Category Archives: concerts

Grey Fox Festival 2012

Walsh Farm, NY. July 19-22, 2012. We attended the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival this year. I’m just getting around to writing it up, but it would certainly take a long time to capture all its awesomeness. Summary version: 4 days of listening, picking, and sweating. Yes, it was hot and dry for the most part, which was good, but it also forced you into the shade quite a bit. Luckily the Creekside Stage (aka Masters) was under a tent.

We arrived Wed about 6. J and Jennifer had already staked out a campsite cuz they got their earlier. We were next to 20+ year GF veterans, who had an bunch of campers and giant tents. They drank, swore, and were generally loud, but seemed to settle down over the week perhaps as they became more hungover and subdued. In the Picker’s Paradise, there is always a low hum of banjo and fiddle it seems.

Here’s the list of folks I was able to see:

Creekside Stage

  • Michael Daves Workshop (with Chris Thile)
  • Della Mae
  • Jessie McReynolds
  • Last part of Tim O’Brien cuz I was at the main stage watching Tony Trischka
  • Frank Sollivan
  • Dixie Bee-liners
  • David Bromberg (he was late and the sound on his guitar was horrible, so left)

Main Stage

  • Thurs: Dixie Beeliners; Thile-Daves; Bromberg Band
  • Fri: Deadly Gentlemen; Noam Pilkeny; Tribute to Scruggs, Watson; Del McCoury; David Grisman Sextet; Punch Brothers
  • Sat: Tony Trischka; Hot Rize

I posted some pics on my tumblr page.

When not attending concerts or workshops, J and I jammed, mostly in our campsite area, once with some friends we knew there. The whole idea was to play as much as possible, so we did that.

The food at the midway was excellent. I didn’t feel that compelled to cook at the campsite – who wants to do dishes and whatnot?

That’s it for now. Sorry I can’t review every concert we went to…no time, gotta practice!


Peter Rowan and Tony Rice at the Wilbur Theatre

Peter RowanApril 21, 2012. Boston, MA – Peter Rowan and Tony Rice, along with the Travelin’ McCoury’s came to Boston’s Wilbur Theatre for a night of “The Music of Bill Monroe”. They played 2 sets of just under an hour, including the encore number. All of the tunes were songs written or recorded by Bill Monroe. We were sitting right in front of the stage, so had a good view of everything, although the sound was mostly behind us. Still, you could definitely here the acoustic instruments from where we were sitting. There were only a handful of mikes on stage and the members of the band moved around to get into position to play or sing. It was quite the ballet sometimes. And did I mention that Tony Rice was right in front of me!! Playing the 1935 Martin D-28 (58597) he got from Clarence White!! What a treat!

Here’s the set list:

Set 1
Long Journey Home
Bluegrass Breakdown
In the Pines
I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome
Tony Rice Intro by Peter(21:30)
The First Whippoorwill
Used to Be (Uncle Jerry singing)
Uncle Pen
The Old Old House(George Jones hit)
Live and Let Live
Cheyenne (‘here that now, that’s the Indian sound’ Also where The Land of the Navajo originated, a song by Rowan)

Set 2
Blue Moon of Kentucky (in 3, then 4)
I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling
Walls of Time
Kentucky Mandolin
Beautiful Life (quartet singing, Pete and Tony accompany)
Blue Night (Jerry lead vocal)
This Land – bass/banjo duet
Molly and Tenbrooks
Footprints in the Snow (audience request – “you’re in New England, play Footprints!”)
With Body and Soul
Salt Creek
Muleskinner Blues – Encore

The concert started simply with just Peter Rowan(guitar, vocals) and Ronnie McCoury (mandolin, vocals) singing Long Journey Home before the band strolled on stage to kick it into high gear. Peter Rowan has a great voice and is still going strong from the looks of things. The rest of the band members were: Rob McCoury (banjo), Jason Carter (fiddle), and Jerry McCoury (bass). Jerry was apparently subbing for the regular bass player who had to be back home waiting for a baby delivery. This was some high caliber bluegrass!

