Friday, February 28, 2014

The Mandolin in Old-Time, Jazz, Celtic, Bluegrass and more

Tenor banjo, which is the instrument I’ve been playing until now, seems to have two extremes.  At one end you’ve got the jazz guys – players like Eddy Davis, Cynthia Sayer, Elmer Snowden, Buddy Wachter and Tyler Jackson.  At the other end you’ve got the Irish tenor banjo players such as Barney McKenna, Mick Moloney, Gerry O’Connor, Enda Scahill, John Carty and Angelina Carberry.  There’s not much tenor banjo in between.

Enter the mandolin world, however, and you can find examples in almost any genre.  For jazz there’s Dennis Pash, Jethro Burns, Tiny Moore and Jamie Masefield.  In old-time you’ve got Norman Blake, Kenny Hall, Clyde Curley and Carl Jones.  Notable Celtic mandolin players include Andy Irvine, Mick Moloney, Marla Fibish and Luke PlumbProgressive/Newgrass guys start with Chris Thile, Mike Marshall and David Grisman.  I’d also like to mention Danny Knicely and Sam Bartlett, two additional favorite mandolin players of mine that I would characterize as eclectic.
Dennis Pash (middle) w/ Nick Robinson (L) and Dave Krinkel (R)
The Ragtime Skedaddlers
Clyde Curley (middle) with George Penk and Sue Songer
Marla Fibish w/ Jimmy Crowley
Danny Knicely of Furnace Mountain Band
I could have listed many more players (Tim O’Brien!) in many more styles (Italian!), but that gives you the idea.  It may not be as ubiquitous as guitar, but mandolin is certainly a more conventional instrument than tenor banjo and if you want to find mandolin influences you don’t have to look that far in any direction, even rock (Jeff Bird of the Cowboy Junkies). 

Mandolin’s versatility and playability ensures that you can have a lot of fun with it, whether you choose Bach, Bill Monroe, Brazilian Choro, or something of your own devising.  In addition, the discussion forums at Mandolin Cafe and Mandolin Hangout ensure that you'll have an interactive support group to bounce ideas off of.

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