It Takes Three - David Barrett's New CD with Gary Smith and Aki Kumar


David Barrett's new CD with Gary Smith and Aki Kumar is about to release on May 2nd and will be available at and other outlets soon after.

The Making of It Takes Three
David Barrett
In 2006 I approached South Bay blues harmonica legend Gary Smith, who was my mentor from age 16 about doing a recording project. The theme of the project was to be an interaction between the harmonica players. The goal was to not just do simple trading of licks and solos, but to write memorable harmonized heads and three-part horn section harmonies. Gary had done a similar type project before, most notably for Tom Mazzolini’s San Francisco Blues Festival and annual Battle of the Blues Harmonicas. At the time this was THE premier blues harmonica show on the West Coast. But, it was challenging to get the other harmonica players to dedicate the time required to learn their parts well enough to make the project a real success. I offered to do the arranging and organizing for our project and promised that we'd make it happen and Gary agreed.

We went to work writing the material and decided to invite Aki Kumar to join us on the project. Aki is now a highly respected player and producer on the West Coast. At that time, Aki was a rising star. But, even then, Gary and I knew that he had the discipline and the chops to make this collaboration successful. The added coincidence was that Aki was a former student of mine, one of my most dedicated, and I was a former student of Gary’s, likewise dedicated. The “Three Generations” of blues harmonica idea was thus born and really grabbed us. We had done one performance in 2009 at the San Jose Jazz Festival, and we loved playing together and the show was a big success. Soon after that show however, I launched my education website The time demands of the new website prevented me from following up and the project was stalled.

At the 2014 Harmonica Masterclass Workshop in San Jose, Gary and I played together as part of the evening performances and that was enough to rekindle my desire to record our unique material. Shortly after the workshop I contacted Gary and Aki and asked if they were still interested in the project and they were both excited to proceed. Owing to how depressed the general blues music economy had been, we all agreed that we would split the cost of the project and if we could break even we'd all be happy. WE wanted to record this project! This music was the music WE wanted to write and play. And Lastly, we figured that there were enough harmonica nuts like us out there who would appreciate the project enough to make it viable.

We reworked and refined old arrangements and we each wrote new tunes to round out the project. We all agreed to work with Kid Anderson on the guitar and use his Greaseland studio for recording. We then selected the rest of our A-list of musicians; Steve Lucky on piano, Mike Phillips on bass and Marty Dodson on drums. Fortunately, they all said yes when asked to participate in the project.

We recorded on November 29th and 30th of 2014. We rehearsed each song in the studio with the other musicians and then recorded live. We usually recorded two takes of each song and then did any overdubs on the spot to give us more options in the editing process or to simply fix small errors. The entire weekend was video recorded for the students of by volunteers Marc Graci, Gleidson Sousa and John Rafferty (thanks guys!). Kid then went to Norway to visit family over the holidays and he mixed the album while there, mastering the tunes when he arrived back in mid-January.

Now it was time to focus on the artwork and I proposed to Gary and Aki that we do a caricature for the cover, commissioning Brazilian artist Sidney Meireles for the job. They were game, so we threw a bed sheet on the wall and took pictures of us three together for Sidney to use as reference. Sidney suggested we include our signatures and with the help of graphic designer Mark Castle we now have a CD cover that we think is great. Gary requested that we include text on the making of each song and pictures of our amps and mics. I, of course, made sure that the harmonica keys and positions they were played in were listed as well. The end result is way too much text and a whole bunch of pictures of mouth-watering amplifiers and microphones. It’s a layout design only a blues harmonica nut can appreciate.

Knowing that there will be harmonica students eager to learn the songs on the CD, I took the time (about 45 hours in total) to transcribe all of the harmonica harmony parts, fills and solos played on the CD. Those interested can pickup up this transcription set at

Now that the project is done and it’s releasing to the public, we look back and are happy to have had the opportunity to play together and we hope that everyone enjoys the music as much as we enjoyed creating it.

Add Your Voice

Brendon J, 30-04-15 22:10:
Hi. Will the cd be available on iTunes? - hoping so.
Bernd Schulte, 09-05-15 10:46:
Thanks a lot for this wonderful, excellent album. sounds like my dream came true...fantastic work.
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