Who Needs a Singer? When You Play Harmonica Like Bob Corritore, You Don't
Bob Corritore's new CD Taboo, which was released earlier this year, is unique. Why? The master harp-player's album is all-harmonica. Not a single voice appears anywhere on the album. In place of vocals are the sounds of Corritore's harmonicas.
Corritore has a harmonica style unlike anybody else in the world. That is why he plays all over the world and is rated among the best blues harmonica players in the world.
"Everybody can come up with something that's their own. I use my secret agent stuff on this CD. That's what you do for yourself. In the studio, you take a little more chance because if it's going in the wrong direction you can stop," he says. "The magic of this CD is that it's different than anything else."
Corritore surrounds himself with other great musicians, and while this instrumental CD allows him to focus on the harmonica there are many other great musicians who join him on the CD.
Corritore, who lives in Scottsdale, has made a career of partnering with blues vocalists. He just got back from a Chicago tour where he did several gigs with Dave Riley. So the Taboo CD gave Corritore the chance to put the focus more on his harmonica playing.
"After all the musicians I've worked with, it's great to let the harmonica do the talking. I was inspired to do this CD by Fred Kaplan and Junior Watson, so I started talking to them about it and they were receptive," Corritore says.
So Kaplan and Watson ended up on the CD along with an all-star lineup of musicians.
"I have such respect for those musicians that I wanted to be on my A-game," Corritore says. "I've been a fan and a friend of those artists for years. The theory that I envisioned worked out in practice. It was great fun making this CD. They took my rough concepts and made it work."
When Corritore, who was recently nominated for another Living Blues Award, took the harmonica instrumental proposal to Randy Chortkoff at Delta Groove Records he wasn't sure how Chortkoff would respond. Chortkoff loved the idea and couldn't stop listening to "Taboo" once the CD came out. He's not alone, as Taboo has been ranked fourth on the Living Blues charts and has received strong reviews almost universally.
"I'm blessed to be in a world that accepts me, especially with this CD that goes into uncharted territory," he said.
Kaplan plays piano or organ on nine of the 12 tracks.
"Fred is a genius," Corritore says. "He knows what it takes to make a piano sound good. He just plays along with the song except when he does a solo and then he shines."
Watson plays guitar also on nine of the 12 tracks.
"Junior inspires with his ideas on the guitar. He has a rare gift where he can play humor in one moment and sadness in the next. His inventiveness never stops. I look forward to his solos because I don't know what he's going to come up with, but I know it's going to be good," Corritore says.
Guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, who recently performed in Phoenix, performs on two songs, "Mr. Tate's Advice" and "Shuff Stuff."
"I was thrilled that I was able to hang out with Jimmie and feed off his cool. He seduces you with his guitar. His guitar is groovy, jazzy and down home at the same time," Corritore says. "I'm a fan of Jimmie's and I've followed the progression of his career."
Papa John Defrancesco performs his cool groovy organ on the same two tracks as Vaughan. He plays the B3 organ using his foot to come up with the bass sound.
Doug James on saxophone is on three tracks including the opening number, "Potato Stomp," which lets the listeners know this is upbeat instrumental blues. Some saxophones can just be over the top as they wail without a tune. Not James. He hits it just right as it's tuneful and easy to enjoy. James has played with the iconic Roomful of Blues and Duke Robillard. He also plays with Vaughan.
Kedar Roy, on upright bass and Richard Innes on drums fit right in; they regularly play with Watson and Kaplan. Corritore said these musicians play almost effortlessly and he was afraid he wouldn't be up to the task of meeting their expectations, but once they were in the studio they made it fun.
Brian Fahey, on drums, nailed it on the "Shuff Stuff," which is a Vaughan blues shuffle. Fahey has played with Corritore in the Rhythm Room All-Stars and they have performed together in Sweden a couple times.
"We've been working together for 30 years and he's just solid. He knows how to put the accent on the music, how to follow it and how to complete it," Corritore said.
On this shuffle, Fahey's job was to drive the music back and forth between the instruments.
Taboo's target was a palatable collection of songs to keep the listeners interest and the CD hits that mark.
"In the blues, we are no more or no less than we are. This is my brand of the blues and I leave it to the listeners to judge," he says.
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.