Guitarist Jeff Healey’s nightclub Healey’s in Toronto, has gained an international reputation as one of the finest blues clubs around. Many of the most renowned U.S. blues acts (James Cotton comes to mind, as well as the late A.C. Reed, and drummer Levon Helm’s Barnburners -- a concert whose first set the great humanitarian Sir Bob Geldof of Live Aid/Live 8 fame> attended) have performed on its well lit, spacious stage since it opened for business a little over three years ago. One of the reasons for its enormous success is the fact that world-renowned guitarist Jeff Healey (actually Dr. Jeff to be more precise, since he recently received an honorary doctorate) is co-owner of the club that bears his name He also performs at Healey's every Thursday night unless he's on tour with his Jeff Healey Band.
Through his decades of knowledge and expertise in blues and jazz, (as discerning music/record collector and artist), Jeff helps contact and book the best talent in the world to perform at Healey’s. On Saturday afternoons, you’ll find him here, playing trumpet in his lively jazz band, the Jazz Wizards. Juno Award winning blues guitarist Jack de Keyzer was Jeff’s special guest at Healey’s on Thurs. Jan. 27, 2005. Healey’s was packed that night with blues fans and guitar fans so the best of both audiences was there to perform to. The energy in the air was electrifying, and the talent on stage was the same.
Jack de Keyzer is always a real crowd-pleaser and people person. He plays some of the finest blues, jazz influenced blues and rock ‘n’ roll around, whenever he’s on stage -- from clubs to huge outdoor blues festivals. (Just before the Healey’s gig, he played a successful 8-day date in Mexico; which in recent years has become a regular stop in his musical intinerary). He went from the warmth of this venue to the cold of a February Saskatchewan Blues Festival as easily changing guitar picks.
This January night at Healey’s, Jack was backed by the Healey house band, starring Jeff Healey on guitar. These two guitar virtuosos, de Keyzer and Healey, traded licks with each other like they were going ‘outta’ style. They seemed to be having lots of fun doing it, too! Jeff’s regular drummer in the internationally acclaimed Jeff Healey Band, Al Webster, is part of the Healey house band too, and is one of the main reasons this band is so tight and in the groove. Webster’s drumming this night was outstanding, as always.
Also on hand were the magical fingers of Dave Murphy playing keyboards. Murphy went wild in some solos and in some rousing lead vocals, too! Dave Murphy Band and Healey house band guitarist Dan Nordmeer, also contributed some amazing lead soloing and mouthwatering slide guitar this night, before, after and during the time de Keyzer was on stage. When Nordmeer joined de Keyzer on a few tunes, the blending of these two talented guitarists’ creativity was really something to see!
Jeff’s bass player for the Thurs. night sessions is Alec Fraser, who also happens to be de Keyzer’s regular bassist. He’s toured the world with de Keyzer as part of a blues band with Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith (Muddy Waters Band alumnus) on drums (and sometimes out front on harp and vocals). Fraser’s experience in the Chicago blues style is first hand and is indispensable to the high quality of blues that the Healey house band provides.
de Keyzer’s repertoire ranged from upbeat rock ‘n’ roll like Chuck Berry’s rousing "Little Queenie", to the equally stimulating de Keyzer originals, "Pleasure Is My Business" and the blistering "Rock ‘Til We Drop" -- which the Healey/de Keyzer fans surely did this night! Murphy played some mean piano on this very cool de Keyzer original and others.
Jack also played some slow, right from the heart blues instrumentals that were a real joy to see and hear live! His ingenious jazz chords in some of these tunes were combined with inventive soloing that grasps the true essence of these songs. de Keyzer’s vocals in the non-instrumentals, were something else, too!
The crème de la crème of this night at Healey’s, (and anytime de Keyzer is performing on stage) the main draw as it were -- are the incredible lead guitar solos he churns out effortlessly on his black & white Fender Strat. These are the kind of solos that define star quality. The depth and understanding of the blues and jazz that de Keyzer demonstrates in his solos, is the main reason that he has such a huge following that will come out to see him in any kind of weather. This is one of the two main reasons (along with Jeff Healey of course) that brought the fans to Healey’s on this cold night in January. Another reason is Healey’s superb and comfortable atmosphere, that can make it seem like a sunny day in July, when ‘baby it’s cold outside’, literally! That in most respects can be said of the other fine blues and jazz clubs here in Toronto. Good live music has a way of washing away those nasty ‘weather blues’.
The fans drank in every bluesy note that came from de Keyzer’s imagination.
There was loud applause after every tune, with eyes glued to the stage and Jack’s every move on his ‘six string lover’, also known as Fender Strat. (It’s also the name of his most recent Juno-winning blues CD, 6 String Lover, that’s available along with his other great CD’s at his awesome ‘animated’ web site, de Keyzer’s web site is one of the most graphically attractive I’ve seen: with knobs on a guitar amp to turn, to get to various locations on his site, etc. The only other sites I’ve seen that this writer feels are as imaginatively created are B.B. King’s and James ‘Superharp’ Cotton’s.
Jeff Healey was performing his own ingenious solos and musical inventiveness this night with de Keyzer, as he does each and every time he’s on stage (at Healey’s or at venues around the world). Jeff's amazing guitar work and the superb guest artists featured, is the main reason that this special Thursday evening -- and any Thursday Special Guest Night at Healey’s is a rare and wonderful concert experience of the best musical kind!
178 Bathurst St.