Corky Siegel and Kalyan Pathak: Blues, Classical, and Indian Music, From Chicago to Cobden

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Yellow Moon Cafe

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Corky Siegel and Chihsuan Yang: Classical Blues
Corky Siegel, Nick Gravenites, and Barry Goldberg: Blues Legends in Little Egypt

Who: Corky Siegel and Kalyan Pathak
What: chamber blues
When: 2017-03-10 - 2017-03-11
Corky Siegel, the Chamber Blues harmonica player, pianist, and composer, will present a weekend of m
Craig Wilson
Video Comentary

Corky Siegel, the Chamber Blues harmonica player, pianist, and composer, will present a weekend of music with internationally renowned percussionist Kalyan Pathak Friday and Saturday, March 10 and 11 at the Yellow Moon Café in Cobden. Tickets are on sale now during regular café hours for $35, cash only. Dinner reservations are required for seating.

Siegel was welcomed into the Chicago blues scene as an innovator in the 1960s when he cofounded the Siegel-Schwall Band, and has been at it ever since. He began heading in refreshing new directions by developing a hybrid musical form that features classical instruments, blues, and world music. He has won the Lila Wallace National Award for chamber-music composition and has been inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame. Among his recordings with the Chamber Blues ensemble are Complementary Colours (Gadfly Records, 1998) and Corky Siegel’s Traveling Chamber Blues Show! (Alligator Records, 2005).

Indian tabla player and percussionist Kalyan Pathak was musically active in his homeland and eventually settled in the United States after receiving a scholarship from Roosevelt University in the 1990s. One of his recent works is a 2016 album with Elizabeth Basta and Jazz Mata called Dream With the Dreamers, a world/Indian/classical/jazz recording dedicated to the power of love as expressed through Indian poetry.

Nightlife had a chat with Corky and Kalyan to explore the history and ideas behind their music. Here is an edited transcript.

You began playing chamber blues in 1960s Chicago. What inspired you to combine classical instruments like violin and cello with blues piano and harmonica? How was the public response to your efforts at the time?

Corky: The idea of bringing blues to classical was presented to me in 1966 by Maestro Seiji Ozawa, who asked if my band, Siegel-Schwall, would jam with his band, the Chicago Symphony. The performance took place at Ravina with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1968.

Seiji insisted that I pursue the juxtaposition of blues and classical. We performed at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony and also with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center, and received invitation from major orchestras around the world.

The five concerts at Lincoln Center in 1969 really stood out. When us hippies walked on stage with harmonicas, guitars, blue jeans, and long hair, the audience broke into a cacophony of boos and hisses. Seiji asked me, “What should we do?” He knew the answer, he was just asking me for the answer. I said, “Seiji, let’s have fun and play the music.”

At the end of the concert, the audience broke out into cheers and were on their feet immediately in total unison. For a twenty-some-year-old, this was life-changing. I saw hatred and anger completely dissipated by music.

With Chamber Blues, you have a forthcoming album, Different Voices, which you said is self-produced. Can you tell me a little more about this album set for release on April 7 and who appears there?

Corky: This album is the culmination of my life’s work. I’m still following the path of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and the blues masters. I’m still following the path that Maestro Seiji Ozawa and composer William Russo laid out for me. Besides presenting the intertwining of blues and classical, I’m bringing in different elements— that is, Different Voices. Ernie Watts is a jazz-saxophone icon. Marcy Levy is a rhythm-and-blues diva. Matthew Santos, singer/songwriter, sang “Superstar” with Lupe Fiasco. It’s not that I’m looking for names. I really love these people— they’re friends, and some of the best reps of their genre we can find.

Kalyan, you’re cited as an Indian and multi-ethnic percussionist. What other cross-cultural drum styles do you work with?

Kalyan: I’ve systematically studied Brazilian, West African, Afro-Cuban and Middle Eastern drumming traditions by going to masters of each one. I learned not to come through with my individual voice as an Indian drummer, but to learn and play the traditional voice and part first. Before any mixing up can happen, my focus for around twenty years has been to engage deeply in the drumming traditions I got into.

What is it about the tabla that sets it apart from other drum styles?

Kalyan: The tabla is deeply rooted in aural and oral tradition. All the sounds we make on the drums are conceived and conveyed in the special language of bols, the tabla syllables, words, phrases, and themes.

Today, there is a lot of interest in the jazz-drumming community about North Indian tabla bols and South Indian konnakol systems of vocalized drumming, mainly because such a study lends one in the mastery of odd time signatures and over-the-bar line phrasing. I find that the North Indian folk drums such as tabla, dhol, and dholak have many grooves that have two-against-three feeling of swing and shuffle that works well with blues, rhythm and blues, jazz, and funk.

