To say he plays the harmonica is like saying “Jimi Hendrix plays guitar”. He blows the blues harp through a prism — suddenly it seems he’s holding every color in the musical rainbow right there in his hands.
Simultaneously sophisticated and raw, his playing blurs the boundaries between blues and jazz (hence the name for his band “The Blues Mongrels”). The emphasis is on blues, but Carlos and his band are not afraid to merrily traipse off in other directions delivering a seamless fusion of New Orleans second line grooves, swing, Latin, hip-hop or ska melodies, to swampy roots rock.
Born in Havana, Cuba, del Junco (loosely translated “of the reeds”) immigrated with his family at the age of one. He bent his first note on a harmonica when he was fourteen, making his debut with his high school math teacher at a student talent night. In his early 20’s del Junco was immersed in a visual arts career; he graduated with honours from a four year programme, majoring in sculpture ( click here to see photos ) at the Ontario College of Art. Sculpture has definitely had an influence on his outlook on music: “Music is just a different way of creating textures and shapes.”
Playing a ten hole diatonic harmonica, Carlos has developed the unique ability to play chromatically by using a recently developed “overblow” technique taught to him by jazz virtuoso Howard Levy. Overall, this approach to the diatonic harmonica, although much more difficult to achieve, is in many ways more expressive and communicative than the mechanized tone produced by the chromatic harmonica . Carlos is one of the few pioneers of this overblow method, bringing musical credibility to what has still been considered by many in the music industry – a fringe folk instrument. The sophisticated sound produced by del Junco is at once sensitive, soulful, and sexy while never forgetting the rawness inherent in blues music.
He has recorded with Bruce Cockburn, Kim Mitchell, Cassandra Vassick, Oliver Schroer, Alfie Zappacosta, and has also worked with Dutch Mason, Hoc Walsh (Downchild Blues Band) and Holly Cole.
Carlos has toured Canada regularly since 1996 and tours often in Germany and the United States. He has played all the major jazz, blues, and folk festivals across Canada.
Highlights of del Junco’s career include:
- Composed and toured Tomson Highway’s Dora Award winning play Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing
- Won two gold medals (in the diatonic blues category and the diatonic jazz category) at the Hohner World Harmonica Championships in Germany
- “BLUES”, Carlos’ first CD, delta blues with the late guitar player and singer Bill Kinnear
- CBC taped a 2-part special on Performance with a live segment and interview with Carlos and Bill
- Just Your Fool CD, an electric band live setting that won del Junco Jazz Report’s 1996 Blues Musician of the Year Award
- Big Road Blues CD, acoustic blues from the delta with guitar player and
singer Thom Roberts ~ Receiving a Canada Council grant, del Junco studied privately in Chicago for two months with Howard Levy
- Live taping on Bravo T.V. Blues at Cafe Campus, 70-minute special
featuring the electric band and interview with Carlos
- Received Toronto Blues Society’s Maple Leaf Blues Award for 1997 Harmonica Player of the Year
- Release of Big Boy CD
- Big Boy nominated for a Juno Award in “Best Blues Album” category
- Received Toronto Blues Society’s Maple Leaf Blues Award for 1998 Harmonica Player of the Year
- >Nominated for Toronto Blues Society’s Maple Leaf Blues Award for 1999 Harmonica Player of the Year
- Perform concert and workshop at Harmonica Summit 2000 in Minneapolis, Minnesota (other performers were Toots Thielemans and Howard Levy)
- Received Toronto Blues Society’s Maple Leaf Blues Award for 2000 Harmonica Player of the Year
- Spring release of new full band CD -Up And At ‘Em featuring Kevin Breit with guest appearance by Jane Siberry
- Nominated Toronto Blues Society’s Maple Leaf Blues Award for 2001 Harmonica Player of the Year
- Played as an invited guest for a week of dates with Mark Hummel’s annual Harmonica Blowoff in California, US
- Perform opening set for Ray Charles at The Humming Bird Centre for Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival to a standing ovation
- Winner Toronto Blues Society’s Maple Leaf Blues Award for 2003 Harmonica Player of the Year
- Release of new band CD Blues Mongrel featuring Kevin Breit
- Winner Toronto Blues Society’s Maple Leaf Blues Award for 2004 Harmonica Player of the Year (5 out of 8 years of awards)
- Voted “Best Blues” in NOW magazine, Toronto, ON
- Winner Toronto Blues Society’s Maple Leaf Blues Award for 2005 Harmonica Player of the Year
- Winner Toronto Blues Society’s Maple Leaf Blues Award for 2006 Harmonica Player of the Year
- Release of band CD “Steady Movin'” featuring Kevin Breit
- Nominated for Toronto Blues Society’s Maple Leaf Blues Award for 2007 Harmonica Player of the Year
- Nominated for Toronto Blues Society’s Maple Leaf Blues Award for 2008 Harmonica Player of the Year
- CBC “Inside The Music” radio interview and feature with Carlos and Howard Levy
- Release of new band CD Mongrel Mash featuring Kevin Breit