Jonn Del Toro Richardson: As a guitarist I have to concentrate on myself and not on others

22 August 2018, 8:00

Jonn Del Toro Richardson: As a guitarist I have to concentrate on myself and not on others

From 30 August to 10 September the blues guitarist from Texas Jonn Del Toro Richardson will be touring the Czech Republic. One of his performances will take place in South Moravia – 2 September in the Strážničan House of Culture in Strážnice. Further concerts will take place for example on 30 August in Valašské Meziříčí, and 7 and 10 September in Ostrava. Jonn Del Toro Richardson has so far released only one solo album (a second is in preparation for 2019), but as a much sought after studio and concert guitarist he has worked with many of the top blues performers.

You have worked with many important figures from American blues. For example you accompany the pianist Pinetop Perkins on the album The Last of the Mississippi Delta Blues, which was awarded a Grammy. What specifically was important in your cooperation with Perkins?

The most important thing Pinetop taught me was that in a concert I must always fully concentrate on my performance. I first worked with him as leader of the group with which Diunna Greenleaf sang. At that time I was responsible for all the technical details of the performance and my head was full of how to make it all go well. I concentrated on the performances of the other musicians more than on my own. Along came Pinetop, he sat at the piano, played the first note and a light came on for me. I had in front of me all the music I had to play and I became aware that as a guitarist I had to concentrate primarily on my own performance. At that moment he looked over at me and smiled. That was our first joint concert.

Pinetop Perkins died in 2011 when he was unbelievably 97 and he continued to play actively until virtually the end …

Yes, our last joint appearance took place some six to eight months before his death. We played with Willie Big Eyes Smith on harmonica, Hubert Sumlin on guitar, Bob Stroger on bass and Pinetop on keyboards. I can’t remember the drummer but he was a master. After the first part of the concert I had the impression that Pinetop was not feeling well and that he would not manage the second half. I told the audience when I introduced the band the he was indisposed and that after the break he would not be playing with us. Only when we came back on stage after the break, Pinetop was sitting at the keyboard ready for the next part. He taught me that I always have to be prepared, And that someone is never so ill that they cannot finish a concert.

Another interesting cooperation was with the mandolin player Rich DelGross. Is it demanding to combine mandolin and guitar as the main instruments in the blues genre?

Working with Rich was great fun. He is the best blues mandolin player in the United States, and in my view in the world. I like the mandolin in country and in folk, it is one of my favourite instruments and it has great possibilities in blues. Combining mandolin or mandola with the guitar was no great problem. In some songs I used a capotasto, and in places we had to agree on the right tuning, but generally working together was truly enriching. It also helped me in my beginnings as a composer. It was also a creative partnership – Rich wrote his songs and I mine, and then we put them together.

On the other hand Otis Taylor is a top blues player on the banjo, who shows new possibilities of this instrument on his albums. You have also worked with him.

Yes and I also learned a lot when playing with Otis Taylor. The so-called trance blues which he plays is an amazing experience – really powerful music. The line-up in which we performed, that is guitar, banjo and bass, was new for me. Playing with us on bass was Otis’ daughter Cassie Taylor, who is also a wonderful player. Her bass also plays the role of as bass drum, while Otis’ banjo also works as a snare. And I was supposed to play the melody above them, but I preferred to favour only the groove and here and there some kind of solo.

How did you put together an accompanying group on your first solo album Tengo Blues?

My solo disc Tengo Blues was produced by Anson Funderburgh. He put together for me a wonderful band – Nick Connoly plays on keyboards, Nathan Rowe on bass and Wes Star on drums. They are great studio musicians – Wes is a legendary drummer and Nathan is a versatile bass player who plays double bass and bass guitar on my album. And Nick has worked with everyone and has a tremendous musical knowledge. The wind section Texas Horns also plays or us on the album. I like wind instruments and knew I wanted to have them on the album, but I did not realise that they would play such an important role. However, while we were recording in many songs we said that the winds could be included. In the end you can hear them in seven pieces out of thirteen, which is more than half of the album. I come from Houston in Texas and wind instruments are an inseparable part of the music scene there.

