So, as I said in my brief bio, I have had a lot of players – not just harmonica players – influence how I play. Kevin Briet who plays guitar on all my full band CDs has also been a huge influence on me for his sense of totally original and unique ways of playing and phrasing. Like a dog that cocks his head to the side and lifts an ear when their attention is grabbed by a sound or they are looking inquisitive, I have been drawn more and more lately to people who have strong melodic sensibilities in their playing but something that is quirky or different than the “stock blues” licks.
For example, for a while, I was transcribing several verses of the song Out Of Nowhere (into all 12 keys) as played by a really fantastic piano player by the name of Eddie Costa. He was famous for his low end octave playing and had a wonderful sense of phrasing, timing, and swing with a kind of bluesy “munster” sensibility (you have to hear this solo to understand what I’m talking about! from a Tal Farlow CD called Fuerst Set recorded as part of a late night jam session in someone’s living room). Unfortunately he died at the age of 32. It would have been amazing to see what he would have continued to produce as a player. At any rate, what I am trying to share here is that it is musicians like Eddie Costa (as an example) who really excite me.
Other players are sax players like Stan Getz and Paul Desmond for their beautifully strong sense of the melodic line thru their solos. Cannonball Adderley is another favourite. Although John Coltrane was a genius, if you listen to the Kind of Blue Miles Davis CD, every time I hear Cannonball take a solo after Coltrane, I always go “oh yeah!” as Coltrane has always sounded much more cerebral (genius that he was!) to me as a jazz player, and Cannonball has much more of a blues sensibility and tone.
5 of my favourite HARMONICA RECORDS
This is from a list I had complied a long time ago and given to Richard Hunter who was posting different contemporary harmonica player’s fave CDs.
Definitely a tough one to say what my top five are. I listen less and
less to harp players for ideas, and find myself stealing licks from
guitar, piano, and sax players. So I’ll list what I think were perhaps my 5 or 6 most important influences in the first 10 to 15 years of my playing, in no particular order.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (self titled), Elektra Records
This is Butterfield’s first album (and the first blues record I ever bought). Check out the instrumental Thank You Mr. Poobah. I think this is some of the finest and most creative playing Butterfield ever did. Great ideas with very fluid jazzy runs, and great tone and power for someone who is mainly a pucker player, as opposed to a tongue blocker (Tom Ellis could give you the low down on Paul’s technique). (Richard Hunter note: Carlos is referring to Tom Ellis III, a well-known Butterfield scholar and vintage harp mic dealer.) Definitely my favourite Paul Butterfield disc.
Boss Blues Harmonica, Little Walter, Chess Records
This double album I think is now replaced by a more thorough collection of a lot of Little Walter’s finest tunes, on the double CD The Essential Little Walter on Chess Records. What more can you say about this giant…
Lee Oskar (self titled), United Artist Records.
Lee has this wonderful acoustic fluid tone that just kind of melts over you. He was a big influence for me for his simplicity of melodic ideas in a non blues idiom (check out Sunshine Keri), as well as the control he has on his beautiful slow vibrato. More of an R & B and pop player, he oozes soul.
Wild Child, David Burgin, Flying Fish Records.
I think this disc is most unfortunately deleted, at least it wasn’t reissued on CD as far as I know. David Burgin, who is no longer, as far as I know, a working professional player, to me encompassed everything in a (mostly) blues player that I loved. He mixed tradition with very progressive ideas on this disc going for different amplified tones according to what the style of music calls for. He has a monster tone, a beautiful deep vibrato, and an immediacy and attack in his unusual but very hip phrasing on this disc.
Any Paul Delay CD.
There is some stellar ever-so-juicy chromatic playing on The Other One (which is available as a two-CDs-in-one-package with Paulzilla on the Evidence label titled Take It From The Turnaround). Paul Delay is another original, like David Burgin, who has developed a very unique voice as a blues player. Huge tone and wonderfully playful ideas.
Although I haven’t been listening to a lot of Howard Levy lately, he has also been one of my biggest influences and I studied alot with him – mainly for understanding and applying basic jazz playing applications and theory. Howard has singlehandedly revolutionized the playing of the diatonic harmonica, making it a fully chromatic instrument. Any of the first three Bela Fleck and The Flecktones CDs or the second Trio Globo CD, Carnival of Souls, immediately come to mind. While always aspiring to be a better player myself, I again am really just trying to marry a jazz sensibility into my blues playing – while keeping a bluesy sensibility in my jazzier tunes!