Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Gypsy Jazz Cymbalom Videos

In conjunction with my article in the summer 2008 issue of Dulcimer Players News, here are a few videos of the musicians featured in the article.

Giani Lincan:

Marius Preda:

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Primer in Jazz Cymbalism

I've got an article published in the latest edition of Dulcimer Player News (Summer 2008). The article is a review of three jazz cymbalom players: Giani Lincan, Marius Preda, and Marcel Comendant.

If you're not already a subscriber to DPN, check them out here. If you get a chance to read the article, I would love to read any comments you might have.

In the meantime, here are links to the musicians I reviewed in the article:

Marcel Comendant & PaCoRa Trio

Giani Lincan

Marius Preda & Mission Cymbalom

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gypsy Improvisation

Here is a quick sample of some of the gypsy jazz techniques I've been working on. In this improvisation you will hear chromatic runs, diminished 7ths, minor 9ths, a minor 6th, the use of a tritone "arpeggio", and plenty of wrong notes too!! I just threw it together quickly to let you hear some of the things I've been practicing. It's in the key of Am. let me know whatcha think.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hammer Pads

I've had an ongoing quest for years, to find just what I'm looking for in 'soft' hammers. I have to say, I'm not that thrilled with the sound of leather hammers, even though they are quite popular. I suppose it's good for backing, but otherwise the leather dampens the tone too much for my tatse.

Years ago I heard Malcolm Dalglish say during a concert that he wrapped yarn around his hammers for dampening. I tried that briefly, then finally settled for a long time with a thin layer of flannel glued onto a pair of hammers.

This wasn't bad, but there was still a sound I was going for that I couldn't seem to get. It was a subtly that I heard on some of Dalglish's recordings, particularly the Windham Hill albums (probably because the recording quality was so good on those). At times the hammers sound like hard wood, while at other times (within the same song) they sounded softer.

One day, a month or so ago, I noticed the detail on the Bob Bedard hammers I've been enjoying lately and I had a mild brainstorm, that perhaps I could wrap yarn around one small part of the hammer head, so that the surface was both hard and soft. The result is that I can fluctuate between a harder or softer sound with a simple change in angle of the hammer. sometimes this happens unintentionally, but still seems to yeild a really nice textural complexity to the sound of the note.

So far I'm pleased. The dampening is not as severe as leather, so you can also acheive a harder sound simply by using a harder strike. This gives more options for dynamics within a tune. The one drawback I've noticed: The yarn eventually breaks due to all the abuse it's receiving. It only takes a couple minutes to wrap new yarn on, though. Perhaps I will play around with stronger yarns.


Monday, January 22, 2007

New Workshops

I've just updated the workshops page of my website. It is not a complete listing of the music workshops I offer, but it's a start. If you are interested in having me come teach and perform for your dulcimer group, club, organization, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Kentucky Winter Dulcimer Weekend

Just got back from KMW's Winter Dulcimer Weekend. This is the event that tides you over til Kentucky Music Week in June.

I had a really great time. Saw a few old friends and made many new ones. Thanks to Nancy Barker for inviting me down for the weekend. Her hospitality (along with everyone else's) was wonderful. Missy, Tom, Molly, and all the others did a great job of keeping the weekend on track. Well organized and loads of fun. It was also great hearing Rick Thum again, his energy both on stage and off are inspiring. I also enjoyed having a few Irish tunes with Steve Seifert. I had a great time hanging out with Don Pedi as well. If you're not familiar with him you should check out his website, he's got a radio show, a wealth of stories, songs, and humour. It was also nice to hear Peggy Carter's wonderful renditions of Irish tunes.

If you've never been to KMW, and you play hammered or mountain dulcimer, I highly recommend you clear your schedule for the last weekend in June or the first weekend in January, and find your way to Bardstown, KY. The website is www.kentuckymusicweek.com

If you were there and have any pictures to share, send them my way and Ill try to post them here.

Also, if you attended one of my workshops and have any questions or want to discuss anything, this is a great place to do so. Please feel welcome to leave a comment.


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Monday, May 15, 2006

New Tunes

Continuing on this Gypsy theme, I've been learning some new tunes lately. All three in the French Musette genre, they are challenging my understanding of the dulcimer and of music in general. It's really enjoyable stretching out of my familiar Irish Trad domain. It's also enjoyable because it allows me to return to some of my percussion roots, because this style is more closely related to jazz.

Musette is a style of waltz that is associated with cafes in Paris. Often, these cafes were owned by people from the rural region of Auvergne. They would hold dances at these cafes, from which the musette was essentially born. The music is influenced by Paris, the Auvergne region, and also the Manouche gypsies that found work in these cafes. The gypsy connection with American Jazz through the influential playing of Django Reinhardt is what gives these quaint little waltzes their "jazzy" feel. The gypsy influence also provides the dark, minor scales, that these tunes often reside in.

Anyway, I've been working on three musettes:

Java Manouche, which I'm learning from a seminal LP of Jazz Manouche by Gypsy accordionist Jo Privat (I believe a 'Java' is a specific dance. No relation to coffee).

Beritwaltz, by Richard Galliano, an Italian accordionist who mixes Musette seamlessly with Tango and other forms.

Annie-Zette is the third tune, which I first heard on the "Paris Musette" compilation CD. It's a great, rare find. I heard it likened to the Buena Vista Social Club of French Musette. The recordings capture old masters playing alongside a new breed of musicians, carrying on the tradition. Annie-zette can also be heard on Swing Gitan's first recording.

Hopefully, with enough time in the woodshed, I'll be playing these out soon.

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