Back Where She Belongs

Back Where She Belongs

Jim Smith (R) shows me where he repaired some of the damage.

Jim Smith (R) shows me where he repaired some of the damage.

This past winter has been brutal for my prized hand-carved double bass. The severe lack of humidity in my apartment took its toll, causing several cracks to emerge in the front of the bass and separating portions of the back from the sides. Major surgery was required.

Fortunately, there’s James Smith, an experienced and talented luthier living in Prince Edward County. Jim has been a friend of mine, and of my bass, since I started building it in 2001. He knows my instrument inside and out and has come to its rescue on several occasions.

Yesterday, I drove to The County where my bass was being released from Jim’s workshop; it’s more like an operating room where precious friends are brought back to life. Once again, Jim (the surgeon) accomplished miracles. I’ve spent today woodshedding with my trusted musical sidekick. It’s great to have her back.

Back on the Blog

Hi Friends. I must be the world's worst Blogger. More than a year has passed since my last post. I'll try to do better this year.

I'll be performing again with The Bernie Carroll Project on Friday, June 8, 2018 at The Jazz Room in The Huether Hotel, King Street, Waterloo. On so many occasions I've heard from musicians, both local and from abroad, that The Jazz Room is their jazz club of choice. There are many reasons that The Jazz Room has earned this reputation.

First and foremost is that it is a LISTENING club; no idle chatter is permitted during the performances. This is not only because it's polite for the musicians (which it is), but it also allows other listeners to really hear what's going on. Jazz is not only loud and percussive, but is often subtle and quiet. Jazz is also comprised of sound and silence, and both must be appreciated.

The second and subsequent reasons are related to how the musicians are treated by the management and the volunteers who keep the club going week after week. There is a designated sound person who looks after setting up all the microphones, the speakers, and particularly, the monitors which allow each musician to hear what's going on. Many non-musicians don't understand how difficult it can be for the musicians to hear each other on the bandstand. Jazz is a listening art. A great jazz performance depends upon how attentive the musicians listen to, and respond to, each other.

Sound checks are usually conducted in the late afternoon before the performance. The musicians use that time to run over some of their material while the sound person adjusts and balances each instrument.

Each performance is recorded by the sound person, and the recordings are made available to the musicians as desired. The musicians are fed from The Jazz Room menu between the sound check and the start of the performance. Photos are often taken of each performance, and within a few days, digital images magically appear in each musicians email. Some of the images used in my website and on my Facebook page are from those files, with full permission to reproduce them.

Now. Ask me why I look forward to performing at The Jazz Room. Did I mention that the musicians are also paid respectably?

The Bernie Carroll Project includes: Dave Wiffen (tenor sax); Doug Wicken (flute); Ralph Hetke (piano); Al Richardson (bass); and Bernie Carroll (drums). You can hear selected recordings of this band in the Sounds and Samples page of my website. .

New Samples

New recordings in the Sounds and Samples Listing.

I've added a couple of new recordings from The Bernie Carroll Project gig in February at The Jazz Room. Give them a listen.



I’ll be back at The Jazz Room in Waterloo on Friday, April 8, when I play bass with The Andy Klaehn Group. Performance is from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. and admission is $15.00 at the door. The Jazz Room is located in the historic Huether Hotel, 59 King St. North, Waterloo, Ontario. I hope to see you there.



Don’t miss the The Bernie Carroll Project at The Jazz Room in Waterloo on Sunday, February 21st, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. The Jazz Room at Waterloo’s Huether Hotel is one of the finest jazz venues in the country. I’ll be playing bass with Bernie Carroll, an old friend of more than 50 years, back when we were two-thirds of The Barry Wills Trio. I’ve been back in Kitchener-Waterloo for eight months and I’m definitely looking forward to this concert with some of the area’s great musicians: Dave Wiffen (tenor sax), Dave Thompson (guitar), Ralph Hetke (piano), and of course, Bernie Carroll on drums. We’ve put together an energy-driven program of jazz standards along with original compositions. This is not to be missed. Advance tickets have been selling already.

Contact The Jazz Room, for more information. Tickets are $15.00.

Moving On

Moving On

After living and working in the Quinte area of Eastern Ontario (Belleville and Picton) for the past 27 years, I am returning to the once-very-familiar territory of Kitchener-Waterloo in June. It will be an opportunity for me to reconnect with family and old friends whom I have gradually lost touch with through time and circumstances.

During recent trips to K-W in search of some roots and an apartment to live in, I have been amazed, not only at how the area has changed, but also how much of it remains familiar. A walk through Waterloo Park two weeks ago, where I once trekked daily on my way to work at the University of Waterloo, revealed the same animal compounds (different animals), the familiar rippling brook flowing beneath the footbridge (new bridge), the band shell (where I used to perform jazz on Sunday afternoons), and the “breaker-breaker” calls of scarlet cardinals.

