Tad Robinson has a long list of WC Handy and Blues Music Awards nominations, CDs and movie credits and touring experience, but never mind all that - Tad rocks!
Having blown everyone away with a terrific performance in an unusual trio (no drums!) situation at SPACE Sunday, Tad walked into B1 Monday and softly said, "...this room feels like a holy place to me." Widely known for his soul singing, Tad showed Sunday and Monday that he has an incredibly strong blues foundation and harp playing to match, and he credited Joe for his efforts to bring the tradition to life for his students. "Tradition" was a word Tad came back to a lot.
Using Joe's questionnaire as a guideline, he had these thoughts:
- Common novice mistake: relying too much on a distorted sound
- Think melodically and construct your solo as a comment on what the singer was doing
- Little Walter's greatest work, in Tad's mind, was as a sideman such as on Chicago Bound - he considers this seminal post-war Chicago blues band playing
- Regarding the one Big Walter track on Chicago Bound, Walking By Myself - "Those 24 bars of solo are all a harp player needs to play for money!"
- Tad made a fascinating point that a lot of harp instrumentals are duets (with the guitar) in disguise. He followed this up by saying, "Part of your mission as harp players is to go out and find a cat like Shoji to play with." (We could not agree more!)
- Asked about his favorite vocalists, Tad listed Sam Cooke, Gladys Night and Bobby Blue Bland...then effortlessly launched into I Will Take Care of You to prove his point.
- Tad laments that the art of writing melodies has been lost in blues, though he admits it's hard to do, "like writing a haiku".
- On the question of compairing blues and soul, he said, "Soul is not a traditional music; it came out of blues. Blues is a tree and a branch of it is soul." Soul is generally more joyful, a celebration of love, whereas blues is a mirror of sadness.
- Tad also spent quite a bit of time talking about repertoire and how to learn and memorize songs. He suggested listening to multiple versions, particularly male and female versions if you can find them, then develop your own version from that listening. As for committing to memory - know the story. He also said he learns the first interval of the song, so he knows how it starts. Really cool advice!
In the bar later, Tad also remembered that a major point he wanted to stress but forgot was that you should "become familiar with the notes on your harmonica that don't require bending". Learn melodies and notice, for example, that the head to Juke can almost be played without bending - that is the strength of the melody in that tune.
It was a packed house and a very special night in B1. Tad was generous with his time and thoughts and a true gentleman to spend the evening with. Thanks Tad, we hope to see you again soon! B1 is glad to count you as our friend.
Tad Robinson Soundtrack Tune!!!
Here's Tad singing Hold Tight, the track from the film The Guardian that is not on any of his CDs: Hold Tight.
- Announcing! The next B1 Harmonica Recital at the Harlem Avenue Lounge will be May 12, 2012. Save the date and start working on your performance material.
- Announcement Number 2! We have a date, location and headliner for our 5th Annual Chicago Blues Harp Bash! Sugar Ray Norcia will headline, backed by the Billy Flynn band and it all happens at SPACE on September 30, 2012! We're pulling together the other five harp players and will announce them soon!
Our friend Bill Morris has two more rebuilt chord harps available for a steal at $450 each. Email him directly: Bill Morris
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew