It all came down to finding the right piano when David Vest set out to record his latest blues CD.
The Alabama native, who’s played traditional blues with Big Joe Turner and was co-leader of the Paul deLay Band, doesn’t think electronic keyboards are any substitute for the resonance of a really great, traditionally built piano.
When Vest heard of sound engineer Jeremy Darby’s The Canterbury Studio in Toronto, he was impressed by its client list of Tony Bennett, k.d. lang, Van Morrison and the Cowboy Junkies.
But he was equally thrilled to be tickling Darby’s well-tuned ivories.
The studio’s hand-built, Japanese-made Shigeru Kawai piano had all the tonal richness Vest was looking for — and he believes the proof is in the recording.
The first music critic who reviewed the album East Meets Vest made reference to the lush keyboards. “The first thing he noticed was how gorgeous the piano was,” added the Victoria-based musician, with a chuckle.
The CD also contains virtuoso playing from Fathead guitarist Teddy Leonard, and bassist Gary Kendall and drummer Mike Fitzpatrick from the seminal Canadian Downchild Blues Band.
There’s a special guest appearance, as well, from guitarist Paul James, who joins in for his own Boogie Woogie Baby track.
Vest will bring the whole band (except for James) with him when he performs on Friday, Oct. 26, at the Central Music Festival Society’s Halloween Dance and Costume Ball at Red Deer’s Elk Lodge.
The 68-year-old urges local blues fans to get out their dancing shoes because he predicts the joint is going to be jumpin’.
Vest will play selections from the album, which was supposed to be a live-off-the-floor CD of all-original songs, but it became more weighted towards blues standards as the recording process went on.
The band’s sound was so tight that Vest suddenly had the urge to record some of the tunes he’s been playing since his youth. “I’m from Alabama and they’re (the rest of the musicians) from Southern Ontario, but musically we come from the same place,” said Vest, who laid down recordings of Big Joe Turner’s Low Down Dog, Avery Parish’s After Hours and Memphis Slim’s Wish Me Well, among others.
He also recorded three of his own songs, including Shake What You Got, which is getting radio play on blues stations all over Canada and some in the U.S.
East Meets Vest is at No. 9 on the Canadian Roots Music Chart — which isn’t bad, considering No. 8 is Leonard Cohen and No. 11 is Ian Tyson, said Vest, with a laugh.
The musician, who moved north of the border a few years ago after marrying a choir singer from Victoria, said he’s been focusing his career in this country now. “I have this ambition of wanting to play everywhere in Canada.”
Vest has already performed in Whitehorse and Montreal, but still needs to get to Yellowknife, Halifax and St. John’s, Nfld.
He confessed that he loves playing deep, traditional blues for people who rarely hear it played live, because the awed audience response “really lifts you up. . . .
“I’ve played the blues since 1957 and it’s gone in and out of style so many times since then. There were times in my career when you could hardly give it away,” admitted Vest, who noted synthesized music had become all the rage.
But the authenticity of the blues keeps it coming back, he added, “and I’m pleased to be part of the scene.”
Tickets to the 8 p.m. dance are $20 at the door, or in advance from www.centralmusicfest.com (festival volunteers from 2007 to 2012 get in for half price).