Local blues harmonica player -- and Rhythm Room owner -- Bob Corritore could not have picked a better title for his latest release. That Taboo is an all-instrumental album is rare enough these days in the blues world, but one fronted by a harp blower makes the outing even rarer still.
"The bold thing about it is that an album of all harmonica instrumentals has rarely been done," Corritore says from his Phoenix club "It's kind of a statement about harmonica, as well as a statement about instrumentals."
The album is also a statement to Corritore's ability to craft a dangerous idea into a package of 12 tunes that flow smoothly over a blend of styles. Corritore covers the blues spectrum, tackling jump blues, traditional Chicago shakedowns, sultry after hours ballads and dance floor party numbers in a manner that's compelling enough that lyrics -- or the lack thereof -- becomes an after thought.
"There's a craft, an art to all that [instrumental] stuff. I've always enjoyed that stuff," he says. "When I set out to do this record I wanted to make a record of some really catchy tunes that capture various blues grooves in a program that felt interesting to listen too."
Backing Corritore on record, and at his upcoming CD release party at the Musical Instrument Museum on Saturday, November 29, will be guitarist Junior Watson, keyboardist Fred Kaplan, bassist Richard Innes and drummer Kedar Roy. Corritore simply calls them "monster players."
Up on the Sun caught up with Corritore shortly before flying off to Europe for a quick festival tour. He discussed the ideas behind his new album, the history of instrumental albums and his Musical Instrument Museum release party.
Up on the Sun: I listened to Taboo, your new album. It's all instrumental, which is uncommon these days. Why take this route?
The bold thing about it is that an album of all harmonica instrumentals has rarely been done. It's kind of a statement about harmonica, as well as a statement about instrumentals. The art of the blues and rhythm and blues instrumentals is a long standing ones, the great Hammond B-3 (organ) records, saxophone records and of course Little Walter's instrumentals, Freddy King's instrumentals -- all of those are pretty fantastic. There's a craft, an art to all that stuff. I've always enjoyed that stuff. When I set out to do this record I wanted to make a record of some really catchy tunes that capture various blues grooves in a program that felt interesting to listen too. I put this really amazing lineup together--a group out of California that served as the core band of this record. All those guys are monster players and are the West Coast best. They'll appear with me at the CD release party. I set myself with this assignment and did two sessions with that band and one session with Jimmie Vaughan.
Those are choice players to get behind you.
I went to woodshed and rehearse some things I thought would be interesting as instrumentals. When you're leading an instrumental you get to control the conversation, but at the same time, it is a conversation. That band was really in on the conversation. They found the fine points of the grooves and challenged the ideas I had into their own adaptations. It was very exciting. I was going, "Wow!" They worked hard to take my ideas and turn them into noble instrumentals. It validated my ideas.
You said it's bold to make an instrumental album, and I know some of the blues albums you referenced. Yet, these days the blues seems to be struggling for an audience. Am I right then in thinking that you're not so worried about the commercial success of the album but that it's really more for the love of the music that you made it?
I did this because it was a love of what I wanted to do. I've been blessed with a fantastic label, Delta Groove, who can really get a release out there and heard by a lot of people. If you go to my website, you can see reviews from around the world. Many have given it four or five stars, and that's very gratifying. But when you're dealing with the blues, you're dealing with a niche audience. People who love blues, then you're preaching to the choir. People who love harmonica, it's the same thing. People that are hungry for this, there's a market all over the world. As far as blues, I think blues are doing just fine. It's never been a mainstream thing; it's always been an underground thing. But within that underground, it's unlike any other type of music. There's a huge underground infrastructure for this music. It's pretty fascinating. ... Blues is a type of music that's embraced by all. It gets into the blood and you're a blues person.
The album came out April 15, but here it is almost six months later and you're just having your release party now?
Yes. This is a special meeting where we get to bring that band in. It was the first opportunity to bring that band into town. We could have had a release party, but not with those key players. These guys are the sharpshooters of the blues, which is why it makes it so special.
Why at MIM and not your place, the Rhythm Room?
MIM is a really fantastic listening room. If you want to get a good rowdy party going, the Rhythm Room is your place. This is a little more of a listening release. There are a number of really mellow songs that might not be Saturday night appropriate. This is an album that can be a little headier than that. And MIM is a spectacular venue; it's an ideal place for this music.
So we'll get the whole album and then some older material as well?
The focus will be to hit a main number of selections from the record. It will be nice to play with the guys who recorded them. When we did those songs they were kind of spontaneous moments in time. I had to go back and relearn them. I imagine there's going to be a lot of improvisation. You'll hear the songs, but then they'll be extended to wherever the next step would be.
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