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Hi Guys,

Just wondering, in your opinions, which US city holds the most promise for an aspiring Blues/RnB sax player?

I am an Australian who has long listened to and played American music and dreamed of moving to the US to live and play. I suppose I hold a rather romantic vison of cities like Chicago, New Orleans and Austin - bands in every bar, jam sessions, musicians on every corner...

I know the hey day of Blues/RnB has long since past, but what are the opportunities in the current US scene? Which is the 'Best' city for a blues player to move to and play?

thanks for reading,

Barry
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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As a frequent visitor to the US I can only give an opinion from that perspective. I was disappointed by New Orleans, most of the live music I heard there had little to do with the vibrant R & B scene that I had conjured up in my head. Many musicians chasing few gigs. Even well established legendary players working for tips.

I think you may find Chicago is more likely to have some openings, though if it was me I'd also be thinking about Austin.

Having said all that wait for replies from people actually living and struggling to get ahead on the blues scene there.
 

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Would make for an interesting blog
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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You might want to expand on the types of music you play. Who really wants to hear the blues that much? Whenever I hear someone say that they only play blues, I immediately think of some honking, screeching sax player that doesn't know what the **** he is doing.
 

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Whenever I hear someone say that they only play blues, I immediately think of some honking, screeching sax player that doesn't know what the **** he is doing.
That's very sad.
 

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Whenever I hear someone say that they only play blues, I immediately think of some honking, screeching sax player that doesn't know what the **** he is doing.
Guilty...except for the screeching. :)
 

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I know the hey day of Blues/RnB has long since past, but what are the opportunities in the current US scene? Which is the 'Best' city for a blues player to move to and play?
Do you just want a scene in which to play or are you hoping to make a living from it?
 

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New York City probably still has the best music scene in the US; e.g. Smalls Jazz Club has all kinds of jazz, including blues.
 

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If you really want to make a living playing blues you need to think of the city you choose as a base of operations, a place to meet musicians and artists who are putting together bands to go out and tour or record. Austin is like that to a certain extent but your need to be open to other musical genres in addition to blues.

I'd say your best bet would be NY or LA, but be prepared to bring your "A" game because competition is fierce in those places. And don't forget, a lot of it has to do with being in the right place at the right time, or sheer luck.
 

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Do you just want a scene in which to play or are you hoping to make a living from it?
This is the key question. If you want to make a living playing blues and R&B, you're probably better off staying where you are -- wherever that is, even if it's Outer Mongolia. But if you just want a scene in which to play in jams and occasional gigs, you could do worse than the San Francisco Bay Area, including the cities of Oakland and San Jose. I'm not familiar with the current Chicago blues scene. Maybe someone else on this board is. And Los Angeles is home to the music industry and is a huge area. Perhaps somebody can comment on the blues scene there. The other place I think of is New York -- always a major music scene but I know nothing about the blues there. In general, you're going to have to seek out the blues bands and players in whatever city you're in. It may take a while and it may be things like blues jams on week nights or Sunday afternoon blues at small clubs, and so forth. Blues is a tough sell. Some club owners have said things to me like, "I don't want blues in here. Blues means no people." But there are other venues that do have blues bands. You probably have to dig hard to find the blues scene in any large city.

Edit: +1 to what Frank D just said.
 

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I agree that New Orleans doesn't have a very big blues scene at all. Funk bands and the brass bands like dirty dozen and rebirth are popular, but all the 'legends' also teach. New Orleans is hard to make a living, but if you just want to come and play, I don't think there is anywhere better.
 

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I've been playing in a 'blues' (I'll qualify that in a moment) band for the past several years, and we gig on a regular basis, 2 to 3 nights a week lately, and are booked well into the Fall. This is in the SF Bay Area. There is a blues scene here, although I wouldn't say it was huge or vibrant, but it's here for sure. Not so much in the city (SF), but up and down the penninsula to San Jose, and to some extent in the east bay. It used to much, much better in Oakland, where i grew up. Seems to have dried up there lately, though.

When I say blues band, I mean we play a wide variety of blues-oriented music, from jump & swing to old-school R&R to funk to 'soul' jazz (Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver, Turrentin, etc). It's not enough to simply play "Chicago blues" (unless you are VERY, very good at it). You have to be flexible and adjust to the venue somewhat. In some venues we play more swing & jump blues, in others more jazz, and in others more rock & roll. I think that's the key to survival and also to keep it more interesting (so you don't have to just screech & honk as Whaler suggests). And keep the volume under control, please...

But really there is no "best US city for bluesmen" anymore. It's all relatively underground, but here in the Bay Area there are some opportunities to play the blues. I've heard that Austin has a fairly thriving music scene, but it's in Texas. :)
 

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No where. Stay where you are. Really. Blues is done. Even african-americans dont play/like blues anymore.
That statement is completely false. I have 6 Black Americans that I have on speed dial that I have and will continue to play blues music with right here in my adopted home town of Oklahoma City.

B
 

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"I don't want blues in here. Blues means no people.".
I've run into that also, but not as often as I would have thought. OTOH, I just had a very strange thing happen recently. We played a winery on a Sunday afternoon, up in the Los Gatos 'mountains.' It was a very mellow setting, people sitting aroung sipping wine, kind of a lazy afternoon. So we kept the volume down, and played a cross-section of our usual fare. The next day, the booker told me they really liked the band, but could we play blues ONLY? I said sure, we can play blues all day long if that's what you want. We've never had such a request before, even in 'blues' clubs! She said the manager said we played a lot of jazz. i guess Louis Jordan, Wynnonie Harris, and Bullmoose Jackson blues tunes are 'jazz' to some people. We did play maybe a total of two bona fide jazz tunes (Song for my Father, for example), which were totally appropriate to the setting.
 

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No where. Stay where you are. Really. Blues is done. Even african-americans dont play/like blues anymore.
Sometimes people say things that are truly stupid.
 

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As a frequent visitor to the US I can only give an opinion from that perspective. I was disappointed by New Orleans, most of the live music I heard there had little to do with the vibrant R & B scene that I had conjured up in my head. Many musicians chasing few gigs. Even well established legendary players working for tips.
When were you last in New Orleans, Pete? I'm not sure there's a city that has as much live music in relation to it's size and population than New Orleans. Things were really rough back in the 80's, but the music scene has been strong since the mid-90's. Having said that, New Orleans (like the rest of the country) isn't a great place for just playing the blues. Like another poster said, there is a lot of work for brass bands and funk bands. It's also a lot cheaper to live here than other places like New York.
 
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