Boogie boogie piano man Michael Kaeshammer divides his time equally, in that every stop he makes is usually a one-night stand except when it comes to Penticton.
His relationship with the city and the Dream Café is more than just a casual pop-tinged jazz affair.
“I think the first time I came to Penticton was in 1997 and it might have been the first year the Jazz Festival was on. I like coming back to places where I feel like I have friends,” said Kaeshammer. “I got along with everyone at the Jazz Festival and I kept coming back. Then I met Pierre and Debra, owners of the Dream Café, and now I am calling them every year asking when I can come back.”
While his busy tour schedule can take him from Fort Lauderdale, Fl., Augusta, Ga, to Ireland, it is in Penticton he doesn’t mind setting down some roots even if it is just for a week.
“It literally is one of the highlights of my summer. The audience is always into it here. We don’t do places as small as the Dream Café with that many people hardly ever and the whole energy that gets created in a room that size with those people you can’t get that anywhere else. It is totally special,” said Kaeshammer. “I know for a lot of touring musicians that come through here to play, the Dream Café is a saving grace.”
Kaeshammer kicked off his Penticton residency on Tuesday with shows every evening up to and including Saturday. The Juno-award nominated pianist said every night should have a slightly different twist on it.
“We play so much together we don’t have a setlist and there are a lot of things we do here that is different from a theatre. We like to try a song that maybe we wouldn’t play anywhere else and if it works it becomes part of the show. Last year in every intermission we would go upstairs into the apartment and listen to a song we don’t know and play it in the next set. We would let the audience in on it and it was super fun. Everyone had a good time,” said Kaeshammer.
An evening with Kaeshammer and his band isn’t the kind of show where you just sit, watch and applaud politely every now and then. His mission is to draw the audience in and take them on a wild ride. His showmanship was something he developed at a young age by just being himself on stage, having earned his first gig when he was just 16 years old. His passion for music was developed sitting on a piano bench beside his father and listening to his records.
“He is a jazz fanatic and that is where everything came from really. He would play it everyday and show me things he recorded off black and white videos of old jazz movies. I was his little buddy he was sharing all that stuff with,” said Kaeshammer.
Even now when Kaeshammer gets back to Europe where he grew up to visit his parents, he is still treated like that little boy sitting on the piano bench listening to Fats Waller and Nina Simone.
“Absolutely, it is like nothing has changed. If I have a new CD or something it is never ‘that is fantastic,’ it is always ‘well.’ My dad is very opinionated when it comes to musical things,” said Kaeshammer with a chuckle.
But, you can’t bite the hand that feeds you and for Kaeshammer his ears feasted on a bevy of jazz tunes thanks to his dad. In May, Kaeshammer released a tribute recording to New Orleans’ Allen Toussaint called With You In Mind.
“He was always a big part of the music I loved, just anything coming from New Orleans. He made that New Orleans sound of the 60s and 70s, so when I ran into him at a piano festival in Detroit I was like a little kid again,” said Kaeshammer.
The pair ran into each other again at other gigs and Kaeshammer fell in love with his music all over again as he was going through some personal things.
“It was kind of like the soundtrack for what I was going through and afterwards I thought it would be nice to pay tribute and show how I interpret the music because I had never actually done that with anyone’s music. I heard from him that he likes it,” he said.
Tickets to Kaeshammer’s shows (July. 31-Aug. 3). at the Dream Café are $44. Doors open at 6 p.m. and showtime is at 8 p.m. A very limited number of tickets are left for all of his remaining shows in Penticton, to purchase call 250-490-9012.