Best Blues Bagpiper | Best of Chicago 2010 | Arts & Entertainment | Chicago Reader

You searched for:

  • [X]2010
  • [X]Arts & Entertainment
Start over

Narrow Search

Best Blues Bagpiper 

Honey Blo

Chicago’s (and perhaps the world’s) only blues/funk bagpiper, Honey Blo studied woodwinds with jazz musician Duke Payne when Payne was his math teacher at Betsy Ross Elementary School. When he saw Payne play the bagpipes during a school assembly, he was hooked. “He was teaching and playing music,” he remembers, “and he had all the teachers, the women, after him. So that kind of influenced me when I saw him playing the bagpipes, too. I bought my own bagpipes, and I started doing some lessons with him. I used to see bagpipes with the Irish and Scottish, but I never thought that I would be able to take it to the level that I took it.”

He stayed in touch with his mentor, sneaking into jazz clubs before he was legal to see him perform and continuing to ask him for pointers. “Basically they were verbal lessons,” he says, “because I learned from a master—the master will never tell you their secrets. So a lot of stuff I had to learn on my own.”

Despite the instrument’s limited tonal and harmonic range, Honey Blo coaxes a remarkable range of taut, sonically intense textures from it, perfectly melding its drone-based modal sound with the blues scale. In his hands, in fact, the pipes sound for all the world as if it they could have originated in Africa and migrated to the New World on slave ships, like the banjo.

Now 53, Honey Blo—who also plays flute, clarinet, and tenor sax and sings—plays around town on a regular basis, mostly “corporate gigs” and private parties, although he’s also been known to pop into clubs like Lee’s Unleaded and the Taste Entertainment Center to sit in with the band. He’s recorded five CDs, some of which are available on his Web site.

For aspiring pipers with a taste for funk and blues—especially kids who might otherwise be tempted to veer off onto more dangerous paths—he conducts workshops at the offices of Third World Press (7822 S. Dobson; call the press at 773-324-0348 to set up an appointment). “So many of them,” he says, “their parents fell off, they don’t have guidance. My grammar school teacher guided me to jump into this music business, and that’s what we need—a lot of brothers and sisters to influence a lot of these younger brothers and sisters to get into the music business and do positive things with the music.”

Critics' Picks

Best Dance Party

Chances Dances continue

Best Fashion Watching

School of the Art Institute, Columbia College continue

Best New Musical Group

Bin Laden Blowin' Up continue

Best Michael Jackson Cover

"Billie Jean" by Robbie Fulks continue

Best Mustache in a Local Band

Stavros "Steve" Giannopoulos of the Atlas Moth continue

Best Lawn Seat at Ravinia

Green Bay & Lake Cook 847-266-5100
The little hill that faces the main entrance to the Ravinia pavilion, Highland Park, Illinois continue

Best Microscene

No Coast Collective continue

Best Free Movie Series

Cinema/Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center continue

Best Moonlighting Witch

Jackie Hoffman in Whining in the Windy City: Holiday Edition continue

Best Theatrical Hat Trick

Chris Sullivan in The Hairy Ape, The Mystery of Irma Vep, and The Illusion continue

Best New Play

Agon Trilogy continue

Best New Theatrical Form

One Thing, and Everything Else continue

Best Theater History Collection

Chicago Theater Collection at the Harold Washington Library Center continue

Best Puppeteer

Michael Montenegro continue

Best Place to See a Seven-Man Pyramid Cross the High Wire

Hephaestus: A Greek Mythology Circus Tale continue

Best Variety Show

Impress These Apes continue

Best Improv Group

Cook County Social Club continue

Best Stand-up Comedian

A tie between Beth Stelling and Junior Stopka continue

Best Sketch Show

The Best Church of God continue

Best Commentary on Modern Technology by a Choreographer

Julia Rhoads at Lucky Plush Productions continue

Best UnderĀ­appreciated Chicago Novel

Bertram Cope's Year by Henry Blake Fuller continue
(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)