CD Review: Ilya Portnov – Strong Brew, January 2018
Blue Barry – Smoky Mountain Blues Society
Ilya Portnov – “Strong Brew” CD is a clinic on what can be done on a 10-hole diatonic, and chromatic harmonicas. Tons of other stuff in there too, that I can’t really think of! Ilya grew up in Russia, lived in Brazil, and now playing blues, and everything under the sun, in the good ole USA. This is a nine-cut debut album containing seven originals. One of the covers is a Reverend Gary Davis piece called the “Cincinnati Flow Rag, and the other a Russian tune from the 1940’s “In A Town Garden.” www.ilyaharmonica.com Ilya has studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he got his Master’s Degree! Harmonica was his main instrument! After graduating, he moved around some, but now lives in Los Angeles. Let’s talk about his playing. He is phenomenal. I have played harmonica for over fifty years, and I cannot touch the skill level of this guy! Turning his heart to American roots, and blues music he has learned from the best. Learning the “overblow” technique, and listening to Jason Ricci, Howard Levy, and Carlos del Junco, he soon found the best out there! This is not a full big band traditional blues album that you are listening to. This is an outstanding performance by a world class harmonica player. I shake my head and wonder how he does this. This is not hard rocking blues. This is easy going violin and piano in the background, stratospheric harmonica! Ilya performed in last years IBC in Memphis in the solo/duo division with his buddy Rob Vye on guitar. Wait till you hear Rob fingerpick the Rev’s “Cincinnati Flow Rag,” on guitar! This is serious harmonica, for serious harmonica players. Everyone else can join in at their own risk! I guarantee something on here you’ve never heard before. One love, blue barry – smoky mountain blues society.