Tag Archives: United States of America

Artist Profiles: Andreas Kapsalis Trio

Andreas Kapsalis

Andreas Kapsalis is a Greek American born in Illinois. The Andreas Kapsalis Trio represents the perfect alliance of eight-fingered guitar virtuosity, outstanding melodic themes and rhythmic variations on percussion. Kapsalis’s solo guitar orchestra (his guitar playing often sounds like three guitarists not one) and the pulse of African and Middle Eastern drums, played by versatile percussionists Jamie Gallagher and Darren Garvey, define their previously unexplored style, often described as Tribal Mediterranean.

Elements of Americana, flamenco, Greek, African and Arabic music are part of the mix, each receiving equal time. Recently, Kapsalis scored his first film, the documentary Black Gold, which premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.

Discography

The Andreas Kapsalis Trio (2004)
Original Scores (2008)
Guitar Duo, with Goran Ivanovic (2010)
Blackmail, with Goran Ivanovic (2013)
Anastasi (2016)

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Artist profiles: Unspoken Tradition

Unspoken Tradition

Unspoken Tradition is a North Carolina bluegrass band inspired by traditional music and other influences. Their material is primarily original and mirrors the ever-changing culture of Western and Central North Carolina where they are based.

The band released an independent debut album, Simple Little Town (2013) that was well received. Their follow up recording was Miles Between (2015).

In 2015, Unspoken Tradition played the main stage at the historic MerleFest festival and has quickly grown a dedicated following in North Carolina and beyond.

The Unspoken Tradition lineup in 2018 included Audie McGinnis on guitar and vocals; Lee Shuford on bass and vocals; Zane McGinnis on banjo; Ty Gilpin on mandolin and vocals; and Tim Gardner on fiddle and vocals.

Discography:

Simple Little Town (2013)
Miles Between (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Jerry Holland

Jerry Holland

Jerry Holland was a giant among fiddlers, one of the best North America has ever produced. He was one of the best-known Cape Breton musicians of his generation, and many of his own tunes have entered the traditional repertoire.

Jerry Holland was born February 23, 1955 in Brockton, Massachusetts. Starting the fiddle around the age of five, Jerry was performing publicly by age six. At ten, he was playing for Bill Lamey’s dances in Brookline, Massachusetts. It was during this time that Jerry began his association with fine piano accompanists such as Doug MacPhee, Eddie Irwin and Mary Jessie Mac Donald, and by the age of twelve, he was playing guitar for Angus Chisholm and Bert Foley on a regular basis.

Jerry’s family made annual summer visits to Cape Breton when he was a boy, and his musician father exposed him to some of the last generation’s greatest Cape Breton fiddlers. A Cape Breton resident since 1975, for four years, Jerry was a regular on The John Allan Cameron Show, a television program originating from Montreal where Jerry shared the stage with his hero, Winston Fitzgerald, and fiddlers Angus Chisholm, Joe Cormier, Wilfred Gillis and John Donald Cameron. During the years that the show ran, Jerry had to learn more than a thousand tunes, and acquired a vast repertoire of traditional Cape Breton fiddle music.

Jerry Holland

Because Cape Breton is remote, its fiddle music and dancing retains the old Scottish style, a tradition that Jerry devoted his energies to preserving and promoting through his books, recordings, and memorable concert tours throughout Canada, the US, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Scotland, Finland, Germany, Mexico, England and France.

Jerry Holland died July 16, 2009 in North Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Discography:

Jerry Holland (Rounder Records, 1976)
Master Cape Breton Fiddler (1982)
Lively Steps (1987)
Jerry Holland Solo (1988)
The New Fiddle (1990)
A Session With Jerry Holland (1990)
Fathers and Sons (1992)
The Fiddlesticks Collection (Green Linnet, 1995)
Fiddler’s Choice (1998)
Crystal Clear (2000)
Parlor Music (Rounder, 2005)
Helping Hands (2009)
Jerry Holland and Friends (Fiddlesticks Music , 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Will Clipman

Will Clipman

Will Clipman began playing his father’s drums and his mother’s piano at the age ofthree and since then has mastered a pan-global palette of percussion in addition to the drumset. Clipman has performed on over fifty recordings (twenty-one for Canyon Records) with various artists, including three solo projects on his own Bone Fire Music label.

