Thursday, February 17, 2011

Harping On: Sugar Blue

Your solos show a lot of speed and accuracy. How have you brought your playing skill to the level where it is today?
I have listened to players of quality such as Big and Little Walter, Sonny Boy Rice Miller and John Lee, Miles Davis, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and have tried to emulate them. I have found over the years that facility and precision are prerequisites in constructing solos, combined with a sense of melody and a dash of the spice called soul I do my best to make it lyrical. . Speed without purpose causes sonic tragedy on any instrument........ Practice with your ears as well as your axe!!

What is your harp of choice, and why?
I have used The Hohner Special 20(hand made!!) since it was marketed because it's a quality instrument and I can hit it as hard as I want and it doesn't choke up. I have also begun playing a very fine custom made by Harrison Harmonicas. I play a chromonica and chromatic on occasion too.

Why the name, "Sugar Blue"?
I was looking for a name that melded the beauty and passion that is the music of my progenitors and I found the title Sugar Blues on a 78rpm recorded by the original soprano sax master, Sidney Bechet. it was a eureka moment for me.
What has inspired you the most in your music?
The beauty of the sounds and the wisdom of the philosophy hidden within the 'simplistic' measures and verses by the genius that revivified the language, musically and lyrically. Genius like Robert Johnson, Eddie Jefferson,James Brown,  Wiillie Dixon, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald and the people responsible for the creation of 'jive talk, rap, the high five, the fist bump, the slam dunk, shakin' your booty etc.!!!  

Do you memorize your solos or do you prefer  to improvise?
In my opinion, it's not a solo if you've memorized it!   
What advice would you give to someone who is learning harmonica?
Have fun and practice!!!!!

What bad harp habits would you recommend to avoid?
Don't play after a peanut butter sandwich or drinking sweet concoctions alcoholic or non alcoholic. Don't put it into your pocket after a day on the beach without its protective cover and do try to avoid sitting on them!!

How did you first start learning to play harmonica?
Started playing the steam locomotive blues and anything I heard on the radio, when, Taj Mahal, Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan hit the airwaves it gave me impetus to continue!

What do you think is the most effective way to practice?
The best way to practice is first to listen, second, to listen and third to emulate what you've interiorized by.... LISTENING!! Above all, try not to lose yourself in imitation and then wake up to the nightmare that allows you to confound imitation with creation. There's a lot of that going on out there and if you've done your listening well you'll recognize plagiarism when you hear it and avoid it like the plague it is!!!

Last words to members of HOOT?
Keep swinging and enjoy your life in all of its aspects and let's all keep it copascetic as Prez would have said!! The more you know about the history, the less the music will be to you a mystery!! Follow the progenitors and you can't go wrong!!!!

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