Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast

Jim Hughes interview 2

June 23, 2023 Neil Warren Season 1 Episode 88
Happy Hour Harmonica Podcast
Jim Hughes interview 2
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Show Notes Chapter Markers

Jim Hughes joins me (again) on episode 88.

Jim is a chromatic player who was last interviewed on the podcast in October 2020, back on episode 26. He is now at the grand age of 93 years young, and he shares the wisdom he has developed over many years of playing the chromatic harmonica.

Jim has has become blind since the last interview and after being a life long sight reader has now had to learn how to play by ear. He shares how he has adapted to these new challenges and is finding new joy in playing the harmonica.

Recently Jim has unearthed some recordings he made among the thousands he recorded with the BBC, and he talks us through some of the pieces and the approaches he took on the harmonica, and his life as a session musician with the BBC.

Previous interview with Jim:

Serenade Radio:

The Archivist harmonica website, from Roger Trobridge:

NHL concert 1985: (or 1983)


Adam Glasser in conversation with Jim Hughes, from 2022:

Carol Axford playing at NHL concert 2004:

Podcast website:

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Spotify Playlist:
Also check out the Spotify Playlist, which contains most of the songs discussed in the podcast:

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This podcast is sponsored by SEYDEL harmonicas - visit the oldest harmonica factory in the world at www.seydel1847.com  or on Facebook or Instagram at SEYDEL HARMONICAS

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Jim is the first person to be interviewed twice on the podcast, with the first one being episode 26 in October 2020
Jim is now blind and stopped playing for a year as a result of that, but now he’s back at it and learning new things about the harmonica
Hasn’t seen any noticeable impacts of losing sight on other senses
Jim is now 93 years young
Previously was entirely a sight reader, and how he has adapted to becoming an ear player
Comparisons between sight reading and singing
Is finding it difficult to learn new pieces by ear due to remembering them, but remembers all the old standards no problem
Jim’s current practise regime now includes scales, arpeggios and improvising along with the radio
Lots of harmonica players learn by ear first and then maybe take on sight reader after, and how Jim has adapted to that
Has unearthed some recordings from the archives and what does Jim have in his recording archives
Session work involves reading music you’ve never seen before, but some of the recordings Jim made were pre-practised, although still sight read
Did a lot of work as a resident BBC musician and recorded about 6 pieces a week with pianist Harold Rich
The search for repertoire for the chromatic
Many of Jim’s BBC radio performances were not pure sight-reading, but prepared sight reading
Finding pieces that work on chromatic harmonica
Jim is composing pieces for harmonica, including one for Susie Coclough, who is also blind and has been helping Jim come to terms with the condition
How to play legato on a chromatic harmonica
Jim demonstrates playing smoothly on ‘You Must Remember Spring’
Vibrato Jim adds
How Jim teaches his latest compositions
Jim composed an accordion inspired by a song from a French film
Emulating an accordion playing trills
Music gives Jim an outlet to combat the restrictions that sight loss have placed upon him
Still teaches and is happy to teach for free these days
Focuses on music theory in his teaching
Never had any lessons himself
Rhythm is the hard thing to learn
Difficult thing about session work is when you’re not playing and counting
Tip on playing rhythm is to write out where the beats are
Jim has recently digitised some of his broadcasts recorded with the BBC
When he first auditioned with the BBC he was assigned to play with pianist Harold Rich
Jim has played with a lot of great musicians, which has really improved his playing
Only worked with Harold Rich on radio, working with Johnny Patrick on TV
Played live, having prepared the pieces beforehand (not sight reading)
Happy Barefoot Boy, Henry Mancini song
Set of dance song recordings, some written by a pianist friend of Jims
No Limit has a train imitation, which is good to hear on chromatic (as trains often played on diatonic)
Compositions by Gordon Jacob were for the harmonica, after being inspired by Tommy Reilly
Harmonesque song was written by chromatic player Carol Axford, a former member of the Ivy Benson All Girl band
The first TV performances Jim made are on these recordings, including Stranger On The Shore
Jim was ok playing live on TV, found live radio more daunting
Harpsichord music that Jim turned down to play on radio due to difficulty. Larry Adler also turned it down
Jim discovered some recordings made in Israel with Dror Adler, which Jim plans to digitise
Live recording from NHL festival concert in the mid-1980s and recording with former pupil and world champion, Ivan Richards
NHL festival concert available on Roger Trobidge’s Archivist site
Serenade For Solo harmonica is a Tommy Reilly song Jim played in the NHL concert, and Jim has the music available for anyone interested
Larry Adler inspired Jim to start playing and they performed in Israel together
Tommy Reilly had an impeccable classical style
Playing Irish music on the chromatic and Brendan Power using special tunings to do so
Jim plays written out jazz songs (not improvised)
Recordings with singer Brenda Scott, with Johnny Patrick writing all the parts that Jim played, with Jim making it sound ad lib as he can swing
Recordings with singer Brenda Scott, with Johnny Patrick writing all the parts that Jim played, with Jim making it sound ad lib as he can swing
How to swing
10 minute question
Which chromatics Jim is currently playing
Still has maintenance carried out on the chromatics by John Cook
Jim compares the DM48 midi chromatic to the Millioniser from the 1980s
Suzuki Chromatix is Jim’s favourite chromatic
Plays 12 hole C chromatic
Jim might make some more public performances with pianist Chris Collins
Jim is an inspiration to still be playing age 93, and what keeps him going is the love for the music and preserving his legacy
Jim sells James Moody’s works for chromatic, which he entered into the computer himself