Tommy Reilly – In his own words

Tommy Reilly set the standard for playing chromatic harmonica and he was mainly responsible for the acceptance of the harmonica as a solo instrument on the classical stage. He had a prolific recording career. He was born in Canada in 1919 but spent most of his life in the UK.

Here Tommy talks about his musical life and plays some music on two BBC radio programmes – Music Weekly (Michael Oliver, 6 May, 1979), and Studio Portrait (Wilfred Parry (piano), 10 February, 1967).

Tommy’s silver chromatic harmonica was developed before the first radio programme in 1973 and after the second one in 1967.

1 – Music Weekly – Talking about the harmonica – Tommy Reilly
2 – Music – James Moody
3 – Talking playing the harmonica and repertoire – Tommy
4 – Villa Lobos Concerto for Harmonica – Tommy Reilly
5 – Talking about his Silver Harmonica – Tommy Reilly
6 – Parash’s Aria – Stravinsky
7 – Studio Portrait – Talking about composers – Tommy Reilly
8 – Caprice – Gordon Jacobs
9 – Scherzino – James Moody
10 – Talking harmonicas – Tommy Reilly
11 – Strawberry Fair – Leonard Morris
12 – Seventeen Come Sunday – Leonard Morris
13 – Talking history and harmonicas – Tommy Reilly
14 – Chanson Russe – Stravinsky
15 – Talking film music – Tommy Reilly
16 – Après un Rêve – Faurè
17 – Talking about Polish customs – Tomy Reilly
18 – Bulgarian Wedding Dance – James Moody

Concerto Scherzoso – Graham Whettam – Setting the record straight

Jim Hughes saw a video of Graham Whettam’s composition Concerto Scherzoso for Harmonica and Orchestra on YouTube, which was attributed to Larry Adler but did not sound like him. I checked with the person who posted the video and he said that his recording did not name the harmonica player. Because the piece was written for Larry Adler he had assumed Larry must be the performer. My first thought was Tommy Reilly, but when I checked with my friends, Jang Ming, Art Daane and Sigmund Groven, the truth was established. The harmonica was played by the Dutch soloist, John van Vuuren, also known as John Larryson, the lead player of the harmonica group, The Larrysons. This performance by John van Vueren and the Dutch Orchestra conducted by Hugo de Groot was recorded for the publisher, De Wolfe, and first published in 1962 on the “Music De Wolfe” label, no.DWLP 2732. Click to hear it for yourself.

Harmonica Harry (Pitch) – 1925 to 2015

Harry Pitch took inspiration from Larry Adler and like him he was an entertainer who worked hard to build a successful career. They were both more interested in the music rather than technique, but Harry was always a jazz player.

This audio biography shows how Harry’s long musical career covered all areas of music on chromatic harmonica and trumpet, as a soloist, session man and bandleader. He could read music but was always happy to improvise and play with other musicians.

Harry started to play harmonica before the Second World War. When harmonicas became unavailable after the Second World War he moved to trumpet. He joined and led big bands in the 1940s/50s but he started to play harmonica again after hearing Max Geldray playing in the Goon Show. I have included examples of him playing both instruments in his big band. He carried over much of his trumpet solo style to his harmonica playing.

In the 1960s he became a successful session musician, featuring on film soundtracks, classical music concerts, pop records and his biggest hit, Groovin’ with Mr Bloe’.

From the 1970s, Harry played on the long running TV series, ‘The Last of the Summer Wine’ and he started to play more with his old friend, accordionist, Jack Emblow.

Harry set up two bands, ‘Rhythm and Reeds’ and ‘The Thames Valley Jazzmen’ and he continued to play trumpet and harmonica. As live gigs became harder to get he played more smaller venues like Pizza Express restaurants with some distinguished pianists and a repertoire of light classics, standards and tributes to Larry Adler.

There are some videos and more information on his web page.

Harry Pitch Audio Bio

1 – – – 00:00
2 – Max Geldray – Goon Show – 02:00
3 – – – 02:45
4 – Big Band Trumpet – Boy Friend – 03:10
5 – Big Band Harmonica – Lady be Good – 04.03
6 – – – 05:40
7 – Frank Ifield – I Remember You – 06:45
8 – Bill McGuffie – During One Night – 07:22
9 – – – 08:10
10 – Mr Bloe – Groovin with Mr Bloe – 09:10
11 – – – 10:00
12 – Ronnie Hazelhurst – Last of the Summer Wine – 10:30
13 – – – 11:30
14 – Rhythm and Reeds with Jack Emblow – Alfie – 11:45
15 – Thames Valley Jazzment – Birth of the Blues – 15:10
16 – Thames Valley Jazzmen – L’il Darlin’ – 18:40
17 – Harry Pitch Duo – Body and Soul – 23:30
18 – Harry Pitch – Summertime – 27:10