Taking chances with the Woodshed Orchestra

By Daniela Piteo Special to The Standard
April 14 2011
Daniela Piteo

Special to The Standard

Woodshedding is said to be one of the most ambiguous jazz terms in our lexicon, a fusion of music born out of improvisation and intense practice, but when it comes to the Woodshed Orchestra, the term can be used to define their expansive sound.

For Dave Clark, the Woodshed's founding member and leader, his musical training began early when he begged his parents for a drum kit at six.

His parents relented to his pleas when he was 13 years old and his life-long love affair with the musical instrument has endured.

"I love the joyous meditative aspect of drumming," Clark said. "I am 45 years old and when I go downstairs in my house and play the drums I feel as excited as I did when I was a kid. There is always something new to discover."

Clark, a mainstay in the Canadian music industry, from his days as one of the original member of The Rheostatics to his recent gig with The Country of Miracles — a musical venture featuring Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip that will be performing at Coachella, a renowned musical festival in California.

Clark will step away from his numerous musical gigs to promote The Woodshed's latest CD at The Merchant Ale House in St. Catharines April 23 and 24.

"St. Catharines has been incredibly good to our band and the evolution of what has gone on playing in St. Catharines has been such a treat and an honour for us. It is just great playing at the Merchant Ale House," Clark said.

The CD release party will invite people to enjoy their music with influences ranging from Leonard Cohen, Sly and the Family Stone, Rush, the Byrds, Prince and bursts of New Orleans-style jazz.

The orchestra, which ranges from seven to 10 performers at any given show, play and rehearse the music live — improvising sound and harmony to a live audience, which can be a fluid or trying experiment.

"We don't rehearse, we learn the music live in front of an audience.

"If we fall into a bit of disaster, we turn it into disastrous beauty," said Clark. "The people I play with are super nice and they try their best on their instruments and they make some pretty great magic happen."

Clark and his bandmates, while playing on stage, allow the music to morph according to their perception.

"When you start in there it just happens in waves — you get people who have been in there during the day who have had a couple of drinks, you have people who have come in after work and people just cycle in until it is packed with people who dance and have fun," Clark said. "It's a really safe atmosphere where people can be themselves — it feels like a microcosm of the city glued into one place every time we play there.

"We have made so many friends playing in St. Catharines and they have helped our band develop in a great way, into being confident and sure-footed no matter what we do," Clark said.

While the band has developed a following in St. Catharines, Clark invites newcomers to their sound with the song Love and Affection.

"Everybody needs love and affection, if you incant that lyric enough it can perhaps soften your heart toward people you don't understand — it's the key to peaceful living."

The spirit of their music and their shows, according to Clark, came from parties his parents held as a child — where the guests would sing, laugh and dance.

"It was an accumulative positive experience for music. I associate it with love and kindness and community," Clark said.

And now he is inviting everyone to the party.

WHAT: Woodshed Orchestra, CD release party

WHERE: Merchant Ale House, 98 St. Paul St.

WHEN: April 23, 24

CALL: 905-984-4060