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Michael Polesky pic
Michael Polesky

Michael Polesky started playing chromatic harmonica around age 10 in the 1970's. Over the last 35 years, Michael has continued to play and teach jazz harmonica in and around the LA area whenever the opportunity avails itself.

Interview with Michael Polesky

JHS: How did you first get into playing jazz on the harmonica?

MP: I started playing harmonica around age 10 when I bought a Hohner "Little Lady" four-hole harmonica in a toy store and discovered that I could play a C scale on it. I showed this to my clarinet teacher and he proceeded to tell me all about Larry Adler and the chromatic harmonica. Within a few months I had graduated to a Hohner 270 and I followed a varied diet of music, supervised by my clarinet teacher, of classical, jazz, popular TV themes and other music until I settled on jazz as my main thrust in college.

JHS: You have a very unique bebop style on the harmonica. Is this something that just evolved naturally for you?

MP: At college, I studied jazz history and improvisation where I was introduced to the music of Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, John Coltrane and, literally, scores of other players whose music peaked my fascination with Bebop and the jazz of the 1950's & 60's. I soon focused my style on playing this type of jazz using the models of the most prominent jazz players of the era. My style today is still heavily infected with this style.

JHS: Can you tell us about that very handsome and great sounding harmonica you play?

MP: I play the ILUS Renaissance instrument which I bought 10 years ago in January 1999. I chose the Renaissance harmonica because it is one of the most carefully designed and built instruments ever made. I use a tenor tuned instrument because it corresponds well with the ranges of the most common jazz horns.

JHS: I've heard that you almost never miss the annual SPAH convention. Can you talk about what keeps you coming back again and again?

MP : For the most part I did not know any other harmonica players until about 12 years ago, when I found Harp-L on the internet, learned about SPAH and began communicating with a myriad of other players. In 1998 I went to my first SPAH and I have returned each year for all but one convention ever since. I keep coming back because each year I meet hundreds of harmonica players who have a great deal to teach and share with me. These harmonica players have inspired me to become more than just a guy who plays jazz on the harmonica and to truly try to become a real harmonica player whose style is jazz.

JHS: Who are some of the musicians that have inspired you the most over the years?

MP : I would say that I was inspired most in my jazz style by the jazz musicians from the Blue Note recordings of the late 1950's which include little but any harmonica players. However, in the last 12 years I have been highly inspired by the great harmonica players I have heard and met through SPAH, Harp-L and the internet. These musicians have taught me more about how to truly express myself on my instrument than I ever could have imagined. I hope to do them proud.

Related Links
  • Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica (SPAH)
  • Harp-L Mailing List