|Adam Gussow discovered the harp during his High School years,
through great records like those of James Cotton or Little Walter. He loves the
instrument, but in these late 70s, if you want to be 'in' musically, fusion jazz and
psychedelic rock are more rewarding than blues. Without dropping the harp completely, Adam
starts playing guitar.
A few years later, while playing a few solo
pieces on the harp during a student rally, a black taxi driver spots him and strikes a
conversation. It's Nat Riddles, an accomplished harp player who drives his New York cab
when the music can no longer feed him. From this encounter a friendship is born, alongside
an unusual master-student relationship that will last until Nat's death a decade later.
Adam gets back into harp playing
serisously and regularly jams with blues and jazz musicians in the small New York clubs.
From Nat he learns a certain groove, a powerful sound, a respect for the old masters. He
also widens his musical universe and listens to a lot of jazz.
Then, in the late 80s, he meets Mr Satan in Harlem. Mr Satan is an old
black guy with the looks of a street prophet, who plays guitar and foot percussions in the
streets of Harlem. Kind of a local celebrity. His voice is powerful, and he accompanies
himself with a particular groove ; he combines the rawness of a preacher with a strong
funky guitar sound, the combination is explosive ! As soon as he hears him, Adam knows
that he's predestined to play with this guy, if only because of their repective names :
Satan and Adam
They build a repertoire together and become one of the most famous
street acts in Harlem and other New York areas where they 'export' themselves. In the end,
thanks to hard PR work by Adam they managed to get a contract for a record release, the
first of three : Harlem Blues.
The record sells well and is followed by two more, Mother
Mojo and Living on the River. In mid-98, Mr Satan is suffering from
heart problems and moves back to his native Virginia to find his health back. It's the end
of Satan & Adam's succesful collaboration, sad news for all those who never managed to
see one of their shows...
||Strange to think that at only 40 and with
probably long years ahead of him Adam could write an autobiography. One could also wonder
at the legitimacy of a blues harp player writing this kind of book. First of all, let's
not forget that at least as important in Adam's life are his studies in Amercian
Literature. Of special interest to him is the the influence of the afro-american community
in general and of the blues in particular on literature throuhout the twentieth century..
to be honest, beyond all these questions, this book is just an excellent gripping read. As
soon as you start reading it, you can't let it go. It's very well written, and the
characters met on Adam's road (especially the old black bluesmen) are all larger
than life (even though...) Don't hesitate ! On top of that in March 2000, it's to be
released in Paperback.
Since then Adam Gussow has picked up his
studies again to try and obtain a PHD in Amercian Literature, and he has narrated his
musical adventures with Mr Satan in a book, Mr Satans Apprentice
released end of 98. He hasn't stopped playing though and has been seen alongside Bill
Perry, and a few other New York blues greats. He regularly plays in duo with guitarist
Charlie Hilbert. He also teaches two regular blues associated classes : Monday nights in
the New Scool, a course called " Juke Joint Witness : The Blues Tradition
in American Literature " and tuesday nights at the Guitar Study Center an
Introduction to Blues Harmonica.