"I believe Blues is current because new generations are coming in and trying to progress the genre musically and promote to younger audiences. It is out there and it is being heard."
JP Blues: New "Old School" Blues
New guitar slinger John Pagano fronts JP Blues, started playing guitar at the age of 8 and by age 10 it was clear that something special was happening here. This "Something Special" was recognized by legendary bluesman Sam "Bluzman" Taylor. Sam took JP under his wing and began to school him on the blues, or what Sam use to call "SAMerizing" him. JP Blues has been touring and working the Blues scene since the age of 13!
His first CD, at the age of 17, raised some eyes, his second Release on Midnight Circus Records; hit #4 on the RMR blues charts and remained in the top 50 for over 28 weeks! JP Blues new CD "Make Room at the Table" shows a maturing up and coming blues artist and songwriter. With guest appearances by such top musicians as Yonrico Scott and Todd Smallie, it is clear that JPBlues has reached a new level in his career.
JP has had the pleasure of either performing with or opening for such legendary artists as Michael Falzarano, Chris Beard, Debbie Davies, Pete Sears, Buddy Cage, Geoff Ackerson, Jon Paris, Derek Trucks, Johnny Winter, Robben Ford, Joe Bonamassa, Cactus, Kofi Burbridge and more. It is clear that JP Blues searing, soulful guitar gives hope to the rebirth of passion and soul in music!
What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?
Blues to me is larger than just a genre, it’s an emotion. Blues is the roots of all music. That’s why you can hear elements of Blues in any style. If you want to understand how music has grown you need to know where it comes from.
I learn about myself from studying Blues and being able to feel the emotion within. I can judge how I’m feeling when I perform because my emotion drives my playing. It also drives my writing. This expressive playing/writing can ultimately describe who you are as a person at a particular time. Playing music in general is a way to communicate with other people and that’s how I am in person and on stage.
How do you describe JP Blues sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?
The JP Blues sound has its roots in Blues with some contemporary elements. Our contemporary elements are reflected in our musical progressions as well as our lyrical melodies which go outside the norm of Blues. We would like to think we are progressive blues. We have been compared to North Mississppi Allstars meets The Black Keys meets Johnny Lang. As far as our sound in recording, we like to obtain an ‘old school’ sound and capture our live feel.
What experiences in your life have triggered your ideas for songs most frequently?
It’s cliché to say but Blues songs are always triggered by past relationships. A lot of my songs come from people who are in and out of my life. Besides that, ideas are presented everyday with just watching people. Every person has their own story to tell that’s described within their persona and looks. When I am out I just watch and the ideas and hooks for songs present themselves to me.
Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and worst moment of your career?
I can tie in my most interesting, best moment and worst moment all with one event. When I was 14 years old I broke my hip in a freak accident. It’s the worst moment in my career because I was limited to going out jamming and gigging. It also furthered me as a musician because I deeply studied my craft during this time lapse. I was on crutches for two years and the only activity I could do was play guitar. You can say I was not a typical teenager playing sports and hanging with friends during this time. I did force myself to play out as much as I could with one crutch under my arm to prop me up. I think this accident really helped me grow as a musician and decide what to do as a career.
Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?
I think it has such a devoted following because it’s one genre that everyone can relate to. Lyrically people understand from personal experience and musically it has that emotion that makes heads turn. People like to understand what’s going on in a song and Blues is as straight forward as they come.
"I learn about myself from studying Blues and being able to feel the emotion within. I can judge how I’m feeling when I perform because my emotion drives my playing. It also drives my writing." Photo: JP and Bernard Allison
Do you remember anything funny from Sam "Bluzman" Taylor? What's been your experience from with him?
Sam and I got along outside of music as well. We were golfing buddies and Sam was an amazing golfer. I will always remember when I was about 16 years old on the golf course with Sam. We were paired up with these 30 year-old semi pro golfers who thought they were hot shots. They were betting who could drive the ball further. Well Sam stepped up and knocked a 250+ yard drive. Their faces fell to the floor after seeing this 70 year-old man school them. He went on to beat them on the course as well.
I learned a lot from Sam musically and in life. I am fortunate to call him a friend. From touring and working with him I would say that my complete rhythm guitar playing came from him. He played a lot of funk rhythms, gospel progressions as well as Blues. This allowed me to expand musically. Sam also taught me how to lead a tight band. He always kept his band on the money and if you weren’t he would give them the EYE that would make anyone tremble. He taught me how to throw a great left hook because Sam was also a title holder in Boxing. I really have become the musician and person I am today because of Sam “Bluzman” Taylor.
What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?
My favorite gig I ever played was in Atlanta, Georgia at the Dogwood Festival. The Derek Trucks Band was the headliner on that bill. I remember looking out into the audience and seeing a sea of people. It’s amazing to feel that kind of energy in front of you and to be on the same bill as one of my favorite musicians.
Another memorable gig I played was playing at Brookhaven Amphitheater on Long Island, New York. I was playing with an artist named Phil Grande(formerly of Joe Cocker’s band). We were opening for Johnny Winter, Joe Bonamassa and Robben Ford. I am such a fan of all these guitarists. Talk about an amazing show and I am so thankful I was part of that experience.
