The Anglo concertina is a little antique squeeze box with a big voice. It can play high and lonely or deep and spiritual, but its rhythmic power is in cutting loose with foot stomping fiddle tunes that make you want to dance all night. The Anglo concertina is like having six harmonicas in your hands. You can play as many notes as you have fingers and pump out a dance rhythm with the bellows, much the way a fiddle player uses the bow. You can hear all this and more on my solo CD, Naked Concertina.
When I moved to New York City 20+ years ago I was lucky to find a vital dance community flourishing here. I joined the Greenwich Morris men and when I wasn’t dancing beetle crushers and half gips I learned the English Fieldtown and sword dance tunes that work so well on the Anglo. On Saturday nights, I danced contras and squares in a church basement on 7th Avenue and soon joined the contra dance band Grand Picnic (you can get our CD right here at cdbaby.com/cd/grandpicnic).
With two fiddlers to learn from, I found myself playing New England, Quebecois, Irish and lots of old time southern fiddle tunes at breakneck speeds for sweaty dancers all over the NYC area and beyond.
It didn’t take me long to start writing my own dance tunes, but it did take awhile to get my band to play them at dances. If I came up with a tune that didn’t feel right on the fiddle, that didn’t make the dancers shout, then it just didn’t get played. A few times I got it right though, and after getting a mandolin and learning more about the traditional styles we played, my percentage improved.
20 years later, Grand Picnic is still playing dances and I’m still writing contra dance tunes. I took the best of the bunch and published 50 of them under the title Feet in the Clouds. Many of these tunes really need a band to do them justice, but the ones I’ve recorded here work very well for solo concertina playing melody, high harmony, bass notes and full accompaniment all at once. That’s why the title is Naked Concertina. I wanted to show what this little hand held orchestra could do, completely exposed, all on its own, without a band to cover it up.
I fell in love with the Anglo concertina in 1980. My brother Tom let me try his and I was hooked. Both of us were influenced by the English harmonic playing style of William Kimber (1872-1961). These tunes, however, have an American flavor and have been played at hundreds of contra dances across the US with my bands Grand Picnic and Squeezology. Although these are surely concertina tunes, I took care to make them fiddle-friendly and fun to dance to.
My Anglo playing is harmonic. For the most part, my right hand plays the melody and my left hand plays the accompaniment. By adjusting the balance on your stereo you can hear what each hand is up to. On half the tunes I’m playing a G/D 38 button Jefferies Anglo concertina, circa 1895. The other half features a G/D 40 button Dipper made in 1995.
For these tunes and 29 more, printed in black and white, get my tune book “Feet in the Clouds” by emailing me directly. The email link is on the left sidebar.
- RECOMMENDATIONS -
Jody’s tunes have that kind of ear-worm roll around in your head rememberability that make them sound like the greatest hits of dance tunes from the past - which means they’ll probably be among the greatest hits of the future.
- Ted Crane
STILL--I have your wonderful playing, playing vividly in my mind. Believe me when I say that not in years have I enjoyed a live performance of any music--ANY MUSIC--as much as I did your presentation last Friday.
(Jody Kruskal)... exudes an ecstatic exuberance as he commands/cajoles/caresses his concertina with energy found from the inmost part of his soul, his physical breath transmitted to the very reed itself.
Your dances had lilt, elegance, delight, grace, zest, and were so
buoyant that their clarion call brought the audience to the art of
- David Cannata
Vigorously animated -- a real inspiration.
- Allen Watsky
Your audience is so enthralled they do not notice anything but you, your music, and the joyful environment you create. Your performance was a delight.
- Allison Day
Jody Kruskal is a genius with an amazing style on Anglo.
- Craig Hollingsworth
Your music and delivery is so blessedly joyous.
- Stewart Dean
...verve and energy... a very enjoyable recording.
- Dan Worral
His own compositions are interesting, complex tunes, written for the concertina; every one I've learned has been a joy to play.
- Jim Besser
I just want to say how much I'm enjoying this cd! Great variety of moods, fun selections (great titles!) outstanding playing. It's been in my car for 3 days and I'm going to have to pry it out of there so I can listen at home this weekend without the hum of the snow tires as accompaniment. Thanks, Jody, for this great addition to my concertina listening library!
- Allison Aldrich