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Legal Pastimes: Blues at the Bar

By Kari Santos | Mar. 2, 2015

Law Office Management

Mar. 2, 2015

Legal Pastimes: Blues at the Bar

When he's not teaching, law professor George Bisharat plays the blues.

George Bisharat carefully explains that his stage name, Big Harp George, isn't about ego. The reference is to the unusual 12-hole and 16-hole chromatic harmonicas (as opposed to the 10-hole diatonic variety) that he plays on his first album as the featured artist. "It's an instrument that blues musicians haven't exploited," he says. Called Chromaticism, Bisharat's CD is among five nominated as "best new artist album" for 2014 by The Blues Foundation.

Born in Topeka, Kansas, Bisharat grew up in various California cities and earned a bachelor's degree in anthropology at UC Berkeley, a master's in history at Georgetown University, and a doctorate and JD at Harvard University before spending four years as a deputy public defender in San Francisco. In 1991 he joined UC Hastings, where he teaches criminal procedure, Islamic law, law and social anthropology, and other courses.

Bisharat notes a link between his work for indigent defendants and his love of blues, which he calls "the music of the oppressed." But he cautions that none of this is meant as a crusade: "I want to be true to the genre ... but I'm also trying to push the boundaries forward a bit."

The new album - half his own songs and half covers, including several standards - is finely produced. Bisharat cites the great harmonic player Paul deLay as an inspiration, but he says his album expresses his own ideas about contemporary blues. It's available for download and as a CD through and

Award winners will be announced in Memphis in May.


Kari Santos

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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