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.
“I first met Stefan Grossman in the States years ago and we became extremely good friends. Personally, I have learned a great deal from him. Let's face it, he needs very little introduction from me as a blues artist, discographer and connoisseur in blues.” – Eric Clapton
“Stefan Grossman has done just about everything one can do in the field of music. He has been, among other things, a performer, a recording artist, a record company founder, a video producer, a literary agent, a writer, an A&R man, a concert promoter, a booking agent, a record producer, a student, a teacher, and a music historian. But it is his success in illuminating classic and contemporary country blues, ragtime, and other fingerstyle guitar techniques that has made him, in the words of guitarist Dave Van Ronk, ‘one of the most important people in fingerpicking guitar in the history of the phenomenon.’” – Acoustic Guitar
“Grossman in particular, has been responsible almost single-handedly for maintaining and enriching the tradition of folk guitar playing. He has made himself master of countless traditional blues, folk and ragtime styles.” – Music Week
Guitarist, educator and historian Stefan Grossman was a student of acoustic blues and gospel singer/guitarist Rev. Gary Davis. Beginning when he was 15, Stefan studied with Davis on weekends, spending eight to ten hours at his house in Harlem, absorbing all he could. While studying with Rev. Davis he met and studied with other country blues guitarists: Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, Mance Lipscomb and Fred McDowell.
In the early 1960s, Stefan formed the Even Dozen Jug Band (which also included such future luminaries as John Sebastian, Steve Katz, Maria Muldaur and David Grisman). In 1966 he worked with the alternate rock band the Fugs before moving to Great Britain in 1967. In 1969, he co-founded Kicking Mule Records with Ed Denson, a label that showcased acoustic fingerstyle guitar. Many of these albums that Stefan produced during this period are finally being re-released on CD on his own label.
From 1967 to 1987, Grossman lived in Great Britain and Italy and toured worldwide. He performed and recorded with John Renbourn for 15 years and they produced four albums together.
Stefan's solo discography goes all the way back to 1966, when he recorded How to Play Blues Guitar with Rory Block (now released as Country Blues Guitar SGGW103). Since that time he has recorded over 30 solo albums and has written numerous books highlighting the playing of legendary bluesmen from the 1920s and 1930s.
Nowadays Stefan divides his time between the USA and England. He continues to do concerts and workshops worldwide and remains one of the world's foremost authorities on acoustic blues guitar.
This collection brings together performances from 1965 to today. He performs solo, with the Even Dozen Jog Band, with John Renbourn as well as Duck Baker. In between the music Stefan weaves together the story behind his playing.
A PDF booklet is included on the DVD. This details guitars used and recording dates as well as tab/music of many of the arrangements.
Titles include: Roll & Tumble Blues, High Society, God Moves On The Water, Shake Sugaree, Lena Anne, Dallas Rag, Friends Forever, Log Cabin Blues, Satisfied and Tickled Too, Special Rider Blues, You Got The Pocketbook I Got The Key, Candyman, Twelve Sticks, Memphis Jellyroll, Bermuda Triangle Exit, Danish Drone, Assassination of John Fahey, River of Jordan, Hot Dogs, Mississippi Blues, Cocaine Blues, Pretty Girl Milking A Cow, Tightrope, Medley: Vestapol/That’s No Way To Get Along, The Shoes Of The Fisherman’s Wife Are Some Jive Ass Slippers, Goodbye Porkpie Hat, Loopers Corner, Spirit Levels, ‘Round Midnight, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Glory of Love, Struttin’ Rag and Blues For The Mann
Running Time: 145 minutes
Review: Stefan Grossman, the owner of Vestapol Video, has been releasing a series of "The Guitar Artistry of..." videos for years. These videos present talented guitar players describing their career with performance footage of the musician (sometimes new, sometimes archival) inserted throughout the program. (Most run about 90 minutes). I've enjoyed the other volumes in this series (which has included David Bromberg and Bert Jansch for instance). Now, Grossman - a Brooklynite who started playing in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s and became a protege of the legendary Rev.Gary Davis - has turned the spotlight on himself for this new release. And it's about time! Grossman - who also releases videos of guitar lessons - is a great raconteur and tells some great stories during the 155 minute (that's over 2 1/2 hours!) program. We hear about Greenwich Village, his time with the Even Dozen Jug Band and his 20 years living in Britain and Europe. There are over 35 songs performed between his engaging monologues. These come from various times and places with BBC TV appearances from the 1970s, American TV performances from the 1960s to 1996. There's Grossman in Sweden in 1972 and 1974 and San Francisco in 1995. The performances are not chronological but you can tell the approximate year by the length of Grossman's hair. And, on a few of the performances Grossman is accompanied by John Renbourn of - among other groups - The Pentangle.
My only regret on the DVD is that the dates and locations of the performances are not displayed, even, briefly on the screen. For this info you need to put the DVD into your PC and open up the PDF of the companion booklet to find this info. It's there; it just takes some work. BUT, when you do open up that PDF file you are in for a big surprise - especially if you are a musician, which I'm not. The booklet is a whopping 87 pages (!) and not only has an essay about Grossman, and three pages on the performances, but there are the tablatures for all the songs. This guy believe in education and packs in a lot on this DVD.
If, like me, you can't play a lick (pun intended!), you'll still enjoy this DVD. Grossman's narrative is interesting and there are chapter stops so you can play just the performances on future viewing.
A great volume for anyone into acoustic guitar music. – Steve Ramm/Anything Phonographic
Review: There aren't many genres Stefan Grossman hasn't delved into since he cut his first album 45 years ago – having recorded with Paul Simon, Tokio Uchida, Rory Block, Danny Kalb, Mickey Baker, and others. But the 66-year-old Brooklyn native is mainly known as a blues fingerpicker extraordinaire, having learned directly from Rev. Gary Davis, beginning when he was 15.
Because of the hats he has worn as label head, producer, and educator, his performing career has sometimes been overlooked. But with the excellent “Guitar Artistry” DVD series (spotlighting David Bromberg, Geoff Muldaur, John Fahey, and others), in which he serves as producer and unseen/unheard interviewer, we finally have a generous (155-minute) DVD spotlighting him.
The repertoire encompasses impeccably played blues, ragtime, gospel, and jazz (he and John Renbourn offer a beautiful rendition of Charlie Mingus' “Goodbye Porkpie Hat”, interspersed with fascinating stories about Rev. Davis and the Folk Boom days. There's even an early 1960s television clip of Grossman's band of future all-stars, the Even Dozen Jug Band. Included on the DVD is a pdf containing tablature for most songs, as well as an extensive bio and descriptions of the tunes. And, as if intended exclusively for Vintage Guitar readers, there's a list of all the guitars played, including various Martins (the oldest being a 1930 OM-45), a 1939 Gibson Advanced Jumbo, a 1930s Euphonon, a 1920s Stella 12-string, and more. If any of this sets off an “academic” alarm, rest assured; it's anything but. Grossman's passion for the instrument comes through whether he's playing it or talking about it. – Dan Forte/Vintage Guitar