Sunday, March 5, 2017

Max De Souza, simply Jazz Part III

Max De Souza and his talented family

Greatest Gigs
1.      Performing with my good friends – The Hurricanes (we won 1st prize in the Teen Beat Completion) remember my good friend Cyprian Fernandes arranging this event with a number of bands performing. He was kind enough to loan us an amp for the event as we could not afford to buy one. I remember an English band that was very good with expensive instruments performing. Everyone was certain that they would take the first prize but due to their arrogance had one of their girl friends sing which didn’t go down to well and they lost.
2.      The Hurricanes – My first introduction into the world of music during school with my good friends Ronnie Victor/Lawrence Fernandes/Chand and me on bass.  Memories playing at the Zambezi Motel – Goan Clubs – small restaurants and private parties.
Memorable stories of the Hurricanes Band
·         Our first outside Nairobi gig was at a small restaurant/bar outside Nakuru about 5 miles. We paid a taxi service RVP that took passengers from Nairobi to Nakuru everyday to get there with all our instruments. Upon arrival we setup all our musical equipment ready to play for a sold out crowd of about 200 people from Nakuru that night. At the end of the evening the bar refused to pay us and all the people had left. We had nobody and could not use the telephone to call our parents, these were mean people. We were not allowed to stay but leave our equipment to be picked up the next day. Being only around 18 years old and no means of transportation at 3 am in the morning decided to walk the 5 or more miles to Nakuru. Walking on the railway tracks and the only light was the moon, seeing eyes from animals in the night looking at us through the tall grass it was incredibly frightening. A car came by and stopped across the road and we were about to call out but stopped when we saw 3 Africans come out of the car with machetes. We quickly sat low in the tall grass as they were looking for us. We sat there in the grass for it seems eternity when they left. We continued to walk through the night, always looking out for wild animals as the eyes kept on following us. We got to Nakuru town at around 6am and walked into one of the band member’s homes tired, cold and hungry. We told them what happened and unknown to us being young and stupid found out that the tracks ran through a Game Reserve which had lions, leopards and other animals. Through the grace of god they said you survived. – Lesson learnt – don’t take gigs from people that you don’t know.
·         The other gig was at Zambezi Motel outside Nairobi on the way to the Rift Valley. It was a beautiful place and we played there and they provided accommodation and food for the night. We played there for almost 6 months until one weekend when being young again decided to stay home and let the driver know that we are sick. This did not go down well especially when you are letting the event owner down on day of performance. We all wanted to watch a very popular TV program called “Bonanza”. My parents asked me why were we not playing that night and I said we got the day off and another band was there.  The door bell rang at around 7pm and the lady who owned Zambezi Motel was at the door. My dad answered the door and she said Mr. De Souza your son and his band are to be performing at the Zambezi Motel and I have the house full so she came to see why did we sent the driver back saying we were sick. She was here to pick us up with all the other band members in the van outside. My dad looked at me and shook his head, yelled and said to get dressed right now, take all your equipment and leave. As I went down al the other band members were with their heads down, in the van. We played the last night there and was told never ever lie again. Lesson learnt – Honor your commitment and be respectful as musicians

