Kane Mathis has been making annual trips to The Gambia, West Africa to study the 21-string harp called Kora played by the bards of the Mandinka people. Kane’s teacher is Jeli Ba Malamini Jobarteh who is one of the living legends of the Kora. Recognizing Kane’s seriousness with Kora, Jeli Ba Malamini Jobarteh gave Kane a regimen of Kora training never before undertaken by a non-African.
In addition to his learning with Malamini Jobarteh Kane has studied African music extensively over the past ten years. Kane’s present goal with Kora is to remain with the Mandinka musical tradition and along with the many other players and scholars of this music bring it to further recognition around the world.
Joseph Firecrow’s musical journey began as a child. “Drums were a regular part of our lives. In the summer were the war dances now called powwows. As kids we would imitate the drummers on my mother’s galvanized washtub.”
“The very first time I heard the flute I was a young boy living on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation located in Southeastern Montana. Grover Wolfvoice was the fluteman playing this wonderful music.”
“The music was beautiful to my ears yet it scared me. There was much poverty and depression at that time. The sound of the flute touched my heart where there was much pain and uncertainty. Through all of the hardships of reservation life the beauty and wonder of our homeland beckoned to me.”
Born in Montana and raised on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation until he was nine years old Joseph attended public school and a Catholic school before being placed with a foster family in Seattle as part of the Mormon Indian Placement program. He joined them in their Mormon worship and attended Brigham Young University in Provo Utah as was expected of him.
“I was starting to forget my Cheyenne Language and heritage. I needed to find out who I really was but I also had a lot of opportunities given to me and I wanted to take advantage of them.”
Just when it appeared he might forsake his Native American ancestry, two events happened that lead Joseph back to his people. Joseph reconnected to his heritage through music while he was in college and he read the book Cheyenne Memories by John Stands. “It was pivotal in my life in teaching me about the Creator and how we are tied to the land and animals.”
After three-and-a-half years of college education he returned to his reservation where it took a number of years to be totally accepted. “When I first went home, I sat in with my uncle’s drum group and there were certain members who said ‘̶What are you doing here? Are you trying to be an Indian?’”
Despite the initial adversity, Fire Crow re-integrated into his tribe and became a respected fluteman who was frequently called upon to perform at various community events such as weddings and funerals. He also shares his music and tribal history through lectures and workshops which include lessons in flutemaking.
“The Northern Cheyenne to this day are still very much a traditional and ceremonial people. These things give us our identity. The wooden flute is a tradition that is passed on from one generation to the next. Through our oral history stories legends ceremonies societies and songs our culture is maintained. The flute is kept in the same manner. The legend of how the flute came to the people the songs that are called wolf-songs and the construction of the flute are all kept strong and vibrant.”
In 1992 Fire Crow recorded the album The Mist. Two years later he released a second self-produced recording Rising Bird. These recordings were sold only at concerts.
In April of 1996 his self-titled release Fire Crow was one of the first recordings to be launched nationally on the Makoche label and was one of the label’s best sellers.
Fire Crow’s follow-up album Cheyenne Nation is a soulful mixture of traditional flute and contemporary instrumentation promoting the unity of the Cheyenne people.
In 1995 Fire Crow’s songs “Creator’s Prayer” and “Wind in My Mind” were selected to open and close the best selling album Tribal Winds: Music from Native American Flutes on the Earthbeat label. Ken Burns also chose some of Fire Crow’s music to be included on the soundtrack for his documentary “Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery.”
Fire Crow is included on Earthbeat’s Tribal Voices and Tribal Waters compilations as well as being a major contributor to several European releases including Shaman Circles of Life and Medicine Power on the German label Sattva.
Joseph has won numerous Native American Music Awards (NAMA).
The Mist (1992)
Rising Bird (1994)
Fire Crow (Makoché Music, 1996)
Cheyenne Nation (2000)
Legend of the Warrior (2003)
Red Beads (Makoché Music, 2005) Face the Music (2009) Night Walk (2012)
John Williams was born in Chicago in 1967. He is a third generation concertina and button accordion player from both sides of the family. His father Brendan and his grandfather Johnny Williams were noted musicians in their native Doolin County Clare where concertina is most often the instrument of choice. There was no shortage of traditional music around the house as he was growing up. He began playing in sessions around Chicago encouraged by such musical residents as the late Johnny McGreevy flutists Seamus Cooley and Kevin Henry and uilleann piper Joe Shannon.
John developed a maturity in his playing rarely heard in one so young. The adjudicators sensed it in 1989 when they awarded him the Senior All-Ireland championship for concertina making him the first American ever to win that honor. His subsequent summers in Doolin served to widen his repertoire and associate him with some of Ireland?s most respected musicians.
