Big Room blows

Mark Hummel brings Lazy Lester and other harmonica masters to town for annual blowout

Mark Hummel’s Harmonica Blowout
Sierra Nevada’s Big Room
Sun., Sept. 28
Doors: 6:30, Show: 7:30
Tickets: $15

Now in the 12th year of his Harmonica Blowout series, Oakland-based blues harpist Mark Hummel and his band, The Blues Survivors, have invited a “who’s who” of harmonica wizards to headline a show at the Sierra Nevada Brewery this Sunday, a one-night stop on the blowout’s 30-city fall tour.

Hummel, 48, widely regarded as a harp virtuoso, has played a major role in shaping California’s emerging harmonica-led bands that give substance to the term West Coast Blues. Born in Connecticut but raised in California, he has always looked to Chicago for inspiration. In the 1990s, Hummel traveled to the Windy City to record two CDs and share the stage with former Muddy Waters sidemen Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Bob Stroger, among others.

But while he’s drawn heavily from that city’s legendary blues roots, Hummel’s style blends jump blues, rock ‘n’ roll, country blues and big band. “The older I’ve gotten, the more sounds I incorporate into my blues,” he told Blues Connection magazine. The result: a rollicking musical experience that won’t let you sit still.

Blues fans won’t fail to miss the evening’s venerable guest of honor. At 70, Leslie "Lazy Lester" Johnson is one of the country’s original blues masters, having played harmonica with Little Walter, Buddy Guy and Slim Harpo. Also on the bill are harp player and singer Mitch Kashmar, as well as Nathan James & Ben Hernandez, a Piedmont blues duo.