The Little Walter Transcriptions

jac.jpg (3393 bytes)
Blues Harmonica great
Little Walter Jacobs.

Glenn Weiser, author of Blues and Rock Harmonica, has transcribed 74 of the blues harmonica solos of Little Walter Jacobs (left), widely considered the greatest blues harp player ever. The collection, in spite of being unpublished, is well known in harmonica circles. 
    Four of of his transcriptions, however (Juke, Sad Hours, Blue Light, and Rocker). are included in his new transcription book Masters Of the Blues Harp, an anthology of 21 harmonica solos also by Rice Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson II), Big Walter Horton, Paul Butterfield, Charlie Musselwhite, and others.  
     At one point the author had been told by a music publisher that they would put out the Little Walter book (the deal later fell through), so the Associated Press ran the following story on Jan. 28th, 1991.

(Note-these transcriptions are now exclusively available to students
for private study with Glenn on Skype - click for for info)

Albany Musician Preserves Blues Great's Solos
By Carolyn Thompson
The Associated Press

    ALBANY - Can't get your mojo working after a hard day at the office?
    Huffing and puffing but can't blow the house down?
    Feeling like Howlin' Wolf but just, well, howling?
    Harp players take heart: Coming to a music store near you is a blow-by-blow instructional volume of harmonica master Little Walter Jacobs' most soulful solos as only the late Chicago blues master could blow.
    "The Blues Harp Solos of Little Walter was amassed and transcribed by Albany musician Glenn Weiser, who says the solos are worth saving, even though a quarter of a century has has passed since they faded from the charts.
    "The blues was the source of rock 'n' roll," said Weiser, who devoted 18 months to the collection, meticulously transcribing more than 70 solos, one measure at a time.
    It was an effort born of the superstition and suffering that define the music, he said.
    Weiser's not the first musician to be taken with the fervent outpouring of the urban blues. A group of British rockers was so electrified by they named named themselves after a blues tune hoping to catch the ear of the world.
    The Rolling Stones took their name from Muddy Water's "Rollin' Stone and and covered his "I Can't Be Satisfied" on their second album.
    It was while recording with the legendary Waters that Little Walter Jacobs came into his own, breaking for a solo career in 1952, when his catchy instrumental, "Juke," topped the blues charts. Fourteen Top 10 hits followed.
    Little Walter is considered the greatest of the postwar Chicago blues harp players, Weiser said of his decision to spotlight the musician's work in this, his third harmonica compilation.
    But there was more to Weiser's zeroing in on the tunes of Little Walter than the musician's pre-eminence. There was superstition, a prominent theme in blues songs such as "I Got My Mojo Working" and "I Ain't Superstitious."
    "For one thing, Little Walter and I have the same birthday, May 1st," said Weiser. "And "Juke was recorded during the month and year of my birth."
Furthermore, Weiser, 38, puffed out his first harmonica song in 1968, the year Little Walter was killed in a Chicago street fight. And the musician died at the age of 37, the age at Weiser undertook the project what he called "the literary French Foreign Legion approach" to get over a soured relationship.
    But why, in 22 years after Little Walter's violent end, are the harp virtuoso's compositions and solos being published for the first time?
"Most of the music was improvised to some extent, so it was never written down," Weiser said.
    In, fact, he said, Little Walter, like most blues musicians, was unable to read or write music.
    Weiser, it appears, is the first musically literate harmonica player with the enterprise for the project. His tools were a two-speed tape recorder, knowledge of the subject honed over decades - and enough patience to pull them together.
    "I immersed myself in the music and and wrote two books concurrently. The idea was to keep myself constantly busy," said Weiser, whose musical journey has brought him from a teen-age idol-watcher at Woodstock to his own music instruction studio in Albany. He's played his share of smoky clubs along the way, and is a familiar sight in Albany's night scene.
    Weiser transcribed several thousand measures for the Little Walter at the rate of  about 12 measures an hour, listening to each several times at fast and slow speed.
    "Little Walter used very complex rhythms but the music is playable for a serious student," said Weiser, who's also translated volumes of fiddle music for the harmonica and classical guitar.
    Weiser's most recent project, "Blues and Rock Harmonica," and "Fiddle Tunes for Harmonica," were distributed by Hal Leonard Publishing Co., which will also publish the Little Walter collection later this year.
    Each tune in the latest book lists the album on which the original Little Walter recording can be heard. An instructional section at the beginning breaks down the tangled rhythms.
    So Weiser's book takes care of the technical side of playing the blues.
    But to fully effect the soulful melancholy postwar Chicago harp players, the musician's just going to to have to depend on his own "Sad Hours" in this "Mean Old World."

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