• Scott Nygaard, John Reischman and Sharon Gilchrist - The Harmonic Tone Revealers

    John Reischman, Scott Nygaard, and Sharon Gilchrist - The Harmonic Tone Revealers

    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
    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

    • Bass
    • 1991 Gilchrist F5 mandolin

    From The Harmonic Tone Revealers liner notes:

    In our past recordings together, including each of our debut recordings, John and I have tended to focus on our own instrumental compositions, but with this trio recording with Sharon, we've chosen traditional and "sounds like traditional" tunes that sound at home on our instruments and under our fingers. That they also come from or are associated with many of our greatest musical heroes — Bill Monroe, Clarence and Roland White, Kenny Baker, Doc Watson, and a bevy of great fiddlers — is probably not accidental. We didnít set out to record a tribute to all these fine folks, but it looks like we have, most likely because it's impossible for us to escape their influence. The focus of this recording became clearer when we ventured into the wondrous Sage Arts studio in Arlington, Washington, thanks to the generosity of Ed Littlefield, Erick Jaskowiak, and Fred Forssell. The sound of us sitting in a circle around a small forest of mics and simply playing tunes in this wonderful sounding room, shepherded by Erick's engineering genius, inspired us to keep it simple, an aural document of a fortuitous meeting: a couple of days in November 2015 and a couple more in April 2016.

      — Scott Nygaard

    Additional Information

    Comments 19 Comments
    1. Perilous Deep's Avatar
      Perilous Deep -
      Sound wonderful! It looks like it's only available as a download on CDBaby. Is there any information about whether physical copies might be available?
    1. Michael Neverisky's Avatar
      Michael Neverisky -
      Instant gratification... just purchased a download from CDBaby! Looking forward to enjoying the sound of these tone monsters during my commute home this evening.
    1. Dagger Gordon's Avatar
      Dagger Gordon -
      I must get this.
      I have always loved John's playing since Backwaters by the Tony Rice Unit.
      Interestingly, I also know Sharon's playing from recording with Tony Rice, on the Quartet album with Peter Rowan. I think her playing on that brilliant CD is exceptional, and I've never been able to understand why there aren't more recordings of her.
      And Scott is a great player. I became familiar with him on Tim O'Brien's terrific Dylan album Red On Blonde.

      All good.
    1. BradKlein's Avatar
      BradKlein -
      That sample track sounds great!!
    1. bigskygirl's Avatar
      bigskygirl -
      I picked up a CD at Targhee and yes...it is very good! John, Scott, and Sharon treated us to a few tunes one morning and they are great people as well as players.
    1. lukmanohnz's Avatar
      lukmanohnz -
      This is EPIC. I attended the first concert of the tour this trio did as they were getting these songs ready to record (a tiny house concert venue in Berkeley). It was one of the best evenings of music I've ever had the pleasure to witness. I've been waiting with baited breath for this release to materialize. Heading off to CDBaby right now to start the download!
    1. bbaker2050's Avatar
      bbaker2050 -
      Love seeing John sporting a A-style on the album cover!!!!
    1. Stop's Avatar
      Stop -
      Could someone direct me to where to order the CD disc ..(.not a download) tkx
    1. Fretbear's Avatar
      Fretbear -
      In the same way that endlessly looking at the internet and/or television slowly erodes one's intelligence, listening to acoustic music like this (of the highest calibre) expands one's artistic appreciation and brightens the spirit.
    1. Scott Tichenor's Avatar
      Scott Tichenor -
      Scott told me physical copies will be available on CDBaby soon.
    1. Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
      Ivan Kelsall -
      This one,like all John Reischman's recordings is a 'must have' for me. The selection of tunes is also terrific - hour's & hours of ''pick along'' comin' on soon,
    1. LillianBelle's Avatar
      LillianBelle -
      Just bought it off Amazon this morning. All the other issues with Amazon aside, any music I buy from Amazon is available anywhere I have internet via their cloud plus it downloads onto my hard drive so I have a "local" (if not actual physical) copy, so it is my favorite source for music.
    1. lukmanohnz's Avatar
      lukmanohnz -
      This album is like a musical opioid. I'm seriously addicted now...
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      One year anniversary of this feature interview. This is a great album that's still getting play around the Cafe headquarters.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Another trip around the sun for this article published this date 2016. Good music here.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting today's anniversary of this feature on three important musicians and the recording they made that was very well received.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting the 5 year anniversary of this interview, also one of our favorite albums!
    1. bbcee's Avatar
      bbcee -
      5 years, unbelievable. It is such a good record on so many levels, a constant source of inspiration and reference for me.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting the anniversary of this feature.