BRI­TISH R& b ........................................................................

Phil Capone in­tro­duces a gui­tarist, band­leader, song­writer, cham­pion of Bri­tish R&B, and mean blues gui­tarist with an ex­ten­sive vo­cab­u­lary.

Guitar Techniques - - Learning Zone -

Phil Capone meets Alexis Korner, pi­o­neer of the hugely in­flu­en­tial Bri­tish blues move­ment.

Alexis Korner’s Blues In­cor­po­rated were less of a band, more of a mu­si­cians' col­lec­tive. The con­stantly chang­ing line-up fea­tured the crème de la crème of London’s promis­ing young tal­ent: Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Charlie Watts, Danny Thomp­son, Davy Gra­ham, Dick Heck­stall-Smith, Gra­ham Bond and Long John Baldry all passed through the ranks at dif­fer­ent times. In ad­di­tion, an im­pres­sive list of guests would also reg­u­larly sit in on gigs, th­ese in­cluded Mick Jag­ger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, John May­all, Rod Ste­wart and last (but def­i­nitely not least) ‘Big Jim’ and ‘Lit­tle Jim’, the two hottest gui­tarists on the 60s ses­sion scene (aka Big Jim Sul­li­van and Jimmy Page).

Korner had al­ready en­joyed over a decade in the business by the early 60s, hav­ing turned pro when he joined Chris Bar­ber's Jazz Band in 1949. It was in Bar­ber’s band that he met blues-harp vir­tu­oso Cyril Davies who was also an afi­cionado of Amer­i­can R&B. In 1961, Davies and Korner formed Blues In­cor­po­rated with the in­ten­tion of pro­mot­ing elec­tric blues mu­sic in the UK. De­spite this, the band's mu­sic has a dis­tinctly ‘rootsy’ sound with dou­ble bass of­ten used in pref­er­ence to elec­tric, and Korner him­self play­ing acous­tic gui­tar dur­ing the early years. The band's reper­toire was a mix of Amer­i­can R&B cov­ers and orig­i­nal tunes writ­ten mostly

Korner in­spired and nur­tured some of the most im­por­tant and in­flu­en­tial bands of the 1960s.

by Korner. Crit­ics ar­gued that the sound of the band was too ‘busy’ to pass as au­then­tic, with har­mon­ica, gui­tar, pi­ano and sax­o­phone of­ten play­ing licks simultaneously. But Blues In­cor­po­rated were never in­tended to be a sounda­like band; un­der Korner’s di­rec­tive, el­e­ments of jazz, folk, and coun­try mu­sic were all fused to cre­ate a loose, but bluesy sound. After se­cur­ing a res­i­dency at London’s Mar­quee Club in 1962, Decca Records of­fered a record­ing con­tract and R&B From The Mar­quee was re­leased later that year. Four more al­bums would follow be­fore Korner dis­banded the group in 1966; by this time, blues-rock was gain­ing mo­men­tum and au­di­ences ap­petite for tra­di­tional blues was wan­ing. Korner switched to elec­tric gui­tar on later al­bums, but de­spite this th­ese record­ings were not as well re­ceived, prob­a­bly be­cause of the jazzy di­rec­tion the band was tak­ing.

On ev­ery Blues In­cor­po­rated record­ing, it is ob­vi­ous that Korner com­pletely ‘got’ the blues; he re­alised the im­por­tance of rhythm and phras­ing in a genre that was a di­rect de­scen­dant of African mu­sic with its com­plex rhythms. By to­day’s stan­dards his gui­tar sound is thin and his tech­nique messy, but dig a lit­tle deeper and you’ll un­cover blues vo­cab­u­lary wor­thy of fur­ther study. Korner also in­spired and nur­tured some of the most im­por­tant mu­si­cians of the 60s; with­out Blues In­cor­po­rated we might not have had The Rolling Stones, The Blues­break­ers, Cream, The Gra­ham Bond Or­gan­i­sa­tion, and dare I sug­gest it, Led Zep­pelin! No won­der he's of­ten re­ferred to as the ‘found­ing fa­ther of Bri­tish blues’.

Alexis Korner: 'fa­ther of Brit blues and R&B'

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