The next song was “the first bluegrass instrumental ever recorded” with Earl Scruggs on banjo: Bluegrass Breakdown. This gave everyone a chance to blister the strings on a quick one. The band was tight! Of course, they were playing all these bluegrass standards, which they’ve probably played a million times, so even if they never rehearsed before, it’s okay! In fact, Peter noted that ‘we don’t have tuners on our instruments’ and that they also didn’t have a set list (at least one that was written down). He claimed that they never knew what Bill Monroe was going to play or what key it was going to be in – Monroe would just chop a chord and you better get goin’!

There were certainly a few tributes to Earl Scruggs, since he contributed mightily to the bluegrass sound, along with Bill Monroe. A tune written by Scruggs, Groundspeed, was led by Rob McCoury. Both Ronnie and Jason Carter had amazing solos on this with good support from the band.

Tony Rice
“The most influential guitar player in the history of bluegrass…” came on the stage after that – Tony Rice! I had never seen him play before (that I recall, anyway). I was getting goosebumps just watching him, and the guitar is legendary. Even while he was tuning up, you could hear its power. As Peter said while Tony was tuning on stage, “It doesn’t cost a thing, but I’d pay to hear that.” It took about the first set for Tony to warm up. He does not look in the peak of health, even though he’s only 60 yrs old. A couple of times you could hear him talk on stage from where we were and he sounded like Miles Davis with the croaky voice. I was surprised watching him that he actually flubbed a few notes! Others around me were speculating about arthritis – at times it looked like he was telling his fingers to do something but they were not cooperating the same way as in the past. What people may not notice immediately was that the rhythm playing added another dimension on top of what Peter was playing. There were times when he added these jazzy chords to the progression that caused everyone to smile. Over the course of the night the solos got better and better. In particular, Walls of Time and Kentucky Mandolin, Cheyenne, and Salt Creek, were highlights. It looked like the rest of the band was enjoying listening to Tony, too, almost in reverence.

Other highlights included the singing and bass playing of “Uncle Jerry” McCoury. The bass was solid throughout and he has one of those good country voices with a little bit of twang. Jason Carter on fiddle was inspirational in his playing, either as a lead or accompanying. I really enjoyed the song, Beautiful Life, which had a simple guitar accompaniment but the feature was the quartet singing around the microphone. And did I mention the awesome banjo and bass duet on This Land?

I guess there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this concert. The sound could have been better from where we were sitting, that’s my only complaint.

Here’s Salt Creek from that night – Enjoy. Salt Creek.mp3


I hope they make another visit up to New England soon!


2012 Joe Val Bluegrass Festival

Framingham, MA, February 18, 2012 – Another year, another Joe Val Festival took place at the Sheraton in Framingham, MA. I was able to go on Saturday, but The Splinters had a gig on Sunday, so I couldn’t go both days. I got there around noon and quickly found my way to the Josh Williams Band, playing on the main stage, aka, the ballroom. Josh gained a bit of youtube fame because of this video, where a bird landed on him during a gig – over 1.1M hits!! Most for any bluegrass musician, for sure. Too bad he didn’t get any money for that!! 🙂

Joe Val Workshop with Geoff Bartley

At 1 pm I headed for the workshops. These are my favorite part because the rooms are small and you get an informal lesson from these great performers. I went to the Geoff Bartley/Howie Tarnower guitar/mandolin blues workshop first. They basically were winging it, calling tunes they both knew and played before together. Geoff did a good job of providing some background on them before they played their version. Some of the tunes they played were:

  • My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It
  • Wine Boy Blues
  • Careless Love
  • Sittin on Top of the World
  • Laurie Lewis song re: Prohibition
  • Rolling Spencer? in Bb…

It was fun to hear them play. J and I had been to Geoff’s open mike at the Cantab, and he is very nice and welcoming there, too.

