If you know Bala, then the odds are good you know Jack Hutton.
Actively involved in many aspects of the community, from operating Bala’s Museum to helping out with the ever-popular Trek to Bethlehem, Hutton keeps his finger on the pulse of west Muskoka.
In addition to a lengthy career in journalism, Hutton also has a lifetime of piano experience under his belt. Hutton will be showing off his ragtime chops and bringing a pair of the top players on the planet with him when he hits the stage at the Gravenhurst Opera House later this week.
The show, titled Fats Meets Louis, will feature Hutton alongside Neville Dickie, England’s top ragtime/stride piano player, and U.S. jazz pianist, Jon Seiger, who not only plays jazz and ragtime but also plays trumpet and sings like Louis Armstrong.
“I shouldn’t be giving away secrets, but this program is so great that it gives me goose bumps,” says Hutton. “Neville has been working on the tune list over in England for months, e-mailing Jon and me every few days with his ideas. The evening is a first-of-its-kind celebration of the music that both Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong played.”
Hutton says the evening will begin with Louis Armstrong’s signature tune, When It’s Sleepy Time Down South, starting with Dickie on the nine foot Steinway, joined by Seiger on trumpet, and finally Hutton on the Heintzman player piano.
“We’ll be going back and forth all evening between piano combinations (3 pianos, 2 pianos, solo) and Jon doing his Louis numbers with one or both of us accompanying him,” says Hutton. “I won’t give away the whole program, but I can’t wait to hear Jon Seiger recreate Louis’s spine-tingling version of A Kiss To Build A Dream On, accompanied by Neville and me. Louis had folks in tears every time he played that tune at Dunn’s Pavilion in Bala.”
Hutton, who is also a treasure trove of Muskoka history, also plans to tell the audience more about both Fats and Louis, who were life-long friends right up until Fats died Dec. 15, 1943. That includes Armstrong’s special connection with Muskoka.
“Louis Armstrong played four summers in a row at Dunn’s Pavilion in Bala (1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962), setting an attendance record the final year with 2,100. That didn’t count scores listening from motorboats outside on the bay, plus two float planes that were there all evening,” he says. “I’m hoping to hear stories from people who remember hearing and meeting Satchmo at those Bala concerts. We’ll carry on hearing those stories later down in the Trillium Room.”
For Hutton, who also plays regularly aboard the Segwun cruises, a love of ragtime music has been cultivated over the course of decades. He started playing ragtime in the 1970s after learning piano at age 8, and he’s been playing festivals across North America for the past three decades. In fact,
Hutton played a show at the Gravenhurst Opera House with Dickie last year to a sizeable crowd, sparking the new and improved version of the show set to hit the stage this year.