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Piano man keeps rocking

From Joplin to hotel circuit, New Yorker lands in the Mallard Lounge

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Who: Clyde Harvey

When: May 12 & 13

Where: Mallard Lounge

Admission: Free

Few can boast of touring with the likes of Ike and Tina Turner, The Guess Who and Janis Joplin. But when asked what the experience was like, pianist Clyde Harvey, performing Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13 at the Mallard Lounge, is embarrassed by the reference and reminds himself to tell his publicist to remove the credit from his resume.

"Oh that was a long time ago," chuckled Harvey at the 1970s memory.

"I never got to meet Tina, but I partied with Ike a couple of times."

The musician recounts the last stop of the Canadian tour at an outdoor stadium in Calgary. Harvey was chatting with a drummer from another band in the stage’s side wings when someone tapped him on the shoulder.

"You got a light?" Joplin asked a younger version of Harvey.

"I turned around and said, ‘Oh you’re Janis,’" Harvey said. "I didn’t have a light. I told her I saw her show the day before. She gave me a big hug and that was it. She went out on stage and cracked open a bottle of Southern Comfort. I am sure it was Southern Comfort. She put on a great show. It was brief and fast."

The New York native was a rock and roller and road dog in those days and not much has changed. Harvey, who now lives in Vancouver, spends much of his life living out of a suitcase traveling the far reaches of the globe and he still plays all of his favourite rock and roll music from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, although he now does so on a grand piano in five-star hotels.

"I play stuff like My Girl, Stand By Me, Blueberry Hill: I always liked those songs anyway," he said of playing covers. "I grew up on that stuff. All of it is a part of me. I learned to play jazz at Grant College, so I play the contemporary sounds of yesterday and today. I always knew I would do a variety of stuff."

At five years old, dressed in suit and tie, Harvey began his academic schooling and piano studies, much to his chagrin. His parents eventually let him quit. However, the lure of the living room piano kept him playing guesswork on the ivories as he tried to recreate a song heard on the radio. By 14 years old, Harvey played in a weekend band. By the time he was 18 he was rocking out a professional living in music.

Twenty-five years later, he is still doing what he loves – despite a short four-year sidetrack in advertising after college.

The nine-to-fiver ditched the office and turned the world into his place of business with gigs in Morocco, Africa, Korea, Malaysia, Osaka, the Caribbean and Japan.

He recently returned from a six-month Hyatt gig in Japan. He returns to Japan in September, but not before producing his first full-length album.

Some people collect pictures from their trips; Harvey returned home with foreign music from the places he visited – each adventure logging into the staffs of world music he now composes.

"Most of the songs have the sounds from a lot of the countries I’ve been in," he said, noting the Arabic scales of Muslim-populated Malaysia and the unusual instruments of Morocco.

"I would go to jam sessions every Monday night in Morocco," he said. "They had these crude instruments made from scraps of whatever they could find."

Harvey plays Friday and Saturday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. to midnight at the Fairmont Chateau lounge.

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