I Remember Steph
One of my greatest musical inspirations...
Yes, I played with him. Stephane Grappelli collected other violinists and made us members of a sparkling egalitarian musical community. Besides being the inspiration for so many, he's the central link in our chain. From Eddie South in the 30's, Stuff Smith and Svend Asmussen in the 40's, Jean- Luc Ponty and Yehudi Menuhin in the 60's, on Mark O'Connor's 1996 duet recording, and all the way out to some of us marginalia, Steph graciously and gracefully blended in harmony, commented in counterpoint, made his unmistakable solo statement.
Lucky we are that so many of those moments were recorded. Steph was one of the most recorded jazz artists ever, with a catalog that stretches back to 1929. Those fortunate and persistent enough to search could uncover treasures such as his early duets with Stuff Smith, the mind-boggling Bach improvisations with South, the uncanny blend of the many sessions with Svend Asmussen, the legendary Ellington Paris session with Svend, Ray Nance, Duke and a small rhythm section, the Antibes festival performance which introduced the young Jean-luc Ponty and revived Grappellišs carreer, even a strange Italian concert with Venuti in which the pair's mutual antipathy was gradually eroded in the course of a swinging hour. And the more recent pairings with the courageous Yehudi Menuhin, the Indian masters Shankar and Subramaniam and our home-grown heroes Vassar Clements and Mark O'Connor, in which Stephane remained so utterly himself and yet blended generously and sweetly. Violins sound good together and Stephšs violin sounded good everywhere.
To perform with Grappelli, even for one tune, was to become a part of an exalted community of fiddlers, and that entree was offered to many. My experience came through his association with the David Grisman Quintet, of which I was a member in the early 80's. David had gotten a movie music deal for a modern day gypsy potboiler and convinced the director to hire Stephane to play the violin parts. Out of that project came dozens of shows together and some tours. The most intense moments for me came in a joint tour of southern England, Belgium and France in 1982. The DGQ and Stephanešs group performed together in England and then Steph joined the DGQ for the dates on the continent. This, for me, was the experience of a lifetime. My association with Grisman had put me in contact with some of the greatest string players of this century, but Steph was already a worldwide legend. Like so many others, I had heard Grappelli first; his playing with Django shaped my first concept of jazz violin. The DGQ had already toured the U.S. with Stephane while I was on sabbatical from the band, collecting music in Africa with Barbara Higbie. Except for the occasional local concert encore in San Francisco, I had not played with him. This tour would involve actual rehearsal and long periods of actual playing time on stage with the greatest jazz violinist in the world. Alternately terrified and exalted, I struggled to hold onto my embryonic personal style while trying to approach the technical level necessary to blend with and learn all I could from the great man.
To stand on stage with Grappelli, working with him up close, was a revelation. The lightness and floating quality that characterized the last portion of his career was underlaid by a power and force which was not always evident to the audience. The illusion was fed by his grace, his ability to focus his energy to the exact spot needed, wasting nothing. At the point of this focus was tremendous power. The only evidence of this was his incredible sound, making tone and intonation into one indistinguishable quality. His dancing rhythm and varied attack made everything he played seem inevitable, and up close, one realized how much energy was flowing through him, how cleanly he burned.
One could speculate that this ability was fostered in the dance classes he took at age six with Isadora Duncan, the years he spent with Django, his phenomenal piano talent, the other great players he worked with such as Eddie South, George Shearing, Oscar Peterson, Fats Waller. Stephane's own fastidiousness was legendary (the only verbal instruction he ever gave me was how to keep my violin clean) and elegance, economy, and focus naturally complemented the increasingly roccoco quality of his jazz playing. Those frills and trills were carved in steel.
As the shows progressed, I started to learn the parts better and become more aware. Steph, at that point, was not the sort of player to give advice or instruction, at least not to me. An unpredictable combination of brilliantly funny raconteur, curmudgeon, and free spirit, he could take offense at a grease spot on the music paper, and briefly lectured me more than once about the rosin buildup on my violin top and fingerboard.
