One simply cannot talk about people of importance to this genre without tipping the hat to the most masterful musician, teacher, musicologist, producer, folklorist and preservationist of the traditional blues. By now, Stefan Grossman is a venerated, iconoclastic and respected acoustic blues figure of mega-proportions. He came out of the vibrant Greenwich Village, New York, 1960s scene around Washington Square, where so many American folk and blues musicians launched their careers. His friend and occasional collaborator, Steve Katz, formerly of the Even Dozen Jug Band, the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears, once half jokingly told this writer: “There we were, all these New York Jews playing the black blues.” Indeed, the blues had a strong influence on young New Yorkers during the folk revival. These musicians, Stefan Grossman, Happy & Artie Traum, Danny Kalb, and many others, in turn had a powerful influence on the acceptance of the blues by the American baby boomer generation at large; and, they significantly helped to launch the folk, roots & blues revival, thereby reinvigorating the careers of many original blues musicians whose careers had waned.
Many people know Stefan Grossman as the paramount teacher and entrepreneur in what has become the world’s largest “blues school”, Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop. He is one of the most skilled guitarists in the genre, having been a student of Rev. Gary Davis in New York City. He also picked up lessons directly from Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and others.
In this double DVD set, I teach a wide array of folk blues arrangements. You will study playing in various tunings, i.e. Standard, Dropped D, DADGAD, Open D and Open C tunings. The songs range from popular blues and rags to old-time mountain ballads. All are taught phrase by phrase and the movements of both the left and right hands are clearly illustrated on the split screens.
As an extra bonus, original old recordings from the 1920s and 1930s are included so that you can hear the roots from where these tunes derived.
Disc One: Corrina Corrina, How Long Blues, Rag Mama, Piccolo Rag, Betty and Dupree
Disc Two: Blues For Mississippi John Hurt, Little Sadie, St. Louis Blues, Sweet Sunny South, Sitting On Top Of The World, House Carpenter, One Kind Favor
177 minutes • level 2/3 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on each DVD
Review: An absolute must. Not every master bluesman is a master teacher. Some of the greatest guitar work played by an artist is not always easy to communicate to the student. Stefan Grossman, world class acoustic blues player is a gifted teacher. This two-DVD set rivals ANYTHING he has put out. The quality is superb.
For the late beginner, and intermediate guitarist, there is much to glean from. Grossman begins with a terrific song, though not too challenging, and follows the tried and proven path of teaching: line upon line, precept upon precept. As one song is tackled, the next is introduced, with a subtle increase in complexity. After a bit of climbing, Grossman normally takes a step back...1, 2, 3, 2, 3, and on to step 4. Why? As the student progresses, he is “rewarded” with a confidence building song. Where once a level 1 song was a challenge, by the time a more complex song is worked through slowly (say, step 3 song--my own labels---split screen, step by step), the student steps back and confidently nails down the level 2 song. This continues throughout both DVDs with a marvellous collection of wonderful songs. A great sidenote: these same songs are available on CDs or MP3 downloads here at Amazon or at Apple.com for your ipod. It is of great benefit to hear the master play these songs, in your car for instance, while you are learning them on guitar.
If Eric Clapton comes to the US and looks up Stefan Grossman to work through some songs, and CF Martin Guitar company releases a model guitar of Grossman's, you can well imagine the value of a 2 DVD set to a student. This DVD set will provide the student with MONTHS of “private” guitar lessons (not only do you have the split screen and slow down teaching but you have that wonderful tool that is not available to students with live teachers: the PAUSE button!) that simply put, could not be afforded by most of us even if you could get an hour with a teacher of Grossman's stature.
Another important aspect to Grossman's teaching: His demeanor. He is a humble man, self-effacing, funny, and wonderfully enthusiastic for the blues. He plays country blues, folk blues, and teaches open tunings, some slide, and even that wondeful, get up a dance blues: rag music.
He does not sing on these DVDs, though he has a nice bluesy voice, and makes the student feel as if it he made to be welcome in the presence of someone who has not been told that he is a master. His humility is refreshing, as he does not take himself too seriously.
Why do I mention this?
Simply put, you are going to “spend” many hours, over weeks and months “with” your teacher. If you do not like his personality, you will be hindered in your own personal growth. No funky “rock star” clothing, no weird hat, no distractive gaudy jewelry, nor anything else that takes away from this wonderful man's teaching. His “personality” is disarming, and his stories of having played with many greats (including when he was young taking lessons, or, for instance, his stories of meeting Mississippi John Hurt, are terrific additions).
This DVD may be his best. You are able to invite this humble and nice man into your living room, as do I, a few times per week, an hour at a time, for months, and learn, learn, and learn.
No matter what level you may be at, you will enjoy the DVDs of Grossman. If you are a very new beginner, please see some of the other Grossman DVD reviews here at Amazon. If you are pressing past the Intermediate stage (beyond me!), there is still much to glean here, and especially “Blues Solos” by Grossman. His company also offers many other excellent teachers, who, like Ernie Hawkins, will tackle a multitude of the works of Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Lemon Johnson, and so many other greats. The Grossmans, Traums, Hawkins, and others faithfully carry the mantle of the early bluesmen from the 1920's and 30's, to us today; and will likely pass the responsibility of teaching these great songs onto some of the younger artists; perhaps men like Pete Huttlinger, an award winning guitarist who also possesses the wonderful gift of teaching.
Enjoy your months of “personal” lessons with the masters! – Peter Hyatt/Amazon Customer Review