As a founding member of the groundbreaking band Solas Williams received wider recognition playing to sold out audiences internationally and earning two NAIRD (later called AFIM) awards and Grammy nominations for the ensemble’s 1996 and 1997 releases Solas and Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers.
The Irish national broadcasting network RTE has featured Williams as the subject of the radio program The Long Note the television series The Pure Drop and the Christmas special Geantrai.
His album Steam features Dean Magraw and Randal Bays former Solas bandmates Seamus Egan and John Doyle fiddler Liz Carroll as well as Chicago jazz greats Larry Gray on bass and Paul Wertico on percussion.
Outside traditional music John has collaborated on productions with Gregory Peck Doc Severinson Studs Terkel Mavis Staples jazz pianist Bob Sutter bluegrass legend Tim O’Brien director Sam Mendes the London Symphony Orchestra and the Irish Chamber Ensemble. Audiences nationwide recognize Williams from numerous appearances on Mountain Stage A Prairie Home Companion and The Grand Ol’ Opry as well as guest performances with The Chieftains Nickel Creek and Riverdance.
On film he appears as a bandleader music consultant and composer in Dreamworks’ classic Chicago thriller Road to Perdition. Centrally featured in the Academy Award-Nominated score by Thomas Newman Williams’ autumnal Perdition Piano Duet was released on the 22 Universal soundtrack album as performed in the film by stars Paul Newman and Tom Hanks.
In August 2003 Chicago Magazine selected Williams in their annual Best of Chicago issue as one of the city’s finest instrumentalists. He recorded a collaborative album Raven with composer and guitarist Dean Magra.
Bassist and vocalist John Cowan was born on August 24, 1952 in Minerva, Ohio. He has been performing for over 30 years and is known by many as The Voice of Newgrass. As a member of New Grass Revival he helped create a sound which brought a new audience to the bluegrass music and was arguably as important in shaping the direction of modern bluegrass as Flatt and Scruggs was to the genre in the 196s.
After New Grass Revival disbanded in 1990 Cowan went on to record a series of critically acclaimed solo albums and to lend his unique vocals as a session musician to a lengthy discography including albums by Garth Brooks, Glen Campbell, Steve Earle, Janis Ian, Delbert McClinton, Kenny Rogers and Poco. He was also the bass player for The Doobie Brothers from 1993 to 1995.
His album Always Take Me Back (released by Sugar Hill Records) features his versatile musicianship and his excellent band through an array blues, bluegrass, funk, rock and Celtic-flavored selections.
Currently Cowan divides his time on the road between solo tours with the John Cowan Band and as a touring member of the Doobie Brothers with whom he has been performing regularly since 2010.
John Cephas was born in Washington D.C. in 1930 into a deeply religious family and raised in Bowling Green, Virginia. His first taste of music was gospel but blues soon became his calling (as he described in his song “I Was Determined”). After learning to play the alternating thumb and fingerpicking guitar style that defines Piedmont blues, John began emulating the records he heard by Blind Boy Fuller Blind Blake, Gary Davis and other early Piedmont artists.
Aside from playing blues, John worked early on as a professional gospel singer, carpenter and Atlantic fisherman. By the 1960s he was starting to make a living from his music. John joined pianist Wilber “Big Chief” Ellis’ band and worked with him until Ellis’ death in 1977.
Among his many endeavors, John served on the Executive Committee of the National Council for the Traditional Arts and testified before congressional committees. He was also a founder of the Washington D.C. Blues Society. “More than anything else,” said John “I would like to see a revival of country blues by more young people. More people going to concerts learning to play the music. That’s why I stay in the field of traditional music. I don’t want it to die.”
He was a member of the renowned Cephas and Wiggins duo. John Cephas died March 4 of 2009 of natural causes. He was 78.
Guitarist and vocalist Joe Louis Walker was born December 25, 1949 in San Francisco, California. Today, Joe Louis Walker is a leading blues figure.
Walker uses electric and slide guitar to deliver his music, rooted in blues, soul, gospel and R&B.
“I never was one of those guys to sit down and try to copy B.B. King note for note, or Albert King, or Freddy King. I enjoy the hell out of ’em but I figure if I’m gonna do this here I might as well do it and put my own stamp on it,” said Joe Louis Walker.
In 2013, Joe Louis Walker was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame.
