Tuesday, June 19, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 534 #577)

Guest turnout continues and we had a good time last night with a lot of super strong performances, both from the class as well as from guests. Visiting all the way from Western Australia, Moondog J sang and played for us and sounded great. Catch him at gigs around town this week and hit his website to learn more and get your hands on his discs.

Class Notes

  • Don't miss Joe's Harmonica Party tonight at the Harlem Avenue Lounge, 8pm start. This is a great chance to get some stage time, so come on out.
  • REGISTER! A new Old Town session starts next week, so be sure to register early.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 533 #577)

Post-Blues Fest Mondays are always a blast because so many special guests turn up. This week was no exception - in addition to having the incredible Rie Kanehira here from Japan and playing keys with the B1 band, we had folks from Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Chile and Brazil in the house too. It was great to see and hear so many guest harp players.

And to top it all off, our own birthday boy Buzz Krantz paid a visit. Thanks for coming around and playing, Buzz!

Class Notes

  • Don't miss Joe's next Harmonica Party at the Harlem Avenue Lounge, next Tuesday, June 19, 8pm start. This is a great chance to get some stage time, so come on out.


Bob Corritore CD Release
Bob Corritore releases his new CD next week, Don't Let the Devil Ride! It's packed with special guests, including Chicago's own Oscar Wilson, Willie Buck, Tail Dragger, Mojo Mark and more.

YMM got our hands on an advance copy and it's terrific.

Pre-order your copy now.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 532 #576)

Joe was away this week, but we filled the time with great music! It was a fun night in B1 with a lot of terrific performances.

Class Notes

  • Joe's back next week - all classes run as usual.
  • Blues Fest - go catch all the great live music this week!

RIP Eddy Clearwater

Guests in B1 are typically harp players, but we had the honor in 2014 of welcoming Eddy Clearwater thanks to his friend and bandmate Shoji Naito. Eddy was wonderful in class - a gentleman and fabulous guest who entertained with stories and song. It was an honor to have him join us and we're sorry to see him pass away this week. Thank you, Eddy.


sketch: Andy Willis

Read our 2014 wrap up of Eddy's B1 visit.

Tribune retrospective

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 531 #575)

Great performances! It was a full couple of hours in B1 last night, so learning and discussion was tailored to each person's playing. Big kudos to Ginny for taking a second pass at her tune and knocking it out of the park!

Class Notes

  • No class next week - Memorial Day holiday.
  • The private lesson renewal period is open now.
  • No Joe on June 4 - Grant will cover Level III classes and the Performance class in his absence. Be ready to tell him what you're most focused on.

Eddie Shaw Tribute

Brass In the Blues

Fri, May 25, 8pm
Logan Center, Performance Penthouse
915 E 60th St / FREE events


Join Rodney Brown, Michael Peavy, Bill McFarland, and Hank Ford of the Chicago Horns in a tribute to the great Chicago blues saxophonist, Eddie Shaw, who passed away in January 2018. The tribute will include members of Howlin’ Wolf’s legendary Wolf Gang, of which Shaw was bandleader and a long-time member. Guitarist and Wolf Gang member Eddie “Vann” Shaw Jr. will also be in attendance to celebrate the life and legacy of his father.

It will be a night of music and conversation in honor of Shaw’s unique style and illustrious career, and in recognition of the role brass played in the rich history of the blues.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 530 #574)

Joe took some time last night to remind folks to keep instruction to the band to the bare minimum. Going into elaborate arrangement details with a band is just not likely to stick. Give them key, groove, tempo, starting point (top or from the V)...then state the key a second time and count it off. Arrangement points you should be able to navigate through signals, or, if the song's extremely complicated, make sure the band has a chart well ahead of time.

Joe suggests you have that minimum information printed on a note card when you come up, so you don't forget what to say. Are you unsure how little to communicate for the band? Ask the B1 band to help you learn that.

Naturally this led also to a little discussion of how to successfully kick off a song. Learn to communicate tempo with some simple body motion as well as a firm, regular count off and you'll be well on your way to success. It is also good to consider starting from the V in many cases, so the band has a little time to gel and you get a feel for it and the key before you start singing.

Class Notes

  • No news this week! 


Misc.

EXHIBIT:
Amplified blues is being celebrated at the Chicago History Museum through August of 2019. Here's a great Reader article about the exhibit - When the blues electrified Chicago.

