Arts and Entertainment

A new/old view of the blues from an Old Chicago Bluesman

From the mean streets of Chicago to the symphonic orchestra halls — Corky Siegel knows the blues. - Courtesy Photo/Chamberblues.com
From the mean streets of Chicago to the symphonic orchestra halls — Corky Siegel knows the blues.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo/Chamberblues.com

Corky Siegel's Traveling Chamber Blues Show comes to town to blow some minds May 4.

Corky Sielgel's traveling Chamber Blues Show straddles the musical line somewhere between Beethoven and BB King.

It's been called "scandolous" and "exotic" over the years. It's been known to "blow people's minds." The Denver Post called the Chamber Blues Show "a first class-smasher of pre-concieved notions."

It's a genuine hybrid, a compositional juxtaposition of two musical genres — "two of the most important and diverse music forms," Siegel explains at his Web site (chamberblues.com) — classical and the blues.

It all started on the south side of Chicago some four decades ago. Siegel was 21, learning to play under the wing of jazz masters like Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy as part of the Thursday night house band at the renowned blues club Pepper's Show Lounge.

Siegel was part of a small group of white Chicago kids who went into the black clubs on the rough-and-tumble South Side in the early 60s to learn the trade from these blues masters.

That same group of kids — including WHOM — is said to be largely responsible for the Blues Rock Explosion which brought the blues to rock and roll later in the decade.

At the same time, while the Blues Rock Explosion was going off on stages like Woodstock and the Monteray Pop Festival, the Chamber Blues Explosion was also erupting a bit under the radar. Following their time in the house band at Pepper's, Siegel and his musical partner Jim Schwall (The Siegel-Schwall Band) were gigging at distinguished clubs on both the north and south sides of the city when symphony orchestra Maestro Seiji Ozawa began hanging around Siegel-Schwall shows, suggesting a classical/blues combination.

Though he's made a career of it sense, Siegel maintains "Chamber Blues was neither my idea nor my fault."

Ozawa invited the self-professed young, hippy blues band (Siegel-Schwall) on stage with his symphony orchestra for four performances in a conservative concert series in 1968.

"While the young white blues players were helping to spread the blues and the knowledge about the blues masters to a wider and whiter audience, the Symphonic Blues phenomenon was dumping the blues right in the lap of the whitest most corporate and high brow America," Siegel recalls. "And the people loved it."

All of which led Siegel to his latest passion — Chamber Blues — which he brings to the Bremerton Performing Arts Center four decades and countless concerts later, at 7:30 p.m. May 9.

THE CORKY SIEGEL TRAVELING BLUES SHOW comes to town for a show at 7:30 p.m. May 9 at the Bremerton Performing Arts Center at Bremerton High School. For tickets call Nancy at (360) 275-2038. Info: www.chamberblues.com.

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