Big Harp George
Living In The City
Blues Mountain Records
George Bisharat a.k.a. Big Harp George is a San Francisco singer, songwriter and harp player. He favors the chromatic harp which gives his music a jazzier sound then most blues players. Formerly George was a criminal defense attorney and award winning law professor at the University of California. George’s early harp influences include Paul Butterfield, Sonny Boy Williamson II and William Clarke; but George got the idea of playing the Chromatic in multiple positions from Paul deLay and states that he didn’t want to record until he had something new to say.
George released his debut recording “Chromaticism” in 2014 at the age of 59. In 2015 he received a Blues Music Award nomination in the category of “Best New Artist – Debut”. Follow-up albums included 2016’s “Wash My Horse in Champagne” and 2018’s “Uptown Cool” both of which garnered additional accolades.
Since George’s playing is Jazzy he enlisted some of the West Coast’s finest musicians. Produced by Chris Burns the album was recorded by Kid Andersen at his Greaseland Studios in San Jose. George, harp and vocals; is accompanied by Andersen and the late Little Charlie Baty, guitars; Burns, keyboards; Joe Kyle and Andersen, bass; June Core, drums; “D’Mar” Martin, percussion; and a horn section including Michael Peloquin, tenor sax; Doug Rowan or Ben Torres, baritone sax; and Mike Rinta, trombone. Background vocalists include the Sons of the Soul Revivers; Lisa Leuschner Andersen and Loralee Christensen. All of the songs are Big Harp George originals.
The opener “Build Myself An App” is a modern up to date song with a solid performance from the horn section. George is perhaps an even more commanding vocalist then remembered as he sings “gonna’ be rich by Friday”. James, Dwayne and Walter Morgan a.k.a. the “Sons of the Soul Revivers” provide the backing vocals. “Smoking Tires” is another strong vocal performance with some great guitar from Andersen while grounded by the rhythm section of Kyle and Core.
The album is dedicated to the memory of guitarist Baty and he is featured on the jazzy title track, “Living in The City”, with Andersen switching to bass; George’s vocal is accompanied by one of his signature solos. Baty is featured again on “Try Nice?”; the swingin’ instrumental “Bayside Bounce”; “First Class Muck Up” with a fabulous solo, and on the rhumba “Chew Before You Swallow”.
The town of Itaipu is on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. “Heading Out to Itaipu” is Brazilian Jazz and features special guest Carlos Reyes on both the Paraguayan harp and violin, while Torres switches to flute. Percussionist “D’Mar” joins drummer Core as George lays down another jazzy solo.
“Copayment” is a fun production about “Doctor’s Services”; played on a diatonic it features the lyric “even I can see the scam”, a narrative from Christensen, a high reedy harp solo, Burns on the B-3, and some group harmony. “Pusher in A White Coat” is another song culled from today’s headlines about Doctor’s who unnecessarily prescribe Opioids. The funky “Don’t Talk” features a horn arrangement from Peloquin and a trombone solo from Rinta. Violinist Reyes is featured again on the poignant “Enrique” with George’s sensitive vocal. The closer “Meet Me at the Fence” pays tribute to young Palestinians who demonstrate for freedom and dignity, featuring vocalist Amal Murkus, her son Firas Zreik on zither, and Arabic percussionist Loay Dahbour.
The multi-talented Big Harp George continues to mature as he proves himself a great bandleader. This is another award winning effort.