JAY UNGAR AND MOLLY MASON
He was a Bronx kid. She grew up in Washington State. He was raised on pop music of the 1940s and ’50s. She had a fondness for traditional fiddle music and ’30s and ’40s popular tunes. He hung out in Greenwich Village coffeehouses and roamed North Carolina and Tennessee in search of traditional players. She played clubs and colleges on the West Coast and took a liking to the jazzy sound of the Swing Era. Since joining forces—both artistically and romantically (the two would marry in 1991)—Jay Ungar and Molly Mason have become one of the most celebrated duos on the American acoustic music scene.
It started with a chance meeting in the late 1970s. Jay and Molly were each performing at the Towne Crier, a rural New York club. They hit it off musically and played together from time to time until Molly headed off to Minnesota to work in the house band of a new radio show: Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. Meanwhile, back in New York, Jay put together a band with fellow fiddlers Evan Stover and Matt Glaser and guitarist Russ Barenberg. When Fiddle Fever, as the collaboration was called, needed a bassist, Molly signed on. The group recorded two classic LPs, now available on CD as The Best of Fiddle Fever (Flying Fish Records).
The early ’80s also saw the beginning of Jay’s Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camps, a world-renowned destination for enthusiasts of American music and dance traditions. Several years later, Molly became a full partner in designing and running these programs, which are still going strong.
1984 found Fiddle Fever band members Matt Glaser and Russ Barenberg working with a young filmmaker on a documentary called The Brooklyn Bridge. They gave Ken Burns a copy of Fiddle Fever’s second LP, Waltz of the Wind, which included Jay’s Ashokan Farewell. Burns was so taken with the evocative and haunting melody, he used it in his next film, Huey, about Louisiana Governor Huey Long, and he wound up inviting Jay and Molly to provide music for many of his projects. The high point to date of this long relationship was the selection of Ashokan Farewell as the main theme of Burns’ landmark PBS documentary The Civil War. The result: an Emmy nomination for Jay and a Grammy for the soundtrack album. And the tune seems to have taken on a life of its own. Now considered an American “folk” classic, it is played by fiddlers and classical musicians worldwide. In the British Isles, a recording of Ashokan Farewell by Her Majesty’s Royal Marines has remained high on the classical charts for several years. It has been performed by major orchestras, and has been recorded by artists from Mark O’Connor to Pinchas Zuckerman, James Galway to Charlie Byrd, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and The Osborne Brothers to Polka King Jimmy Sturr.
After signing with Angel Records in 1991, Jay and Molly—in collaboration with baritone Thomas Hampson and pianist David Alpher—released American Dreamer, a collection of the songs of Stephen Foster. They followed with Waltzing with You, an elaboration on their score for the film Brother’s Keeper, a Sundance Film Festival prizewinner. Perhaps the duo’s best-known composition is the title track of The Lovers’ Waltz, an album of romantic fiddle music from Appalachian, Scandinavian, Celtic, Klezmer and Swing traditions. The CD also features a medley of melodies written by composer James Horner—ones that Jay had previously performed with the London Symphony in Horner’s score for the Sony Tristar filmLegends of the Fall. Harvest Home, Jay and Molly’s 1999 release on Angel Records, culminates in their 20-minute orchestral work, The Harvest Home Suite, in which they are joined by the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. In 2002, Jay and Molly produced, arranged and performed on A Song of Home, a collaborative recording for RCA, with flutist Sir James Galway, mandolinist Peter Ostroushko and bassist Steve Rust. Now, with Relax Your Mind (Angel Records), Jay and Molly, with their band Swingology, take a slightly different direction: American dance music with a focus on country blues and swing. Included are more of the beautiful waltzes that have become their signature pieces.
On radio and television, Jay and Molly have appeared on CBS Good Morning, The Rosie O’Donnel Show, All Things Considered, A Prairie Home Companion, and the BBC’s Transatlantic Sessions. And they have no shortage of future musical projects.
Quite the odyssey for the West Coast girl and the kid from the Bronx.
BARRY AND HOLLY TASHIAN
Barry and Holly Tashian are a country/bluegrass duo from Nashville. They have made numerous appearances on the Grand Ol’ Opry, a Prairie Home Companion and other international radio and television programs.
Barry spent 10 years performing and recording with country star Emmylou Harris, as her duet partner and guitar player. He also recorded an album with legendary folk rock artist, Gram Parsons in 1971. In 1966, Barry’s rock band from Boston, The Remains, toured throughout America as the opening act for the Beatles.
Kenny Rogers, Solomon Burke, Ty England, Daniel O’Donnell and others, have recorded the Tashians’ songs. In addition, Barry and Holly have recorded with Emmylou Harris, Tom Paxton, Nancy Griffith and Iris DeMent.
Matt Glaser is the Artistic Director of the American Roots Music Program at the Berklee College of Music, and was formerly chairman of the String Department at Berklee for 28 years. Recently, The American String Teachers Association (ASTA) awarded him the prestigious Artist Teacher Award at its annual convention. Glaser is the first non-classical string teacher to win the award, which is considered the ASTA’s highest honor. Past recipients include Joseph Szigeti, Pablo Casals, Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin, Dorothy DeLay, and Ivan Galamian. He has performed widely in a variety of idioms ranging from jazz to bluegrass to early music, and has published 12 books on contemporary violin styles including Jazz Violin, co-authored with the late Stephane Grappelli. He has written for many newspapers and music magazines including the Village Voice, Strings, and Acoustic Musician. He has performed with Stephane Grappelli, David Grisman, Lee Konitz, Bob Dylan, J Geils, Leo Kottke, Joe Lovano, Charlie Haden, Michael Brecker, Kenny Werner, Alison Krauss, Bela Fleck, the Waverly Consort, Fiddle Fever, and most recently with Wayfaring Strangers–a band that fuses jazz and folk music. The Boston Herald called him “possibly America’s most versatile violinist.” Matt served on the board of advisors of the Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary, and appears in the film as a talking head. Matt serves on the board of directors of Chamber Music America and the American String Teachers Association. He has performed at the White House, and at Carnegie Hall with Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O’Connor as part of Stephane Grappelli’s 80th birthday concert. He has taught at the Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp, University of Miami, American String Teacher Association conferences, International Association of Jazz Educator conferences, and many others.
