Siegel Uncorks a Virtual Chamber Blues Bash on March 6th.
Updated: Mar 5, 2021
For over 50 years, Corky Siegel’s had a front row seat to many seminal moments in American musical history. He jammed with Chicago’s blues pioneers at the legendary Peppers Show Lounge and soaked up the San Francisco sound with Janis Joplin and other Bay Area greats. Along the way, he also managed to produce Joni Mitchell’s last demo tape and was involved in the early staging of the musical, Hair.
Along with having “incredibly good fortune” to be privy to moments like these, Siegel also got pulled into a ground-breaking partnership in 1966. He was blowing harp at the old Big John’s blues club with his Siegel-Schwall Band when a man introduced himself as a fellow bandleader and insisted that Siegel join him for a jam session.
The man turned out to be Seiji Ozawa--the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and he proposed something that had never been done---a fusion of orchestra music with Chicago blues. Siegel was intrigued and despite thinking that the idea would never fly, felt like it was something that had to be done.
While he might have had misgivings about his new musical mission, the concept took off and Siegel’s been sticking with it since 1966. He has taken his Chamber Blues around the world and to nearby venues like Chicago’s City Winery.
Then the pandemic hit, and it was time for Siegel to pivot so he could stay connected with his audience. He said that his wife and business partner Holly, likened the lockdown to “Mother Nature sending us to our room,"
But Siegel’s not one to sit in his room and stew. Knowing that people crave “companionship and intimacy,” the affable Siegel has taken his gigs off the stage and live from his home. At last count, he has put out 101 Livestream shows, and many viewers have likened him to “Mr. Rogers for adults.”
This musical Mr. Rogers will be putting on a blockbuster show on Saturday, March 6th at 7pm. Billed as the “Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues Extravaganza,” this virtual event features a stellar lineup that includes his chamber group as well as several rock, blues and jazz stars ranging from saxophonist Ernie Watts and singers Tracy Nelson, Lynne Jordan, and Marcella Detroit to Alligator recording artist Toronzo Cannon and Frank Orrall of Poi Dog Pondering fame. Cantor Pavel Roytman will also be making an appearance during the 100-minute show.
Presented in conjunction with Chicago’s City Winery on their Mandolin video platform, Siegel promises this show will be “better than live” since it allows for the performer’s artistry be front and center. Siegel added, “there’s no way that we could replicate what we’re doing on stage” as this format adds an extra level of intimacy that was missing in pre-pandemic performances.
Siegel said that each artist was responsible for producing, performing, recording. and creating their individual pieces of the program. While this might originally have been outside the performer’s comfort zone, they ended up embracing the technology and turning in some memorable music.
Meanwhile, the man who got his musical start during the reel-to-reel recording era learned to master editing via a powerful new computer and Apple’s Final Cut Pro with Holly serving as cinematographer. Siegel said that the entire process took about six months as he had to “work and learn from scratch.”
Now as he prepares to unveil this collaboration to the world, Siegel feels that this virtual event will establish a connection that could not come about at a regular concert. He added that, “here you’ll get all the people onscreen and you’re right there with them.”
If you would like to get up close and personal with Corky Siegel, the chamber group, and a stellar cast of contributing guests, visit the City Winery website for more details. While they are requesting a $30 donation, Siegel would like to “comp” those who cannot contribute financially as he wants everyone to have a front row seat to this event that has benefited from modern technology and today’s new “zoom” mentality.
Photos courtesy of Phil Solomonson/Philamonjaro Studios