Thursday, October 24, 2013

Don Stiernberg: Swing 220

Swing 220: Second to none 
Mandoline performances of swing standards
Jørgen Larsen
In American music tradition the mandolin generally is considered a 'folk' instrument designated for musicians excelling in country music and especially a branch of this comercially successfull genre usually labeled as 'bluegrass'. The bluegrass genre was established as a successfull acoustic stringband music by leading figures in the movement like mandolinist and singer Bill Monroe from the late 1940s and on. The bluegrass pioneers, like Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys, obtained national attention at Nashville's Grand Old Opry and was soon a part of Nashville's popular country music industry that distributed records and live performance at Grand Old Opry through radio and TV broadcasts to large parts of the US.  

Jethro Burns
Another leading mandolinist with roots in country music was Jethro Burns (1920-1989), who obtained fame as a radio-star in the Homer & Jethro comic duo-act and further developed and included a jazz approach to playing his instrument. According to info in the Wikipedia profile, "Burns was a highly-influential mandolin stylist, preferring clean single-note jazzy melodies and sophisticated chords over the dominant bluegrass stylings of Bill Monroe, and since he performed mostly in a country music setting, introduced many country mandolinists to sophisticated jazz harmonies and improvisational techniques, as well as standards from the songbooks of Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt and Cole Porter". From a live-TV performance, here is a fragment of Jethro Burns playing a jazz-standard, "The Lady is a Tramp".

The other accompanying mandolinist in the video fragment above is Don Stiernberg, a Chicago based musician and a protegé of Jethro Burns. Don Stiernberg co-produced Burns' last recordings for the Acoustic Disc label and participated as a member of Burns quartet. Stiernberg developed his own playing style on mandolin learning from Burns, here's an example of a solo-act performance of the jazz classic "Night And Day".

You may find more info on Don Stiernberg's career at his official website  including discography and reviews.

Don Stiernberg ( source:

In 2010 Stiernberg recorded the CD 'Swing 220' for the Blue Night Records label . He is accompanied by guitarist Jeff Jenkins and bassist Rusty Holloway in a trio setting that performs fourteen tracks of swing standards, execellently executed. The title of the CD includes the acronym '220', which is internet-slang for the phrase 'Second to none'.

Don Stiernberg: Swing 220 (Blue Night Records)

As mentioned, the CD repertoire are swing-standards like "Topsy", “Night and Day,” “All of Me,” “Pennies From Heaven,” “Lady Be Good,” “Stardust,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “How High the Moon,” “Limehouse Blues,” a.o.

 The arrangements are by Stiernberg, who plays the lead melody on all tracks and they begin with a statement of the melody then the trio races off with solos for all. Stiernberg doubles on rhythm guitar in a handful of the tracks, but all guitar solos are played delightfully by Jeff Jenkins. The double bass solos by Rusty Holloway are delicate spots and his rhythm playing is solid as a rock. Stiernberg shines in elaborate and well excecuted solo improvisations of the melody keeping the standard of swing music as it should be performed. Here's the opening tune, "Topsy", from a live-performance by the trio.

The music on the Swing 220 CD is a fresh and alternative contribution to contemporary performance of swing jazz standards most often played by horns, the trio's skillful performance of the chosen repertoire underlines that an all-strings acoustic trio is able to blow fresh air into a classic jazz standard book of wellknown tunes, highly recommended. Enjoy another live-performance of the trio, the closing theme of the CD "After You've Gone".

The CD can be ordered at the Amazon website and CDBaby, to list some.
Get it, if you are a fan of great swing music and magnificent work by a string jazz trio!
Follow the Keep (it) Swinging blog at Facebook ( Keep it Swinging) or Twitter ( #keepitswinging) and ask its free newsletter.

In American music tradition the mandolin generally is considered a 'folk' instrument designated for musicians excelling in country music and especially a branch of this commercially successfull genre usually labeled as 'bluegrass'. Dan Stiernberg, however, prooverd that the instrument is also suitable for he swing idiom and released with his trio a few years ago a great album with jazz standards, thatshould be recommended, entitled Swing 220.

Keep Swinging (old) Oscar Aleman Choro Music Flexible Records Hit of the Week-Durium Friends of the Keep Swinging blog Keep Swinging Contributions

No comments:

Post a Comment