Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Chicago band Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials exploded onto the national blues scene in the mid-1980s with a high-energy, raucous and gloriously raw sound that recalled the heyday of Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers, as well as such earlier slide guitarists as Elmore James and J.B. Hutto, the uncle and mentor of Lil Ed Williams. Beginning with Roughhousin' in 1986, Williams has led his band through seven albums of slide guitar boogies, raw-boned Chicago shuffles and deep, deep blues; the band’s latest is Full Tilt, praised by the Washington Post as “contagious wildness.” Catch it at the Cityfolk Festival on Saturday only.
Photo by Paul Natkin
Thursday, May 26, 2011
As the son of two drummers, drummer and drum builder Anthony B. Mitchell, Jr. was exposed to traditional African culture and West African music as a young boy in Pittsburgh. He is proficient in several West African performance styles and has performed with such ensembles as Drums of West Africa in America and SAFARACE African Drum and Dance Company. Mitchell started making drums in his teens, learning the secrets of drum making from family members and local teachers. In 2000, Mitchell traveled to the West African country of Senegal to study with traditional drum makers of the village of Geudiwaye. As a member of Prophecy Music Project, Mitchell has been in Dayton doing artist residencies for Culture Builds Community, Cityfolk’s neighborhood-based arts program.
Drummer, drum maker and educator Tony Showa, a member of the Navajo Nation, was born and raised in Los Angeles and currently lives in Indianapolis. He makes two kinds of hand drums rooted in the traditional and ceremonial life of the Dine (Navajo) people: round, with a frame made of maple (looking something like an Irish bodhrán) and octagonal with a frame made of red oak. The heads of the drums, made from the dried, scraped hides of elk, deer, horse and cow, are stretched tightly over the frames and secured with rawhide laces. Showa’s frame drums, played with a drum stick called a beater, vary in size but are generally two or three inches deep with a diameter between 12 to 17 inches. Showa has drummed with the Las Vegas-based Sacred 4s Drum Group at pow-wows and Native American ceremonial and social events throughout the southwest and is the facilitator of a healing drum circle and drum workshop at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
One of the first agenda items for the Cityfolk Jazz Committee--the group who helped plan the original jazz initiative for the organization in the mid 1980s--was to bring home and honor Young. He had gone from Chick Carter's Ohio-based big band as a teenager into Jimmie Lunceford's Orchestra, one of swing's mightiest ensembles, and by the '80s was firmly established as lead trumpeter for the Tonight Show band. Young was enthusiastic for a homecoming concert and in the fall of 1988 he brought Tonight Show pianist Ross Tompkins, singer Ernie Andrews and former Stan Kenton tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper. Bassist Lester Bass and drummer Tony Sweet from here in our backyard rounded out the band. Mayor Clay Dixon gave him the key to the city prior to the concert at the Dayton Art Institute. The week of the show, Young passed Johnny Carson the press release for the concert we sent him and I still have a VHS tape of Carson plugging the concert, the camera cutting to Young sitting in the band and the trumpeter beaming and nodding with pride as the host asked for a round of applause.
You would be hard pressed to find a musician with a resume as deep as Snooky Young's. The Band, Steely Dan, B.B. King, and Quincy Jones all turn up on it. His work with Lunceford, Count Basie, The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band and later the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra sit at the center of his legacy. But careers like that you will never see again. His Jazz Master award, which was handed out by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2009, was a richly deserved honor for a musician who sat in the middle of some of the finest music of the past 75 years.
Read more about this amazing musician in his New York Times obituary and in an interview done when he won the NEA Jazz Master Award.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Continue the immersion into traditional music by visiting the traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music, which will be on display at the Heritage Center of Clark County from May 22 - June 22. According to the organizers, "the main beat of the exhibition is the on-going cultural process that has made America the birthplace of more music than any place on earth. The exhibition provides a fascinating, inspiring, and toe-tapping listen to the American story of multi-cultural exchange. The story is full of surprises about familiar songs, histories of instruments, the roles of religion and technology, and the continuity of musical roots from 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' to the latest hip hop CD."
