Kim Wilson, Little Lou’s BBQ, San Jose CA, 26.Jan 2014 – Part I

FlyerIt’s so sad to be lonesome

If they’re honest, anyone faced with the task of reviewing a Kim Wilson performance will tell you it’s as unnerving as the thought of jamming on stage with the titan himself. What can be written that’s not already chronicled? How do you avoid a fawning litany of superlatives? The answer is.. just tell it like it is. So we will. Hang on to your hats.

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On the first point you can relax. For this commentator at least, the prospect of joining Kim Wilson on stage remains a pipe dream. On the second however, we should begin with some reflections on last year’s Fabulous Thunderbirds performance in London. (more…)

Aki Kumar Interview

Aki, Little Jonny and Johnny CatI ain’t got a nickel and I ain’t got a lousy dime

If you’re a regular at the Surgery, you will recall the Good Doctor’s first meeting with Aki Kumar in 2007 during a Jason Ricci gig in San Francisco’s Biscuit & Blues Club. It was world renowned harp pedagogue, author and music impresario Dave Barrett who had kindly put Aki and the Doc in touch.

Aki KumarSince then Aki has become very good friends with everyone down by the duck pond. So much so that Aki, his good lady and his esteemed guitar partner Little Jonny Lawton came to visit the Surgery in 2013. Everyone had a blast, not least because Dave Ferguson was also staying over. Aki, Jonny and Dave shared a whopping Saturday night gig; on the bill too were Gordon Russell (of Dr.Feelgood fame) and Brighton’s Blues Deluxe.

Well folks he’s back and it’s official. Having mixed it with John Mayall and Kim Wilson in California this month, on Saturday 8.Feb 2014, Aki Kumar will be leading a Little Walter workshop and gracing the stage again with Blues Deluxe at this year’s Harpin’ By The Sea harmonica festival in Brighton & Hove. You’d be crazy to miss it! For those who don’t know Aki already, let us introduce you. It was a summer’s day down at the Surgery…

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Andy Santana, Gary Smith and Aki Kumar, Poor House Bistro, San Jose, Sat 22.Jan 2011

Slow down chariot, come down easy

Listen up people. The Good Doctor recently dropped into San Francisco for the winter sales, jumped the Caltrain to San Jose and bagged him a bargain. Three for the price of one, plus a surprise bonus.

What are we talking about? Only a one night stand with Andy Santana, Aki Kumar and the legendary Gary Smith, that’s what. Oh, and a Sunday morning helping of Dave Earl.

Now we don’t make this stuff up. As Andy Santana’s band took the stage, the San Jose Sharks fans were busy fuelling up for their scrap with the Minnesota Wild. It was t-shirt weather (in January for crying out loud) and the local brew was tasting just right. Time for a winter feast of west coast blues harmonica. (more…)

Tip of the Top – Sonoma Chicken Coop, Campbell CA, Sat 27.Sept 2009

Old School’s Cool

TOTT copyright 2009 David Durkee

During its first months on line, Harp Surgery posted a review of Jason Ricci’s show at Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco. The event was a double leap of faith. Firstly we’d never encountered Jason’s radical playing before and secondly we’d never published a live gig review. Since cutting our teeth on both counts, Mr Ricci has become a firm friend and Harp Surgery has accumulated a small library of gig write-ups.

Readers of the Jason Ricci review may recall we forged another important friendship that night in Frisco. Aki Kumar is an honours graduate of the great Dave Barrett’s Harmonica Masterclass. A skillful musician and a true gentleman, Aki’s in high demand on the SoCal blues circuit both as a guest performer and as front man for his own stellar lineup Tip Of The Top. The Harp Surgery caught up with Aki in San Jose and, bearing in mind recent debate concerning old versus new harping, the experience was somewhat poignant. (more…)

Jason Ricci – Biscuits and Blues, San Francisco 5th Dec 2007

Prelude

Jason RicciDeeply disturbed by my encounter with Barry Manilow outside Tiffany’s this afternoon (literally!), I was in serious need of some rehabilitation. Mercifully the Copacabana was closed for staff training, so Biscuits and Blues it was to be – where, to my good fortune, harmonica wizard Jason Ricci would be weaving his magic. Plenty of good hoodoo was assured.

Actually, I had never heard of Jason before, but he came highly recommended by Dave Barrett (Harmonica Master Class) and I intended to correct my ignorance. Dave couldn’t make the gig, but Aki Kumar, one of his students, was at the bar nursing a beer. We made our acquaintances and Aki initiated my re-education. Jason, he informed me, is originally from Maine, but currently works out of Nashville. His influences include Pat Ramsey and Johnny Winter, while his style includes fast flowing third position patterns, overblows and licks drawn from jazz, rock, samba and swing.

Jason took the stage playing through what looked like a Shure SM57 or Unidyne mic, into a 4×10 tweed 59 Bassman. The sound he created was at times reminiscent of Johnny Mars in full flight. Avant garde in urban blues terms, it is not your classic Chicago crunch, but a synthesised variant. The tone is a challenge at first, in fact it is ‘in your face’, but you quickly acclimatise.

Musically and artistically, Jason is as challenging as his adopted harp tone. He has planted his flag on the ramparts of Fort Radical. His appearance and his persona is that of an edgy Punk. His energy is arresting. His playing is simply astonishing. If I had to credit specific harmonica players and bands for redefining the blues’ boundaries, Blues Traveler, Alabama 3, Little Axe, Lee Sankey, Lee Oskar and Sugar Blue readily come to mind. Jason Ricci vaults them all.

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