Charlie Lawson workshop

Charlie Lawson workshop

Next I went to see Charlie Lawson, who plays rhythm guitar for Michael Cleveland. It also appears that they are good friends because Michael was there with him, but on mandolin instead of fiddle! The workshop was on rhythm guitar, of course, and Charlie said he’d never really done one of these before, but he was really good at explaining his thought process. Key to playing these fast tunes is certainly to stretch beforehand and to try to relax. If you’ve ever heard Michael Cleveland you know he plays fast! Charlie was influenced by Jimmy Martin and Jimmy Rodgers. I always notice that these performers always have a strong sense of the history of their instrument and can reach back for the most obscure records to listen to. They demo’d some things on Big Country, Sweet Dixie, and Waitin’ for a Train. Another interesting guitar-playing tidbit was that he uses a fairly flexible pick (maybe .8?), so he really only plays rhythm (and has a great voice, so he’s the lead singer in the band, too). Also, that’s Michael Cleveland’s 1944 Martin D-28 he’s playing and that sucker was loud.

Around 3 is when J, my fellow Splinter, showed up and we got our instruments to play in the hallway a bit. I was a bit shy about it, so we went in one of those business centers on the bottom floor, where people could see us playing and hear us if they walked past. Just like outdoor bluegrass festivals, there is a tradition at Joe Val to jam, only you have to play in the hallways and rooms of the hotel. More on that later…

Ashby Frank

Ashby Frank, Mandolin

4 pm we went to the mandolin workshop led by Ashby Frank, again from M. Cleveland band. I think he said he was in his late 20’s, but boy could he play. Both Charlie and Ashby talked about various ailments they were suffering from – life on the road ain’t all roses, people. Ashby was more of a feel player and he said, ‘don’t do it like I do it, cuz it’s probably wrong’. The lesson is to find out what works for you by playing and listening. He demo’d a few techniques on Steel Guitar Rag (in E), Dailey’s Reel (Bb), and Roanoke. I think J came away with some to-do’s to work on.

At 5 pm was the man himself, Michael Cleveland with a fiddle workshop. Again, Charlie Lawson accompanied him. He basically just took questions from the audience. First up was about his fiddle, which has 5 strings. It’s made by John Silakowski who’s out of Indiana, where Cleveland is from. The story goes that he somehow played this particular instrument and wanted it, but it was promised to someone else. That other person “didn’t like it” so it came back and end up in Michael’s hands. He’s another one with a strong knowledge of the fiddle tradition. Someone asked him about what to listen to and he reeled off a string of obscure old records you probably couldn’t find anywhere. Tunes they played: Lost Indian, Orange Blossom Special!, Hear that Lonesome Whistle Bow, and Black Mountain Rag.

Michael Cleveland

Now we were inspired to play some more, so we went out in the hallway to jam. It was 6 pm, so a lot of people were going to get some food. A big group showed up near us to jam also, so we went over to join them. They let J call the first tune, which was Temperance Reel. They weren’t really a fiddle tune crowd, but one of the fiddlers got on board with it. After that, it was a lot of Hank Williams and other standard bluegrass tunes. People came and went. J had to leave about 7:30 but I stayed and played until about 9, when my arm was going to fall off. At one point 4 fiddlers joined in and called some fast ones. Phew! Here’s a link to some stealth video of the jam that someone took and posted. It was fun.

By that time it was 9 pm and food options were limited. I hadn’t eaten all day, so I roamed the hallways and checked out the various jam sessions that were going on. I got myself some doritos in the hotel lobby to hold me over. I checked out the Claire Lynch band a bit, but I didn’t like them, so I wandered the halls again. There were some good players out there, for sure. Here are some photos I took.

Bass player

Cool Dobro


Hallway Jam
Hallway Jam

At 10:30 the Michael Cleveland and Flamekeepers was set to start. What a band! I think the Flame Keepers reference is about how much they light the place on fire! (or to say it properly, “faar”). The repertoire is straight ahead bluegrass and country, in the tradition. And they don’t mess around with silly slow tunes, except for maybe the waltzes. I didn’t write down the set list this time, but they pulled from their albums, so go check them out if you haven’t already. They played until about 12:15 or so. Of course, the fiddle tunes they are known for, Orange Blossom Special and Jerusalem Ridge, came out and were administered to. I did manage to turn on my iPhone sound recorder for Jerusalem Ridge and it came out enough to enjoy. This is typically just a duet with Ashby and Michael on mandolin and fiddle.

