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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

J. Geils harmonica legend Magic Dick, young guitar sensation Shun Ng team up, will perform at SPACE


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Although 45 years separates J. Geils harmonica legend Magic Dick and electrifying guitarist Shun Ng, they are of the same musical mind in many ways.

They put that shared musical vision into their new album, "About Time," which features their interpretation of songs by some of their favorite musicians. They are sure to perform a few of those songs when they play Oct. 30 at SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston.

The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are available at www.ticketweb.com. 

I had the chance to talk to the both of them about the new album.


Great talking to you again, Magic Dick. We last spoke in 2007, when you were playing at the Clearwater Theatre in West Dundee. Chicago's own Ronnie Baker Brooks was part of the bill.

MD: Yes I remember playing with Ronnie on that one. What a blast that was!

Q - Magic Dick, you had said that one of the reasons that you and Shun work so well together is because you are both minimalists at heart. Could you elaborate on that? How do you think at Shun's voice blends with your style of harmonica playing?

MD: Shun and I believe that musically speaking, less is more. I think it's easier and clearer to convey our musical concepts with fewer instruments.


Guitar, harmonica (both diatonic and chromatic) and our two voices are the direct and bold approach we prefer. It's a great challenge and fun to work this way!

Shun's voice has shades of James Brown and Michael Jackson with his own twists. For both of us, our roots run parallel and deep, in blues, R&B, rock, soul, jazz and pop.

I love the range of Shun's influences which mesh perfectly with mine.

Q - That question is also for you Shun. How do you think Magic Dick's style of harmonica playing blends with your voice?

SH: I think our blend is great, the guitar and the harmonica duo format has been around for many years. We spend a lot of time arranging our music and making sure we get just the right feel and that we are in a groove together. 

Q - This question is for the both of you - How did you go about choosing the tracks for the CD? In sitting down to make the CD, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

MD: We chose the songs for the CD to showcase how we sound live and for the challenge. As artists, we have the highest ambitions and it is always a challenge to materialize them.

This selection of songs was a natural process of experimentation and growth. Each song, when performed live, is a vehicle for expression and improvisation. These are all in the key of "being in the moment."

Q - One of the tracks is a version of the J. Geils Band crowd favorite, "Whammer Jammer." Magic Dick, was it your idea to put that song on the CD? How did you try to make it stand out from the J. Geils Band version?

MD: The idea to record "Whammer Jammer," done in a duo format, was something we both wanted to do. It was a great challenge to update and revise "Whammer" to reflect the essentials of the song in a new and startling way.


It stands out from the J. Geils Band version by virtue of melodic and rhythmic reinvention.

Q - Shun, I know that you performed for Quincy Jones in his living room. In talking about you, he said, "You won't believe your eyes nor your ears - he belies all stereotypes, all premonitions. I was simply blown away by both his soul and his science - his creativity and his uniqueness is astounding."

How does it feel getting a compliment like that?  Did he give you any advice? What have you learned from him?

SH: It was incredible getting to meet Quincy Jones, he's a real hero of mine, not just in his musical genius but in his philosophy towards creating music. I feel so blessed to have met him and spent time with him, it changed my life. 

One thing I'll never forget is when I asked him, "How do you know if a song a good, how would I know if I'm doing it right or not?" and his advice to me, was to "Follow the goosebumps, cause if you don't get the goosebumps how can you expect anyone else to?"



The day he told me that, it changed me. Since then I've made it a mission to follow what excites me and what gives me goosebumps, chase the music that inspires me and makes me feel good, and I've been so happy.
 
Q - Shun, I understand that you were challenged by a friend to play all the parts of Michael Jackson's song "Billie Jean" at the same time on the guitar. What compelled you to want to take that challenge? How have you tried to set yourself apart from other guitarists?

SH: There is nothing more exciting to me than a challenge, learning to do something I've never been able to do before. It is so exciting to me to test the limits and explore what an instrument can do.

Every time I write or arrange a new song, I try to do something I've never done before, I write and arrange beyond my current competence so that if I want to perform it, I'd have to learn something new, push myself and create something fresh for my audience. It keeps me improving and pushing musical boundaries.

To me, that's the joy of music, the perpetual potential for growth, both as a musician and a person. I have a sound in my head I want to get out, I've never consciously tried to set myself apart. I've just focus on being myself, finding my voice and searching what it is I want to say with music. 

Q - Magic Dick, you have said that you and Shun have learned from each other. What has he taught you?

MD: Shun has taught me the joy and results that come from a very open, positive attitude, with zero negativity. Each day, working with Shun brings the coolest musical surprises!

Q - Magic Dick, you played with such Chicago blues legends as Buddy Guy and Junior Wells when the J. Geils Band was first starting out. What was that experience like? Have you been influenced by the way Junior Wells played the harmonica?

MD: Meeting and playing with Junior Wells and Buddy Guy was the greatest experience at that point in our lives. We loved those guys!

Junior's harp and vocal stylings were very influential on me and they were both so sharing of their knowledge and skills. For me, Junior and Buddy were the definition of stage presence and sonic creativity without the use of any gimmicks.

Q - The J. Geils Band did its "Houseparty Tour" last year. What's the current status of the band, Magic Dick? Do you see the band going back to the studio anytime soon?

MD: The J. Geils Band has just been nominated for the fourth time to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I don't know about the future, but perhaps we will record and tour again.

Q - This question is for the both of you - So where do you see this collaboration going from here? Would you like to do more projects together?

MD: I feel that we are just getting started. There are no limits to what we can do from here. We will do more projects and touring because we believe in what we are doing and we love to play and perform!