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Rob wrote this to Harp-L - "Now I have a gift to the list,....not a BLUES but my Harmonica version of the Christmas song - Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. I play both Chromatic & Diatonic on it. I'd like to dedicate it to our LATE SPAH President Doug Tate." Click on the link or Right Click here and download the 4MB mp3 file to your computer and play it there.Rob starting writing a column for the NHL magazine Harmonica World in the April/May issue of 2005. Here is his first piece, which makes a nice introduction for anyone who is not familiar with his playing.
I'm very happy and honoured to be asked to write a regular article for your terrific magazine so if I'm going to do this on any type of regular basis, I suppose I should give you some background on myself and my harmonica related capers in America. I was born in Newark, New Jersey USA in 1952 and starting playing harmonica at the age of 14 after hearing John Lennon's early harpwork with The Beatles. I later graduated to more intense Blues after hearing the first Paul Butterfield Blues Band record in 1967. In 1973 I started mixing with Bruce Springsteen on the Jersey Shore and my own band was opening shows for Springsteen, BB King and Sly and the Family Stone.
I was only playing diatonic harp at the time and it wasn't until I graduated with a BA in Sociology in 1975 that I discovered the likes of Toots, Larry Adler and Cham-ber Huang. I was a bit disillusioned playing blues back in the 60s & 70s in the NY area as there wasn't a great Blues Scene. I knew if I was going to continue to advance musically, that I'd have to learn to play the chromatic and the music theory that goes with it.
I took seminars with Mr.Huang and private lessons with Robert Bonfiglio in New York. Cham-ber was doing studio work at the time in NYC and working days at Hohner Inc. in Long Island, NY. By 1979 I was still performing with bands playing guitar, piano, singing and harmonica. But now I was ready to for Session Work.
In the 80s & 90s I did many recording sessions with artists like Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper, Roberta Flack, and Culture Club, as well as TV and Movie Commercials, and Soundtracks & Broadway Shows like Big River, Shenandoah and The Will Rogers Follies. Through all this I always fronted my own band, The Hudson River Rats playing Blues, R&B, Funk and Jazz in the clubs and concerts. At the close of the century the New York session scene had drastically dwindled with the onset of digital music so, like most players, I took to Broadway shows and Touring shows like The Blues Brothers, which brings me to my connection with - as we say here in the South - Y'all.
I had discovered SPAH, the US counterpart of the NHL in 1977 and have been an active member for 28 years. I knew about the NHL, and tried to make email contact with some members when our tour stopped off in London.
This was how I came to meet Roger Trobridge at the concert I did at Shepherds Bush Empire in England when I was on tour with the Original Blues Brothers Band in 2002. I was a bit tired at that show as I had spent all day in London trying to buy a new Black Fedora Hat as mine was lifted out of our dressing room in Switzerland the night before.
Roger had left word at my Hotel that he'd be coming to the show with some members of the NHL and I was now really getting exciting and actually nervous. You see, it's actually easier to play for a few thousand raucous Blues Brothers fans than it is to play harmonica for a small group of 5-10 seasoned players! I knew if I just did my Blues Brothers show where I took on the persona of Jake, they wouldn't get very much harmonica….so without telling the others in the band (only the piano player), I interrupted the show that night and quietly played the jazz classic, Body and Soul, on chromatic, and dedicated it to the great Larry Adler, who had just died, as well as the new NHL Prez, Paul Jones.
The band looked at me kind of strange but the audience really connected and responded well to this heartfelt gesture. I really enjoyed meeting and chatting with the NHL members after the show and was VERY upset that I couldn't make the Paul Jones Saturday Morning radio show on Jazz FM, as they hustled us up to Manchester on the coach in the wee small hours of the morning for the next show! I've always been a big fan of Paul Jones so I hope he'll have me back to do a show in the future.
I guess I should wrap this up by saying a few words about what I've been up to in the harmonica community in New York and hopefully if you all find any of this of interest, I can put together updates and articles on a regular basis to share with the NHL.
In the late 1990s I had taken over teaching of harmonica at The Turtle Bay Music School in NYC and decided to start a local club of "Professional" players as I knew there were many scattered about the East coast. I named it The New York Top Brass Reedsters Club and we convened at the school and subsequently at another member’s loft having meetings to discuss the latest and greatest developments in the field and to talk shop with players who were out there playing on a pro level.
I am looking forward to sharing some of these stories with the magazine and also keeping you up to date with what is happening out here on the East Coast of the USA.
Click here for Rob's own web site - which has more information on his career, recordings and up and coming gigs.
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