For the 70-year-old Musselwhite, who lives outside Healdsburg, it's really not that much of a departure. As he points out, "If you can play blues and you can play with that feel, that's gonna color whatever else you do. No matter how much you advance to something else, like jazz."
But instead of asking Musselwhite to talk about himself at length, as we've done in many interviews over the past decade, we put together a roundtable of the guys he'll be sharing a stage with at this year's Healdsburg Jazz Festival:
<b>Elvin Bishop, country-blues singer-songwriter</b>
On meeting Charlie in Chicago in the early 1960s: "He was about as tall as he is now, but he was skinny so he looked taller. He was skinny as a rail. I think it was in the basement of a record shop on the North Side — the Jazz Record Mart. Charlie lived in the basement."
On collaborating with Charlie: "There are certain things he just understands, whereas guys without his experience wouldn't be able to butter the biscuit. For my new album, we did this tune called 'Old School' and when it gets to the solo, he plays this Mississippi Delta rolling and tumbling thing over it and it just sounded great."
On the "Blues on the Porch" show: "It could go either way. We could very easily jump up there and say, 'You wanna do this song?' And we'd be fine. I asked him if he wanted to rehearse and he said, 'I don't know, you wanna rehearse?' If you can't play some blues after you've been doing it for 50-something years, shame on you."
<b>Joshua Redman, saxophonist and composer, son of jazz saxophonist Dewey Redman</b>
On sharing a stage with Charlie: "I'm just honored to be playing with such a blues legend."
On his most famous jam with Musselwhite: "I don't know if we actually met, but we appear together in the film 'Blues Brothers 2000.' I've never actually seen the film, but there was a shoot in Toronto and Charlie was there and I was just a young kid at the time." (Note: In the battle-of-the-bands scene, Musselwhite and Redman are in the all-star band, Louisiana Gator Boys, along with B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Bo Diddley and more).
On Musselwhite's harmonica tone: "There's a very organic and human quality to it."
On the Sunday jazz set: "We may or may not communicate before the day of the gig. I have a few tunes in mind. They're more bluesy jazz standards. We can always play a blues or two. Whatever we play will be fairly blues based, unless he wants to play 'Giant Steps' or something. Even if we ended up playing the same tune with those two different bands, that would be interesting."
<b>Bill Bowker, KRSH DJ and co-host of "Charlie's Backroom" every Sunday evening</b>
On Musselwhite and jazz: "He definitely has jazz influences when he plays the harmonica. He kind of plays it like a saxophone. If you go way back to his first album, 'Stand Back!' (1967), he got into jazz in that cover of Duke Pearson's 'Christo Redemptor' and that's become a signature tune of his over the years and he still does it as a last song in his sets."