But he gave me far more than that advice: while we were playing, there were trading and ensemble sections. At first I concentrated on playing these parts as perfectly as I could, focusing on intonation, remembering the notes, improvising something interesting. Stephane suddenly started to get right in my face as we played and wordlessly demanded eye contact. While playing, he then transmitted all the feeling, emotionality and humor of the music through his eyes and face, dragging my consciousness out of the mechanics of the fiddle back into awareness of what we were actually saying on our fiddles, turning the music into a two-way conversation. This changed everything for me. I was increasingly able to just play music instead of worrying about being compared to the greatest jazz violinist in history. Every night on stage, Steph reminded me in the most direct way possible that the music and our communication were the reason we were there. It was a gift Išll always carry with me.
Violinist, fiddler, composer, producer and educator, Darol Anger is at home in a number of musical genres, some of which he helped to invent. With the jazz-oriented Turtle Island String Quartet, Anger developed and popularized new techniques for playing contemporary music styles on string instruments. The virtuosic "Chambergrass" groups Psychograss and Newgrange, and the plugged-in Anger-Marshall Band feature his compositions and arrangements. His Grammy-nomimated folk-jazz group Montreux was the original musical model for the New Adult Contemporary radio format. The David Grisman Quintet forged a new genre of acoustic string band music with Darol's "fertile inventiveness, surprisng touches and technical mastery" (Boston Herald) often in the forefront. Working with some of the world's great improvising string musicians, among them Stephane Grappelli, Mark O'Connor, Bela Fleck and Vassar Clements, has contributed to the development of Anger's signature voice, both as a player and a composer. His published works include jazz originals and arrangements, as well as a collection of fiddle tunes composed straight from the heart of the traditional music idiom.Anger has produced dozens of critically lauded recordings since 1977 which have featured his compositions and performances. Highlights include the Heritage Folk Music project, which brought together some of the most important voices in the traditional, contemporary folk and bluegrass music scene; the Anger-Marshall Band's JAM, Brand New Can, and The Duo, which set new standards for the Newgrass/jazz genre; collaborations with Newgrange banjoist Alison Brown and the String Cheese Incident's Michael Kang; and his recent release Diary Of A Fiddler, which sets Anger in duet with the most prominent and innovative fiddlers of our time. Anger holds the String Chair of the International Association of Jazz Educators. He has led seminars at the Stanford, Oberlin and Amherst Jazz Worshops, regularly teaches at the Berklee School of Music and the Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp, and at workshops and clinics from Campo Do Jordao, Brazil to the Music Conservatory at Bremen, Germany. He is a Contributing Editor for Strings magazine, and is on the ASTA Editorial Board. The recipient of a 1995 California Arts Council Composer Fellowship, Anger was nominated in 1997 for the CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts. He has been a featured soloist on a number of motion picture soundtracks, and he wrote and performed the score for the Sundance Award-winning film "Best Offer.He was the winner of the Frets Magazine Readers' Poll for Best Jazz Violinist for four years running.Anger's work has expanded not only the acoustic violin's boundaries, but has contributed to the development of violin synthesizer repertoire and technology. His writings on these subjects and various string education issues appear regularly in prominent music periodicals. Besides his Duo work with Mike Marshall and his chamber music work and recording with pianist Phillip Aaberg, Anger is currently developing the American Fiddle Ensemble, an intergenerational group playing international fiddle music, and The Fiddlers 4, with fiddle stars Michael Doucet and Bruce Molsky, with a Compass Records release in 2002.
Darol Anger CD's, books, etc.
* Any CD's or songs which are meaningful to you?
One of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard was Eva Cassidy singing "Fields of Gold" from her c.d., Songbird. I heard it after an interview I did at a radio station in Martha's Vineyard. I stopped talking when I heard her voice and by the end of the song, I was very tearful and greatly moved. She died many years prior to my introduction to her music, but she continues to be one of my all time favourites. Music can broaden one's emotions and make life seem more grand. Music makes chocolate better, babies cuter and love deeper!
Bluegrass and Celtic music are close cousins, with shared roots dating back several hundred years. But that's not what prompted Celtic fiddling virtuoso Natalie MacMaster to enlist some of the world's top bluegrass pickers-including Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Edgar Meyer-for her latest album, Blueprint. MacMaster, a native of Canada's Cape Breton Island, says her only motivation in choosing guests for the album was to feature the best acoustic musicians she could find. The common thread of bluegrass turned out to be a happy coincidence.
"I gravitate toward quality musicianship-that's what I grew up with," says MacMaster, who earned a Grammy nomination in 2000 for My Roots Are Showing in the Best Traditional Folk Album category.
