By Omri Golden – Plotnik
The sun slow roasts Winnipeg patio-goers, and a damp heavy air blankets the city. I am sitting with a beer in one hand and a pen in the other, scratching notes onto my legal pad. Across from me, my companion Dave Quanbury explains the logic behind his song selections for his 90-minute radio program on CKUW, Exile Files. His tendency is to focus on jazz and blues, and particularly songs with an emphasis on brass instrumentation and big vocals.
Whether this is deliberate or subliminal, Dave’s intention is to find music made by people who have been famously forgotten; artists who blew the doors off music decades ago, or had a profound influence but failed to achieve everlasting fame. I share with him a note I took while listening his July 8 episode, when he described the massive influence of revolutionary trombonist, Jack Teagarden. In that episode, Dave illuminated the listener to how Teagarden’s style brought trombone from the background ‘tailgate’ style, common in the 20s and 30s, to the forefront of brassy, jazzy, big blues music. He was a man whose influence is still heard today, but whose name is missing from the collective mental Rolodex of nearly all today’s performers, casual fans, and even music insiders. His goal of shedding light on music history’s forgotten souls meshes well with CKUW’s mandate to maintain ‘hit-free’ radio programming. The irony of Exile Files, as Dave points out, is that at one time some of the songs he plays would have been considered hits.
This is precisely why listeners ought to be tuning in to Exile Files (which airs Wednesday evenings at 10:30 pm). The program combines well-selected soulful jazz music with Dave’s smooth inquisitive narration in a way that can be only conjured from a man ‘on-the-go’; a musical road warrior.
The program’s name comes from Dave’s personal story. Originally from Winnipeg, he was deported from the United States last spring. He’d lived in Austin, TX, where he’d worked nearly every conceivable occupation in the city: home care, carpentry, building tree houses, and even as a technical aid at the SXSW Festival. He’d spent 5 years living and working in Texas, but remained in the state 60 days beyond his visa’s allowance. He has since been refused entry to the US. His wife still resides there.
Dave tells me that living in exile has triggered a midlife crisis. He is separated from his two loves – his wife, and his music. At the time of his deportation, Dave was performing in eight different bands. Winnipeg, unfortunately, does not have the same scene for brass, blues, and jazz that can be found in the southern United States. In Austin, one could hear Dave’s 30-person band (now, sadly, 29), the Minor Mishap Marching Band, playing on any given night. But the adventurous story that was Dave’s life playing and touring with his band has been temporarily halted due his deportation. He recounts to me a happy tale, one which took place in New Orleans during the world famous Mardi Gras parade.
One particular year, the group was summoned to New Orleans, the home of jazz and blues, for the official Mardi Gras parade. Between throngs of people, the band bellowed on their instruments, soaking up the whole experience. Deep within the crowds, there were groups of children holding their hands out for any gifts or trinkets that might pass their way. In one particular group, Dave’s eye caught a young girl, too small to reach above the other children. While the boys around her had their hands full, she held nothing. Seeing this, Dave broke formation and moved into the crowd, bustling through the bodies, until he was face-to-face with this small girl. He handed her a small medallion he had been given hours earlier by the parade organizers. “I bet she remembers that to this day,” I tell him. “I hope so,” he responds.
Personal anecdotes, glimpses into the biographies of the most influential and overlooked musicians, and a smattering of forgotten jazz hits, Exile Files is a link to the past. It’s a bridge to connect today’s listener with the true foundations of music, and the sounds underpinning tracks for decades to come.
Exile Files airs Wednesday evenings on CKUW 95.9 fm from 10:30 pm – midnight. You can listen to archived episodes at ckuw.ca.