Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 489 #534)

Performances!!!

It was a full night of performances in B1, so there wasn't time for any discussion afterwards.

Speaking of performance, we were lucky enough to have a special guest drop in who's visiting from Spain, Quique Gomez. Man, can he lay down the blues! The class loved it so much there was strong request for an encore. He's in town a lot between now and Blues Fest - catch him at the Reggie's after party June 10 playing with Rockin' Johnny and Kid Andersen. Thanks for visiting and playing, Quique!

Class Notes

  • Plan ahead - Dennis Gruenling will be a special class guest Monday, June 12.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 488 #533)

Stage Presence!!!

With a view toward doing video of peoples' performances in class soon, Joe made a point last night of pointing out ways for people to start improving their stage presence and appearance. Face the audience, sure, but think too about strong signals and band leadership - the audience sees this (or the lack of it) too. Wondering who to watch do this well? Morry Sochat if you're here in town, or check out RJ Mischo on youtube.

Another thing to remember is to think about what you're doing when you're not doing anything. Are you fronting but laying out for a guitar solo? Step back from the mic a little to pass the lead and look interested. These are things we'll continue to talk about in our "performance" class over the next few weeks.

Speaking of performance, huge shout out to our new Swedish friend Matthias Bogefors who was visiting B1 last night and played a couple songs. Great to have you, Matthias!

Class Notes

  • Plan ahead - Dennis Gruenling will be a special class guest Monday, June 12.

Blues Music Awards
The 38th Annual Blues Music Awards were announced recently and we see a few harp players on the list:

Kim Wilson - Instrumentalist, harmonica
Curtis Salgado - Soul Blues Album, Song, Soul Blues Male
Bobby Rush - Album

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week (Week 487 #532)

Performance!!!

With Final Take behind us for the summer, folks broke out new tunes last night and it was fun to hear fresh stuff. Keep polishing and repeating things though as a means of progressing.

Remember that if you have a tune you're working on or wondering about, it is always fair game to bring a recording of it in to class for playing and discussion.

And speaking of performance - with no recording on tap this session, we have time to explore pro level performance skills in another way - video! We'll be working out the details of capturing, playing back and analyzing performances in class for those willing. It'll give us a chance to discuss what visual and stage presence practices matter and push your performance to the next level.

Class Notes

  • We will not be recording as part of the current session.
  • Plan ahead - Dennis Gruenling will be a special class guest Monday, June 12.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week?

Final Take VIII!!!

For the eighth time now we polished tunes for a session and wrapped it up with a multi-track recording opportunity. There was a lot of partnering and accompaniment playing this session, which was very cool. It's great to see people working out arrangements that include others.

Wondering what we recorded? Here's the list:

  • Guantanamera
  • My Last Meal
  • Lights Out
  • Mannish Blues (a Filisko original)
  • I Put My Baby Out
  • Here, There and Everywhere (h/t to our recent class guest, PT Gazell, for inspiring this song
  • Happy Baby
  • Big Boss Man
  • If Not for You (original)


Class Notes

  • We will not be recording as part of the current session.
  • Plan ahead - Dennis Gruenling will be a special class guest Monday, June 12.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week (Week 485 #530)

Rehearsal!!!

We spent a lot of time Monday with folks rehearsing their beginnings and endings. It is critical to have these parts of your performance tight - the opening sets the stage for the band to be together and the ending hits the audience with the impression you have your act together! If you're still unsure of your count off or ending, be sure to practice at home and be ready to run through them in class again next week. That is great use of class time and the band fully supports this kind of rehearsal to get you ready for Final Take on May 1.

And know also that if someone else in the band with you can count off more accurately for you, don't be afraid to let that happen. Starting together is the goal, any way you can get there.

Class Notes

  • Final Take recording this time around is on May 1. Note that Grant is away next week, so be sure to have a copy of your song chart to hand to Joe so he can support you.
  • Shout out to our Brazilian friend Indiara S. Horst who joined us in Level III Monday and performed. Thanks for visiting B1, and if you missed her, go see her at the Harmonica Meetup tonight!
  • Heads up that YMM will not publish next week - editor will be "gone fishin'"!
  • Plan ahead - Dennis Gruenling will be a special class guest Monday, June 12.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 484 #529)

Rehearsal!!!

Songs are declared and people are honing in on their arrangements, and polishing their performances for our next Final Take multi-track recording on May 1.