Jerusalem Ridge

After that concert, I wondered the halls again and the jams were still going strong. I stopped by one near the lobby where Josh Williams was playing with the folks from Flatt Lonesome, a.k.a. kids with braces! It was good pickin’ and singin’ however.

Josh Williams

Josh Williams at Joe Val Festival

Mandolin Case

Mandolin Case

I got home about 1:30 that night, tired and hungry, but had a great day of bluegrass at the festival.


Other handy links:

Second Cousin Curly posts a lot of bluegrass video and was at Joe Val. Some good stuff here.


The Splinters Play Oh Susanna

J and I played at the West Roxbury Open Mike, which J emcees each month. The video below captures our performance of Oh Susanna. We first played this tune up in Maine one weekend just goofing around and it stuck. After each taking a chorus for improvising, we play together in a counterpoint before taking it to the finish.

(I don’t know why WordPress doesn’t display youtube videos sometimes, so here’s the link to it.)

Oh Susanna

We also played 2 medleys:

Cold Frosty Morning > Old Grey Cat – this one we played 2 choruses of each tune and switched back and forth. The first one is in Am and the second in Em, gives it a cool effect.

Blackberry Blossom > Kitchen Girl. Blackberry we did medium tempo 3 times through, then pick it up a notch for Kitchen Girl. It’s high energy.


Gillian Welch at the Wilbur Theatre

December 13, 2011. Boston, MA – I finally got to see and hear Gillian Welch and David Rawlings on their last concert of the tour. This was previously scheduled for Oct. 27 but got rescheduled due to a bout of laryngitis. It was certainly worth the wait, and as Gillian said during the concert, “It gave us a chance to fix a few things…” including a crack in her guitar (Gibson J-50, which you can see in the Fall 2011 issue of Fretboard Journal with Welch on the cover, showing the guitar with tape on it.) and a banjo repair. They seemed very relaxed and Rawlings family had come in from RI and were sitting right in front of us, adding to the familiarity. They are pretty funny in the banter dept. too.

The pair were in fine form on this second night of two at the Wilbur Theatre, which is a great venue for them. We were in the mezzanine about 5 rows up and the sound and sight-lines were excellent. This was a “standing room on the floor” gig, which I think is a stupid way to enjoy a concert, but whatever…we had seats. Much better than the House of Blues when we saw Dave Rawlings Machine with Old Crow Medicine show and others, where the seats are too far back and the crowd was too noisy during the Rawlings/Welch set.

picture of gillian welch on stage for encore

The stage setting is very sparse, with only mikes on stage for the 2 guitars and 2 vocalists – no plugging in here, and they have the luxury of getting the sound just right with the microphones. The other notable stage prop is “The Box” which sits between them and contains everything they might need on stage, from strings to picks to harmonicas. The other noteworthy item was they had to stand on a rubber mat so they wouldn’t get shocked by the microphones!

The music itself is just what I expected, and more. Welch typically will crouch down away from the mics and start getting into the right groove before beginning the song. It was a real lesson in focus and intimacy. While Welch holds down the rhythm, Rawlings weaves his magic in and around the vocals. Their voices blend so well, it is sometimes hard to tell who is singing without looking at them. They started with Scarlett Town, off of the new album, “The Harrow and the Harvest”. This gives plenty of room for both of them and got us ready for what was to come.

Highlights for me were Scarlett Town (a great song, strong start), Make Me a Palette, 6 White Horses (with the dance – “I usually do this in private only…”), I Hear Them Alland the encores were just perfect, I’ll Fly Away with the audience singing along and ending with White Rabbit. I think they worked in all of the tunes from the new album and they sound like timeless classics, well-integrated with the older songs.

