Pianist Bruce Tournay, with guitarist John Kenny in the background, performing during Bill Culp Productions’ Billy Joel & The Piano Men Tribute Concert at The Olde Walkerville Theatre on Friday, February 28, 2020. Photo by Robert Tuomi/ Eyes On Windsor.
Bill Culp Production’s Friday evening musical spectacular at the Olde Walkerville Theatre, dubbed, Billy Joel & The Piano Men tribute show, is nothing less than a “tour of recorded piano history” as the evening’s host Bruce Tournay declares after wowing the audience with Joel’s Piano Man.
Remembered greats included Billy Joel of course, but also the likes of Nat King Cole, Liberace, Fats Domino, Floyd Cramer, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, to mention a few.
Charles and Wonder are, what keyboard master Bruce Tournay, calls the XY axis of soul. It turns out, he relates, when Charles played and sang, he’d move back and forth. Wonder moves from side to side. It was just one of the many tidbits of music history from walking music encyclopedia Tournay all backed by four impressive musicians he calls his own All-Star Band. He is not exaggerating.
Incredible is a most proper word to precisely describe the agility Tournay has to honestly replicate the singers and some of the most popular songs from the 1950s to now. A test of just how good he is was a little segment the band calls “Stump The Keyboard Guy.”
Audience members are asked to supply song requests which bassist Kevin Beeby pulls out of a container. There was not one song Tournay was not able to play. He also took great pains to identify the requester to prove it was all spontaneous.
As soon as the tune was mentioned, he dived right in, full force, into hits made popular by Van Morrison, Roy Orbison, Phil Collins and even Eric Clapton.
Now, here is the real mystery. When he starts singing, people with blindfolds would think they are present at a concert featuring Elton John or Jerry Lee Lewis or even Canada’s own beloved Burton Cummings. Tournay displays an extremely well developed vocal flexibility able to pick and play the unique nuances of each star.
Every time the band rolls out the Stump game, an audience member invariably wants to hear Elton John’s Crocodile Rock. It is so popular it has since been added to the evening’s repertoire.
In a mixed age audience, what is even more surprising is how many know the words to the songs made popular as far back as seventy decades ago. There was Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill and Lewis’ Great Balls of Fire, to name a few, mixed in throughout the night.
Without question, the glue holding the whole evening is Billy Joel. While the performance starts with the fabled Piano Man it moves onward with certified gold by him and so many other artists. Every once in a while, Tournay will depart leaving the four-man All-Star band of saxophonist Joe Dublanski, guitarist John Kenny, drummer Gary Cozacar and Beeby on their own. With Beeby doing vocals, they make an exceptional act on their own and quite easily captivate the audience while Tournay makes a quick costume change. One time, he returns in all the flamboyance of Elton John, to serenade with John’s Good-bye Yellow Brick Road.
Tournay then asks the audience if they know of any other guy he could play tribute to who was also a snappy overdressed singer. Without missing a beat, the audience yells Liberace, another entertainer from the 1950s.
And that is the way the evening goes. No songs not known by the audience who tap hum along and get up and dance. To everyone’s delight, Tournay does ask for some help on one song, bringing Windsor’s Dawn Bosco to sit beside him at his electric piano.
She was quickly taught the musical prowess of playing one note to help Tournay. Bosco tells Eyes on Windsor she was ecstatic and had never before played a musical instrument. For her it was all bonus during a night she was enjoying with a cousin and two friends visiting from London.
There is a lot more to Tournay. He is a song composer, a radio jingle singer, a sought-after studio musician and a member of Burlington, Ontario’s Compasspoint Bible Church’s orchestra. Recently he completed playwriting two one act musicals including one titled Shane’s Shoes.
Impresario Culp never disappoints in the tribute events he brings to town. And more are on the way. Next up on his list of high-octane evenings will be Swedish supergroup ABBA, Saturday, March 21. On May 9, he will bring to the Rose City his version of BeatleMania followed on June 13 with No Sugar Tonight, a tribute to the Guess Who.
Tournay himself will be back in Windsor on August 29, playing one of the Brothers Gibb in the Bee Gee’s Story. September 19 will feature a tribute to Roy Orbison followed by Motown Gold on November 21. All of the shows will be performed at the Olde Walkerville Theatre.
Tickets may be purchased by calling the Box Office at (519)-253-2929 or purchased online at https://www.oldewalkervilletheatre.com
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.