Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Good Ole Days

Tonight, I spent some time trolling youtube and found some cool videos that took me back to the good old days of Chicago Blues in the mid 1980's.

This video captures the great Lefty Dizz in action with members of the Rolling Stones and the Muddy Waters Blues Band.

The next video I had never seen before. It has the fabulous Valerie Wellington and Billy Branch. Valerie was a monstrously talented vocalist that was taken way too early. One can only imagine the degree of success she would have achieved.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Society for the Advancement and Preservation of the Harmonica

Recently, I read a blog entry written by a Chicago-based harp player named Mr G. (His fine blog can be found here.)

Mr G recently attended the convention hosted by the Socoety fro the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica (SPAH). He mused,

"The one really strange aspect of the SPAH convention was the lack of African American harmonica players. Some of the best players around are black, particularly blues players like James Cotton, Billy Branch, Sugar Blue and the rest of the "real deal" guys. It would be great if they would join the geeky world of SPAH - we need them."

In the past several years, some of my harmonica playing friends have asked me why I am not a member of SPAH. They answer is quite simple.

The organization only promotes the music they consider worthy of promotion and blues isn't really a part of what they are about.

I'm not really surprised by the lack of black players that are invited to perform and speak at SPAH. A good portion of SPAH's membership isn't really interested in blues, I wouldn't expect much blues content.

However, Billy Branch is also a premier blues educator. He has introduced and taught thousands of children to play the harmonica in the past 25 years. SPAH could learn a lot from Billy about how he reaches youngsters. If it's truly about preservation and advancement of the harmonica, education and exposure should be a significant part of the task. Teaming up with an educator with hands-on experience for over two decades might be a worthwhile endeavor.

Additionally, most of the SPAH attendees that I meet that are blues players only scratch the surface of education about blues. They know about players like Kim Wilson, Rick Estrin and Charlie Musselwhite. They may be aware of people like Cotton, Branch, Billy Boy Arnold and Sugar Blue, but there is no first hand exposure to these artists. They don't listen to these artists. They don't go to see them perform. They form their opinion on what they read from the other members of the group that have little influence on blues music made on a harmonica.

There is no effort to go out, book these guys and expose them. We are losing that generation of players everyday. The focus to introduce these influential players to a new audience isn't there.

In the past several years, we've lost harmonica players with a rich musical history like Snooky Pryor, Junior Wells, Carey Bell and several others. These influential artists have not been recognized or honored by the organization, although they have been highly influential. The population of harmonica players that were directly and personally influenced by John Lee Williamson, Rice Miller and Little Walter Jacobs are dwindling each day.

SPAH does very little to recognize these artists that have been very influential to modern American music. This is why I am not a member of SPAH, nor will I attend their conferences. The genre of music I enjoy and play is almost completely ignored. It's history is also completely whitewashed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Steve Freund's World Famous Blues Jam @ The Mojo Lounge

Tuesday night - I had been out five nights in a row. I was dragging. Big time. However , I had to hit Steve Freund's World Famous Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. Steve, Randy Bermudes and June Core really ripped it up on the opening set.

It was a quiet evening, but there were some cool performances by: Russell Barber, Gino Baronelli, Ryan Cohen, Scott Duncan, East Bay Wes, E-Rock, Robert Leroy Jones, Scott Miller and Don Yonders. There were also several new people that I hadn't seen before. I should have lifted the sign up sheet.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Murphy's Law Jam

Johnny Cat & Me

Monday night - I got the call that it was going to be an evening to remember down at Murphy's Law in Sunnyvale. Blue Monday jam hosts, Johnny Cat and Mike Phillips were heading on the road with Terry Hanck and John Nemeth, respectively. It was going to be a party like atmosphere and a good time was almost guaranteed.

There was a ton of good music played by some very accomplished players including:

Eddie B, Chris Brown, Johnny Cat, Ryan Cohen, June Core, Frank De Rose, Aki Kumar, Scott Miller, Mike Phillips, Kedar Roy, Matt Stubbs, plus many other performers that I had never seen previously.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dave Walker Jam @ The Bistro in Hayward

Sunday afternoon - I had a few hours to kill so I met Double G and East Bay Wes at The Bistro in beautiful downtown Hayward to soak up some sounds and play a few songs at Dave Walker's Blues Jam. It had been a while, since I visited that jam. The last time that I was there, Dave Walker was in absentia. He must have known that I was heading there, because he was absent and the jam was being hosted by Andrew. He's a funky singer with an unique spin on some classic songs.

I don't know many of the people that hang out at this jam, but I did see some familiar faces. Harp players Mark Irwin, Chuck Yolland (of the Blues Bottle Band) and Double G got up and played some. East Bay Wes contributed some fine sounding guitar work.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Steve Freund @ JJ's Blues Lounge

Saturday night, I dropped into JJ's Blues Lounge in San Jose to see Steve Freund and his trio.

For a long time, I hated going to JJ's. Since, the ownership change a few years ago, JJ's Blues Lounge is a really pleasant club to visit and hang out. Johnny has done a really nice job with the place. He and his staff provide a friendly atmosphere. They've got a good sound man that manages the sound quite nicely.

JJ's has a real funky vibe to it. Every former Chicago area resident that has ever been there says that it reminds them of bars on South Western Avenue on Chicago South Side. Steve must have been feeling it, too. He, Burton Winn and Robi Bean delivered three powerhouse sets that were straight from Chicago old school style.

He asked Kevin Coggins and me to join him for a few tunes. That was a lot of fun playing some old school classic Blues. Chris Brown, Steve Welch of Blues Cadillac and Gino Bambino of the Rhythm Doctors were hanging out in the packed house and enjoying the music.

Friday, August 10, 2007

John Nemeth and Junior Watson @ The Poor House Bistro

Jr Watson, June Core, Mike Phillips, Kid Andersen & Jay Meduri

Friday afternoon, I was having lunch at Jonathan's Fish & Chips in Menlo Park and ran into Eddie B. He told me that something very cool was going to go down at the Poor House Bistro. So I got in the car and rolled down to San Jose to see John Nemeth and his special guest, Junior Watson. It was a very cool evening of music by John Nemeth, Junior Watson and Kedar Roy. I can't remember the name of the drummer.

The music was excellent. There was a party like atmosphere. There were guest performances by Gary Smith and Kid Andersen. There were a lot of musicians and friends in attendance including: Kid Andersen, Eddie B, Chris Brown, Johnny Cat, June Core, Jimmy Dewrance, Double G, East Bay Wes, Mark Irwin, Amy Lou, Scott Miller, Robin Overton, Mike Phillips, Lara Price, Gary Smith and Don Yonders