Gillian posted the handwritten set list to her twitter feed (@gillianwelch, but not much tweeting there). The concert started at 8:20 (I think they were late getting dinner at Legal!). The first set ended at 9:10. After a 20 min break, the second set was from 9:30-10:15 with the encores extending the show to 10:50.

Gillian Set List

Here it is in text form…and more accurate, in my opinion.

  1. Scarlett Town
  2. Make me a Pallete on the floor – ref. Doc Watson
  3. Rock of ages
  4. The Way It Will Be
  5. Annabelle
  6. I Want to Sing that Rock and Roll
  7. That’s the Way it Goes
  8. Silver Dagger
  9. Red Clay

Second set:

  1. Hard Times
  2. Down Along The Dixie Line
  3. Elvis Presley Blues
  4. Ms Ohio – ‘she wants to do right, but not right now’ << classic line.
  5. 6 White Horses – with G doin a dance and Dave on banjo
  6. I Hear Them All/This Land medley – led by Dave
  7. My Wrecking Ball
  8. Caleb Meyer


  1. Tennessee
  2. I’ll Fly Away – audience sing-a-long!
  3. Time the Revelator
  4. The Way the Whole Thing Ends
  5. White Rabbit – turn up the reverb!

Other reviews worth reading: Jambands (includes good pic).

Now, go buy the new album so they’ll make another one before 8 years passes by.

Your intrepid concert-goer,


Carrie Rodriguez at Passim

Carrie Rodriguez - FiddleJune 14, 2011, Cambridge, MA – Catching up on my concert reviews for 2011. I really should do this right after the event happens….I have been listening to Carrie Rodriquez for a few years now and love her. She’s another one from Austin and is known for her fiddle playing as well as singing and songwriting. I recently saw her perform on The Colbert Report with Jeff Bridges – I’m guessing I was one of the few who actually recognized her.

As you can see from the picture I took, I got a table in the front row at Club Passim, aka my favorite music room. She only had one other musician on this gig (whose name escapes me, sorry) who switched among pedal steel, electric, and acoustic guitars. Carrie herself moved from fiddle to mandobird to tenor guitar. She can really play and her  style moves from down-home country fiddlin’ to indie singer-songwriter.

The set included new songs from her latest album (which I just bought on Amazon for only $4.99!) as well as some of hits from her past albums, like She Ain’t Me and Seven Angels on a Bicycle. I didn’t realize that the latter song was about a friend who had passed away and this story added some extra poignancy to the piece during the show.

She seems to be constantly touring, so next time she’s in your town, go see her and support live music – that’s how they make their money, people! I think the only disappointing part of the night was that the club was not completely full, perhaps due to the Tuesday night slot.

The Set List:

  1. Keep your Words
  2. Big Love
  3. I Don’t Want to Play House Anymore
  4. 50’s French
  5. Absence
  6. Got Your Name On It
  7. Lake Harriet
  8. Waterbound
  9. She Ain’t Me
  10. Seven Angels on a Bicycle
  11. I am Not a Farmer -> Blackberry
  12. When I Heard Gypsy Davy Sing
  13. El Salvador
  14. Today I Started Loving You
  15. Never Gonna Be Your Bride
  16. La Punalada Trapera
  17. Encores – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry; Say Darlin’ Say

The traditional picture of the setlist.

Carrie R. Set List

Gary Burton Quartet at Berklee

September 25, 2011 – As soon as I heard that Gary Burton was playing at Berklee with his “new

Poster from concert

quartet”, I knew I had to go. I had seen Julian Lage at Passim with his band and was looking forward to hearing him in this setting as well. Plus the band includes Antonio Sanchez, drums (also plays with Metheny) and Scott Colley, bass (also with Metheny). The story goes that Burton lined up his drummer first and then asked him to choose the best bass player to go along with them and he immediately said, Colley.

