Three musicians widely known for their artistry and teaching skills, Scott Nygaard, John Reischman and Sharon Gilchrist, have announced the release of The Harmonic Tone Revealers, a recording of traditional styled music that is sure to find a place in the favorites of listeners.
We were treated to an advance copy of the project and caught up with John Reischman for a few questions about the new recording.
What series of events led up to The Harmonic Tone Revealers?
Scott Nygaard and I worked together in California in the late 80s early 90s and were on each others Rounder recordings. He was featured on my CD Up in the Woods from 1999.
Once I moved to Canada our playing together pretty much stopped. A few years ago we were both hired to teach at NimbleFingers Music Camp in British Columbia and realized how much we enjoyed playing together. We decided to book a few shows with a bassist.
Sharon and Scott already had a duo together where Sharon played mandolin, but since she is also an excellent bassist we thought this could be an interesting trio. Sharon played bass in Bill Evans' California Banjo Extravaganza I was a part of so it was a natural fit.
We booked a few shows with Sharon playing either bass or mandolin depending on the song. I brought my mandola and we started developing a repertoire. We also revisited some tunes Scott and I recorded years earlier.
From The Harmonic Tone Revealers, the track "Half Past Four."
The sound quality is exceptional and the collective project has a great feel. Where was the recording made?
About a year ago I was invited to record with multi-instrumentalist and singer Eli West at Sage Studios in Arlington just north of Seattle. I worked there with the Jaybirds for our The Road West project. It's a great place out in the country, very peaceful. They built a new recording facility and were making studio time available. They asked if I had a small group that might want to record and I immediately thought of this trio. We have to credit Ed Littlefield who owns the studio and Fred Forsell who helped design it, and Erick Jascowiak who engineered for making this happen.
Sage Studios, Arlington, Washington.
Tell us about "The Harmonic Tone Revealer" which is responsible for the name of the album.
It comes from a music teaching device from the early 1900s for piano or organ. When I was performing as a guest with Brian Oberlin's Oregon Mandolin Ensemble there was one backstage at one of the venues. It looked pretty cool with an old-time font. I took a photo which ended up as part of the album design.
I found the name intriguing and sort of mystical. It describes the way we play. We're going for tone, and also harmonic variations in the melody and accompanying chord changes.
(ED. NOTE: references to The Harmonic Tone Revealer are available online as a newspaper advertisement and within a OCR scanned document, both hosted by the Historic Oregon Newspapers web site.)
The Harmonic Tone Revealer. Photo by John Reischman.
Two mandolins or mandolin and mandola on a recording is such a great idea.
I love the sound of two mandolins. The last time I worked in this setting was with Butch Baldassari and Robin Bullock on our Travellers project 18 years ago! It was great to revisit this configuration with Sharon and Scott. The trick with the numbers that feature two mandolins is sorting out how to play rhythm behind Scott's solos. Since these were fiddle tunes, typically one of us would play chops, while the other would play a more strummed, open-voiced pattern. We talked about it some, but it was largely an intuitive approach. These tunes include "Sail Away Ladies," "The Road to Malvern," "My Father's Footsteps," and "Half Past Four." They feature lead and harmony mandolin for the most part. The one exception was "Half Past Four" where Sharon and I played in unison. It's not the most common approach but I think it turned out really well. Sharon and I were able to line things up so closely that several people said it sounded like one mandolin.
On the slower pieces where Sharon took lead mandolin it seemed obvious for me to switch to mandola. I've played a great sounding Lawrence Smart mandola for years, but I typically string the C and G pairs in octaves, and sometimes the A pair tuned down to G. I thought these arrangements would sound better with a conventional unison tuning, so for the initial sessions I borrowed a Stan Miller Brazilian Rosewood mandola. Stan is one of my oldest friends and a world class builder, so I was happy to have the opportunity to use one of his instruments. I used the Miller mandola on "Midnight on the Water" and "My True Love Away." When we returned to the studio for the next sessions I brought the Smart Mandola, now tuned with unison C and G pairs, for "The Girl Who Broke My Heart" and "Queen of the Earth, Child of the Stars."
Then there are tunes with Sharon on bass, Scott on guitar, and me on mandolin: "Cousin Sally Brown," "Little Sadie," "I Am a Pilgrim," "Liza Jane," and one I switched to mandola called "My True Love Away." This is the format Scott and I recorded when we played together 25 years ago. It seemed good to have the variety of instrumental configurations, plus Sharon plays great bass. She can work either side of the beat!
Will there be a tour in support of the CD release?
The trio is a part-time project for us so there are no dates booked at this time, but that may change. It depends on our schedules lining up.
- Half Past Four
- Cousin Sally Brown
- Midnight on the Water
- My Father's Footsteps
- I Am a Pilgrim
- The Girl Who Broke My Heart
- Little Sadie
- The Road to Malvern
- Queen of the Earth, Child of the Stars
- Sail Away Ladies
- Little Liza Jane
- My True Love Away
John Reischman, Scott Nygaard, and Sharon Gilchrist record "Midnight On The Water" in the Peghead Nation Studios.
John Reischman's Instruments
- 1924 Gibson F-5 mandolin
- 2009 Stan Miller Brazilian rosewood mandola
- 1997 Lawrence Smart maple mandola
Scott Nygaard's Instruments
- 1956 Martin D-28
- 1948 Gibson J-45 (on "My True Love Away")
Sharon Gilchrist's Instruments
- 1991 Gilchrist F5 mandolin