MAGIC DICK INTERVIEW PART 1
MAGIC DICK INTERVIEW PART 1 by Dan Enright (c) 1995 by 2/3X-PERTS
During a recent conversation, the topic of Magic's new harps came
up. He told me it was the challange of Seth Justman's arrangements for the
J. Geils Band - especially for Magic's one chord solos during their latter
years - and a love of John Cotrane's, Miles Davis', and Jimi Hendrix's
approach to playing that really started him on the path towards his discovery.
But it wasn't until he left the band that he had the time, or insight, to
His collaboration with Pierre Beauregard began in the early '70s
when Pierre moved to the Boston area from Washington DC. The two harmonica
players shared a common love of jazz and blues that cemented their friendship
and eventual led to them working on this project. From the time Magic left the
J. Geils Band in the early '80s until the two of them were ready to file the
patents, a decade had passed.
Now Magic is working with Jay Geils again, in a new band called
*Bluestime* while he prepares to get his harmonicas manufactured. While
the interview covered his roots as well as his current recording and performing
(see BLUES-L or contact me directly for that section) I thought Harp-L
subscribers would be most interested in the new harmonicas.
Magic was willing to discuss them in some detail, so...
Dan: "What inspired your collaboration with Pierre?
Magic: "The two of us had this love of jazz and swing, and always
wanted to be able to play like Louis Armstrong or Lester Young on the
harp. Not on a chromatic - on a Marine Band blues harp. You run into a
problem. Not all the notes are there, particularly when it come to
playing jazz. The harmonica is well suited to playing Chicago style blues.
The tuning arrangement - the particular set up of the notes - is very good
for straight ahead blues, but it's not that good for classic jazz, and
it's not very good for certain other styles of blues one might want to do.
"So, necessity became the mother of invention. There must be a way - by
tuning the reeds to different notes, changing the chords, changing the
relationship of the blow chord to the draw chord - to find different tuning
arrangements beneficial for playing different styles of music. Using pencil
& paper and trial & error we would work on tuning diagrams, "Ok, if you change
this reed to this note, and this one to that, this one to that, look what you
get out of this harp!" We applied music theory, in terms of the chord changes
and melodies we were trying to play."
Dan: Isn't that what Lee Oskar has done?
Magic: "Sort of. Lee Oskar's stuff is based out of cross harp, in third
position, and so is ours. But our tunings are a more thorough revamping in
terms of symmetry and consistency. Lee Oskar has only changed a few notes in
the harps to create different models. We've gone further.
"In fact, the patent - we hold a US patent on these - covers over 200
different tunings. It even covers ones we haven't thought of yet [chuckles],
just by virtue of the concept and approach we took. I could give you an example,
which as a musician you'll probably understand.
"There's a model, which we call *Swing Band*. We named it that because
there is so much in this harp, in terms of being able to play classic jazz
melodies ala Lester Young for example. It's one of the designs we call a
_mirror image harp_ where the blow chord and the draw chord are exact mirror
images of each other. They are sixth chords, separated by a whole tone. For
example; the first hole draw... as you're moving from left to right, the note
arrangement would be: 1, 3, 5, 6... it just keeps repeating. That forms a sixth
chord, 1-3-5-6... Now the blow chord, if you start with the first hole and
move to the right would be: flat7, 2, 4, 5... then it repeats.
"So you have two sixth chords a whole tone apart. The blow chord is
a whole tone below the draw chord. If you follow this pattern you'll see
all the draw notes are higher in pitch than the blow notes, by the same amount.
So this arrangement is completely symmetrical and it means all the draw notes
on the harmonica will bend, all the way up to the top of the harp.
"I've given you a specific example of one very useful harp. If you
analyze this arrangement further, you see there's a complete 1chord, a
complete 5chord, and a complete 4chord, so you've already got more happening
than you do on a conventional Marine Band harmonica. And things just
automatically fall out of it, using the same techniques of playing. You
still bend notes, you still play single notes, you still play chords, but
you've got melodies - and the chords as well - with less notes missing."
Dan: This seems like a major shift in the harmonica...
Magic: "I think so. I have often said to people that I feel this
is the future of the harmonica. I feel confident in making that statement
because this is not a new mechanism, something that requires major
retooling and is a complicated, expensive thing to produce. Over the years,
there have been lots of attempts made at improving the harmonica and most of
them have been mechanism changes of some kind or another.
Dan: Like the harps with the slide in them...
Magic: "That's the typical slide chromatic harp. All of our new
inventions can be put into that embodiment as well, to advantage. I have
one that is this very tuning I told you about, put into a slide chromatic,
where the slide lowers the pitch a semi-tone. What you can do with this is
"I wanted to point out, you may already know this, but there's one
tune on the Bluestime album - an original harmonica instrumental - called
*Full Court Press* which features two of these new inventions. One is a
model we call the *Big Band* model. It's only different in one semi-tone
respect from the model I just told you about. Instead of the blow chord
starting with a flat7th, it starts with a major7th. That one little
change, changes all the chords that drop out of the surface of the harp
and make it really ideal for what I played on that instrumental."
(continued in part 2)
This interview is for the personal use of Harp-L subscribers only. It may
not be reproduced (either in print or electronically) without my written
permission. Permission is granted to publish it in the HarmoniGopher and
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