Journey

This project hits some of the high points on my musical journey that began when I was ten. I played woodwinds through high school and took up stringed instruments when I got into college. My early training was as a jazz player but at the end of high school I first heard Old Time music and was immediately attracted to the traditional music of this and other countries. 

The bowed dulcimer goes back to the 18th century in this country and at least the 15th century in Europe. I have developed it to its present form. It is the easiest bowed instrument to get acceptable sounds out of. As a failed fiddle player this instrument satisfies my bowed “Jones”. 

Unlike my past projects, this CD was primarily recorded live. I approached the whole project as a 50's jazz session. Though we did avail ourselves of some of the wonders of modern digital technology, most of what you hear is exactly what we played. 

My heart-felt thanks goes out to all who contributed to this undertaking. To Harry Bolick, my partner in crime for lo these many decades, it couldn't have happened without you. To those who played on this and contributed their talent and artistry, this is so much better for you having played on it. Susie Deane gave many of these tunes a whole new fresh approach with her artful 

chording. Brian Slattery makes me sound better than I am and has the same warped sense of humor that I do. Marco Brehm had many great suggestions and played wonderful things. Charlie Shaw is the drummer extraordinaire on the most unlikely looking drum set you've ever seen. 

 

Finally, I give my undying thanks to my wife, Virginia. It was her gentle encouragement that got me off my butt to start this project. Her unfaltering support over these many decades has kept me going. 

Personel:
Ken Bloom - bowed dulcimer, guitar, clarinet, vocals.
Susie Deane - guitar and piano
Brian Slattery - violin, trombone
Marco Brehm - bass
Charlie Shaw - drums and percussion
Harry Bolick - producer, engineering, graphic design, photography and moral support
Patty Schories - photography, editing, cheeriness
Doc Russell - Wireknot Productions - mastering

1. Round Midnight is probably the best-known tune from Thelonius Monk. I got to hear him live when I was sixteen. He played solo that night, but for the second set, had a couple of friends sit in with him, John Coltrane and Paul Chambers on bass. It was Brian's suggestion that this be a duet. What a great suggestion!

2. Biscuit's Bounce   I have two poodles. Biscuit is the smaller of the two and has very short legs. The idea for this tune came to me watching him careen around the yard. He is a very serious animal. (C Ken Bloom 2005)

3. Meprise is a bal musette and a rather unusual one. It comes from the playing of Tony Murena but I learned it from Jane Peppler, my bandmate in Mappamundi. Bal musette is basically French redneck music from the 1920's and 30' and is usually much more hectic than this one. Django Reinhardt got his early playing experience playing in bars while picking the tunes expertly on his six string banjo.

4. Tango de Cuevas   David Cuevas was a very gifted dancer who performed with all the major ballet companies in New York in the 80's. He was also one of the unfortunate victims of AIDS. I was asked by my wife to write a piece for him, which I played at his memorial. That was perhaps the most difficult performance I ever gave. I wrote it on the concert zither but I much prefer playing it on bowed dulcimer where I think it captures his spirit much better. (C Ken Bloom 1988)

5. Vainemoinen's Sorrow was written on the death of my maternal grandfather, Samuel Katz. He was a very dignified man but very warm to his family. He was originally from Vilno in Lithuania. I wrote the tune originally on the kantele, a Finnish instrument, thus the name. But, I like it much better on the bowed dulcimer. (C Ken Bloom 1990)

6. Stone Pony comes from Charlie Patton in 1930. While in college, I hung out at a club called the Ash Grove where I had the opportunity to hear and speak with many of the old blues players such as Son House, Bukka White, and MIssissippi Fred McDowell. I also met my wife there. Though the club is long gone, the influence it had lives on in the many musicians who frequented the place and continue to play the music in one form or another.

7. Almost Like Being in Love   I love Scottish music! When my sister and I were very young we loved singing Broadway show tunes at the top of our lungs while taking long drives. I still love these musicals. I don't see why real life can't be just like that. This one in particular is fun to improvise on. Susie and I went back and forth to agree on what the "right" chords should be. We compromised.

8. Nightfall was written many years ago on the concert zither. It is a mood piece with only two chords and is all about improvising and atmosphere. This one gave me the opportunity to use the erhu effect on the bowed dulcimer. I love the solo that Brian did. (C Ken Bloom 1976)

9. San K'Emena Palikari   While going to UCLA I got to study classical Indian music which introduced me to playing in cycles of seven and nine. Toward the end of college I started playing with a Turkish orchestra on the saz and that led me to the bouzouki. The one I play here has three courses. It's the old fashion style. This typical rebetica is one of my favorite tunes. In the chorus, the speaker who has been dumped by his girl friend is saying " How could she dump me? She'll never find anyone as great as ME!!" If Meprise is French redneck music, this is Greek redneck music.

10. I Remember Clifford was written by Benny Golson in remembrance of Clifford Brown, the great trumpeter who died way too early and influenced many of the great subsequent players, such as Miles Davis. The melody is gorgeous and the chords give you a lot of opportunities to arrange interesting backup parts. It was great fun to blend Brian's trombone and my clarinet to form the horn section on this one.

11. Khosidl #1, Khosidl #2, Alter Sher were learned from playing with Jane Peppler in Mappamundi. When I moved to North Carolina, I never thought I would be playing much in the way of Eastern European or Jewish music. How wrong I was. I met Jane a few months after moving here and we've been playing together ever since. On the first tune I have put a Turkish sangin (backup riff) to the very compelling melody. The other two are more traditional in their approach. When I was much younger I played a fair bit of klezmer music at weddings and bar mitzvahs. It's wonderful to still be doing it here below the Mason Dixon line.

12. Come On In My Kitchen is probably Robert Johnson's most famous piece. This demonstrates what it might have been like if Robert Johnson played the bowed dulcimer instead of the guitar.

13. Some Other Time by Bernstein, Comden and Green is from a little known Broadway show called On the Town. I first heard this wonderful melody played by Bill Evans and later by Gary Burton and Ralph Towner. I've been playing it on the concert zither for years. Thanks to Marco Brehm for insisting that we record this. I had no intention of doing so but I'm very glad that I did. I makes a fine bass/zither duet.

14. The Four Brothers was written by Jimmy Giuffre in 1949 for Woody Herman and the Herd. The original four brothers were Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Stewart, and Serge Chaloff. This was my greatest challenge to play when I was twelve. My teacher, Bob Nelson, would get four or five of his students together once a week to play sax section parts from a lot of standards and jazz arrangements. He taught us how to blend as a section. This was one of the more challenging ones that we did. For this recording we selected a more relaxed tempo than is usually employed as it puts more emphasis on the melody.

15. Waltz for My Aunt Luba   My family comes from a small town about ninety miles northeast of Kyiv called Nyzhyn. Our family lived there from about the middle of the 18th century until my grandfather and his sisters left in 1905. This was a popular year for Jews to leave. When I was young I used to visit my Aunt Luba and ask her to tell me tales of the Old Country. After playing bandura for a number of years I was inspired to write this waltz for her. I am very glad that I got to play it for her. (C Ken Bloom 1978)

16. Van Eyck   The rather extensive title of this excerpt is "How Phoebus Apollo pursued Daphne so relentlessly that in desperation, she cried out to the Goddess Diana to turn her into a laurel tree". In 1973 I took a master class in recorder with Frans Brueggen and it changed my musical life. His approach to Baroque music opened a whole new world for me. This is a piece I've been playing on recorder and bowed dulcimer. I have only done the first movement. I find this fun to play and always a challenge. I try to tell the story. There are five variations that I have neither the skill nor the artistry to bring off but I wanted to include this first movement.