BOOK:
Always  Been a Rambler
G.B. Grayson and Henry Whitter were two of the most influential artists in the early days of country music. Songs they popularized--"Tom Dooley," "Little Maggie," "Handsome Molly," and "Nine Pound Hammer"--are still staples of traditional music. Although the duo sold tens of thousands of records during the 1920s, the details of their lives remain largely unknown.

Featuring never before published photographs and interviews with friends and relatives, this book chronicles for the first time the romantic intrigues and tragic deaths that marked their lives and explores the Southern Appalachian culture that shaped their music.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Monday, May 7, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 529 #573)

Lots of time for performances tonight and even a few repeats so people could tweak things.

Here's a question for you - how do you start a slow blues improv, from the V or from the top? There's no right answer, but we played with that question some tonight after an in-class performance didn't launch so smoothly from the I. Take Two got us there, but Joe's a fan of starting from the V so everyone knows where they are in the form.

Something for you to experiment with...

Class Notes

  • New session - there's still time to sign up! 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 528 #572)

Dov Hammer!

We had a terrific impromptu guest in B1 last night, Israeli bluesman Dov Hammer! Dov laid down some killer blues, blowing tasty harp and singing soulfully.

He talked a little about his history and the blues scene in Israel. When prodded for advice, he was clear that you need to have a solid groove. As he put it wryly, no one's gonna tap their toes to a tune that is so complicated for you that you're not pulling it off well. Keep it simple and groove!

Great advice, Dov, and thanks for stopping by!

Class Notes

  • New session - there's still time to sign up! 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 527, #571)

We did one last pass at Blues With a Feeling for people who missed last week and then talked a little about tunes like Highway RickEy played that can add variety to a set list. RickEy did Junior Wells' Cha Cha Cha In Blues, which brings up straight eighth songs like Walkin' Thru the Park and others. Having something like that in your repertoire will spice up a set list and wake up an audience.

Class Notes

  • New session - sign up NOW! 
  • Audition now for the next Black Ensemble Theater show, Rick Stone The Blues Man. Details here. 


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 526 #570)

Blues With A Feeling

Joe circled back to Blues With a Feeling, this time sharing his transcription which led to talking about the strength of the solo. It is killer and worth your time. It starts on a slightly unusual head shake over the 5/6 draw, which is a jazzy choice as it's the flat 7 and 9th scale degrees. Note that his four chord shake then is a split four shake to fatten up his sound on that D harp. The remainder of the solo is straight ahead blues scale with some impeccable phrasing.

We've talked about how to use the hook as a sideman. Note from the transcription that it originates in his repetition of it in the intro verse, which curiously starts on bar 2. If you're playing this with an unrehearsed band, be prepared to add a bar 1 and straighten this thing out to avoid any trouble.

This tune is a blues standard that should be in any harp player's repertoire.

Class Notes

  • Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party was better than ever last week - thanks to all who came out. 
  • The Chicago History Museum has an amplified blues exhibit running now. It features exhibit artwork from B1's own interior finishes artist Paul Minnihan and Billy Branch is playing there this week, so be sure to check it out. 


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 525 #569)

You missed great performances! And people running tunes a second time to learn and improve, which is what our Performance Class is all about.

Remember if you're in Joe's other classes or just want to catch some great blues, the "bleacher seats" in the back of B1 are always open for you to come by for the 8pm class and catch one of the best shows in town.

Class Notes

  • Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party is tonight! See you there at 8pm - bring your harps and play a tune. 
  • Interested in playing harp as a paid actor in a theater piece? If you have evenings free for rehearsals and shows in May/June and have the skills to play with a band and build repertoire for a show, From the Mississippi Delta is looking for you. Shoot us a note and we'll connect you.
  • The Chicago History Museum has an amplified blues exhibit opening April 7. It features exhibit artwork from B1's own interior finishes artist Paul Minnihan, so be sure to check it out.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 524 #568)

More Blues With A Feeling!!!

An impromptu performance of Little Walter's classic Blues With A Feeling last week led to exploring how to use that recurring hook if you're a sideman harp player.  Joe encouraged players to emphasize a hook if there is one and in this tune, it's possible to play it over the I and IV chords. Go for that repetition and establish the hook as a way of being a sophisticated player who knows the song.

In describing the hook itself, Joe noted it is best started from the 3 blow and then is a slightly flat head shake. It does also work to play other chordal effects there - tongue shake, rapid vamping and even a dirty tremelo can all substitute for the head shake. Just be sure to remember that as a general rule you want to avoid the tonic over the V chord. This means you have to leave the hook over that chord.

