Joe Powers, chromatic harmonica: seduced by the tango
Joe Powers is very charismatic and very talented harmonica player (chromatic harmonica). He completed many tours in France, Germany and Japan. In 2008 Joe won a prestigious Crystal Harmonica Award (Classical division) in Belgium (2008).
Joe plays a wide variety of music – blues, classical, Japanese folk. And, yes,
Argentine tango. Joe is a card-carrying tanguero, who is intimately familiar
with the tango music from the both sides – as a superb dancer and as a superb professional
We talked with Joe Powers how he learned to play the harmonica, how he was
seduced into playing the Argentine tango and how he recorded his first CD of tangos – Amor de Tango (2007).
Amor de Tango is a collection of the traditional tangos, milongas and
valses, played just the way the modern dancers like it. Recoded in Buenos Aires
with the top-drawer Argentine musicians – Nicolas Ledesma (piano, Latin Grammy
nominee), Horacio Cabarcos (double bass of Leopoldo Federico Orchestra) and Raul
Luzzi (guitar). See the review below.
This interview came out of the email exchange with one of the Tango Tales listeners
– Leonardo Krause from Eugene, OR (USA). The meeting between two Oregonians (Joe
Powers is from Oregon, too) was so unusual that I asked Leonard to record an
audio postcard about it for this show.
Amor De Tango, Joe Powers latest CD is a winner.
The first time you hear Joe Powers’ new CD “Amor De Tango” get comfortable in your favorite chair before you start; You will not want to stop listening even when you’ve heard it all. Using power octaves in the style of the great Hugo Diaz and full mouth chords for accents Joe achieves the sound of the bandoneon, the very essence of tango music. Only one who loves, lives and breathes tango music as Joe does can play tangos with the proper feeling and expression.
For more than a hundred years the bandoneon (a small push-button squeeze box)
has reigned as king of tango, but Joe Powers’ “Amor De Tango” may smite the king. Joe lived in Argentina a year and a half, studying tango music and dance in order to develop the understanding and techniques necessary for playing the sensual music.
Joe made his international debut in 2005 opening for electro-Tango sensation “Narco Tango” at the Paris, Mephisto Bal. He then traveled to Trosingen, Germany and took 4th place in the “Jazz Diatonic” category at the World Harmonica Championships representing the U.S. as the only American Competitor out of the 29 countries that participated. Following the Trosingen Championships, Joe returned to Europe three times for performances in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland and Serbia, then gave 19 performances in Japan including the “Nippon World Tango Festival” in Tokyo.
Returning to Argentina in 2007 Joe recorded his new CD “Amor De Tango.”
Displaying an amazing talent at 29 years of age, Joe stands tall among harmonica artists.
His techniques that make the entire CD a work of art include both power and sensitivity: the smooth legato phrases and delicate dynamics in “Campo Afuera” and the double stops in “Felicia.”
In “Corazon De Oro” Joe uses tongue switches to deliver smooth octave skips and a very difficult power technique I call “octave trills” which can be produced by only a very few professionals such as Larry Stutz and Dominic Sgro. The CD ends with an old
favorite, “La Cumparsita” in which Joe plays fast legato passages in an exciting finale of that leaves you with an urge to leap from your seat and cheer.
Recently Joe was elected “Best male artist of the year” in the 2008 Portland Music Awards in his home state of Oregon and has been invited to perform in April at the “Zen Nippon Harmonca Gala” in Tokyo and in May at the “Harmonicas Sur Cher” festival in central France. No grass is growing under Joe’s feet. You won’t want to miss this CD.
Special Note From Judy:
Don’t expect to sit quietly as you listen. The secret of great music lies in the
feelings evoked within the listener… and a great musician empowers those sensations.
Joe Powers’ new CD “Amor De Tango” satisfies with wonderful music and compelling
Close your eyes and experience being swept away to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Notes of tender yearning embrace your mind, percussive rhythms control your shoulders
and soon the dramatic passion of tango music consumes you entirely – you’ll be dancing.
What a sensual delight it is! This CD is available at www.joepowers.com.
Segments from the live peformances in France and Amsterdam (Milonga Triste,
Joe Powers – Francia – Amore de Tango
Hugo Diaz – El lloron – Tangos
Joe Powers – Campo Afuera – Amore de Tango
Joe Powers – Felicia – Amore de Tango (background)
Joe Powers – Mi Dolor – Amore de Tango
Joe Powers, Michael Hoppe – Melancolie – Romances for harmonica
Joe Powers (you can
buy Amore de Tango directly from the artist). You can find the article
about playing tango on chromatic harmonica here.
composer and pianist
Special thanx to
Kimiko King, Joe’s business manager for organizing the interview
My deep gratitude to Leonard Krause for taking time and creating an audio
postcard about Joe