It's really old school blues. Often worn by 2-Tut-Common and the Mummies on their Mediterranean tours. I'm sure Issaculla can tell you all about it. ---------- The Art Teacher Formally Known As scstrickland
Last Edited by on Aug 03, 2010 3:56 PM
Kenny Neal is the real deal. He had a residency at Manny's Car Wash in NYC for a few months when he was playing Zora Neale Hurston's "Mule Bone" on Broadway. He had the jam on Sundays, as I recall. I watched him do his thing and got on stage a few times. This is back in about 1991. One time I watched him play about 19 choruses of slow blues in a row--a guitar solo. Seriously. Maybe he played 9 choruses. Slow blues. Guitar solo. He knew how to raise and lower and energy level in a truly masterful way, back then.
BBQ Bob: please weigh in. There aren't many guys who can keep 9 choruses of slow blues guitar solo interesting. Most guys blow it on the first three choruses. What do you do on the fifth? But Kenny Neal knew.
Kenny's son (Kenny Neal Jr) and his brother are currently backing James Cotton (drums and bass respectively) and have been doing so for the last year and a half at least ... I saw the show in Jan 09 ... the encore that James did was worth the price of admission alone ... was virtuosic ...
The first time I saw James in 1981, I sat 6 feet directly in front of him for the whole night ... the band was only on a slightly raised platform ... within a few minutes of the start of the show, there were college girls dancing on the tables ... REALLY ... WOW ...
Here's an example of why ... this is the same band I saw except no sax the first time I saw him ... saw him three times in 18 months at the same venue ... remember it like yesterday ... the tall white keyboard player was introduced as being from Toronto, the bass player was a short muscular guy who played poised as if he were a short stop waiting for a ground ball ... the guitar player was a guy named Michael Coleman who is still around Chicago I believe ...
Last Edited by on Aug 03, 2010 8:32 PM
Adam, for both harmonica AND guitar, I personally find that a lot of them are often dead after as little as one chorus and past the second or third is often stretching it because there are tons of players, including some big names who shall remain nameless, because of a few different reasons:
a.) for some, they may have solos that are totally worked out in advance and once they get past that, and that they don't improvise particularly well (remember, improvising is creating IN THE MOMENT or AKA thinking quickly on your feet);
b.) there are plenty of players who are only used to doing 2 choruses MAX and have basically thrown the kitchen sink at you so much that they've run out of ideas.
c.) Little or no use of dynamics, which if you're gonna do long solos, be it uptempo OR slow, but on a slow blues, this tends to get heightened and when dynamics aren't used on a long solo, it's like musical bad grammer, like a run on sentence;
d.) Little or no use of space or times when you should hold a note out longer than a single measure, thus building tension until it becomes almost unbearable and then once just a single note gets hit on that solo, it's a huge release for the crowd and builds to the next phase of the solo.
e.) No variance on the approach AKA hitting them with both barrels far too long.
f.) Knowing how and when to build the dynamics, which is an art to itself.
I've seen players try to use dynamics but it is often not done particularly well, and tho you seldom see this in open jams as often everyone is too freaking loud and not paying attention to each other, the way a lot of players do it is bring the volume down for one chorus AT THE MOST, and then get even louder, which maybe OK for a 2 chorus solo or 3 chorus solo, but for longer ones, that's usually gonna be a dead a** BS. You build up the dynamics for a while, then at some point, let's say as an example, after the 1st 4 bars of the third chorus, make sure you signal the band with a clear signal and/or a hit a note harder for emphasis and LOOK at the band and even shout out "bring it down," and when I say bring it down, I mean WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY down almost to the point of nothing, or as a description on the liner notes of a Son Seals LP described it as "so low that you can hear the rats peeing on the floor."
Allow more space to happen and let the band come thru, keeping it WAY down, then maybe build a bit of a cluster of notes that are starting to get a tad more out in front, and then signal the band to bring it WAY back down again, allowing it to simmer, still using space and then maybe a note held out as long as posssible.
You repeat it as often as you'd like, maybe thrown in some double time, for a short spell, based on the kind of slow groove your dealing with.
Build it up again with a stop time, but vary the dynamics as much as possible.
What does this come down to??? DYNAMICS, DYNAMICS, DYNAMICS, DYNAMICS AND MORE DYNAMICS. Don't throw the kitchen sink at them all in one shot, or as some of the old pros used to tell me when I started, "Don't go blowing out your freaking wadd all at once and hold back or they'll know what's coming too quick and they'll fall asleep or leave the goddamned club."
Vary the dynamics, vary the approach. Most players tend to just do the same damned thing from start to finish and sound completely spent as soon as the very first chorus. If I don't see any of those things happening, you risk boring me to tears. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
Last Edited by on Aug 05, 2010 5:07 AM
I think too many harp players today are at times far too obsessed with matching licks with guitars note for note and at times, the musicality tends to suffer, and as Richard Hunter said in his excellent book, "Jazz Harp," if you can't play the line exactly as it is note for note, find something in harmony with it that gives the same feeling.
