Sunday July 16th, 4:00pm
As part of the Halifax Jazz Festival free daytime programming
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, one of the most fertile areas of the world for producing highly original and creative musicians, Mike, at the age of 16, began sitting in with the legendary Bucky Adams, learning the art of improvisation. "Bucky was always throwing new musical concepts at me, tempos I couldn't play yet, tunes I should know and didn't; he was always telling me to 'play less notes!'"
Mike spent a year at Dalhousie University where, as a first year student, he formed and conducted the Dalhousie University stage band. His first paying gig, however, was with The Prime Minister of the Blues, Dutch Mason. The gig was at the Waverly Fire Hall where they performed for a motorcycle gang. "When I played with the greatest Blues band in Canadian history, it changed my life!"
At 19, Mike moved to Toronto to study music at Humber College. Multicultural Toronto was a great place for a young musician. "I'd be playing for a Jewish wedding one night and in a Calypso band from Trinidad the next. There was so much music it was unbelievable."
Mike toured across Canada, New York City and Boston and freelanced in Toronto. "During this time a bunch of us would get together and play in this after-hours club. To get in you had to get past the doorman, walk through a clothing store — that was never open in the day — through another door and at the end of the hallway was this nightclub. We were there for 2 years every Sunday from 1am to 6am and developed a huge following." The group became Vertical Hold and started getting gigs at legitimate clubs and a spot on the Toronto TV show Just Jazz. "Columbia and Warner Bros. came calling, but Steve Webster, the bass player, got the gig with Billy Idol for the Rebel Yell album and tour and the rest of us became involved with other projects . . . timing is everything!" It was then that Mike left for the US.
In the late 80s, Mike returned to Canada with his young family. Halifax's beautiful ocean locale, laid back lifestyle, and the nearness of old friends and family made it natural to think about staying. "When many of the musicians, who had left town years ago, started moving back the scene really came alive!"