Meet the Artist...
It was during one of the early Siegel -Schwall performances in 1966 in Chicago that Siegel was introduced to a musician that would change the direction of his life and musical career. Night after night, a young Japanese fellow would attend the concerts. One evening the young man said, "I would like your band to 'jam' with my band." The young man was Maestro Seiji Ozawa, his "band" was the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The Chicago Tribune describes the first collaboration performance of William Russo's "Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony" with Siegel-Schwall, Seiji Ozawa, and the Chicago Symphony at the symphony's summer home at Ravinia in 1968:
"When Corky Siegel cupped his harmonica and the pavilion microphone together and began a half saxophone, half blues trumpet wail, even the least conservative Chicago Symphony Orchestra member might have shivered at the hand-writing on the crumbling walls."
The Chicago Sun Times reported: "A clear success. The Siegel-Schwall Band played expertly in symphonic context. The audience loved them and surely loved the piece. It moves, it has something to say, and it was exciting to hear."
In 1969, a 25 year old Siegel and his band of long-haired street clad musicians, then stepped on the Lincoln Center stage to join the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of the great Maestro, Seiji Ozawa, to perform Russo's "Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony Orchestra". They were greeted with boos and hisses from the very conservative subscription concert-goers. The social, political and cultural gap was wider than the Grand Canyon that night. But, as the last cries of Siegel's harmonica and the last dramatic slashes of Ozawa's baton marked the end of the performance, the formerly disapproving audience shot to their feet in thunderous approval. The President of Lincoln Center's Symphony Association remarked that it was the longest, most intense standing ovation he had ever witnessed, and the concert was met with rave reviews that reverberated from coast to coast - "Siegel appeared in a recent New York symphony subscription concert, and it took a week for a jumping Philharmonic Hall to settle back on it's foundation." - Chicago Tribune "Cheers rang through Philharmonic Hall - They LOVE Corky Siegel in Lincoln Center." - New York Times, Shonberg "An instant standing ovation and a tremolando encore." - San Francisco Examiner
Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony was recorded on the paramount of classical labels, Deutsche Grammophon with the San Francisco Symphony, Seiji Ozawa and the Siegel-Schwall Band in 1971, and prompted a second release with Ozawa and the San Francisco Symphony in 1979 with Siegel as soloist titled: "Street Music:A Blues Concerto." Phil Ellwood, critic for the San Francisco Examiner, describes the collaboration as: "Magnificent. An adventure in rhythm, harmony and solos. It is a memorable musical joy ride."
For nearly three decades, Siegel has performed as guest soloist with the world's major symphony orchestras that catalog an impressive list including the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, the Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony at Kennedy Center, the San Francisco Symphony, Switzerland's Suisse Romande, Japan's NHK Symphony, Canada's Montreal and Quebec symphonies, Portugal's Metropolitan Symphony, and Mexico's Sinaloa National Symphony Orchestra, and continuing invitations to other major symphonies around the world.
Out of the astounding success of symphonic blues, Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues was formed. Nearly four decades ago, Maestro Ozawa said regarding the debut of symphonic blues: "Some people think that this is a totally different side of music, but I see it as a convergence in the future."
MOST RECENT REVIEW:
"This one-of-a-kind work is an amazing hybrid of raw and highly charged blues and symphonic sound."
"With his amazing control of tone, Siegel gets a limitless palette of sounds from his harmonica."
"The orchestral score was fascinating. At times, the full strings echoed the blues riffs. What great fun to hear them bend and stretch their tuning."
"The room just needed to be infused with the smell of smoke and bourbon to make the Temple Theatre seem like a blues club."
"It was amazing ensemble work, and both the conductor and orchestra were responsive to the artist."
"When the orchestra entered the mix, it just seemed like an extension of the harmonica."
"At one point, the orchestra seemed to be a 1920s Paris salon orchestra, and then it began shifting in moods and styles. It felt like a mixing of Copeland, Ray Charles and Igor Stravinsky. This work is an amazing musical ride."
"Siegel's final cadenza was a superhuman ending to the work. There was a spontaneous cheering standing ovation."
Gregory H. Largent, Saginaw News (October, 2006)