How did your Texas, or more specifically Houston, scene arise?

I see it as my great good fortune that I come from Houston. It is a city with a long and rich history of music in various genres – blues, country, Latin American and jazz. Many great musicians have sought players from Houston. For example the members of B. B. King’s group are from there. These people had the chance to work with him in the studio and then to travel all around the world. When they then returned home from touring, we grew up alongside them, alongside the best musicians in the world. Many of them have now departed, which is of course sad, but blues is still alive in Houston and doing well. And I am glad that I am part of that world and I had the luck that many of these giants helped me on my way. For example I had the chance to get to know Earl Gilliam shortly before he died. This was someone who had played with almost everyone – with Johnny Copeland, with Albertem Collins and with Albert King. Another who helped me a great deal was Jimmy Louisiana Dotson. As his nickname suggests he came from Louisiana and was the most capable blues guitarist who ever lived. From him I learned to work with chords and rhythm and also how to really listen.

You have received several important awards. In the course of the International Blues Challenge you received the Albert King Prize and for the album Tengo Blues you have a prestigious Blues Music Award in the category Best New Artist. How important are these prizes for you?

If you win some kind of prize it is in first place a great honour. Someone appreciates your work. In the given moment such an award means a great deal for me, but on the other hand I try not to take it too seriously. Even if I am truly grateful for each prize – and each is a surprise for me – the important thing is what I am doing now and not what worked for me in the past.

Currently you are to give several concerts here in the Czech Republic. What can the fans look forward to?

I can’t wait to be in Europe again and to play for you. I have lots of original works from which I will be choosing. I try to make each concert different. I watch the audience and try to react in a way that they will like. It also depends on how I and my colleagues feel in the moment. I will be playing my own pieces but there will certainly also be some covers. But we will certainly have fun. Come and listen to us.

Comments

Reply

No comment added yet..

This year, the JazzFestBrno festival has expanded its offer to include an "electronic" programme line named Tension. Within that series, the bands Zabelov Group and HRTL Spaghetti Ensemble appeared  in the Praha space in Brno on 28 March. However, the two-hour concert, which took place on 5 April in the sold-out Sono Centre, was also ideologically close to this new series. The Manchester-based trio GoGo Penguin perhaps uses an instrumental layout of a jazz piano trio vetted by decades, but still oscillates around electronic music as a starting point in its albums and concerts.   more

Even though the audience's attention is generally focused on music ensembles that have already been vetted by time, yesterday's concert of the newly formed Camerata Brunensis ensemble in the Historical Hall of the Brno Bishop's Court proved that even young blood can offer a remarkable artistic experience. The concert was programmed  in cooperation with the Moravian Regional Museum and the Academy of Early Music at Masaryk University, which the Camerata Brunensis‘ artists attend. The ensemble consists of soprano Veronika Vojířová, who performed for example with ensembles like Collegium Marianum, Collegium Floreum, Capella Regia Prague or Cappella Mariana, and the flutist Michaela Durajová, who could be listened to by audiences with the Orchestral Academy of the Brno Philharmonic, the Moravian Philharmonic Olomouc, the Czech Virtuosi orchestra or with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Also, the double bassist and violonist  Matyáš Berdych regularly appears with important music ensembles such as Musica Florea, Collegium Marianum and Czech Ensemble Baroque. The backbone of the ensemble is formed by the harpsichordist Jan Hajič, who works as a répétiteur for the Prague choir Vagantes, accompanies concerts and master classes at the Prague Conservatory, and works as a backup organist at the Prague Academic Parish under the guidance of Robert Hugo.  more

Filip Míšek and Ema Brabcová have worked together for as many as twenty years already. They met each other back in 1999 in the group Roe-Deer, as part of which they created their own project called Khoiba. Under this name they released their albums Nice Traps (2004) and Mellow Drama (2007), shone on the domestic scene and drew attention to themselves in neighbouring Germany, but then each of the protagonists set out on their own paths – Filip came up with the solo project Dikolson and Ema was active first in the group Luno and later became part of The Antagonists under the leadership of Jan P. Muchow. Only in January 2019 did the resurrected Khoiba draw attention to itself – first with the single Log and two months later with the album Khoiba. As part of an intensive spring concert the duo is also coming to perform in Brno. The concert will take place in Kabinet múz on 24 April and supporting Khoiba will be Jan Boroš with Čáry života [Life Lines], this year’s winner of the Apollo award.  more

