[Harp-L] Bluegrass Chromatic Harmonica
Mark Panfil, Tony Eyers, Richard Hunter, Bob Loomis, Winslow Yerxa,
Sorry it took me so long to respond to the bluegrass chromatic
harmonica message thread of October 27, 2008. (I joined Harp-L after
this thread was created, and it was Michael Polesky who pointed the
thread out to me.) I really appreciate the kind words from all of
you harmonica greats about my bluegrass chromatic playing on my new
CD, the “High Desert Bluegrass Sessions.” I’m pleased that you agree
that the chromatic harmonica can sound good in bluegrass. As you
know, the harmonica isn’t commonly played in bluegrass, and the
chromatic is extremely rare. I hope this changes. My next CD will
probably be gypsy jazz, another genre where harmonica is rarely used
(but where accordions are established).
Like you, the late David McKelvy reminded me of Jimmy Riddle’s
bluegrass harmonica playing. I heard Jimmy’s record many years ago.
The only tune I can remember is “Stony Point” where, as you
mentioned, he used the slide-in blow chord, thus playing in Db on a C
chromatic. As you point out, my approach is very different, partly
as a result of all the jamming I do with musicians who aren't
harmonica players. Bluegrass musicians, who tend to be wary of
harmonica players, wouldn’t take kindly to a harmonica player
requesting that they get out of their standard key and play in some
weird key like Db! And thanks for noticing the jazz-sensitive tones
that I sometimes throw in. This jazzy approach to bluegrass came
from listing to folks like Jethro Burns and Pat Cloud.
Yes, Pat Cloud is “a banjo god,” and I’m really fortunate to be his
friend and have him record with me. He has taught me a great deal
about bluegrass as well as jazz.
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