Thursday, September 30, 2010

Swiss native launches new Chicago blues label


Switzerland is more than 4,000 miles from Chicago, the blues capital of the

But Switzerland native Chris Harper fell in love with the blues at a young age
and he has started a new record label that celebrates his love for the blues.
Harper also plays blues harp, picking up a few lessons from blues legend Sugar
Blue, no less.

The Chicago-based Swississippi Records was launched by Harper and Chicago-born
Dave Katzman on Sept. 21, and the label under has three releases under its belt
- "Four Aces and a Harp," featuring Harp and a stable of blues legends - Jimmy
Burns, John Primer, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Bob Stroger, Rob Blaine's "Big
Otis Blues" and "Peaches Staten: Live At Legends," which was recorded at Buddy
Guy's Legends in May before the legendary club moved to its new location.

Their love for the blues fueled the venture. For 20 years, Harper ran a
convention display company in Switzerland until he sold the business to pursue
his passion for playing blues harmonica.

Katzman has been heavily involved in the music business, doing everything from
artist management to being the production manager at the original Buddy Guy

To celebrate the launching of the new label, a CD release party will be held
Sunday, Oct. 3, at Mayne Stage,, 1328 W. Morse Ave.,
Chicago, and the party will feature performances by all the artists.

The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $20, available at

I had the chance to talk to Harper about why he wanted to start the label.

Q - What was it like playing with blues legends like Jimmy Burns and Willie "Big
Eyes" Smith?"

I don't have the background like those guys, of course. I'm from Switzerland,
but I always loved the blues. I always loved to play harmonica. It was my dream
to make a traditional album with some good players.

We had a wonderful time in the studio. It was really beautiful.

Q - How did you get to know Peaches?

I have known her for many years. Her voice is so good, I couldn't resist
recording her. She is really a great singer, and a great entertainer.

Q - Of course, Chicago is also home to Alligator Records, and the label has
carved out quite a niche in the blues world. Is there room for another blues
label in Chicago?

I don't think I could compete with that label. They have so much tradition, and
have so much bigger volume.

I'm not doing it for the money. This was always very personal for me. It's for
the love.

Q - I understand that Sugar Blue taught you some harmonica techniques.

Yes, I worked with him in 2002. He supported me in a very nice way to learn the
tongue block technique. He was an excellent teacher.

Q - What do you think of the new Legends?

I like it. The music sounds better than in the old club.
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