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Solo Concertina As The Whole Band?


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As I study the Anglo concertina and play gigs, I’m often thinking of how my instrument can stand in for a whole band. This is a sort of playing I only do solo. On the other hand, when one of my bands is playing with me I leave things out, my role is much more spare, leaving room for the other instruments to play and for me to concentrate on my part.

 

Still, solo harmonic concertina can be a very cool thing and when I’m playing that way, I do my best to supply all the elements that a band provides. Melody, bass, internal lines, answering voices, parallel harmony and the most important element of all... rhythmic groove, mostly provided by the bellows.

 

When I hear a solo instrument perform this trick successfully then it makes me sit up and take notice. Care to share your favorite solo instrumental performances that emulates a whole band?

 

Many piano players can sound like a whole band backing them up for a song. Bach wrote great solo works for cello and violin that did this sort of thing. Bobby McFerrin, with his looping electronics can do it with his voice alone. Kora and M'Bira can do it in the world of African traditional music. Live concertina is capable of this trick as well, and as I get better at it, I find that listening to other great solo instrumentalists can be very inspiring. Who should I listen to next?

 

To start this discussion off:

 

Here is a guy who does it all on guitar. Amazing...Tommy Emmanuel - Guitar Boogie

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lbvSBNLLoo

 

Who do you think I should listen to next?

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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(Edit: I know the request was for solo instrumental performances but I think the same approach applies here...)

 

For my taste, Nic Jones is the consummate accompanist -- here's his classic version of Canadee-i-o which I'm sure a lot of you folks will know already. To my ears, any other instrumentation would be completely redundant:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlFKwY_YgZ4

 

Pretty much anything recorded by Nic Jones is a masterclass in "band in a single instrument" playing in the context of traditional song -- I like his recordings less when other musicians are involved, apart from the songs with Tony Hall on melodeon.

 

Nick Dow is also very good at this sort of guitar playing, but he has very little online presence.

Edited by StuartEstell
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For solo playing that aspires to make a complete statement (as opposed to, say, interesting vocal accompaniment), Evan Marshall's "duo style" on mandolin sets the bar pretty high. His party piece, well represented on YouTube, is the "William Tell" overture, and it's pretty astonishing if you've never heard it. But his technique has a good bit more expressive range than that morsel shows:

 

http://youtu.be/QN4HFaOPMy0

 

Bob Michel

Near Philly

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Jody will remember singing along to "Canadeeio" with Nic Jones, as it was played by a young guitarist in my local pub the Drake Manor.I've just waved to Nic as he walked his dogs past my front door !(Jody - I thiunk you may even have a photo I took of this event ?)

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Amongst my very old collection of LPs are a couple of Russian made discs of two very impressive USSR solo balalaika players, Pavel Netcheporenko ( classical ) and Boris Feoktistov ( folk ). Fabulous stuff. I guess some of these performances can be found somewhere on the Internet.....and they did it all with only three strings !

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Thank you all for passing on these amazing performances. Jaw dropping! I've really enjoyed listening to them.

 

How about another round? Let me start with one of my favorites, and I have performed this on solo concertina... by guitarist Mississippi Fred McDowell...

 

Get Right Church and Let's Go Home.

 

This is a classic gospel song recorded by many. Fred McDowell on solo guitar and vocals manages to get the whole band implied in a way that is not flashy or technical but rather stripping the song down to its basics. Talk about basic, this song has only one chord.

 

Two performances of the same song here for your enjoyment and inspiration:

 

March 8, 1969 At The Mayfair Hotel In London, England

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMLNmv28N-Y

 

November 5, 1971, Live at the Gaslight

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuzXMrRdZS0

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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Leo Kottke comes to mind. He uses unconventional tunings to play bass and lead on many of his songs, like Pamela Brown https://youtu.be/SxzhzRh7hp8

 

I wonder if Leo thinks of that as trying to do the work of a "band". I know I don't. To me it's just one of the many natural ways to use a guitar. Similarly for those who play a piano with independent parts -- or even styles -- in the two hands: I doubt that they think of it as resembling a band or even resembling two instruments, but I suspect that they simply consider it to be playing a piano.

 

Jody, would you care to comment on how that does or doesn't relate to the concept you raised?

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There was a fellow on the contra dance circuit in upstate NY and Pennsylvania in the late 70s/early 80s who played dances solo on hammered dulcimer - and called at the same time (and drank Jim Beam from the bottle while doing both). He was fantastic - focusing on just rhythm as he called, then adding melody lines when the dancers got it. Wish I could remember his name to see if there are any videos of him performing this magic.

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Leo Kottke comes to mind. He uses unconventional tunings to play bass and lead on many of his songs, like Pamela Brown https://youtu.be/SxzhzRh7hp8

 

I wonder if Leo thinks of that as trying to do the work of a "band". I know I don't. To me it's just one of the many natural ways to use a guitar. Similarly for those who play a piano with independent parts -- or even styles -- in the two hands: I doubt that they think of it as resembling a band or even resembling two instruments, but I suspect that they simply consider it to be playing a piano.

 

Jody, would you care to comment on how that does or doesn't relate to the concept you raised?

 

Well, that's an interesting question Jim. Ultimately I'm interested in expanding my own concertina playing. Part of my process involves listening to how other instruments solve the puzzle of how to get a solo instrument to play polyphonic music, that is to play melody and accompaniment at the same time. So thank you all for your listening suggestions.

The Stanley Jordan "Over the Rainbow" clip was just amazing. Yes he does sound like two guitars rather than a band, but no matter. In this one he is emulating an entire orchestra. I love how he is not just displaying extraordinary technique, but getting to the heart of the music with such sensitivity.

Stanley Jordan - "Piano Concerto 21" by Mozart

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-m2haPvoHk

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