Paul Pigat bounces back from broken ribs to duet with Stephen Ulrich and unleash hillbilly jazz with Kevin Breit
Seven weeks ago Vancouver guitar great Paul Pigat borrowed a ladder to clean the gutters on his Sunshine Coast cottage.
As he was finishing up the job the damn thing broke and he took an eight-foot tumble, breaking four ribs.
"I don't bounce like I used to," notes the 51-year-old stringbender from his home in East Van, "once you pass 50 your elasticity fades."
Fortunately, Pigat is now pretty much healed—although he stresses that he doesn't want anyone punching him in the ribs any time soon. You can see him in action via a concert that will be streamed for free as part of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival on June 25.
The show is basically a double-bill with Pigat's trio joining the New York noir-jazz act Big Lazy, featuring guitarist Stephen Ulrich. Big Lazy will be streaming live from Barbés bar in Brooklyn, while Pigat's appearance was recorded at the West Vancouver Public Library. There was no finger-to-lips shushing from mousey librarians involved, though.
"You can play surprisingly loud in a library if there's nobody there," quips Pigat, "but we kept it to a dull roar."
Pigat is perhaps best known for his wild guitar playing with the rowdy rockabilly act Cousin Harley, which will perform a pandemic-delayed release party for its latest CD, Let's Go, at the Rickshaw on September 25. But for the jazz fest gig he's toning it down, in the company of bassist Jeremy Holmes and longtime drummer Jesse Cahill, with a set composed entirely of Cousin Harley instrumentals.
"It is a Cousin Harley show, even though it's [billed as] the Paul Pigat Trio, because at this point I'm using the same guys for almost everything now. But it's only the instrumental music of Cousin Harley, 'cause Stephen's band is instrumental, and I didn't want to play anything too hillbilly or too cowpunky. So I thought I'd just do the instrumental side of the band, which I love doing. I busted out one of the guitars that I built to use in the show, and that was its maiden voyage."
The instrument in question is a 1969 Silvertone that somebody gave to the pro guitarist/budding luthier in 1987. It was completely destroyed, so he rebuilt it and made it into something that would be used "if the Ramones ever played on The Jetsons. It's very atomic, but it's still a Silvertone copy of a Mosrite, which is what they used."
Not one to let rib-wreckin' wipeouts slow down his productivity much, last week Pigat released 3 Ring Circus, a record by the Shut-ins, a new band that makes "hillbilly jazz meets circus music." Described on its Bandcamp page as "a collection of fantastic Canadian musicians with nothing better to do," the group sees bassist Tommy Babin and drummer Damian Graham holding down the bottom end while Pigat trades wicked guitar licks with Toronto's insanely talented Kevin Breit.
"He's my favourite guitar player on the planet," raves Pigat, "I'll let you know that right off the top. I think the man is a freakin' genius."
Getting back to his jazz fest show, Pigat explains that it will kick off with 20 minutes of his band, followed by 40 minutes of Big Lazy, then another 20 of Pigat, before ending with an encore of he and Ulrich performing instrumental duets.
"He picked one of mine and I picked one of his," says Pigat. "I'm doing a Big Lazy tune called 'Black Sheep', and he's doing one called 'Lazy Stephen', which is a tune that I wrote for the Shut-ins record with him in mind. So it's kind of fitting that out of all the tunes of mine he chose the one that I wrote for him. I guess I kinda nailed his vibe there."
The Paul Pigat Trio performs a free streamed show with Big Lazy on June 25 at 7:30 pm as part of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Pigat also performs with Suzie Ungerleider (formerly Oh Susanna) as part of the festival's North Shore Jazz Series on June 26 at 8 pm at the BlueShore at CapU.