CD & DVD REVIEWSb y F r e d e r i c k Cr a n e
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It has been two years since I last reviewed trump CDs, but it still surprises me to find that a dozen more have reached me with trumping throughout or else work that is significant though of lesser quantity. And two DVDs.
At the end of each item are some addresses from which it may be ordered, including:
Roots & Rhythm,
PO Box 837, El Cerrito, CA 94530, USA; or http://www.rootsandrhythm.com/
Lijsterbeslaan 19, 4334 BM - Middelburg, the Netherlands;
http://www.antropodium.nl/ - e-mail: Antropodium
Grassdorfer Str. 52, D-04425 Taucha, Germany; or http://www.danmoi.de/e/home.htm
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British Archive Of Country Music, BACM CD D 084 (2004).
The Pickard Family, Walking in the Parlour: Old Time Playing and Singing.
Finally, the Pickards have made their debut on CD. It was long overdue, if for no other reason than that Obed (Dad) Pickard is a strong candidate for the supreme trumpist of the 78 rpm era. Obed is heard here in two of the solo trump sides he recorded (if I had been in charge, the third would certainly have been included). In addition, the record includes nine of the 14 or more sides on which Obed played some or much trump on records featuring the whole Pickard Family. Obed's virtues as a trumpist are evident: he is very good at suppressing all the harmonics but the one that has the melody at any given moment; and his performers abound in slight, tasteful variations on the tune, reminiscent of the best country fiddlers. The selections are taken from the repertory of traditional country music, though several have named composers. The others in Obed's family are competent instrumentalists and singers. With the exception of one track from 1947, all the 27 pieces on the disc were recorded between 1927 and 1930. The sound is good, in view of the age of the originals.
Order from Roots & Rhythm
------------------Arthur Fields & Fred Hall, "Eleven More Months & Ten More Days."
British Archive Of Country Music, BACM CD D 024 (2002).
Beginning about 1927, singers Fields and Hall, who were urban-type sophisticates, joined in a long-lasting partnership specializing in writing and performing ersatz hillbilly songs, with textual themes from popular notions of mountain life. At least 31 of their many recordings include solos by their anonymous trumpist. He was (or they were) technically good, and moderately imaginative, commonly playing variations on the melody, often with the tones broken up into shorter ones by quick plucking. Fields and Hall's citybilly records were made from 1927 to 1932, plus a few in 1940. With the exception of track 4 from 1940, all this CD's trump tracks were recorded in 1930 and 1931.
Order from Roots & Rhythm.
ORF Edition Alte Musik ORF CD 344 (2003).
Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Concerti per Trombula e Mandora.
Albin Paulus, trump, and others. No doubt the most renowned of "art-music" compositions for the trump are the four surviving concert[in]os of Albrechtsberger (1736-1809). Two of these were issued in 1981 with Fritz Mayr as the trumpist. It's hard to believe that we had to wait another 23 years for a complete recording. But this one is a humdinger. Albin Paulus, born 1972 and a resident of Vienna, is a clarinetist and saxophonist, a specialist in bagpipes and other folk winds, and a singer. He has an M.A. in musicology from the University of Vienna, where he lectures on Keltic music. And he is an outstanding performer on the multiple trumps. Needless to say, his performance is that of a first-rate musician as well as technician. I particularly enjoyed his cadenzas-a very long one in the first concerto, with some amusing special effects, and another long one in the third one, together with the mandora (three of Albrechtsberger's concertos are for solo mandora-a variety of lute-as well as the trump), which I suppose takes some planning in advance. The record comes in two copies-one is in Digital dts Surround, for systems equipped to decode it.
Order from Dan Moi.
[No label or number] (2003)
Øystein Kikut, piano; Bjørgulv Straume, munnharpe and singing, Hrynhent: Et møte mellom Kunstmusikken og Folkemusikken [A meeting of art music and folk music]
A glance at the cover of the accompanying booklet tells you that, whatever else, the performers have faces full of character. The character of the disc is a happy one; most of the pieces are from the Norwegian traditional repertory, here for munnharpe and piano, piano alone, munnharpe alone. The final piece, though, from which the record takes its title (the name of a medieval skaldic meter), adds electronics and is a little mysterious and scary. Both performers are from Valle in Setesdal; Straume is a noted maker of munnharper, and an outstanding player. Order from Dan Moi.
Antropodium [no number] (2004).
Phons Bakx, Jew's Harp Mosaics: Archive recordings 1986 and 1987.
This record presents the "experiments" by which Phons taught himself the musical possibilities of the trump, at a time before he had any contact with the wide trump world or the major players with whom he has collaborated so much at later times. Most of the 25 tracks are overdubbings of four or five simultaneous performances, with a common regular beat, but superimposing different repetitive patterns. Phons says, accurately: "It is essentially pure, minimal music in which the structure of each piece, on the basis of minute displacements, develops into a fully worthy design." If you want, use this CD as a model for you own self-instruction in making music on the trump.
Order by e-mail at: Antropodium
The Psychedelic Jew's Harp PJH001 (2003). J. M. Nasim, The Psychedelic Jew's Harp.
A memorable record, with a unique approach to making music with a trump. As you might guess from the title, Nasim takes something of a mystical view of the trump and its music. The music is recorded live, in one pass; the sounds of voice and trump are fed through processors. "Seminal acoustics are gestated into new aural forms to birth multi-dimensional soundscapes of interpenetrating pulses and harmonics."
Order from http://www.thepsychedelicjewsharp.com/
---------------Mike Marker and Larry Hanks, The Truth for Certain.
Dandelion Records DL-102 (2004).
Not a lot of Larry Hanks's trumping has appeared on commercial recordings-the 2002 CD reissue of his 1982 LP, highlights CDs from the North American Jew's Harp Festivals 1997 and 1998-2002, the 2-CD set and single from the Molln Festival 1998, the DVD from Norway 2002 (see below)-these are all I can think of. Each has from one to three tracks of Larry on trump, for a total of only about eight. This CD adds two tracks-essentially the melodies of traditional tunes, with Mike's excellent banjo accompaniment. Wisht I could describe Larry's voice-it twangs, cuts, leaves its impress.
Order from Dandelion Records, 2740 Prince St., Berkeley, CA 94705; or firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Higgs, Magic Alphabet.
Northern Liberties NOLIB#2 (2004).
The much praised front man/vocalist of the Baltimore punk band Lungfish since its founding in 1988, Daniel Higgs is also a tattoo artist and a published poet. And, as the present compilation of 17 solo tracks proves, also a very respectable trumpist. Each of the tracks has a programmatic title, and most don't wander far from its own set of sounds or its basic character; but no explanations accompany the record, and I can not make any associations between music and title. While pitch is an important element of the structure, there is no playing of traditional diatonic melody. This seems to be true of several of the present list of CDs.
Order from http://www.dischord.com
Daisuke Hare, The Jew'sharp under the Starry Sky.
1965 Records 002 (2001).
Nothing like this has ever come my way. It features Hard to Find, a Japanese Irish band from Hokkaido, playing traditional tunes, Irish and Finnish, and some new compositions. Hare joins them on trump in all but one track in which he plays the saw. Joining in any traditional ensemble, the trump's function is very comparable to adding spice to your food. Hare's spice is ever variable, from single tones, slow and fast motion, melody vs. countermelody, to playing the melody straightforwardly vs. elaborating on it. And he's very good at it; I especially like his work with a trump in low A. There is also one track with "The Etude For Jew'sharp" as a solo showcase. Nothing like this has ever come my way.
Order from Dan Moi.
Hidup Siderhana Produksi, no number (2004). Steev Kindwald, Transparent Movement.
