Phil Berkowitz, San Francisco based blues harmonica player & vocalist, has brought his unique & energetic musical style to audiences for fourteen years. His most recent CD, “All Night Party,” testifies to his talent and dedication as a seasoned performer. Phil demonstrates creativity & a powerful drive to entertain audiences of all ages with his dynamic vocals & blues-soaked harmonica riffs. Backed by top-level musicians in his nationally touring band, he actively seeks venues in which to share his passion for blues with those who appreciate the roots of today’s popular music.
Phil was born & raised in New Jersey, but he relocated to California in 1989 to complete his college degree. During his time at Sonoma State University, he began playing the harmonica & fell in love with all forms of blues and jazz influenced music. He decided to front a band of his own and embarked on his lifelong journey of mastering every facet of the diatonic and chromatic harmonica. He has performed with a variety of top blues and jazz musicians such as Danny Caron, Sean Carney, Bill Stuve, Mitch Woods, Duke Robillard, Steve Lucky, Steve Freund, Freddie Hughes, Wendy DeWitt, Charles Wheal, Terry Hanck, Dave Workman, Brenda Boykin, Jon Lawton, R.J. Mischo, Tom Rigney, Gary Smith, David Barrett, Kid Anderson, Kenny Blue Ray, Little David Rose, Lisa Kindred, Billy Branch, Frank Goldwasser, Jimi Bott & the late Gary Primich just to name a few.
In 1996, Phil founded The High Rollers, now known as The Dirty Cats, a hard working band that still brings crowds to their feet with a blend of rock-solid rhythms & danceable grooves that stay true to 50’s New Orleans R&B, West Coast Jump and heavy hitting Chicago blues. The High Rollers released two recordings, “The High Rollers” in 1999, and “High Time” in 2001. High Time received critical acclaim from several blues magazines and was produced by Tim Eschliman, renowned Bay Area musician who has played with or produced for legends such as Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Johnnie Johnston. Phil wrote nine songs and collaborated with Danny Caron (guitarist & bandleader for the late Charles Brown).
The High Rollers played at many venues and various festivals including the Auburn Barbecue & Blues Festival, the Fresno Blues Festival, the Burlingame Art & Jazz Festival, and as headlining band at the JuneBug Blues Festival in Payson, Arizona. The band played live on radio with the webcast pioneer KPIG’s Please Stand By show, KZSU’s Byrd of Paradise blues show, and helped support public radio station KKUP by performing on their Blues Marathon fundraiser day.
In 2004, Phil set out to record the music of Louis Jordan (legendary vocalist, saxophone player, and band leader). He teamed up with Danny Caron, who played guitar and co-produced the recording, “Phil Berkowitz Plays … Louis’ Blues: The Music of Louis Jordan.” Phil recruited three musicians from the Bay Area sextet Stompy Jones, a widely acclaimed swing group with an extensive knowledge of Jordan’s vast discography. The end result is a uniquely enjoyable mixture of both popular & obscure Louis Jordan songs that stylistically cover every era of his long career. In place of a horn section, Phil takes on these arrangements and solos with his harmonica. This highly spirited performance not only re-introduces Jordan’s music to a whole new audience, but also channels the high energy and witty charm that made Jordan so famous and inspirational to those who were familiar with him.
Throughout the summer of 2005, Phil’s CD, “Louis’ Blues,” received national and international airplay on hundreds of blues radio programs. In June of that year, “Louis’ Blues” was given a most favorable review in Blues Revue Magazine (Issue 94). More positive reviews would follow in Living Blues, Blues in Britain, Virus de Blues, Blues Bytes, and Jazz Now. In September, the CD appeared at #20 on The Living Blues Magazine Radio Charts (Issue 180, Volume 36 #5), alongside other artists such as Elvin Bishop, Marcia Ball, Little Milton, Magic Slim & Rod Piazza. In September of 2005, Phil appeared as one of the headlining acts at The Soul Shine Blues Festival in Bascom, Ohio. During this Midwest tour, Phil was accompanied by The Sean Carney Band, 2007 Memphis IBC winner. Sean Carney, an internationally acclaimed guitarist/vocalist, has toured and recorded extensively with Phil in recent years.
In March of 2006, Phil toured the Pacific Northwest with his Bay Area band, Louis’ Blues, performing at major blues venues in Portland & Seattle. In May of 2006, Phil was one of the featured performers in R.J. Mischo’s 1st annual Bay Area Blues Harp Blast at The Mojo Lounge in Fremont, CA, which included Bay area legends Mark Hummel & Gary Smith. In the fall of 2006, Phil played again at The Soul Shine Blues Festival with The Sean Carney Band. They also toured throughout the Midwest, playing at renowned venues such as The Slippery Noodle in Indianapolis & the world-famous House of Blues in Chicago. In addition to touring with Sean Carney, Phil was a featured artist on Sean’s most recent and widely acclaimed recording, “Life of Ease,” which has been regularly played on many radio programs worldwide. In the spring of 2008, Phil traveled to Brinkley, Arkansas, the birthplace of Louis Jordan, & performed at The Choo-Choo Ch’Boogie Festival. He also was among the headliners at the renowned Eureka Springs Blues Festival. On July 8th, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Louis Jordan’s birthday, Phil played to a full house at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in San Francisco, CA.
In 2009, Phil released his most recent CD, “All Night Party,” which contains mostly original and diverse material that ranges from Swing, Chicago Blues, New Orleans R&B, Soul & Country Blues. It was co-produced by Danny Caron and features notable musicians such as Sean Carney & Bill Stuve. “All Night Party” has been regularly played on XM satellite radio’s Bluesville station and has made a strong & lasting impact on the blues world at large. In 2010, Phil toured the Northwest & headlined the Riverfront Blues Festival in Libby, Montana. He was backed by an up-and-coming 21-year-old guitarist from Oregon named Ben Rice (www.benricelive.com). Ben, an accomplished performer in his own right, has already received much critical acclaim. Since that tour, Phil & Ben have been playing together extensively & are planning to tour the Southwest in early 2012.