Top jazz pianist Michael Kaeshammer wants you to join the party

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

PIANO player extraordinaire Michael Kaeshammer doesn’t really like the word jazz, or its connotations, despite being a jazz pianist, for want of a better description.

PIANO player extraordinaire Michael Kaeshammer doesn’t really like the word jazz, or its connotations, despite being a jazz pianist, for want of a better description.

“The show I do is basically jazz and blues music, based on New Orleans’ music styles. I used to live down there, but I don’t even see myself as a jazz player because, I always find that people have an aversion to the word,” smiles the musician, who is from Freiburg in Germany, but moved to Vancouver when he was just 18.

“Jazz in the 1930s, 40s, 50s used to be party music, pop music, upbeat, and then something happened along the way where it has become this background, loungy ‘thing’. So when you say jazz to people who are not into it, they shy away, that’s not my thing.”

Kaeshammer is a classically trained pianist who, with his backing of bass and drums, has expertly moulded the diverse influences of jazz, soul, pop and R&B to perform a heady live show that has won him plaudits on both sides of the Atlantic.

“We are really upbeat, all the songs are written like singer songwriter songs, there are no 15 minute sax solos. I write all my own songs. There are a few covers, but in the end what really matters to me is connecting with the audience, having the audience as part of the band,” says Kaeshammer (pronounced Case-hammer) a gifted singer and incendiary piano player.

The beauty of Kaeshammer’s shows are that he integrates the audience, inviting you to join the party while he plays a mix of originals and top covers and uses the piano as a percussive device.

“That is really important to me, that is the show - I almost think that music is an excuse to hang out in the same room and you connect and are there,” he says. “You take people on a ride and you take them along to wherever they want to go and the best compliment you can get - for me - is ‘I don’t really like jazz, but that was a great show’. I love that.”

Kaeshammer shrugged off his classical training at the age of 13, following in his father’s footsteps, who was a rag-time piano player - much to the chagrin of his piano teacher, who was from Ireland.

“I was just 13 when I discovered this music. My dad used to play rag time piano, so when I was a kid, that was all I was exposed to,” he says.

“That is what I started playing as a kid, it is very upbeat and based on the blues and it is not brain music, you can just feel it. I am just into all that music. I love pop music, gospel, soul - so all of these things come in automatically.

“I quit my lessons because it wasn’t fun, I was either going to quit lessons or the piano, so I packed it in and taught myself listening to records. I might look up the teacher when I am in Ireland,” he laughs.

Michael Kaeshammer plays Dolan’s this Friday night.