Montana Public Radio

harmonica

Moira Smiley, Howard Levy
courtesy of Moira Smiley, Howard Levy

From intricate jazz solos to his "Concerto for Diatonic Harmonica and Orchestra,” he has stretched the harmonica beyond its ostensible limits. She sings “old modal folk songs” with Solas one week and performs with the indie band tUnE-yArDs the next. This week, "Musician's Spotlight" features encores with Howard Levy and Moira Smiley, two musicians for whom visionary boundary-pushing is just an ordinary Tuesday.

Howard Levy
Courtesy Howard Levy

When Howard Levy pulls out an ordinary harmonica, extraordinary sounds emerge. From intricate jazz solos to his "Concerto for Diatonic Harmonica and Orchestra,” he's stretched the little instrument beyond its ostensible limits. “Coltrane is my musical hero, along with Bach,” says Levy. “I just always wanted to try to play some of those tunes on the harmonica." In the 1970s, Levy came up with his own technique to play the full chromatic scale on a diatonic harmonica, and his ongoing forty-plus year run of musical experiments was off and running.