Tom Mitchell’s guitar playing is rooted in the styles of the 1920’s and 30’s jazz, western swing, country blues and old-time music. Ten years of playing with the legendary Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks took him around the world and led to the recording of two acclaimed CD’s including “Beatin’ the Heat” which featured guest appearances by Bette Midler, Ricki Lee Jones, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, and Brian Setzer. His work with Ann Savoy and her Sleepless Knights resulted in two critically acclaimed CD’s and a movie soundtrack spot with producer credits for the Sony picture “All the Kings Men”. He makes his home in Baltimore where he can be seen playing with some great players and bands including The Blue Rhythm Boys and The Redwine Jazz Trio.
Emily was raised playing and singing Louvin Brothers and Stanley Brothers songs with her parents while they traveled the world as news editors. She is now a lead singer and twin fiddler in the country band, the Sweetback Sisters, performs regularly with her husband Jesse Milnes, as well as musical director of the Davis & Elkins College Appalachian Ensemble.
Tim Kliphuis (Netherlands) is one of the best-known improvising violinists in the world. His concert tours have taken him to America, Russia, Europe, Brazil, the UK and South Africa. He fuses the gypsy jazz of Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt with classical, folk and contemporary music.
Tim has been awarded the Scottish Jazz Award and Polish Swing Jazz award. His pieces have been commissioned by orchestras such as Cape Town Philharmonic, Tallinn Chamber, Netherlands Chamber and The Hague Philharmonic. His most recent release, The Five Elements, raises questions about the way we treat our planet and offers a hopeful vision for the future.
Kliphuis is Professor of Improvisation at the Conservatoire of Amsterdam; his books on Gypsy Jazz Violin are Mel Bay best-sellers and he hosts the international Grappelli-Django Camp in Holland every year.
Laurel Massé was an original member of the Manhattan Transfer and, although she has not became that famous in the years since, she has survived and is still a fine jazz singer. . She was working as a waitress in Manhattan when she met Tim Hauser, who was working as a cabdriver at the time. Together with Hauser, Janis Siegel, and Alan Paul, she started the Manhattan Transfer in 1972. Massé was a very versatile singer so she enjoyed the Manhattan Transfer’s wide repertoire, which ranged from swing to rock, pop to bebop.
That all ended in 1979 when she was involved in a near-fatal car accident. Massé was forced to drop out of the Manhattan Transfer and spend two years recuperating. She finally made a full comeback and recorded three excellent jazz albums for the Pausa label in the mid-’80s. Massé re-emerged in the mid-’90s, singing spiritual music that included Celtic songs and classical music, often performed a cappella. After recording Feather & Bone in 2000, which reflected this music, she returned to jazz. Laurel Massé has hosted a monthly jazz radio show on WAMC, performs occasionally, and primarily works as an educator.
Kevin Wimmer has been playing fidle since the tender age of three. He performed frequently with Dewey Balfa and learned the essence of the tradition directly from him. Over the years he has performed most notably all over the globe with Preston Frank and the blues and swing inspired Red Stick Ramblers. Kevin brings a Creole influence to the Mamou Playboys, as exhibited by his unique fiddle repertoire and his powerful vocals.
“Born and still based in Chicago, the mandolin found Don as he grew up “out in the woods” in the nearly-rural suburb of Wauconda, IL. A desire to make music with his banjo and guitar playing brother led Don to appropriate a mandolin that had been given to him. Things came into focus both mandolin and life-wise when his parents sent Don to study with Jethro Burns, famous comedian (Homer and Jethro)and the greatest mandolinist of his time. From the very first lesson, Burns was more than a teacher. He was role model, hero, mentor, and friend, and Stiernberg was hooked and hooked bad on the mandolin.His earliest professional experience was in a bluegrass band with his brother (The Morgan Bros.)and a bit later in The Jethro Burns Quartet.
Currently Don is regarded as a leading exponent of jazz mandolin style, and a respected teacher. The most recent of his nine recording projects is “Good Numbers”, a collection of standards and jazz tunes played by his working band, The Don Stiernberg Trio. The trio has performed coast to coast as well as in Germany and Brazil. Don also conveys his love of the mandolin and music at numerous camps and festivals.”
Larry Baione is chair of the Berklee College of Music Guitar Department. Baione has been a faculty member since 1974 and has been chair since 1990. He has studied with Lenzy Wallace, Mick Goodrick, Bill Harris, William Leavitt, Bucky Pizzarelli and Jim Hall. He received his Bachelors in Music from Berklee and his Masters in Music from New England Conservatory. When attending Berklee, he received the DownBeat Hall of Fame Scholarship award.
After graduating Berklee, Larry was principal guitarist in the Army Band, stationed in Washington D.C. He performed in the White House and throughout the United States with the Army Blues. In 1996, Baione toured South America for the state department as one of the inaugural Jazz Amabassadors representing the unique American art form.
Larry is author of A Modern Method for Guitar Scales and the Berklee Practice Method for Guitar. He performs in numerous jazz, concert, and recording ensembles, settings that range from solo guitar to big band. He continues to perform and give clinics throughout the world. His recent recording Playing Time consists of original compositions and standards in a trio setting.