"Irish music affects me the same way as Cape Breton music because those are the sounds and instruments that I've heard since I was a child. It's the same thing with bluegrass music, which has many of the same sounds and instruments. And, in a way, bluegrass musicians play reels, breakdowns and jigs too, so it's all very similar."
Working in Nashville with producer Darol Anger, MacMaster began assembling a wish list of who they'd like to work with. After recruiting banjo star Bela Fleck and mandolin great Sam Bush, MacMaster and Anger needed to line up a vocalist to sing "Touch of the Master's Hand," a poem set to music written by MacMaster and her guitarist, Brad Davidge. It was only when they settled on singer John Cowan did they realize the connection; Fleck, Bush and Cowan had all been members of bluegrass innovators the New Grass Revival. Douglas, who appears on five of Blueprint's 13 tracks, provided another unexpected link: it turned out that bassist Meyer and guitarist Bryan Sutton had both previously worked with the Dobro master.
"Jerry's the best Dobro player in the world," enthuses MacMaster. "We thought, 'why not start at the top?' He's so versatile and he adapted to the Cape Breton style right away." Adds MacMaster: "None of the musicians were show-offs. They're all just totally devoted to music-no matter what the style-and they were a total pleasure to work with. That was the coolest part of making this record."
That joyfulness is evident on the album's opening track, "A Blast," a series of five rollicking fiddle tunes, three of which MacMaster wrote herself. She also co-wrote "Jig Party" with her bagpipe player Matt MacIsaac and penned "Minnie & Alex's Reel" for her parents. MacMaster's compositional output is at an all-time high. "I'm in a real creative phase right now," she acknowledges. "Every time I sit down to practice, I have a lot of ideas for tunes and usually spend the first half hour just writing them down."
While still fairly new to composing, the 30-year-old MacMaster is already a veteran of her instrument. She first picked up a fiddle at the age of nine and hasn't looked back. The niece of famed Cape Breton fiddler Buddy MacMaster, Natalie quickly became a major talent in her own right.
After winning numerous East Coast Music Awards for her early traditional Cape Breton recordings, she began taking Celtic music to new heights with albums like In My Hands, which featured elements of jazz, Latin music and guest vocals by Alison Krauss. To her accomplishments, she's added two Juno Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy) for Best Instrumental Album and several Canadian Country Music Awards for Fiddler of the Year.
She has shared the live performance stage with acts ranging from Carlos Santana to the Chieftains, Paul Simon to Luciano Pavarotti, Alison Krauss to Mark O'Connor and dozens of world-class symphony orchestras. She's performed on ABC Television's New Year's Eve broadcast at the special request of one of her greatest fans, host, Peter Jennings. She's created, financed and produced her very own nationally broadcast network TV special.
Two of her CD's have charted on Billboard's Top 20 Selling World Music charts. Four of her previous five CD releases have been certified "gold" (50,000 +) in Canada.
Her exhaustive touring schedule has taken her from stages in Hawaii to Antarctica, Alaska to Japan, from Scotland to Italy, Germany to the Hollywood Bowl and beyond. She is often referred to as "the busiest woman in the Canadian music business.
"For every contemporary album, MacMaster is quick to respond with a traditional one, like My Roots Are Showing. Her last recording, LIVE, was two albums in one: the first disc showcased her whole touring band, including the big-concert sounds of synthesizer, drums and electric bass, while the other featured a down-home Cape Breton square dance with just piano and guitar. MacMaster, who plays with what the Los Angeles Times described as "irresistible, keening passion," thrives in both settings.
With Blueprint, MacMaster is once again pushing the boundaries for traditional music, fusing her brilliant Cape Breton fiddling with the sounds of Banjo, Dobro and Mandolin, as played by the cream of America's bluegrass community.
"Alison Krauss was the artist who first got me listening to bluegrass music," recalls MacMaster. "With this album, maybe I can do the same thing and attract people to traditional Cape Breton music."
Natalie MacMaster Store
* How has music inspired you?
I'm inspired by life itself, and the result is music, which continues to feed my need, desire and ultimate purpose: to create. It's all big circle I guess.
Hearing other people's music definitely inspires me - planting seeds of free association, and starting conversations between artists that really only happen in my head, but the outcome can be a brand new tune that has nothing to do with what I originally heard. Also, just seeing someone truly commit to their craft ignites my own passion. Witnessing talent just makes me want to improve my own.
