Date: Sat, 4 Nov 1995 10:48:12 -0500
Subject: Harmonic Convergence

Last night in Louisville, the Lonesome Pine Special presented Harmonic
Convergence - a show which presented many colors and styles of the
harmonica. The players were Mike Stevens, Pete Pederson, Bud Boblink,
Eugene Mysliwiec, Howard Levy, Rodney Hatfield and Jim Rosen.

Mike Stevens started the show off joined by a local bluegrass band called
New Horizon. Mike primarily does fiddle tunes and the like and is very good
at what he does but doesn't venture too far from that domain. Among other
tunes, he did a nice version of Orange Blossom Special.

Next was The Cat and Jammer Kids which consisted of Pete Pederson on a 64
chromatic, Bud Boblink on chord harmonica and Eugene Mysliwiec on bass
harmonica. These guys are incredible. They exhibited a level of
musicianship, skill and style that is very rare in the world of the
harmonica. These guys are also master showman and their brand of comedy was
entertaining as well. I'm sure this group is quite familiar to those who
regularly attend SPAH conventions.

I've never heard chord harmonica played the way Bud Boblink plays it. He
performed flawlessly last night and compliments Pete's style quite well.

After about 30 minutes, they were joined by Howard Levy for a great
rendition of I Got Rhythm. Pete and Howard traded licks seamlessly and
neither could upstage the other(not that that was their intention).

An excellent local jazz quartet then joined Howard and Pete for a very nice
version of Toots' Bluesette and another tune. Howard and the house band
then performed a couple of jazz standards, a beautiful Brazillian tune and
a song to be on his yet-to-be recorded but upcoming CD on Bluenote Records.
(Sorry, I don't remember all the names of the songs.)

After intermission, Howard started things off by himself with a harmonica
and a piano. I've always been impressed by him but this is the first time
I'd heard him live and no amount of words can describe the awe in which I
felt. It's a rare situation that I can't listen to diatonic harmonica and
not know exactly what the player is doing regardless of the position or
style. But when listening to Mr. Levy, I feel like I have a blind fold on.
I can pick out snippets here and there but he is so fluid and such a
virtuoso that I mostly just sat there with my jaw dangling in my lap
uttering an occasional "wow!", "cool" or "how does he do that." I've yet to
hear a diatonic harmonica player who can truly stand in this man's shadow.
His level of playing reminds me of the famous saying when the USA took what
is now called the America's Cup from Britain last century: when the King
asked who was second, he was told "there is no second." Howard Levy is
truly in a world of his own.

He next was joined by a chamber ensemble that consisted of violin, viola,
cello, flute and oboe. They performed "Harmonica Mundi, Suite for Harmonica
and Chamber Ensemble" which was composed by Howard Levy. This was a very
interesting part of the show in which Howard demonstrated a very nice blend
of jazz and classical styles.

Next was supposed to be a demonstration of "blues harmonica." IMO, the
producers shot the show in the foot with their decision to have local
Louisville players Rodney Hatfield and Jim Rosen do the demonstration. At
best, these guys are downright mediocre. Their tone was below average as
was their approach to the blues. After the musicianship displayed by the
Pete, Bud, Eugene and Howard, I was slightly embarrassed for the harmonica
community. There are plenty of excellent traditional players like Kim
Field, Gary Primich or Rod Piazza, or non-traditional blues players like
Paul deLay or Sugar Blue who could have truly demonstrated blues harmonica.
There are lots of players without big names that could have got the job
done too. This was unfortunate since many people left after these guys came
on. On the way out, I heard one guy say that "a little of that blues stuff
can go a long way" to which my girlfriend responded "yeah, when it's played
that way."

After a few of what were supposed to be blues songs, Howard and Mike
Stevens joined them onstage for an instrumental version of Sunshine of Your
Love. That's right, the old Cream song. It was very cool. Howard was the
only one who could do justice to the song though, and justice was served.
Mike Stevens was over his head on this one and the aforementioned pair of
locals played all over his solo. They demonstrated why diatonic harmonica
players have such a bad reputation with other musicians. They played over
other people's solos and essentially swaggered and wouldn't shut up.

Everybody came out and took a ride on the finale which was a version of
Dizzy Gillespie's A-Train. Again the locals showed a lack of
professionalism and common courtesy by trouncing on other's space.

Overall it was a great show and I'm glad I was there. Howard Levy and Pete
Pederson et. al. are truly giants of the harmonica and shouldn't be missed
if the opportunity arises.

Richard Smith had his harmonica collection on display before the show, and
one heck of a collection it is. He answered my question about a Richter
tuned 260. This is how the first chromatics were tuned and he guessed that
the harp I have is pre-1930.

Sorry this got so windy but now you all know why nobody will hire me as a
music journalist.


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