Playing a hook correctly relies on timing. You need to "own" the rhythm of the hook; hitting the wrong notes is far more acceptable than misplacing it rhythmically. Learn it cold and own it!

Class Notes

  • There will be no Final Take recording at the end of this session.
  • Harlem Avenue Lounge Harp Party next Tuesday, April 10. 
  • The Chicago History Museum has an amplified blues exhibit opening April 7. It features exhibit artwork from B1's own interior finishes artist Paul Minnihan, so be sure to check it out. 
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 523 #567)

Blues With A Feeling!!!

An impromptu performance of Little Walter's classic Blues With A Feeling last night in B1 led to an interesting second take exploring how to use that recurring hook if you're a sideman harp player. Walter was the vocalist on the original so he could only play his own fills, but being an accompanist on this song opens up the possibility of driving that hook home with more repetition of it. Our second take still didn't quite nail Joe's idea, so we'll revisit it next week. And needless to say, the song's playing now as we write this to get a little refresher on it. Check it out yourself and we'll workshop it more next week. And be sure to also listen to the alternate take where the guitar player keeps that hook going much more than in the released take.

Class Notes

  • There will be no Final Take recording at the end of this session.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week (Week 522 #566)

Bending Review!!!
Joe took some time last night to talk about bending. There are two critical steps to bending - One, you have to hear it to play it; and TWO, you need to master the technique. The emphasis here is on the point that you can't bend if you don't hear the target pitch in your head. Train your ear to know what you're after.

Which leads to the point that bending is an advanced skill. If you can't do musical things without bending notes, you are not ready for bending. Related is the point that bending does not equal blues.

Ready to work on bending though? Start by learning to play melodies. Your ear will know the target pitch to melodies you know well (Joe favors Christmas tunes) and won't let you cheat or miss a bent pitch. Remember also that bending is not achieved by force. Watch yourself play in a mirror and if you see grimaces, contortions or even exaggerated jaw movements, you are not on the right path. Bending is controlling the embouchure to achieve the tone you're after.

And as you're working on it, remember that playing the three draw half step bend (flat third) a little dirty will make a poor bend sound better and dirty is always a good blues choice. And generally speaking, Joe advises to play slightly sharp rather than too flat - though ideally, neither and hit it right!

Class Notes

  • There will be no Final Take recording at the end of this session.


- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 521 #565)

Madcat Ruth!!!
Peter Madcat Ruth is in town for tonight's Harmonica Hoedown (see below for tickets) and he spent Monday night in B1, playing his ukelele along with us and offering coaching and constructive critique of performances.

He spoke about head and mouth tone which is critical for him as a rack player. If you spend time playing in a rack you quickly learn what it means not to have your hands for shaping sound, so you explore head and mouth tone options. He argues that learning that can only improve your playing with out of the rack.

Speaking of non-rack playing, he let us in on his little tone secret when you have your hands free - the toilet paper tube! Cup it like a can or a mic and check out that tone. And, it's free!

Madcat played a few killer tunes for us also, including Dave Brubeck's Take Five, which was an amazing treat! Thanks for stopping by, Madcat!

Class Notes

  • There will be no Final Take recording at the end of this session.

Harmonica Hoedown
Don't miss the Harmonica Hoedown TONIGHT at Martyr's. Curated and hosted by Bob Kessler and Graham Nelson, this year's show also features Peter "Madcat" Ruth and Joe Filisko. Tickets are available here.

And check out this great podcast interview Bob Kessler did recently with Madcat.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 520 #564)

 How to set that amp!!!

Joe took time last night to talk about the controls on amps, how they interact and what is most harp-friendly.

Working from the small class amp, he demonstrated how volume, gain and tone knobs each work and how changing them relative to each other yields different sounds.

Put simply, turning gain all the way up and volume all the way down gives you an extremely distorted sound. Turning them each the other way gets you a clean sound. Then of course there are various points in between for more or less distortion.

Regarding the disadvantages of heavy distortion, Joe points out that you are much more prone to feedback with a distorted setting...and feeding back on stage is a clear "amateur" label, so you want to avoid that.

A distorted sound also has no dynamic range. Your palette of tonal choices, volume choices and use of changes made through hand technique will be extremely limited. It is also a sound that does not allow you to "cut" in a busy, noisy band setting.

