to crow about
Rooster Band takes flight
with its second serving of hot blues
old, something new and some fine blues – the U of C’s
own house band covers it all in their second CD.
The Rooster Band features U of C professors, instructors,
alumni and some of the city’s top club musicians. The band was
hatched as a way to help the U of C connect in a fun
way with its music alumni and local community.
Four years later, the Roosters are flying.
They are playing on average almost once a week – in local clubs
and at high-profile U of C events such as convocation
and Campus Fair.
And next week, the Roosters celebrate their second
CD, Bluestoons, with a launch party at the Grad
Student Lounge on Feb. 13.
In contrast to their first CD, which was recorded
in the Rozsa Centre and Jack Singer Concert Hall, Bluestoons
in the style of the old Chess Studios recordings,
says guitarist and U of C music professor Victor Coelho.
Chicago’s historic Chess Studios recorded seminal blues artists – like
Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf – whose impacts on modern music
still resonate today.
To capture that Chess sound, Bluestoons was recorded
in a home studio in Bridgeland – with the drums in the living room,
the sax in the kitchen and everybody else scattered
I think of the first album as eating at a fine restaurant
and this album as having a family dinner – everybody’s laughing
and talking and shouting across the table,” Coelho says. “We
wanted to do an album that had that appearance of just
having fun, rather than one that was overly laboured.”
captures well the band’s love for improvisational playing.
It was also recorded quite quickly, adds keyboardist
and U of C art professor Paul Woodrow.
Basically we turned up at the studio at six o’clock in the evening
and left at 11,” he says.
A highlight on Bluestoons for both Coelho and Woodrow
is My Eyes are Green, written by vocalist Mohini
Cox. The band had never played the song before and recorded
it on the first take. “Mohini
just said, ‘OK, 12-bar shuffle in G now,’” Coelho says
with a laugh.
Woodrow adds that most of the tracks were either
first or second takes.
Overall, Bluestoons features new takes on old blues
standards as well as dashes of jazz, R’n’B, rock, funk and
even a few classically inspired guitar licks. The album
also covers tunes by the Beatles and Rolling Stones,
plus an obscure, Hush-era Deep Purple
When he’s not cranking up his Fender amp with the Rooster band,
Coelho happens to be an internationally renowned lutist
and scholar of Renaissance music. He also teaches courses
in music history and literature.
In 2002, Coelho enlisted Woodrow to help him teach
an undergraduate course on the history of the blues,
which included students working in groups and composing
their own blues songs (even if they didn’t
play an instrument).
Some of the students were really good,” says Woodrow. “I
really enjoyed that course.”
Woodrow is a self-taught keyboard player.
Like many British musicians of his generation,
his love for music was inspired by American blues and jazz artists.
out learning boogie-woogie tunes and progressed to
jazz. He spent his youth playing in jazz trios and a blues band
and traveled across the
U.K., even gigging once at The Cavern in Liverpool
and sharing bills with American blues masters like Jimmy Witherspoon
and Little Walter.
When touring became “too much like a job,” Woodrow quit playing,
moved to Canada, and eventually began teaching art
at the U of C in 1971
Today, Woodrow’s passion for music has been renewed by the Rooster
Band, simply because the band has stuck to its philosophy
of having fun.
We realized that the best thing for this band is to
keep a very casual and fun perspective,” adds Coelho.
The band’s line-up is essentially the same on Bluestoons, minus
co-founding Rooster, Gord Ross, a U of C master’s grad and guitarist,
who is now in Toronto working on a PhD.
Instead, U of C alumnus Dave Morton moves into
the line up. “Dave is such a tremendous vocalist and a sweet, sweet
guitar player who plays a lot of styles. He brings
a lot to the band.”
This summer, Coelho hopes the band will play some
festivals and tour Europe, where he will be a visiting professor
and working on another recording project – a lute recording of
17th Century music.
still, in the end, a band that makes its home at the U of C. We rehearse
here, we play convocation and we have a big following on campus,” says
Coelho, adding that the band also plays social events at some academic
conferences, including a few events hosted by the U of C’s
gastrointestinal research group.
I see it as musicology meets mucous-ology,” quips Coelho.