Through completely crazy serendipity, I was fortunate to be invited to celebrate harmonica legend Sugar Blue’s birthday with his family and friends at a concert at Rosa’s in Chicago earlier this month, where I took these photos. The Grammy-winning Sugar Blue (James Whiting), whose distinctive harp riff and solos can be heard on The Rolling Stone tracks Some Girls, Miss You and Send It To Me , has played and recorded with a number of other musicians, including Willie Dixon, The Rolling Stones, Stan Getz, Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan. He has four of his own CD releases as well, which can be previewed here. And he will be releasing a brand new album some time soon this year.
At first glance, it appears that Sugar Blue is wearing a bandolier when he takes the stage, as if he is preparing to storm The Alamo. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that his the bandolier criss-crossing his chest holds every conceivable harmonica style and type known to man. I can’t think of many guitarists who can achieve anywhere near the same dazzlingly fluid arpeggios and note-bends that Sugar Blue pulls off like second nature. He makes it sound as if he is giving voice to some magical being hidden inside his harp reeds, one that transcends language altogether and speaks more eloquently through raw emotion.
If you haven’t been to Rosa’s Lounge before, it’s a great blues club with a friendly staff, a warm radiator bench to sit on by the door and its walls lined in photographic history of all who have performed there. Sugar Blue’s upcoming touring schedule.
Happy Birthday to Blue!!
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