In addition to a diverse selection of drums, Clipman plays a variety of instruments, including bowls, chimes, udu, bellstick, jembe, corn goddess whistle, , cymbal bodhran, and gong just to name a few. These instruments breathe life into this brilliant ‘recording that is sure to transport listeners along Clipman’s-musical path.

Clipman has performed and recorded for Canyon Records with the R. Carlos Nakai, the William Eaton Ensemble, Robert Tree Cody, Randy Wood and Sharon Burch.

His solo CD Pathfinder (2007) finds Clipman blending exotic wind instruments melodic percussion and vocal chants with a transglobal set of drums within thirteen tales spoken in the universal language of rhythm.

Partial Discography:

Red Wind (Canyon Records, 1998)

Quiet Fire: Zen Moods for the Spa Exerience (White Swan Records, 2004)

My Heart and Soul (Canyon Records, 2006)

Heart of the Wind: Music for Native American Flute & Drums Heart (Canyon Records, 2006)

Pathfinder (Canyon Records, 2007)

Dancing Into Silence (Canyon Records, 2010)

Awakening the Fire (Canyon Records, 2013)

Passion, Fire and Grace (Canyon Records, 2016)

Trialogue (Heart Dance Records, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: War

War – Photo by Jeffrey Mayer

War is an American band that mixes funk, jazz, R&B and rock. The group has sold more than 5 million albums worldwide and been honored with 17 gold platinum and multi-platinum awards.

In 1969 Eric Burdon and War recorded and released their first album entitled “Eric Burdon Declares War” featuring the number one single “Spill The Wine.” Following its release Eric Burdon and War went on an extensive tour of Europe and the UK.

On September 16 1970 Jimi Hendrix joined Eric Burdon and War for a jam session at London’s Famous Ronny Scotts Jazz Club. Regrettably, this would be Jimi’s last jam session as he died later that night. Shocked and overwhelmed by the death of his friend Jimi Hendrix Eric Burdon made the decision to leave the band and return to Los Angeles.

War continued their European tour without their former front man before returning to the states. Following Burdon’s departure War’s career rose dramatically. In the early 1970s the release of Slippin’ into Darkness and Me and Baby Brother represented their thrilling sound and spoke to millions of Americans about the troubled times of Vietnam, Watergate and the ethnic tension that centered around inner cities. Then in 1972 War released The World Is a Ghetto. Its second single, The Cisco Kid, reached gold status and the album made the number one spot as Billboard magazine’s Album of the Year.

Lonnie Jordan, the original lead singer and outstanding keyboardist is the musical director.

War in the 2010s

Discography:

Eric Burdon Declares War (MGM Records, 1970)
The Black-Man’s Burdon (MGM Records, 1970)
All Day Music (United Artists Records, 1971)
War (United Artists Records, 1971)
The World Is A Ghetto (United Artists Records, 1972)
Deliver The Word (United Artists Records, 1973)
War Live (United Artists Records, 1973)
Why Can’t We Be Friends? (United Artists Records, 1975)
Love Is All Around (ABC Records, 19760
Galaxy (MCA Records, 1977)
Platinum Jazz (Island Records, 1976)
Youngblood, soundtrack (United Artists Records, 1978)
The Music Band (MCA Records, 1979)
The Music Band 2 (MCA Records, 1979)
The Music Band Live (MCA Records, 1980 )
Outlaw (RCA, 1982)
Life (Is So Strange) (RCA Victor, 1983)
The Music Band Jazz (MCA Records, 1983)
Where There’s Smoke (Coco Plum, 1985)
Peace Sign (Avenue Records, 1994)
War Is Coming! – The Best Of War ‎(ARG Records, 1996)
Evolutionary ‎(UMe, 2014)

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Artist Profiles: Vassar Clements

Vassar Clements

Vassar Clements was one the United States’ most versatile fiddle players. His career began at a very early age. His phenomenal ability to virtually play any kind of music (bluegrass, country, pop, rock, jazz and swing) garnered him various awards including five Grammy nominations and a track record that involves multitudes of recording performances.

Vassar was a prolific composer of instrumentals and played seven instruments: violin, viola, cello, bass, mandolin, guitar and tenor banjo.

Vassar’s career spanned over fifty years. His association with Bill Monroe began when he was only 14 years old and still in school. He started with Bill as a regular Bluegrass Boy in 1949 and was with him through 1956. From 1957 to 1961 he performed with bluegrass artists Jim & Jesse McReynolds. In 1962 he took leave from his music to pursue other interests but returned to full time music when he decided to make Nashville his home in January 1967.

