Satan and Nat.mp3
This is the ONLY extant recording of my two mentors, Sterling Magee (aka, Mister Satan, on guitar, percussion and vocals) and Nat Riddles (harmonica) going head to head, on 125th Street in Harlem, with the people of Harlem shouting them on. This session took place in May 1987, according to my handwriting scrawled on the original cassette.
(PLEASE NOTE: Nat Riddles takes the mike from me and begins blowing harp just after the six-minute point in this recording. I am blowing harp until that point.)
Be forewarned: the recording quality is not great. This was made on a hand-held Walkman Professional. It was a windy day and that wind-rumble shows up in an annoying way. The recording levels were much too hot. This recording breaks every rule in the book. Its very, very rough.
Nevertheless, I believe that this is an essential blues recording, something that every blues harmonica player, and every blues fan, needs to hear. Heres why:
1) Sterling Magee, in 1987, was in his prime as a street performer. He was a Harlem legend at that point. Four years later, he and I would go on to release our first Satan and Adam album, HARLEM BLUES. But this is how he sounded before any of that happened, when he was merely the neighborhood bluesman-genius, the Harlem griot everybody knew and respected.
2) Nat Riddles, quite possibly the finest blues harmonica player New York City ever produced, was in his prime. He blows a NINE MINUTE SOLO.
3) Although the history of live blues recording includes several remarkable albums made before black audiences, most notably B. B. Kings Live at the Regal in Chicago, there are almost no commercially-available live recordings made on the street in front of a black audience. Certainly there are no other available live recordings made on the streets of central Harlem, only one block from the Apollo Theatre. Yet we know the streets of black America were where the blues lived and died in its early days, long before the recording industry discovered it. Call and response; energy interchange. This recording is an extraordinary example of blues culture as a living, breathing, thing. Its the back-and-forth, the excited shouts of Play it! and You got it!, hurled at Nat, that make this recording unlike any other blues recording youve ever heard.
How did this recording come about? Id been playing with Sterling Magee (Mister Satan) for about six months at this point. Two months earlier, hed added a second hi-hat cymbal to his percussion set-up. Nat, who had been my teacher and inspiration two summers earlier in 1985, before moving down to Virginia, had returned to New York City for the week. I took him down to Harlem to check out the incredible guitar-man Id been working with.
Im blowing harp, as I note above, for the first six minutes of this cut. Then, after Sterling tells everybody my name, Nat takes the mike and blows through my Mouse amp.
The rest is history. Once Nat starts blowing, he doesnt stop. The recording quality isnt great, but this is one of those times when the quality of the recording is beside the point. Nat gives me, and the people of Harlem, a lesson in some serious, take-no-prisoners, throw-down blues harp. And Harlem jumps! Everybody shouts at him like hes the second coming of Jesus. Maybe he is.
What most people dont realize about the blues is that the form is infinitely expandable. If you put two professionals like Sterling Magee and Nat Riddles together, they know how to ride a song for as long as it takes to play everything that needs playing. My own five-minute cameo in this epic throw-down is, for the most part, merely a footnote to the real action. Im fine with that. I was a young man at that point and had a lot to learn. I was grateful for the lesson my two mentors gave me.
Music this good and soulful almost never shows up in the world of official blues recordings. One of the great things about the time in which we live is that the censorship of the marketplace has ended. We can upload the wild, amazing, real stuff, played and recorded at the red-line and beyond. The world can share our discoveries. And nobody can tell us we cant.
I hope you enjoy this. Please share it with your friends. Music like this, real street music, deserves to be set free, which is why this is a free download. If youre a seeker on the road to the real blues, you have walked through the right door.
Another Modern Blues Harmonica production (https://www.tradebit.com)