What can we expect from your show in Cobden, and will your new album be available there?

Kalyan: One can expect danceable roots of rhythm and blues, meditative trance of Indian music, and the musical freedom of jazz. They blend into a new lyrical language where laughter, pranks, and puns are all allowed.

Corky: The new album won’t be released until April 7. We just received the first review [in Midwest Record], which I think was inspired by the Academy Awards show: ... so cinematic that it’s better than most of the movies coming out these days. This is smoking, out-of-the ordinary stuff.... Totally killer.”

I think he liked it.

who: Corky Siegel and Kalyan Pathak

what: chamber blues

where: Yellow Moon Café


when: Friday and Saturday, March 10 and 11

Low Dog in Southern Illinois Blues

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Walker's Bluff

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Low Dog Band: Blues from the Bottom Up

Who: Marty Davis
What: blues
When: 2017-01-26
Although they consider themselves outsiders to the Carbondale music scene, the Low Dog Band has been
Craig Wilson
Video Comentary

Although they consider themselves outsiders to the Carbondale music scene, the Low Dog Band has been playing blues in Southern Illinois and parts of Missouri for some time now. Their members are Larry Low Dog (a.k.a. Misdemeanor Marty Davis) on guitar and vocals, Mark Strawn on bass, and Wilson Neighbor on drums. Others who have played bass with Low Dog in the past include Doctor Ted, Larry Woods II, and Mike Alderfer of Carbondale jazz act the Jewels, among many other bands. They frequently appear at area wineries and are currently the main act for Blue Friday, which takes place at Martini Joe’s in the Marion Town Square on the first Friday of every month.

For more information, check out Low Dog on Facebook and Youtube.

Nightlife caught up with Davis to learn a little more about the band’s activities and history.

What inspired you to play the blues?

My inspirations, blues-wise, were Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, Robin Trower, Albert Collins, Johnny Winter, the Allman Brothers, AC/DC— it’s all blues licks on crack. I never made a decision to play blues or become a bluesman, it all happened naturally. I was always trying to play everything.

Did you take guitar and voice lessons or are you self-taught?

I took some lessons as a kid for guitar. My first teacher played with the Texas Playboys. He taught me to read notes. He moved back to Texas from Cape Girardeau and left me in the hands of hippies... end of learning to read music. Ten years ago I took harmony/theory lessons at John A. Logan College so as not to be ignorant.


When did you start the Low Dog Band and what’s your history? Do you play both cover tunes and originals?

I’ve been doing this pretty much nonstop for twenty-two years based out of Carbondale. Band names and members change, I trod on. I play covers and originals. I like funky stuff and it shows. I took on the name Low Dog when I realized that’s who I was, at least as far as the Carbondale scene is concerned. Somebody’s gotta be Low Dog!

What has been your experience playing around Southern Illinois? How would you compare your Southern Illinois gigs to the shows in Missouri?

In Illinois and Missouri it’s pretty much the same thing—forcing blues down the throats of rednecks. Outside of Carbondale it’s hard for them to grasp blues. Travel up closer to Saint Louis, or down south to Club 37 in Olmstead, and they warm up a little bit. They request “Last Two Dollars” instead of “Mustang Sally.” My first Friday of each month shows at Martini Joe’s are going well.

I’ve seen a few videos on your Facebook page. Do you have any recordings, Bandcamp sites, or anywhere else people can listen? If not, do you have any plans to make an album? Would you ever record a live album?

I’m simply too poor in money and time to record. Being Low Dog doesn’t help. I have to make more calls and travel farther just to get gigs. I hope to record someday. I don’t even know what a Bandcamp is. I’m not trying to make it. Low Dog is simply lucky to survive. They will tell you I’m a troublemaker. I will tell you, anyone who tries to stand up for themselves and point out how they’ve been overlooked, mistreated, will be labelled as such. See black people, Natives, and Chicanos in America.

What’s the story behind Low Dog and Stringz?

Low Dog and Stringz is a duo consisting of the two most underrated bluesmen in Southern Illinois, period: myself and Shawn Harmon.

who: Marty Davis

what: blues

where: Walker’s Bluff


when: Thursday, January 26

Slappin’ Henry Blue and Tawl Paul: Ring in the Holiday and the New Year

Slappin' Henry Blue

Slappin' Henry Blue

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Old Feed Store, The
Tres Hombres

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Tawl Paul: Carbondale's Towering Music Legend Gets His Own Day

Who: Slappin’ Henry Blue
What: Tawl blues
When: 2016-12-17 - 2016-12-31
Few are like Tawl Paul, and this holiday season, Southern Illinois gets the opportunity to hear the
Leah Williams
Video Comentary

Few are like Tawl Paul, and this holiday season, Southern Illinois gets the opportunity to hear the local legend and his spectacular band Slappin’ Henry Blue not just once but thrice before the ball drops for 2017.