Vassar did recording sessions and played tenor banjo in Nashville’s Dixieland Landing club until October 1969. He then started touring with Faron Young and doing occasional solo dates when time permitted. In February 1971 he joined John Hartford and his Dobrolic Plectral Society, initiating a professional association and personal friendship that has grew stronger through the years. After ten months and earning an enormous amount of recognition and popularity, the group decided to disband. Vassar then found himself with the legendary Earl Scruggs and the Earl Scruggs Revue.

During that time, one of the most important milestones in his career was his participation on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1972 Landmark album Will The Circle Be Unbroken. This historical event was produced by William McEuen and featured an extravaganza of bluegrass, country and folk’s greatest artists. It was the turning point that re-kindled Vassar’s career and at the same time introduced him to a much younger non-country audience.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Within a few short months Vassar was recording and/or performing with Dicky Betts, Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, David Grisman, Paul McCartney, etc. In May 1973, The classic Old & In The Way album was recorded in San Francisco during a live performance. The Sales from this project have exceeded other albums of like kind and has formed staunch cults that still exist after twenty three years.

Since 1973 when Vassar signed his first major label deal with Mercury/Polygram records his personal discography ranged from country, waltzes, swing to jazz. Ironically, in 1992 he recorded his only straight bluegrass recording for Rounder Records titled Grass Routes.

His early experience growing with jazz and swing music left an indelible mark on his style. Vassar said: “bands like Glen Miller, Les Brown, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Artie Shaw were very popular when I was a kid. I always loved rhythm so I guess in the back of my mind the swing and jazz subconsciously comes out when I play because when I was learning I was always trying to emulate the big band sounds I heard on my fiddle.” Understandably the form of jazz music created by Clements was a mix of the diverse influences that touched him throughout his career but particularly his affinity for the jazz and swing music of his youth.

Therefore it is no surprise that even though early in his career, as he learned and developed bluegrass and country styles, he also gained respect as a jazz player. Hence classic number two: Once In A While which resulted from a jam session with Miles Davis’s ex-band members Dave Holland, John Abercrombie and Jimmy Cobb. Classic number three: Together At Last. with Stephane Grappelli was produced by Tim Yaquinto and recorded in Vassar’s former studio.

Back Porch Swing was Vassar’s first album to feature the Little Big Band. Recorded between September 1997 and September 1998 at the Historic RCA Studio B in Nashville Back Porch Swing was performed almost entirely live with the exception of vocal and string overdubs.

Vassar Clements participated in Dead Grass (2000) a bluegrass twist on some Grateful Dead favorites.

Full Circle (OMS Records) released in 2001 had Vassar returning to his bluegrass roots with an all star cast that included Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Bryan Sutton, Peter Rowan, John Cowan, Josh Graves, Jeff Hanna, Jimmie Fadden, J. D. Crowe, Billy Troy, Alan O’Bryant, Ricky Skaggs, Jim & Jesse and Jake Landers.

In May of 2004 Runaway Fiddle (OMS Records) came out. This project was a labor of love of two of the greatest American fiddle players of modern times Vassar Clements and Buddy Spicher. Buddy Spicher is one of Nashville’s most recorded session artists and arrangers. On Runaway Fiddle these two legends teamed up to record tunes they grew up loving playing and internalizing but for the most part never recording. Selections include 192’s show tunes Western Swing Dixieland. Several songs are interpretations of songs popularized by country music icon Bob Wills who created the new art form called Western Swing.

His CD Livin’ With The Blues (Acoustic Disc) was released in August of 2004. It was his first blues album. While Vassar Clements has often been considered the ?bluesiest? of the bluegrass fiddlers it wasn?t until producer Grisman asked him what kind of record he wanted to make that the soft spoken septuagenarian replied “I’ve always wanted to make a blues record.”

