Comment by Jody Stecher on April 4, 2023 at 16:47

Rob, to answer your question about what I think of the album: I'm giving my candid opinion only because you asked me and it would be rude to not respond.  All that follows is subjective.

The execution and interpretation is of a high standard.

As a corrective to popular perceptions of what a banjo sounds like and can do and should do the album has potential (if enough people heard it)  although people are going to have their opinions even when faced with empirical evidence to the contrary. Ravi Shankar faced the same prejudices. They said this was not sitar music, this was sarode music played on the sitar and it should not be done.

The liner notes make it clear that your focus is on the repertoire rather than on presenting a historical reenactment of banjo music as it was played in a certain era.  But I heard the album before I read he notes. I was expecting an overview of the variety of banjo music over a 2 decade period.

That being the case I found the repertoire to be mostly Moody Chords At A Leisurely Pace.   I would have expected and preferred more variety in a recorded collection called The Art Of The Banjo.  I would have liked there to be more rhythmic pieces and  to hear some music with simple chords as well as complex ones.

 My favorite tracks are the ones where you play tenor banjo. You bring out a wider variety of tone color as well as a wider dynamic range than I have heard from other tenor players of any genre of music, 

This album is banjo and all of it is played with considerable art. But it is not representative of the variety of the "what and how" of what was played on the banjo from 1910-1930. The subtitle suggests that it is.  So my expectations were not met. If it had a different title would I have had a different reaction?   Possibly.  Would I have had a different reaction had I read the liner notes first? I think so. I would have listened with the idea that this was a skilled musical artist applying his aesthetics and technique to a little-known repertoire. I would have had no other expectations.

You bring out an important significant historical point in the liner notes:  During the 20 year period which is the focus of the album it was not unusual for finger-style players to play the same repertoire with a plectrum. 

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 4, 2023 at 17:12

Thanks, Jody. A good, informed review, which I concur with on every point.

The influence for the album title came from lute player, Jacob Herringman, who brought out an album called 'The Art of the Renaissance Lute', and I thought "why shouldn't the banjo be thought of in that way?!". So I admit to a little arrogance there, not about my own playing, but that the banjo was worthy of being thought of as an art. I wanted to prove a point to lute players, especially those who derided me for not sticking to the lute, and playing the banjo "of all things!". So, I was really caught up in that mentality when naming the album. I can see how it might have sent some people down the wrong track. 

A few people have told me their favourite tracks were the tenor ones, yet I have to confess I like them the least. I admit to being a sucker for slow tempi and moody chords - again not things generally associated with the banjo, which was a perception I wanted to challenge. So why record the tenor pieces? Because they were part of the whole development of the banjo at that time, and although not my favourite pieces, I do like them. 

Yes, the notion of playing fingerstyle pieces with a plectrum is not new, and quite frankly I prefer it for Cammeyer's pieces, which by and large have little employment of the 5th string. 

Thanks to all those who take the time to listen to some of it. It's had more listens these past two days than it had in the past 12 years :-)

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 4, 2023 at 17:39

Jody: "I was expecting an overview of the variety of banjo music over a 2 decade period."

I said I concurred with everything you said, Jody, but after some reflection I'm tempted to argue that it does give an overview of different styles: Caselli and Grimshaw's fingerstyle blues (played without a plectrum), Joe Morley's Rose Leaves Gavotte, Chopin's Nocturne, American Plectrum pieces by Bud Cross and Walter Miles, the introverted meanderings of Cammeyer, and the proto-jazz offerings of Weidt - I would say that's a good cross section. Of course there was more going on at the time, but it would take more than one album to cover it. 

Comment by Karen Smith on April 4, 2023 at 18:04

This album influenced me to start playing banjo. I even got a tenor, as I enjoyed your interpretation of the Weidt tunes so much. But I haven't been playing the tenor much since getting into 5 string, yet I can't bring myself to sell it.

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 4, 2023 at 18:08

Cheers, Karen. So good to read! I believe it started a few people off playing the banjo, which I find very satisfying, I must admit. Best wishes for your banjo progression! 

Comment by Jake Glanville on April 13, 2023 at 20:35

I too have listened to this album since its inception and have always loved it.  I don't give the proverbial fiddle or fygge what strings you are using so long you continue to play zither-banjo with that lovely and delightful touch you have.

Yes, I know you play other instruments, but its the old ZB's that have always captured my heart.  Long may you continue playing them.

A very big Thank You.

Black Jake.

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 13, 2023 at 20:39
Cheers, BJ. Appreciated!

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