Maurice Richard Libby Evolves
Maurice Richard Libby is a musician and visual artist. He takes a consistent approach to his work in both media, mixing and matching his tools on tried-and-tested structures. Musically, he draws on experience and a diverse set of influences, including jazz, funk, world music and hip-hop, to create a very personal, coherent and enduring blues sound.
Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong sparked Maurice's interest in music and in 'blue' sounds. He started to experiment with a number of instruments as a child and was soon winning awards with his first band.
Still in his teens, Maurice sang and played harmonica in the blues group Red Meat, which featured his brother Michael on Drums and Ray Montana, the Regina guitarist who went on to back up Sawyer Brown, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Paycheck.
After moving to Toronto, Maurice took on the persona of Whiteboy Slim. His driving blues outfit, Automatic Slim, was a popular live attraction, filling classic venues like the El Mocambo, The Silver Dollar Saloon, and the Black Swan. Automatic Slim was the house band at four different clubs on different nights of the week, and was noted for having best grossing Wednesday night downstairs at the El Mocambo. Maurice shared the stage during this period with other key Canadian blues artists, such as the brilliant guitarist and harmonica player, Michael Picket, and the Kendall-Wall Blues band.
When personnel changes eventually shut down Automatic Slim, Maurice embarked on a solo career, playing jazz in Toronto clubs, then returning to Saskatchewan, where he plays his blues solo and in various group formations.
Maurice learned his craft in impressive company. While reading Jazz and Composition at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, he hung out with fellow students and teachers including jazz great Gary Burton, pianist Al Copley (co-founder of Roomful of Blues), and bassist Ron McClure (bassist with Charles Lloyd, Wynton Kelly, Quest, The 4th Way, Joe Henderson, Blood, Sweat & Tears, The Pointer Sisters, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk).
In life, as in their work, blues musicians are typically improvisers. In committing to their music, they must often struggle to reap the rewards that come more easily to their peers in more popular genres. So, how does Maurice Richard Libby see things?
"Everything is changing; the music business is in a mess, with pre-fabricated popstars who have little talent and less creativity flitting through our lives known more for their clothes or sex lives than they are for their music. The record companies are crying about downloaders, and even (big label) artists who sell large numbers of CDs live on what they could make working at a burger joint. But there is a bright side: it's cheap to record and the Internet lets you reach out to the whole world, so my philosophy is just to go out there and catch as big a wave as I can and ride it for as long as I can."