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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Corky Siegel crediting crowdfunders in forthcoming Chamber Blues CD release

Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues

Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues (Photo: Marc Hauser)

Three days remain for Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues crowdfunders to get their names embedded in the CD booklet for Different Voices, the fourth album from the legendary Chicago blues-rock musician's innovative blues-classical ensemble.

"Fans have always asked how they can be involved in my various projects," says Siegel, explaining his atypical crowdfunding campaign concerning the genre-busting album at "I began this crowdfunding for the singular purpose of creating a community opportunity to expand the reach of Different Voices--way beyond anything I would have done on my own."

All new contributions go to funding promotion and advertising expenses, says Siegel.

"I was at first opposed to the idea of crowdfunding my own projects. But it seemed like this is going to be the paradigm in the future, so I looked more closely into it and found Hatchfund, which is more like an artist having their own 501c3 so that the use of the organization is free to the artist and tax deductible to the contributor."

But Siegel made it clear to potential contributors that Different Voices, which will be released April 7, was "finished and paid for."

"That actually helped get more contributors—letting them know that I didn't need money for the album itself, since it was already done," he says.

In fact, Siegel, whose recording career began in 1966 with the Siegel-Schwall Band and has since included solo albums and Chamber Blues releases, regards Different Voices as "my most fearless and revolutionary project to date."

"I’m exploring more extremes in style between blues and classical--specifically in [album cuts including Siegel-Schwall classic] 'Angel Food Cake,' 'Counter Intuitive--Op. 24' and 'Italian Shuffle,' and just in the writing in general," Siegel explains. "In 'Angel Food Cake' there is a very stark 'call and response' between what sounds like blues improvisation and written classical phrasing. In 'Counter Intuitive' I'm exploring a stark difference between a quite traditional blues harmonica shuffle and Mozartian flavor, yet having them work simultaneously. It is pretty shocking. Delightfully shocking!"

In "Italian Shuffle," "I'm exploring a Chicago blues shuffle but entirely from a classical perspective, and then bringing in a traditional blues singer, [Chicago blues legend] Sam Lay. And with the help of masters of music and light like jazz saxophone icon Ernie Watts, R&B diva Marcella Detroit and Indian tabla master Sandeep Das, I'm writing in elements of jazz, world music, R&B, folk and beatbox to bring in another element to the blues/classical juxtaposition. This is just another nail in my coffin of presenting works that are even more difficult to describe than pure Chamber Blues--and I wouldn’t have it any other way!"

Had Siegel released "a project like this the normal way," he continues, "it would do okay, but there would be a lot of hurdles to get over since most people are thinking within a specific genre, and this project doesn’t fit. So the crowdfunding is for expanding the reach of the project by offering my community of fans an opportunity to be involved in the promotional aspect of it."

He cites a "great advantage" in the unique story of Chamber Blues.

"It begins with my experience with the Chicago blues masters like Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters in 1965, then proceeds to my meeting [conductor] Seiji Ozawa in 1966, performing with the New York Philharmonic, recording blues-classical compositions for [classical label] Deutsche Grammophon, [blues label] Alligator Records, and so on. These are stories that people will be excited to write and read about. It really is a little-known part of music history: I'm in a number of documentaries that cover the rock-blues explosion of the '60s, but that's only half the story--the combination of both halves is untold."

So the challenge for Siegel is to overcome "people's fascination and loyalty to genre," Siegel says.

"Arts organizations that focus exclusively on either blues, or classical for instance say, 'We love Chamber Blues but it doesn't fit with what we do,' and I say, 'I've been working my whole like coming up with stuff that doesn't fit!' But I think that in an age where there is such divisiveness and so many walls being drawn between us, we need to go beyond being so loyal to genre: It not only separates music but also people. There is no place for Chamber Blues unless the blues, the classical, the jazz and the world music genres open some doors for us. Otherwise, the only place for us is with those that support music because they love it--not because it fits a preconceived idea of what music is supposed to sound like. So this promotion campaign is specifically designed to allow people to open doors and minds."

Siegel says he's already raised over $15,000 via Hatchfund, and will continue the crowdfunding campaign for the next three weeks. Contributors who come in after the CD booklet cut-off date will be included with the others on the extended Chamber Blues website listing.

"I'm constantly aware that I couldn't be doing what I do--and what I love so much--without the fans and the various ways I receive their support," concludes Siegel. "Their goodwill and energy will be associated with the music for its lifetime."

Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues



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