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.
Stefan Grossman's life story unfolds like the plot of a fantastically farfetched novel studded with mythical and mystical characters and music at every turn. You can look at it like this: At age 15 Stefan began his tri-weekly pilgrimages from Brooklyn to a shack on Park Avenue in the heart of New York City's Bronx to take lessons from a legendary bluesman, the late Rev. Gary Davis. He then became a dedicated member of the "Blues Mafia" - a group of researchers intent on rediscovering the great bluesmen who had performed on the race records of the '20s and '30s - where he became close friends with Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and other great black American bluesmen and songsters. Never one to rest on the oars, Stefan has authored many music books that present these styles to pickers worldwide.
Before moving to Europe in 1967 Stefan gigged with the Even Dozen Jug Band, an early counterculture rock band known as the Fugs, and Mike Bloomfield in the band Chicago Loop. While living in Italy several years later, Stefan decided that there was a shortage of good guitar records, so he co-founded Kicking Mule Records in 1973. With a lineup of artists that included guitarists Dave Evans, Ton Van Bergeyk, Happy Traum, Duck Baker, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Davey Graham. Stefan was instrumental in promoting and preserving the best in blues, ragtime and contemporary picking. And in addition to his record producing, personal recordings, instructional writings and other projects, Stefan has kept up his live appearances.
Shining Shadows is an album of original solo guitar instrumentals. Recorded in 1984 at the BBC Studios in London.
Tab/music of all the tunes is included on this CD as PDF files.
Track Listing: (click on tracks for mp3 sound samples)
1. Blues For The Mann
2. Requiem For Patrick Kilroy
3. Logan’s Water
4. Lemon’s Jump
5. Ms. Josephine Ayres
6. Beyond The Pleasure Principle
7. Sparkling On The Wind
8. Shining Shadows
9. Capricorn Five
10. Just a Closer Walk With Thee
11. Lament For A Goodman
Review: It makes sense that Stefan Grossman and Eric Clapton hung out together in the sixties, because they both have similar approaches to the guitar: Clapton isn't the flashiest of players, but can craft lines out of a few notes that are filled with feeling and taste; Grossman is a like-minded player—not one to create finger-busting arrangements like other guitarists that he's featured on his Kicking Mule label, but nevertheless crafting tasteful songs that rely on a myriad of influences, from American folk to old Irish tunes and rural blues, sometimes all within one song.
Originally released in 1984, Shining Shadows is one of Grossman's best Grossman albums to date. It kicks off with the fairly conventional yet pleasant blues, "Blues for the Mann," followed by "Requiem For Patrick Kilroy," one of Grossman's best songs—an open-tuned melodic original that goes through several different moods and colors in a few short minutes. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, a collection of originals impossible to pigeonhole into any particular style. There's the melancholic "Logan's Water," the tart briskness of "Lemon's Jump," and the exceptionally beautiful closer, "Lament for a Goodman." The tour de force, however, is the suite-like "Sparkling on the Wind," a delightfully expressionistic exploration of a variety of modes and tempos that never gets boring in all its seven-plus minutes.
Ever the dedicated educator, Grossman has included tablature for all of the songs on this CD, in PDF form. These songs will be challenging, yet within the reach of most burgeoning finger-pickers—although, having not tried them, they could be deceptively tricky. Grossman recorded some of the most vital finger-pickers out there; with Shining Shadows, he proves he could hold his own with the best of them. – Dave Rickert, All About Jazz