Use the next few classes to get yourself ready!

Class Notes

  • Final Take recording this time around is on May 1.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 483 #528)

Performances!!!

We had another terrific night of performance in B1 and people have declared their song for this next round of multi-track recording.

Joe pointed out there is a Sam Lay documentary airing on WTTW this Thursday at 10pm and an interview with him and the director tonight, Tuesday, at 7pm on Chicago Tonight.

Class Notes

  • Final Take recording this time around is on May 1. Use the next few weeks to polish your song, nail your beginning and ending and be ready to record.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 482 #527)

Performances!!!

Last night was another terrific night of performances!

Joe also reminded folks of the importance of allowing for someone else to solo in your song. It is not about the solo; it is all about you becoming comfortable breaking your song up, cueing and accommodating someone else, comping behind them, then jumping back in when they are done. All great practice, so be sure to talk with someone ahead of time about participating in your song.

Here's the plan for our First Take recordings this time around. Due to some dates Al and Grant are out of town, the viable recording date will actually be the first day of the next session, May 1! Mark  your calendars and be sure that you have your song in mind next week when you come - it's time to start polishing.

Class Notes
  • Private lesson registration is now open. Act now to keep your slot with Joe if you have one.

Blues News

Blues Fest Schedule has been announced.

Chicago Blues Experience - Chicago is getting a blues museum in the Loop!

After much time away, our own Corporate Kirk is back on stage with Shoji Naito, April 8:


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 481 #526)

Performances!!!
 
If you weren't in B1 last night, you missed some fun performances! New songs were debuted as the new session gets underway and there is some really fun collaboration going on.

And remember, if you're not part of the Performance Class at 8:00pm, you're always welcome to hang out and listen - it's often the best show in town!

Class Notes

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 480 #525)

Surprise Guest!!!
 
It pays to be in B1 - Dennis Gruenling dropped by on his way back from the Norway tour with Nick Moss so we got a great impromptu show! Don't miss Mondays. Killer harp playing, Dennis, thanks for stopping by.

For those who did miss it, keep your eyes on the calendar - Dennis and Nick are playing Blues Fest this year!

Class Notes
  • Remember to share your goals with Joe in order to receive better guidance - particularly advised for folks in the Performance Class.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 479 #524)

PT Review!!!
It was an amazing guest appearance last week with PT Gazell in the house and Joe took a few minutes last night to underline things and recap.

Joe pointed out PT is a unique player with incredibly strong pitch, tone and ear. It is super cool that he's reinvented himself and essentially been two different players in his life, a country and bluegrass player first and now a jazzy melody musician. There's a lot to be admired by the dedication he's shown to this new path.

It was profound info from PT that he emphasized learning the melodies so strongly. So, go learn your melodies!

And Joe was also taken by PT's description of having a "bucket of licks" that he draws from. Joe hears this in other great blues players too - Kim Wilson, Rick Estrin, Sugar Ray Norcia and more. Learn to draw from your own bucket and also be forever expanding it!

Regarding the half-valve harps, Joe advised to remember that accurate bends are still work. When asked about playing them in a blues context, he points out that blues is not just melody playing; it also makes heavy use of chords, so unless you retune, the half-valve is not going to sound like a blues instrument. And similarly, the "dirty notes" and difference tones that accompany them are also not the same on a half-valved harp. So think of the half-valve for melody playing - obviously PT is using them to their full advantage and strengths!

Class Notes
  • The new session kicked off last night but there's still time to register for classes!
  • Remember to share your goals with Joe in order to receive better guidance - particularly advised for folks in the Performance Class.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 478 #523)

PT Gazell!!!
 
We welcomed PT Gazell to class last night to play and talk about his jazzy playing.

Gazell's early career was in bluegrass and country, playing as a sideman to Johnny Paycheck and then chasing that Charlie McCoy style. He was a single note melody player. But then, as Joe describes it in the late 80's, there was a puff of smoke and PT disappeared from the scene.

What happened? As PT described it, 1988 was pre-Howard Levy and Gazell was just frustrated with the missing notes on the diatonic harp. He wanted to play fluid melodies and did not want to wrestle with the shortcomings of the chromatic. Plus, the western swing bands he was in at the time wanted him playing accurate lines in the horn section. In frustration, he put the harp down and didn't resurface until 2003 when he became exposed to the possibilities of a half-valved diatonic.

