Remember WAR, the old rock and funk group? Remember their killer harmonica player? That's right: it was Lee Oskar. Lesser known outside WAR, Lee released a passel of first-rate Seventies-funk solo albums. This Best Of collection culls the best cuts from those albums. They are uniformly funky and distinguished by the Danish-born Oskar's distinctively straightforward, refreshingly original harmonica playing. Oskar is not a blues harmonica player, and his playing is not laden with the clichés that dog all too many harpists.
Just moments into this album it becomes clear that Oskar was responsible for much of WAR's distinctive sound. His harmonica sounds almost hornlike at times, notably on "Sunshine Keri," and always retains a smooth, sharply focused hornlike quality.
While several of these tracks sound a bit dated, owing chiefly to the vocals and some sound-effect bird-chirping water-lapping (etc. etc.) leadins ("San Francisco Bay" is a particularly egregious example), the music is as coolly loose-limbed and exuberant as ever. Harmonica fans should check this one out, for Lee Oskar's sound on the instrument is sadly underrepresented in music today.
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.