Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 145 #189)

Chords and Basslines!
Joe is out of town but Shoji Naito did a fabulous job filling in for him. We reviewed Shoji's lesson on playing chords and basslines on the harmonica and also used this to play forms other than standard 12 bar blues. This is a terrific way to solidify your counting skills and music theory because you are essentially playing guitar parts on your harmonica. Shoji will spend more time on this again next week and will advance the lesson if people show they've spent time working on it. To review, go here. Remember, Level Three students are welcome to stay for the 8pm class to play chords and basslines.

We also went over Shoji's four-part arrangement for Silver Bells. This is ensemble playing that everyone should get involved in and play with us at the December 11 Recital. Pick a part you feel you can master and work on it so you have it memorized for the performance. We will work on this at 8pm every week now leading up to the recital. Regardless of the part you choose, Shoji recommends everyone spend some time learning the melody also (Part One). Here's the link to Silver Bells.

Harp Show Review: Kim Wilson at The Midway Tavern - October 23, 2009!
Our own Kirk Manley caught a great show in Indiana recently. Here's his review:

"I could use about 12 Kim Wilsons."

That's what Midway Tavern owner, Albertina Wassenhove, proclaimed scanning the smiling faces (including B1 blues buddy, Charlie Yost!) at her packed place for the Kim Wilson Blues Revue last Friday in Mishawaka, Indiana. Unfortunately, for Albertina, there is only one Kim Wilson. Fortunately, the blues harmonica master/singer adores the 83-year-old and her vow to keep the blues alive.

The club was established by Albertina's parents during Prohibition, in 1924 as "The Midway Lunch" to keep its liquor sales a secret. They began featuring live music in 1933. In many ways, it still looks and feels like an old beer-drinking dancehall. National acts such as Rick Estrin, Rod Piazza, John Nemeth, the late Gary Primich, and James Harman, along with locals sign their names on the Midway's walls leaving their permanent mark of appreciation...Kim Wilson included.

Wilson, who still leads The Fabulous Thunderbirds, assembled a stellar blues ensemble featuring Barrelhouse Chuck (piano), Billy Flynn (lead guitar), Kenny Smith (drums), Randy Bermudes (bass), and Little Frank Krakowski (rhythm guitar).

But, Friday night's music didn't begin with Kim Wilson or the band, since Bermudes' flight was late coming in from California. Instead, Barrelhouse kicked off the show with a solo set on the Midway's beat-up, old upright. The tinny, crusty piano sound, muffled by crowd chatter and beer bottles clanking, gave the 75-year-old venue a modern-day juke joint feel. Once the talented Barrelhouse finished his blues piano clinic celebrating his mentors and heroes, Little Brother Montgomery and Sunnyland Slim included, it was star time.

By the second song of the night, Wilson was ready to take on first position for the tune, "'Bout The Break of Day," John Lee Williamson's classic made popular by Junior Wells. Two choruses into his solo, Wilson abandons the stage - minus any amplification - and improvises at least 8 choruses down the middle aisle of the Midway's dancehall. The catch? Wilson limited himself to holes 7-10 on his harp (kids: don't try this at home or anywhere else, for that matter). But, Kim pulls it off without a hitch. Jimmy Reed would be proud.

Throughout the night, Kim and the boys played two extended sets, 90 minutes each. The spirits of Little Walter, Rice Miller, Big Walter Horton, and living legend James Cotton were convincingly close by. No set list in sight. Unreal for a 58-year-old veteran who plays 300 shows a year. Billy Flynn's guitar playing swung harder than my ears had ever witnessed. It was a testament to Kim's unselfish leadership and energy, not to mention, the rhythm section's constant drive and subtle exchanges. Little Walter & The Aces would be proud.

The night's sound was also reminiscent of the collective work Wilson, Barrelhouse and Flynn recorded last year for the Cadillac Records' movie soundtrack. This is not because the band sounded exactly like those historic Chess recordings. But, instead, because each musician was completely aware of what everyone else was doing - or not doing - at all times. You could see it on their faces. You could hear it in their solos. Muddy would be proud.

Wilson performed his encore tune, Nine Below Zero, by himself. Hard to believe, especially since he was able to maintain the rhythm and solos simultaneously on a slower tempo number like this Rice Miller classic. Sonny Boy would be proud.

Once again, the Kim Wilson Blues Revue proved to be one-of-a-kind when it comes to recapturing the spirit of that classic Chicago sound. Now, if there's a way to convince Kim to return to The Midway 12 times next year, Albertina's wish would come true.

What Did You Learn?!
YouMissedMonday wondered what you learned by working on and performing for the talking blues contest last week. Responses were light, but here are a few thoughts:

"Writing the talking blues song got everyone's creative juices flowing. It was challenging, fun, exciting and a great learning experience. It helped me begin to understand song structure and how hard it is to write one. It also helped me improve my performance skills. It was great to see what each person came up with and it showed a new side of people that we wouldn't have otherwise seen."
- Ginny Morin

"This was the first song I've written lyrics for and I was amazed that you can write a song in your own voice and words and then have trouble remembering the lyrics! I would have thought the personal process of writing the song would have cemented the lyrics in my head, but no.

I also worked hard to write three-part horn line harmony. What I learned working with Shoji and Rickey on this is that I may hear the parts in my head, but I wasn't able to write them down in correct rhythmic notation. I bought lined staff paper yesterday and am excited to spend time with Shoji learning to write music so I can communicate my horn lines with other players."
- Grant Kessler

Class Notes
  • Joe is out of town next Monday, November 2, but group classes proceed as usual with Shoji Naito at the helm.
  • The next Old Town School Harmonica Recital is scheduled for December 11 at the Harlem Avenue Lounge.
  • Big Alex captured great footage of Jim Liban and Joe Filisko doing Walter's Boogie together at the Chicago Blues Harp Bash. Check it out at the top of the video list on youmissedmonday.com - complete with great harp playing by Billy Flynn and Gerry Hundt, too!
Newsletter News!
The newsletter and more is always online! Check it out for more details on newsletter items, a calendar of local gigs and birthdays, archives, links, videos and special features.

We welcome your input. If you're inspired to write a review of a live show, CD, DVD or book, please submit it to us for consideration.

- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew