Peter Madcat Ruth is a Grammy Award-winning virtuoso harmonica player who draws from a wide range of styles and creates his own unique sound. He's also this year's special guest at the Harmonica Hoedown at Martyrs' in Chicago on March 13th. We talk about taking lessons from Big Walter Horton, his years performing with jazz legend Dave Brubeck, how he incorporates humor into his music and his current projects with The Madcat Midnight Blues Journey, Chris Brubeck's Triple Play and his solo performances.
Chromatic harmonica player Grégoire Maret hails from Switzerland, grew up in a musical household and at age 17 took the advice of legendary player Toots Thielemans which shaped his approach to the instrument ever since. He went on to record and tour with Jacky Terrasson, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Steve Coleman, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves and many more. We caught up with him backstage in Chicago where he was performing with the Monk'estra.
Harmonicast is back!
Ross Garren, somewhat like Tommy Morgan before him has become the go-to guy for recording sessions for albums, singles and soundtracks recorded in Los Angeles. That's just part of the story. As a middle-schooler he was encouraged by the legendary Toots Thielemans, he's produced albums, plays keyboards and has several interesting projects in the pipeline including an album with guitarist Andre LaFosse. I caught up with Ross while he was on the road with singer/songwriter Chelsea Williams.
(by the way, if you're curious about what I've been up to during the Harmoncast hiatus, check out Margaret Larkin's interview on her podcast Radio Girl.)
Martin Lang has backed up Chicago blues icons for decades. He first learned what it takes to be a real-deal player by spending time with blues masters on the West and South Sides of the city. He talks about what he learned by having contact with these great blues artists, how its essential to have "weight" as harmonica player in both soloing and accompanying others, and his overall blues philosophy.
The Kickstarter campaign to
get me to Nashville to interview three of the greats: Charlie McCoy,
Buddy Greene and
Jelly Roll Johnson is well on its way to being funded. However, there's just a few days left! Contributing $10 or more is the only way to get this exclusive content and $25 contributions get you a Harmonicast coffee mug!
Phil Alvin, in addition to being harmonica player, is an incredible singer, advanced set theorist and great storyteller. His powerful voice was first heard by much of the public in the Blasters, a band he and his brother Dave Alvin founded in the late 70s. This, after years of tutelage performing alongside Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, Lee Allen and other musical greats Dave and Phil met while growing up in Downey, California. Phil talks about taking harmonica lessons from Sonny Terry, his years of study in mathematics, his latest duo albums Common Ground and Lost Time with his brother and their potential follow-up recordings.
Karen Mantler is a singer, songwriter, pianist, organist AND chromatic harmonica player who got her professional start at age 10 playing glockenspiel with Carla Bley (the jazz composer and arranger who also happens to be her mother). She's made a handful of wonderful records including her most recent, Business is Bad which showcases her highly personal, often humorous and sometimes deeply touching lyrics along with her piano and harmonica playing. We talk about her musical upbringing, her frustrations as a major label signee in the early 2000s, how she came to discover and fall in love with the sound of the harmonica, her recordings with Robert Wyatt and much more.
Yuri Lane combines beatbox and harmonica, traveling the globe bringing this art form to streets, clubs, and theaters. As an actor, his one-man plays use beatbox, acting, mime, dance and harmonica to tell a story. He's a compelling performer and a fine vegetarian cook too! We talk about being one of the first performers to "go viral" on YouTube, his fusion of beatbox and harmonica, and how his years as a child actor inform his career today.
John Shirley is an active composer in multiple genres, a recording engineer, record producer, software designer, singer, guitarist, and…harmonica player! We talk about his love affair with the harp, the many styles of music he explores (on many harmonicas) on his latest EP Not So Blue and posted on his YouTube Channel, the art of recording harmonica, and Blue Daddy, an app he designed allowing harp players to emulate amplifiers and various effects when recording themselves.
Mickey Raphael's playing has been an essential element of the music of Willie Nelson and Family for more than 40 years. He's also performed alongside some of the biggest names in music and has recorded on sessions for many of them. We talk about his open, organic approach to performing with Willie, his ever-expanding influences, his love road biking when he's on the road, and the new Highwaymen collection he produced.
John Kerkhoven is a great player from a great harp town, Montréal. In his visit to Chicago where he came to jam, meet other players and teachers we sat down in the studio for a conversation about his new CD from his band BluesReel, his other band KSB, how he got his start, his love of Mose Allison, short story writing and much more!