The harmonica, truth be told, is a relatively easy instrument to play. To master it, however - to render it among the most humanly expressive of instruments - is another matter entirely.
Bob Corritore is indeed a master, having honed his craft - craft being the operative word - while working as a club owner, producer, and often-impromptu sideman. In recent years he's stepped up to release a solo collection culled from various sessions, along with two recordings that saw him paired with Chicago stalwarts John Primer and Tail Dragger respectively.
Taboo finds Corritore firmly out front, his finely nuanced harmonica work a thoroughly satisfying substitute for altogether absent vocals. He's never been one for showy pyrotechnics anyway, but here he demonstrates just how closely the harmonica mimics the human voice. (It is, after all, the only instrument around employing both blow and draw notes, its mechanics as close as possible to the organic act of breathing.)
Supported by an absolutely stellar cast that includes guitarists Jimmy Vaughan and Junior Watson, pianist Fred Kaplan, and the great Richard Innes on drums, Corritore saunters through a dozen tunes that explore every facet of the harmonica's tonal palette. From the raw, freight-train roar of "Harp Blast" to the minor-key moodiness of the title track, from the Tex-Mex tribute to guitarist Kid Ramos ("Fabuloco (For Kid)") to the cool-cat strains of "Harmonica Watusi," he's careful to make every note count.
The playlist is varied indeed. There's lots of straight-ahead blues, to be sure - the jumping "Potato Stomp," anchored by Doug James' honking baritone sax, the slow-grinding "Ruckus Rhythm," the shuffling (obviously) "Shuff Stuff," and the end-of-the-night ache of "Bob's Late Hours" all fit within the twelve-bar template. But there's also the tricky and atmospheric "Many A Devil's Night," a jazzy "Mr. Tate's Advice," and the exotic-sounding "5th Position Plea," named for the rather difficult technique it employs. (Most blues harmonica is played in 2nd position).
Corritore takes a melodic approach throughout, relying on tonal variety to set the appropriate mood for each tune, and the band, veterans all, is equally understated, locking in to each groove with relaxed ease and assurance.
Corritore's career has been a constant and steady progression from sideman-in-the-shadows to a master who fully deserves the spotlight. If you're a fan of the harmonica, Taboo is essential ...!