I had no intention of purchasing a harmonica of this kind, but for thirty five Aussie bucks (fair bit of harp for that price) I just had to as there’s been nothing in my wheelhouse for sometime now. I had been gifted Larry’s programs (and records) for shows in Oz a little while back and I thought it would be a nice combo.
During a concert tour of Adelaide in 1957, Larry was introduced to Our Don Bradman by the friends he was staying with (wonder if it was Des?) and a jam was the consequence. Apparently Larry had introduced Don’s prowess on the 88’s to the British public on a BBC segment where he played an odd record.
Larry was quoted as proclaiming, “I told Bradman he owed his fame to me.” He added, “Don was very intrigued with some variations on the theme of Waltzing Matilda that I improvised with and I promised to write them down for him.” (ABC Weekly, Vol.19 No.48 27 November 1957). The picture of them both was proudly displayed in both programs.
Carl Brown’s invention (US Patent #627569 – June 27, 1899) is a combination of a concert harmonica and a zither. The ten string zither is arranged to play open chords (and three bass strings) and the harmonica is used to play the air or melody. A model is held at the Smithsonian Institute National Zoo. Carl’s purpose for the instrument is clearly implied in the Patent as being for lazy musicians. “The primary object of my invention is to provide a musical instrument that may be played upon by persons who cannot through circumstances devote the time and patience necessary to acquire sufficient technical skill to play with abandon upon instruments of the nobler sort.”
Two overseas artists, but both with an Aussie connection. Corky Siegel (his sister lives in Australia) has a couple of new releases, a solo project and another Different Voices project with his Chamber Blues. This is his first solo album since 1980 and ‘Something Wrong’ has some great reworking of previous tunes with plenty of tasty piano and harp from Corky. Twisted and DeJa Vous with a bit of Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) style chugging are my highlights. Check ’em out. The first single off the new soon to be released (23 September) Chamber Blues album is the fabulous near seven minute Hine Ma Tov (Behold How Good). This is a variation on an old Jewish chant taken from Psalm 133. Sung superbly by his good friend, Ukrainian born, Pavel Roytman (the album is dedicated to the Ukrainians) and Corky adds (as he outlines) “initially a Hoochie Man style arrangement before “Mozartian flavours begin to appear.”
I asked Corky about the tune and on the soon to be released album (23 September). SD: Corky I love ‘Hine Ma Tov’. What harp are you using here? CS: Hi Shep. The piece begins in Dm. I use a Gm harmonica as it comes from the factory (though I usually have Joe Filisko finesse the reeds). I play it almost exactly like a normal cross-harp but it comes out in minor. Rather than learning other positions I’m still working on the cross-harp position. I think I should nail it in about another 25 years. SD: Is there harp on the rest of the album? CS: There is only one tune on the album without harp because I didn’t have the heart to put it on that tune. But the first tune on the album is in A minor and it’s a lot of harp on that one. I also have a little Sonny Terry feel on one tune with a classical style violin. Really fun.
I also queried Corky on his definition of ‘Mozartian Flavours’ and he kindly responded. CS: Mozartian flavors are being provided in the composition and performed exclusively by the classical string quartet who’s roots exist in that world. It very much is non-blues, non-blues scale, but very sparkling style of music. To simplify the idea, think of the song I’m a Little Teapot Short and Stout. The melodic and harmonic structure sets up an extreme contrast to what we know as the the blues and that offers an unfamiliarity and surprise and pulls one into the music even if they are not specifically classical or blues music fans. Classical and blues seem like opposing forces compositionally, culturally, performance style-wise, and in everyday. On paper it all looks wrong but in the ear and heart it sits just right. How cool is that? Mozartian flavor is the compositional formula from early classical melodic, harmonica and performance style. I don’t know entirely what this is, but I write as a blues musician who doesn’t know classical music, but who loves classical music.
The other ‘in the spotlight’ this month is by former (still) Aussie now residing in Los Angeles since 2011, Mitch Grainger. Mitch has dropped his second single Hollywood (previous single Strong Woman) from his forthcoming album. I chatted with Mitch about his new (old) single and how the album might look when it hits the marketplace. SD: Hi Mitch, a new look for Hollywood. I remember back in 2017 when it was in HRR’s Top 10 for that year (#4). Gotta say big fan of both your acoustic versions so far. Will they be on the album?” MG: Hey Shep, Thanks so much, I’m glad you dig the acoustic versions. I do too. I’m debating having a double album with acoustic on one and electric on the other… can’t say yet what will happen but I’ll definitely be recording both. I thought the 2017 release was the proverbial one hand clapping!”
The identification of antique/vintage harmonicas is often fraught with difficulties due to lack of historical documentation. This Jazz Master harmonica that bobbed up on a well known online auction site threw a curve ball as it was stamped ‘Made in Japan’! (not the one by Deep Purple.) I had already ascertained that the ‘Made in Germany’ models were C H Meinel (Schlossmeinel – Hugo Rauner). This made no sense (you know it doesn’t) until I contacted the Guru (Pat Missin). Here’s his answer, “Asian builders didn’t always respect German trademarks back then, so this is simply a Japanese made harp with the name “Jazz Master”. Nothing to do with Schlossmeinel/Rauner and they may have deliberately omitted their own name to try to avoid any legal action.”
September’s ‘HRR’ Feature – Mr. Versatility
If you haven’t read this month’s main feature on Barry Sandford just click on the photo above to take you there. A number of comments have already been posted with additional information on the great man provided by comedian Alan Glover, a mate of Barry’s from The Comedy Store. He kindly sent HRR the pix of Bazza’s Big One – what a beast!
Next Month’s ‘HRR’ Feature- Old Jig Jog
Next month’s main feature is a toon by a favourite singer songwriter of the author’s, Richard Clapton. Finally I have identified the harp man.
Gaz & Rusty
Gary Young and Steve Williams latest CD (reviewed last month) ‘I’ve Got A Secret’ is available on all good and bad streaming platforms and is available for purchase on iTunes. You can even find it over on YouTube.
Riding the Range
For your aural pleasure Harpo Marx blowin’ the mouth harp from the Marx Brothers 1940 movie ‘Go West’.
Another Role Reversal
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