Primary Instrument: Band/orchestra
Listen to their debut album, or witness a live performance by the Heritage Blues Orchestra and you'll recognize this group as something breathtakingly new even as they honor old African-American musical traditions. How can something so deeply rooted in the past still seem so adventurous-even audacious?
Heritage Blues Orchestra delivers by serving up a compelling new take on America's Blues legacy. This utterly contemporary group is digging into innovative musical territory and making a distinct contribution to the African-American musical canvas.
The band features Bill Sims Jr., on vocals and guitar, his daughter Chaney Sims on vocals, and Junior Mack on vocals and on both electric and slide guitars.
The group is driven by the powerful rhythms of Grammy-awarding winning blues drummer Kenny Beedy Eyes Smith; it is buttressed by the churning, precise and percussive rhythms of harmonica virtuoso, Frenchman Vincent Bucher; and ablaze with some of New York City's heaviest horn players who have worked with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Sting and Springsteen.
Heritage Blues Orchestra also boasts contributions from Bruno Wilhelm, the group's highly esteemed tenor saxophonist and horn arranger. A native of France, Wilhelm is influenced by an extensive palette of jazz styles. Whether with ethereal musings or hard-hitting section work, his arrangements punctuate every song they touch.
This combined with Bill, Chaney and Junior's collective history in jazz, R&B and gospel help articulate and underscore the Heritage Blues Orchestra's striking voice. At the heart of the group is a broad spectrum of the blues and the longstanding musical mingling between America and Europe that brings together African-American music, Modern Jazz and Western European harmony.
Nowhere is the breadth of Heritage Blues Orchestra's vision and reach better evidenced than on the album's closing piece, Hard Times. This song, in 3 movements, demonstrates it all: the traditional call-and-response between a lone voice and guitar; a bewitching horn composition peppered with Miles Davis' A Silent Way; and a final transition to a roof-raising funk jam that leaps out and shoves you onto the dance floor.
This group is an inspiring testament to the enduring power, possibilities and boundless beauty of African-American music. It drives us down Highway 49 from Clarksdale to New Orleans, journeys across the Middle Passage, takes us from chain gangs and juke joints, to orchestra pits and church pews, and even to back porches.
What begins as a loving celebration of tradition gives rise to a whole new adventure in music with a singular sound. Join us in welcoming the exciting arrival of the Heritage Blues Orchestra.