Greg is most decidely in the generation of diatonic players who are
extending the possibilities of the instrument. Howards comment was, "This
guys got ideas." What I most appreciated was the range of his musical
tastes: from funk to fusion to pop then right on through the blues vocabulary . . .
its all there.
I also, being a recording studio owner and producer, appreciated the
quality of the recording. The drums sounded great. The harmonica was mixed right where I
would want it if it were my own recording. The vocals and guitar and keys were also
blended in a very appropriate way. Id say that the horns (when they appeared) were a
little less distinct, but that was far preferable to their competing with the
aforementioned parts. Great job all around!
Pour Le Meilleur-(Greg Szlap)
Ben is going to have to translate from the French here, but the tune
itself needed no translation at all. It is an instrumental that grabs both the listener
and the audience from the first note. I guess I would call the style "Fusion
Funk" if I had to characterize it. I just love this kind of approach to the harmonica
and Greg nails it. His tone, lightly colored by distortion, is reminiscent of Lee Oscar or
Milteau. I can clearly hear the Milteau influence on his tone. Carlos del Junco hipped me
to Milteaus Explorer back in 1991, and I can see how an entire generation of
European players would want to pick up on his luscious sound.
I just love how great the drums sound, and how great Greg sounds blowing
lines with the horn section. Gregs solo is in cross-harp, with some sort of delay.
Hes obviously listened to the Lee Oscar songbook, then later punctuates his point
with a lot rougher tougher and distorted playing that works very well.
The guitarist (Jeremie Tepper) takes over midway through the tune and
gives it a decided rock-fusion edge to which the audience is very receptive. Greg and the
band then come back in to blow the head and take it out. Very strong effort. I especially
like that its not just an exercise to blow the harp, but a very hip and clever tune.
Do What You Do-(Greg Szlap)
Greg starts the next tune as the applause dies down and utterly changes
the mood by tongue-blocking some Sonny-Boy-type lines. The sound is amplified acoustic and
again mixed great with great "tremolo" on the opening tongue-blocked chords.
(According to Joe Filisko, "tremolo" differs from "vibrato" in that
there is no bending of the notes-and Greg handles it very well).
The thing that I like about this tune is that Greg takes a basic blues
shuffle "feel" and mixes it with elements of classic pop tunes; extended melodic
lines through the verses, with a distinct and well-written bridge. His vocals are very
solid, but with a real nice vocal "tone" which is often missing when modern
players try to sing the blues.
I couldnt help suppress a smile hearing Gregs obvious strong
"feel" for the American blues (southern) vocal idiom as I live right here in
North Carolina. It reminds me of a guy I met a couple of years ago at the Augusta Festival
in West Virginia named Dominic Turner. Dominic was a slide player from Australia. Dominic
had the whole Delta blues thing down . . . slide, voice, you-name-it. One day I asked him
how he got so obsessed with this obscure little folk style from so far away in the
American Deep South. He took a swig on his beer, then replied with a wry, sly little grin,
"Ya gotta understand mate, Ahm from way deep down in South Australia."
So, I guess that Greg must be from way deep down in South
Niech Poplyna Lzy-(Greg Szlap)
Mood change again, this time to a minor key. The song is sung in what I
assume is Polish, so I cant tell you much what its about. Musically, he again
shows a nice feel in how to construct a tune. I like how the horns work here with him.
Theres a lot more space in this piece, so the horns blend in very well with the rest
of the band. I would have liked to have heard him approach this tune from another
direction than the cross-harp minor that he chose, but he again obviously knows what he is
doing and plays through the changes melodically, powerfully, and beautifully.
This one starts out with a cool guitar/hi-hat reggae feel (which I of
course love to hear). He then works through an utterly cool little musical interlude.
Howard tells me that the line he plays is based on the whole-tone scale (thanks for the
heads-up there Mr. Levy). He then resolves it with a more traditional rock-styled section
in which he moves up a half-step. Then, it's back to the whole tone reggae-jazz parts. He
plays it in the amplified acoustic style and its just way-cool. He of course uses
all the modern diatonic bends and overblows to pull this off.
