Master musician Warren Chiasson has lots of family in Sudbury
With a beloved, well-used baby grand piano in my living room, inherited from my musical father, I frequently have music evenings where friends come to meet, greet, drink wine, sing a song, tell a joke, or play the guitar or piano. You never know who may show up.
When this gentleman came in, with one of my friends, I said “Hello, have a glass of wine, where are you from?”
His pal said, “This is master musician and world-famous vibraphonist Warren Chiasson. By the way, he also plays the piano.”
“Forget the wine,” I laughed. “Please sit down at the piano.”
Warren did, and the party sang, stomped, danced, applauded and wanted more.
When I learned where he was from, there was more.
“I was born in Cheticamp, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada,” he said, “I’m called a Caper. I have family in Sudbury and love to visit them.”
We’re off and running. That means, I’m listening.
“Well, Bonnie,” Warren said, “My mom and dad were direct descendants of 1630 French settlers to the New World. I grew up in deep Acadian culture. My hometown radio stations were CJCB and CBI, which were getting fantastic late night direct feeds from the music stations in New York.
“I studied violin at age 9, and listened to The Milkman’s Matinee, WNEW, and I heard the finest of jazz: Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell, Lenny Tristano and the George Shearing quintet. Because Shearing fused classical music with the wonderful sounds of new jazz, I memorized all of Shearing’s arrangements, including all the solos. I played records until 4 a.m. Mom often yelled, ‘Go to bed, Warren!'”
“At 20, I moved to Halifax, joining the Royal Canadian Artillery Band, which enabled me to play the violin, the trombone, the guitar, the piano and an old set of vibes from England called Ajax Vibes. I realized I was born to play the vibes. I knew a drummer who owned a music shop in Halifax. He thought I needed to have my own instrument. So, I ordered the Deagan Aurora Vibraphone from Chicago. Everybody fell in love with my vibe playing and I immediately earned extra money doing radio and TV studio work.”
Warren continued. “I frequented a jazz club in Halifax called 777 Barrington Street. When I played a song I wrote, titled My Own, at the club, Ron Roberts, a popular DJ, liked it so much, he gave me a contact in NYC for the George Shearing Quintet. They were looking for a new vibraphone player. They flew me in for an audition. When Mr. Shearing auditioned me, I was instantly hired to join his Quintet. I was 25, and this was a dream come true. Me, the musical Caper from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, playing with world-class pianist George Shearing.
“We performed at the Newport Jazz Festival in July 1959. Some of my musical heroes were on the band stand; Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, and Roy Eldredge. The Shearing Quintet travelled all around the US, Canada and Australia. We played in Hawaii with the Hawaii symphony. When we got into a city, we stayed the whole month. In Los Angeles, we played the Sunset Strip. Bobby Darin, Judy Garland, Lenny Bruce, Gregory Peck, and Don Rickles, all came by. When we got to San Francisco, we played at The Blackhawk Jazz Club opposite Thelonius Monk for a month. I also played with Chet Baker.
“By 1962, Mr. Shearing moved to the West Coast and I wanted to pursue my own career in NYC. With my own group, pianist Roland Hanna and bassist Teddy Kotick, we performed at The Five Spot Café, and many other clubs where I met the jazz greats in New York.”
Warren made his first album, titled “Quartessence,” for Van-Los Records in Vancouver. Go to www.WarrenChiasson.com. You’ll love hearing his music and listening to his incredible touch on the vibes.
“Bonnie, my family in Sudbury means everything; my brother Douglas, who passed away 10 years ago, raised his children there. He worked for Inco. My dear nephews, Scott and Jamie, have their own homes in the Sudbury area. “
Well, your Energizer Bonnie is not shy. I asked Warren to phone Jamie and Susan Chiasson to say hello that very evening from New York City; he did. A few weeks later, when I was in Sudbury, I phoned and went to visit Sue, Jamie, their son Christopher and daughter Kimberly in Val Caron. Sue runs a busy hairdressing salon from her home. Jamie is a heavy-duty mechanic, and his brother Scott, in construction.
This week, I phoned again to say hello to Susan and Jamie, and learned that their son Christopher attends Cambrian College, studying electrical engineering. Kimberly will graduate high school and attend Carleton University in Ottawa. She’ll study journalism and humanities in September.
Between musical Warren Chiasson, who plays at my home, to Val Caron’s Susan and Jamie Chiasson, the music of communal interests and new friends continues. Friends and I go to whatever nightclub Warren’s group is playing; it is always crowded. A four-mallet master, Warren has his own distinctive sound on the vibes. Our musical Caper from Cape Breton is modest and will never tell you he’s one of the top six jazz vibraphone players of all time, according to the NY Times.
Like tunes that dance in your head, and memories made by music, the melodies of community, friendship and caring sustain us.
— Our Bonnie is delighted in the serendipity and bouquet of life, people, music, cuisine, art and “¦ that’s enough for now. Please find her at BonnieKogos@gmail.com.