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NEWS -- Swississippi Records launches label

New blues label launches in Chicago

Interview with Swississippi Records co-founder and blues harp player

 Chris Harper

Chris Harper

By Eric Schelkopf

 

Switzerland is more than 4,000 miles from Chicago, the blues capital of the world.

 

But Switzerland native Chris Harper fell in love with the blues at a young age and he has started a new record label that celebrates his love for the blues. Harper also plays blues harp, picking up a few lessons from blues legend Sugar Blue, no less.

 

The Chicago-based Swississippi Records was launched by Harper and Chicago-born Dave Katzman on Sept. 21, and the label has three releases under its belt - Four Aces and a Harp, featuring Harper and a stable of blues legends - Jimmy Burns, John Primer, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Bob Stroger, Rob Blaine's Big Otis Blues and Peaches Staten: Live At Legends" which was recorded at Buddy Guy's Legends in May before the legendary club moved to its new location.

 

Their love for the blues fueled the venture. For 20 years, Harper ran a convention display company in Switzerland until he sold the business to pursue his passion for playing blues harmonica.

 

Katzman has been heavily involved in the music business, doing everything from artist management to being the production manager at the original Buddy Guy Legends.

 

To celebrate the launching of the new label, a CD release party will be held Sunday, Oct. 3, at Mayne Stage, www.mayne-stage.com, 1328 W. Morse Ave., Chicago, and the party will feature performances by all the artists.

 

The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $20, available at www.ticketweb.com.

 

I had the chance to talk to Harper about why he wanted to start the label.

 

Q - What was it like playing with blues legends like Jimmy Burns and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith?"

I don't have the background like those guys, of course. I'm from Switzerland, but I have always loved the blues. I have always loved to play harmonica. It was my dream to make a traditional album with some good players.

We had a wonderful time in the studio. It was really beautiful.

 

Q - How did you get to know Peaches?

I have known her for many years. Her voice is so good, I couldn't resist recording her. She is really a great singer, and a great entertainer.

 

Q - Of course, Chicago is also home to Alligator Records, and the label has carved out quite a niche in the blues world. Is there room for another blues label in Chicago?

I don't think I could compete with that label. They have so much tradition, and have so much bigger volume.

I'm not doing it for the money. This was always very personal for me. It's for the love.

 

Q - I understand that Sugar Blue taught you some harmonica techniques.

Yes, I worked with him in 2002. He supported me in a very nice way to learn the tongue block technique. He was an excellent teacher.

 

Q - What do you think of the new Legends?

I like it. The music sounds better than in the old club.

 

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