Over the course of a prolific recording career now spanning 26 years and 13 albums, Vancouver Island-based Michael Kaeshammer has blossomed into a truly multi-faceted artist. The Juno Award winner is a talented singer/songwriter, a virtuoso piano player, a bandleader, and an engaging performer who is now in-demand for theatre concerts across the country.

This new album focuses upon his skills as a pianist and bandleader as he and his longtime rhythm section of bassist David Piltch and drummer Johnny Vidacovich deliver fresh takes of some classic tunes with a broad stylistic range.

The title reflects its recording locale, Bryan Adams’ famed Warehouse Studio in Vancouver. There, the trio assembled and laid down the tunes in a natural and spontaneous way. In a label bio, Kaeshammer notes that “The concept was simple. Let’s call a tune and then, let’s record it.  These are all first takes, loose and energetic.”

That would be a risky approach for the inexperienced, but this trio comprises veterans at the top of their game and with a deep history of playing together. Piltch has been featured on albums by Bonnie Raitt, Holly Cole, k.d. lang, Willie Nelson, and countless others, while Vidacovich’s cv includes Ray Anderson, Professor Longhair, and John Scofield.  

Kaeshammer is known as one of the most stylistically eclectic artists we have, with material drawing from jazz, blues, classical, pop, boogie-woogie, stride, soul, gospel, and more. He has explained his approach  this way: “When I play, I don’t worry about if it’s jazz or pop or classical or whatever; I just play what I hear and let the music decide what it wants to be. Sure, there are different styles, different eras, different approaches, but when you really look at it, it’s all just music based on 12 notes.”

This stance means that both his recordings and performances have a dynamic range beyond that of many of his blues-based peers, and the selections on The Warehouse Sessions reflect that. For instance, the album’s first single is a fresh take on “You’ve Got It In Your Soulness,” the Les McCann jazz-soul song that surfaced on McCann’s and trumpet star Eddie Harris’ 1969 Grammy nominated live album Swiss Movement. Not your standard blues song, but it works here. There’s a jaunty Latin feel to Nat King Cole favourite “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas,” while “How Long Blues” has a more conventional bluesy tone.

More immediately recognisable are such tunes as “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Down By The Riverside” and “Bourbon Street Parade.” The latter features a brief taste of Kaeshammer’s vocals, but the album is a predominantly instrumental one that showcases his prodigious keyboard chops. He gives his rhythm section room to stretch out on songs like the Duke Ellington classic, “Caravan,” treated to a 7 and a half minute workout, and Piltch’s playing is typically top-notch throughout.

While not a conventional blues record, The Warehouse Sessions is both accessible and highly accomplished, and definitely worthy of attention. (Kerry Doole)