lee-oskar-bluesletter

Lee Oskar Bluesletter Cover Story

Lee Oskar Bluesletter – May 2023

by Polly O’Keary (Washington Blues Society – Bluesletter Editor)
Photo ©Jerry & Lois Photography

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting harmonica legend Lee Oskar several times and every time was struck by his generosity of spirit. several times and every time was struck by his generosity of spirit. Once, while playing bass for the nonprofit United By Music North Once, while playing bass for the nonprofit United By Music North America, which makes music performance available to musicians America, which makes music performance available to musicians with intellectual disabilities, I played bass behind Lee Oskar on a with intellectual disabilities, I played bass behind Lee Oskar on a performance of his iconic War hit “Lowrider.” You can believe I was performance of his iconic War hit “Lowrider.” You can believe I was nervous, but he was welcoming and complimentary. nervous, but he was welcoming and complimentary.

So, when it came time to interview him for this issue, I was looking forward to a good conversation. Lee exceeded my expectations. forward to a good conversation. Lee exceeded my expectations. Had I not known that he is one of his generation’s most influential Had I not known that he is one of his generation’s most influential instrumentalists and the maker of one of the world’s top-selling instrumentalists and the maker of one of the world’s top-selling harmonicas, I would certainly not have guessed from his demeanor. harmonicas, I would certainly not have guessed from his demeanor. He is self-effacing, interested in everyone and everything, and He is self-effacing, interested in everyone and everything, and genuinely nice. We ended up talking for a couple of hours. A week genuinely nice. We ended up talking for a couple of hours. A week later I received a package in the mail containing some harmonicas, later I received a package in the mail containing some harmonicas, stickers, and a copy of his album “Never Forget.” stickers, and a copy of his album “Never Forget.”

(As a side note, when one of the world’s top harmonica players and manufacturers sends you a harmonica, it is clearly a nudge from the manufacturers sends you a harmonica, it is clearly a nudge from the universe that you should learn to play harmonica, so I am practicing.) universe that you should learn to play harmonica, so I am practicing.)

This being a blues publication, we didn’t review that album, which is a mélange of classical and world music. If I had reviewed it, I’d is a mélange of classical and world music. If I had reviewed it, I’d have run out of ink before I was done. The album is Lee’s reflection have run out of ink before I was done. The album is Lee’s reflection on his lifetime of confronting his family’s experience during the on his lifetime of confronting his family’s experience during the holocaust. Though the musical arrangements are quite sophisticated holocaust. Though the musical arrangements are quite sophisticated and incorporate a dazzling array of instruments, Lee’s harmonica and incorporate a dazzling array of instruments, Lee’s harmonica parts provide strong, clear melodies that remind me of Gershwin parts provide strong, clear melodies that remind me of Gershwin and Astor Piazzolla in their memorability. It’s haunting music, tragic and Astor Piazzolla in their memorability. It’s haunting music, tragic and hopeful at once. and hopeful at once.

For the record, I will forever be salty that it didn’t get a Grammy nomination. It is the masterwork of one of music’s greatest modern nomination. It is the masterwork of one of music’s greatest modern innovators on one of the world’s most troubling themes. For people innovators on one of the world’s most troubling themes. For people like me who have eclectic musical taste I can’t recommend that album highly enough. album highly enough.

The interview and the subsequent thoughtful package got me reflecting on being a performer. I have often thought that being a reflecting on being a performer. I have often thought that being a performer provides me with a handful of glitter for the day. I know performer provides me with a handful of glitter for the day. I know what it’s like to approach someone whose music I like to pay my what it’s like to approach someone whose music I like to pay my compliments. It’s a vulnerable moment. So, when I am fortunate compliments. It’s a vulnerable moment. So, when I am fortunate enough to be approached in that capacity, I have an opportunity enough to be approached in that capacity, I have an opportunity to glitter that person. I can focus, see that person, listen, engage, to glitter that person. I can focus, see that person, listen, engage, and leave that person affirmed and happy. Lee, of course, is orders and leave that person affirmed and happy. Lee, of course, is orders of magnitude more notable than I am, and therefore probably gets of magnitude more notable than I am, and therefore probably gets approached a lot more than I do, but he is unstinting with that approached a lot more than I do, but he is unstinting with that handful of glitter. We are fortunate to claim him as a member of handful of glitter. We are fortunate to claim him as a member of Washington’s music community. Washington’s music community.

Read the full article here >

dantos
Author: dantos

Spread the love