Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 166 #209)

Lee Sankey!
London-based harmonica player Lee Sankey visited B1 last night. It was a treat to hear Lee play with Joe, demonstrating some great big, tongue-blocking tone! Lee had some insightful new ways to verbalize how to get big tone out of your body, explaining that he feels like the harmonica itself is only about 30% of the musician's ability to perform effectively. The rest of the instrument, the resonance chamber, extends throughout your whole body.

Lee is touring the country visiting with harmonica players as well as horn players working on a book project. YouMissedMonday looks forward to its publication!

Big Thanks From Joe!!!
Joe would like to thank everyone for coming out to the SPACE gig and the Harmonica Convergence show this past week. Both shows were a huge success and Joe is extremely thankful for the warm support.

If you missed them:

Eric Noden and Joe put on a fantastic show at SPACE. The house was packed and the standing ovation was well-deserved. Follow that with the amazing Jim Liban Trio and you have a blues harmonica night to remember!

On the main stage at the Old Town School of Folk Music Sunday, Corky Siegel arranged another memorable night of harmonica in memory of Norton Buffalo. Tapping the talents of Howard Levy, Peter "Madcat" Ruth, Joe Filisko and Corky Siegel, the show ran the gamut of what the harmonica can do: blues, brilliant classical pieces, Cajun, country blues, Indian and novelty. It may be a long time before you see a show with the incredible version of Amazing Grace by Howard Levy that somehow ends with all four of these legendary harmonica players rolling around on stage together! You had to be there!

Special guests appearing at the show: Rachel Barton on violin, Rick Sherry on harp and jug band percussion, and Zoe Savage on harp, and of course the B1 Blues Ensemble doing Juke!

The B1 ensemble performance of Juke at Sunday's Harmonica Convergence concert was a huge success! We students would like to thank Shoji Naito for all his hard work, both writing and arranging as well as tirelessly instructing and polishing our large group into a smooth ensemble!

Here's a link to the video: Video

Class Notes
  • Jim Liban -- Jim Liban is scheduled to teach in B1 next week, March 29. Mark your calendars and don't miss this one. Jim is going to talk about the art of songwriting and about constructing an extended harmonica instrumental. This will be an evening in B1 not to be missed.
  • Special Jim Liban CD: Joe will have a Jim Liban CD for sale in class next week. This is an extremely rare opportunity to get your hands on never-before-released tunes by Jim Liban. These are mostly originals, from old cassettes, that showcase Jim's versatility as a harp player. Bring your cash! DO NOT COPY THIS CD FOR FRIENDS. If you are out of town and would like a copy of this CD, Jim Liban has agreed to mail you one. Send him $12 and he will be kind enough to get the disc out to you:
Jim Liban
925 E. Wells Street
Apt. 823
Milwaukee, WI 53202
  • Our 14th B1 Blues Harmonica Recital at the Harlem Avenue Lounge is scheduled for May 28, 2010. Mark your calendars and start working on your material.
YMM reader Jim Lucas offers this review:

A highlight of the 2007 David Barrett Harmonica Masterclass Workshop, in San Jose, California, was a four-hour-long concert that traced the history of the blues harmonica. Fortunately, this concert was captured on a two CD set that has just been published by David Barrett's Harmonica Masterclass Company. The two CD set features Joe Filisko (covering the pre-war and country blues harmonica repertoire, approximately 1920 to 1950), David Barrett (representing approximately 1950-70, or post-war), Kinya Pollard (honoring Paul Butterfield), and Dennis Gruenling (symbolizing the present and future). Each musical selection is preceded by a spoken narrative explaining how it exemplifies its historical genre or period.

This is a great collection! The cuts are brilliantly played and inspire you to delve deeper into the great legacy of the instrument. The presence and clarity of the recordings transport you right into the concert hall. The fact that these are live performances makes the virtuosity of the players all the more remarkable.

All of the music in the CD set is first-rate, but the pre-war and country blues on CD 1 were, for me, a revelation, and in this review, I'll focus on these cuts. All of the tracks except two on this CD are played by Joe Filisko. His medleys of country blues and selections of urban blues are brilliantly played (and sung). They place Mr. Filisko in the league of folk maestros like Doc Watson and Mike Seeger, elevating the humble into the extraordinary. By recognizing the artistic merit of the repertoire and then approaching it with such dedication and virtuosity, Filisko removes the patina that might have accumulated on these songs over time. It's like a brilliant, new translation of folk literature. This approach reveals that these songs and techniques are not old music, but early music. They are early examples of the tradition, but still vibrant today.

Who are these early players? Filisko honors obscure rural artists like Gwen Foster, Alfred Lewis, Kyle Wooten, Henry Whitter, Palmer McAbee, Peg Leg Sam, Red Whitehead, Noah Lewis, Eddie Mapp and the more well known DeFord Bailey. He then salutes Sonny Terry to round up his survey of rural musicians. Filisko demonstrates the train imitations, first position blues, Lost John/fox chases, old timey songs, minstrel music and "choking blues" of these early players. Representing the early urban players are names like James Simons (Blues Birdhead), Johnny Watson (Daddy Stovepipe), the influential John Lee (Sonny Boy) Williamson, Rice Miller (who also went by Sonny Boy Williamson), and completing the CD are three songs by the great Little Walter. His "Evan's Shuffle" and "Juke" are performed by David Barrett, and "Blue Light" by Filisko.

The entire CD set achieves a balance between teaching and entertaining. A project like this risks favoring one over the other. I learned about harmonica styles and players and developments and influences. And I loved every minute of it.

Harrison Harmonicas in the News!!!
Congratulations to Brad Harrison of Harrison Harmonicas for his feature story in the Chicago Tribune recently. Harrison Harmonicas are the first American-made harps and they're coming from Rockford, IL.

Here's the story: Tribune.

YMM had a chance to chat with Michael Peloquin at the Harmonica Convergence too and learned he's moved to Rockford due to his work with Harrison Harmonicas. Here's hoping he'll stop in to see us more often now and maybe have some local gigs we can catch!

Newsletter News!
The newsletter and more is always online! Check it out for more details on newsletter items, a calendar of local gigs, jams, 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


  1. The SPACE gig was absolutely wonderful and a highlight of my Chicago trip. Enjoyed meeting Kirk Manley--too short of chat, regrettably, but the wife and son were headed out the door to catch the "L" back to the loop. Steve Cohen's guest spot was certainly an added bonus. Loved it! Loved Chicago! Tell all those guys that they have fans down in Texas.

    See ya--
    Ricky B

  2. So glad you had fun at the SPACE show. It was great to meet you, Ricky. Next time, I'll introduce you to some other harpers. Matter of fact, make sure your next Windy City trip overlaps a Monday night and visit us in B1!

    Joe, Eric, and Jim are so grateful for all the harp fans who came out, especially folks like you that came all the way from the Lone Star State!

    I had never heard Steve Cohen play either, so that was a nice treat. I found his site, so you can check that out:


    Thanks for the shout out, too. Keep on harpin' and keep in touch...