I recently had the honor to perform with some truly talented musicians recently, at the August Heritage Festival (link at bottom). Daryl Davis, Saffire (the Uppity Blues Women), and Fiona Boyes were kind enough to share their stage with us at the Blues Week concerts, and gave us more energy and fun than we knew what to do with. Who's "we"? Dan Rosenthal (formerly of Pittsburgh, now of Tampa Bay) was kind enough to take a week out of his life to be my "lovely and talented". In addition to helping me teach the classes, he also made performances possible, for which I am completely grateful. In addition to the rockin' tunes by the aforementioned super-talented musicians, we also requested a slow tune, and Joe Filisko (links at bottom) stepped up to the plate. We ran into Joe the day before the show, and he asked how slow we wanted: 60ish bpm would be great. He told us that, after seeing us over the course of the week, he had just the perfect song.
The evening of the performance, Joe's first song was a fox-chase/train song combo. I couldn't see how the audience took it, but the pros backstage were leaning out of their seats, shaking their heads: impressed. Then Joe said something like, "for this next song, I'm stretching way out of my comfort zone; I've never done anything quite like this. That last song was easy," leaving the audience to chuckle, bewildered. From backstage, we heard Joe start a snap, or perhaps it was his foot on the stage. Then Joe played the most ghostly, hauntingly sweet and eerie tune I have ever had the honor of dancing to. Ranking right up there with Nina Simone's "Tell Me More and More and Then Some" (link at bottom), Joe's quiet, husky voice and the sweet, strange lyrics told a story of love, while the harmonica painted dark harmonies and juxtoposed intimacy with longing and loneliness. The name of the song, I have found, is "Need by Baby," by Big Walter Horton, and it normally sounds nothing like the way Joe did it that night. Making our way onstage, knowing that Joe was pushing himself artistically to create something with us, wrapping ourselves in character and dancing as the song itself... that will forever be one of my favorite memories of all time. Was our performance flawless? I don't remember, nor do I care. Dan's dancing was the best I've ever felt it. We had already decided to put in some things that were purely for the audience- some blues flash, and some a few bits of tango flash (if they fit, which they did). My feelings on that? Simple- we wanted to use any tools we had to move the audience: to create a visual for whatever it was that Joe was going to play. We wanted to show a room full of musicians what we as dancers feel and hear. It dawned on me, at some point during the song, that the audience was deathly quiet, in contrast to the rowdy cheers and hoots with previous performances. There wasn't any time to question it, but if I had, my answer would have been provided when the song ended. Joe finished his last note, and I get chillbumps remembering the instant transition from pin-drop silence to deafening explosion. I don't think I've ever been as proud and honored as I was that night. I cannot explain how absolutely grateful I am to Dan and Joe for giving me a chance to do what I love, and a shot at making art.
Joe Filisko's Homepage
Joe Performing at the National Harmonica League
Nina Simone's "Tell Me More and More and Then Some"
A typical performance of "Need My Baby"
Augusta Heritage Festival
Saffire: The Uppity Blues Women
Pps: If I get access to the video, and permission to post it, I'll do that. If I only get the video, I won't post it, but will have it, if you'd like to see it sometime. As of right now, I don't have either. Wish me luck!