Questions for Joel Paterson
He got his start with Jim Liban and now the Joel Peterson Trio and Liban made an album together.
This week at Jazz in the Park, two musical veterans collaborate. The Milwaukee vocal and harmonica legend for nearly 50 years, Jim Liban, and the Chicago guitarist, Joel Paterson, are teaming up once again as the Jim Liban & The Joel Paterson Trio. Besides Liban and Paterson, the band also includes Beau Sample on bass and Alex Hall on drums. They perform together on Thursday, 6 p.m. in Cathedral Square Park. Paterson responded to our questions via email.
How did you get your start in music?
I started learning blues guitar by ear from records as a teenager. I joined Jim Liban’s band 20 years ago and learned a lot about the blues and performing from him.
How did your band meet/start playing together?
I met Liban because he was looking for a new guitar player in the mid 1990s. I was in my hometown of Madison and he heard about me through the blues grapevine and hired me. I moved to Chicago in the late 1990s and lost touch with Jim for a while. The album, I Say What I Mean (recorded in Chicago) has been a great reunion for us, and a chance for me to perform again with one of my musical heroes.
How did you get involved in Jazz in the Park and what do you like about performing there?
Liban was approached to play it this year. It’s such a great event, and it seems like the whole town is there!
Who are your main musical influences?
Way too many blues and jazz guitarists to list, but here’s a few: B.B. King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Robert Johnson, Charlie Christian, Tiny Grimes, Les Paul, Barney Kessel, Grant Green.
How would you describe your style of music?
I play a mix of blues, swing, jazz, and western swing in Chicago as a working musician. With Liban we will be playing more straight blues, but many of them are Liban originals – so it’s our own take on traditional Chicago blues.
How do you try to connect to and work the audience?
I just trying to play good music with taste and dynamics; if the crowd is with us, that’s a great feeling.
Which famous musicians do you most admire and why?
I think B.B. King was the ultimate in taste, tone, and showmanship.
How do you balance your music with other obligations – mate, children, job?
Music is my job, I try to keep things as simple as possible and concentrate on playing good music.
I learned mostly by ear. I’ve always been a record junkie, so that’s my primary education.
How did you get your start in music?
By playing around the Madison blues scene in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I played on State Street a lot back then, that was a good way to get my start.
What are some of your most memorable experiences performing on stage?
Too many to list. Playing last year on the big stage with Jim Liban at Milwaukee Summerfest was a thrill!
Where are you performing next/ where can people see you?
I play every Sunday night at The Green Mill in Chicago with an organ trio. The Mill is a classic old jazz club.
What is your favorite song that you perform and why?
Any of Liban’s originals from our record. Probably the title track, “I Say What I Mean.”
How do you handle making mistakes during a live set?
Come to Jazz In The Park and find out!
Where are your favorite places to perform?
In Chicago, The Green Mill, The Hideout, Honky Tonk BBQ. Harmony Bar in Madison. I’m a little out of touch with Milwaukee these days. I reunited with Jim Liban a couple of years ago at a gig at The Tonic Tavern, that’s a fun place!
What do you think of Milwaukee as a musical city?
The people are always into the music, and not afraid to dance, and I know they love the blues. So I love coming here to play!