Randy Singer is one of the best-known harmonica players in Miami and thereabouts, and we’ve known each other since roughly 1980. Randy just unearthed the clip below and sent it to me, and I was glad to get it. It’s a solo I played on a live recording of a performance of Phil Gentile’s song “Hey Brother (Come On In)”, an uptempo tune in a gospel-ish style. The harmonica performance is flat-out all the way; nobody likes athleticism better than a young musician, and I was in my mid-twenties when I recorded this.
As I noted in a previous post, I got a call Friday night from Brian Keane, a composer and producer that I’ve done a number of sessions for. Brian wanted me to record acoustic harmonica for a scene in a BBC series he’s scoring called “Copper”, which is directed by Barry Levinson. I went over to Brian’s studio that night to get the concept right, and we set a studio date for today (Monday April 22, if you’re keeping track). Over the weekend I recorded three takes in my kitchen using an Audix Fireball V mic, a Digitech RP255 (connected to the computer via USB) for the audio interface, and my laptop computer, which is running Cakewalk Sonar 8.5. I exported the takes from Sonar and emailed them to Brian, and when I went to the studio today to do a few more takes on parts of the cue, I found that he’d already put together a composite track with the best bits from the tracks I recorded in my kitchen.
I got a call last night from Brian Keane, a producer I’ve worked with on a number of projects. Brian is scoring this season of “Copper”, a BBC series about a detective in New York City in 1864, directed by Barry Levinson. The episode Brian is working on now (episode 19, in case you’re counting) has a scene with some VERY big emotions in it, and he’s decided to use harmonica as the lead instrument for the cue. Normally strings would do the job, but as Brian said to me once, in emotional terms, harmonica is the street version of a violin.
Like I said: too bad. But as Donald O’Connor said just after being fired in “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Thanks! Now I can start starving and write my symphony.” I have other projects in the works, and I’m looking forward to working on them.
Good luck to Brian, and goodbye to the Maw Band.
I’m going to be delayed delivering tracks to Brian Maw for the new EP. This afternoon I was setting up to record some tracks for the EP in my hotel room in London. I brought my Digitech RP255 to London with me for that very purpose. I plugged the wall socket converter for the UK into the wall, then plugged the RP into the converter.
Brian Maw is going into the studio in Idaho Falls this weekend to record some tunes for a new EP. I’m waiting for the mp3s so I can lay down the harmonica tracks in my home studio.
One of the first couple of songs will be “So Sweet,” the very rough live recording of which I posted to this site not long ago. I will almost certainly use the same approach I used on the live recording, i.e. the same yearning, bluesy motifs played through
my CHAMPB patch from the new v16 Huntersounds patch set for the Digitech RP 250/255/350/355.
I also have the luxury of being able to try other approaches, too, if I want to, and I suppose I do, even though I think that ultimately it’s most important to put down something that shows people what the band really sounds like. In other words, I guess I want to make sure that whatever I put on this track can be played live, which of course would not exclude changing the sounds I’m running on the RP355 at any given point in the song.
Recording is so much fun (when it’s not a giant problem)! I’m really looking forward to this stuff. We plan to have the EP available for sale in May 2013, so stay tuned to this blog!
I’ve been putting loops together using the Zoom G3 and Digitech RP355 running in parallel, and the sounds are amazingly big and colorful. The samples below, recorded directly to my Digitech Jamman Stereo, then exported as 16 bit WAV files, speak (loudly) for themselves. The chain starts with a Fireball V mic, followed by an ABY box, where the signal is split and sent to a Zoom G3 and a Digitech RP355, running in parallel. The outputs from the G3 and the RP355 go to the channel 5-6 and 7-8 inputs of a Behringer UB802 mixer, along with the output from the TC-Helicon Voicelive Play (for vocals), which goes to one of the mic channels. The stereo main outs from the UB802 go to the stereo inputs on the JamMan Stereo, and the JamMan Stereo puts out a mono signal to a Peavey KB2 amp. (I want a stereo setup sometime soon.) The amp is recorded with a Zoom H4, positioned about six inches from the center of the speaker grill.
These samples are copyright 2013 Richard Hunter/Turtle Hill Productions/ASCAP, and all rights are reserved. Enjoy listening.
A short sample of a funky NOLA rhythm with a juicy RP355 FX25 autowah. Autowah seems to work for harp, period.
A short three-harp piece, all parts played on a Db country-tuned Suzuki Manji. One part, again with multiple pitch shifters and vibrato, is played with the G3, and it traces the notes of an Eb major 6th chord, then the same shape a major 2nd down. (It’s played in 3rd position, which is major on a country-tuned harp.) Another part plays midrange chords and melodies with a much more transparent RP355 sound; finally, a double-octave-down RP355 patch is used with a 12th voicing on the 1-6 draw and blow notes. The sound as a whole is deep, beautiful, and new; in fact, it’s a new sound for any ensemble.
I played the Sandpiper in Pocatello, ID with Brian Maw on New Year’s Eve, and it was a blast. But it was also different from what I expected, like I had 5 minutes to set up instead of 30, so I didn’t get a chance to plug my recording gear in.
As I cynically expected, the gig was a total blast–just the kind of thing you really want to record. Oh well. (You can hear some of the gigs we did manage to record by clicking here to see all the posts about this band.) The band on this night consisted of Brian on guitars and vocals, Eli Preston on Djembe, and me on harmonicas. We were in close quarters on the bandstand, and we made the most of it with lots of attention devoted to each other. The playing was generally inspired–you’ll just have to take my word for it. I put the harp into more roles than I ever had before with this group, like adding an electro bass line to “Force Field,” a recent club hit and one of our covers. The audience was attentive as well, which was great–at one point I changed the rhythm on the harp, and I saw people in the audience change their dancing, moving in time with the harp line. That’s something I haven’t experienced in a while, and it was cool to see.
I am playing harmonica with this band in a different way than I ever have before. I feel completely free to explore anything I can do with the harmonica, the looper, and the Digitech RP355, and I have absolute confidence in the range of sounds at my command. I know I can produce fresh, compelling sounds when I need them, and use them to make the songs we play feel utterly new to our audiences. I feel absolutely unconstrained by traditional harp styles; I can call on them when I need to without being trapped inside the roles that those sounds and styles imply. With the RP355 and my patches, I have amazing colors available to me, and I have a license to use them all.
So there you go. Great New Year’s! And looking forward to a great new year, with more great gigs with Brian Maw and more work on my solo material. Thanks for coming along for the ride, and Happy New Year to you!
Winter Storm Euclid wrecked my plans for a double gig on Dec. 28 in Alta and Jackson, WY. I got out of bed at 2 AM on Dec. 27 to drive to the airport, but alas–my flight was cancelled, and no other way to get from Connecticut to Idaho in a day.
I made it out to Idaho yesterday, Dec. 29, and all systems are go for my New Year’s Eve gig with The Maw Band from 10 PM to 1 AM at the Sandpiper in Pocatello, ID. If you’re not too bummed out from missing me at the Trap Bar and the Tavern Square Bar on Dec. 28, come by and party with us into 2013.