Inspiration is everywhere if we're open to it.
* Any CD's or songs which are meaningful to you?
Carole King - Tapestry
Daniel Lanois - For the Beauty of Wynona
Currently obsessing over these songs:
Howard Jones - No One Is To Blame
Damien Rice - Canon Ball
Josh Ritter - Kathleen
* Has music helped you thru a difficult time in your life?
Music saves me. All the time.
CINDY ALEXANDER BIO
It is rare that an artist, has so much to offer her audience: talent, beauty, charisma, songs that people can't help but sing along with, and lyrics they want to quote to their friends.
Born weighing only four and a half pounds but with the voice that could fill a stadium....her parents figured G-d had a plan, they just weren't in on the joke. They sent their little "peanut" to the "crying doctor" when she was 5 only to be told she just "wanted attention." By 20 she stopped crying but she had head aches. And one day, Cindy Alexander was so irritated and grumpy because the guy who lived in the apartment above her blasted his stereo so loud that it brought on her migraines - so finally she crawled out of bed and pounded on his door asking him to turn it down. Instead of fighting, they became best of friends and started a band.
After a couple of years, a lot of gigs, and a ton of emotional epiphanies, Cindy put out a cd which was a compilation of her demos: See Red. Most of the tracks were produced by David Darling (Boxing Ghandis/ Meredith Brooks/ Brian Setzer) and Paul Trudeau (the apartment mate with the booming stereo). See Red earned a nomination for Album of the Year by the L.A. Music Awards, who the year before crowned her Songwriter of the Year and nominated her for Female Vocalist of the Year. The "Peanut Gallery" (aka Cindy Alexander fans) grew exponentially and Cindy rode the wave of the internet, topping charts at mp3.com and becoming one of Amazon.com's best indie sellers. Cindy has also appeared on several soundtracks and compilations (Sugar & Spice soundtrack on Trauma Records/ Chilled Sirens on Water Music Records/ Sunday Brunch on Treadstone Records) and her music has been featured in films (Here on Earth, Smokers, Sugar & Spice, and numerous indies) and television (upcoming Party of Five DVD), all of which have served to increase her international exposure.
The "Peanut" is relentless: she tours nationally and internationally, sharing the stage with such bands as The Bacon Brothers, Dishwalla, Suzanne Vega, Bob Schneider, Ben Taylor, The Bangles, Edwin McCain, Marc Cohn, Howard Jones, and the list goes on and on. Her performances have been called "crush inducing," "star quality" and the "best of the L.A. Music Scene," charming both audiences and critics alike.
In 2003 she released her 2nd Cd, SMASH, also nominated for L.A. Music Award's Album of the Year. She was named CNET's Net Music Countdown Net Unknown of the Year (joining past recipients such as Michelle Branch) and was named Female Artist of the Year by Just Plain Folks, also winning Pop Song of the Year by the same organization.
It doesn't stop here.... 2004: Cindy just signed a distribution deal for her own label, JamCat Records.
Check it out! www.cindyalexander.com
Management: Toni Profera 818-788-8930
* How has music inspired you?
D: Music is my life. I've always been inspired to make music, and making
music keeps me inspired...this is a very important sinergy that gives the strength to be positive even in difficult moment of life. I think that most of the main emotions of my life have been connected to music somehow.
Starting at age 6 studying classical music and piano, I graduated going
through all the main classical composers.I self approached then the guitar at 17, applying all the notions I learnt from my prefered composers: Bach, Mozart, Chopin and Debussy to the 6 strings, developing my first guitar project at 19 years, in 1988, called 'ME AND MEE TOO', a very classical influenced work.
HeavyMetal magazine in italy publisched my
first review in august 1988...
My second guitar demo project came out in 1989 after a few months , and it was called THE LAST GIFT OF MY TEENS From this demo 2 songs have been taken for the debut album Viewpoint, FATAL SWANS and HOPE. This one is a more rock project, even if classics are again present. Also this work had good reviews
After performing this two demos through all the local clubs with my band
OTHERWAYS, in 1990 I completeed my 3rd demo project, called HOLDING THE SUN OF MY LIFE , a step ahead in experimenting classical stuffs into heavy music.
Also this work had good press responses.
