Kaeshammer returns to Strings in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Kaeshammer returns to Strings in Steamboat

Boogie-woogie pianist, singer brings a backing big band

Nicole Inglis

Michael Kaeshammer, a German-born pianist and singer, returns to Strings Music Festival for a performance at 8 p.m. today at Strings Music Pavilion. He brings with him a five-piece big band and high energy boogie woogie tunes.

— Last year, boogie-woogie pianist and jazz singer Michael Kaeshammer spent half the year on the road. The highlight, he said, was playing Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs.

"Places like Steamboat, for me as an artist, it makes you sit down and reflect and look at it," said Kaeshammer, a German-born Canadian musician. He said last year's show was his first trip to the U.S. Rocky Mountains.

"Besides the fact that it's a beautiful place to be, I really love the people who run the festival," he said.

And they clearly loved him back, asking Kaeshammer to return this year. He'll play the Strings Music Pavilion at 8 p.m. today. Tickets are $42.

"He's infectious," said Betse Grassby, Strings' operations and non-classical programming director. "Everybody went nuts."

She said she saw him for the first time in New York City years ago and was compelled to bring him to Steamboat. She knew immediately after last year's show that she had to bring him back.

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"He's a brilliant musician and the musicians with him are incredible," she said. "His energy is incredible, and it's just a great experience."

Kaeshammer was born in Offenburg, Germany, and was entranced at a young age by his father playing ragtime and blues piano. When he was seven, his parents put him in piano lessons. But that lasted only three years.

His teacher, he said, was throwing heavy Russian compositions his way when his heart was really in New Orleans.

"The blues, when you think about where it comes from and how it evolved, it's the heartbeat," he said. "You can't help it, your body moves in a certain way and you connect with it. It's more about what it says than the music.

"Boogie-woogie is just blues played a little bit faster."

He moved to Vancouver as a teenager, deciding he would follow his heart toward a career in music.

It wasn't until his late 20s that he began to compose music and sing.

"I started reflecting on my life and in my late 20s I was like, 'What am I doing?'" Kaeshammer said. "I started writing stream of consciousness; I had stuff to get off my chest. I turned that into songs and I realized that's an amazing way to get things off my mind."

At tonight's show, his jazzy, big band tenor voice and quick fingers will be backed by a five-piece band with a horn section, a group he's played with for about four years.

With swingy-upbeat tunes, Kaeshammer aims to keep the audience energized with traditional songs and originals ranging from jazz and blues to R&B and soul.

He said he doesn't like to describe his band's music as jazz because that genre can seem inaccessible. Just like the blues men and women that wove themselves into the fabric of his childhood, Kaeshammer knows that it's all about the connection and conversation between musicians and audiences.

"If you connect with people, you can really play anything," he said.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com

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