April on Round Window Radio

Here are the liner notes that accompany the April 2018 release on Round Window RadioSubscribe for a mere $3 and hear this music, and 28 other new tunes. 

Paddy Cronin's Beauty / Man of the House / Guns of the Magnificent 7

Here is a set of tunes I put together for the session with Jon Sousa and Adam Agee. I found “Paddy Cronin’s Beauty” on the beautiful album “Deadly Buzz” by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Mick O'Brien. The other two I learned from Jon and Adam. Once again the Valley of the Moon camp has brought me back around to loving this music in a whole new way. 

For the uninitiated, musicians will play Irish tunes in sets, such as this month’s release. Each tune is performed three times. Usually, fiddlers will not know any of the chords, and sometimes not even the name of the tune. It is just a shared melody. The typical accompaniment is a guitarist in DADGAD tuning. With no other harmony instrument, the guitarist has the freedom to play all kinds of substitutions. If you listen to Jon’s playing on “Guns,” he changes on each time through the form creating all sorts of harmonic surprises. This tune is a 3-part tune that is a bit crooked in the C-part. The first time through he plays the chords one expected, but then by the second time A-part he changes things giving it an entirely new flavor for those 10 seconds. He also syncopates the rhythm of the chords on the C-part, creating an unexpected lilt. By the 3rd time through “Gun” we are careening towards the end of the set, and he saves some unexpected chords for the turn around in the last A-part, and a fresh rhythmic idea through the B-part. All this variation alleviates the monotony of hearing the same tune three times in a row. 

Jon and Adam’s album is fantastic. And they have a new one coming out this month. 

Deadly Buzz is available here: 

And for more on DADGAD guitar, dig this set of tunes by the indomitable fiddler Liz Carroll. Watch John Doyle through this clip. He shreds the groove. ¡Increíble! 

Jake Schepps: banjo
Adam Agee: fiddle/foot percussion
Jon Sousa: guitar

Traditional Irish except “Guns” by Fintan McManus

Produced and arranged by Jake Schepps
Recorded May 11, 2017 at eTown Studio, Boulder CO
Engineered by James Tuttle
Mixed by Justin Peacock
Artwork by Duncan Burke

    Announcing the Banjo Summit

    I am proud to announce a new progressive banjo camp The Banjo Summit will be held at The Music District in Fort Collins on May 11-13, 2018.   This 3-day banjo workshop is aimed at teaching banjo players techniques to take them beyond bluegrass and expand their expertise with the instrument. 

    Faculty includes Jayme Stone, Wesley Corbett, Catherine "BB" Bowness, Ben Krakauer, myself, and resident guitarist Ross Martin. 

    Click here below to learn more and enroll. 

    And Bluegrass Today wrote a great article about the camp.  

    The Details of RockyGrass

    Here is my review and comments on the always awesome 2017 RockyGrass Festival.  There was so much to take in, and a few artists that I missed as I got to play an impromptu set on the Wildflower Pavillion stage with Chris Luquette and a host of other young shredding contest winners.  Super fun.

    Also, on a separate note, here is the video from my performance at Kaufman Kamp with an amazing band of guitarist Tim May, mandolinist Tim Connell, and legendary Todd Phillips on bass.  

    Round Window on Spotify

    I have certainly complained about the evils of Spotify in the past, and I still believe their business model of not fairly compensating musicians is truly atrocious.  Yet free streaming music is becoming the norm, and viable revenue streams for artists are more and more challenging.   I decided to put some of the Round Window Radio goodies there for your perusal.  

    You can support the creation of this music and much more for a measly $3/month at Round Window Radio.  Your subscription dollars go directly towards supporting fine acoustic musicians, and you when you subscribe you immediately get access to the entire Round Window catalog, sheet music, banjo tablature, and more.    

    Free download of Bartók's "Romanian Christmas Songs"

    Given the season I thought repackaging it with the original field recordings and sheet music. This was recorded during the final session for the Bartók album back in 2010, and was an interesting challenge to get it together.  Download it here.  Or listen below.

    Like much of Bartók’s folk-based works, each of these shorts offer and incredible world of counterpoint and adventurous harmonic decisions. Check out #4 (starting at 1:17). As simple as this sounds, this duet with guitarist Grant Gordy is remarkably challenging. As you can see in the score, there is a fair bit of mixed meter (changing time-signatures), and the sparse setting leaves no room for any errors, excess noise (which can be tough to avoid on banjo). And comparing the basic melody Bartók collected (track #5) to these 25 seconds of beauty is a window into Bartók’s genius. Truthfully each comparison should deepen one's respect for Bartók. And the grand finale with that mandolin tremolo makes me still smile every time I hear it. 

