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Jim Besser

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    Contra and English ceilidh dance music, Morris music, traditional French dance music, playing for any and all dancers.
  • Location
    Washington DC metro area

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  1. That's why I only take the Morse hybrids on Morris tours and leave the Jeffries at home. Morris dancers with beers in hand are a notoriously messy lot.
  2. Monday morning, so why not something silly? Two unlikely schottisches - Rosalie the Prairie Flower, written by George Frederick Root in 1855 - and, to make it sound more trad, sometimes called the Northumbrian Schottische - and If I Only Had a Brain, by Harold Arlen. Periodically, when playing for contra dances some trouble maker will ask for a schottische, and bands around here, not well versed in schottisches, are apt to pull out the Wizard of Oz tune because they can't think of anything else.
  3. Another good one, Al. I'll give it a spin.
  4. Yep. When I started playing regularly with Randy Stein, doing non-dance music, I had a hard time because there aren't dancers to watch. I felt a little blind.
  5. Once I was hacking around with some oldtime tunes with a pal, and she said "you make them sound like Morris tunes." I guess the Morris imprint is powerful indeed.
  6. Yes. Tom's playing has always been a model for me, starting with Round Pond, and his playing with Jim Morrison on fiddle is exquisite. Years ago, I digitized my vinyl copy and still listen to it. Jim and Tom - along with John Dexter and Robert Jospe - also recorded the CD "Over the Water," with much superb playing.
  7. Ah, Plain Capers: how many of us learned our first Morris tunes from that CD record back in the day, and Round Pond Relics?
  8. Continuing to fool around with Morris tunes played in a non-Morris context. Glorishears - there are at least 3 entirely different versions I know of, and probably more. I play the Bampton version for my dancers, and - to me - it's the least interesting. This is the version I like the most, played in a very non-Morris style on a 30 button Jeffries G/D Anglo.
  9. Yes, I feel your pain. When I was shopping for a GD Jeffries, my only option was to buy from England - and my travel plans did not include the UK. I emailed Chris at Barleycorn and told him exactly what I was looking for in terms of action and sound. I did contact him about several instruments he had advertised, and he waved me off, telling me they weren't what I was looking for. He did email me when one came in that met my specifications. It did require some work on this end, but all issues were ones I knew about in advance. That was maybe 15 years ago, and I haven't regretted the decision for a minute. That reminded me of something else: at the time I was in the queue for a Concertina Connection GD with traditional reeds. I never played one, but heard from several players that the sound was excellent and - more importantly - the instruments are comparatively light. Since you're on the Pacific coast, that could be an option for you, as well. There's a lot to be said for local builders who can take care of any initial problems. That said, I'm sure Wim's instruments don't sound like a Jeffries. Nothing does.
  10. Hmmm, thought I replied to this already. Theo is a highly respected repairer / restorer, and I'd be totally comfortable buying from him.
  11. The obvious answer: there is no obvious answer. All three could be superb instruments. For the Dipper and Jeffries - being older / vintage instruments, so much depends on how they were cared for over many years, who did the maintenance/restoration, etc. My personal preference is always Jeffries for sound and feel, but a great Dipper is no doubt preferable to a mediocre Jeffries. And there are mediocre Jeffries, Dippers, and every other nameplate. I do know that Barleycorn will give you honest answers to your questions about an instrument's mechanical quality, and they try to respond to questions about sound. I bought my Jeffries GD from them, sight unseen, and what I got was exactly what they described to me. Carrolls are also superb instruments, and buying new from Wally, you'll be getting an instrument with a guarantee and great service on this side of the pond. I've played Carroll CGs, never a GD, so I can't comment on the sound, but every Carroll CG I've laid hands on has been a superb player with equally good sound. The Dipper with the built in mic - that makes me a little nervous, suggesting some fiddling with the internals that could have an impact on sound. I don't know that it's a problem, but I'd certainly want to know more. I see it on the Barleycorn site; I'd definitely ask lots of questions about that. The Jeffries: is that from a dealer or a private individual? I'm comfortable buying at a distance from Barleycorn or Dipper (or any of the other well known restorers). Much less comfortable if it's from a private individual, and you can't try it. "Easy to play" - that's also not easy to answer. Jeffries are pretty heavy, and for me - thumb arthritis, some carpal tunnel - that's a problem, which is why I do a lot of practicing and all my stand-up Morris playing on Morse hybrids, which are very light. My memory is that Carrolls are probably the lightest of the pack, and probably the least stressful for aging appendages. But that's a guess, not an informed judgment.
  12. Wonderful version of my favorite Morris tune. What I love about it -there are so many different ways to play it.
  13. "Best" depends on the kind of music you want to play and the way your brain is wired. You can play melody and chords on both, but they are very different animals. If you want to play jazz or classical music, English is clearly superior because of the almost unlimited potential for chording. As an Anglo player, I've played for years with Randy Stein, a top-tier jazz and classical player, and when we do jazz pieces i have to do a lot of chord faking because I just can't replicate his rich chording. I agree with Jody that an Anglo is probably easier to learn, but a lot depends on how your brain works. I know people who have tried and failed at Anglo, but learned English ease. And I know players who have experienced exactly the reverse. If you want to play rhythmic dance music, the Anglo has huge advantages. Ditto for Irish trad and probably American oldtime. Jazz or classical - English would probably be a better choice. The easy part of your question: yes, you can play chords+melody on both. The hard part: neither is 'better.' It depends on what you want to play and the mysteries of your neurological makeup.
  14. If those are your primary preferences, you can't go wrong with a Morse. They are as responsive as the best vintage instruments I've played, and the light weight is a big plus.
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