Each premiere from the Ondráš Military Art Ensemble is an event that sparks great interest from folk fans. It was no different on Thursday in the slightly cramped quarters of the Divadlo Bolka Polívky theatre. The concert carrying the title Through the Landscape of Time had already been sold out a month ahead.  more

Yesterday’s concert from the Principal Conductor’s series of the Brno Philharmonic presented Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphonic Orchestra, in an intimately conceived programme. Together with the principal conductor of the Brno philharmonic, Dennis Russel Davies, she performed several classical and contemporary works composed for violin and piano. In this, the Brno audience had a chance to see the soloist before she plays tomorrow together with the Brno Philharmonic.  more

In an almost four-hour long programme, both audience and performers celebrated the 80th birthday of Horňácko folk legend Martin Hrbáč in Veselí nad Moravou. The concert that took place on Sunday 24 March, and was not only historic in its length but more importantly in the range of folk legends appearing on stage.  more

The piano recital by the chief conductor of the Brno Philharmonic Denis Russell Davies and his wife the pianist Maki Namekawa yesterday in Besední dům offered three works by three significant figures from American minimalism. The concert included minimalist works by Steve Reich in the shape of Piano Phase, the composition Hallelujah Junction by John Adams and Four Movements for Two Pianos by Philip Glass.  more

The JAZZFESTBRNO Festival is expanding this year with the new Tension programme line, which will feature musicians on the borderline between jazz and electronic music. One of the performers who will appear on 28 March in the Praha space in Brno will be the Czech-Ukrainian duo Zabelov Group, which has recently released a new album called Eg. This interview with Roman Zabelov (accordion, voice, piano, organ, harp…) and Jan Šikl (drums, trumpet, guitar, percussion…) was done in a Prague café just before a rehearsal of the band.

Evenings of  the cycle named Music Stocktaking of the Brno-based orchestra Ensemble Opera Diversa regularly bring to light various half-forgotten works by Czech composers. This Tuesday's concert in the concert hall of the Convent of Merciful Brother [Konvent Milosrdných bratří] became a commemorative tribute to the anniversary of the tragic years 1939 and 1969. Violinist Milan Paľa and pianists Kristýna Znamenáčková and Lucie Pokorná performed alongside the orchestra. The performance was conducted by the permanent conductor of the orchestra Gabriela Tardonová.  more

Bára Zmeková is releasing her new album called LUNAVES these days. She will officially present it in Brno as well. The launch of the album will take place in the Kabinet múz on Tuesday 19 March.  more

The ensemble Šafrán from Moravian Slovakia is already a traditional organiser of the Brno “fašank“. This event, in the spirit of folk traditions, always takes place on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and it marks the beginning of Christian fasting. Its roots go back to the pagan times, but it is now part of Christian feasts almost all over the world. Marches of masks in various regions of Moravia are called končiny, masopust, fašanek or, for example, šibřinky. Its  ensemble parallel in Brno tries to stick to the folk pattern. It begins with a parade in  Náměstí svobody Square. This year it continued through the Alfa Mall to the market building at the Cabbage Market. The end of the programme was performed by the ensemble Lučina, which showed the audience the so-called burial of a double bass. It is a custom consisting in a staged burial of this musical instrument, symbolising  the end of entertainment, calming down and preparing for Easter.  more

"In the past, old people used to be as old as we allegedly are today" sings Slávek Janoušek in his song Alzheimer and Parkinson. The songwriter, who celebrated his 65th birthday last September, found aging as an extremely powerful theme for his new album. Tohle je vzkaz [This Is a Message] is an album not only about incrementing years of age, but also about how we increasingly appreciate our families and our  roots as we “grow old“. Although we can find very strong moments in all Janoušek's albums, Tohle je vzkaz can be perceived as the third part of the trilogy of his most powerful recordings – Kdo  to zavinil [Whose Fault  Is It] (1988), Tancuj a zpívej [Dance and Sing] (1997) and Tohle je vzkaz [This Is a Message] (2018).  more