    (here is a performance the original piano version:www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PXQhWtPg2k)

    Upcoming Round Window Revue shows

    I am playing a couple of very special concerts next month.  With an intrepid group of musicians, we will be playing the music from Round Window Radio. The evening features two bands. The first half is focused on Brazil, playing mostly choro music, with a bit of baião and Tchaikovsky thrown into the mix — Bill Kopper (7-string guitar), Carl Dixon (pandeiro), Enion Pelta-Tiller (violin), and myselfon banjo. The second half's group is disguised as a bluegrass band, playing original works, Béla Bartók, Marc Mellits, Erik Satie and more — Mike Robinson (guitar), Andrew Ryan (bass),  and Enion Pelta-Tiller (fiddle).  Get your tickets now.  

    Friday, November 4, 2016, 7:30pm
    Harmony House
    Boulder, Colorado

    Sunday, November 6, 2016, 7pm
    Dazzle Jazz
    Denver, CO

    New Brazilian choro track

    Here is a free download from Round Window Radio, the classic choro "Diabinho Maluco."


    And here are the "liner notes" included with the release on Round Window.  

    Choro music is hip, fun, and virtuosic music from Brazil developed in the late 19th century. It is traditionally played in small ensembles with mandolin (or bandolim), clarinet, flute, guitar, and percussion (typically pandeiro). The word “choro” in Portuguese literally means, "to cry," which seems like an ironic name for music that is often joyous and celebratory (maybe think of how Benny Goodman “wails”). It is considered an “urban folk” music, coming from cities as opposed to rural or isolated communities. This urban influence results in more extended chordal harmony and longer, more complicated forms (often in “rondo” form which is AABBACCA). Learning choro is a lifetime endeavor, just as it is to play bluegrass, Irish, or any other folk idiom. 

    This month’s release is “Diabinho Maluco,” was penned by the late great Jacob do Bandolim, one of the legends of choro. I was first turned on to Jacob when in 1993 Acoustic Disc (David Grisman’s label) released two cd’s of his music. I loved it from the beginning, yet had no idea what was going on musically. As I have dug deeper into this music, I have learned that the level of detail in the groove is simply astonishing. There are several grooves that people use (the choro, the samba, the anticipated samba, maxixe, the tango Brasileiro rhythm and many more). Accompanying these tunes in an authentic Brazilian way offers an array of challenges for the 5-string banjo, not to mention any gringo no growing up with samba coming out of the woodwork.

    This track comes from a recording session on December 11, 2015. Bill Kopper is playing 7-string guitar (with a low B), which traditionally covers bass lines and the harmony. Carl Dixon is an incredible percussionist who has devoured the Brazilian tradition. He leads Bateria Alegria, a percussion ensemble here in Boulder, Colorado. Here Carl plays pandeiro, the traditional choro percussion instrument. Enion is playing her 5-string fiddle, which covers the range of a fiddle and a viola. I am grateful to have worked with Enion over so many years, from the Bartók project to the “Entwined” classical commissions, and now at Round Window Radio. 

    For me, I have a constant goal as a musician to work towards broader musical understanding and towards the creation of a more vibrant musical culture. To that end, attempting to synthesize musical repertories of various kinds from all over the world is one step. Choro offers all of this and more. Enjoy.

    Round Window Sampler

    Head on over to Bandcamp to get a preview of all the music that has been featured on Round Window Radio thus far, and some previews of tracks to come.  



    Tracks sampled include: 
    "Shitkicker Baiao" by Bill Kopper
    "The Oquirrh Ridge Drifter" by Matt Flinner
    "Banjerous Liaisons" by Eric Thorin
    "Fantasia No. 1" by Henry Purcell
    "Diabinho Maluco" bu Jacob do Bandolim
    "Flower Myth" by Jake Schepps
    "Farewell Blues" by Mares, Roppolo & Schoebel (but like the Scruggs version)
    "October" by Pyotr Tchaikovsky

    Artistis include Matt Flinner, Scott Nygaard, Grant Gordy, Ross Martin, Bill Kopper, Eric Thorin, Sam Bevan, Carl Dixon, Enion Pelta-Tiller, Alisa Rose, and Jake Schepps.

    Announcing Round Window Radio

     Round Window Radio is a music subscription series seen through the prism of the 5-string banjo.

