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