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One-man band tailors blues for Iowa crowds
Marcia Poole, Journal staff writer /Sioux City Journal May, 1996
Iowans are warming up to the blues, says Midwestern musician Patrick Hazell.
Not long ago, most listeners identified anything with "blues" only as part of "bluegrass."
Thanks to a growing presence at summer music
festivals and night clubs and on public radio, blues is
moving into Iowans' listening repertoire.
Hazell will give Siouxlanders an opportunity
to hear his take on the blues when he appears from 7 to 10
p.m. Sunday at Mary J. Treglia Community House, 900 Jennings St.
The Washington, Iowa, resident believes
most Iowans aren't ready for a full concert of straight-ahead
blues. So he'll likely mix rhythm and blues standards with some of his original compositions for an
evening of listening and dancing.
Hazell's mode of delivery, however, will
be uniquely his own - a kind of one-man band with vocals. In all,
he plays electric piano, organ, bass drum and harmonica. He's used the format since 1983 when he
launched a career as a solo performer. Before that, he played piano in a three-piece band in Burlington,
Iowa. The musician moved through the '70s and early '80s with the Mother Blues Band in Iowa City.
Going solo has allowed Hazell to "stretch and develop" a style that began to take root in childhood.
Largely self-taught, Hazell began performing
when he played trumpet in his school band when he was in
fifth and sixth grades. "They taught me some stuff that helped. But I really didn't get into it until I started
playing piano." He taught himself to play boogie-woogie piano at 11.
Though he was heavily influenced in childhood
and adolescence by big band jazz and blues of the late
'30s through the '50s, he also was drawn to classical music. His interest was sparked by a recording of a
live Arthur Rubinstein concert at Carnegie Hall - a gift from his mother. The first time Hazell heard the
master, he was hooked.
"Rubinstein played Prokofiev, Debussy
and Ravel on that record. I fell in love with classical music
heard him and I've been a huge fan ever since."
Jazz and blues also came by way of recordings.
His older brother's collection introduced him to Sonny
Terry, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Art Blakey and John Coltrane. Kansas City boogie-woogie music of
Pete Johnson and the bop-rock of saxophonist Red Prysock became burning interests.
"I feel fortunate that I grew up when
I did. I was outside the influence of rock music - a kind of music
that I find tremendously limiting, if not downright boring. Unfortunately, rock is the only experience of
most people I run into."
A breadth of experience fueled Hazell's
musical growth. As a youngster, he began listening to Gregorian
Chant, and music of North Africa, the Middle East, India and the Orient. Avant garde composers, such as
John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, also caught his imagination. At his Methodist Church, he heard
Baroque compositions played by a 20-piece orchestra, accompanied by a pipe organ.
"Like blues and boogie, much of the
Baroque seemed like a set of understood forms that Bach and
Handel could jam on," says Hazell.
Even today, he says he cannot walk down
a street without hearing those forms and melodies swirling in
Absorbed in the richness musical variety,
Hazell began composing. Improvisation came naturally and
proved to be his favorite form of artistic expression. Rather than replicating something he heard, he was
moved to create something new - something of his own making. Hazell's concerts reflect that love of
spontaniety and freshness.