Exclusive Interview with Jason Rosenblatt
How did you discover the bluesharp ?
~ My father used to play harmonica. I found my first harmonica, a Marine Band in the key of A, while looking through his desk drawer for a pen. I pulled it out and almost immediately began coaxing out "Oh Susanna!" It was through my parents and their record collection that I discovered the music of Sonny Terry and Paul Butterfield. I consider those two players to be my first "teachers."
If everything would be possible (waking the dead included) , which bluesharp player would you invite for a jam session?
~ I would love to meet Paul Butterfield. He was one of the first players to turn me on to playing amplified. He had a great sound and voice and of course a top notch band.
What is your favorite bluesharp brand / type and tell us why?
~ I use Seydel 1847 Silver or Noble harmonicas. They play wonderfully out of box. They have a really smooth tone and for an airtight harmonica are not too trebly and shrill. Most importantly, it's been my experience that they maintain their tuning longer than any other harp on the market. This is quite important when you're using extended techniques to play chromatically on a single diatonic harmonica. I have one particular Seydel 1847 Silver that I've been playing for 7 years. I've had to tune a couple of reeds, but it still plays quite well.
What are the most important tips you can give to someone who wants to learn to play the bluesharp?
~ The harmonica is an instrument like any other. It takes time, patience and hard work to be able to play proficiently. Just because it is a small instrument, does not mean that it's going to be any easier to play than the piano or guitar.
Tongue blocking or lip pursing, what do you prefer and tell us why.
~ I mostly lip purse (aka pucker). Puckering, was the first method I naturally gravitated towards and I have stuck to it. It seems to work best for playing sing note runs and when overblowing/overdrawing etc. I do tongue block when I need to play intervals or chords and rhythm harmonica.
How do you clean your harps?
~ I try to minimize the amount of cleaning needed, by making sure to brush my teeth and rinse my mouth before I play. (That's actually the first tip I give to beginners) When cleaning is required, I open up the harmonica and take its components apart. I gently brush the reed plates using a soft toothbrush moistened with water or alcohol. The advantage of the Seydel Silver is that one can wash both the combs and reed plates with warm water and dish soap. You can also do this with the custom Corian combs. I would not recommend doing this with wooden combs though. With wooden combs I remove any debris with a small screwdriver and compressed air.
What is the question interviewers never seem to ask you and...you wish they would? (Please provide your answer as well.)
~ Well, there's no question in particular that I can think of that I would really liked to be asked. I am often frustrated, however, when interviewers label me as a "klezmer harmonica player." Yes, I enjoy playing Eastern-European Jewish music and I've studied the repertoire and style for many years. But I have performed, recorded and continue to enjoy playing a number of different styles from blues and jazz to Klezmer and Turkish. I even have a decent Celtic and Quebecois repertoire.
Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ I like any studio that has a good collection of vintage amps and keyboard instruments. I play the keys on my recordings, so I generally require a studio to have a quality grand piano, hammond B3 and Fender Rhodes.
Are you still nervous before going on stage and if so, do you use any "rituals" to calm you nerves?
~ My level of nervousness really depends upon the situation. If I'm playing in a concert scenario and it's MY show, whether it be in a theatre, jazz club or rock venue, regardless of how many people are in the house, I'm generally fine. I know I've prepared and I'm playing music with which I'm comfortable. I try to have fun on stage and test myself and my musicians and hopefully entertain those who have paid money to enjoy a concert.
What was the most memorable day in your musical career?
~ I would say the most memorable concert experience I've had was performing at the 2003 Jewish Culture Festival in Crakow, Poland. It was the first really big outdoor festival that I'd ever played. We performed in front of roughly 20,000 concertgoers and the show was televised live throughout Poland. I would say playing at that festival marked the beginning of my musical career.
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Answers given on April 11, 2016
Photo's by Jacob Aspler