This one may be a little out of the ordinary for many listeners, but is such a logical venture - as well as a surprisingly satisfying listen - it clearly merits inclusion here.
Peter Schmidt has emerged over the past few years as one of Toronto's premier blues guitarists. Having appeared of late on a number of recordings by local artists, he's currently (many would say finally) hard at work on his own debut. Bassist Shane Scott, too, is becoming a fixture among the emerging elite, and as owner of Bassline Studios, where this project was recorded, he's had a hand in many a fine project in recent years. Together Peter and Shane - ably abetted by Julian Fauth on keys and drummer Bob Vespaziani (both among the best of Toronto's 'next generation of blues') - have produced what might be considered the blues version of a Karaoke disc, intended to help neophyte and experienced players alike to hone their chops.
Blues, of course, has long been a music of solos, whether guitar, harp, piano or brass. And while musicians can learn much from recordings by others, existing solos can actually get in the way when one's trying to create something fresh, something new. And that's what makes this disc so valuable to the practicing musician. The rhythms are solid, the beats classic, but the lack of solos - a simple enough concept, really - leaves lots of space for the creation of one's own.
With ten tracks labelled by groove and key - "Chicago Shuffle in A," "Swing in F," "Slow Blues in A," etc. - the band covers all the blues basics, providing a firm foundation for practice both instrumental and vocal.
And what about non-musicians? Well, some will find the disc okay for a background listen, as the grooves really are deep and tight. But while the visceral impact of traditional blues is there in spades, the lack of vocals and solos does rob the music of emotional expression. Mr. Fauth's keys sparkle in places but are kept low in the mix and way off to the right, the better to facilitate stereo panning to allow keyboard players to cut the sound out for practice purposes.
Can't say I'd recommend this one to casual listeners, but for practicing players it's an invaluable tool. Think of it as an audio version of a home gym, and start building those musical muscles!
Stone Pillar Productions
14 Ilfracombe Crescent, Scarborough, Ontario
Canada M1R 3R8
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