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Gary Smith, David Barrett & Aki Kumar | It Takes Three

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United States - California - SF

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Blues: Chicago Style Blues: Harmonica Blues Moods: Instrumental
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It Takes Three

by Gary Smith, David Barrett & Aki Kumar

An unprecedented collaboration between three generations of the San Francisco Bay Area's blues harp masters - Gary Smith, David Barrett and Aki Kumar.
Genre: Blues: Chicago Style
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. It Takes Three
David Barrett, Gary Smith & Aki Kumar
6:43 $0.99
2. Mojo Hand
Gary Smith
3:35 $0.99
3. Bombay Stroll
Aki Kumar
3:56 $0.99
4. Dark Night
David Barrett
8:49 $0.99
5. Midnight At 7 Bamboo
David Barrett & Gary Smith
3:34 $0.99
6. Playin' It Forward
David Barrett & Aki Kumar
4:14 $0.99
7. Here We Go
David Barrett
3:26 $0.99
8. I'm in Love With My Baby
Aki Kumar
2:54 $0.99
9. Up All Night With the Blues
Gary Smith
5:20 $0.99
10. Blow! Blow! Blow!
David Barrett
3:31 $0.99
11. In Memory
David Barrett
3:19 $0.99
12. Alviso Rock
Gary Smith
3:00 $0.99
13. A.G. Blues
Gary Smith & Aki Kumar
4:24 $0.99
14. Tribute to Jr.
Gary Smith
3:11 $0.99
15. Rocket Ride
Gary Smith, David Barrett & Aki Kumar
3:18 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The Making of It Takes Three by David Barrett

In 2006 I approached Gary Smith (my mentor at age 16 and South Bay blues harmonica legend) about doing a recording project where the interaction between the harmonica players was the theme. Gary had done this type of thing before, most notably for Tom Mazzolini’s San Francisco Blues Festival and annual Battle of the Blues Harmonicas (this was THE premier blues harmonica show on the West Coast), but it was challenging to get the other harmonica players to spend the time required to learn their parts well enough to make the music really successful. I offered Gary my arranging and organization skills and promised that we’ll make it happen and he agreed.

We went to work writing the material and decided to invite Aki Kumar to join us on the project. Aki is now a highly respected player and producer on the West Coast. At that time Aki was a rising star, but Gary and I knew that he had the discipline and chops needed to make this music successful. The added bonus was that Aki was a former student of mine (one of my most dedicated), and I was a former student of Gary’s (one of his most dedicated!). The “Three Generations” of blues harmonica idea really grabbed us. We did one performance in 2009 for the San Jose Jazz Festival, and we loved playing together and the show was a big success. My education website BluesHarmonica.com launched soon after that show and the time it required of me prevented me from following up on the project.

At the 2014 Harmonica Masterclass Workshop in San Jose, California Gary and I performed together as part of the evening performances and it rekindled my desire to record our unique material. Shortly after the workshop I contacted Gary and Aki and asked if they were still interested in the project and they were excited to proceed. Due to how depressed the blues music economy was and still is, we all agreed that we would split the cost of the project and if we broke even we’d be happy. WE wanted to record this project. This music was the music WE wanted to write and play. We figured there were enough harmonica nuts like us out there that would appreciate the project to make it viable.

We refined the old arrangements and we each wrote new individual tunes to round out the project. We all chose to work with Kid Anderson on the guitar and use his Greaseland studio to record. We then selected our A-list of musicians (Steve Lucky on piano, Mike Phillips on bass and Marty Dodson on drums) and fortunately they all said yes to participating in the project.

We recorded on November 29th and 30th of that year, rehearsing each song in the studio with the musicians and then recording live. We commonly recorded two takes of each song (some only once) and did any overdubs on the spot to fix errors or give multiple options in mixing. The entire weekend was video recorded for the students of BluesHarmonica.com to learn from by volunteers Marc Graci, Gleidson Sousa and John Rafferty (thanks guys!). Gary and Aki came back in shortly after to re-track some of their vocals and fix any harp parts. I came in to redo my solo on “Rocket Ride,” as did the others... it was a challenging tune for all of us to play something we were happy with. Kid went to Norway to visit family in January and mixed the tunes, mastering them when he arrived back mid-month.

2 It was time to focus on the artwork and I proposed that we do a caricature for the cover, commissioning Brazilian artist Sidney Meireles for the job. They were game, so we threw a sheet on the wall and took pictures of us three together for Sidney to use as reference. Sidney suggested we include our signatures and with the help of graphic designer Mark Castle we have a CD cover that we think is really fun. Gary requested that we include text on the making of each song and pictures of our amps and mics. I of course made sure that the harmonica keys and positions they were played in were listed as well. The end result is way too much text and a whole bunch of pictures of mouth-watering amplifiers and microphones—a layout design only a blues harmonica nut can appreciate.

Knowing that there will be harmonica students eager to learn the songs on the CD, I took the time (about 45 hours of work in total) to transcribe all of the harmonica harmony parts, fills and solo played on the CD. Those interested can pickup up this transcription set at www.bluesharmonica.com/it_takes_three_transcriptions.

Now that the project is done, and it’s releasing to the public, we look back and are happy to have had the opportunity to play together. We hope that everyone enjoys the music as much as we enjoyed creating it!



to write a review

Cathy Lemons

masters of the language
Great harp stuff. Gets a 10 on the GREASE meter! Coming from a place of really schooled and studied blues tradition, but with that pep and vitality that only true blues maniacs can invent. All 3 are masters of this language called blues. Oh and what a great engineer! The album sounds wonderful.

Mike Shock

Harmonica Album of the Year
This is really a rare album: 3 masters of blues harp, 3 generations of harpers, 3 harmonicas played as a band... Fine music perfectly played by the outstanding modern musicians. Solo performances and chord group playing - all is done with great technique, groove and passion. The disc is full of various and beautiful music. You will certainly want to listen to it again and again!

Yvonne L. Johnson

It Takes Three
I LOVED this album! I've listened to it over and over. These artists put so much emotion into their music that sometimes I was brought to tears and other times just pure happy contentment! Very talented! Anyone buying this album will not be disappointed!


Great blues album!
This is a great album that pays homage to the Chicago blues harmonica style while putting a unique spin on the horn section. This album represents three generations of great blues harp, as Gary Smith taught David Barrett, who then taught Aki Kumar. Barrett has some written innovative harmonica arrangements that imitate the horn section of a big band, heard in "It Takes Three". He also performs a brilliant slow blues, "Dark Night." Aki Kumar's songwriting and harmonica are showcased in "I'm In Love with My Baby", a great song that channels 1950's Rice Miller. It's a natural evolution from previous album, "Can't Hold Back." Gary Smith's tone is as big as ever, and he updates the classic "Rocket Ride" with the help of the other two players. This is a great album for any lover of blues, but especially for anyone who is a fan of Chicago blues harmonica.