Blues Fidelity Recordings
Paul Oscher was born in Brooklyn, New York and began playing harmonica at the age of 12. Oscher became the first Caucasian musician to become a member of the Muddy Waters Band. He played harmonica with Muddy from 1967 until 1972. Not only did he play with Muddy but he also lived in Muddy’s house on Chicago’s South Side where he shared the basement with pianist Otis Spann. Muddy was a father figure to Oscher and Muddy treated him like a son. After Muddy’s death in 1983 Oscher returned to Brooklyn where he often moonlighted as Brooklyn Slim.
Oscher taught himself both piano and guitar and he plays the latter in a style akin to Muddy’s. In 1996 Oscher released two band albums. “The Deep Blues of Paul Oscher” was recorded with ex-Muddy Waters Band members Calvin Jones and S.P. Leary and featured Dave Maxwell on piano and saxophonist Gordon Beadle. “Knockin’ On the Devil’s Door” featured fellow Water’s alumni Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on drums; along with pianist Maxwell; bassist “Mudcat” Ward, and fellow harpist Steve Guyger. In 2000 Oscher collaborated with Guyger on “Living Legends Deep in The Blues”. Between 2004 and 2010 Oscher released three more albums of mostly acoustic blues on which he played all three instruments. He became widely known for his one-man shows.
Any recording from Oscher would have to be considered an event especially since it’s his first band recording in awhile. The album was recorded in August of this year. All songs were written by Oscher except for one from Muddy.
The opener “Money Makin’ Woman” features a New Orleans second line beat with the rhythm section of Russell Lee, drums; and Johnny “Ace” Acerno, bass. Oscher, piano and vocals is joined by guitarist “Mighty” Mike Schermer and the horns of Eric Burnhardt, baritone sax; and Tom Robinson, tenor. The same lineup plays on three more tracks that follow including the low-down “Blues And Trouble” with a great piano intro from Oscher.
Bassist Sarah Brown, who had her own 1996 album “Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’” on Blind Pig Records, is included in another band configuration with Oscher, Lee and guitarist Mike Keller on Muddy’s “Rollin and Tumblin’”. On “Dirty Dealin’ Mama” the guest vocalist is Lavelle White who in 1994 released her own sensational album “Miss Lavelle” on the Antoine’s imprint.
Drummer Lee is featured on the narrative “Mississippi Poem”; on “Ain’t That A Man”, Oscher’s tribute to James Cotton, and taking another vocal on “Poor Man Blues”.
The centerpiece of the recording is the title track “Cool Cat”. Featured is a narrative as Oscher tells us the story of a homeless man and his cat. Oscher who now resides in Austin moonlights in a Jazz Quartet at C-Boy’s an Austin nightclub. Oscher on piano is featured with drummer Ernie Durawa, bassist Chris Alvarez, and Tomas Ramirez, sax. They interpret “Cool Cat” as a funky instrumental; and also include a second piece, “On The Edge”, with more great piano from Oscher.
Another version of “Cool Cat” closes out this fine album, recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios, the longer version includes most of the ensemble.
His recordings are always exceptional but “Cool Cat” is the most comprehensive display of Oscher’s enormously varied talents.