In the hall of Blahoslav House (the centre for the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren) yesterday evening there were performances of religious works from the late Renaissance and the early Baroque by the chamber choir Ensemble Versus and the period instruments ensemble Castello in Aria. Both bodies were conducted by the artistic director Vladimír Maňas. In yesterday’s programme there were both proven works and unknown ones by rarely performed European composers.  more

Yesterday Brno City Theatre gave the European premiere of the musical The Last Ship, written by the world-famous musician Sting. It is a mixture of his wonderful music drawn from British folk, a successfully and honestly told tale and also a strong acting performance, which should guarantee the production’s successful voyage to the audience.  more

The web portal Brno – Music Friendly City is celebrating its sixth birthday. As a symbolic present to our readers we are bringing you the first of our regular monthly contributions from the Brno dramatist, writer and screenwriter Milan Uhde. He will be sharing his memories and thoughts as well as descriptions of current events in the field of culture in Brno. His theme today is the Janáček Brno festival.  more

Editorial

The ArtBar club in Brno hosts another Funky Night. Funky Chicken, Brass Avenue and Michael V of J.A.R, called Helicopter will appear. The event will feature well-known funky hits as well as completely new ones; the concerts will be accompanied by video projections and a light show.  more

For the eighth year running, Czech Ensemble Baroque under the baton of Roman Válek has been performing a subscription series of early music entitled Bacha na Mozarta! (in Czech, this is a pun meaning both "Bach on Mozart!" and "Beware of Mozart!"). The advanced sales of tickets for this cycle will begin as part of the closing concert of the Easter Festival of Sacred Music, where the orchestra will perform Bach's Easter Oratorio. The dramaturgy of the eighth season features, for example, Mozart's Requiem, a Baroque fashion show, Te Deum Three Times Differently, and a vocal concert.  more

The Brno City Theatre is holding auditions for the main and supporting roles for the new musical now being prepared, Mamma Mia!, which is to have its premiere in October 2019.  more

This year the festival programme includes musical works from the 7th century to the present. Gregorian chants, a setting of Book of Lamentations from the 10th century, Renaissance Rome, the orthodox repertoire, 18th century services from the Moravian countryside, organ pieces and contemporary works. The festival will also for the first time be welcomed into the church on Josefská street.  more

The chamber opera The Secret Marriage (Il Matrimonio segreto) by Doménico Cimarosa has been produced by students of the Music and Theatre faculties of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in the Italian original. The premiere will take place in the Divadlo na Orlí theatre.  more

Jakub Hrůša will become the fifth Chief Conductor and the musical director of the prominent German orchestra the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra Players – the Bavarian State Philharmonic Orchestra (Bamberger Symphoniker – Bayerische Staatsphilharmonie) in the 2016/2017 season. It was announced today during the morning ceremony, which was attended by Jakub Hrůša himself, by Bavaria’ Minister of Culture Dr. Ludwig Spaenle together with Marcus Rudolf Axt, Chief Executive.  more

The choir at VUT in Brno is seeking new vocal talent. The audition will take place next week.  more

The 21st edition of this competition is being organized by the Musical faculty of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. The competition focusing on young artists playing the violin and on string quartets is being held in cooperation with the Leoš Janáček Foundation.  more

The club, which is starting its 25th concert season, has been reconstructed and is now reopening to jazz musicians from both the domestic and foreign scene. The season will introduce bands as well as individuals such as Ostrich Quartet, Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert Balzar Trio, Vilém Spilka Quartet or Nuf Said.  more

The current 17th year of the festival is divided into two parts. The first part, called Intake of Breath, will take place during October and it will be the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Filigrán dance ensemble. The other part, called Exhalation, will introduce international guests and dance themed movies in November.  more