When I first got Inspiration I thought it would be one of those boring novelty records. Besides, who but a confirmed harmonicat would enjoy over 72 solid minutes of harp music? Spinning the first two tracks, I was startled by the segue: Toots Thielemans jazzily interpeting Eric Satie in the familiar "Gymnopedie," followed by some yee-hah whooping by Sonny Terry on "Lost John." I thought, "What market is this one for?", shook my head, and continued doing some filing in my office.
I left the CD on, and as it continued through its 22 tracks - careening from jazz to gut-bucket blues to rock, folk, pop, Argentinian tango and Irish reels - it started to grow on me. What an intriguing range of sound, mood, and geography, that harmonica. It has a broad range of chronology and interpreters, too, including Stevie Wonder doing "Alfie," Larry Adler and Django on "Body and Soul," and Magic Dick and the J. Geils Band on "Whammer Jammer." There's also a train (not Trane) imitation, something jolly that sounds like the soundtrack to a "Little Rascals" episode, and the ultimate romantic harmonica anthem, "Paris Skies." Once you get used to the concept, it's a very well-paced and pleasing musical mix.
So I hit "replay" and picked up the thick CD booklet that explains the instrument's history and each artist's contribution to it. This project was clearly a labor of love for someone - J. J. Milteau, to be exact - who invested a great deal of care and imagination. It's also entertaining, educational, and musically delightful.
Kudos to Sunnyside, perhaps the only non-indie label that would dare put out something so bold and varied. I wish them luck with it. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to hit "replay" again.
Track Listing: Gymnopedie, Lost John, Tour de Taille, Alfie, Christine, La Companera,
Voice, Freight Train Blues, Trust My Baby, Sous le Ciel de Paris,
Whammer Jammer, The Ballygow Reel and the Trip to Cullenstown,
Moody, You Don't Have to Go, On the Loose, Mellow Man, Orange
Intro, My Drivin' Wheel, That's It, Body and Soul, Ice Water Blues
Personnel: Toots Thielemans, Sonny Terry, Mark Graham, Stevie Wonder, Big
Walter Horton, Hugo Diaz, Michel Herblin, Jimmie Riddle (with Roy Acuff),
Sonny Boy Williamson, Olivier Ker Ourio, Magic Dick (with the J. Geils
Band), Phil, John, & Pip Murphy, Greg Szlapczynski, James Cotton (with
Muddy Waters), Borrah Minevitch & the Rascals, Thierry Crommen,
Charlie McCoy, Eric Chafer, Robert Lee McCoy (with Lee Brown), Little
Walter, Larry Adler, Deford Bailey
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total)
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total). He saw an alto sax on my neck and said: Hey, how about you there, would you like to play something for us? I played a piece with the piano. OK, said Lee, how about you play something unaccompanied? Oh yeah! I was deep into transcribing Sonny Stitt and pretty much into playing as fast as possible as many right notes as possible. So I played Oleo in about 300 beats per minute and was very proud of myself. Lee was tapping his foot all the way through. Hmm, he said, that was in time and all that... (I thought - yeah, of course, haha!) and then he said, You've got a lot of quantity, how about quality? It took me 15 years to realize what he meant.