated repertoire on Strut, and Michael continues to demonstrate his growth as a composer of hip, well-crafted originals grounded in his encyclopedic knowledge of traditional piano styles. Ragtime, stride and Jelly Roll Morton’s early jazz stylings seamlessly meld into funk-inspired bebop, romantic ballads, and modern jazz in the ever-expanding, unique keyboard sound of the young piano star.
Strut was released on November 25, 2003 and initially only available for fans of Michael Kaeshammer at his live shows and online at www.almarecords.com. Strut was made widely available at retail March 16th, 2004 through Alma Records and Universal Music Canada.
The young pianist has a polished live show that features exciting performances of the music on the new CD, as well as surprise-filled reinventions of tunes on his earlier recordings. Kaeshammer’s in-the-moment improvisational magic and the trio’s cleverly-reshaped live versions of his music will be showcased throughout Canada, Europe and the U.S. during the pianist’s current tour. Every performance is met with thundering applause and standing ovations. Strut is the culmination of the musician’s singular synthesis of the jazz piano tradition. With continuous touring and a busy schedule of television and radio appearances, he hopes to share it with an even larger international audience.
“I’m going to tour this record for the next couple of years, and I’m looking forward to it,” Michael explained. “I really love playing this music.”
Kaeshammer continues to amaze with his prodigious keyboard technique and total absorption of jazz idioms. Strut demonstrates his continued growth as a stylist, composer, and, on a sultry reading of Comes Love and a Professor Longhair-inspired version of Cry To Me, an emerging talent as a soulful vocalist. There’s not a brighter star on the jazz horizon.