Mozart-of-the-banjo-aaron-jonah-lewisAARON JONAH LEWIS

Old Time Tiki Parlour

The level of banjo playing here is phenomenal. While some bluegrass banjo players try to tackle classical music on the banjo, this project exudes it. This is a tribute to Joe Morley, a composer of classic banjo pieces, a style that was prevalent among the middle and upper-middle classes with men and women during the later part of the nineteenth century and in to the twentieth. Morley is compared to Mozart for some compelling reasons. Both were child prodigies that died penniless.

The American Banjo Fraternity is a group that has long held the few players of this style together. Greg Adams may be one of the most influential exponents of this style. Lewis gives him kudos here for his guidance. While the music is not classical in quite the same sense as Mozart’s, Morley’s compositions tend to sound similar and present a good deal of challenge to those who think they are up for it. Lewis is up to it. His accompanists include Tessa Hartle on piano, Rachel Pearson on bass, and Ben Belcher on second banjo on “Freckles.” All are up to the task as well.

Many of the pieces on this project have a light classical feel to them. The banjo style here is that of fingerstyle or “classic” (nylon/gut strung) banjo, tracing a direct link back to the earliest professional banjoists. To tie this to more modern banjo, these players highly influenced Charlie Poole, and Uncle Dave Macon demonstrated an awareness of this style of playing on his many recordings.

This music is from another era. This music is a precursor to ragtime, and we know where that led. Just listen to “Clematis Waltz.” It may remind some of the music on a merry-go-round—another relic from that bygone era. Interspersing the pieces are demonstrations of exercises written by Morley to help the banjoist learn and eventually be able to execute these demanding pieces. This recording is recommended to all serious students of the banjo.(www.oldtimetikiparlour.com)RCB

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