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Groove Company

Perry Williams forms new musical ensemble

by Craig Mackie

Perry Williams, Alan Dowlilng, Deryl Gallant, Jon McInnis, Peter Bevan-Baker, Doug MillingtonNo one could ever accuse Perry Williams of being short on ideas. The man is constantly inventing and re-inventing himself and the projects he works on.

Perry is probably best known as a musician. You might have seen him playing bass for Hedgerow or before that as guitar player with the legendary Jive Kings. Perry is also a producer, recording engineer, videographer and more.

His latest project is Groove Company. Perry describes it as a six-piece band that plays new arrangements of some of the most popular music of the last 45 years. “We want this to be fun for us and a good time for people who come out to dance.”

The impetus for Groove Company came when Perry had the opportunity to sub at one of the Late Night at Mavors gigs. “It was the first time I had played in that sort of ‘rock band’ setting for awhile and I’d forgotten how much fun it can be.” Perry started thinking about putting together a new cover band. “A few weeks later, I was contacted about a band for a wedding gig, so I called the guys I thought would be interested and they all agreed. We got together on Labour Day on my deck with coffee and donuts and Groove Company was born.”

The other members of Groove Company are Doug Millington on trombone, Peter Bevan-Baker on trumpet and flugelhorn, Jon McInnis on tenor sax, Deryl Gallant on bass and Alan Dowling on drums. Perry does vocals and guitar. The guys have all played together before in the Charlottetown Jazz Ensemble and four of them were Jive Kings. During rehearsals, there are lots of laughs with old war stories.

What they agreed to that Labour Day morning was they would only do their own gigs, special events or play corporate convention type shows. There would be no bar gigs. They are only doing early evening shows that’ll be done by midnight. They want to appeal to an audience that’s anywhere from 30 to 65. Perry adds, “Did I mention no bar gigs?”

Their sound is a basic rock trio with a 3-piece horn section. Perry describes it this way, “Groove Company arrangements always use the horns as a section as well as featuring at least one of the horns in a solo capacity. We’re approaching the pop song form as if it were a “lead sheet” for a jazz standard. In other words, we usually play the tune in its entirety and then go back to the top to let the guys solo. This keeps everyone in the game and is great for the dancers as the tunes get spun out.”

Their song list reads like a greatest hits catalogue with songs from the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, the Doobie Brothers and more.

After Christmas, Perry has put together the Charity Dance Series 2010 in partnership with the Confederation Centre and some Island charities. The shows start the last Friday in January and continue to the end of May. Details will be available soon on their website

Paige turns to leather

Former biologist now operates her own leatherwork business

by Craig Mackie

Paige HarrisAt the Charlottetown Farmers Market, you may have noticed a display of bracelets, belts and handbags. Behind that display is a young women with intense hazel eyes and a warm smile. Her name is Paige Harris and she is Harris Leatherworks.

Paige was not always a leather crafter. After earning her biology degree from UPEI and a diploma from Holland College in the Wildlife Conservation Program, she worked for 7 years with the Island Nature Trust as a biologist and also with Friends of Covehead-Brackley Bay and Bedeque watershed management groups.

Paige had dabbled in different crafts and creative pursuits, but nothing felt quite like it was what she wanted to do. It was a gift from her mother that was life-changing. After her grandmother passed away, each of the granddaughters was given a handbag that had been handmade by their grandmother. Paige received many compliments on that handbag and she began thinking about working with leather.

“When people started commenting on my grandmother’s handbag, I began to think this was something I should try.” Her mom gave her all her grandmother’s leather working tools, some leftover leather and she started working with it. “I absolutely fell in love with it,” Paige says with a smile.

She describes herself as being self-taught as a leather craftsperson. She read some books and spoke with a few others who worked with leather.

Paige also credits her genes. Her grandmother of course, and her mother and father are both artistic.

She created some pieces of her own work and went to a few craft fairs where she received positive feedback and hasn’t looked back since.

Her designs are inspired by nature. When on long walks with her dog she will see something that she feels will look good on leather. She says, “It might be a bird sitting on a branch. I watch to see how it holds itself and then I’ll draw that image on paper and then transfer it to leather.”

“I keep challenging myself with more intricate designs. At the same time, I love simplicity. I don’t want my designs to be too cluttered. I think people are drawn to many of my truly simple designs.”

Her environmental sensibilities come through in her chosen craft. For instance she uses vegetable tanned leather and all her tools are hand tools to lessen her environmental footprint. Last year Paige’s husband and brother built her backyard studio so she no longer has to commute.

Her work is physically demanding. Because she uses hand tools, Paige is using all the muscles in her right arm as well as all the weight her slight frame can manage into the leather she’s working. An injury months ago has caused her to look at ways to vary her work by doing different projects. The variety reduces the stress on her arm. Paige also does some yoga to relax and stretch.

Paige smiles again, “It’s pretty satisfying taking something from raw material to finished product. And it’s really nice to see people wearing and using something I’ve made.”

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