• New Music from C.E. Jones - The Goldberg Variations for Mandolin, Guitar and Banjo

    An epic reworking of Bach's complete Goldberg Variations for Mandolin, Guitar and Banjo.

    C.E. Jones - The Goldberg Variations

    Morgantown, WV — Music professor and Doctor of Composition by day, Bluegrass musician by night, Christopher Jones has reworked and recorded J.S. Bach's iconic Goldberg Variations for mandolin, banjo, and guitar for a new album to be released May 7 on SoundCloud.

    With a Bachelors degree in Cello Performance and a Masters and Doctorate in Music Composition from West Virginia University, Jones became deeply indoctrinated in the Appalachian traditional folk music. For the past half-decade he has played with the group 18 Strings, working their way through a catalog of six hundred-plus songs performing at bars, concert halls, street fairs, and festivals big and small.

    About the project, Jones told us, "There's really something in here for everyone. If you know Bluegrass but aren't as familiar with Bach, you'll know the sounds of the instruments but maybe not the style of counterpoint. Fans of Bach unfamiliar with American folk styles might soon find themselves exploring the work of Bill Monroe, Bela Fleck, or Chris Thile. I have two very different circles of musical friends that could have a great time if they got to know each other. It's two very different worlds that are intersecting, helping to present the universality of the narrative process that's so intrinsically human."

    Based on range and the color, Jones assigned mandolin to the soprano/alto range, the banjo to tenor, and the guitar to bass. To master the performance itself he spent eight hours a day playing each part to a metronome, slowly at first, gradually increasing the tempo. After several hundred hours of painstaking rehearsal, Jones would head to the studio with a handful of variations mastered and track them part by part. Then, on to the next stack of sheet music.

    Bach's Goldberg Variations, originally published in 1741, consist of an opening Aria followed by 30 variations and then a restating of the Aria at the end, all in the same key over the same suggested chords. Originally composed for keyboard, it's an all-time classic, and occasional selections have appeared on prominent mandolin recordings over the years (Chris Thile and Marshall Marshall for example) but never as the entire suite (to our knowledge) performed by one individual. National Public Radio once described the variations as a "Rubik's Cube of invention and architecture."


    The opening "Aria" from the recording.

    Track Listing

    • Aria
    • Variation no. 1
    • Variation no. 2
    • Variation no. 3
    • Variation no. 4
    • Variation no. 5
    • Variation no. 6
    • Variation no. 7
    • Variation no. 8
    • Variation no. 9
    • Variation no. 10
    • Variation no. 11
    • Variation no. 12
    • Variation no. 13
    • Variation no. 14
    • Variation no. 15
    • Variation no. 16
    • Variation no. 17
    • Variation no. 18
    • Variation no. 19
    • Variation no. 20
    • Variation no. 21
    • Variation no. 22
    • Variation no. 23
    • Variation no. 24
    • Variation no. 25
    • Variation no. 26
    • Variation no. 27
    • Variation no. 28
    • Variation no. 29
    • Variation no. 30
    • D.C. Aria

    Additional Information

    C.E. Jones
    Photo credit: Lauren Smith
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Super impressed with this album. I've given a listen and it's a pretty epic project to undertake. Very highly recommended.
    1. Brian Ebie's Avatar
      Brian Ebie -
      Brilliant! The second variation has long been a favorite of mine to play on harpsichord and it's funny now to think about how many times I've played it's melody on mandolin whilst "noodling" around. What a bold and exciting project. Well done!
    1. Michael Romkey's Avatar
      Michael Romkey -
      Impressive! Love this.
    1. Jim Roberts's Avatar
      Jim Roberts -
      Wow. That is lovely. Thanks for sharing.
    1. John Soper's Avatar
      John Soper -
      Lovely, innovative instrumentation of the classic composed by the master of counterpoint! Wow.
    1. KCNelson's Avatar
      KCNelson -
      I've totally fallen in love with Bach this past year. I started by learning a few minuets, then jumped into Goldberg Variation 1, Invention 13, and a couple of other shorter pieces learned from Hal Leonard books.

      His pieces are incredibly fun and challenging to play. Bach created 175 hours of masterworks in his lifetime and incorporated chord voicings that were not used again until the Jazz era. It's like he could intuit the outline of all great music to come. On his deathbed he told his family, "Weep not, for I am going to the source of where all music comes from." Bach lived and died for music, and saw it woven into the fabric of reality.

      I look forward to checking out this new record.
    1. Perry's Avatar
      Perry -
      very cool
    1. Traveling Tracks's Avatar
      Traveling Tracks -
      Excellent....love the playing and the recorded sound. I look forward to listening to the rest of it. I like the explanation above of how you separated the parts, etc.....currently I'm spending 1.5 hours a day with Bach's G minor Violin Sonata. Such a labor of love! Congratulations on this achievement!!
    1. KCNelson's Avatar
      KCNelson -
      Ordered a CD copy. Can't wait!
    1. grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
      grassrootphilosopher -
      Nice. And because of the outreach any recording like this is recommendable.

      When I listen to the clip on this site though I hear a lot of "overrecording". You can practically hear the grass grow. This is not a natural listening situation. For acoustic recordings I would like approaches like the Peter Rowan/Jerry Douglas effort "Yonder", Paul Mehlings 1993 Hot Club of San Francisco CD or most anything by David Grismanīs Acoustic Disk.

      Other than that: Bravo... spread the mandolin gospel
    1. dotbot's Avatar
      dotbot -
      Wonderful! Just listened to it for the first time and will enjoy doing so many times over.
    1. Bernie Daniel's Avatar
      Bernie Daniel -
      Wow! What an awesome feat!
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Getting ready to listen in as CE is this week's guest on the Mandolins and Beer podcast.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      The album has debuted at #11 on Billboard's classical and bluegrass charts, though the bluegrass side, hmm, most would think those aren't bluegrass recordings and certainly not bluegrass bands, but we know that discussion.

      Attachment 194193