FolkFire Reviews

March / April 1998 Issue

  • Sandy Weltman with the Carolbeth Trio: "New World Harmonica Jazz"
  • St. Louis Irish Arts: "Ceol agus Rince" (Music & Dance)
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  • Sandy Weltman with the Carolbeth Trio: "New World Harmonica Jazz"
    by Donna Eckberg
    If you like harmonica music and possess an interest in jazz, come marvel at the mastery of Sandy Weltman. Some of St. Louisí top jazz artists follow Sandy on an eclectic journey featuring his own compositions along with hot jazz standards on the diatonic harmonica. In lieu of using the broader-ranged chromatic harmonica, Sandy expands the original 19-note range of the diatonic to 37 notes covering 3 complete octaves. Sandy credits his mentor, Howard Levy (formerly of Bela Fleck & The Flecktones), for tutoring him in this technique which includes overblowing to reach the extra notes.
    Sandy plays for dances so itís natural the way his harmonica dances through his composition, Waltz For Elizabeth. The notes bend and sway to create a fluid dance imagery. Dubrovnik, his other piece on this recording, evokes thoughts of exotic places. This song was inspired by tales of Yugoslavia and includes the amazing Dave Black on acoustic guitar.
    Throughout this disc, Sandy puts his own spin on a tasty selection of jazz standards. A wide range of tempos and styles is covered from Chick Coreaís percussive Spain - through the funk of Lee Morganís Sidewinder down to the dark mood of Thelonius Monkís Round Midnight. To compliment his stunning interpretations Sandy surrounds himself with great talent. Carolbeth True is a well-known jazz pianist. Kevin Gianinoís percussion is exquisite. Soloing on There Will Never Be Another You, he plays the melody using the tones found in the drum kit. Bassist, Glen Smith, composed the not so simple Simple Waltz. His versatility is well displayed throughout this eclectic mix. West End Blues includes guest Brian Casserly on muted trumpet. Sandy plays this traditional jazz number in harmony with Brian, at times also muting his harmonica with a glass. This is a highly recommended trip you wonít want to miss. Look for it at local record stores.
    St. Louis Irish Arts: "Ceol agus Rince" (Music & Dance)
    by Bob Borcherding
    The St. Louis Irish Arts (SLIA) has released a fine CD celebrating its 25th anniversary, Ceol agus Rince, featuring Irish music, played well by its members. This CD is produced by SLIA, but it stands with commercially available recordings of Irish traditional music, an impressive feat. The surname Gannon and SLIA have been synonymous, so it is no surprise that harpist Eileen Gannon, mouth organ player P.J. Gannon, and fiddler Niall Gannon are joined by members and students of the SLIA. Also performing is Tracey Fleming, a World Champion harpist from Longford, Ireland.
    A highlight is the fourth selection, featuring Eileen Gannonís beautiful harp playing of a slow air and jig, An Buchalin Ban/Can Ainm, which is nearly worth the price of the CD by itself. The liner notes describe Eileen as a second place finisher at the 1997 Fleadh Cheoil Na hEireann; Iíd not be surprised if someday she wins. Another highlight is P.J. Gannonís rendering of a slow air and hornpipe, incredibly sounding more like a melodeon (accordion) rather than a mouth organ (harmonica).
    Group selections feature playing of the Gannons and Fleming along with other SLIA members, accomplished musicians all. This recording is a testament to hard work and organization.
    The recording tends to have a refreshingly elegant pace, as opposed to the often breakneck pace one finds on recordings of traditional Irish music. Perhaps that is due to the influence of the harp? The lone irritation of the recording is that the selections featuring larger groups sound as if they were recorded in a cavernous room, having too much echo for my ears. For more information about purchasing this CD, call St. Louis Irish Arts at 314-889-1662.