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Local blues

Tucson bluesmen take their award-winning duo to Memphis

Walbank and Migliazza attend the 26th International Blues Challenge

Tom Walbank and Arthur Migliazza may not have been able to bring home a first place in the 26th International Blues Challenge, but the duo was pleased to have reached the finals and put on a hell of a show.

I spoke with Walbank this morning. He and Migliazza were sitting down to breakfast at a Memphis Denny's with members of the Quebec Blues Society. The Challenge brought together blues acts and enthusiasts from around the world, creating what was, according to Walbank, "a strong sense of community."

The pair won the Southern Arizona Blues and Heritage Foundations Blues Challenge, held late last year at Club Congress. That victory sponsored the trip to Memphis as representatives of the region.

Walbank was thrilled at a chance to play in the final round of 8, culled from a roster of 80 Solo/Duo acts, at the landmark Orpheum Theatre this afternoon. The pair played original compositions from their 2009 album "Burn Your Bridges." 

The semifinals were held on Thursday and Friday in bars and clubs up and down Memphis' musical main drag, Beale Street. The duo emerged from the cacophony victorious late Friday night.

Walbank, a recent inductee into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame, has also released albums with his own band, The Ambassadors, on local imprints Ow Om and Mudhouse Records. Known for his interpretation of timeless blues legends such as Muddy Waters and Sonny Terry, Tom's Ambassadors bring down various houses with dirty Delta-laced blues.

Migliazza has played with an impressive roster of internationally prominent musicians, and has released several albums himself, including 2006's "Pumping Ivories."

Arthur Migliazza and Tom Walbank both play in the 17th Street Band and in various other configurations around town. Separately or together, these guys are a must-see in the local scene.

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3 comments on this story

Feb 4, 2010, 4:57 pm
-0 +0

I am naming my next porn, “Pumping Ivories”.

Jan 23, 2010, 10:19 pm
-0 +0

*blushes* And for what it’s worth, the 25th is this year—you worked on the 20th. We aren’t THAT old.

Jan 23, 2010, 8:28 pm
-0 +1

I had the privilege of enjoying not only Walbank’s music, but his company as a co-worker when we worked together years ago at the Hotel Congress, and I would be surprised if anyone who knows Tom would disagree with me that he is, in addition to being an extraordinary talent, one of the finest human beings walking the earth.

As rescue workers evacuate a ravaged Haiti, it seems worth mentioning that Walbank spent Club Congress’s entire 25th Anniversary Celebration in 2005 collecting holding a donation cup at the door.  He’s as good at being a person as he is at playing the harp, which is to say he’s a true Tucson treasure, and Maggie couldn’t have chosen a finer subject for the Tucson Sentinel’s first music feature.

Way to go, TW (and by that, I mean Tom Walbank), MG and DS.  (And by that I mean Dylan Smith.)  :)

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Courtesy Tom Walbank

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Tom Walbank and Arthur Migliazza 

 Tom Walbank and the Ambassadors

Arthur Migliazza