Cold Is The Night (Hightone 1986)
The Gift (Hightone 1988)
Blue Soul (Hightone 1989)
Live At Slim’s Volume One (Hightone 1991)
Live At Slim’s Volume Two (Hightone 1992)
Blues Survivor (Polydor/Polygram 1993)
JLW (Polydor/Polygram 1994)
Blues Of The Month Club (Polydor/Polygram 1995)
Great Guitars (Polydor/Polygram 1997)
Preacher And The President (Polydor/Polygram 1998)
Silvertone Blues (Polydor/Polygram 1999)
In the Morning (Telarc 2002)
Pasa Tiempo (Evidence Music 2002)
Guitar Brothers (JSP Records 2002)
She’s My Money Maker (JSP 2002/3)
Ridin’ High (Hightone 2003)
New Direction (Provogue 2004)
Playin’ Dirty (JSP 2006)
Witness To The Blues (Stony Plain Music 2008)
Between A Rock And The Blues (Stony Plain Music 2009)
Blues Conspiracy: Live on The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise (Stony Plain Music 2009)
Guitar player and vocalist Jimmy Johnson has carved out a distinctive niche in the Chicago blues scene.
James Earl Thompson was born November 25, 1928 in Holly Springs Mississippi. He grew up in a musical family. Jimmy was the older brother of blues musician Syl Johnson and his other brother the late Mack Thompson was a bassist in Magic Sam’s band. Jimmy began singing in the local church choir. He later sang with the United Five a spiritual group in Memphis.
In 1950 Jimmy’s family moved to Chicago. Jimmy worked as a welder for several years and played guitar as a hobby. In 1959 Jimmy began to perform with harmonica player Slim Willis. He changed his last name from Thompson to Johnson.
He began his career playing with Magic Sam Freddie King and Otis Rush. Jimmy recorded his first solo album at the age of 50.
Now with his own band Jimmy’s performing experience spans the globe from Europe to Japan as well as prestigious festivals concert halls and universities across the U.S. and Canada.
His discography includes dozens of back-up appearances as well as five solo albums. 1995 brought his first world-wide Verve/Polygram release ̶I’m a Jockey, which earned Jimmy his second W.C. Handy Award from the International Blues Foundation. This followed the critically acclaimed album ̶Bar Room Preacher, on Alligator Records. A second world-wide major label release is in the works for 1999.
Jimmy Johnson & Luther Johnson (MCM, 1977)
Tobacco Road live (MCM, 1978. Reissued by Delmark in 1997 Storyville/Delmark 842 )
Louisiana musician Jimmy Breaux was the longtime accordionist in celebrated Cajun band BeauSoleil. He is in the fourth generation of his family to play Cajun music.
Jimmy Breaux was born in 1967 and grew up in Louisiana. In 1988 at the age of 2 Breaux joined Michael Doucet’s pioneering young Cajun band BeauSoleil not only helping to bring pride to their Cajun heritage but also popularizing their dance music rooted in tradition by playing it around the world over the next 25 years.
In addition to being featured on BeauSoleil recordings Breaux has released solo albums that feature not only Doucet and other bandmates but other leaders of contemporary Louisiana Cajun music such as Steve Riley.
With a combination of Cajun classics and original songs Breaux is carrying on and extending his family tradition.
Among his musical relatives are his father Preston Breaux, grandfather Amé Breaux, brother Pat Breaux, great-grandfather Auguste Breaux and great-aunt Cleoma Breaux. The latter was married to Joe Falcon, one of the great Cajun musicians of the 1930s.
Uilleann piper flutist and whistler Jerry O’Sullivan has been at the very heart of the traditional Irish music scene in New York for many years and is always the first to help when a member of the community needs it. A gifted performer he has worked with many groups in the area as well enjoying an enviable career as a solo artist.
He has amassed a substantial discography with appearances on over sixty albums. He has been a music teacher for many years at The Tara Circle and many Irish arts weekends and has always been happy to share his time and talent.
The Invasion (Green Linnet 1997)
The Gift (Shanachie 1998)
O’Sullivan Meets O’Farrell (2005)
O’Sullivan Meets O’Farrell: Volume II (2010)
Jerry Grcevich born in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh studied tamburitza (Croatian string music) with his father and uncle both musical directors and performers. At the age of 21 Grcevich made a pilgrimage to Yugoslavia to study with the famous tamburitza prim player Janika Balaz the first of many musical journeys to the homeland of tamburitza. In 1980 he began composing and recording his own musical pieces. Because he mastered all five of the instruments of the tamburitza ensemble – the prim brac, tamburitza, cello, bugarija and tamburitza bass – he often uses,sound-on-sound” recording techniques to construct an ensemble featuring only his own playing. As a result of his special musical skills he is able to capture the characteristic melody harmony counterpoint and rhythm of the tamburitza orchestra.
In addition to leading a live ensemble the Jerry Grcevich Orchestra he has recorded and toured with most of the well-known tamburitza musicians alive today. He is generally recognized as the premiere prim player in the world. At a performance in Slovenska-Pozega Croatia in 1994 he realized that many of the tamburitza groups were playing songs that he had composed a testament to his influence in the homeland. In 21 he was inducted into the Tamburitza Hall of Fame the youngest musician to receive that honor. s.’ ”
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