I’m not naïve. I fully realize that one cannot go home again in the sense that everything will remain as memory dictates. Many changes have occurred. Downtown Waterloo is now Uptown Waterloo. Seagram’s and Labatt’s are gone and with them, the essence of distilling and brewing that once wafted along Caroline Street and down Dorset past our previous home on Spring Street. There are new and rejuvenated homes, museums, theatres, cafes, and galleries, and the library has been enlarged and modernized. Both universities have overflowed their previous boundaries and spread their presence into every nook and cranny of the city.

Those revelations represent only my renewed experiences within Waterloo. Kitchener remains yet to be rediscovered.

It is not the past that I’m seeking in K-W, but the present. I won’t even attempt to imagine the future at this moment; it pretty much takes care of itself.

Following moving day, I’ll be searching for old friends and creating new ones. Music, photography and writing (my three amigos) will draw me through alleyways and into bookstores, clubs, concerts, festivals, parks, the corridors of both universities, and anywhere else where people are interesting.

 Perhaps we’ll meet somewhere soon.



Finally, I’m able to compose my first blog, after spending most of my time organizing the other material for the website.

I often catch myself relating to someone, usually younger than I, the details of some memorable event in my life. Events that come to mind as I write are: catching Miles Davis and his quintet playing live at the Colonial Tavern in Toronto (1969); playing bass at the Kress Hotel in September, 1981, with the John Tank Quartet; performing “Song for Dave Drew,” a tribute co-composed in 1975 by Barry Wills and myself to our good friend Dave, who had recently passed away; a memorable night in late-1964, after sitting in with Trev Bennett’s band.

It was during the latter event when Trev’s pianist, Barry Wills, turned to me and asked whether I was working with anybody on a steady basis. When I answered, “No,” he asked if I could recommend a drummer for our new trio. After a couple of beers, the Barry Wills Trio was formed, with Dave Graziotto as the drummer. In time, Dave left and Bernie Carroll joined us.

Interestingly, Barry was also in attendance on most of my other memorable occasions.

While enroute to Toronto to hear Miles play, we were pumped up with anticipations about who would be on piano, or on bass. I was hoping to see my former workshop teacher, Ron Carter, and Barry was anticipating Herbie Hancock. And of course, we all wanted to hear Tony Williams, the great young drummer. None of the above happened. What did happen was an event that remains to this day, the finest jazz influence on my 50 years of playing the bass (and I don’t like using superlatives). After Jack DeJohnette stepped onto the stage to tune his drums, bassist Dave Holland joined him to do the same. Chick Corea explored the Fender Rhodes while Wayne Shorter ran arpeggios through the entire range of his tenor sax. Soon, the cacophony of tuning up evolved into a cohesive burst of energy, soon joined by the master himself, Miles. For the best part of two hours, the music soared relentlessly throughout the club and probed inside of each of us. Life changed that night for Barry and I.

Many gigs that musicians play are forgettable. Bill Evans once said that only one in ten proves to be a memorable experience. I wish I could be that fortunate. There are however, a few that stand out.

On a Thursday night in September 1981, John Tank, Dave Lewis, Barry Wills, and I gathered at the Kress Hotel in Cambridge for a gig. There was no time for rehearsal; John had just blown in from New York, and Dave had just completed a rigorous stint at the CNE as Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins’ drummer. Why I brought my Hitachi ‘ghetto blaster,’ I have no idea. But I set it up on ‘auto’ across the room from the stage and ran 90-minute tapes for the duration of the gig. I still consume that recording to this day with awe at the energy and talent that we four young musicians produced there, at that moment in our personal music history. The piano, unfortunately, was under-recorded. But there is one take where Barry assumed the lead that produced one of the nicest examples of his wonderful playing. The recording of “There is No Greater Love,” 13 minutes in length, is included on the “Sounds and Samples” page of my website. I invite you to experience it. Barry counts it in; the laughter is Dave Lewis’.

Memories! I’ve been told that I am blessed with the gift of a good memory; that I can easily recall events from the deepest crevices of the past. Alas, Barry did not share that talent. Instead, he had a talent for giving us these wonderful moments to remember. If we ever have a chance to sit over a coffee somewhere, ask me for a memory. Hopefully, my gift will still be available.

Whenever Barry was called upon to introduce the next tune, he would pace the stage with his hands in his pockets, and explain some anecdotal piece of information, until his hands would come together in front of him, as if to warm them, and say, “Let’s let the music speak for itself.” There is a tune in my personal 'Tunebook' that I wrote the night Barry called me to inform me of his illness. He expressed his anxieties and fears about the future. I suggested that he might let the music speak for itself. One of these days I will record, "The Music Speaks."