Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Charisma to spare

Pianist is boogie woogie, soul and way more than all that jazz

Express Staff Writer

Michael Kaeshammer brings his trio to Ketchum to woo and charm cabaret style. Courtesy photo

     Michael Kaeshammer’s always lived his life in 3-D.
  As both a hyper and creative child, he said, “after going to the circus I would build my own circus at home out of cardboard boxes. After going to the zoo, I would build a zoo with teddy bears. And in a way, I’m still like that, except now it’s with music, food and writing.”
    The jazz and blues pianist brings his mirth and music to take over the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum at 6:30 p.m., Friday, March 8, when his trio comes to town as guests of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.
    Expect tablecloths, candles and a more intimate setting than the usual concert.
    Regarded as a “must-see live act” (Montreal Gazette), the classically trained, German-born Kaeshammer (pronounced “case-hammer”) discovered New Orleans-style boogie-woogie and stride piano when he was in his early teens. After moving with his family to Canada in the mid-1990s, he soon was playing at jazz and blues festivals from coast to coast.
     His music blends jazz, soul, pop and R&B influences, and, as he says, “For me performance is as much about the energy coming off the stage as the energy coming from the audience. It’s about being myself, writing from the heart and showing my love for life. That’s what I want to convey. After the show, people ask me, ‘Do you
really have that much fun?’ And I say, ‘You don’t know the half of it. It’s even more exhilarating than it looks.’”
    There’s no way around liking Kaeshammer. Critics compare him to the gregarious and charming Harry Connick Jr. Writers can’t find enough adjectives to describe the rapport he commands with an audience, and the man himself would rather talk about cooking on his web page than the awards and positive press he’s generated.
    He’s known among friends for hosting killer dinner parties where the preparation is shared and the music of Nina Simone or Sam Cooke will stand in until someone, maybe he, goes to the piano.
    “Bring yourself, time and appreciation for good food and a long dinner,” he said.
    Is his congeniality a tough act to maintain?
    “I never put on a personality on stage,” he says. “And I’ve never made music that wasn’t honest to myself. The two go hand in hand because they’re simply me, on and off stage.”
    Such graciousness prompts the question, would he ever consider opening a more public venue to have fans in for dinner and a show?
    “I have thought about that for a little while now. We’ll see what the future holds.”
    Kaeshammer credits his father for his current career.
    “My father is the sole reason why I’m doing this,” he said. “He played some piano and showed me a lot of stuff when I was very young.”
    While neither of his parents were professionals, they were aficionados with good taste.
    “They had a huge appreciation for music and the piano,” Kaeshammer said.
    He said his father’s record collection made up his piano lessons.
    What can people expect from this upcoming show?
    “Sometimes people are shied away by the word “jazz,” Kaeshammer said. “Although my music has a lot of jazz and blues elements in it, for me a show is all about connecting with the audience and the comments we get the most is the fact that people can tell how much fun we have making music on stage. If you like jazz or not, you will like this show!”

The particulars:
Tickets are $50 for Center members, $60 for nonmembers and $10 for students.
The night will include beer, wine and special food platters for purchase, though a first drink is on The Center.
Tickets are available online at or by phone at 726-9491, ext. 10.


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