In addition, Gary Burton was one of my earliest introductions to jazz, having heard him in 1977 at an Arcosanti festival in Cordes Junction, AZ. I know I have the program book from that festival, but cannot locate it in all the usual places I’ve squirreled away mementos. 🙁

Back to the concert…

Since this was at Berklee, everyone seemed very comfortable on that stage, probably from having played many concerts there over the years as faculty and students. Gary did most of the talking, of course, as the leader. I like that he actually talked to the audience and explained some of their tune choices(Light Blue: “musicians can play these Monk tunes over and over”) and it’s background (Afro Blue: “the first tune written for the new latin jazz genre”).  Here’s the entire set list:

  1. Afro Blue
  2. Never the Same Way (Colley)
  3. I Hear a Rhapsody
  4. Last to Know
  5. Etude (Lage)
  6. Light Blue (Monk)
  7. Common Ground
  8. My Funny Valentine
  9. Did You Get It?

They started with a quiet introduction to Afro Blue by Burton alone, before getting into the melody (doubled by Lage) and solos. Burton is certainly a master of rhythm and melodic improvisation and his bandmates kept up, supporting him throughout the ebbs and flows of a solo. I love how the really great improvisers (and the bands, in general) can move through a song from very quiet and mellow to building up intensity to a crescendo and then transition to the next phase of the tune. That is definitely a sign of both great musicianship and communication among the band members.

Never the Same Way, from the group’s album Common Ground, begins with a bass ostinato introduction before moving to the next section of the melody, a rhythmic vibes melody on top of a blues-y chord progression. This is an extended composition with plenty of room for solos and was actually the longest selection in the concert at over 12 minutes.

“I Hear a Rhapsody”, another standard tune, was a pretty straightforward rendering with solos by Burton, Lage, Sanchez, and Colley. It’s always good to throw in something familiar to keep the audience on your side, so you can expand their range elsewhere in the concert. Burton told a story about how Michael Brecker hated playing at Berklee because of all the musicians likely to be in the audience, Gary says, “but I don’t care…”.

Etude was written by Julian Lage as an exercise for his students (“I feel sorry for his students”, said Burton.), and you can find him playing it on youtube here. Burton said, “When I recorded this on the record, I promised myself I’d never play it again!” and “We started playing this live last week and I think I played it right the third time.” Yes, he even had a very long and wide score in front of him to read thru, which cracked the audience up as he unfolded it on the stands. It was kinda funny watching him shift the paper along as the song progressed. Of course, then they proceeded to play it in unison perfectly. The guitar and vibes have a nice blend to them, both being percussive in attack and in the same range.

Light Blue is an obscure Thelonius Monk tune that had the typical twists and turns of a Monk tune. “He wrote these short, simple, quirky songs that just stick with you.” Apparently he only ever played it once in a concert at Town Hall. I was searching through my iTunes library and turned up a version of Bill Frisell playing it in a live recording I downloaded from ‘who knows where’. I think people like playing these tunes because the melodies are so strong they force you into playing to the strengths of the melody when you solo.

My Funny Valentine opened with an extended intro by Lage, solo. This went on for 6 whole minutes of guitar brilliance, not having too much to do with My Funny Valentine. 🙂 However, the ideas seemed to be endless! There were many different variations on a theme, ranging from folk music to classical until he finally hinted at the real tune the last time through, then passed it off to Burton to state the melody, more or less, with the band backing him.

The encore was “Did You Get It” which is on the Common Ground album. This was a fitting end to the concert and gave everyone a chance to stretch out on their solos. I went home and immediately bought the album. Highly recommended.


Julian Lage at Club Passim

I was browsing through the Boston Phoenix paper yesterday and saw that Julian Lage was playing at Club Passim. How did I miss this? Anyway, I went to the Passim website and there was only 1 ticket left for the 7 pm show, so I snagged it. (I didn’t realize until later that he was playing a 10 pm show as well as Sunday night at 8 – the front page of the site only listed the 7 pm show!)

