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Music » Sound Stories & Interviews

Blues in Hand

Mark Hummel brings the Mississippi sax to Bend, and he's got friends

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First and foremost, the Blues Harmonica Blowout tour—which has featured a rotating lineup since 1991—has legend Mark Hummel at the helm.

Not familiar with him?

Come out from under that rock.

In the harmonica world—a place entrenched in weathered tradition—Hummel is what some might consider an ambassador between the tried and true history of blues and the science of modern musical composition. He is an avant-garde virtuoso spanning the short but noticeable distance between the old leathery versions of the genre, as well as flamboyant jump blues. But don't be fooled by his flashy performances; just as much spit and grit goes into polishing up his music as anything rooted in the southern sounds of yesterday.

And to prove that, he put together this rotating group of artists—that has included Huey Lewis and Charlie Musselwhite—over 20 years ago as a vehicle for pushing his love of traditional blues.

"The tribute idea is meant to remind and educate audiences of where [blues] comes from," said Hummel in an interview with the Source. "Everyone knows Clapton and Zeppelin, but how many know their idols like Little Walter, Jimmy Reed and Sonny Boy? It's become a forgotten art form, so I'm here to remind them!"

That tribute led to the album, Remembering Little Walter, which has been nominated for a Grammy. It's a slow burning album with front-porch jams and soggy laments, preserving an outstanding live performance and one of Hummel's most memorable iterations of the blues brigade.

This year's tour finds Hummel joined by the same tier of authentic legendary musicians punctuated by the presence of 80-year-old British guitarist John Mayall; a ticket draw all by himself to any aficionado with a pulse. As Hummel puts it, the focus may be on the harmonica, but the music will benefit from one of the baddest blues bands out there.

Blues Harmonica Blowout

7:30 pm. Saturday, Jan. 18

Tower Theatre

835 NW Wall St.

Tickets $30-$45 at www.towertheatre.org

About The Author

Ethan Maffey

Both a writer and a fan of vinyl records since age 5, it wasn't until nearly three decades later that Oregon Native Ethan Maffey derived a plan to marry the two passions by writing about music. From blogging on MySpace in 2007 and then Blogspot, to launching his own website, 83Music, and eventually freelancing...

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