You also have to remember that some things played on one instrument may not translate particularly well to another for a variety of reasons. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
Last Edited by on Aug 05, 2010 5:00 AM
Micheal Coleman is still in Chicago. He's had a couple of solo albums out on Delmark. People used to call Sugar Blue the Jimi Hendrix of the harmonica in the 1980's.
I think Kenny Neal has some of the most beautiful harp tone of anyone on the scene today. He's a tasteful and talented artist on the guitar, lap steel and harmonica.
Regarding extended slow blues solos, the guys in and around Chicago used to use the terms, "tension" and "release". A lot of guys were experts at this. Albert King, Otis Rush and Buddy Guy immediately come to mind. They may not have played a lot of notes, but they knew how to make them very effective.
There are players today that can still do it. Unfortunately, there are less of them.
BBQ Bob and Adam, I disagree. Sure if all you did every song was match licks with a guitarist that would be lame. If you do have a harp player talented enough to listen and playback something similar (not exactly) to an answer call break or two in a rockin blues song....Heck yeah! I have a guitarist friend that invites me to sit in with his band once in a while. He knows my limits so he plays something he knows I can answer close. People always comment on how much they enjoyed the "taking turns" as my non-musician friends call it. To me it is just another dimension a band can add that goes over well with the crowd. Musicality is always priority one, but people enjoy seeing the band mixing it up and having fun. It may not work in jazz. I can't comment because I know nothing about jazz.
Back on a Sunday in March or May 2010 I met BBQ Bob at a local jam in Somerville, MA which I attend regularly. When Bob got up to play, he had wonderful control over the group of jammers he was with. By control, I mean he had great control of the dynamics of the songs he was performing.
Bob took a song that under normal jam circumstances would be mediocre and transformed it into something that sounded as though it had been rehearsed. It was quite impressive and I've yet to do the same thing, but that day stands out very clearly in my mind.
@harpdude61 --- When I mentioned that some things don't translate from one instrument to the other, in the case of harmonica, sometimes licks from other instruments don't always work because of breath shifts and if you tend to play excessively hard all the time, your reaction time gets slowed down tremendously, making the transition pretty tough.
What you're talking about is along the lines of what's known as CALL AND RESPONSE and is also sometimes referred to as QUESTION AND ANSWER, and that's something COMPLETELY different here that what's being discussed. I understand what you're saying completely, but what you're talking about is really not about building a solo in its truest sense.
One thing a lot of players of any instrument doing long solos in blues at any given tempo I seldom ever see in jams is building a solo from the turnaround or as harpman Jerry McCain called them, turnbacks.
Why build there?? Instead of the soloist constantly playing the turnaround like clockwork, making things very predictable, let the backing band play it and you as the soloist don't play it at all, maybe building the next verse from let's say the 4th beat in the 12th measure or even earlier than that so that whenever you decide to play the turnaround again, it makes it more effective.
Now some examples of this, even tho they may be instrumentals, are Rod Piazza's "Harpburn" and Jerry McCain's "Steady", and they rarely play the turnaround themselves, or Albert King on "Live Wire/Blues Power" on some slow blues also is doing this as well at different times. Notice how they make things build by letting the band play the turnaround and build the solo from it rather than them playing it. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
Last Edited by on Aug 06, 2010 1:18 PM
BBQ Bob...I see your point. Guitars and the like doesn't require practiced breathing techniques. I wish there was a harp player like you in my area. I could learn so much. "Boogie McCain" is one of my favorites. I hope to get to see himn live sometime.
BTW, harpdude61, what you were describing really is better said as trading licks, whereas building a solo doesn't require trading licks, and the one who is performing the solo is the one who builds it WITHOUT the help of trading licks. (No harm done, so don't worry).
As far as building from the turnaround, that's a very common technique with jump sax players and even a lot of jazz players doing a blues as well.
Also, one other VERY important thing for building a long solo is that from start to finish, EVERYTHING you play absolutely HAS to groove and the best long solos or short solos ALWAYS do and if it doesn't, it's just another one of those run of the mill things you hear in damned near every open jam.
@ridge --- in order to have dynamics happening, you yourself have to get that together yourself first BEFORE trying it, and once you're ready to try it, you HAVE to take COMPLETE COMMAND of the entire situation, even if it means ruffling feathers and urinating on people's egos and those guys up there with me were trying to get the volume back up quickly and I made sure I gave them signals to keep it down and follow me, and too many players don't do these things at all. When the guitarists took their solos, NONE of them even attempted to use dynamics at all and when you take your solo, you also HAVE to take charge of the bands dynamics and never allow them to step all over you or anyone else. ---------- Sincerely, Barbeque Bob Maglinte Boston, MA http://www.barbequebob.com CD available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbmaglinte
Last Edited by on Aug 05, 2010 1:31 PM
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