Re: [Harp-L] Is Howard Levy the most technically advanced harmonica player?
I will say that Mr. Levy is ONE of the most technically advanced players I have ever heard but
even he is subject to bad intonation once in awhile. Especially using the OB technique he
uses. On "Prairie Home Companion" once he struggled through "Stars and Stripes Forever".
He got close but they weren't playing hand grenades.
There are so many technically advanced players that never grace the pages of harp-l its
ridiculous. Go on U-Tube and listen to Antonio Serrano play Flamenco harmonica with Paco
De Lucia. He was on tour throughout Europe a few years back. Then he turns around and
plays straight ahead Jazz better than most in the world. When you start talking about
technically advanced players, you better include chromatic players as well as everyone else. If
you do not include chromatic players in a discussion like that, the discussion isn't even worth
This is because to understand theory is to become a better player technically. Howard is a
better piano player than he is a harmonica player. That's because he understands music
theory...and not in positions either. He understands it as it should be understood, the way
technically advanced players have been understanding music theory for hundreds of years.
Roger Gonzales MA/Mus.Ed.
----- Original Message -----
From: michael rubin <michaelrubinharmonica@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wednesday, May 5, 2010 11:16 am
Subject: [Harp-L] Is Howard Levy the most technically advanced harmonica player?
To: harp-l <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
> I cannot find the email but someone said something to the effect of
> "No one would argue that Howard is the most technically advanced
> harmonica player on the planet" and I felt the challenge.
> What is technique?
> To me it is being able to manipulate the harmonica into physically
> producing a sound in a way that shows a high level of mastery.
> What are Howard's technical strengths?
> Good pitch control
> Clean overbows and bends
> The fast runs he does by ascending while blowing three holes then
> desceding while drawing back two holes then ascending while blowing up
> three holes ad infinitum.
> The bend vibrato
> tongue blocking double stops for octaves, drone and counterpoint
> playing.Slight bending of overblows for inflections and half step
> movements.Vibrato during overblows
> Wah wah hand muting
> Use of a drinking cup for wah wah hand muting
> Pleasing tone
> Please feel free to add to the list.
> As far as I am concerned, living diatonic players like James Cotton,
> Rick Estrin, Kim Wilson, Joe Filisko, Charlie Musselwhite, Charlie
> McCoy, Gruenling, Ricci, Del Junco, Michalek, Power, Gazell and many
> others equal or surpass Levy's technical ability. They may not use
> the same techniques that Levy does, but the amount of techniques they
> have mastered are equal or greater than Levy's amounts. If, as i've
> listed for Howard's strengths, pleasing tone is technical ability,
> many of these players are also equal or greater than Levy.
> In my opinion, what Levy really seems to have done was be the
> journeyman for overblows. Although there were many people who played
> overblows before Howard, he really brought it to the attention of the
> greater harmonica community and made a whole generation rethink the
> chromatic possibilities of the diatonic harmonica.
> I also think Levy has an exceptionally high understanding of music
> theory and how he can use it to play well in all 12 positions.
> I also think Levy is a very musical person and that his ideas are
> often very enjoyable and can fit in a variety of musical styles. He
> is also very good at unusual time signatures.
> Clearly Levy is also a very giving teacher and person and I feel
> blessed that he is in my world. But is he the most technically
> advanced harmonica player on the planet? Technically, no.
> Please forgive me.
> Michael Rubin
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