Welcome to Swing 220. My colleagues and I will examine some of the essential repertoire from this genre of indigenous American music. In our "discussions" you'll hear how tunes in this style become vehicles for improvisation, conversation, and expression. Our hope is that you'll also detect humor, pathos, and even "insights into the human condition." You may want to take notes, particularly some of those played by Professor Holloway and Mr. Jenkins. At some point, in lieu of a quiz, we'll have a jam session.
The impetus for this presentation arose decades ago. At home, playing and discussing jazz records served as the fabric of family connection. My own "professor," Jethro Burns, demonstrated time and again the vitality and relevance of this style of music and the roles of the mandolin and guitar in it. In fact, he played many of these very tunes --- for business and pleasure.
Looking back on more than 30 years of playing, I remember certain jam sessions as well or better than some of the concert gigs. One of them, the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas (early 1980's) was where I first thought of making this recording. Another was just a few years ago at Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp. My friend Butch Baldassari was showing me the ropes and we wound up at a dorm called "Carnegie Hall" to jam. There I met Jeff Jenkins, and invited him to play my show the next night. His playing had a great feeling that reminded me of the concept for a relaxed recording session that I had carried in my head for years. What really sealed the deal was when Jeff said, "There's this great bass player here in Knoxville and I think I could get him to come and play." Rusty did come, bringing not only his bass and well-traveled jazz pedigree, but a guiding spirit he expressed repeatedly throughout these sessions: "Let's just play!"
So here we are again, playing the tunes swing players love to bat around --- the prerequisite material for further study, if you will. Sure, there were microphones this time, as well as some intros and endings, but we did basically what we'd do if we got together in someone's living room. We took ideas spontaneously from the tunes and each other, followed Rusty's advice, and just played.
Don Stiernberg, 2010