John Stetch and Pyrohy and Nalysnyky and Bach

Outside, the pickup trucks flowed along Stony Plain Road at a predictable pace, announcing themselves with muffled throbs of acceleration. Across the street, the Pizza 73 awning stared in unblinking blue and yellow. Inside, the force came from the piano, and the colours flashed from the piano, and the piano was being driven across the darkness by John Stetch.

Stetch at The Dish
That was the wonderful ride we went on last night in our city. Stetch, the Edmonton born and raised jazz pianist now pounding out a living in Harlem, was back home and playing a resto-house concert at The Dish. The menu—the traditional 12 courses of Ukrainian cookery arranged from Stetch's grandmother's cookbook that, itself, now duct-tape bound, sat on the top of his piano—was itself a work of art, and served professionally and reverentially by workers who understood.

Mini Borsch. Lamb Shashlik. Kotlety. Zucchini Rolls. Smoked Trout Pate On Rye. Perohy. Nachynani Yayechka. Smoked Salmon. Eggplant Mezhivo. Nalysnyky. Kebasa. Sweet Apple Fritters.

Add  Mozart and Chopin and J.S. Bach. Or, to be precise, Jazzy Bach.

Stetch plays the piano. He also probes the piano, frequently standing up, bending forward, and reaching into the strings, like a repairman, for new sounds, new resonances. He plucked the copper, and we said, yes, that's right, that's good, and we sipped our Autumn Chills.

And Stetch transforms the piano. We were at the table next to him, and, and one point, I did see, I swear, the keyboard bid into the shape of black-and-white waves that rolled from left to right and splashed up against the frame of the instrument. This is the testimony of one who, yes, admittedly, was drinking Autumn Chills (spiced rum, cloves, star anise, infused apple cider with orange zest and soda), but one who was there and saw what he saw and heard what he heard, and knows Proteus when he has slipped into the room.

John and Shelagh and Darcia and Boris
I will try to remember all of this music, and try especially hard to not let fray the feeling of that night, this marvellous irruption of the wonderful into the quotidian.

And, especially,  I will think upon the music he brought to a piece of seemingly unmusical text. Picking up his grandmother's cookbook, he told the story of how he and his brother as children would routinely entertain the family, putting on little musical improv skits. During one particular livingroom performance, the pair had opened their grandmother's cookbook to a random page and began singing in the reverential notes of church cantors, intoning prayerfully:

Pare and wash large po-tay-ay-toes
Cutintosmallballs with ve-eh-eh-getable scooo-oooop...

We all laughed, and we were left with the possibility that things are mundane only because we now
cannot sing them otherwise.

After the music, we talked about it all.

And the pickup trucks flowed along Stony Plain Road, and the Pizza 73 sign stared.

And we sipped our Autumn Chills.

Good night, thanks Dish


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