By Mark Weber
For the Independent
Bill Bourne isn’t just an amazingly gifted musician – he’s a visionary with an utterly unique perspective on the power and influence that music can wield.
Bourne, along with Lester Quitzau, Madagascar Slim and Michael Treadway, make up Tri-Continental. And after a few years’ hiatus, the guys are back together and heading to the Elks Lodge in Red Deer on Sept. 27th in a highly-anticipate show hosted by the Central Music Festival Society.
Bourne recalls the “coalescence” of circumstances” that unexpectedly brought the men together back in the late 1990s.
“We all had a common friend by the name of Hugo Rampen,” he explained.
“He was a good friend and a big fan of Madagascar Slim and also a big fan of Lester’s music, and as it turned out, he was a fan of my music, too.”
It was Rampart that helped to connect Bourne with Slim on a Toronto stage one fateful evening. It was during this show, at the Bamboo Club, that the guys first played together.
“I met him backstage and he tried out one of my guitars – I thought, wow, this guy can really play so I asked him to come and join me onstage,” he said. “He played totally impromptu, but man, but he just nailed everything and it was a great moment.”
From there, Rampen suggested the Bourne and Slim team up with Quitzau.
‘Lester and I were living in Edmonton at the time, and Hugo booked a few gigs for us in the west in September of 1999. He flew Slim to Edmonton and we sat around for two or three days rehearsing.”
The guys then headed down to Red Deer where they hit the stage for the opening week at The Vat. It proved both a remarkable pivotal evening.
“The place was packed, and we just had a blast,” he added with a laugh.
Something truly clicked, and the chemistry was absolutely unmistakable.
“It was very exciting because I had been playing mostly solo for quite a long time in those days. Suddenly I had all of these guitar players around! There was a sense that yes, maybe we should pay attention to this thing and see what happens.”
They headed to the studio at the end of 1999 and tracked their debut disc, which was released in the spring of 2000. That summer, the guys headed over to Europe for a few dates, too. And to top it off, they landed a Juno Award that year for the album as well.
“All of a sudden you get this real chemistry that has maybe never been heard before. I think that had a lot to do with propelling it into the realm of (getting) that Juno Award.”
Fast forward to today, and as with Slim and Quitzau, Bourne can’t say enough about newcomer Treadway brings to the heart of Tri-Continental.
“We’ve all just tuned into him and man, there’s a real centre to the groove – it’s fantastic. I love Michael – he’s an energetic guy; a sunny character who a fabulous addition to this band. He’a virtuoso.”
Bourne also describes Treadway as having a real understanding – as with the group as a whole – of the connection between music and spirituality.
“He’s a fantastic fit.”
These days, Bourne is excited about getting back together with the guys after a few years of follow their own creative paths.
The collaborative nature of Tri-Continental is a joy, and offers a continual experience of learning about the wonders and mysteries of making music.
“I’ve met musicians who feel that they’ve already learned everything that they need to know about music, and that’s it,” he explained. “To me, that’s kind of a dangerous perspective. I’m still learning about music – to me, it’s an absolutely fascinating subject. It’s also an internal expansion, really. It’s not just about timing, melody or songs – it’s a whole picture.
“I’ve realized that a musician’s responsibility is to the energy of the music that is occurring with the audience and the musicians as a whole. My responsibility is to really tune into that energy and roll with it. And it takes a certain amount of humility to really be a servant to that energy.
“It’s such a journey – it’s incredible. You really have to try and get into that attitude of serving it as best you can. And the more you learn about it, the more obvious it becomes. That’s what really keeps me interested in music – all of these various things that you learn that contribute to the expansion of your knowledge, the expansion of your spirit – of everything.
“It’s a joyful thing.”