    When you join as a subscriber, here is what you receive (for less than the price of a latte per month): 

    An exclusive monthly download (or stream) of an eclectic and unique music track recorded with Jake Schepps and a wide spectrum of collaborators (such as Darol Anger, Matt Flinner, Grant Gordy, Scott Nygaard, Noam Pikelny, Ross Martin, Tony Trischka, and many non-stringband musicians too). These recordings will cover lots of musical territory (think bluegrass, newgrass, Brazilian choro, jazz, classical, and much more).

    Sheet music and/or banjo tablature for every recording posted each month.

    Articles about the music, the composer, creative process, and other facets of what you are hearing (think detailed liner notes).

    Podcast-style interviews with the musicians recording for Round Window Radio. 

    The knowledge that most of your subscription dollars are paid directly to these collaborating musicians.  In this age of free music streaming services and a dying CD market, Round Window Radio endeavors to support these wildly talented and creative musicians, and in the process create lots of music for you to enjoy (think crowd-funded patronage of the arts).

    A custom minted coin or a Round Window Radio t-shirts at higher subscription levels (see below)

    Other surprise exclusives along the way for subscribers only.

    “It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, and I know of no substitute for the force and beauty of its process.” -Henry James

    “New research demonstrates that spending money on others provides a bigger happiness boost than spending money on oneself.  When prosocial* spending is done right—when it feels like a choice, when it connects with others, and when it makes a clear impact—even small gifts can increase happiness, potentially spurring a domino effect of generosity.” - UJ Ramdas, Intelligent Change

    The above quote essentially constitute the Round Window Radio mission statement.  

    Thank you so much for your support!

    *Prosocial: voluntary behavior intended to benefit another.

    New Posts at Round Window Radio

    Lots of happenings at Round Window Radio:

    Podcast #1 is live today, and is an interview with mandolinist, composer and frequent collaborator Matt Flinner. We talk about his new album"Traveling Roots" and the Music du Jour project, writing "Migrations" for the "Entwined" album, composing, and much more.

    February's track is a piece by Matt Flinner called "The Oquirrh Ridge Drifter" (here we are playing it live on YouTube) from the Matt Flinner Trio's “Music du Jour” book. At Jake Schepps Quintet shows I like to feature everyone’s compositional skills alongside the classical composers. I asked Matt for a tune to fill out our set to which he pulled out “The Oquirrh Ridge Drifter.” This tune is beautiful on so many levels: it has a compelling and sparse melody, a curiously offset bass line, a very different form than most bluegrass tunes (albeit not terribly difficult to grasp), and an incredibly fun chord progression for soloing. All that and more from one of the many tunes Matt has churned out the day of a show. 

    January's post a classic Brazilian choro "Diabinho Maluco" recorded with Enion Pelta Tiller (violin), Bill Kopper (7-string guitar), and Carl Dixon (pandeiro).  We recorded more tunes on that session, including a Tchaikovsky piano work and a baiao by Mr. Kopper (here is a version played by the indomitable Dudu Maia and Douglas Lora).  

    All of this and more is available to subscribers, and for the price of one latte a month you should join the fun at www.RoundWindowRadio.com.  



      "Entwined" named Favorite Classical Release of 2015

      The good people over at Colorado Public Radio have named "Entwined" one of the best classical albums of 2015.  Read all about it here.   To be named alongside Roomful of Teeth and John Adams is an incredible honor.  And so many other cool records on there to check out:  John Luther Adams sublime string quartet and eighth blackbird's rendition of Bryce Dessner's "Murder Ballads"

      World Premiere of "Stumble Smooth" in July

      The amazing Gyan Riley has a week-long residency at John Zorn's legendary club The Stone in New York City this summer, and he has asked me to put together a special incarnation of the Quintet for the world premiere of his composition Stumble Smooth.   We obviously worked it up for the recording, but this will be the first time we have performed this burly work.   On July 8 at 8pm, come check this band for a one-off show, including Gyan on guitar, David Goldenberg on mandolin, Jarel Engel on bass, and Enion Pelta-Tiller on violin,  

      Bandcamp and iTunes

      The album is now available for pre-order at Bandcamp and iTunes.  Both places include the liner notes, but only Bandcamp includes a crazy bonus track written by yours truly, custom artwork for each suite (see the cover for Flatiron below), and lots more love.  In this day and age of much lamenting over the demise of the music business, Bandcamp is part of the solution. The artists are selling straight to their audience, and it offers a deeper level of interaction than the likes of Amazon or iTunes.