The FABULOUS
SHARP HARP

a "HISTORICAL" album

The Sharp Harp originated from the Big Harp Harmonica Club in San Jose, California, when a few members of the club decided they would like more playing sessions than the club's monthly meetings afforded. The weekly Sharp Harp sessions were so enjoyable they often lasted all night, and eight very tired, but happy, harmonica players went directly from the session to their workplaces.
The fabulous harmonica ensemble known as the Sharp Harp was comprised of eight professional musicians who put aside their competitiveness and gathered weekly throughout the 1970s for the sheer pleasure of creating and enjoying the type of lush sounds presented in this recording. Each member of the Sharp Harp was a master harmonica player and an accomplished arranger. Consequently, the Sharp Harp music library expanded weekly with exciting new musical arrangements. While the group's preference leaned toward swing and light jazz, they also enjoyed playing classical and light rock, e.g. Ravel's "Bolero" and the overture from the rock opera, "Tommy."

CHUCK FENDALL:
Because of his ability with the intervals Chuck was invaluable as a Polyphonia harmonica player, but he was a formidable jazz chromatic harmonica player as well. He was very quiet and mild mannered but commanded unsolicited respect from the others. Utilizing an uncanny ability to re-create musical scores simply by listening to historical recordings of harmonica ensembles, Chuck provided the Sharp Harp with an extensive music library.

RAY TANKERSLEY:
The ideal lead player for the Sharp Harp, Ray's dynamics and phrasing made him one of the finest lead players ever to grace the chromatic harmonica. He was adept on all harmonicas and excelled in playing the full range of polyphonias. Ray appeared in two movies with the Borrah Minevitch Harmonica Rascals.
In "Always In My Heart," he played bass harmonica and in "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp" he played chord rhythms on a handful of harmonicas.

TOM STRYKER:
Tom was originally a harmonica student of Bob Berthiaume and Ray Tankersley, but he has developed his own chromatic style which leans heavily toward jazz. During the 1970s Tom was a member of the Harmonica Express and also toured with the Johnny Puleo Harmonica Gang. In 2005 Tom was elected president of SPAH, the Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica and is currently establishing himself internationally as a jazz harmonicist.

PETE BLASBERG:
An outstanding jazz harmonica player, Pete was raised in an orphanage where he learned to play the chromatic harmonica. He spent his early professional years with Carl Freed's Harmonica Lads which later became known as Senor Carlos and his Caballeros. Recently, Pete was a featured guest performer at the California Jazz Harmonica Festival.

JIMMY KREUSER:
An incredible chromatic player. Jimmy's technical ability on a chromatic harmonica is astounding. He is the type of player that can sight read Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto with ease and expression. He began playing harmonicas at age thirteen as a student of Ray Tankersley and Bob Berthiaume. But Jimmy's musical genius would have emerged on any instrument.

BOB BERTHIAUME:
Bob was a former member of the Borrah Minevitch Harmonica Rascals. Equally at ease on various harmonicas, he was an invaluable member of the Sharp Harp. In 1972, when he was commissioned to write an original score for the San Jose Ballet Company in California, he composed "The Winchester Ballet" and performed the music for the entire ballet on a variety of harmonicas in a multiple recording--a Herculean task.

ED MARSHALL:
The bass player for the Sharp Harp, Ed was a well trained musician and graduated with honors from Berkeley University in California where he later taught jazz and band arranging. Ray Tankersley and Bob Berthiaume were students in Ed's music theory classes and had many stories about how tough Ed was. To write a big band arrangement, Ed needed only a pencil and manuscript paper. He always wrote directly from his imagination.

AL SMITH:
An accomplished chord harmonica player and music arranger, Al has written more than thirty books of harmonica instructions and ensemble arrangements. He spent his early years with the Borrah Minevitch Harmonica Rascals followed by fifteen years with the Harmonica Express quartet.
He currenly performs with his wife, Judy, as the Harmonica Hotshots. Together they have worked on Holland America cruise ships and the Delta Queen riverboats and conducted harmonica ensemble reading sessions at the annual SPAH conventions.

Two of the tunes on this CD contain the voice of Leon "Cappy" LaFell, vocalist and renowned Polyphonia harmonica player of the original Cappy Barra Harmonica Ensemble.
When Cappy heard these Sharp Harp recordings, he wanted to become an honorary member of the Sharp Harp and add his vocal to "Solitude" and "Stardust" like he sang them on the original recordings.

While on a business trip to Hollywood, California, Tom Stryker met Joe Mullendore, one of the original members and music arrangers of the famed Cappy Barry Harmonica Ensemble of the 1930s. At the time, Joe was working as a film score writer. He had not written or played harmonica ensemble arrangements for many years, but after many phone calls and trips to Hollywood, Tom cajoled him into writing enough tunes for the Sharp Harp to record an album. Joe not only wrote superb arrangements for the Sharp Harp but also included several original compositions. With incredible ease, he wrote lush harmonies and key changes with modulations so smooth the ear could barely detect the key change.

The album was recorded but for various reasons was never produced. Sadly, no such group of professional and dedicated players exists today to carry on the Harmonica Ensemble tradition in America. Fortunately Tom Stryker, who retained the original recordings, has restored and re-mastered all tracks using modern technology to preserve the sound for posterity. This is a unique opportunity to revisit the lush sounds of an all-harmonica ensemble.

The Fabulous Sharp Harp
Copyright-Sharp Harp (705105934167)
Record Label: Sharp Harp


1. Inamorata 1:51
2. I'll See You In My Dreams 2:13
3. Our Own Cloud Nine 2:54
4. Sophisticated Lady 2:13
5. A Foggy Day 3:21
6. Tempo-Airy 4:36
7. Ballad 3:24
8. Have You Met Miss Jones 2:09
9. One Nighter 1:59
10. Solitude 3:14
11. Stardust 2:59
12. Overture From Tommy 2:13
13. Bolero 4:02

Buy CD - $15.00 from CD BABY
Or directly from Al Smith:
2398 Southern Road
Richfield
Ohio, 44286-9520
U. S. of America
Phone/Fax: ++1-(0)330-6596458

 

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