Livin? With The Blues includes Skip James? swampy “Cypress Grove ” with Vassar’s lonesome fiddle accompanied by Bob Brozman’s slide guitar. Elvin Bishop cleans house with his own “Dirty Drawers” and “That?s My Thing ” while Maria Muldaursings with Vassar on “Honey Babe Blues” and Bessie Smith?s “I Ain?t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle.” Other tracks include Roy Rogers desolate take on Robert Johnson?s “Phonograph Blues ” “Mambo Boogie” featuring Dave Mathews and the Booker T. Jones classic “Green Onions ” given a new twist by Charlie Musselwhite and Vassar. “Rube’s Blues” featured blues guitar whiz David Jacob-Strain (who was 19 at the time) helping Vassar reinvent a bluegrass standard and Norton Buffalo with his unique soul treatment of his own “Don’t Stand Behind A Mule.”

In November of 2004 Vassar Clements joined bluegrass quartet The Biscuit Burners onstage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Vassar played on two of the band’s original songs “Come On Darlin'” and “Red Mountain Wine”. The surprise appearance was part of the historic Ryman Auditorium’s $1 on the 1th Mystery Artist Series celebrating the 1 year anniversary of the legendary theater’s renovation.

On March 11, 2005 Vassar was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died at his home August 16th, 2005 at 8:25 am. He was 77.

[Biography adapted from Vassar Clement’s official biography].

Discography:

Vassar (Mercury Records)
Superbow (Mercury Records)
Southern Waltzes (Rhythm Records)
Vassar Clements John Hartford & Dave Holland (Rounder Records)
Crossing The Catskills (Rounder Records 1972)
Vassar Clements (MCA Records)
The Bluegrass Session (Flying Records 1977)
Grass Routes (Rounder Records)
Saturday Night Shuffle – A Celebration of Merle Travis (Shanachie Records)
Hillbilly Jazz (Flying Records 1978)
Hillbilly Jazz Rides Again (Flying Records)
New Hillbilly Jazz (Shikata Records)
Together At Last with Stephane Grappelli (Flying Records 1987)
Nashville Jam (Flying Records)
Westport Drive (Mind Dust Records)
The Man The Legend (Vassillie Productions)
Country Classics (Vassillie Productions)
Vassar Clements Reunion With Dixie Gentlemen (Old Homestead)
Once In A While, Jam with Miles Davis’ ex-band members (Flying Fish Records 1992)
Live in Telluride 1979 (Vassillie Productions 1979)
Music City USA (Vassillie Productions)
Old And In The Way – Volume 1 (BMG Music)
Old and In The Way – That High Lonesome Sound – Volume 2 (Acoustic Disc)
Old and In The Way – Breakdown – Volume 3 (Acoustic Disc)
An Americana Christmas with Norman Blake (Winter Harvest)
The Bottom Line Encore Collection (Bottom line 1999)
Vassar’s Jazz – Golden Anniversary (Winter Harvest)
Back Porch Swing (Chrome Records 2000)
Dead Grass (Cedar Glen Music Group)
20 Fiddle Tunes & Waltz Favorites
Full Circle (OMS Records 2001)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken – Volume II – 3th Anniversary Edition (Capitol Records)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken (United Artists)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken – Volume III (Capitol Records)
Old & In The Gray (Acoustic Disc)
Runaway Fiddle with Buddy Spicher (OMS Records)
Livin’ With The Blues (Acoustic Disc 2004)
The Fiddle According to Vassar (Homespun Tapes). Taught By Vassar Clements. 9-minute DVD or VHS Includes music book
Vassar Clements In Concert – Vassar Swings (Shikata Records)
Vassar Clements In Concert – Ramblin’ 81 (Shanachie Records)

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Artist Profiles: Vas

Vas

Vas the Latin word for vessel was a collaboration between Persian born vocalist Azam Ali and American percussionist Greg Ellis. They met at a Master Musicians of Jajouka concert at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1995 and at an impromptu gathering afterward they heard each other perform for the first time. There was instant recognition of a shared vision and they began creating music together the very next day. Within a year they signed to the Narada label and went on to release five acclaimed albums three as Vas and two solo projects.

The duo spent much of 2001 and 2002 recording and releasing solo projects and doing extensive touring with Mickey Hart’s band Bembe Orisha.

Azam Ali and Greg Ellis can be heard as featured performers along with Laxmi Shankar (vocals) and Deepak Ram (bansuri flute) on the end title track by Juno Reactor’s Ben Watkins on the major motion picture release The Matrix Revolutions.

After Vas, Azam Ali later formed a new group called Niyaz.

Discography:

Sunyata (Narada World, 1997)
Offerings (Narada World, 1998)
In the Garden of Souls (Narada World, 2000)
Feast of Silence (Narada World, 2004)

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Artist Profiles: Toubab Krewe

Toubab Krewe

Toubab Krewe is an instrumental quintet based in Asheville, North Carolina that fuses West African music with American rock. The five members who are childhood friends and long-term musical collaborators who joined up in 25 have spent extended periods studying with musical luminaries in Mali Ivory Coast and Guinea and learning traditional instruments such as the kora (a 21-string harp) and the kamel ngoni (a West African lute).

Their recording ‘Live At The Orange Peel’ (2008) features eight previously unreleased tracks and continue to mix American rock with the West African musical traditions the band fell in love with on their travels. Along the way they explore the worlds of surf and zydeco. Live At The Orange Peel features collaborations with spoken word artist Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets and fiddler Rayna Gellert of Uncle Earl. It was produced by Grammy winning producer Steven Heller who also produced the band’s debut.

With many friends teachers and collaborators living in Mali and affected by the 2012 Malian crisis the band felt called to do something to help. Inspired by the encouragement of Toumani Diabate Toubab Krewe’s Luke Quaranta envisioned and launched Musicians for Mali, an initiative to increase awareness about the current crisis in Mali and raise money for refugees.

Teal Brown – drum set
Drew Heller – electric guitar and soku
Justin Perkins – kora kamelengoni and electric guitar
David Pransky – electric bass guitar
Luke Quaranta – percussion

Discography:

Toubab Krewe ‎(Upstream Records, 2005)
Live At The Orange Peel In Asheville, NC ‎(Upstream Records, 2008)
TK2 (Nat Geo Music, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Toshi Reagon

Toshi Reagon

Born in Atlanta and raised in Washington DC, Toshi Reagon cites her musical abilities from her family. Both parents belonged to SNCC’s (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) The Freedom Singers a folk group that sprung from the Civil Rights movement and toured the country to teach people about civil rights through song. Bernice Johnson Reagon is not only Toshi’s mom but the founder of the world renowned a capella ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock (she retired in 2004 after 30 years with the group).

Toshi and her mom have collaborated on many projects together including co-producing many of Sweet Honey’s recordings. In 2009 they worked on ‘The Temptation of St. Anthony’, a musical-theater work based on a tale by Gustave Flaubert. The piece is directed by Robert Wilson with music and libretto by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Toshi wrote the instrumental arrangements and serves as the production’s musical director.

Her rich musical heritage led her to become saturated in many traditional styles of music feeding her desire to explore a range of music that was not as accessible from blues to Kiss. Admittedly Toshi says that she attempts to: ‘take whatever I’m really into and try to learn it and put it into music.’

Toshi is a recipient of 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) award for Music Composition.

Discography

Justice (Flying Fish Records, 1990)
The Rejected Stone (1994)
Kindness (Smithsonian Folkways, 1997)
The Righteous Ones (Razor and Tie, 1999)
Africans in America Soundtrack (Ryko, 2001)
Toshi (Razor and Tie, 2002)
I Be Your Water (2004)
Have You Heard (Righteous Babe Records, 2005)
Until We’re Done (2008)
Lava: We Become (2009)
There and Back Again (2010)

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Artist Profiles: Tony Vacca

Tony Vacca is an innovative percussionist composer and producer. Over the course of his career he has made a habit of pushing the already adventurous conventions of World Music into new territory both as a soloist and as the leader of his World Rhythms Ensemble.

He has recorded and/or performed with a wide range of musicians. These include pop icon Sting, Senegalese Afro-pop star Baaba Maal, jazz trumpeter and world music legend Don Cherry, poet Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets, Massamba Diop, Senegalese master of the tama (talking drum) and Senegalese hip-hop stars Gokh-bi System. His solo performances are a nearly non-stop athletic spectacle of percussion music and spoken word incorporating an amazing array of gongs giant African xylophones and various hand drums.

He is a member of world fusion band Impulse Ensemble

Discography:

Rhythm Mission (1998)

Rhythm Griots, with Massamba Diop (1999)

Message From Home …Suma Deuk Waay, with Gokh-bi System (2001)

Zen Rant (2002)

Senegal-America Project, with The Senegal-America Project musicians (2006)

Rhythm and Flow (2008)

Initiation, with Impulse Ensemble (IE Records 2010)

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