Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 224 #267)

Nobody Knows!!!

The tune Nobody Knows, that is, by George Harmonica Smith! Transcriptions of George Smith tunes continue to educate regarding essential blues licks and use of the blues scale, and this is no exception. You do have the blues scale down now, right?

Creeping into this tune though is the occasional use of the sixth scale degree (the 5 blow). Yes, this is outside of the blues scale, but it adds a little jazzy sound if done right. You see George using it here in much the same phrasing Little Walter uses in the Juke head - Joe points out that it is common to play the sixth on the ascending lick and then to play the flat seventh (5 draw) on the way back down.

Page one of the transcription also shows a challenging technique that may well be unique to George. Check out bars 2 and 5. George sounds like a Hammond B3 there because he is simultaneously using rapid vamping and throat tremolo! There's a goal for you overachievers! Joe warns though that doing that on the 6 blow like he does is safest over the IV chord because of the chord you are playing while rapid vamping.

This song has a harp change in it, noted on the first page. This lets you see that the blues scale is still the blues scale, whether you're playing second or third position. Notice that the 6 draw down to the 4 draw phrase is exactly the same as "Lick #1" that we've been hammering home in second position recently. The other essential thing about third position playing is to take advantage of that sweet octave when you hit the split five on holes 8 and 4. George does it masterfully and with a beautiful tremolo.

Lastly, note the cool use of repetition over bars 11 and 12 of verse three. George completely ignores the turnaround and hammers through with a repetition that builds up great excitement and tension...if you do this, be sure your next move is a reward - George hits the throbbing octave after this buildup.

Killer tune! Thanks for the schoolin', George!

Recital Wrap-up!!!

For the 16th time the Old Town School harmonica players put on a fantastic show at the Harlem Avenue Lounge Saturday night! Special thanks to:

Shoji Naito for leading a fantastic guitar/harmonica ensemble of Albatross and for being the incredible bandleader and guitar player all night long! We couldn't do it without you!

Highway RickEy for being a relatively restrained drummer in the B1 Blues Band and backing everyone up! And for pulling out the washboard when necessary.

Harlan Terson for playing bass with us for the first time. It is an honor for us all to get to play with such an experienced pro musician - a guy who even played with Walter Horton!

Al Taylor for also playing bass on the first set and on Highway RickEy's more unconventional arrangements! Keep up the great playing, Al!

Grant Kessler for playing some rhythm guitar on the early set.

Joe and Michelle Filisko for putting this wonderful evening together and recording it for us! Michelle steps in and grabs RickEy's camera too so we're sure to have photos of everyone for the CD.

And thanks to Kenny Zimmerman, Mr. Salty Humor and proprietor of the Harlem Avenue Lounge - thanks for the Saturday night slot Kenny and the continued support!

SPAH 2011!!!

- The annual SPAH convention is coming up and you should be making plans to attend. It is a phenomenal learning event and a wonderful gathering of people. Here is a fun video invitation from the Garden State Harmonica Club:

For registration info:

Class Notes
  • No classes next week, May 30 due to the Memorial Day holiday. Stay home, fire up the bar-b and play the blues while you grill steaks!
Grant Kessler Is Guest Bartending!!!

In the unrelated-to-blues-harmonica category, our B1 friend Grant Kessler is doing a guest bartender gig next Tuesday, May 31...for fun and to raise money for a great non-profit charter school.

So if a holiday week doesn't sit well with you and you will miss hanging in the bar with your harp friends, round 'em up and meet them at Prairie Fire. The full details are here: Guest Bartending.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew