TORONTO --- Julian Fauth is playing his regular gigs around Toronto, writing songs for a new CD that will be recorded this spring and getting ready for a special show at the Jazz Bistro.
The Juno Award winning blues pianist and composer has long played in that musical space where blues and jazz come together. Not surprising for fans who have heard Julian play Harlem Stride piano, and sing Cab Calloway's Hi De Ho, straight out of the 1930s Cotton Club
On Tuesday, Feb. 10th Julian leads a seven piece band at the Jazz Bistro doing all of the material from his last CD --- Everybody Ought to Treat A Stranger Right. That was Julian's third CD, all recorded on the Toronto label Electro-Fi Records. Julian is also featured on another Electro-Fi release called PIANO-RAMA that was recorded live at the Gladstone Hotel on Queen Street West. It also features Curley Bridges, Kenny Blues Boss Wayne and Bobby Dean Blackburn.
The Jazz Bistro gig will include Jay Danley on guitar, Tim Hamel on trumpet, Shawn Nykwist on saxophone, Ken Yoshioka on harmonica, James Thomson on bass and John McCann on drums. Danley played guitar on Fauth's last two CDs.
"A lot of these guys are jazz players and they sort of just adopted me I guess," Fauth said in an interview with New City Notes. "So it sounds a bit jazzier when I am playing with them."
Everybody Ought to Treat A Stranger Right is pure Julian. It includes mostly his own compositions, and a couple by Danley. There are two traditional songs, Everybody Ought to Treat A Stranger Right, a traditional African-American spiritual. And Roll and Tumble, a classic out of the Mississippi Delta that has been covered by just about every blues legend.
It is contemporary blues with tip of the hat to the genre's rich past. Not surprising really. Julian was born and raised in Kitchener. As a teenager, Julian, watched, listened and learned from the late, great soul-funk-jazz-blues fusion guitarist Mel Brown, who anchored jam nights up and down King Street in Kitchener for years. Mel also recorded on Electro-Fi Records.
Julian's musical lineage through Mel goes straight back to some of the greatest blues artists to come out of Mississippi. Mel always said his first and most important musical influence was his father, John Henry Brown, a blues composer and performer out of Jackson. John Henry Brown played a lot with Tommy Johnson, one of the greatest and most influential blues musicians of all time. In the mythology of the blues, it was Tommy Johnson who sold his soul to the devil in a midnight meeting at a crossroads in the Delta.
Julian takes that rich-musical heritage and gives it his own 21st Century voice and arrangements. And now, he's taking into the jazz world.
The gig at the Jazz Bistro on Tuesday, Feb.10th will be Julian's first appearance in what has become one of the leading jazz venues in Toronto. The music starts at 8 p.m. Cover: $15.
Julian's regular Toronto gigs include Gate 403 (403 Roncesvalles) on Wednesdays 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m..
He does a Saturday brunch at Axis (3048 Dundas West) from noon to 3 p.m., and also Sundays noon to 3 p.m. The Saturday brunch gig is usually solo, and Sundays he is part of a trio. The Axis in The Junction.
On Tuesdays, 6-9 p.m. you can find Julian on the Danforth at a place called Sauce.
In between the gigs, he is preparing material for his next recording session with Electro-Fi Records. If it is anything like his previous work for this label, it will be a good one. His first CD was nominated for a Juno. His second CD won a Juno. Julian has also won a Maple Blues Award. He has opened for the late, great Johnny Winter, and John Mayall.
"There is a lot of stuff that I already do that I haven't recorded, and I am writing new songs too," Julian said.
For much of 2012 and 2013 Julian was out of action with a serious illness.
"It was diagnosed a pneumonia at first, then as whooping cough, and then they said I have an underlying bronchitis," Julian said.
He quit smoking.
"Basically I just had really, really bad coughing fits, convulsions, to the point where I was like passing out two or three times a day from a lack of oxygen," Julian said. "I cracked six ribs along the right side of my body. I didn't really know they were broken until they x-rayed me and said: 'Do you realize all of your ribs are broken?'"
"Well it was on of those things that faked me out a lot," Julian said. "I kept thinking I was getting better and then had relapses. That happened a couple of times. I was going to start playing again in October 2013, and then had another relapse.Then I really didn't get started again until April 2014."
Julian's many fans are looking forward to his next CD as much as they look forward to spring. I know Julian was in the studio in early 2012, before he got sick, with Jack De Keyzer on guitar and Harmonica Shaw out of Detroit. De Keyzer is a legend on the Canadian blues scene. And Shaw has been a real-deal fixture on Detroit's blues scene for decades. Maybe some of that material will make its way onto the next CD. Sure hope so. While they are waiting for that next CD, fans can catch Julian at the Jazz Bristro next week, or at one of his many regular gigs in the city.