Tawl Paul and Slappin’ Henry Blue rock out Saturday, December 17 at the Old Feed Store in Cobden for A Tawl Paul Christmas. The boys will be back for another performance on New Year’s Eve at PK’s. In between, they play Friday, December 23 at Tres Hombres.

Nightlife spoke with Paul about the upcoming holidays, singing the blues, and ringing in a new year.

The man named Paul Frederick but who is known mostly by his stage name of Tawl Paul has been a staple on the Southern Illinois music scene for several decades. Paul was a part of Da Blooz and Pontiac Jones in the 1970s before relocating to the West Coast when the Carbondale scene featured mostly disco acts or country-western bands.

After those fads faded, Paul came back and settled into the area for good. His band, Slappin’ Henry Blue, has performed in Carbondale and the surrounding communities for more than twenty-five years.

Paul previously told Nightlife that what drew him to Southern Illinois was its natural beauty, and what kept him playing was the opportunity to know and perform with some of the other premier talents that also call Carbondale home.

“Southern Illinois is beautiful. It really is,” he said in 2013. “I’m so privileged to be around great musicians, and to be hanging around great musicians. I really am.”

And Carbondale loves him back. On June 23, 2013, then-mayor Joel Fritzler issued a proclamation that signified “Tawl Paul Day,” which ended with a special performance by Paul and Slappin’ Henry Blue at the Hangar.

When asked what he is up to lately, Paul said he is gearing up for the Christmas show with a special surprise for both current fans and those who have yet to hear his take on the blues.

“Banjos,” he teased in his trademark deep voice. “We are bringing in some banjos. They seem to add a little something different to the music.”

Paul said he is often humbled when fans come up and talk to him about his music. Although he is a force to be reckoned with when the music starts playing, his off-stage persona is shy and reserved.

“It happens now and again,” he said of the compliments he receives. “But when it does, it sort of makes me uncomfortable. I just try to say thank you.”

Paul added that he is looking forward to the upcoming year, adding that his New Year’s resolution is to stop smoking. He also said he hopes people will come out to the shows, which promise to be rockin’ good times.

“It’s New Year’s and it’s PK’s,” Paul said. “It’s bound to be a good time, and hopefully it’ll be a good year for all of us.”

who: Slappin’ Henry Blue

what: Tawl blues

where: Old Feed Store; Tres Hombres; PK’s


when: Saturday, December 17; Friday, December 23; Saturday, December 31

Music Notes and Entertainment Briefs, December 8, 2016 Edition

Pictured: Ivas John.
Nightlife Staff
Video Comentary

Winter Wonderland

The Polar Bear Party, which this year takes place Saturday, January 28 in the Pinch Penny complex— including the Copper Dragon Brewing Company, but especially Pinch Penny Pub’s beer garden— is always Carbondale’s largest winter festival. This year, Arkansas party band the Tragikly White will provide the soundtrack. (Be prepared to give the band all the love and energy for which Carbondale audiences are legendary— the Tragikly White’s guitarist, Alan Hash, died in November in a car accident, according to television station KATV.)...

Blue Christmas

Ivas John’s sixth annual Blue Christmas concert will take place Saturday, December 10 at Shryock Auditorium. The show will feature Martin “Big Larry” Allbritton, the Swamp Tigers, Ivas’s biggest recent influence the Gordons, Marie Meunier, Robert Bowlin and Wil Maring, Kristin Gregory, Shadi Frick, and the Free Range Chicks.

The Chicks, incidentally, released their first CD, Premier, last week. It features twelve songs. The a cappella group is also scheduled to warm up for the Jackson County Stage Company’s presentation of A Child’s Christmas in Wales at the Varsity Center next week.

“Each year the show gets a little bigger,” Ivas tells Nightlife. “New people come out and the audience keeps growing.”

Indeed, the concert was held at the Varsity Center for its first four years. Last year it made the leap to Shryock, and nearly filled the floor seats, becoming one of the biggest annual indoor events to feature local musicians.

The Blue Christmas concert itself is a great opportunity to hear local bands perform in the stately confines of Shryock Auditorium. It’s also wonderful for those who enjoy both the holidays and music, but not necessarily Christmas hymns— instead, expect to hear rocked up or soulful renditions of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” and of course “Blue Christmas.” Ivas promised new holiday standards and blues songs this year, as well as an original Christmas composition that will make its public debut.

Many of the musicians will sit in and jam with each other in different combinations, to which Ivas always looks forward. “I love playing with other guitar players, and hearing them breathe new life into my songs,” Ivas says.

