Fifth Street Sessions
This album brings you into the musical worlds that can be accessed through those small, simple looking instruments that are displayed by the check-out counter of most music stores, the harmonica and penny whistle. The Northern Express described the Sessions as "an all-instrumental take on 12 traditional and jazz standard tunes, expertly played by a top-notch roster of local acoustic musicians." Harmonica and penny whistle player, Jim Bransky, and fiddler/bassist, Andy Rockwood, co-founded the legendary old time fiddle tune/blues/jazz ensemble, Road Kill Stew, in the late 1980's, and this recording carries on the no musical boundaries adventures of those early Road Kill Stew days. They are joined here by Mike Sullivan on guitar and Rick Jones on bodhran, both of Song of the Lakes fame, Traverse City's own ace performer and session man Pat Ivory on guitar, young percussion master Mike Parrish, and bassist Laura Miller, who along with Andy is known to Michigan audiences for her work with Fog Harbor. The CD was recorded at Sullivan Entertainment Studios, located in the old Fifth Street district of Traverse City. Mike Sullivan, along with much sought after sound engineer, Jan Whaling, recorded and mixed the tracks. The jazz tunes on this album, ranging from Gershwin to Coltrane, are all played on diatonic ten hole harmonicas (the standard blues style major scale harmonica where the player bends the reeds to get the chromatic notes, as opposed to a chromatic button harmonica). This enables Bransky to retain the rhythm and emotions of the blues harp through a wide range of material and styles, from Stormy Weather to Afro Blue. Rockwood, a master of many instruments and styles, moves effortlessly from laying down swinging bass lines to celtic and old time fiddling, with improvisational explorations where the spirit calls for it. Lady Be Good, Stormy Weather, and Mr. PC are performed with only bass and harmonica, and Afro Blue is performed as a harmonica/conga duet to showcase the depth of these instruments. Pat Ivory joins in on guitar for a swingin acoustic treatment of Ain't Misbehavin. The penny whistle played on this recording is handmade from wood and sterling by renowned flute maker, Chris Abell, which gives a new rich tone to this ancient instrument. With the exception of the cowbell in St Anne's Reel, there is no over-dubbing on this CD. From jazz to old time fiddle medleys to Celtic tunes with percussion and improvisation, this is unadulterated spontaneously created music to capture the uplifting spirit of the living room jam. What the reviewers are saying: Who knew learning could be this fun?!!! Reviewer: Aaron Allen These gifted musicians invite us on a journey from our living rooms to theirs, by way of some exhilarating stops along the rich history of American music. Like all great educators, their lessons inspire through a thrilling combination of freedom and discipline that weaves an emotional tapestry that is energized, intimate, familiar, and fresh. And that's just the first track... Thoroughly original and enjoyable: Mind and high-note bending! Reviewer: Beantown Bluesman Wow: This is a mini-history of American roots music delivered with a refreshing blend of originality and spunk that you don't find on major labels. For the jazz lover, there are several diatonic renditions of classics from Mingus, Coltrane and others that you will not find anywhere else. Afro Blue on a ten hole don't get any better than this. I give this album a resounding two thumbs and two big toes up! Filled with energy and drive from the heart of Americana, from whaling ship to C Reviewer: Mount Tom Music Bransky and Rockwood pull new delights from old chestnuts. This CD is filled with energy and drive from the heart of Americana, from jigs to whaling ships to Afro Blue and beyond. The acoustic instrumentation will fill you with joy and get your toes tapping too. We don't have enough harp/bass, whistle/guitar/fiddle, and all the other great combinations on this disc. Stirring music for anytime and anywhere, even if you're stuck on some lonesome midnight highway trying to hitchhike your way back home.