This was my first time at Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse, here in Toronto. It is also the first appearance here for the inimitable and always entertaining Jack de Keyzer. De Keyzer is a multi-awarding winning blues guitarist, with prestigious blues wins at the Junos and the Maple Blues Awards over the years. He was also at one time or another a member of rockabilly legend Ronnie Hawkins’ band, as well as the Bop Cats, before going solo in the mid ‘80s.
This night was the DVD release party for de Keyzer’s Silver Blues DVD. It was filmed by award-winning film maker Mako Funasaka, whose popular Talkin’ Blues documentary show ran for years on Bravo TV. Funasaka also provided the DVD cover art as well.
Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse is the new home of guitarist Jeff Healey’s formerly named Healey’s nightclub in Toronto’s central west-end. This new location and club name is ideally located right across from Wayne Gretzky’s club, and is at 56 Blue Jays Way, at King St. W., just east of Spadina Ave. (Gretzky’s is at 99 Blue Jays Way. The former Peter St. south of King W. was renamed for Gretzky, so he could have # 99 for his address. North of King W., it is still called Peter St., and accessible from Queen St. W. and other east/west thoroughfares).
Unlike the former Healey’s location, this location is in a newer building, but has all the charm of a club with old time atmosphere -- including a long stained wood standup bar, where patrons can view the band on a huge, well lit stage straight ahead of them. There is a lot more seating at the new Healey’s (Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse) too, but it still retains the charm of the old club, in a more people-friendly location with the Skydome just down the road! There’s also a dance floor to the left of the stage, at the new location. This feature was sadly lacking at the old Healey’s location. The old club was licensed for about 300, whereas this new club with its charcoal colored walls and stained wood, has a capacity of 800. It can also be partitioned to make a cozy smaller venue if the need arises, says Healey’s general manager Randy Charlton. (Charlton has managed some of the top clubs in Toronto, including Club 279/Hard Rock Café; The Diamond; and Top of Toronto the highest elevation restaurant in the world - at the CN Tower when it opened).
Jack de Keyzer whose DVD release it was this night, raved about the sound, the sight lines and roominess of this new venue of Jeff Healey’s, as well as the large well-lit stage, where bands can get a chance to move around and enjoy the space onstage while performing. The fans seemed to feel right at home at this new Healey’s location too! Promoter/producer Andrew Kempa was also here to see de Keyzer’s first show at the new Healey’s location. A few years ago, Kempa arranged a world tour for de Keyzer and his band, backing former Muddy Waters’ drummer Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith. He also co-produced Willie’s CD’s in recent years with de Keyzer and others of the blues elite in Canada like Juno-winning blues harp player Al Lerman, backing him.
Jack de Keyzer and his band were in fine form at Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse this night, playing some of the most rousing blues, R&B influenced and jazz-influenced blues around. The fans in attendance were here to appreciate good music, as only de Keyzer and his band can deliver it up. Al Duffy was on electric bass as usual playing some amazing solos. There’s a new addition to the band, with David Colter on drums .. replacing longtime de Keyzer mainstay Tony Ajo who is sadly missed. Chris Murphy was also on hand, playing some out of this world enjoyable sax riffs, clear as a bell and mouthwatering in delivery. Murphy’s solos were absolutely heavenly to listen to, and prompted much applause throughout this evening, as did Duffy’s numerous thrilling bass solos and Colter’s talent on the drum kit.
De Keyzer ran the gamut from upbeat blues like "Rock ‘Til You Drop" and his trademark "King of the Blues" and "Six String Lover"` from his Juno-winning CD of the same name. He also included an energized version of "It’s a Blues Thing" from his upcoming CD entitled Blues Thing.
"Funk This" came across as ‘James Brown Meets Average White Band’ -- morphing into a ‘Hendrix gets funky’ kind of ‘thang’.
Some very intricate and mouthwatering jazz-drenched and blues-infused leads and rhythms were part of many outstanding de Keyzer arrangements this night. Jack’s engrossing slide playing was featured on several songs, including "You Shook Me Baby", Pleasure is My Business" and "Hey Hey, the Blues is Alright". His inventive, jazz-influenced, melodic leads are always a main feature that brings die-hard fans to any and all de Keyzer performances.
Judging by the huge turnout for the first of two long and enjoyable sets this night .. and by the amount of fans who stayed for the second incredible set, Jack de Keyzer’s DVD release party for Silver Blues was a great success. There are a few surprises on the Silver Blues DVD, including a few songs not on the CD of the same name. There is also some interview footage with Jack that was filmed at the recording studio, when all this ‘musical magic’ was being mastered.
If 25 years recording and entertaining audiences says anything about Jack de Keyzer’s consistent high quality shows and CD’s, this new DVD should be one of his best ever .. and something anyone who loves a great blues show will enjoy taking home to entertain them whenever they so desire. And like I tell so many people: You don't always have to 'watch' a DVD -- especially a concert DVD. You can always leave it playing in the background, while busying yourself around the house.
Please feel free to check out more of what makes Jack de Keyzer tick musically, at his official website. (Scroll down to the link at bottom of this page). There are several live video clips and CD streaming from all of de Keyzer’s CD’s and DVD, that will certainly tickle the taste buds of any blues or jazz enthusiast! CD’s and DVD’s can also be ordered directly from de Keyzer’s website.