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokees, painter and storyteller Edwin George is the recipient of the 2011 Ohio Heritage Fellowship in Material Culture. George was born in North Carolina in 1934 near the town of Cherokee, and has lived in the Kent, Ohio area since the 1980s. Completely self-taught as an artist, he started painting in 1991 to express his dreams and memories; his work has been hailed for its cultural, historical and educational value. In paintings such as Earth Spirit Rising, Medicine Man, When the Bears Wash and Spider Brings the Fire, George depicts in a visually stunning fashion the traditional Cherokee myths and legends he learned as a child, Cherokee iconography and healing herbal medicines, and the written language and history of his tribal ancestors. In addition to painting, George has also worked with wood, carving such items as totem poles, walking sticks, shields, drums and small sculptures. George received an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council in 2005 and has had his works displayed at the Riffe Gallery in Columbus, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in North Carolina, the Akron Art Museum and numerous libraries, schools, colleges, parks and nature centers throughout Ohio.
Kanniks Kannikeswaran, the recipient of the 2011 Ohio Heritage Fellowship in Performing Arts, is an internationally acclaimed musician, recording artist, composer, scholar, choir director, educator, mentor and tireless advocate for the classical music traditions of India for more than 30 years. Born in 1962 in Chennai, India, Kannikeswaran has taught the theory and history of Indian classical music at the College Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati since 1994 and regularly teaches classes and workshops throughout this country and India for both children and adults. He is the founder and director of the American School of Indian Art in Cincinnati. Kannikeswaran began studying music at the age of nine and gave his first public performance at 13. He earned an engineering degree in India and graduate degrees in engineering and business after moving to the U.S. His large-scale theatrical, recording and choral productions include Shanti: A Journey of Peace (which has been staged in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas), Colonial Interlude, Vismaya: An Indo-Celtic Musical Journey and The Silk Road. Kannikeswaran, who lives with his family in Mason, received the Ohio Individual Artists Fellowship in 2002 and has received the Traditional Artist Apprenticeship grant three times from the Ohio Arts Council.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
In a world of cookie-cutter acoustic guitars, Todd Cambio, a luthier based in Madison, Wisconsin, stands out from the crowd. Cambio’s Fraulini Guitar Company makes 10 different production models, including two 12-strings and a four-string tenor guitar, recreating classic designs from the early 1900s made by such companies as Stella, Stahl, Washburn and Oscar Schmidt. All Fraulini guitars are built entirely by hand, using the highest quality woods (mahogany, birch, maple or white oak for the back and sides and Adirondack spruce for the tops) and traditional building techniques such as a dovetail neck joint, hot hide glue, handmade wood purflings and varnish finishes. Cambio’s instruments possess an undeniable vintage vibe from the 1920s and 1930s that makes them particularly well suited for jazz, ragtime and the pre-war blues sound of seminal guitarists like Lead Belly, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Barbecue Bob. Cambio’s distinctive guitars have been played by such outstanding guitarists as John Miller, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Paul Geremia and the late Mike Seeger.
A resident of the northwestern Ohio town of Peninsula, Doug Unger is a true Renaissance man. Unger is an award-winning painter specializing in Ohio landscapes, a wood carver, a former professor of art at Kent State University, musician and an internationally-acclaimed inlay and engraving artist. Unger is a peerless, self-taught builder of open-back banjos (without a resonator), recreating—any in many cases, improving upon—banjos from the early years of the 20th century made by such companies as Cole and Fairbanks. He’s held in even higher regard for his inlay work on instruments and for engraving intricate designs on the inlaid pieces of mother of pearl, abalone and snail. He stresses “artistic freedom within a traditional framework” in his work, and says he knows a banjo is complete “when there’s no evidence of its doing. It has to look effortless or it’s a mess.” Though he’s better known for his banjos, Unger also makes beautiful mandolins patterned after Gibson models of the 1910s and 1920s. Unger was named an Ohio Heritage Fellow in 2004. Visit Cityfolk's YouTube channel to watch his segment of the Ohio-produced PBS show Our Ohio.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas have traveled the world for more than 20 years rocking out the fast and furious accordion-driven, R&B-influenced dance music of the French-speaking Creole people of southern Louisiana. The band—called “modern zydeco’s finest group” by All Music Guide—is a family affair led by accordionist Nathan Williams; the Cha-Chas include his son, cousin and brother. Together since 1988, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas can be seen performing “fiery enjoyable music with a modern sensibility” (All Music Guide) in Rounder Records 40th Anniversary Concert, currently being aired nationwide on PBS. The ensemble’s many honors and awards include a 2010 Big Easy Award for “Best Zydeco Band.”You'll be able to dance to their zydeco grooves all three days of the Cityfolk Festival.
Catch more by Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas on Cityfolk's YouTube Channel.