The tone knob allows you to turn to a brighter sound, which cuts more, but notice too that a brighter tone setting also gives you more perceived volume.

Get your amp out and run through these knob changes and see what you hear. Remember too that playing with an extremely wide range of sound and tone qualities (think Walter Horton) is possible when you work at your head tone, work at your hand technique and then set your amp clean to allow all that to shine through!

Class Notes

  • There's still time to register for the new Old Town session.
  • Psst! Madcat Ruth is going to be stopping by B1 next week. 

Harmonica Hoedown
Don't miss the Harmonica Hoedown March 13 at Martyr's. Curated and hosted by Bob Kessler and Graham Nelson, this year's show also features Peter "Madcat" Ruth and Joe Filisko. Tickets are available here.

And check out this great podcast interview Bob Kessler did recently with Madcat.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 519 #563)

What Did You Miss This Week? Final Take!!!

B1 wrapped up another great 8 week session in the Performance class with our multi-track Final Take recording session. Students polished beginnings, endings and arrangements with the B1 Band over course of the session and put their best foot forward for a final recording last night.



Class Notes

  • Register now for the next Old Town session, starting next Monday.


Harmonica Hoedown

Don't miss the Harmonica Hoedown March 13 at Martyr's. Curated and hosted by Bob Kessler and Graham Nelson, this year's show also features Peter "Madcat" Ruth and Joe Filisko. Tickets are available here.

And check out this great podcast interview Bob Kessler did recently with Madcat.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 518 #562)

Final Take rehearsal!

We record on February 26. Remember that Grant's away for our last rehearsal on the 19th. Joe will lean in but if you have any special requests of Grant, be sure to let him know ahead of time.

Class Notes

  • Register now for the next Old Town session.


Wynton Marsalis at Harvard: The Meaning of Swing

This is a terrific video on the nature of ensemble playing we can all learn from:

The Meaning of Swing

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week (Week 517 #561)

Final Take for this session is coming up soon on February 26. This means there are only two remaining practice weeks, so come to class next Monday ready to firmly declare your recording tune and to iron out trouble spots with the band.

Note that Grant will miss rehearsal on the 19th. Joe will play guitar that evening, but keep in touch with Grant on your recording needs next week as that's the last time you'll see him before the 26th.

Class Notes

  • Register now for the next Old Town session.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 516 #560)

What Did You Miss This Week?

It's a performance class! Joe reminded us of that this week while urging people to take that seriously by recording themselves in class, perhaps even video so you can analyze your stage presence as well as your sound. And pick a spotter in the room to give you feedback too.

Old Town's song of the session is Hank Williams' Hey Good Lookin', written and recorded in 1951 and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. Here's a tidbit from Wikipedia:

"The Hank Williams song was inspired by another song by the same title, which was written by Cole Porter in 1942. The lyrics for the Williams version begin as a come on using double entendres related to food preparation ("How's about cookin' somethin' up with me?")." (read more)

Class Notes

  • Final Take - we'll record again February 26.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 515 #559)

Joe's back from Australia! And with a little prodding from his friend DG, he even played in B1 last night. Welcome back, Joe!

And yes, you read that right, Count Chromatic was in the house, though come to think of it, he didn't play his chromatic last night. Well, still killer stuff on diatonic from Dennis Gruenling who's in town playing with Nick Moss. Being part of Nick's band these days means he's on the road a lot, so watch his calendar for gigs near you and check him out...or go here and sign up for his email list. We hear people on this list get special merch offers from time to time, so you may want to sign up!

Class Notes

  • Final Take updates - Al's mixing things now so you should be getting your December recording soon. And if you're in the Performance Class, we record this session on February 26. Choose your song and begin workshopping it in class soon.

The Harp Wah

"Until now, the only way to get resonator “cup mute” effects was to raid the kitchen cabinets for cups, mugs or used tin cans. I wanted something better."

Check it out and get yourself a Harp Wah on the website.








- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 514 #558)

What Did You Miss This Week?

Welcome to the new year! Registration for this session has been great and there's good energy in B1 from new harp players - it's going to be a great session.

Joe was away last night but the Performance Class was rocking. 

We're checking on another Final Take recording at the end of this session - confirmation coming soon. Meantime, Al's hard at work mixing things from December - stay tuned for those if you recorded.

Class Notes

  • No classes on January 15. Joe will be back January 22 and all classes run as usual that day.
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew