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  #1  
Old Apr 21, 2003, 03:40 PM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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Al Wiertz

By God I think it's time dear old Al had his own thread. He sure deserves one.

I first met Al in 1972. I was playing in a strip joint on Granville St. called the Place Cabaret in a quartet that included John Burton on guitar, who later went on to play with Doug and the Slugs. Al came in with somebody, I forget who, and asked if he could sit in. The person he was with made some mention of how he was a jazz player of note around town and we sort of said yeah yeah right come on up, but we kind of expected him to suck. If he was such a bigshot what was he doing in THIS dump? Shows you how little we knew, then, about the "Economics of Jazz Performance."

Well he sat down behind the kit and we kicked off some funk thing or other, probably "Cissy Strut" or "She's So Sharp" or something like that and JEEEZUS H. CHRIST in a green hat could that MF play. He scared the shit out of us, we were just kids, 19 or 20, and we weren't used to playing with guys at his level. He finished the set, thanked us, and walked out. I didn't see him again for about ten years, although I heard rumors that he was in Toronto and L.A.

I next saw Al when we played some casuals together with a piano player, including one 8:00 a. m. breakfast meeting corporate shindig where Al got stuck behind an accident on the 2nd narrows bridge and got there just in time to put his drums together and play the last 8 bars of the last tune. We also did a blues gig together with the late Danny "Tripper" Parro at the Travellers Hotel. They really didn't know what to make of Al in that dump. Great big honkin bikers would get in his face and he'd just tell them to take a hike and, amazingly, THEY WOULD. I asked him how he dealt with working in a shithole like that and he said, "I just pretend it's a really, really bad movie."

It was on that gig that I saw Al live up to his nickname, "Hide the One Weirtz". In the blues genre it's considered good form, if the leader deigns to give the drummer a solo, for said drummer to take ONE chorus only, or maybe even only trade fours, before handing it back to the band. Al, on the other hand, would keep it for DAYS, building monstrous Elvin Jones- like polyrhthmic constructions, and the blues guys would have NO IDEA where "One" was by the time he finished. He'd usually have to count them back into the form. But they put up with it because, though he was one of those 'jazz guys', he could play a blues shuffle that would swing you into bad health,and he could do it 20 different ways. The band could play shuffles all night and Al would make sure it never got boring.

I also played with Al for six months, in 1986, on a gig at the Crystal Palace Theater at Playland. This remains to this day the weirdest gig I've ever played. I told the whole story chapter and verse in the "Interviews" thread, which seems to have vanished, by golly.

When I moved back to Vancouver in 1991 and got clean, sober and ready to start playing jazz seriously, Al was the first guy I called. He was willing to play with me but cautioned he wasn't at his best as he was recovering from a broken back. Just as well. At that point in my developement I wouldn't have been able to deal with Al at his ferocious peak. As it was, he healed and I improved and it worked out pretty well for both of us. We recorded some demos at the old Glass Slipper at 11th and Main with Ed Olekshuik engineering, including a beautiful version of a tune Al turned me on to, "Some Other Time." To this day I still get teary when I listen to it, because I can remember just as if it were yesterday how I felt at that session, tremulous and newly sober,and Al's playing is so sensitive and supportive.

Al played with us for a while at Murphy's Pub in 1993, but his health was iffy. He was in constant pain and as Al Johnston notes this was eventually diagnosed as not back-related at all but cancer. I remember him telling me that he had opted to forgo surgery because the prognosis was that he would die soon anyway and he didn't want to spend what little time he had left recovering in a hospital. I made a point to tell him at this time how much his help and friendship meant to me and we cried a little. Al became a christian in his last years, and I like to think that his faith was of some comfort to him. In deferrence to his heathen pals he usually referred to God as "the Executive Producer."

I expected my next contact with Al would be at his wake, but about a year later the phone rang and it was him, telling me about a gig he had coming up at a pub in North Van." Al," I said,"this doesn't look good. They had that big benefit for you at the Slipper" ( his band played. It was Namateet, Dave Say, and, I think, Daryl Jahnke. The whole thing was videotaped as a memento for his daughter Natalie)" Here it is a year later and YOUR NOT DEAD!"

He laughed." No I'm not dead," he said. "Apparently the Executive Producer has further plans for me here."

So, for a while there, we thought he might actually beat the odds. Then he took a turn for the worse. There was some paralysis in his arm, and he could no longer play. Then Tony Williams died suddenly, and Al died right afterwards. Stan Taylor told me he figured Al just didn't see the point in sticking around in a world without Tony in it.

R.I.P. old buddy.

Last edited by John Doheny : Apr 23, 2003 at 08:18 PM.
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  #2  
Old Apr 22, 2003, 03:52 AM
Russell Chan Russell Chan is offline
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I first heard Al play at Medicine Man Charlie's on Carroll ST in the mid '70's with Al Wold on piano. The drumming was ferocious and sensitive at the same time. From my seat I could not see the drummer's face because of his vertical ride cymbal (the edge pointed to the ceiling). When he stood up I saw he had no hair! My first audio and visual impression of Al Wiertz...
I enjoyed and learned from his playing over the years especially seeing him with Bob Murphy, Dale Jacobs and Joani Taylor in the Carmen Cadillac when Miles Davis 'opened' for them at the QE....

Al was one of a kind... one of Vancouver's Jazz legends...
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  #3  
Old Apr 22, 2003, 07:36 AM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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Yes the infamous "hairless" Al. As Cam Ryga pointed out in a post now vanished, when Al moved to Toronto in the 70's he had some sort of... allergic reaction to the place, and every hair on his body fell off. It was a medical mystery, and Al said he figured he was just allergic to Toronto. He also told me that when he returned to Vancouver he had quite a few laughs talking to people he knew who no longer recognized him ( try shaving your head AND your eyebrows and see how many people recognize YOU) dropping some critical remarks about 'that jerk Al Weirtz' and waiting to see if they'd defend him or not.
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  #4  
Old Apr 22, 2003, 10:48 PM
Dark_Coffee Dark_Coffee is offline
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Question "HAIRLESS" AL ??? huh?

Hey... Now I'm really confused. The AL "Wiertz/Wurtz" I knew from the Joint in the 70's and 80's, who often played and sat in at the Joint, HAD HAIR... LOTS of dark hair ... all over ... and was "a wild man on the drums".

Either you guys's hairless Al grew some hair by the time I met him, or I'm talking about a different wild drummer Al.

???CONFUSED NOW???

Can someone help me get UN-confused?

Thanks...Carman
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oops....`What?...Tip the bottle a bit.
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  #5  
Old Apr 22, 2003, 11:03 PM
Russell Chan Russell Chan is offline
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I think I first saw Al Wiertz in 1972 with no hair. His hair grew back after a year or so.. I think...
BTW, the Joint was my favorite place to hang on Sunday Evenings. My favorites back in the day were Bob Murphy, Pat Coleman and Lincoln Goines, Neil Swainson.. etc.
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  #6  
Old Apr 23, 2003, 12:20 AM
Dark_Coffee Dark_Coffee is offline
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Cool SUNDAY "THE" Big Jazz Nite at the "JOINT"

Quote:
Originally posted by Russell Chan
I think I first saw Al Wiertz in 1972 with no hair. His hair grew back after a year or so.. I think...
BTW, the Joint was my favorite place to hang on Sunday Evenings. My favorites back in the day were Bob Murphy, Pat Coleman and Lincoln Goines, Neil Swainson.. etc.
Hi RUSSEL;

I worked many a Sunday nite at the JOINT. Later years I did the door. Sundays were bind-boggling music, musicians, and nites. Jazz, jazz jazz, and more jazz. I swear when Al played the drums the chairs would jump in time...with the people in them. The standing room only... danced.They couldn't help themselves.

Amazing how many body's could squeeze into that little place. Amazing anyone got anything served to them (so tuff to get thru the kitchen and bodies) I remember Bob Murphy and Pat Coleman...and of course AL... Thank you for telling me his hair grew back. If he didn't have any for a while, it had certainly grown back in an abundance by the time I came on the Joint scene in '78.

I don't recall Lincoln and Neil, but may remember you a bit? It'll came to me. Eventually.

Hi!

