Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Did You Miss This Week? (Week 383 #428)

Goodbye to Juke!!!

Yes, it's true, you can play Juke with only one note! Shoji played the tune all the way through using only the tonic, E. Well, he allowed himself the octave, so 2 draw as well as 6 blow. And true, he has great tone and there might have been an occasional ghost chord in there and maybe a vamp or two, but the point is, he GROOVED and proved very clearly that the song is built on an incredibly solid rhythmic feel.  It was definitely recognizable as Juke and had amazing power and swing to it. Truly an amazing exercise.

He demonstrated the song two more times, allowing himself one additional note - first the addition of the fifth and then the flat seventh. Why these notes? Why not add the third? Shoji explained that the root, fifth and flat seventh are notes you can sustain in your playing over blues chord progressions. Other scale degrees are just passing notes, color, and as such not the most crucial building blocks. You'd be well advised to spend some time with a practice track working on the same exercise, with any song you know well, to learn for yourself just how crucial the rhythm is to a song.

Shoji also pointed out there are songs in the blues harp canon that utilize mostly one note - Rockin' by George Smith and Shake Your Hips from Slim Harpo.

Joe played a few Sonny Boy songs to remind us of the driving rhythm Little Walter was coming from but also moving away from in songs like Juke. Joe then closed out our song of the session study with the question, "Why was Juke a hit?" Answers include:
  •  It was one of the very first amplified harp songs people heard.
  •  It was the first harmonica song to blend traditional harp sounds with the popular jump blues and R&B feel.
  •  It is rhythmically solid - this rock-solid drive draws listeners in. People are drawn to compelling groove.
  •  The song is packed with engaging dynamics.
  •  Focus notes - compositionally, the song moves from chorus to chorus utilizing varying focus notes for each that build a song that is interesting to listen to.
It's been a fascinating look at an amazing song. Thanks to Joe, Shoji and others who've contributed to the discussion. Thanks Scott Dirks for your research that we leaned upon and, well, thank you Little Walter!

Class Notes
  •  Last night was the last class of the session and of the year. Happy Holidays and we'll see you again January 5 in B1!
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew