Thursday, February 28, 2013

“Prelúdio in A minor”

It’s Thursday, so hope you’re ready for some great guitar music!

I’ve been featuring the extraordinary Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell in February, & here on the month’s last day we get to listen to his performance of his own composition, “Prelúdio in A minor,” from a concert late in his career. Baden Powell, who was born in 1937, passed away in 2000.

The “Prelúdio in A minor” is built entirely on groups of  sextuplets (also known as sestoles & other variations), which is a series of six notes played over a single beat. The most familiar such grouping to the general listener’s ear is the triplet, which is three notes played against a single beat, & is in fact the basis of the shuffle rhythm heard in blues & related types of music—the shuffle consists of the first & last notes of the triplet figure, with the middle note omitted, thus giving them a “swung” sound.

This type of note grouping is called “irrational rhythm,” because it divides the notes in ways that seem to work against the general feel of the music—the underlying pulse, so to speak. For a piece in 4/4 time (four quarter notes per measure, & a beat to each quarter note), the pulse would indicate that notes would be divided into groups of that will evenly divide four or are evenly divided by four, which six is not. Thus the flow of six sixteenth notes per beat in the melody plays against the steady four of the bass strings. It really is a masterful work & challenging to play—even once you would get all those 16 notes down, you still have to play those repeating figures in a musical manner, while keeping up the strong bass movement. For those who are interested, there two standard notation/tab versions on this page dedicated to Baden Powell’s music—it’s a delight to explore, for certain!

That’s a lot of technical music stuff, but don’t be dismayed! There won’t be a quiz; & hearing Baden Powell’s beautiful playing will be worth it.


Image of Baden Powell links to its source on Wiki Commons, which claims fair use for making the image available. There are instances of this same image in much higher resolution available elsewhere on the web.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

“If I….”

This is a special poem from Barbie Angell, as it’s her tribute to a very special friend who passed away recently. Please take the time to read Barbie’s remarks after the poem, because those also contain a touching tribute

If I….

If I don’t believe your voice ever spoke,
will your words fall out of my mind?
If I don’t look past all the mirrors and smoke,
will the secrets stay safely behind?

I can’t keep you here.
I can’t let you go.
I can’t stay asleep or awake.
My tears are half-empty when they aren’t half-full,
my voice was the first thing to break –

You gave me the world without even a pause,
you put it right into my hands.
You were not quite a father but more than a friend,
now I no longer know where I stand.

Because all that is left
are the scraps of your life,
fluttering past in the breeze.
Your smile and laugh,
and a thousand days past,
they’re flying just out of my reach.

If I can pretend that you’re just out of town,
will that ease the ache in my brain?
Can I come up with reasons that you’re not around?
Will it hold off the tears and the pain?

If I never start.
If I lie to my heart.
If I never cry
and try not to try.
If I sing this song,
will you somehow go on?
If I never grieve,
will you never leave?

For Steve Wolff….
February 19th, 2013.

Barbie Angell
© 2013

I moved to Asheville, NC in late August of 1999 and started working at Kinko's because I had experience and few small businesses would hire someone who had just relocated.  There wasn't a big "buy local" movement here back then, but over the next 13 years I found myself explaining why I would be happy working for a corporation.  The two stories that always stuck out in my mind were about my manager Steve Wolff.  He was hired in 2001 and, since he had no experience with the company, I trained him.  Steve treated our crew like a family.  Shortly after we met, my father came to live with me.  He was dying of cancer and I was apprehensive about asking my new boss for a little leeway with my time off.  I had just taken almost 4 weeks off work only a few months before and I was worried about my job.  Steve told me that taking care of my father would be the most important thing I would ever do with my life.  He talked to me for about an hour, advising me and consoling me, all the while assuring me that this was the right thing to do.  A month later my father passed away and Steve was there, supporting me and giving me whatever I needed to get through that difficult time.  "The world for you," he would say, and he truly meant it.

In 2004 our store flooded.  The local paper ran a story about the destruction of the Biltmore Village area and the article started with Steve.  While other people were gawking at the rising water, Steve was there on his cell phone calling other Kinko's in the region to find jobs for all his employees.  He had shown up around 3am to make sure that the third shift person got out safely and then did what Steve always did...he took care of the people he cared about.

Steve Wolff passed away on February 5th, 2013.  He leaves behind a lovely, gracious and incredible wife and three brilliant, funny, wonderful children.  He also leaves behind a mountain of friends.  As the manager of what is now called FedEx Office, he touched the lives of most of the Asheville community.  Always with a big smile, remembering the names of our customers and knowing just the right thing to make them laugh.  Steve was every cliche.  He would literally give you the shirt off his back.  He absolutely had a heart of gold.  He never met a stranger and was fiercely loyal to everyone he cared for.  He was loud and hilarious and was very much a father to me and many others...and I will miss him more than I can possibly explain.

Thanks, Barbie, for this beautiful tribute. Here is a link to Stephen Wolff's obituary at Asheville Citizen

Monday, February 25, 2013

“Tá Combinado”

I’m a bit behind my time today, but here we are with the wrap up of this month’s series featuring the great Brazilian singer Gal Costa.  As I mentioned last week, in March there will be an installment of Any Woman’s Blues each Monday, so that’s something exciting to look forward to!

Choosing four songs to somehow give an idea of a singer with such a long, diverse & rich career as Gal Costa is challenging at the very least, if not a fool’s errand. As I planned for the series, & even into this month, my selections changed. At one time, I thought of the series as all Gal Costa performing Tom Jobim’s songs, & certainly that would have made for a great set of videos too. Costa is a fantastic interpreter of Jobim’s material. But I decided to try to show more of her diverse range. Still for quite some time I planned on ending the series with Gal Costa covering “Wave” at a concert in the 00s—in full full & beautifully melodic voice in her 60s, & I do recommend that video for those who’d like to hear more of her music.

But in the end I decided on a video recorded in 1996, in which she duets with her longtime friend Caetano Veloso on his lovely song about love & connection, “Tá Combinado.” Costa’s friendship with Veloso dates back to their youth in Bahia, & continued through to the present day—in fact there’s a recent interview with them available on YouTube, but it is in Portuguese without subtitles.

Caetano Veloso, like Gal Costa, was a major figure in Tropicália, the Brazilian psychedelic counter-culture music of the 1960s & 70s (also, as I have mentioned in previous posts, a movement that included all forms of art.) Veloso’s songs at that time were seen as subversive by the military dictatorship that took power in 1964, & he was sentenced to exile (along with Gilberto Gil) in 1969, & lived in London for a few years before returning to Bahia in 1972. I should note that Veloso’s sister, Maria Bethânia, was also a major figure in Tropicalismo.

This is a beautiful song & the performance by two seasoned performers with impeccable delivery & pure melodic voices is a great pleasure. It is also, in my opinion, a deeply sexy video—proving that sensuality doesn’t cease being available just because you’re in your 50s!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Toccata Arpeggiata (a duet version)

Greetings! I have some lovely early music for you on this final Sunday of February—which means of course, that the month of duets on Early Music Sunday is drawing to a close.

Our final duet is quite intriguing, & that’s one reason I had no qualms about posting a piece that was posted not that long ago in solo performance, namely Kapsberger’s “Toccata Arpeggiata.” We had the pleasure of listening to David Tayler’s version of it as a theorbo solo back in mid January, & I’d refer people who are interested in background on Kapsberger & the piece itself to that post. What I’d like to focus on in today’s text portion is one of the instruments in this duet performance, because it’s unusual even in early music circles.

The instrument is the lirone, the bass member of the lira family of instruments, hence related to the (slightly better known?) lira da braccio, which is a descendant of the medieval vielle, a proto-violin. The lira da braccio is held on the shoulder, not exactly in the way a modern violinist holds her/his instrument, but in the ballpark. According to Wikipedia, the lira da braccio “was used by Italian poet-musicians in court in the 15th and 16th centuries to accompany their improvised recitations of lyric and narrative poetry.” Again according to Wikipedia, the  lirone was devloped in the 16th century as a bass version, to be used in continuo playing, & played “da gamba”—held between the knees like a cello or viola da gamba.  The lirone could have as many as 16 gut strings!

In today’s video, the lirone is being played by Lucas Guimaraes Peres, a Brazilian native who re-located to the European continent to pursue his interest in early music. I do note that his website doesn’t list any performances since 2007, & there is very little information about him online. In Wikipedia’s article on the lirone, it notes that there are very few musicians who play the instrument, & he is not one of the “notable performers” cited in the article.

The theorbo is played by master lutenist Eric Bellocq, whose website is here (in an English version), & who also has the YouTube channel MMEBellocq, where you can find some other excellent early music performances, & some fun items as well—such as a snippet of bossa nova on the Renaissance lute!

This recording is from a performance at Souvigny in October 2006. It’s a beautiful piece of music beautifully rendered—enjoy!

Just as there aren't many lirone players, there aren't many images of the instrument. The image above is from Wiki Commons, is derived from a German postage stamp, & is marked by Wiki Commons as being in the public domain. Image links to its source.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Photo of the Week 2/23/13

Street Art Portraits in the Rain
SW Yamhill Street, Portland, Oregon
Friday 2/22/13 

Friday, February 22, 2013

“A Ragtime Skedaddle”

A happy Banjo Friday to you!

Today we wrap up our monthly series on Vess Ossman, the “classic style” banjoist who made some of the first ragtime recordings & also some of the first banjo recordings. As far as I can determine, Ossman’s earliest recordings date to 1897, when he recorded “The Smiler” & Sousa’s “Stars & Stripes Forever.” In fact today’s recording, “Ragtime Skedaddle” (with piano accompaniment to Ossman’s banjo) dates to 1899.

Recordings at that time were made on cylinders—the disc record was still several years away. The cylinders were first made of wax, but later were made of celluloid, & were marketed as “indestructible.” Fortunately, a number of them proved to be, & there are organizations like the Cylinder Preservation Project (link here to their home page, & here to their Facebook page), which are making an effort to preserve the actual cylinders & digitize the music they hold. There are a number of recordings on the Project’s website, all free to listen to (obviously, all this music falls in the public domain.)

In referring you to the site, I probably should note that a fair number of music titles from this era, including several recorded by Ossman himself, contain offensive racial epithets. Sadly, the banjo has always had a fraught history in this country in terms of its symbology as an instrument that began with black/African origins & was co-opted by white/European culture. 

It’s a deep subject, & one that would require more space than I have here to treat. Those who are interested in reading more about the banjo’s social history in the U.S. really should check out the fine Picturing the Banjo, which I reviewed on the blog some time ago.

In the meantime, this is delightful music, & I hope you enjoy it! Back next month with a new series.

The photo of Vess Ossman links to its source on It appears to be a still of Ossman from an early film. In any case, since Ossman died in 1923, any photographic image of him must of necessity be in the public domain.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"february sidewalk satori"

february sidewalk satori

these dormer windows, the afternoon sun’s flash
splashing across their eyes. the sidewalk’s impassive
at any rate, despite a crazy quilt of house colors looked at
asquint, and bare gnarled cherry boughs.

the young woman, lavender wool cap askew, walks
a black lab, who has other ideas entirely. the girl on the bike
calls in Spanish to the boy steering a kick scooter over
chalk hearts and flowers and cracked pavement.

the half moon’s a silver parachute, it goes without saying,
and six people with plastic shopping baskets mingle
in the market amongst eggplants and egg cartons and
an actual vinyl lp playing Bob Dylan.

you might be asleep: lilac purple of early crocuses,
plaid-coated plywood clown, paint-chipped, in a garden;
how moss shimmers like seaplants atop a stone
retaining wall, the couple returning from the café,

their coffee in red to-go cups, camellias blooming on a
front yard across the way beside the birdbath.
you count the steps you take. history is always like this,
in motion in increments along this sidewalk.

A.K. Barkley
© 2013

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
"Street Landscape" - Mikheil Bilanishvili (1901-1934)
public domain

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

We Interrupt our Regular Programming….

Hello friends, & a happy Tuesday to you.

Today would normally be the day we read one of A.K. Barkley’s poetic offerings, but sadly, that will be delayed this week. Mr Barkley has quite a busy schedule at times. But he has assured me he’ll have something ready in time for a Wednesday morning post, so I decided to cut him some slack.

Briefly, in other blog news: Probably obvious, but Monday Morning Blues is on indefinite hiatus. The fact is, I just don’t really have much to say about blues music these days. Although as a performer I’ll always keep my hand in with the blues, my personal focus is in different directions at this time. I have moved the link down the page, but you can still use that to access past posts.

Despite my “burnout” on the blues, at least in terms of writing, I am going to keep the Any Woman’s Blues series going at least until I work through the list of performers I compiled way back when. The series will be returning in March, but with a difference: each Monday in March will be an installment in the Any Woman’s Blues series. Then I plan on taking a couple of months off for other musical features, & probably returning with Any Woman’s Blues in June—& so forth. I’m hoping this posting schedule will work well for me & enable me to bring the series to the conclusion I’d planned.

Speaking of my musical direction, you probably have noticed the link to my public musician’s Facebook page, which for the time being is serving me as a website; here’s the link. Since it’s a public page, anyone can go there & view all the content, whether they have a Facebook account or not. If you do have an account, “likes” are very welcome & appreciated, as it helps me to get my material out to more people. I will occasionally post some of my original music on the blog, but the majority of it will be found on the Facebook page, at least for the foreseeable future. You can also see photos of me in various bands & with various guitars & other instruments past & present. Once I get a webcam that wants to cooperate, there will be videos as well.

Have a great day!

Monday, February 18, 2013


A happy Monday to you, friends.

I have a lovely video for you today featuring this month’s featured artist, Gal Costa, with yet another giant of Brazilian music—Antonio Carlos Jobim (AKA Tom Jobim), one of the major forces behind the bossa nova movement, & a man whose songs have become classics in North American jazz circles almost as much as they are in Brazil: a very short list, with English titles: “The Girl from Impanema,” “Quiet Night of Quiet Stars,” “The Waters of March,” “No More Blues,” “One Note Samba,” & many more. Truly one of the 20th century’s greatest songwriters.

& while North Americans may associate his songs with the singing of Astrud Gilberto, as well as with João Gilberto & for those a bit more in the know, Elis Regina, it’s also true that Gal Costa is one of Jobim’s foremost interpreters. In fact, prior to her involvement in the Tropicalismo movement, which was more counter-culture, more inclusive of foreign influence, Gal Costa says that bossa nova was everything to her. In a 1988 Spin magazine article, Costa said, “I was fascinated by João Gilberto’s cultivated singing, his technique…And I was very radical. I only liked bossa nova, & anything that wasn’t bossa nova was mindless, a sellout…rock & roll, whatever.”

While Costa turned away from the bossa nova sound in favor of the more psychedelic Tropicàlia during the late 1960s & much of the 1970s, she eventually gravitated back to that style, & has made a number of recordings of the great bossa nova songs. Her vocal style is a bit less laid back than some singers associated with bossa nova—certainly very different from the Gilberto’s—João singing almost in a whisper
, & Astrud in the musical equivalent of a “flat affect.”

Costa & Jobim had a notable concert together in Los Angeles in 1987 (YouTube link to the entire concert here); if you’re not up for the entire hour-long show, I’d still recommend this version of “Corcovado” (AKA “Quiet Night of Quiet Stars”) excerpted from it. But here we have a version of Jobim’s beautiful love song “Dindi” that's not from this show, but is from that same general period. It's a beautiful performance by both Costa & Jobim, & I must say the two of them have musical flirting down to a high art!

By the way, you’d probably figure this out, but just in case: the subtitles in this video are in Spanish, & Gal Costa is, of course, singing in Portuguese—hence the discrepancies.

Just wonderful in so many ways—hope you enjoy it, too!

Image links to its source at

Sunday, February 17, 2013


A happy Sunday, friends! There’s some really delightful music for you today.

The name Gaspar Sanz is not known to the general public, but he was one of the most important composers for the baroque guitar. Sanz lived from 1640-1710 in the area of Madrid, Spain, where he studied & later taught at the University of Salamanca. In addition to his work in music, he also wrote poetry, though his poems have not proved as durable as his compositions.

Sanz is noteworthy for three published books that were designed as instruction & song collections for the instrument we know call the baroque guitar. Typically, the baroque guitar has either 10 strings in four double string courses, or nine strings, with four double courses & one single (usually the treble string.) Often this was tuned (from lowest sounding string to highest ADGBE, with the doubled D strings (& sometimes the A strings) actually be an octave apart—but as guitar players will see, this is like the standard modern guitar tuning without the low E string. Sanz, however, used a different tuning: GABDE. This strikes me as quite unusual, as the top two strings are only a whole tone apart.

“Canarios” is one of his best known pieces—presumably based on music from the Canary Islands. It’s here given a wonderful interpretation by a duo known as Luteduo (yes, this is duet month, as you will remember!) Luteduo is Anton Birula on lute or theorbo (as in this video) & Anna Kowalska on baroque guitar or lute. They have recorded four cds, & also have a number of videos up on YouTube. I think I’ve listened to all of these, & they are excellent without exception.  This particular performance—in which they deftly interpolate themes from Bach’s cello suites into "Canarios"—was given at the Bialystok Early Music Festival in Poland in July 2009.

Hope you enjoy this lively & enchanting music as presented by the talented Luteduo!

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Example of tablature manuscript from Instrucciòn de Mùsica sobre la Guitarra Española by Gaspar Sanz, 1674 – public domain

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Photo of the Week 2/16/13

Cob Building at North Portland Farm
NE Thompson/N Williams Ave, Portland, Oregon
Friday 2/15/13

Friday, February 15, 2013

"The Buffalo Rag"

A happy Banjo Friday!

Today’s post will be brief, as it’s being done on the fly, but it’s another selection from this month’s featured artist, Vess Ossman. If you’ve missed the previous two posts, Ossman was a master banjo player in the late 19th & early 20th centuries, a star of the vaudeville circuit, & also an early recording artist. 

“The Buffalo Rag” was recorded in 1905 or 1906 (I find conflicting dates on the web.) This is a departure from the first two recordings I’ve featured, in that one of those was a solo & the other played with just a backing piano. In this case, Ossman is playing with his full “orchestra,” presumably a combo similar to the one in the photo above.

Now 1905 was in the days of cylinder recording (by that time, mostly the “indestructible” celluloid cylinders), & more to the point, it was years before the advent of mult-tracking. In order to “balance” the instruments’ sound, the recording engineer had only one expedient at his disposal—get the loud back-up instruments as far from the mike as necessary! Now a 5-string banjo is relatively loud, but remember, Ossman was playing a banjo strung with gut-strings, which are not as loud as the steel strings used by most players now, & he was playing with his bare fingers, not with fingerpicks. In addition, based on the photographs I’ve seen, his banjos all were open-backed, & not equipped with a resonator, such as you see on banjos set up for bluegrass. All of those would combine to make an instrument that had a more mellow tone, & also one that projected less sound—so getting its sound to come through the brass would be a challenge. I do note that the diameter of the head on Ossman’s banjo is fairly large, & that would help give a somewhat more full sound.

Hope you enjoy it! It’s fun music.


Image links to its source at Given that Ossman died in 1923, which is the cut-off year for public domain in the United States, any photograph of him must necessarily be in the public domain.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

“Manha de Carnaval”

A happy Thursday, friends. I have some beautiful guitar music for you today.

“Manha de Carnaval,” also known by its English title as “A Day in the Life of a Fool,” is by the great guitarist & composer Luiz Bonfa, & was written for the film Orfeu Negro or Black Orpheus, which debuted in 1959 at a time when the new Bossa Nova style of Brazilian music was beginning to come to the attention of North American jazz players. & three Bossa Nova classics were part of the film—not just “Manha de Carnaval,” but also Bonfa’s “Samba de Orfeu” (“Orpheus’ Samba”), as well as Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “A Felicidade.”

This month we’re featuring the music of Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell, & he made several noted recordings of “Manha de Carnaval.” This is a live version from 1970, & it truly is a tour de force, showcasing Baden Powell’s expressive range as well as the ease with which he could execute lightning fast cadenzas. Needless to say, doing this with a lit cigarette in your hand is not a great idea, though from what I understand, Baden Powell was a chain smoker. But that’s merely an oddity—an unfortunate one, in my opinion, but we shouldn’t let it mar an otherwise powerful performance.

Of course the Morning of the Carnival is over—the Carnival season has passed. But oddly, the song has always struck me for its mournfulness & it’s feeling of the morning after—nostalgia & regret. The title makes absolute sense in the context of the film, however.

I’ve seen some transcriptions of various versions of Manha de Carnaval by Baden Powell—in fact, those who are interested can find a great collection at this link. The fact is it’s not that his versions overall are that complicated, with the exception of the fast cadenzas. But even in the simplest parts, it is hard to marshal the feeling & tone that Baden Powell had at his command; a truly remarkable musician.


Image of the film poster links to its source on Wiki Commons, where a fair use argument is made for its use. There are multiple instances of this image online, most at considerably higher resolution.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

“notes from a past life”

notes from a past life

we go in the dark
motley little parade

she's not even awake
'are we sleeping?'

'you are'

in the dead hours

the waiting room quality of light
salt and sticky

nothing smells
like night
and jasmine 

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2013

Image links to it source on Wiki Commons
Cestrum nocturnum Blanco (Night-Booming Jasmine) from Flora de Filipinas by Francisco Manuel Blanco, circa 1880 – public domain

Monday, February 11, 2013

“Que Pena”

Happy Monday! Carnival is in full swing, & so let’s take a trip to Brazil this morning! Musically speaking of course.

The featured artist on Mondays all through February is Gal Costa, an amazing singer who’s had a long & storied career, stretching from the 1960s to the present. During that time, she interpreted songs in a number of styles, from Tropicalismo psychedalia to jazz, from Bossa Nova to funky dance music—& more. Gal Costa truly is a major talent, & it’s a shame that she is not better known in North America.

Today’s selection comes from around 1980, & with all the videos this month, it presents her in live performance, this time around joining Jorge Ben’s band for a rendition of his song, “Que Pena,” which she had also recorded prior to this with Caetano Veloso.  Jorge Ben, or Jorge Ben Jor, is himself a major figure in Brazilian music, & was also associated with the Tropicália movement, though he has also branched out to incorporate African styles & funk in his music, & frequently uses electric guitar, as in this song. Jorge Ben is probably best known in North America for his song, “Mas Que Nada,” which has been covered by artists as diverse as Sergio Mendes & Ella Fitzgerald. Jorge Ben also wrote a song titled “Taj Mahal,” which was plagerized by Rod Stewart as “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”—this was settled in court, with the ruling coming in Ben Jor’s favor. He has released over 30 albums.

The pairing of Gal Costa & Jorge Ben Jor is electric—they are both highly charismatic performers, & “Que Pena” has a festive mood about it. The song’s title translates to “What a Pity,” & is a lighthearted lament for lost love that always returns to the idea of simply enjoying life despite this disappointment. Gal Costa’s version was one of the hits from her self-titled 1969 solo debut album; other hits from that album included “Baby,” "Divino Maravilhoso" & Caetano Veloso’s "Não identificado."

I mentioned in last week’s post that I’ll give those interested a link to yet another song each week that seems to complement the one I’ve selected—as a token of trying to show Costa’s great range. The link this time is to a duet of Costa & Gilberto Gil performing his song “Lavagem do Bonfim.” This was recorded later in Costa’s career, but it has the same festive & playful air, & she & Gil—who are friends of longstanding—are just great together. "Lavagem do Bonfim" refers to a festival surrounding the washing of the church steps at Bonfim in Bahia; it occurs around Epiphany. The link is here.

But for now: Gal Costa & Jorge Ben!

Image from Gal Costa’s 1979 album Gal Tropical links to its source on Tumblr

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Sonata for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord BWV 1027 – Adagio"

A happy Sunday to you, my friends.

I have a lovely piece for your enjoyment this morning, & in keeping with the February theme for Early Morning Sunday, it is indeed a duet.  Bach composed this work in 1720 for harpsichord & viola da gamba; it was one of a trio of sonatas for those instruments; BWV 1027  is in G major, while BWV 1028 is in D & BWV 1029 is in G minor. Bach later re-arranged this sonata as a work for flute trio with basso continuo.

Of course the selection here is only the first movement of the piece, the Adagio—which if you are up on either your Italian in general or your Italian as it pertains to music, you know means “slow.” Actually, it comes from the expression “ad agio,” which means “at ease,” & that is a fruitful way of thinking of the tempo—relaxed as opposed to lugubrious.

The two performers are both leading figures in early music. Harpsichordist Hanneke van Proosdij is both a premier soloist & continuo player on harpsichord & baroque organ, as well as being a virtuoso recorder player. She plays regularly with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Festspiel Orchester Goettingen, Voices of Music (of which she is co-director), Concerto Palatino, Magnificat & American Bach Soloists. She has appeared as a guest artist with Hesperion XX, Concerto Köln, Chanticleer, Orchestre d’Ambronay, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra & the Arcadian Academy.

Joanna Blendulf is also an accomplished performer both as a soloist & also as a continuo player; the viola da gamba assumes both roles in early music. Ms Blendulf is a member of Seattle’s Baroque Northwest, though she also performs with the Portland Baroque Orchestra, the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra & American Bach Soloists. She has also participated in a number of chamber music groups.

This is a beautiful piece of music, played by two top-notch musicians—enjoy!

Image links to it source on Wiki Commons: This is the “Bach harpsichord” in the Musikinstrumenten-Museum Berlin. According to Wikipedia, “Possibly formerly owned by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, who is supposed to have inherited it from his father J.S. Bach. There is no proof for this story however.”

The photo is the property of Joel Haack (photograph) / Ronald C. Rosier (webmaster), who have given permission for it to be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic & 1.0 Generic license.

Friday, February 8, 2013

“Dill Pickles Rag”

Hey, it’s Banjo Friday! Hope your week is coming to nice end & that you’re looking forward to the coming weekend. What better way to start it than with some banjo music?

If you stopped by last week, you know that this month’s featured artist is Vess Ossman, a master banjoist who played in the late 19th through the early 20th century, & made some very early recordings of banjo music, both as a soloist as in today’s selection & as a leader in an ensemble. Ossman played the 5-string banjo with gut strings, in what is now called the “classic style,” namely in an approximation of the right-hand technique used for classical guitar playing. This style has lost favor over the years, & most people these days encounter the banjo either in a bluegrass context, where the Scruggs style finger rolls are the underlying technique or in an old-time music, where the banjo is typically played in the frailing style. But there are still players these days who like the “classic style,” & I’ve featured it a good deal lately on the blog, since it interests me quite a bit.

Ossman recorded “Dill Pickles Rag” in 2008, & it’s a cylinder recording as you will see in the video. Phonograph cylinders are quite a story in themselves.  Edison’s first recording cylinders used tin foil, but within a couple of years he had patented the wax cylinder, which actually could be used for home recording, as well as commercially. However, by the early 20th century, the “indestructible” celluloid cylinders were developed, & these came into mainstream use. Actually, by the time Ossman recorded “Dill Pickles Rag,” the cylinders were already in decline in favor of the disc. It is interesting that the cylinders were thought to have better audio reproduction than discs—so apparently, the downhill curve that we note in our own time in audio reproduction from LPs downward to CDs & still further down to mp3s, had already started in the early 20th century! We should have stuck with the cylinders.

Hope you enjoy this lively & fun recording.

The image of the Edison Cylinder Records links to its source on Wiki Commons. It dates from 1910 & is the public domain

Thursday, February 7, 2013

“Samba Triste”

Happy Thursday, friends! Are you ready for some guitar music? Yes, in the ever shifting & probably at times bewildering landscape of Robert Frost’s Banjo blog series, Thursday seems to have morphed into guitar day at least for the time being!

This month I’m really featuring Brazilian master musicians, because not only is Gal Costa the featured artist on Mondays, but Baden Powell, or strictly speaking, Baden Powell Aquino will be featured today & the following two Thursdays.

If you are familiar with Baden Powell’s work, you’re aware that he was a true virtuoso, as well as a gifted composer. If not, you will be amazed at his guitar skills! The nylon string classical guitar reigns supreme in Brazil, of course, & it was Baden Powell’s instrument. His technique is classical as well, & using that technique he was capable of guitar pyrotechnics at a remarkable level. But guitar mastery—or the mastery of any instrument—isn’t about being able to play a mind-boggling number of notesd in a brief space of time, though true virtuosos all are capable of this. Powell incorporated dynamics, emotion, timing, energy & could as easily move the listener with a slow lyrical passage as with a dazzling cadenza.

Baden Powell began his recording career in 1961 with Monteiro de Souza e Sua Orquestra Apresentando Baden Powell e Seu Violão on the Phillips label, & over 50 albums were issued in his name between then & 2005's Musica on WEA International; several of these were issued posthumously, as Baden Powell passed away in 2000. The Wikipedia article gives a good summary of Powell’s playing style & interests:

An analysis of his repertoire reveals a wide range of interests. It spanned all the idioms of Brazilian popular music of the 20th century: Samba, Bossa Nova, Afro-bahian ritual music, Frevo, Choro, North Eastern Sertão music, even European and Japanese lullabies. Like most musicians growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, he was deeply influenced by Jazz, especially Bebop and Swing. He covered Thelonious Monk's 'Round Midnight on two recordings, and Jerome Kern's All the Things you Are on three occasions (including his first solo album).

This upbringing is reflected in his playing style, which shows a fusion of jazz harmonies and classical guitar technique, with a very Brazilian right hand (i.e., the one carrying the rhythm on the guitar). In solo classical music, he was quite proficient in the works of Tárrega and Bach. When playing in a group, he was able to accompany singers with quiet mastery, or let loose and play street Samba in sloppy "party" style as if the guitar was another percussion instrument.

This live recording of his composition “Samba Triste” is from 1970. Enjoy!

The image links to its source on Wiki Commons.
The image of Baden Powell in 1971 is the property of Phillipe Baden Powell, who holds the copyright. According to Wiki Commons: “The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013




Most of what you need to know about people
you can learn in a waiting room,
if you’re not in too much pain to pay attention.
And if you want to measure the doctor s compassion,
check the magazine selection.


I try to think of his redeeming qualities.
My mind goes blank.
But I’m sure the good Lord will come up with a few.


We watched the images of the storm on TV
and never once thought to look out the window.


Every time I try to think
of something new to say
my mind goes back to something old.
The past gets in the way.


How can one, during naps
under a warm, soft  blanket
on one’s favorite couch,
dream of tsunamis and hurricanes and such?

Carmen Leone
© 2012-the present

Image of a January 1961 Nor'easter is from Wiki Commons - public domain (as a NOAA publication)

Monday, February 4, 2013

“Trem Das Onze”

A happy Monday, friends! We’re in for a change of pace today, as Monday is not bringing the blues to Robert Frost’s Banjo—but it is bringing music, & I have an exciting series planned for Mondays this month.

I’m sure you know that Mardi Gras is a week from tomorrow, which means that Carnival is either being celebrated or about to be celebrated in the many parts of the world that observe this wonderful holiday.  & of course, if one could pick any place to celebrate Carnival, Brazil would be a great choice.

So this February I’ll be posting videos by one of Brazil’s greatest singers, Gal Costa, a woman whose career has now spanned at least parts of six decades; indeed, it would be difficult to find a North American singer with whom to compare Gal Costa, not simply because of her artistic longevity, but also because of the great range of her work. As a young singer in the 1960s & 70s, she was a central figure in Tropicália or Tropicalismo, a highly innovative movement that combined the popular with the avant-garde & the native Brazilian with the foreign—in fact musically, Tropicália often mingled traditional Brazilian sounds with psychedalia. In addition, the Tropicália movement was political, standing in opposition to the military coup of 1964, which toppled the left wing President João Goulart & his government. As a result, a number of the Tropicália artists were subject to arrest, imprisonment & even torture. Costa’s close friends Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil were both imprisoned & later exiled for a period of time.

Through the years, Costa has explored an array of sounds, from bossa nova, & even full-on North American jazz standards, to rock, various forms of dance music, pop, & traditional Brazilian forms. Obviously, four videos can’t hope to do anything more than give the most cursory idea of a career with such scope. In each case, I’ll also provide a link to another video that may help those who are interested to get a broader idea of Costa’s music. One positive: there are a lot of Gal Costa videos on YouTube—she is a big star in Brazil, & lest we forget, Brazil is both the fifth largest country in area & the fifth most populous in the world.

Today’s song is from early in Costa’s career, & it’s her version of the samba “Trem Das Onze,” or “11:00 pm. Train”by Adoniran Barbosa, an important singer & composer, who used the informal language of the lower class in his lyrics—a big departure in his time, & a departure that obviously appealed to Costa. Wikipedia says this about “Trem Das Onze”:

It is widely considered one of the best Brazilian popular songs ever. In the song, Barbosa portrays in funny lyrics the drama of a lover who lives in a distant and poor suburb of São Paulo called Jaçanã, and who cannot stay longer with his beloved because the last train will be departing soon and his mother cannot sleep until he gets home.

“Trem das Onze” dates to 1964.

The audio in this selection is pretty good, given that it was recorded off Brazilian TV in the early 70s. The video per se is in pretty poor condition, & you can barely see the members of Costa’s band stage left (or the accordionist on stage right.) But Costa’s performance is brilliant, & the audience sing-a-long is not to be missed.

You can also hear Gal Costa’s singing Caetano Veloso’s beautiful “Volta” in a 1973 TV appearance here.

But for now: Enjoy!

Photo of Gal Costa links to its source

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tarantela by Ribayaz

A happy Sunday, friends. It’s a new month, & I have a fun theme for February’s Early Music Sunday posts: duets. Yes, here in the Valentine’s month we’ll be having our early music each Sunday from a pair of musicians.

The two musicians this Sunday are both major figures in the early music field. Arianna Savall is the daughter of Jordi Savall & Montserrat Figueras. As a member of the Savall family, she has participated in Hespèrion XXI, Le Concert des Nations & similar projects—& Arianna Savall brings her own formidable musical talent to both these settings & to her solo work. Besides being a virtuoso harpist, she also is a singer with operatic tone & range & a truly beautiful voice. In addition, she is a talented composer.

Pedro Estavan is a percussionist of the first rank, who is considered a premier player both in his ensemble work—& he has collaborated in a number of the Savall projects—as well as performing as a concert soloist. He has done much work in early music, but he also is a master of contemporary styles & African percussion. I always enjoy listening to the parts he plays as he is a most sensitive player who can support & respond in ways that are always highly musical.

This particular piece was performed in 2002 at the Festival de Lanvellec, & is from the same concert of Folías de España as the Antonio Martín y Coll “Diferencias sobre las folias” piece I posted earlier. In fact, the full concert can be seen on YouTube here; it’s about 53 minutes long, but I recommend it highly for anyone who finds themselves intrigued by early music. As far as today’s piece go, I love the interplay between the harp & the tambourine; it is one of my very favorite duets.

Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz was a Spanish composer & guitarist who flourished in the mid 17th century; the link, by the way, will take you to French Wikipedia, as there seems to be almost no information on Ribayaz in English
—& very little in any language for that matter! At any rate, it seems Ribayaz was assigned to the court of the Viceroy of Lima in Peru around 1675, & after he returned to Europe he published a work known as Luz y Norte Musical, which contained pieces in tablature for both harp & Renaissance guitar, as well as information about playing techniques. The “Tarentela” comes from that publication.

This is very lovely music—hope you enjoy it.

Image links to its source at; it shows a section of harp tablature from Luz Y Norte

Friday, February 1, 2013

“A Bunch of Rags”

A happy Banjo Friday! The month of February is upon us, & I have some exciting series planned for this month—with one caveat. I have been having some computer woes, & these have affected the posting schedule a bit (e.g., no Any Woman’s Blues in January.) But I hope to have the problem straightened out before too long, & also hope that I can keep things going with some degree of normalcy in the interim.

I think Banjo Friday works best when there’s a theme or featured artist, & we do have one for February. Vess Ossman was one of the most popular banjo players at the turn of the 20th century, & also was an early recording artist, including recordings made on cylinders in the latter part of the 19th century—in fact, today’s recording “A Bunch of Rags,” was made in 1898! One source claimed that this is the first ragtime recording, but according to the Red Hot Jazz website, it was actually the third. 

Ossman played in what is now called the “classic banjo” style: he fingerpicked the instrument in a way that’s similar to playing a classical guitar, & he used gut strings. His repertoire featured a number of rags & rag-inflected pieces. In addition to making many recordings, he toured the vaudeville circuit, & enjoyed considerable fame both in the States & abroad; at one point he made a tour of Great Britain.

This is wonderful music, & while the mainstream banjo sound has developed in different directions, musicians like Ossman played a key role in popularizing the instrument.

Hope you enjoy “A Bunch of Rags.”

Photo of Vess Ossman (circa 1900) links to its source on Wiki Commons & is in the public domain