Carlos del Junco is one of the best harmonica players on the planet, to say del Junco plays the harmonica is like saying “Jimi Hendrix plays guitar”.
He blows the blues harp through a prism — suddenly it seems he’s holding every color in the musical rainbow right there in his hands. And you’ll get a chance to hear that musical genius, as the Harrison Festival Society presents Carlos del Junco & the Blues Mongrels on Saturday, Mar. 30 in the Harrison Memorial Hall.
Carlos is one of those players whose music is so advanced that when it comes to awards, it’s either retire the category or rephrase the question to “Best Harmonica Player Not Named Carlos”.
This includes two Gold Medals from the Hohner World Harmonica Championship in Trossingen, Germany, as well as multiple national awards in Canada.
Simultaneously sophisticated and raw, his playing blurs the boundaries between blues and jazz (hence the name for his band “The Blues Mongrels”).
The emphasis is on blues, but Carlos and his band are not afraid to merrily traipse off in other directions delivering a seamless fusion of New Orleans second line grooves, swing, Latin, hip-hop or ska melodies, to swampy roots rock.
Born in Havana, Cuba, del Junco (loosely translated “of the reeds”) immigrated with his family at the age of one.
He bent his first note on a harmonica when he was fourteen, making his debut with his high school math teacher at a student talent night. In his early twenties del Junco was immersed in a visual arts career; he graduated with honours from a four year program, majoring in sculpture at the Ontario College of Art. Sculpture has definitely had an influence on his outlook on music: “Music is just a different way of creating textures and shapes.”
Playing a ten hole diatonic harmonica, Carlos has developed the unique ability to play chromatically by using a recently developed “overblow” technique taught to him by jazz virtuoso Howard Levy.
Overall, this approach to the diatonic harmonica, although much more difficult to achieve, is in many ways more expressive and communicative than the mechanized tone produced by the chromatic harmonica.
Carlos is one of the few pioneers of this overblow method, bringing musical credibility to what has still been considered by many in the music industry a fringe folk instrument.
He has recorded with Bruce Cockburn, Kim Mitchell, Oliver Schroer, Zappacosta, and has also worked with Dutch Mason, Hoc Walsh (Downchild Blues Band) and Holly Cole. Carlos has toured Canada regularly since 1996 and tours often in Europe and the United States. He has played all the major jazz, blues, and folk festivals across Canada.
Del Junco and the band perform Saturday, Mar. 30 8 p.m. in the Harrison Memorial Hall.
Tickets are $22 and can be purchased by phone at 604-796-3664, online or in person at the Ranger Station Art Gallery in Harrison, or Agassiz Shoppers Drug Mart.