He has improved the valves now too and in partnership with Seydel offers the Gazell Method harmonicas, which you can order here.

Why play the half-valve? He offered three concise reasons:
  • You get all the notes  - three full octaves.
  • They follow the bending and flattening logic he grew up with - flat notes come from bending.
  • Extra emotion across all the reeds - because everything bends, he has expression everywhere.
Back to his playing. PT played a handful of tunes last night, including This Can't Be Love, The Thumb, Here There & Everywhere, and Just You, Just Me. And he spoke eloquently and thoughtfully about what he plays and how he gets there. He described learning to improvise and said, "Learn the melody so well that you don't have to think about it anymore."

Please re-read that quote. It is crucial to masterful playing. Once you're to that point with a melody, block it out and listen to the bass player.

Other improv ideas? Transpose a phrase over the changes - particularly moving a one chord lick to the IV chord. Jazz players do this a lot. Speaking of jazz players, he especially likes trumpet and clarinet players for inspiration.

As for particular players - Harry Sweets Edison, trumpet; Nat King Cole's early trio stuff; Ben Webster, sax; Johnny Hodges, sax; and the Benny Goodman sextet. His favorite music era was the 50's and 60's when these guys were playing and soloing over the melody rather than being scale-oriented.

He also talked about being inspired by the guitar player and taking his own solo off in a different direction just because of what he heard that other musician do. And he also says he has a "basket of licks" that he is always adding to and that he uses those licks as he writes little songs within a song.

It was a terrific night in B1 with a masterful musician. Thank you PT for visiting again!

Class Notes

  • Time to register for classes now!
Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 477 #522)

Final Take!!!
 
Last night was a fun time in B1! We ran Highway RickEy's cables and recorders and microphones and turned the room into a recording studio once again so people could lay down a polished version of the tune they've been working on. Performances were great...and then a surprise guest appeared who played on two jazzy tracks - thanks Dennis Gruenling for sitting in and making a couple recordings extra memorable!

Class Notes
  • Special guest - come out next Monday for PT Gazell who will be talking about his jazzy approach to diatonic playing.
  • Harmonica Hoedown - Get your tickets now for this amazing show, Tuesday, February 28 at Martyr's. Performers include: PT Gazell, James Conway, Joe Filisko, Grant Dermody, Graham Nelson and of course, event organizer Bob Kessler.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 476 #521)

Rehearsal!!!
 
We're feeling ready for Final Take recordings next week! Performances were hot last night and people are pulling together great stuff. If you're in the Performance class, remember that we're going to have headphone capability this time around - bring along anything you have if you'd like to play with headphones on that give you a full mix of the band - fancy headphones or even just simple earbuds are ok. Not a requirement, but it's an option if you're interested in trying it.

See you in the B1 "recording studio" next week.

Class Notes
  • Ken stopped by last night with the announcement that he's starting a Chicago North Harmonica Meetup group - a chance once a month to talk, play, encourage others and even sing if you like. All levels welcome - first one is at the Elbow Room, 2871 N. Lincoln Ave. on Feb 23 from 7-9pm. More info.
  • Special guest - mark your calendar for Feb 27 as we'll have PT Gazell joining us to talk about his jazzy approach to diatonic playing.
  • Harmonica Hoedown - Get your tickets now for this amazing show, Tuesday, February 28 at Martyr's. Performers include: PT Gazell, James Conway, Joe Filisko, Grant Dermody, Graham Nelson and of course, event organizer Bob Kessler.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 475 #520)

Review and Rehearsal!!!
 
Playing went long night as people are prepping songs for our recording session soon.

Joe did take a few minutes to again emphasize the importance of working a spot into your song that allows for another soloist - guitar or even another harp player - so that you can practice your accompaniment playing.

Also, learn to use a spotter. Pick out a friend in the audience in class who can watch and listen for trouble spots and shoot you signals about things you're working on or often forget - too loud? poor posture? Have someone point these things out to you.

Class Notes
  • The Performance Class will record this session on February 20.
  • Special guest - mark your calendar for Feb 27 as we'll have PT Gazell joining us to talk about his jazzy approach to diatonic playing.
  • Harmonica Hoedown - Get your tickets now for this amazing show, Tuesday, February 28 at Martyr's. Performers include: PT Gazell, James Conway, Joe Filisko, Grant Dermody, Graham Nelson and of course, event organizer Bob Kessler.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week (Week 474 #519)

Accompaniment - Train Whistle Sustaining!!!

