Meet Curtis Waterman
— Skip Murphy, Syracuse New Times
— Ed Ivey, Blues Reviews
“Curtis Waterman’s harp sassy as shit, never reaching into the suasions of, say, Lee Oskar territory, more content to lurk in the twilight with the werewolves.”
— Mark S. Tucker, reviewer
Curtis Waterman (harmonica and vocals) studied the styles of Sonny Boy Williams II (Rice Miller), James Cotton, Junior Wells, Little Water, Paul Delay and Walter Horton. He has grown to be one of New York’s finest and distinctive harp players. He’s been heard across the country with Syracuse bands and performers Corn-Bred (Native American Music award (NAMMY) winners, “Best Blues Recording of the Year”, 2007), Los Blancos (For Sale By Owner), the Gonstermachers, the Wescott Jugsuckers and Jane Zell and da Zelltones; in Rochester with Gordon Munding, Fred Vine, the Genesee Jug Sliders, and more.
Curtis’ “Big Harp Blues” resonated nearly every Thursday for two years as one of the regulars at Gordon Munding’s Son House Blues Night.
Curtis is also a harp-for-hire looking to work with other musicians either locally or over the internet. Contact us for more information.
Curtis’ recordings include:
He also appears in a number of tracks on:
- Jane Zell’s Sista Moon
- Michael Bucher's Believe (track 6, “Fat Cats”)
- Indian Rezervation Blues and More (CD #2, Track 5, “General Sullivan”)
- Joanne Shenandoah & Michael Bucher, __Bitter Tears, Sacred Ground__ (Winner, 2009 NAMMY, Best Compilation CD)
- John Engerman's __maquette__ (Track 6, “Kundalini Rag”)
- Los Blancos' __For Sale By Owner, for which Blues Revue said, “Best cut: James Booker’s ‘Junco Partner,’ a Zydeco-style romp with blazing harp from Curtis...”
- Curtis has a cut on the First Annual Harmonica Blow-Off at Styleen’s CD (Queen Bee Records) recorded live September 15, 1995.
- Miss E’s It’s about Time CD, available at the Dinosaur BBQ (Syracuse).
The Story as Curtis Tells It ...
.....it seems as though I always had a harmonica, at least since high school.
I read the directions that came with the harmonica and started to teach my self some campfire songs. Songs like Row Row Your Boat, Kumbaya, John Denver songs, songs I knew from Boy Scouts or summer camp with the YMCA. I found I could play mostly all the notes of the song but some notes just weren’t there so I would sing the note then continue on playing the song just to have fun. Looking back I was playing “1st” position, which is blowing into the harmonica and playing a song in the key which was in the key the harmonica was made. I didn’t know how to “bend” the reeds yet so I just thought this was a function of the harmonica only having 10 holes and I needed to buy another type of harmonica if I wanted all the notes to be there, I was content with my toy and singing the note that wasn’t there. Incidentally, it was the ti in the do, re, me scheme that wasn’t there.
Well, time went on and there I was in the Service, late at night right before I would go to sleep, we were out in the woods on bivouac (camping), out comes my trusty pocket pal and I would play some lonesome cowboy song (boy, there’s assimilation for you), I’d play it with the hand vibrato and try to play it best I could, then fall asleep. In the morning I heard from others that they liked hearing the harmonica off in the distance, soothing their souls. Well, one day in the barracks I was playing my toy harmonica when this fellow soldier, a white guy at that, came up to me and said, “gimme that, that’s not how you play the harmonica”. I was like, “really”, I had no choice but to hear what he was talking about. He took my toy and started playing this rhythmic chagga chagga thing, and played long bending notes, bending down then up, whooo weeee what was he doing to my toy, he threw the harmonica back at me and walked away. I was left in awe, my toy was no longer a toy, the music I was brought up on was country western and this guy just played me some blues.
From that day I had to learn how to play my harmonica. My toy was lifted into a class of instruments where I can not only bend notes but control the bend to the point of evoking a sense of “feel”, a feel that can be felt by the audience, a give and take feel, a “nirvana”. When it’s there you just want to keep playing to keep it there, to me that’s where my devotion to my little toy has taken me. In other words, don’t just play a note: share a feeling, project an emotion, let your audience into your world by opening it up and inviting them in.