Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Maple Blues Band

For nearly a quarter century, The Maple Blues Band has been the cornerstone of the Toronto Blues Society’s annual Maple Blues Awards (MBA), honoring the creme de la creme in Canadian blues music. With its upcoming full-length record, “Hey Nola,” the Maple Blues Band will step into the spotlight, showcasing the lively instrumental compositions the all-star ensemble has created over the course of its decades together, out now from Cordova Bay Records. 


Bassist, band leader and musical director Gary Kendall - perhaps best known for his association with Downchild Blues Band - started the project back in 1998, after a meeting of the Toronto Blues Society.  “I boldly told all present that the music that accompanied the award presentations should be better. The comeback was, ‘Let’s see what you can do.’ It must be working because the band has been the centerpiece of the Maple Blues Awards ever since,” Kendall recalls. 


Kendall dreamed of putting together a big band that could tackle a wide variety of styles, including Delta blues, Southside Chicago blues, New Orleans funk, uptown blues, zydeco, blues rock, and most of all Canadian blues, and recruited some of the finest folks on the Canadian blues scene to join him in making that dream come true. 


Providing the theme and background music for the event, as well as accompanying the special guests performing at the awards ceremony, the group is made up of many MBA winners and nominees. The band’s current lineup includes Pat Carey on tenor saxophone, Teddy Leonard on guitar, Al Lerman on harmonica and acoustic guitar, Jim Casson drums and percussion, Howard Moore on trumpet, Lance Anderson on Hammond B3, piano and accordion, Alison Young on baritone, tenor and soprano saxophones, Meirion Kelly on trombone, and Roshane Wright on percussion.


Kendall calls Let’s Go a true group effort, featuring contributions from band members both past and present, with songwriting credits drawn from over the group’s 24-year history. 


“The songwriting helped The Maple Blues Band create a personal and unique sound. It’s what I refer to as ‘big band blues,’” he notes. “The men and women I chose to surround myself with in The Maple Blues Band are part of the enormous southern Ontario pool of blues talent. Each one of them is a star.”


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