Grego - psaltery and tabor pipe, Stan Poplin - upright bass, Armando Mafufo - Middle Eastern percussion, Dave Miles - Renaissance percussion, Barry Phillips - tabla, Steve Robertson - drum set, congas udu drum
Grego "...takes this narrow range of sounds ...and does a nice job of expanding on it." --Dirty Linen
The violin had it's Paganini, the sax it's Coltrane, and electric guitar it's Hendrix. For the psaltery, meet Grego. Medieval Sephardic and Chinese traditional tunes, a humorous quasi-celtic romp, and Indo-Arabic tinged jazzified audio dreams are some of what you'll find on the mostly original menu here.
A "psaltery" is a kind of zither. Rooted in ancient Persia, similar instruments evolved as they passed through Middle Eastern cultures on their way to medieval Europe. Plucked and hammered zithers include autoharps and dulcimers, which developed into the modern piano. From this family, the "bowed psaltery" was created in early 20th century Germany, and quickly came to America from there. Neither plucked or struck, it's played with a bow, or sometimes two bows. Potentially quite versatile, it's typically used for simple folky melodies. Until now.
The psalteries used in this recording have been re-configured to facilitate harp-like picking simultaneously with single and double bowing. The "tabor pipe" is a medieval three-holed flute played with one hand, normally leaving the other hand free to beat a drum. Here a psaltery replaces the drum. Thus the simultaneous pipe/plucked psaltery parts and bowed/plucked psaltery parts on this album represent a live solo performance style. Electronic effects were used on percussion during a short scene in the middle of Phoenix Moon. All other sounds are the natural voices of acoustic instruments. The album begins it's explorations of the sonic potential of these instruments by seducing the imagination with subtlety and tonal nuance. From there, episodes of fun, romance, meditative spaces, and dark, extravagant passion allow you to forget the sparkling technique that produce them, losing yourself in a journey that leaves you with a sigh of afterglow.
P.S. ~ Going from unusual to downright surreal, the psaltery has been turned into a Dreambird puppet named Mazja. The small album cover picture on this page hardly does her justice. You may want to visit Grego's website, where you can see video of the world's smallest one-man-band in action.