Leo Diamond

Leo Diamond was the harmonica soloist or virtuoso who recorded in the “high-fidelity LP” era. He was a former flute and piccolo player. In New York City’s Central Park, he won a contest playing harmonica in Edwin Franko Goldman’s band. After 18 years of working with Borrah Minitch’s Harmonica Rascals he started his own group, the Harmonaires. He was then invited to Hollywood where he was featured in Coney Island and As Thousands Cheer as well as Seven Days Leave and Sweet Rosie O’Grady. His harmonica soundtracks include Calamity Jane and Eddie Cantor Story. The Skin Diver Suite, a classic harmonica opus, was recorded by Murray Kellner and Diamond in 1956. Side Two is the standard version, but “The Skin Divers”, Diamond’s orchestral composition with watery sound effects is a side-long arrangement. This was the first attempt in a series of albums that aimed to elevate the harmonica’s status from a hobo’s instrument to a refined solo instrument. Diamond released “Off Shore” a short time later, a hit single that eventually became a standard. Diamond released a few remarkable albums of orchestral, harmonica-led pop. His two favourite idioms, exotica (music inspired from Oceana) or continental (French/Italian) standards, may have been to offset the earthiness of harmonica. This type of music or the dull arrangements on most Leo Diamond albums only magnified the inadequacy of the harmonica. Subliminal Sounds’ most bizarre sound effect was Subliminal Sounds’ gratuitous sound effects. They did not “harmonize the instrument with the material or the backing instruments. The harmonica can be described as an accordion or organ. It is either loved or hated by people. The harmonica, unlike other controversial instruments, has seen very few people who are truly gifted and inspired. Leo Diamond and the Harmonicats had their moments but musical magic was not provided by the harmonica. Leo Diamond’s greatest achievement was the ability to record imaginative, expensively produced albums with his chosen instrument. Allmusic

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