Phil Berkowitz, a San Francisco Bay Area based blues harmonica player and vocalist, has brought his unique and energetic musical style to audiences for the better part of a decade. His most recent venture, a CD honoring the legendary music of Louis Jordan, testifies to the talent and dedication of this exciting, young performer. Phil Berkowitz demonstrates creativity and a powerful drive to entertain audiences of all ages with his dynamic vocals and blues-soaked harmonica riffs.
Backed by seasoned musicians in his new internationally touring band, he rigorously seeks venues in which to share the Louis Jordan legacy with those who appreciate the roots of today’s popular music.
Phil is a New Jersey native and the 4th child in a family of six. He relocated to California in early 1989 to complete his college degree. It was during this time at Sonoma State University that he began playing the harmonica and 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, Brenda Boykin, Jon Lawton, R.J. Mischo, Tom Rigney, Gary Primich, David Barrett, Kid Anderson, Kenny Blue Ray, Little David Rose, Lisa Kindred, Johnny Nitro, and Billy Branch, just to name a few.
In 1996, Phil founded The High Rollers, a consistently hard working local blues band that still brings crowds to their feet with a blend of rock-solid rhythms and 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 fine 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, a renowned San Francisco Bay Area musician who has played with or produced for legends such as Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Johnnie Johnston (Chuck Berry's piano player for 25 years). Phil created and wrote nine of the 12 songs and collaborated with Danny Caron (guitarist and band leader for the late Charles Brown) on several of them.
The High Rollers have played at many Northern California venues and various festivals including the Auburn Barbecue & Blues Festival, the Fresno Valley Blues Festival, the Burlingame Art & Jazz Festival, and as headlining band at the JuneBug Blues Festival in Payson, Arizona. The High Rollers were also regularly featured at the San Francisco Market Street Association’s highly acclaimed People in the Plazas Summer noontime outdoor concert series.
The band has played live on radio with the webcast pioneer KPIG's Please Stand By show, KZSU's Byrd of Paradise blues show, and have 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, saxaphonist, and band leader). He joined forces again 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 knowlege of Jordan's vast discography. The end result is a uniquely enjoyable mixture of both popular and 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.
Berkowitz blows inspiring harp and sings … causing the toes to tap and the fingers to snap along with his constant rhythm.