In 1991 I left the classic influences, experimenting a more progressive
style and developing my 4th guitar demo called THE WHEEL OF EMOTIONS , also this reviewed form the section Guitar Hero of HM as s point of referement for italian instrumental music.
In that period I formed a new prog metal band called EXARULE. We played live for a while in various local concerts and record a demo project called AS A RULE.
In 1992 I recorded another demo called LOVING THE HUMAN RACE , that was very near to the sound of first album VIEWPOINT, a combination of progressive concepts with a more straight and riffy rock sound.
In 1993 I won the 1993 Artist Without frontiers Best guitar player . A
contest in ROME with 150 guitar players from all the nation, judged by many of the main journalist and professional musicians of the sector. I won a payed stage for attending GIT lessons in Los Angeles.
In 1994 I won the European Musician Home Recording contest and the magazine included a first home recorded version of his song 'NO RESULT ' in a compilation cd with all the winners.
Also in 1994 I starts to learn drums and played it with the band RING ROAD, a Dream Theater/Racer X cover band that performed in the local scene for 1 year.
After having completed the demo songs of VIEWPOINT album in 1995 I got back to Los Angeles to selfproduce it with Joey Vera (ex armored saints, now fates warning) and Ricky Wolking(jennifer batten group) at the bass and Julio Mathis II at the drum. 'Nearly Gold Emotions' was the original title.
Also in 1995 I rediscovered the keys starting to work with the young band
EMPTY TREMOR .I reached a deal with this prog metal project with Rising Sun(europe) and Fandango(japan).The official first debut album
'Apocolokyntosys' release was in spring 1997. VIEWPOINT guitar solo album has been finally released from Virtuoso Records in May 1999.
In summer 1998 I met the incredible new talent Dario Ciccioni and started to create some music with him.
In Summer 1999 I recorded the 'Daily Trauma' instrumental album that has still to be released. This album is the mother of Genius Rock Opera concept and it's a sort of first experimentation of its sound...This will be
released by Frontiers Records on May 2004 as a bonus release of Genius
Trilogy! Here I played Guitars, bass and Keys.
In spring 2000 Empty Tremor partecipates to VOICES, a tribute Dream Theater released by Adrenaline Records, with a medley of 4 songs taken from Images & Words and A Change Of Season albums.
In May 2000 I released the second album with Empty Tremor group by
Elevate/SPV, called EROS AND THANATOS.Great responces from all the international press and cd of the month in some italian magazines!
In October 2002 Frontiers Records released worldwide the first episode 'A Human into dreams' world' of my 'Genius Rock Opera' trilogy.
This trilogy is the evolution of the story and the music that I wrote with
Dario Ciccioni for the Daily Traum album. Also here I played Guitar, bass
and Keys. The singers cast included great names like Mark Boals, Daniel Gildenlow, Lana Lane, Chris Boltendahl, Joe Vana, John Wetton, Steve Walsh, Oliver Hartmann, Midnight and Philip Bynoe as Storyteller!
In December 2002 I contributed with my composition 'Meteor' to the Jason Becker tribute album 'Warmth in the wilderness' bol 2 released by Lion Music. Steve Vai , Marty Friedman, Randy Coven and many more great artist are present too in this great tribute album!
In early 2003 Frontiers Records releases the compilation 'Rock The Bones'. It's a double cd that includes the songs 'There's a Human' form Genius Rock Opera Episode 1 and 'Who's gonna love you tonight' form my forthcoming album 'Khymera' with Steve Walsh
In April 2003 I released the KHYMERA album with Frontiers Records.This is very straigtht Rock-Aor album that I recorded with the great Steve Walsh of Kansas at the vocals and Dario Ciccioni at the Drums. Great backing vocals by Joe Vana, Thom Griffin and Billy Greer, also here I arranged and recorded Guitar, bass and Keys.
In March 2004 Frontiers Records releases the third Empty Tremor album 'The Alien Inside'. Giovanni De Luigi left and the new singer Oliver Hartmann joins the band and records the new album.
In May 2004 Frontiers Records released worldwide the second episode 'In Search Of The Little Prince' of my 'Genius Rock Opera' trilogy.
Great singers in the cast: Russel Allen, Mark Boals, Daniel Gildenlow, Edu
Falaschi, Jeff Martin, Roberto Tiranti, Eric martin, Johnny Gioeli, Liv
Kristine, Philip Bynoe. Also here I arranged and recorded Guitar, bass and Keys.