Darol Anger - violin
Mike Block - cello
Ron Cody - 5 string banjo
Wendy Cody - upright bass
Gary Gemmiti - drums
Heather Masse - vocals (4, 10)
Frank Varela - guitar
Jed Wilson - piano (3, 4)
Recorded at The Studio, Portland Maine
Engineered by Steve Drown
Mixed by Steve Drown and Ron Cody
Mastered by Adam Ayan Gateway Mastering Studio, Portland Maine
Produced and arranged by Ron Cody except Manhattan Serenade and Look of Love arranged by
Jed Wilson and Ron Cody
Photography by Amanda Kowalski
Art direction and design by Keith Kavanaugh, BauWau Design
FROM THE LINER NOTES:
There is a famous jazz fusion band called Return to Forever, but the CD you’re holding in your hand might easily be called Return to Sanity. So much music nowadays has been corrupted by the worst excesses of the modern world: rampant commercialization, soulless mechanistic production, and toxic content. But the music that banjo player Ron Cody and friends have given us signals a return to core musical and human values. It’s deeply sane, and deeply human. This album falls squarely in the category of folk-jazz. That is, the repertoire and approach to improvisation is clearly jazz, in the sense that the musicians improvise on songs from the Great American Songbook, and other tunes with similar forms and rich harmonies. It’s folk music in the sense that it is regional music, made among friends. It just so happens that the region Ron Cody lives in (Portland, Maine) has become a real epicenter for the beautiful and thriving string band tradition. What you have here is a mixed group of musicians, among them some of the finest professional players and singers in America, but also other fine musicians who make their livings doing other things. What brings this wide range of fine people together is a love of music, a love of community, and the desire to play beautiful tunes with loving care. In a sense, this hearkens back to the beginning of the twentieth century, in which a common form of entertainment was to sit around the family piano with the latest sheet music, singing and playing songs of the day. The folks on this recording either make Portland Maine their home, or have a strong connection to that area.
Along with others in this stellar group is vocalist Heather Masse, who many people have heard through her repeated appearances on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. Playing fiddle throughout is the kindly and wise titan of the violin, Darol Anger. And located centrally we have the great banjo playing of Ron Cody… listen to the beautiful chord melody statement on A Sleepin’ Bee… shades of George Van Epps! No other banjo player is playing with such nice voice-leading! Check out Paper Moon – this is a whole album of sweetly swinging stuff.
The choice of repertoire overall is clever and cunning. Ron is a devotee of great tunes… have you ever heard a banjo play The Look of Love? Tangerine, Robbins Nest, and the other chestnuts from the Swing Era represented here establish a connection between jazz and folk music through the song. The jazz I love most remains song based, and the music here retains is emotional core through its devotion to the song. We can hope that this beautiful CD signals a return to sanity for musicians everywhere. We can all take a cue from a group of friends sitting together in Portland Maine, playing and swinging on a group of lovely melodies. I personally can think of no better way to while away the hours while here on planet Earth.
– Matt Glaser, Artistic Director
American Roots Music Program
Berklee College of Music
I first met Ron Cody when he invited me to participate in a banjo workshop in Portland, Maine along with the legendary Bill Keith. His appetite for musical knowledge is inspiring and I quickly identified with him as a like-minded banjo player. We share a similar pursuit as banjoists trying to assimilate broad concepts and a diversity of styles. I was impressed with Ron’s quest to play 30’s and 40’s Jazz on 5-String Banjo, and wasn’t the least bit surprised that his acquisition of a holy-grail 1930’s Gibson Mastertone banjo only intensified this pursuit and helped bring this recording into focus. It’s a rare opportunity to hear the classic 30’s-40’s repertoire with the 5-string banjo as a the featured instrument. Ron plays tonefully, with an elegant touch that is well-supported by the wonderful cast of musicians generously featured throughout the record. Heather Masse’s vocals provide beautiful contrast to the instrumental pieces, while Ron’s original compositions provide nice balance to the classic Jazz repertoire and keep the album from becoming a period piece. In music, it’s crucial for one’s personality to emerge out of the stream of notes, and Ron succeeds wholly on this front. Like Ron, this music is very warm and inviting.
– Noam Pikelny
Compass Records recording artist