Mississippi Sax??? Who can do it????

The lowdown on the Mississippi Sax. Just for Google, this section is about harmonicas.

Mississippi Sax??? Who can do it????

Postby santo » Wed Oct 31, 2007 7:03 pm

Here's the observation. I've heard the harp called Mississippi Saxaphone forever, but until last Saturday, I've never heard on get the low tones of a sax. On an Austin City limits show, 3 harp players of note payed tribute to Jimmy Reed. Kim Wilson, James Cotton and Delbert McLinton. James Cotton got the effect that sounded very much like and sax. I think his hands had a lot to do with it, as he is very activewith them. Can anyone else get these lowdown tones?
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Postby santo » Tue Nov 06, 2007 4:27 pm

Ahhhhh Silence is golden!!!! Have you ever been jamming so hard and everything is hitting on the beat and then left that hone for for a full count. That sound or lack of it is deafening. You could drive a truck through it.
It looks like I'll have to work harder on getting the rich sax tones from my harps and put together a nice rig to fill the bill. I''ve got a couple of mics and experimenting with some more. The practice amp I use is on borrowed time and some effects are in the works.
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Postby dcblues » Tue Nov 06, 2007 5:40 pm

Dennis Gruenling's sound is very sax-inspired. Check him out some time.

Pierre Beauregard played with a horn section (or maybe it was just him and one horn) with Powerhouse. Sometimes he sounds more like a horn than a harp.
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Re: Mississippi Sax??? Who can do it????

Postby Reverend Mojo » Fri Jan 11, 2008 1:20 pm

OK, so I'm digging up an old thread, but might it have been a baritone harp? I saw Watermelon Slim play a while back and he said that's what he was playing, and made reference to Sonny Boy Williamson (don't know which one) playing one occasionally, too.
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Re: Mississippi Sax??? Who can do it????

Postby jeffl » Fri Jan 11, 2008 3:17 pm

Rev: I'm really not sure which tune you're referring to, but occasionally you will hear guys using "low octave" and even bass harmonicas. Walter Tore occasionally will work a tune on the lower end, and it's quite effective, especially if you do some "chugging" down there. Tony "Little Son" Glover uses a low register harp on his version of "Don't Let Your Right Hand Know". It takes alotta air to play down there, but it's good for ya',lol! The rest of what you're hearing regarding tone is probably a product of the use of the tone cavities we all use when we play. Your tone is molded inside of your body as well as at your embrochure. Just as people have remarkably different vocal tones when they sing, they'll produce different tones when they play harp, depending on the shape and size inside their mouth, their sinuses,nose, lungs,throat and larynx. Much of the art of playing harp is built on breath control. From that standpoint, a simple google on "breath control" brings up alotta articles on utilizing your lungs' support systems--some articles have diagrams showing the different tone cavities and demonstrating proper use of the diaphragm, etc. All of these things are controllable, and usable in attaining the tone you're seeking.
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Re: Mississippi Sax??? Who can do it????

Postby allanlummox » Fri Jan 11, 2008 5:24 pm

Whenever anyone says "Mississippi Saxophone", the first person I think of is Charlie Sayles - who I saw playing on the street and later touring up and down the east coast in the Eighties.

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Re: Mississippi Sax??? Who can do it????

Postby dcblues » Fri Jan 11, 2008 5:40 pm

Charlie's one of my favorite local players. He's an amazing player with a style all his own (although he can play all of the classic/traditional blues harp stuff).

His sometime partner, singer/guitarist Memphis Gold was recently hospitalized due to a serious injury, but apparently he is stable and getting better.
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Re: Mississippi Sax??? Who can do it????

Postby barbequebob » Fri Jan 11, 2008 6:01 pm

Mississippi Sax was pretty much always another name for harmonica, and it really became more true when players in the late 40's began to amplify them and began playing them with a much more sax-like approach, be it guys like Rhythm Willie or Little Walter, and a main reason for them to play it this way was often because they couldn't afford a sax, and so harmonica pretty much evolved into it. If you begin to listen to Jump/Swing sax players from Louis Jordan, Willis Gator Tail Jackson, Bullmose Jackson, for starters, you can really hear it.

Some of the low stuff may be played on things like a Low C 364/365 Marine Band, the low octave of a 4 octave chromatic, or maybe things like diatonics tuned to Low Eb or Low F.

The sax approach depends somewhat on the amp, but mainly the approach, with both the hands and breath control, and learning how to think like a sax player. The best way to learn this is to stop listening to only harp players, which harp players are notoriously guilty of, and listen to sax players, then experiment and apply what you hear, and this is basically what all of the greats since the late 40's have been doing.
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Re: Mississippi Sax??? Who can do it????

Postby allanlummox » Fri Jan 11, 2008 8:26 pm

DC, I knew you'd know Charlie's music.

On the street, he'd play through a Pignose - with another harmonica player playing chords and riffs in straight harp, while Charlie pushed a broken piece of Cymbal around on the concrete with his foot. Every once in a while, he'd hand the mic to his accompanist, and Charlie'd play rhythm while his partner got to solo. I'd never heard anything like it.

I heard him play on South Street with several different harp players several times over the years before he ever came to town with a band. To tell the truth, he's one of the live performers that really fueled and created my love for Blues - probably more than Muddy Waters or any of the cats I was listening to on recordings. I heard him duking it out on the street - for real - and that was pretty much the coolest thing I'd ever heard in my whole life.
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Re: Mississippi Sax??? Who can do it????

Postby dcblues » Fri Jan 11, 2008 8:42 pm

I've never heard Charlie on the street, but I've seen him at clubs and festivals many times. He had Larry Wise on second harp on his (first?) cd Night Ain't Right. That album also has a great local musician, Robert Polanac (aka Robert Lighthouse) on guitar. I've seen Charlie play with a band that had two harps, bass and drums (no guitar!)

I have a cousin who went to grad school in DC and one of her classmates was Charlie's ex-wife (who also played bass in his band). Small world.
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Re: Mississippi Sax??? Who can do it????

Postby mike932 » Tue Jan 15, 2008 5:07 am

I went to a Jason Ricci concert a couple of weeks ago, he made the harp sound like a couple of saxophones playing at one time. On his website he explains his setup . If anybody gets a chance to attend one of his gigs I highly recommend it. I met him a couple of years ago, great guy, during a break at this last concert he came over and talked to me and Autographed a CD.
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