·         Embarrassing Gig - We were booked for a Corporate Christmas Party and again I worked for the company so they provided us with transportation for all our equipment. Two band members at the age again of 18 or so had never ever had hard liquor. After the first set, they both disappeared to the bar without me knowing and as we started the second set, something was wrong. The Lead guitar player was falling down on his guitar while playing so we stopped. I smelt liquor on his breath and asked how much had he drank. He had taken almost 4 shots of whisky so we tried to sober him with coffee. That didn’t work as he was totally intoxicated. Now thinking that the rest of the band was ok and we could carry on the rhythm guitarist started to slow down during the second set. I found that he also had a couple of drinks and also was in no condition to play. This was totally embarrassing as we no longer can continue so had to stop, have someone to get a record player and play songs through the night. Needless to say I had to go through the embarrassing next day at work with all the Company and was lucky not to get fired. The band members were told off about the incident and it at a time when they were young and didn’t know any better.  
3.      New Avenue Hotel Resident Band – Performing with great musicians from South Africa/Italy/England and South Africa.
4.      Cooty & the Supersonics – Performing with this band gave me the experience in the world of larger bands and venues including travel to Uganda and other parts of Kenya. Wonderful experiences of sharing stories, going to rehearsals with my bass strapped to my back while riding my Vespa scooter. Every band member contributing their very best this made them one of the best bands in Nairobi and outlying areas.
5.      The Blytz Classic Rock Band with Roy Rattos – Percy Gomes – Steve Alvarez – Peter Grimmer and guest Louis Pereira.
6.      The Informal home get tog ether’s in London England with Professional Musicians, Meeting, Touring playing their instruments, show setups at big events, great conversations, friendships.
7.      Performing with a show band here in Canada “Little Peter & The Elegant” 50’s 60’s do wap band. They performed all the songs that we had grown up through the 60’s from Elvis – Buddy Holly, Billy Haley and the Comets, Danny and the Juniors, The Monotones, The Marcel’s, Dion and the Belmont’s, The Platters, The Temptations and won the Mississauga Best 50’s 60’s Band trophy.
8.      My most memorable time was when I was working at EDS Canada in systems and configuring the network between Roy Thomson Hall and Massy Hall. One evening when I was coming home and walked back stage “Joe Williams and The Count Basie Orchestra” were rehearsing. I stopped back stage and was watching the band and Joe Jackson’s wife came up to me and said “Cat you dig this music” and I said hell yes... this is what I love listening to... and my idol Joe Jackson and The Count Basie Band, It can’t get any better. She told me to stay and I did, as the band took a break she introduced me to all the band members including Joe Jackson and then he asked me if I played and instrument or just loved Jazz. I said I played upright bass and he told the band, hey cats this guy loves Jazz and plays the upright bass, get him up for a few songs during rehearsal. I almost fell down a that time and could not back out, so played “Satin Doll” – All of Me and Take the A Train with The Count Basie Band. What a thrill what a memory what an experience and a complete memorable end of day. I wished and thanked them all and they bid me with a saying “Hey Cat remember it is all about Jazz” keep it alive.
9.      Performing for the Ex Prime Minister of Canada Hon Brian Mulroney for a special event. He came up and sang “When Irish Eyes are smiling” with our band Liquid Jazz Project.
10.  Performing at the Burlington Center of Arts for the Musical Arts CEO’s and dignitaries for a concert.
11.  Today performing with my band – Liquid Jazz Project – Jonathan Rattos – Craig Rattos - here in Toronto Canada. Every gig that we perform across US and Canada, - The songs that we perform bring back a memory in time to each and everyone of our audience everywhere we perform. Our songs from Frank Sinatra - Tony Bennett - Louis Armstrong – Nat King Cole – Bobby Darrin – Bing Crosby and many others from the “Great American Song Book”.  We are part of the CJRT 91.1 Jazz FM station musician family and also recognized by The Great American Song Book Internet Radio Station including being endorsed by Bose Systems US.

·         My Band website

Who do you play with ... describe them, their musical style, their special talents.

I formed my band “Liquid Jazz Project” 7 years ago and perform with both my nephews – Jonathan Rattos 23 years old (keyboards) and Craig Rattos 25 years old (drums).  Both my nephews are Humber College Grads and I am blessed to have them with me. I started Jonathan at the age of 17 years and our first performance was at a restaurant in Oakville (Pasquale Tratoria). He only knew 7 songs and my words to him were "use your ear and follow my bass lines and vocal melody" and the rest will come together naturally. Though he was stressed in the beginning, his ability to listen and capture the chords and songs were amazing, great talent. Here was my nephew who I used to hold in my arms at a very young age and now today with me on stage performing with me – tears and happiness together experiencing this wonderful gift of music.  Jonathan is my right hand man, backbone and musical arranger for the band. His brother Craig Rattos (drums) joined a year later and again extremely talented and proud to have them both part of Liquid Jazz Project.  His capability to play Jazz with a great feel and his smile through each performance captures the audience. He is gifted like his brother Jonathan and both are Music Teachers coached and tutored by Brian De Lima (professional musician in Canada). They both are now Music Teachers in Piano and Drums. Though they are young and started not knowing any of the artists from the Great American Song Book i.e. Frank Sinatra – Tony Bennett – Nat King Cole and many others, they both are extremely talented and capture that era with passion. Through my mentorship and coaching they both are very committed and each performance the audience is captivated with the sound and musicianship.  We have Professional guest artist perform with us at different events some are very good friends of mine.

Craig and Jonathan are sons of Roy & Marilyn Rattos of Nairobi. They have their own band “The Chronicles Dub Trio” which captures the 70’s Dub Reggae influence. Members: Jonathan Rattos (Left Hand Bass, Keys/Organ, Melodica, Dub Controls Alexei Orechin - Rhythm/Lead Guitar Craig Rattos – Drums. These musicians are very dedicated and committed to keep the era of Dub and Reggae alive and working very hard within the Greater Toronto Area. I am very proud of their first CD “Reflections” has been doing extremely well played in Canada on Radio Stations Jazz FM 91.1 Toronto - Europe – England and across the globe – doing very well within the Reggae Dub Community. The Chronicles Dub Trio is an instrumental dub wise roots-rock reggae band that is based out of Toronto that truly believes in preserving the vintage-golden era of reggae; the 1970’s sound. That being said, the Chronicles specialize in the Rockers era. December 2016 saw the release of their debut album ‘Reflections’, showcasing their compositions and explorative improvisations within the realm of dub.

