Blues meets classical ‘under the stars’ |

Blues meets classical ‘under the stars’

An unusual mix of blues piano, harmonica, percussion and a string quartet – a combination that spells lively fun – is what Corky Siegel’s Traveling Chamber Blues Show is all about.

Presented this Sunday night as the first of Music in the Mountains “under the stars” concerts, this experience of chamber blues should “open the minds and souls of everyone who hears it,” says Siegel.

Ask him to describe this music, and he starts with jazz. “I consider jazz to be a blend of classical and blues (a la George Gershwin) … in which the blues seems to disappear into the classical and visa versa, turning up a third form called jazz. Chamber Blues is two forms working together where each form’s personality is maintained.” Some, like Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records, say Siegel has concocted a pure hybrid by crossing the blues and the classical to form a new musical strain.

Siegel claims this mix is not an invention of his; rather, it just seems to flow out of him. “Chamber Blues is just who I am, a product of both the classical maestros – Seiji Ozawa and William Russo – and the blues masters like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. They took me under their wing and my Chamber Blues is simply a product of their kindness to me.”

His story about how Ozawa masterminded the beginnings of this musical genre is classic. Siegel was playing blues in Chicago in 1966 when ” … this Japanese fellow shows up and wants my band, Siegel-Schwall, to jam with his band (only his band was the Chicago Symphony and he was Seiji Ozawa).

“Considered to be among the top 10 conductors in the world, all eyes were upon him, and here he is going to bring a hippy blues band on stage with him and the Chicago, Boston, and New York Philharmonic orchestras. Understand, it was Seiji who was thinking out of the box and taking all the risks. We hired the talent of William Russo to work with Siegel-Schwall and create ‘Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony Orchestra.’

“Over the years, as we performed together with many orchestras and recorded two projects for Deutsche Grammophon, Seiji insisted that I pursue this juxtaposition of blues and classical … Eventually, I just fell in love with the idea, and in 1988, Chamber Blues gave its first performances.”

To add to the pleasure of this concert, bring something to sit on and a picnic, or buy goodies and drinks from the various vendors on hand.

What: Corky Siegel’s Traveling Chamber Blues Show

When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.; gates open at 6 p.m.

Where: Nevada County Fairgrounds, McCourtney Road, Grass Valley

Admission: $17; children 17 and under free. Ticket outlets: The Union, Odyssey Books and The Book Seller in Grass Valley; Mike’s Alta Sierra Market; Citizens Bank in Lake Wildwood and Lake of the Pines; Cherry Records in Auburn; the Postal Company and Music In the Mountains in Nevada City.

Information: 265-6124, 800-218-2188 or check the Web site:

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