Anyhoooo…on with the show. I arrived at 6:40, having secured my usual secret free-parking space near Harvard Square. Club Passim, or as most people call it, Passims, is a basement venue in Harvard Square. Mostly they have folkie acts, so having a jazzer appear was a bit unusual. It’s a great place to hear music because 1) it is quite, um, ‘intimate’, meaning that you are practically sitting not only on the person next to you, but also on top of the performers; adn 2) the sound is really good – not too loud and a mix where you can actually hear everything. Add to that, the aforementioned intimacy, where you can hear the acoustic nature of the instruments blending with the sound system, and it makes for a good room.

The Julian Lage Group this time is a quintet, adding a cello and tenor sax to the usual guitar, bass, drums trio that I saw at the Beantown Jazz Festival in Sept. You can see how crammed they are on the tiny stage. This was the CD Release party for Gladwell, available on April 26, although they had them at the show. They played a lot from that album, as far as I could tell. The show was excellent and ran from about 7:10, aka “jazztime” to 9 pm.
I’m pretty sure the opening number was “Listening Walk” from Gladwell, due out on April 26. Talk about a workout on the left hand! No wonder at the end of the night Julian said that he’s been having to take care of his left hand due to overuse (I can relate, but he’s only in his 20s!). For the most part the cello and sax were a calming counterpoint to the frenetic picking and percussion of that tune; they seemed to play that background role quite a bit throughout the concert – more like texture backing the trio rather than being on equal footing as soloists on every song. They did get some extended solo turns later in the set. I liked the way it worked. The band was tight, able to shift on a moment’s notice from loud to soft, from quiet introspection to frenetic jam – this is the stuff that makes for a great night of music making.
Other tunes they played from Gladwell included However, Cocoon, Telegram, and probably more, but I’m just judging by the clips on and what I remember. 🙂 I can hear in his playing a ton of influences as well as his own unique voice. Sometimes, I hear the Pat Metheny lick or harmony, but he doesn’t stay there long. Like Metheny, it sounds modern and rooted in tradition at the same time – whether that tradition is jazz, rock, folk, country, or something else…I think it’s all of those. Just watch some of the videos on his site or youtube and you can also see that he is really having a good time. Having complete command of your instrument doesn’t hurt, either.
Speaking of tradition, the trio did one of their trademark tunes, the standard Lil Darlin’. This was not your typical Berklee practice room jam session! Go listen to Joe Pass play it first (or this big band arrangement is good and unctious). Then come back and listen to this version (coincidentally recorded at Passims last Aug). Hear the difference? That’s how you modernize a classic and make it your own. At one point, Julian played a new song he was working on where he said he wanted to make something like a traditional jazz tune, but also make fun of it. Making fun of it isn’t exactly what he meant; I think it was more about being ironic. Maybe it was just taking a traditional form and extending it for the 21st century – yeah, I’m going with that last one. 🙂
That video of Lil Darlin’ kinda sums up the group aesthetic. The tune is a jumping off point for an extended improvisation. The interplay among the musicians is awesome, as they almost go into a free jazz section for an extended period before bringing it back home. You can do that if you 1)know the tune inside out; 2) have chops for days; and 3) listen closely to what is going on in the moment.
You can also see in that last video the unusual technique of the percussionist, Tupac Mantilla – using mostly his hands to play. Last night when they played Lil Darlin, he stood up and mostly played by clapping, snapping fingers, hitting himself in various places (knees, face, chest, etc) and even reached over the drum set to bang on the bass for a bit (and on the bass player too, for that matter).

The encore number was, in his words, “well, you’ll know what it is” – i.e. Freight Train. The first part was the way I learned it, but not after that!! His right-hand technique is something to behold on this one, as he played with a pick and was all over the strings with ease.
A great ending to a spectacular night of music.
P.S. That guitar he plays is a Linda Manzer “Blue Note” that he’s had since he was 11 yrs. old. There was an article in the Fretboard Journal about him I read again last night. It can sound really acoustic or really electric depending on how he plays it. He does set up with both a Fender Twin amp (I believe) and a mic in front to get the acoustic sound.