He’s especially excited to play with acoustic musicians, which he doesn’t often get to do at barroom shows that require amplification for the audience to hear him.

As with last year’s concert, wsiu will film the performances for rebroadcast on Christmas Eve, so those who open their presents that night can do so to a decent soundtrack courtesy of public broadcasting.

“It’s a nice mix of stuff,” Ivas says of the program, “from mellow, nostalgic, sentimental [songs] to high-energy, contemporary, rockin’ energy.”

Tickets to the concert are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Advance tickets are on sale at the LIFE Community Center at (618) 549-4222. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Carbondale Park District’s Super Splash Park Outdoor Aquatic Center...

Being for the Benefit of...

Organizers have released details for the Thursday, December 8 benefit at Alto Vineyards for the Standing Rock protesters, who are trying to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refused to grant the Dakota Access Pipeline an easement, blocking its construction through a Native American water source. Protesters have vowed not to leave the federal lands where they are demonstrating, however— this victory is hardly final, as a Trump administration could easily reverse the Corps’ decision.

The event at Alto Vineyards will feature music, Native religious invocations, and guest speakers. Classical guitarist Eric Bandera will kick things off at 6:15 p.m., followed by a benediction for the food by Marsha Forrest and Georgia de la Garza. (More on the cuisine in a moment.) Speakers Dallas Cain, Lyn McCain Shashana Craft, and Sherry Taluc will address the crowd to discuss the legal, environmental, and religious reasons for opposition to the pipeline.

The arts follow, with performances by Meridian Ninety, poets Barney Bush and Corina Lang, Kindred Moon, and the Southern Illinois West African Drum Ensemble.

Organizers will serve Native cuisine, including three varieties of tamales, a ground-meat dish called poyha, wild rice, two kind of a hominy soup called pozole, stew, baked squash, pemmican, a blueberry pudding called wojapi, pones, and a raisin biscuit called bannock.

Admission is by a suggested donation of $10, while a silent auction will augment admission proceeds. The goal, according to organizer Georgia de la Garza, is to purchase a tipi, poles, liner, floor, wood-burning stove, and money cards for the Standing Rock protesters...

Casting Call

Auditions for the Jackson County Stage Company’s next play, SIU playwriting professor emeritus David Rush’s Miller and the Jabberwock, take place Tuesday and Wednesday, December 13 through December 14 at 7 p.m. at the Varsity Center. Elyse Pineau will direct the show, which runs in February.

The Jeff Award-nominated play was originally produced by Stage Left Theater in Chicago. It follows a hearing for Fred Miller, a university professor charged with antisemitism by a student who is a holocaust descendant.

The script calls for eight people capable of playing characters ages twenty through sixty. Four actors will play multiple roles. Dance and singing experience is a plus. The audition will consist of workshop-style theater exercises, improvisational play with the poem The Jabberwocky, and cold readings from the script.

For more information, visit the Stage Company’s website at <>...

Celluloid Heroes

WSIU’s community film and discussion series, Indie Lens Popup, continues Saturday, December 10 at 1:30 p.m. at the Carbondale Public Library with Geeta Patel and Ravi Patel’s romantic-comedy documentary Meet the Patels.

The film tells the true story of comedian Ravi Patel, who after breaking up with his girlfriend travels to India to find love and subjects himself to his ancestral matchmaking system.

SIU doctoral student Soumik Pal and fellow members of the SIU Indian Student Association will discuss South Asian culture and experiences after the screening.

The film premieres as an Independent Lens feature Monday, December 26 at 8 p.m. on WSIU-TV, so the Indie Lens Popup screening is an opportunity to see it early and discover some additional context for its subject matter...

Open Mic

A couple of options have opened up for musicians looking for opportunities to perform.

Bring an instrument, sign up, and play at an ongoing open mic night every Friday at 5 p.m. at Von Jakob Orchard. Those who can’t play instruments can sing along to karaoke tracks.

A music circle hosted by local musician Kathleen Shaffner takes place Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Carbondale Parks District’s offices at Hickory Lodge on Sycamore Street. Musicians may bring instruments, voices, songs, friends, music stands, and refreshments. The suggested donation is $5. For more information, call Shaffner at (618) 967-9586...

Santa Claus is Coming


Those who want to help Santa stock up on unique holiday gifts can make some purchases at the holiday boutique and craft fair Saturday and Sunday, December 10 and 11 at Von Jakob Orchard. Parents can shop for arts, crafts, clothing, and jewelry from more than fifteen local businesses while kids can enjoy crafts, and while listening to bluegrass band the Nine88s Saturday and classic rockers the Dave Caputo Band Sunday. Then, stick around on Sunday and catch up with the Griswolds with a screening of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation....

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