Ken's Tunes

Songs of faith and life from Pastor Ken Ainsworth

What's a Night Whale?
Night Whale is, without a doubt, my greatest musical influence. Phil Kaufmann and Nina Brandt are incredible musicians and very good friends. I cannot thank them enough for inspiring me, challenging me, and encouraging me to grow as a songwriter, musician and performer.

Back in college, I scored a steady gig playing in a little wine and fondue restaurant in Moscow, Idaho. (Six hours a night, four nights a week.) Phil and Denise stopped in for dinner, and apparently liked what they heard. We had a great (and long) conversation after I finished that night, and we started jamming together fairly regularly.

Night Whale first performed together in 1975 at a benefit concert for hunger relief in Pullman, Washington. Before this performance, no plans for a permanent group were made.  However, we all felt the music was something special, and with the break-up of Nina's country-rock band (Ash Breeze) the next spring, Night Whale became an important part of our lives.

Night Whale toured Northwest lounges and night clubs for the next two years.  This was a time of growth for the group, and the development of a unique style led to the recording of our first album, 31 Foot Ketch. I messed things up, though, when I moved with my young family to  Marysville, Washington to take a teaching job in 1978. Plans to release 31 Foot Ketch were scrapped, and we've never lived in the same town since. But somehow, the music continued to survive and grow.

The group was back together in the summer of 1978 for the recording of Nina's solo album, Dream Flight. Several successful concerts accompanied the release of the album, and Phil and Nina again hit the road to play full-time.  First with the Kaufmann-Helton Trio, then as Interplay, they performed up and down the west coast.  Ken appeared with them frequently enough to keep Night Whale remembered.

Then in 1981, as Phil and Nina settled in Corvallis, Oregon, Night Whale was reborn in concert at the Old Worlde Centre.  For the next six years the group performed regularly at coffee-houses, bars, concerts and festivals, and released two albums of live recordings: Night Whale: 10 Year Anniversary and Traditions.  At the same time, the musicians were growing in other directions.  Nina immersed herself in her piano arrangements.  Nina and Phil began experimenting with jazz standards.  Phil continued his study of classic guitar.  I continued writing new songs and began performing with The Rondos, a classic rock group.

Finally, in 1996, Night Whale decided to head for the studio once again.  The intent was to catalogue our twenty years of music as a keepsake for our families, but producer Martin Race encouraged us ... (actually he leaned on us pretty hard) ... to produce a commercial album, and as a result, we released the compact disk Soundings in December of 1997.  The energy and enthusiasm generated in the studio even led us to return to live performance a short time, despite the fact that we lived 300 miles apart.

So that's Night Whale.  "Night Whale Productions" is a business entity we started to, well, take care of Night Whale's business. When I had the opportunity to begin producing solo albums, it was just easier to keep the same business entity. And besides, I really wanted to remember, and honor, all that Night Whale meant to me as I developed my own musical style.


Night Whale

    A contemporary acoustic and progressive folk music group.
Night Whale
    Nina Brant
      Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion
    Ken Ainsworth
      Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
    Philip Kaufmann
      Vocals, acoustic and classic guitars, harmonica