I performed with Allen Singer for several years, and it was always a joy to do so. Allen was caught up in the big surge in Folk Music's popularity in the Sixties, in the East Village in NYC. After coming to San Diego, word of Allen's first-hand familiarity with the music and personalities of that time and place made him seem almost larger than life to some. To me he was a friend, and a musical buddy.
Allen passed in mid-September, 2011. He will be missed by many - here in San Diego and all over.
The following article ran in the San Diego Troubadour in September 2007. I have edited the article slightly, mainly to reflect some changing musical performance affiliations (bands).
Dane Terry: "Mr. Chromatonic" Can Really Play the Harmonica
Dane Terry walks into the room holding his harmonica cases, a couple of metal cups, and a small violin-like case for his chubby bass harmonica. Dane has come to play and sing the blues. He performs mostly with diatonic and chromatic harmonicas, but his collection also includes tremolo, octave, bass, and even chord models.
I first met Dane years ago at SloJam, an ongoing musical get-together started by Walt Richards more than 20 years ago, where musicians of all levels still come to play and jam with each other every third Friday of the month out at the San Carlos Recreation Center.
Dane got his first Hohner vest pocket harmonica when he was only five years old, a gift that inspired Dane's musical odyssey. Sometimes parents don't realize how a simple gift can be larger than that one act of giving. Dane's parents were always involved in music; his dad played jazz guitar, mainly standards, and his mother loved to sing. His family musical history can be traced back to Arkansas and traditional American roots music. Dane also plays guitar, which he uses to compose and work out melody lines. He's been known to play bass and washtub bass and also might keep rhythm on a wood board with tambourine-like rattles while performing. He has a bluesy singing voice that could thrill a church choir.
Dane is a modest guy who loves his harmonicas and knows a great deal about them. I've joked that Dane knows more about harmonicas than the Hohner harmonica company itself. Mostly a self-taught player, Dane has taken lessons with Eddie Gordon of the Harmonica Rascals, jazz player Bill Barrett, and blues master Rod Piazza. Performing with Dane is truly an experience in living in the musical moment. He puts himself fully into the music. As he puts it,
"Harmonica is the only musical instrument you literally breathe through when you play. It's similar to singing, and you're playing your whole body. This gives the harmonica a uniquely expressive character, like the human voice."Dane's playing is genuinely heartfelt, tied directly into his heartbeat and musical soul. He swings the music. You can always tell when it's Dane playing through his voice and harmonicas. He's a wonderful example of what Dizzy Gillespie used to say,
"Learn the basics and go out and blow."
Over the last couple of years I've played blues and traditional American roots music with Dane in several concert settings. Our practice sessions are never tedious rehearsals; rather, we see ourselves always as a work in progress. Dane will try different harmonicas to open up the song. He'll sometimes play cross harp and at other times diatonic style. He has also used metal cups, like a jazz trumpeter, to create a larger sound with a more metallic resonance and echo. He's always experimenting, sometimes venturing out on a musical limb to find new ideas and reach new sounds in each song he plays. He's very comfortable with improvising and shifting rhythms to phrase the song.
Many harmonica players try too hard to sound like Little Walter, Sonny Terry, or Charlie Musselwhite, to name a few greats, but Dane plays Dane. He plays with the passion of a singular artist. He's an unassuming guy with a vast amount of talent and approaches the blues with reverence and respect. When Dane performs a song like Robert Johnson's "Love in Vain," it's not rocked up, overly dramatized, or black-faced. He's as comfortable performing and reinterpreting an old chestnut like "Canadian Sunset" as he is when he explores the vast treasury of music called the blues. He makes each song his own. Every time he does a song, you experience the man at that moment in time. Dane plays blues, folk music, bluegrass, traditional roots music, classical, and jazz and can't be easily pigeonholed.
Dane once pointed out,
"improvisational music is an ongoing conversation; it's not just about the song or the players, it's about the listener, too."For him, the most important components of a performance are imagination, honesty, and passion. He says,
"I'd rather play one note that touches your heart than a hundred that deafen your ear."Dane's approach is reflected in both his playing and singing. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and has given lessons. He's not a condescending player but realizes that he has a wonderful gift that needs sharing, so he enjoys taking you along with him on his musical journeys.Dane played with me at this year's Adams Avenue Roots Festival. Out there on the stage, you are immediately joined in his intensity and joy and can feel Dane's musical heart. Playing with Dane, you get a sense that you can walk out on a musical tight rope and not fall off.
Dane is definitely Mr. Chromatonic, a moniker coined to reflect his love of both chromatic and diatonic harmonicas. His skill and style is that of a virtuoso, although he'd deny it vehemently. Dane's journey is an exciting musical voyage that any musician would long to take. Listen to him and you'll be greatly rewarded.