Carman
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`That's 3 darks in the back-room?'...
oops....`What?...Tip the bottle a bit.
NO WAY...I'd NEVER do that! Right Andreas?' (grin)
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  #7  
Old Apr 28, 2003, 08:15 PM
Allan Johnston Allan Johnston is offline
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Correction:

I just came across some music from the old days, and my suspicions were confirmed - Al's last name was definitely spelled "WIERTZ". Brian, is it possible to edit the subject header?

Al
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  #8  
Old Apr 28, 2003, 08:37 PM
Brian Nation Brian Nation is offline
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Re: Correction:

Quote:
Originally posted by Allan Johnston
Brian, is it possible to edit the subject header?
Not easily - but let me make it up to you by posting this photo of Al and Dick Smith at the Spinning Wheel, circa 1978.



I can't remember who took this. Maybe the photographer will see it here and let us know.
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  #9  
Old Apr 28, 2003, 09:07 PM
Dark_Coffee Dark_Coffee is offline
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Thanks Brian and Allan

Brian...Thank you for posting that photo of Al and Dick. It's so good to see it and remember them from then. Both of them sure put in a lot of time at the "Joint".

Allan...thanks regards the surname spelling for Al. It's nice to get these things CORRECT!

Take Care...Carman
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`That's 3 darks in the back-room?'...
oops....`What?...Tip the bottle a bit.
NO WAY...I'd NEVER do that! Right Andreas?' (grin)
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  #10  
Old May 1, 2003, 12:02 AM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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Al and Terry Jacks

I just remembered something else about Al. He played with Terry Jacks in the early 60's in a band called the Chessmen. They released a single called "The Way You Fell" that was a local hit, and somewhere (wish I could remember where) I've seen a publicity shot of the band sitting on Lumberman's Arch in Stanley Park. Al's beard is neatly trimmed and he looks very "beatnik" and "Little Sandy Review-Sing Out-hootenanny-esq." in his turtleneck.
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  #11  
Old May 1, 2003, 09:09 PM
Greg Greg is offline
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Is he in any of these pix?
http://theregents.net/chessmenBC.html

(By the way, Vancouverites who grew up listening to R&B (or rock or pop for that matter) might find this site interesting. Also by the way, the legendary Night Train Revue regrouped last year and plays occasional gigs with other 1960s soul alumni. A month or so ago, at an obscure community hall in deepest Surrey, I nearly ripped my teeth out and tore my face apart while listening to NTR back up Kentish Steele singing James Brown's I'll Go Crazy.)
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  #12  
Old May 1, 2003, 09:28 PM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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The bottom photo. That's Al in the upper left hand corner. Wow. Thanks Greg, for finding that.

Great site. This town has along and proud history in R&B that generally gets overlooked by the national media. Some times when I'm flipping around the dial on the car radio I'll hear Kentish Steele's "King Size" on the oldies station...

And if I hear one more "rock journalist" going on about Remy Shand being the first Canadian on Motown!!! Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers had a top ten hit for Motown in 1966 fer chrissakes!!
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  #13  
Old May 1, 2003, 09:30 PM
John Doheny John Doheny is offline
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Oops!

King Size was done by Jason Hoover and the Epics.
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  #14  
Old Jul 26, 2003, 03:45 PM
Gregg Simpson Gregg Simpson is offline
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Al Wiertz

Al was an enormous influence on my playing from the days we lived across the street from each other in North Van. he got me digging fusion groups like Weather Report and even more pop/rock-oriented bands like BST.

His gift to me of his Sunday nights at the Riverqueen with Mike Taylor was much appreciated as I had worked with Mike at the Kit Kat club (who can ever forget that place!)

Al's picture on this thread may get posted on my website. If anyone objects, please let me know, or tell me who to put for the photo credit. We did two gigs together, one with a third drummer and Bruce Freedman and Don Druick. This was on Granville Mall and the sound was so loud they almost closed us down.

Al, of course, was a powerhouse and could bury any other drummer crazu enought to set up next to him, yet he was totally musical and never tried to engage in a chops contest.

It would be nice to revamp those recordings and anyting else with Al. He is worth memorializing.

Gregg Simpson
PS Al did lose all his hair in a shortlived move to Toronto, but it all grew back!
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  #15  
Old Feb 27, 2004, 09:01 PM
Lalo Lalo is offline
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Al,
I love you sparkly eyed thunder drummer...Penny...P.S.
as long as you and I are thinking of each other...we can never die...
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