Steev Kindwald (his name is given as Kindwahl about as often, and sometimes Kindwall) made a considerable impression at the 2002 International Jew's Harp Festival in Norway, as performer and lecturer. He was born in America, has spent several years intensively studying the traditional music of Rajasthan (above all), Southeast Asia, and Bali. This CD, and the two others on which he is featured, show definitively that he is one of our major trumpists. Six of the ten tracks are trump solos, improvisations, I'm sure-technically impressive and inventive. The music is non-scalewise; some add rhythms produced on a small clicker of split bamboo; one or two may be on bamboo or wooden trumps-hard to be quite sure. Track 5 includes the fastest articulating I have ever heard. He is also a master of the Rajasthani double flute; one of the tubes is a drone, and Kindwald's use of circular breathing for drone and melody pipes is perfect over several minutes.
Order from Dan Moi or email@example.com
Steev Kindwahl (Kindwald), Floating World.
[No label or number] (2004?).
Seven of 14 tracks are trump solos. See my remarks above. From 2003 there is also Grasshoppers and Palm Wine, which I have not heard.
Order both from Dan Moi or firstname.lastname@example.org
Navrang, Recorded Live in Ulm at Donaufest in 2004.
[No label or number] (2004).
It's not polite to begin your praise of somebody with a mention of their famous family members, so I won't. Navrang was founded in 1998, and was a three-piece band till 2003, when a percussionist and a sound technician were added. Eclectic is often taken to be a word of negative connotation, but when the eclectic approach produces results like these, it means something very positive: a music that has elements from various corners of the world: repetitions that remind you of minimalism or maybe more of Africa, Oriental scales, drones or static harmony, throat and overtone singing, and much more. The result is a sound and atmosphere that are Navrang's own. There are two trump trio tracks, and Áron Szilágyi's driving, virtuoso trump is heard in all tracks. Navrang's first CD was reviewed in VIM 10 (2002); they have just released a third one, Pangea, on the Trottel label. The audience was obviously deliriously happy with the music, as we hear several minutes of their clamor.
Order from Dan Moi.
[No label or number] (2003). Ipercussonici, Liotro.
Liotro is the name of the elephant statue that is a prominent feature of the Cathedral Square in Catania, Sicily, and a sort of symbol of the city, which is the base of Ipercussonici. Ipercussonici is three guys who specialize on didjeridu, the West African drum jembe, and trump (Luca Recupero). All play various percussion as well, and sing a lot, and electronics enter in. And they are students of the wide world's music. The result is again a fusion, now given its own character by the chosen instruments. Imaginative, varied, entertaining music. I hear the trump in four of the six tracks, though it might be in the others, only not recognizably.
Order from Luca Recupero, Via Fornai 21, 95121 Catania, Italy; or email@example.com
DP Multimedia DVD 0101 (2003
Vladimir Putkin and Alexey Dmitriev, Khomus: First Meeting. Altaic Khomus playing Course. In two parts-the first is 13 lessons on playing the khomus, but applicable to playing any trump, by the master khomus maker Vladimir Potkin. The second is a 21-minute narrative, demo, and musical example, by the master player Nogon Shumatov. Spoken in Russian with English subtitles. Evidently intended for Windows computers-on my Mac it is not very satisfactory.
Order from http://stores.ebay.com/RussianTimes-e-shop
------------Munnharpe. From the 4th International Jew's Harp Festival 2002 in Rauland, Norway.
Video V DVD 1 and 2 (2 DVDs, 2003).
This two-and-a-half-hour selection of public performances, in my opinion, is the best review there is of the state of trump performance at the beginning of the 21st century. Representatives of 16 nations are seen and heard. These include a large proportion of those who are recognized as today's greatest: Manfred Russmann, Robert Zagretdinov, John Wright, Áron Szilágyi, Steev Kindwall, Tadagawa Leo, Svein Westad, Anders Røine, Gordon Frazier, Larry Hanks, Trân Quang Hai, and many others a bit less well known. The sound is very good, and seeing the performers, most of the time, in closeup adds much to one's impressions of the music. Order from Norsk Munnharpeforum, V/Sigbjørn Solbakken, Øvre Hago 5, 3570 Ål, Norway; or firstname.lastname@example.org
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