I am very proud also of my son Carl De Souza a very accomplished Bass player like his father. I remember taking him to music stores with me at the age of 6 and him sitting by my which trying different basses and guitars.  He amazes me with his style and confidence in playing bass in the music genre that he enjoys (R&B – Funk- Motown and Reggae).  Carl has performs with name Professional artists at Music Festivals, Shows, Restaurants and Clubs across the Greater Toronto Area. We both enjoy music and though our playing styles are different him more on the R&B Funk Motown and me on the Classic Jazz genre, we share our experiences of types of basses and guitars including bass amps.  We share till today one day a month time permits “Dad’s Day” which we celebrate by going to all the music stores in Toronto looking at instruments, meeting our peer musicians, exchanging ideas and most time land up buying a bass or guitar. The great times between dad and son will always be there just like my father share with me many years ago.  Carl my son website

My daughter Lisa who is extremely talented and formed a company “Nzuri Wewe” you are beautiful in Swahili. She crafts bags, purses attire from used jeans. She hand makes each one and the company keeps with the tradition from Kenya. Check out her FB page.

Who are your favorite musicians you played with and why, what makes them special.

While working at EMI Records in London England during the 70’s my job was to review each artist LP with them and find out which track would be the one that they liked best and what was it that they likes, i.e. Memory – or what make you write that song – what part did you like the best. – What is it that you think your fans would like to hear etc. This meant personally sitting down with an individual or band in a listening room or at home informally and summarize. This summary is what at the back of the LP cover and also used during the Radio show in interviews. Meeting with these artists either at Abbey Road Studios or at their homes was very interesting and memorable. You see the side of them like any other musicians, the fights, the discussions, the calm moments, the dedication and commitment, and love for music, their talent and most of all how they as friends work together. At their homes, you never knew who else would show up i.e. would be it John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney, Mama and the Papas, Jim Hendris, Eric Clapton or members of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin or many others. They mingled and talked like very good friends, no arrogance just plain good folks. It was interesting when someone played a guitar and they all joined in singing. I sat in playing a guitar laughing and talking having a drink and just enjoying that moment in time. What a great time with these awesome talented musicians and my times with EMI – Electra – MCI – HMV will never ever be forgotten

Just tell me the things that float in your mind when sit down and think back on your life.

I think back of all the great times and musicians in Kenya that I have listened to, being mentored, performed with passion, entertained at Clubs (Goan Institute the Railway Goan Institute and the Goan Gymkhana). How the people danced to the big band sounds and even the Sunday afternoon Hops that Rock & Roll Bands played. People and Musicians shared the passion of music and dancing together with wonderful memories of our people. We laughed and cried, celebrated together each moment in time. We were a community together all Goans and other cultures – Life was beautiful in Nairobi – we didn’t have to rely on technology to keep us together just friendship and a smile. The Saturdays when you went to town and walked round and round meeting friends and the movies on Sunday’s or going to a afternoon Hop at one of the clubs.

Today in tribute of those days my favorite song I perform is “What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong”. It brings back many a happy memory to young and old till today.

What were the early days like?

Early days were peaceful – happy – lots of good friendships and family oriented. We enjoyed meeting everywhere, no phone calls to say we are coming over just being welcomed at any  time. Musicians had a passion and we shared times together, learning from each other and lots of laughs and being happy. People were more family oriented which today we miss. The technology today has made us distant and times have changed though we must embrace change and understand that the younger generation has its own challenges. 

Today at the age of 69, having retired from my real job ( Sr Systems Project Manager) being thankful that Music is still a big part of my life. I spend my time still performing at many events during the course of the year. My frequent visits to favorite store, “Long & McQuade” Mississauga where I continue buying lots of my musical equipment, learning new products and enjoying talking to the store staff. They have become like second family to me, each one of them. We share many a laugh each time together, I help sell basses when am at the store, coach and mentor new young musicians, meet new musicians which all help keep me mentally young and happy. This store is like my friendly bar where everyone knows your name. We share a healthy daily dose of “Music”. 

I still continue performing with my band “Liquid Jazz Project” across Toronto and the US. I coach and mentor young musicians and encourage Older musicians to share their life story, the ups and downs of the musical industry, the marketing, the performance side, the roles and responsibilities of each musician. I keep busy also booking musicians for my good friends at a family restaurant “Marco Polo Restobar” here in Mississauga.  I worked with them on a complete “Restaurant Entertainment Makeover” by reviewing their clientele and providing different genre of Musical Bands (Classic Rock/Classic Jazz/R&B Funk Motown/Country/Reggae/Brazilian Latin Spanish/Uruguayan South American & Irish Celtic music. This has proved to be a success as their Restaurant sales base has increased 90%. I am very proud of this achievement, and look forward taking on additional business.  

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