Meet John A. Williamson: Here to "Move you and Groove You," do the jump, jive, swing and scrunch with them - dance with them till the whole floor is sore! Close your eyes and let them take you to a most dangerous and mysterious musical place.
Among today's great roots, jump blues, blues and rhythm musicians, they have the voicing of original and infectious dimension. Johnny Lee with his Blue Comets redefines the origins of blues and rhythm oldies with vocal authority and freshness. Their material is influenced by the music of the '40s, '50s and '60s, but they consistently bring a unique and musically sophisticated point of view. In this sense they are classicists, opening the eyes of a new generation to a rich historical musical style. With their cool and sultry musical approach, filtered through a late night underground border radio vibe, Like Dr. JazzMo, they give a "Blessed Charm" to all those who are discovering them for the first time. And a hardy heart-felt double hit to their loyal world wide following.
As kids in North and East Los Angeles, and Cleveland, The Blue Comets members were captivated by the magic of blues and rhythm. At an early age, they were hanging around Cleveland blues clubs, El Monte Legion Stadium, Harmony Park Ballroom, Long Beach Civic, Shrine Auditorium, Ice House and a few others like the Five Four Ballroom, Johnny Otis's Barrel House, Rim Ram Club, and several other seminal places, meeting other singers and songwriters and eventually forming earlier successful groups Robert Jr. Lockwood's Band, The Curb Feelers, The Southside Jukes, Magic Blues Band, Job Striles Band, The Superstitions and Max Bangwell Band. They went on to record five-plus albums, tour and opened for The Chambers Brothers, Richard Berry, The Jaguars, Chuck Higgins, Joe Houston, Katy Segal, Pee Wee Creighton, Joe Liggins, Son Seals, George Harmonica Smith, Smoky Wilson, Barbara Lynn, Rod Piazza, Hollywood Fats, Lester Butler and the Red Devils, and for many of their first performances.
In the years that followed, members of The Blue Comets began an expansive career that kicked off with producing the first records for Max Bangwell Top of the Hill, Job Striles Sings and Plays and Out of this World, Primordial Slim's Cain Enablers and Cool Cool Place to Go, The Southside Jukes, Leave all Blades and Pistols at the Door, The Superstitions, and the recently released Juke Town The Superstitions and band members went on to compose, supervise and produce a long list of CD scores and soundtracks.
Teachers and/or influences? Mickey Baker, Robert Kelton, Freddy Greene, Pee Wee Creighton, Goree Carter, T Bone Walker, Jimmy Reed
Your sound and approach to music: Earliest roots of jazz.
Your teaching approach: Think '30s '40s; play less; utilize spaces as a feature. Imply!
Your dream band: They're all dead!
Anecdote from the road: When you play all those little clubs, always bring a big long hard pepperoni, keep it on your amp so you can whack them when they act up!
Favorite venue: Blues Harbor Atlanta Ga.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why? Jack Dupree Blues from the Gutter with Mickey Baker on guitar.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? The root of early traditions!
Did you know... High action and heavy strings are good for you - makes you have to extract the sounds from the instrument. The bigger the archtop the better I like it!
How you use the internet to help your career? http://www.myspace.com/Thesuperstitions http://www.thesuperstitions.com, http://www.cdbaby.com/thesuperstitions2
CDs you are listening to now: The Spiders, Jimmy McCracklin and his Blues Greakers, Goree Carter, Mahalia Jackson Live at Newport, Ray Charles and Betty Carter, The Jewels.
Desert Island picks: Same as above.
How would you describe the state of jazz today? Weak as a result of not having a major television outlet, there is a need for the equivalent of MTV for the whole spectrum of jazz from roots to today! Its absence is devastating to the music! The only great thing is all the reissues on CD and Satellite radio!
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? See above.
What is in the near future? My group is performing at Cafe 322 in Sierra Madre for their City Festival on March 25, 2007.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.