[Harp-L] Afro-American chrom players

JOSEPH LEONE 3n037@xxxxx
Sun May 30 08:10:18 EDT 2021

> On 05/30/2021 1:16 AM Rick Dempster <rickdempster33 at xxxxx> wrote:
> Almost impossible to use words that don't offend anyone these days!

TELL me bout-it. :)

> (Referring to 'subject' here)
> Anyway, having taken up the chromatic harp only in the last four years or
> so (only messed around with it before) I have frequently pondered the fact
> that I did not take it up, because, generally speaking, it didn't appeal to
> me. That's not to say I haven't appreciated some chrom playing over the
> years, but the only one that really pressed my buttons (no pun intended!)
> was Stevie Wonder. That is not because I dislike jazz (which is where the
> chrome usually finds a home) and am attracted to Stevie's pop-soul only,
> but because of his particular attack, which makes it, for me, a very
> 'human' sound, with every note shaped in a particular way.

Steveland has a quasi-spastic chop to his attack. As for soul, being blind he carries a bit of angst in his personna. 

> You could say Larry Adler shapes his notes, but to me, Adler's playing
> sounds overly dramatic, and, sorry, corny, no matter how technically good
> it is.

Adler's style was old fashioned. For someone your age. Born same year as my mother, his style was already getting long in the tooth by 1947. I'm 78 and he was already passe when I was a youngster. He would haver have admitted it but he was (in some small regard) still influenced by the Minnevitch era material. 

> I also felt that in imitating Stevie (as I have heard a few people try) you
> just end up sounding like a poor imitation.

If you were to get Steveland's style spot on, you would still only be: 'Another Stevie'. 

> Then recently, it occured to me that Stevie is the only Afro-American
> chromatic player I have ever heard of.

Same here.

> I know Walter and George Smith and other blues players use it in 3rd
> position, no button; that is not chromatic playing, really.

Right, not really what a chromo is all about.

> I think the chrom does not appear in older jazz, or R'n'B because it is not
> loud enough, and even amplified, the chrom does not seem to make it. It's
> just not 'brutish' enough, like an electric guitar or tenor sax.

Right again. For 20 years I hosted a jazz jam here in Fl. and getting the chromo to carry was always a problem. Diat was less so. :) But my trumpet and clarinet always cut through. 

> It is usually used in 'modern' jazz, and is popular in countries like South
> America and India, where the customary musical styles seem to suit it,
> probably because of strings being the main accompaniment, and the whole
> sound less aggressive.

Right again. Latin tunes almost BEG for some harp. 

> Stevie Wonder was using the instrument in a form of 'pop' (ie Motown soul)
> that is light and breezy. It is clear why the instrument works here.

Right again. Steve's early stuff was bubble gum. It fit his 'sweet kid' presentation. 

> So then it occurs to me that Stevie is the only Afro-US chromatic player,
> and that is part of what makes him stick out.
> So, here's my question: who have I not heard?
> Thanks, in anticipation!
> RD

I couple days ago I was playing cds from the 1999 spah jazz jam. That's the year that Toots showed up. About eight players were jamming in turn. Four didn't belong there. Of the three diat players present, two didn't belong. Bad timbre. Of the five chromo players two were hanging out in the squeeky upper registers OR chopping up notes like a wood chipper.

Trumpet isn't actually all that bad. 3 plungers and 3 embouchures. (four if you like to take risks... lololol)


> PS So why did I take it up? Having messed with overblows for over 30 years,
> I decided I can't stand the sound ( I'm sure it loosened my fillings) and
> have been using customised Sub30s to deal with tunes that go VI-II-V-I and
> the like.
> Zombor Kovacs, in Hungary does the custom work; he's in Hungary, I'm in
> Australia. Why didn't I just take up the trumpet??

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