A wide variety of genres are covered by Music in the Park each year. It’s always nice to hear a rhythm and blues (R&B) band, as they don’t come through town, often. Willie Ward’s Cool Machine, primarily an R&B group, appeared at Riverside Park on July 29th. Ward is a veteran musician who has played all over the world. He is well known in both the Lower Mainland and the interior of BC. He spent many years entertaining on cruise ships. As a triple threat musician playing keyboards, trumpet and vocals, you can see why he would be in such high demand. He has a wonderful, big voice. He sounds somewhat like David Clayton Thomas, but his forte is the trumpet and he got to use it plenty at the Music in the Park gig.
Willie Ward on trumpet, keyboards and vocals
He showcased his trumpet on songs from Tower of Power, Van Morrison and Powder Blues. Ward was accompanied on sax by his life-long friend Gunther Klaus and they make quite a tandem, blowing their horns and singing.
Willie Ward, Neil Brun, Gunther Klaus
He saved some fireworks for guitarist Kris Ruston with John Mayall and Gary Burton blues classics. Ward mentioned that he had played with Ruston’s father, Rusty Elwood, in the past.
Kris Ruston, guitar
Neil Brun on bass and Ed Hilliard on drums showed why the rhythm section is the backbone of many R&B outfits. They did a great job on this varied set list, which also, included Delbert McClinton, Joe Cocker and Powder Blues songs.
Ed Hilliard, drums (top), Neil Brun, bass (below)
A happy, cheering crowd appreciated this talented band, that played 90 minutes of mainly R&B, blues, and funk. Willie Ward may be approaching 70, but he still puts on a remarkable show on stage.