Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bob Corritore And Friends - Harmonica Blues

Although the modern mouth organ was invented in the early 1820's in Vienna, Austria, it wasn't until 1857 when Matthias Hohner shipped one of his creations to relatives in the United States that the blues harp began to evolve.  It is said that it was so portable and such a hit that even Abraham Lincoln carried one in his pocket.  It became the Civil War soldier's portable orchestra and was known to be played out west by lawman Wyatt Earp and outlaw Billy the Kid.    

Harmonicas were first recorded in the 1920's on "race records" - music intended for African Americans.  These recordings memorialized great blues harp players such as Walter Horton and Sonny Terry.  The second great wave of American blues pocket piano players came in the 1950's with such notables as Sonny Boy Williamson, II, Little Walter, Big Walter Horton and Howlin' Wolf.  This was the era when the mouth harp met the microphone which allowed the instrument to be heard above the electric guitar and drums.  The sound became integral to the bump and grind music of the day.  It is this era, the 1950's-early 60's, that Bob Corritore and Friends recapture on Harmonica Blues.

The disk is a 15 track compendium of recordings from 1989 through 2009 of Corritore with some of the greatest blues musicians of the 1950's and early 1960's. Only one song, "1815 West Roosevelt,"  was written by Corritore.  It is an instrumental named after the address for a long gone blues joint called "Club Alex" on the West Side of Chicago that use to feature Muddy Waters.  The remainder of the album is comprised of blues music written and performed by the creme de la creme of early Delta and Chicago blues artists.

For 20 years Corritore has been the host of Arizona radio station KJZZ's weekly radio show "Those Lowdown Blues" a show that brings the music of, and interviews with, bluesmasters to the desert airwaves. Corritore also books all of the entertainment for his nightclub the Rhythm Room (Phoenix's top spot for national touring blues talent.) As you hear on this record he is also a world class blues harmonica player. As a result Corritore was able to assemble a veritable Who's Who list of artists to play with him on "Harmonica Blues."

The album features the late Koko Taylor singing her song "What Kind Of Man Is This?" with Muddy Waters' guitarist Bob Margolin and drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith.  Legendary Louisiana Red sings his wife's song "Tell Me 'Bout It." Dave Riley, probably best known as the engineer for the Parliament-Funkadelic bands, warbles delta blues harmonica immortal Frank Frost's "Things You Do." The late Nappy Brown wails on the late Texas country blues legend Andrew "Smokey" Hogg's "Baby Don't You Tear My Clothes."  Robert Lockwood, Jr. performs the immortal Jimmy Rogers' "That's All Right." Big Pete Pearson, known as Arizona's King of the Blues, tackles the late Bob Geddins' "Tin Pan Alley."  Tomcat Courtney, a San Diego blues guitarist who didn't release his first album until he was 78 years old, belts out his blues  "Sundown San Diego."   Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater, a Chicago blues legend and contemporary of Magic Sam, Otis Rush and Freddie King, shreds on vocals and guitar on his blues anthem "That's My Baby." Howlin' Wolf's main piano player until 1968, Henry Gray, sings his song "Things Have Changed" with the late great Chico Chism, Howlin' Wolf's last drummer, on drums.  Chism also joins the inimitable and seemingly ageless Pinetop Perkins on Perkins' tune "Big Fat Mama." Chief Schabuttie Gilliame, a local Phoenix blues legend, performs his blues "No More Doggin'." Dave "Honeyboy" Edwards who, along with Pinetop Perkins are the oldest Delta blues players still touring the US, sings the blues of legendary Memphis Minnie McCoy's called "Bumble Bee."  Lafayette, Louisiana's Carol Fran plays her song "I Need To Be Be'd With" while the late Chism again sets the pace on drums. The album ends with the late Little Milton singing his "6 Bits In Your Dollar" accompanied by Henry Gray and Chism.  Throughout it all Corritore blows a mean harp as an accompaniment to the work of these blues legends.

This is a special album.  It contains what may be some of the very last recordings made by some of the greatest blues artists and sidemen of the 20th Century.  To be able to bring them all together in one album on which they play with such joy, abandon and soul is a thing of beauty.  The album itself is a graduate level class in the harmonica blues given by a master instructor surrounded by the originals who pioneered the genre. 

If you love Delta and Chicago harmonica blues this recording is a must have for your collection.

 - Old School

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