[Harp-L] A few SPAH shows I really dug

There was a lot going on at SPAH, and now that I've covered the general issues I want to call out a few specifics that I really enjoyed.

I arrived Thursday evening, and after a quick shower and dinner with Dave Fertig I went to the Thursday night show.  I caught the last two numbers in Steve Baker's set, a cool shuffle blues and a very funky blues, all of Jason Ricci's set, and the first two numbers in Mark Hummel's set.  

I was completely knocked out by both Baker and Ricci.  I had my Zoom H4 with me, and I recorded everything I heard.  I've passed the recordings of Baker's stuff on to him for approval before I post to my Youtube channel.  Let me just note in passing that when you finally hear those recordings, that's me saying "f---in' great" shortly after the beginning of the first piece.  And it surely was.  I interviewed Baker right after the show; stay tuned for the edited interview.

I've heard a few of Jason Ricci's pieces, and I own his album "Rocket Number 9," so of course I knew he could play.  His set on August 13 started at a low simmer and ended with the kitchen on fire.  The speed, clarity, and intensity of his playing were amazing, and his singing was on target.  He ended his last piece playing through some kind of octave divider--probably a HOG--and it took the energy level right through the roof.  Both Baker (for sure) and Ricci (I think) were playing through a Sonny Jr., and that amp definitely put the harp across loud and proud.  I recorded Jason's entire set, as well as two of Hummel's pieces (I especially liked his first, a very cool blues), and I'll make those available if the artists approve.

Later that night, I ran across Baker, Brendan Power, and Dave Barrett jamming in a corner of the hotel bar, and I joined in for a few numbers, sometime during which we were joined as well by Christelle Berton.  Sure was fun.

I had lots of other fun at this show, but for me the next big highlight was the Celtic workshop featuring James Conway, Brendan Power, Paul Davies, and Grant Dermody.  It was great to hear them play, and even better to be able to ask every one of them EXACTLY how they were doing what they were doing.  I was astonished, for example, to learn that Conway does a lot of his fast runs by treating his mouth as a bellows--there's no chest or diaphragm breathing there, he's just pumping air in and out of his cheeks.  I suppose this is logical--it makes sense that one can move one's cheeks faster than one's chest--but I suppose also that it takes a lot of practice to get those cheeks moving perfectly in time.  In another ensemble piece, Conway used circular breathing to keep a drone going under the other harps for something like two minutes.  Hoo boy.

One other thing I saw at this show is that the pros are basically all using alternate tunings now.  Not just the easy ones, like Country and Natural Minors--I'm talking about really radical tunings, like where the bottom two octaves are tuned SBS style and the top octave is in a different key entirely.   One key advantage for these tunings is that you get to use some big bends where you need them, all up and down the harp, so there's a lot of expression you can't get otherwise.  The most radical tuning I saw was David Fairweather's new chromatic tuning for diatonic, which he used to show me how you could play bebop VERY convincingly with just one or two bends.  And it works on chromatic harp, too.  I'll let David explain it in more detail if he's so inclined.

I was also knocked out by Gregoire Maret's jazz chromatic playing, which was fleet and beautiful both at his duo performance with guitar and in the jam session run by Randy Singer.  Randy played beautifully too, I might add, with a big, phat sound on the CX-12 chromatic.  
That's all the highlights I have time for at the moment.  More to come, I'm sure.

Regards, Richard Hunter

author, "Jazz Harp"
latest mp3s and harmonica blog at http://myspace.com/richardhunterharp
more mp3s at http://taxi.com/rhunter
Vids at http://www.youtube.com/user/lightninrick

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.