When I said:
> > ...At the risk of being accused of heresy, as masterful a player as he
> > was, Sonny Boy Williamson II, IMO, did not possess "great tone",
> > otherwise.
Barry B. Bean responded:
> Very clearly, we're not speaking the same language. In my
> opinion, SBWII is the holy grail of blues tone. His vocal-like
> sound, tremendous range, and ability to
> emote through tone are seldom matched, and never surpassed in the
> genre, IMHO.
Hi, Barry -
I see what you mean. I said I was risking being accused of heresy! I
figured I'd hit a few nerves.
What I'm really trying to get to the bottom of with my deliberately
provocative comment is precisely how list members _define_ TONE. I know
that knowledgeable players put great weight on tone, so I feel it deserves
detailed discussion. I understand that, by your definition, SBWII had great
tone. And, I certainly agree that SBWII could make his harp talk, laugh and
cry, probably more so than any other player I can think of. But, in spite
of his amazing expressiveness and range, I still don't feel that he (or
Sonny Terry for that matter) had the great, pleasing-to-the-ear resonant
sound like Walter Horton is known for. It seems to me that there is a
pretty big gulf between these two famous players in terms of tone. That's
why I asked my question: Just how ~is~ great tone defined in the view of
expert harp players who rightly place so much weight on it?
I want folks to articulate (just as you have below) the features of what
they feel is great tone, especially since some seem to feel that it is the
most important aspect of a harmonicist's playing. I wonder if many blues
harp players out there define great tone as that trademark Walter Horton
deep, resonant sound, and his amazing ability to almost bury his harp's
sound in his immense hand cup. I think Big Walter was great, but I like
you, feel that there is more to tone than his deep, cavernous sound.
None-the-less, I still contend that SBWII didn't often exhibit a really
pleasing, resonant sound, at least to my ear. (I'm listening to some of my
SBWII collection as I write this. It could be the recording equipment of
his day, but he still sounds a bit "tinny" to me. I suppose great harp tone
is in the ears of the beholder.)
Back to my question. Does tone equal expressiveness, such as you seem to
suggest? Or does it equal a pleasing, resonant sound more like big Walter?
Perhaps, even though DL Terry constrained the discussion to acoustic tone,
many players define tone in terms of the over-driven amplified Chicago sound
so many strive for. I'm anxious to see what other comments my post
Thanks for replying, Barry! It's nice to see you participating on the list;
you always have much to contribute. If a controversial statement like I
made is what it takes to "smoke you out of the woodwork", then I'll try to
do it more often! ;^)
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