The keyboard player (Marine Bercot) gets a chance to be featured after
this and takes a very satisfying ride through all the appropriate idioms associated with
this musical territory.
The guitar plays it very cool throughout, which is a nice change from his
huge rock/fusion tone of the preceding pieces, and handles it very well. The drums (Marc
Grelier) and bass (Sophie Bourdon) work the reggae-jazz groove very tastefully and keep
the whole thing "sounding" just right. I like it!!!
Hookie Boogie-(J.J. Milteau)
Greg then gets the crowd clapping (and no doubt dancing) with a
cajun-inflected blues instrumental piece from his mentor Mr. Milteau which resolves into
cool jazz-inflected, behind the beat shuffle. The joint mustve been a-jumpin
as Mr. Milteau joined Greg up on stage. I cant tell you for sure who played what,
but the whole piece was very solid and obviously very inspirational for all involved.
Id say that Greg played the first-position-y high notes as he has that sound on some
of the other pieces. They resolve their solos with a tongue-blocked line right out of the
Sonny-Boy lickbook that no doubt sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Who Do You Love (E. McDaniels)
Greg is again joined by Mr. Milteau on this classic shuffle. Gregs
vocal is again confident and authentic (in a Euro-sort of way). Im gonna guess that
Mr. Milteau starts things off with a low-F, then Greg comes in after with the high-F harp.
Its pretty cool stuff and the crowd obviously likes it. Sounds like a good time was
had by all-which is the whole point of this type of tune-isnt it???
Back to Greg-land. This tune sounds like it could have been written and
performed in 1958 (in the Kind of Blue mode). I like how Greg confidently constructs an
appropriate melody, and plays it well; again handling the bends and overblows very
comfortably. Ive always felt that the harmonica has a great affinity for
trumpet-sounding pieces, and this is what Greg achieves here. The band again handles the
foray into this territory very solidly with another nice keyboard part featured. I
especially liked the very tasty and tempered guitar work.
The Blues Will Never Leave You-(Greg Szlap)
The guitarist switches axes here to his acoustic, and Greg plays a real
tasty acoustic blues intro. They blend vocals really nicely, which makes me think that
theyve "done" this duo-thing before. The tune is again written nicely with
some well-written little melodic extensions, which Greg plays through consciously knowing
when certain notes are called for to compliment the chord changes. Neat stuff. The rest of
the band then joins in (very tastefully), and it all works great.
Fifi a Donf-(O. Ker Curio)
Greg is then joined by chromatic player Oliver Ker Curio on one of the
chro-mans tunes. Its a minor-keyed swinging instrumental excursion into all
the cool places that youd want to hear the chromatic go through. I especially liked
the turn-arounds and the dual chromatic and diatonic line-playing. Greg follows with a
lovely melodic turn on the diatonic showing his varied and very confident third-position
chops (again working the bends and overblows to full advantage).
Cant Live Without-(Greg Szlap)
The guitarist again pulls out the acoustic to launch into a classic Van
Morrison-sounding tune; which of course is one of my favorite places to go. The only thing
missing is the women singing backups. The piano and guitar interaction during the verses
is very subtle and very very effective. It sounds like Greg starts out his solo with a
low-D harp, then switches to the regular version, which sounds way cool of course.
Jolie Cosette-(Greg Szlap)
This tune sounds like a first position cajun romp; lots of trills and chords to affect
a zydeco. He pulls it off just fine. The guitarists choice to use a
distortion-colored tone here is not what "I" would have chosen and I felt like
it detracted from the vibe that the harmonica established, but each to his own in matters
such as these.
Greg Szlapczynski is an important voice in the emerging voice of the
diatonic. He has done his homework and studied the blues masters and has confidently and
reverently incorporated many aspects of that technique. He has also obviously listened to
Milteau and Levy (and Carlos del Junco?) and Lee Oscar and Weather Report and Van Morrison
and Miles Davis as well. I love that he has a broad musical palette that he draws from,
and has the technique to pull it off. Any harmonica player would want to hear what he is
doing; but harmonica or not, this is just plain good music.