Ottawa’s Joe Gaspar Band is a power Blues/Rock trio, put together by singer/songwriter/bassist, Joe Gaspar, whom I had the privilege of seeing, hearing, and chatting with at Ottawa’s Tulip Festival this past Saturday evening. After sharing a brew and some conversation with the band members, I plunked myself down front row centre, and was completely taken off guard by the amazingly powerful delivery of the music made by these three musicians.
Hailing from Romania, although Hungarian by descent, Joe Gaspar came to Canada 9 years ago, initially settling in Quebec City. During his time in Romania, he formed a Blues/Rock trio named Quo Vadis, in which he played bass and sang lead vocals for 12 years. Seeking to expand his horizons, and amply equipped with his original songs, ideas, and musical talent, he took the plunge across the pond to North America. By 2009, he found himself in Ottawa, and quickly established himself as a serious artist, with a growing network of fellow musicians and professionals in the field. Just one year later, he would be performing at Ottawa’s renowned Bluesfest, booked as a solo act.
In the meantime, Gaspar kept himself busy, joining forces with four other musicians to form the seventies rock cover band, Rock Snake, in which he is the singer and keyboardist. In 2011, Gaspar set his sights on entering Ottawa Blues Society’s highly acclaimed, Road To Memphis Competition, which sends their winners to compete against other Blues acts in the world’s largest Blues contest, the International Blues Challenge, held every year in Memphis, Tennessee.
He brought in fellow band mate from Rock Snake, drummer Steve Dupont, to help him develop a few songs he’d written for the competition. Guitarist, Jamie Young, a musician Gaspar connected with during an outdoor jam, completed the trio, and they entered the contest under the name, the Joe Gaspar Band. Even though they didn’t win the competition that year, the three quickly realized they’d had something here…deciding to remain as a band and write more songs together. By the end of that year, they had recorded nine songs on a CD entitled, Move On!, which was released mid 2012.
Tonight’s show was comprised mainly of selections from their CD, a few creatively enhanced covers, and some brand spanking new original material, to be released on an upcoming CD. Think Hendrix meets Cream meets Zeppelin, rich in heavy Blues, with a touch of King Crimson prog, and you’ve got the Joe Gaspar Band. But what makes their sound so unique for me, are Gaspar’s dynamic higher pitched, operatic-flavoured vocals winding through the music, which I would describe as David Byron, Jack Bruce, and a hint of Robert Plant, all rolled into one.
I enjoyed all the original material – “Don’t Mess With Fate”, “The Years Go By”, “Driftin’ Away”, “Out Of This Place”, the very Purple Haze infused “Alone”, and finally, “Walking Blues”…featuring Gaspar on the harp. They gave us a taste of their soon to be released material, with one that was soaked in Stormy Monday smouldering Blues, “Spider Queen”. I also loved their cover versions of Hendrix’s “Fire”, and the heavy groovin’ infusion on Willie Dixon’s Blues classic, “Evil”.
There were a couple Zeppelin favorites, “Ramble On”, and one saved for the end, “Thank You”, which featured a beautifully played guitar solo by Young, and some nice vocal harmonies by Dupont. For some nice originality, they brought the song to a powerful build by the end, as they also did with Blind Faith‘s, “Can’t Find My Way Home”…the only cover that appears on their current CD. “Sunshine Of Your Love” crescendoed into an exciting, full out drum solo by the finish, further set ablaze by Young’s searing guitar licks, which were present on every song. The audience responded with vigorous applause after every piece, and by the end, were hungry for more.
With more shows booked, and another album on the way, this busy trio of well respected musicians has no shortage of work ahead of them. In just a few short years, they have gained popularity at a rapid pace, with their heavy Blues/Rock formula and refreshing sound. Check out their website and get out to see this band…you’ll thank me for it!