Joe introduced a new accompaniment technique last night he calls train whistle sustaining. This is using one of many chordal effects predominantly around the 4/5 draw (in second position). Options include the head shake (be sure to make it "dirty"), tongue shake, rapid vamping (better to let one melody note such as the 5 draw sustain while vamping, and speed is not important), and the 4 draw (dirty - with a little of 5 draw) with a throat tremolo.

The key points to remember with this are that you are not playing a lick, you are playing a sound, a chordal effect, and that the 4/5 draw notes work over all three chord changes and create bluesy dissonance. The organ sustaining technique we talked about previously is about playing the right chord; train whistle sustaining is about dissonance.

For extra credit, knowing this technique will save you when you get lost while playing or forget your lyrics. Fall back to a train whistle sustaining option and you'll sound like a blues player while you gather your thoughts.

Practice these and we'll work on them in class next week!

Class Notes
  • Special guest - Seth Shumate will be in B1 next Monday, February 6 to give an Old Time Music demo from 2:30-4:00pm. All are welcome.
  • The Performance Class will record this session on February 20.
  • Special guest - mark your calendar for Feb 27 as we'll have PT Gazell joining us to talk about his jazzy approach to diatonic playing.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 473 #518)

Accompaniment - Organ Sustain!!!

We passed the mic last night and gave everyone a chance to work on their organ sustain sound. This is a great accompaniment tool to have in your quiver. Next up is the train whistle sustain. This is essentially a four/five draw chord sound. There are a bunch of options - head shake, tongue shake, rapid vamping, dirty 4 draw with throat tremolo. All good as long as the dominant sound is some chordal version of 4/5 draw.

You are not making a musical statement; it's a layer under the other musicians.

Practice these and we'll work on them in class next week!

Class Notes
  • Special guest - mark your calendar for Feb 27 as we'll have PT Gazell joining us to talk about his jazzy approach to diatonic playing.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week (Week 472 #517)

Accompaniment - Organ Sustain!!!
 
We had a a great opportunity last night to work on organ sustain. Thanks to Bob for his original song which let us practice. Note the importance of NOT introducing rhythm to your playing when you're doing this technique. It is not an accompaniment method that should be adding rhythm to the song. Keep your sustain steady and even.

Keep practicing and we'll do it again in class next week!

Class Notes

  • Special guest - mark your calendar for Feb 27 as we'll have PT Gazell joining us to talk about his jazzy approach to diatonic playing.
 - Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 471 #516)

Accompaniment - Organ Sustain!!!

Welcome to 2017! We had a packed class in B1 last night and a bunch of new, ambitious tunes and arrangements.

Joe squeezed in a short talk about accompaniment playing utilizing a technique he calls organ sustain, which means playing a steady pad of tone, usually a chord, underneath other players in the band. Organ sustaining is deceptive because it seems so easy, but there is still room for error. Steady breath control is one challenge as is choosing the right chords throughout the song form.

Practice your organ sustaining this week and be ready to demo it for Joe in class next week.

Also remember that Joe can be all the more helpful to you if you communicate your goals to him. Take him aside; email him; speak up in class - let him know what areas you most want to work on and improve in so he can focus on that with you.

Class Notes
  • There's still time to sign up for this new session.
  • Special guest - mark your calendar for Feb 27 as we'll have PT Gazell joining us to talk about his jazzy approach to diatonic playing.

Filisko & Noden Webcast

Joe and Eric will be offering their next online performance on Thursday January 19. These live webcasts are more informal than Joe and Eric's usual concert. Fans can request songs, make comments and leave tips and harass the artists. Don't miss your chance to see the roots duo live from anywhere! The show can be viewed on a smart phone, tablet or computer at Concert Window.

January 19 @ 19:30 CET (Europe) 12:30pm CDT (US)

Skip To My Lou

Joe's 2016 contest results for Skip To My Lou are in:
  • Best technique, sound and tone - Kokomo Kachalon
  • Most lively and energetic - Al Nemcek
  • Best arrangement - Bob Kunze
  • Best artwork - Pat Clancy
  • Honorable mention - Cliff Weber
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew