Friday, March 05, 2010

More Back Story for Drumming On the Edge Of Banjo

On the Edge Of Banjo/ Back Story
This is not another African roots meets modern banjo cd.  It began as an American story--a blend of Afro/Caribbean, Celtic, old time, and a fusion of American music from the 17th to the 21st century. 
It began with "The Old Plantation" painting from the 1700s.  Two men are pictured playing a banjo and drum for a dance--and we wondered--where would that music have taken them with today's awesome banjos and drums and the freedom to choose their musicians? 

We chose Yazid for this project because he is not African--but African American--and his drumming has a heavy Caribbean as well as African flavor.  He more accurately reflects the feel of the music in colonial America gone modern--more than current African/American blends.  :)
Mary Z’s family roots are Scotts, Irish, English, Hungarian and Bohemian.  Her Celtic ancestors came to the Americas in the 1600s and 1700s and her middle European ancestors in the 1800s.  We believe we have thrown the feel of this early American mix of music into the cook pot, let it simmer, and—voila-- present day acoustic fusion.
The things we played J

Goldtone 5 string cello banjo, Lame Horse open back banjo, Gibson RB250 banjo, Deering John Hartford banjo,(the black and gold one) John Bowlin 1865 fretless banjo, (made from a tracing of Mary Z’s left hand) Ken Miller custom guitar, (Bob Cox’s 000) Blue Lion mountain dulcimer, Ron Ewing dulcimette, bowed bass, (Jim Crozier) djembes, congas, bell, Revere Ware copper bottom pots and pans,(a wedding gift from Ma Cox) snapping fingers, (Gordy Cox) wind chimes from the front porch, shakers, tambourine,  Gordy’s car keys, church bells, George Clinton singing “Old Groundhog.”


More back story for Drumming On the Edge Of Banjo


 Vicki Genfan (guitar) pushed me down the percussion path three summers ago.
Then I took Scott Nygard's, Pan African guitar class, and had so much fun in there-(we played different parts with groups of guitars-- like a guitar drum circle) that I began looking for a drumming instructor. :)
Then,  Yazid.  IMHO--he is hands down the best Afro/Caribbean drummer I've ever heard.  (he's taught ethnomusicology at FSU and has even drummed for Marvin Gaye ) I began his group class on the shore of Lake Ella and began to learn some basics of percussion.  
One day I invited him to my home to just try out a few experiments with drums and banjo.  I played him a few cuts from my cds because he said he really had not heard much banjo before--so he came over and we just played for a couple hours.  :) Then he came over to play every week, and we found we really liked the way banjos and drums sounded together and we began pulling our best tunes together for a cd.
 Gordy Cox moved back to Tallahassee after seven years in New York City.  He is a young, edgy, sound engineer. (he graduated from Full Sail in Orlando).  He doesn't usually work with old time banjo music--although he did record and mix much of my "Secret Life Of Banjo" CD. He prefers funk, rock, dance music and produces and engineers some pretty edgy cds and videos these days.(he just finished a video for a pole dancing school that everyone seems mesmerized with)  But he is the best.  Yazid could barely believe what he could do with his drums--and he has a great ear for blending acoustic music and percussion. 
Gordy pushed and shoved us into the 21st century and we went with it--except we hung on to the traditional tunes and stayed all acoustic as we went kicking and screaming into click tracks and multiple recordings and hours, and days, and months, and almost a year and a half until the cd was finished.
 Gordy likes texture and requested mountain dulcimer and guitar on some of the mixes.  Jim Crozier came by after work with his double bass and bow and added texture to the banjo and drums on “Murat’s Dream”  and then a bass /drum duet to spice up Snake Charmer’s daughter.  When I brought home a new dulcimette from the Unicoi festival—Gordy picked right up on the possibilities of it’s clear bell sound and we took it directly to the studio to juxtaposition it’s voice right next to the cello banjo. 
Then Gordy took some of the raw mixes over to George Clinton's studio one day while George was in town.  He played them and George and his whole studio began dancing to the music. George graciously cut the vocal to "John Bowlin's Groundhog Strut" to help us enter the world music market. :)
Oasis put our cds and digipaks together and also did the mastering on Drumming On the Edge of Banjo.  We think they did a really nice job too. 
I was looking around on the web to get some ideas for art work for the cd, when I spied Rich Disilvio's beautiful dreamscapes--and wouldn't you know it--he also designed cd graphics. (quite a lot of them, in fact. :) 
Rich designed all the graphics for the cd and we are all  stunned at what a beautiful job he did. :)