I met Jon Paris, the guitarist who played for years with Johnny Winter, at SPAH, where he invited me to come sit in with him at BB King’s in NYC,…

I met Jon Paris, the guitarist who played for years with Johnny Winter, at SPAH, where he invited me to come sit in with him at BB King’s in NYC, where he plays Lucille’s Grill every Monday night.  Last night I went to sit in with him for the first time.

The band consisted of Paris on guitar and vocals, Amy Madden on bass and backup vocals, and a drummer whose name I didn’t get.  The band was loud in a good way.  Paris brought a lot to the party–a wide range of guitar sounds and moods, played with plenty of fire.   I was surprised to hear his slide guitar work, which was very original and well played.  I guess I shouldn’t have been; I suppose you don’t play alongside Johnny Winter for years without learning something about how to play slide guitar. 

I had brought about twenty pounds of gear with me, including a set of 18 diatonic harps, a chromatic, an Audix Fireball mic, and a Digitech RP200 programmed for the mic.  In the event, I ended up using the chromatic on one piece, and the RP200 not at all.  In other words, I had to make the harp work without all my favorite bells and whistles.  It was a bit of a challenge–it’s not easy to make an acoustic harp sound seem like the right thing for a loud blues band–but it came together.  The biggest problem was the chromatic, which I just couldn’t get to sound beefy enough.  The diatonics cut through pretty well.  The Fireball is a good mic to go with when you’re playing straight through the PA–it just cuts very very well, and feedback is not an issue.

Paris was pleased with what he heard, and I’ll be going back sometime to sit in again.  In the meantime, I will work some more on my speed.  I’m very aware lately of how much guitar players play compared to harp players.  I’ve got to close that gap somehow.

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