For harmonica player Magic Dick and guitarist and vocalist Shun Ng, it was about time they released a record together, so appropriately, the debut album from the duo is called About Time. They have been playing together for a couple of years and are now touring across the country in support of their album, which is a mix of covers and originals.
Magic Dick is known for his work primarily with the J. Geils Band and has had a long and storied career otherwise. But Ng, his relatively new partner, is an anomaly who was born in Chicago, raised in Singapore and is based in Boston, where he went to school at the Berklee College of Music.
He’s only 24 years old, but has already earned praise from legendary musician and record producer Quincy Jones, who said “When you see Shun Ng, you won’t believe your eyes nor your ears – he belies all stereotypes, all premonitions. I was simply blown away by both his soul and his science – his creativity and his uniqueness is astounding.”
His voice sounds like a mixture of James Brown, Michael Jackson and Ray Charles with his own original spice added to the mix. The best example of this unique blend is probably on the duo’s rendition of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” which is on About Time.
“We chose tunes that we really liked. Classic jazz tunes and blues tunes that we really liked. We like ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ and we thought about the meaning of that,” Ng said. “We open our set with that, so you know we thought for the album that we’d do something like that.
“And we sort of chose songs also that based on what we could do to it. If we could do something interesting to it, like on ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ Dick plays this dramatic harmonica and pays homage to the big band sound….So we chose songs based off what we could explore musically and stuff that we love to play and songs that we love.”
Magic Dick and Shun Ng have chosen a minimalistic approach to what they are doing on About Time. That approach mixed with the selection of cover songs produces an interesting, engaging result.
On their version of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” for instance, they abandon the big backing sound of the original track for incremental, slight notes from Magic Dick’s harmonica – only enough so that you can tell what song they are playing – and then Ng’s soulful voice creeps in as the song progresses.
“We like music that has a considerable degree of space and has intricacy in the interaction between the harmonica, the guitar and the voice,” Dick said. “That’s what we like, so that’s what we do.”
Ng added that taking that approach is “challenging.” “With the both of us a lot of the show is interaction between us, just the two of us,” he said. “I think the bigger you get, the more arranged music has to be, but with just two elements, the improvisational aspect is quite larger. It just keeps it very exciting and every show is different and unique.”
Most recently, Magic Dick and Shun Ng have released a live performance of their rendition of the J. Geils Band song “Whammer Jammer,” which is called “Whammer Jammer 2.0.” It’s a fresh take on a song that Magic Dick is already known for performing, but the video is a great example of what Ng was talking about when it comes to their performance chemistry. It looks like they are in their own party up on stage and the audience is clamoring to join in on the fun.
• For more information about Magic Dick and Shun Ng, visit shunng.com.