Pat Martino – Scullers 2nd Set

I almost forgot that we had tickets to Pat Martino, until Mr. Johnson rang me up to confirm a meeting time. 10 pm set on a Friday is risky due to the lack of sleep during the week, but we went anyway. I’m glad I did! It was the first time I’d seen him and I don’t think I ever listened to him too much, but obviously knew about him. He was playing his Benedetto signature model guitar, a solid body model with 2 pickups although he only used the front one.

Seating was general admission so we got a decent table a few “rows” back. It’s a small club anyway, so not a bad seat in the house. The classic trio consisted of Pat, Tony Monaco (B3 organ) and Jason Brown(drums).
When they started to play, it was kind of a shock because the guitar was really loud and muddy – I always wonder whether the sound person has lost their hearing because it is so obviously wrong. Would it hurt to add a little treble into the mix?
The music itself was great! They came out smokin’ with a boppish tune which I didn’t know, followed by a blues which he seemed to call on the fly to the organ player (ah, just found that blues on youtube here), and a latin-ish tune. I think Blue in Green was next, with many liberties taken with the melody, but the signature tune intact.
The odd part of the night came when Pat called up his wife, whom he is clearly smitten with, to play 2 Wes Montgomery inspired songs with him – Heartstrings and Bock to Bock (also on a Derek Trucks album, btw). She’s been playing “for a few years – 3 or 4, i think” and it looked like a student/master recital where the student plays some medium difficult chord changes while the master does his thing and makes it sound good….only in the first song, she couldn’t find the beat to save her life. I just tried to concentrate on what Pat was doing instead.
Thankfully, the band returned and they killed another Wes Montgomery tune: 4 on 6. Tony Monaco is a sight! His facial expressions are priceless and animated – you could read the emotions (mostly joy) in his face and clearly he was enjoying himself at the B3 – relishing in the cheesiest sounds possible, then laying out a monster dissonant chord for emphasis. This was a highlight of the night for me.
They finished the night with Oleo, but it didn’t seem like they were playing the standard thythm changes – I think it was more open than that (a la So What or Impressions) which gave the soloists more room to maneuver.
After the show, J somehow ran into Pat and shook his hand and gave him a few bows of worship. When we asked what his hand felt like, all he said was, “Boney.”

Red Molly Concert

On Sept 26 we went to the Homegrown Coffeehouse, in Needham, MA at the UU church to see Red Molly, an excellent group who we saw the past summer at Club Passim. Before the show, we went to eat at Sweet Basil, around the corner, a place that does not take reservations! Therefore, while we were waiting the 20-30 minutes, we went over to the church to see if we had to pay or what (Emily had ordered tickets online awhile ago).

While trying to figure out where the entrance was (on the side), I saw one of the group (Abbie) in the window and gave her a vigorous wave, to which she replied with her own wave. Then we went in and up the stairs to see the place and Abby and Laurie came out and chatted us up a bit. The guy in charge let us go in and put our coats on some seats in the front, which was fortuitous because when we came back to go in there was a big line, even at 7:30. The church is so small that there really wasn’t a bad seat.
Of course, I can’t remember the entire set list…but at the end, when we went up to the stage to chat them up some more (J had questions about the dobro – a Scheerhorn Wechter – and I wanted to get a closer look at the acoustic bass guitar – a $400 Dean), they said they had 16 songs over the 2 sets. Some of the songs that they did were, in no particular order:
Caleb Meyer (first song – Abbie in lead)
Summertime (by Carolann)
Wayfaring Stranger
A solo by Carolann
Long Ride Home (Patty Griffin)
The Mind of a Soldier (winner of the John Lennon songwriting contest)
It’s Good-bye and So Long to You
A Tim O’Brien learned song I don’t know the name of…
May I Suggest (a stunning a capella song that they did as an encore and in the center of the church with no mic’s…a religious experience right there!)
Jud Caswell, of Brunswick, ME, opened the night with an excellent set. He sat down front without amplification to do “Blackberry Time”, which made it all feel so cozy. He also came out in the middle of the Molly’s set to sing the song that gave them their name, by Richard Thompson.
Red Molly comes up to the Boston area a few times a year, so make sure you go check them out when they do, before they get too famous and you won’t be able to get close to them!