The best jam I ever played would probably have to be at a venue called the Cutting Room in New York City. It was hosted by Richie Cannata (former sax player for Billy Joel). Heavy hitters were always showing up to this jam. The venue had a great stage and such seasoned musicians.
"From the Greek Lyre being tuned to a pentatonic scale to the Gregorian chant which uses pentatonic melodies, you can see how Blues, Soul and Jazz draws a direct line to world music." Photo: JP and Derek Trucks
Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?
The meetings that have been the most important experience for me are meeting with Sam “Bluzman” Taylor at the Smithtown library in New York, meeting with Richard L’Hommedieu (Manager) and Rick Lusher (Radio Promoter), and meeting with Five Towns College in New York to pursue music business. All of these meetings have lead me into the music business and have allowed me to develop a career.
The best advice given to me is to target a sustainable career in the music industry. There are so many income streams that can be created by an individual in the music business to make it sustainable. This is what I have done and I can proudly say that music is my life as well as my career.
Are there any memories from Michael Falzarano, Chris Beard, and Debbie Davies which you’d like to share with us?
I had the privilege of meeting Mike Falzarano (Hot Tuna) through a musician on Long Island. One memory I will always remember of Mike was when he put together a super group to play a gig at Blue Point Brewery on Long Island, New York. There was Mike, Buddy Cage (New Riders), Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship) amongst other amazing musicians. He invited me up to pay with all of them. The crowd was really drunk at the brewery and I remember everyone laughing on stage as we all played. I was just in shock to share the stage with these artists.
Chris Beard is probably the guitarist who made me decide I wanted to have this career. He was playing wireless which gave him the ability to walk out into the crowd. I remember seeing the crowd go nuts when he was in their face playing. He then approached me and put the guitar around me. His manager, who I knew, told him to let me play. He looked at me and said, “Key of D” and I jammed out. The crowd loved it and after feeling and hearing their response I realized I craved the musician spotlight.
The same venue where I met Chris Beard is where I met Debbie Davies. The venue was called Paula Jeans and it was my favorite venue growing up. It was a prime Blues venue that a lot of major acts come through. Sam “Bluzman” Taylor knew Debbie and that’s how we got introduced. I had the privilege of sharing the stage with Debbie and Sam where I called home, Paula Jeans.
"I hope in the future younger musicians keep getting involved with this genre so that it will stay alive. The genre will could potentially cross over into mainstream and we will see it grow stronger." Photo: JP with Buddy Cage, Michael Falzarano and Pete Sears
Which memory from Pete Sears, Buddy Cage, Jon Paris, Johnny Winter, and Cactus makes you smile?
I sat in with Pete Sears and Buddy Cage at the same gig. It was at Blue Point Brewery on Long Island, NY. Being that it was a brewery the entire audience was extremely drunk and tipped over the PA speakers a couple of times.
Jon Paris and I share the same initials, JP. He asked me what mine stood for. I replied John Pagano. I asked him what his stood for as a joke and he looked taken back. We became friends after that.
I will always be amazed from the gig at Brookhaven Amphitheater when Johnny Winter was sitting down in a chair making his guitar scream. I couldn’t believe all the energy he possessed in his fingers.
After the show ended with Cactus and my band at the Crazy Donkey, the entire venue turned into a Latino dance club. Couches were moved in, a DJ took over and an entire young audience made their way into the club. The transition between cactus and I to a Latino dance club was awkward.
From the musical point of view what are the differences between New York and the other local scenes?
Well I lived in New York most of my life and about two years ago I moved to Georgia. I can tell you that New York is more cut-throat. I grew up in the jam circuit on Long Island. A lot of the jams were a test to see if you could hang in. I remember when I was younger I was put into a lot of situations where I had to rely on my ear to figure my way through a song. Also, if you are not recognized by the house band you are towards the end of the list. Once you establish yourself you are more accepted into the jam groups. I feel this is a great way to evolve your musicianship because from these situations you only strive to achieve more skills on your instrument.
What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?
I miss and wish I could see the musicians that left their mark in the Blues. Artists like Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Also a lot of the older venues that were on the circuit that are no longer existing.
I hope in the future younger musicians keep getting involved with this genre so that it will stay alive. The genre will could potentially cross over into mainstream and we will see it grow stronger. Future of anything comes from being passed and influenced onto next generations. I was influenced into this genre so can the next generation. Current musicians and audiences have always had a great handle and support to this genre. My biggest fear is that it won’t expand its market.
What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continue to Jazz and World music?
The Pentatonic scale that is primarily used in Blues is the same scale used since ancient times to create world music. From the Greek Lyre being tuned to a pentatonic scale to the Gregorian chant which uses pentatonic melodies, you can see how Blues, Soul and Jazz draws a direct line to world music.
When we talk about Blues usually refer past moments. Do you believe in the existence of real blues nowadays?
I believe Blues is current because new generations are coming in and trying to progress the genre musically and promote to younger audiences. It is out there and it is being heard.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?
I would love to go to Woodstock 1969. I would want to meet Jimi Hendrix, the person who took Blues and gave it a Rock edge. I believe he was so important for the genre because he progressed it. That festival ultimately had the most amazing musicians play and I would want to be able to experience that point in time.
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