Author: Karsemeyer, John

Gypsy Bluegrass

“Hello, my name is John Jorgenson.”

“Nice to meet you John, my name is John Karsemeyer. Thanks for coming to Sonoma.” After exchanging handshakes, I said, “Thanks for the lessons you gave me.”

“What lessons?” Mr. Jorgenson asked.

“Awhile back I got hold of one of your DVD lessons that Flat-picking Magazine offered,” I responded.

“Okay, that’s the one that Brad Davis and I did sometime ago. Now I see what you mean. Speaking of Brad Davis, I saw him just yesterday at the NAAM gathering down in Anaheim, California. He was with Dan Miller, who founded Flat Picking Magazine.”

“Right, Dan Miller. He was at one of the CBA Grass Valley Festivals where he had a Flat-Picking Guitar Magazine Booth.”

“Oh, Grass Valley. I’d like to play there sometime.”

“Well that’s a bluegrass festival. I don’t think gypsy jazz would fit in there.”

“Yes I know, but I have a bluegrass band.”

“A bluegrass band? What’s the name?”

“The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band.”

What kind of a band comes out before a concert and meets-and-greets the audience? Only one that I know of, and that is The John Jorgensen Quintet that keeps the spirit of Django Reinhart alive by playing “Gypsy Jazz” music. The quintet was recently in the town of Sonoma, California.

My curiosity ignited and led me to investigate the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band. I found out that the members are John Jorgenson on mandolin and vocals, Herb Pederson on banjo and vocals, John Randall on guitar and vocals, and Mark Fain on acoustic bass.

John Jorgenson, a multi-instrumentalist, is known world-wide for his gypsy jazz guitar playing. A number of bluegrass guitarists have studied gypsy jazz guitar to spice-up their bluegrass licks, including the late Clarence White, who jump-started bluegrass guitar in his own way. In the Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, John takes over the duties on the mandolin.

I’m sure you bluegrass aficionados know who Herb Pederson is. He’s been to some of the FDF Grass Valley festivals. A long time ago he filled in for Earl Scruggs on the banjo when Earl was unable to play for awhile. He started playing bluegrass in the San Francisco Bay Area with Butch Waller, mandolin player and singer for the “High Country” bluegrass band. I could go on and on, but to sum it up, Herb has been all over the bluegrass map for a long time. He is the bluegrass banjo player for this band.

Jon Randall leads the way on bluegrass guitar. Maybe not as familiar a name in bluegrass circles as others, but he has his own pedigree. Some of you may know the song he wrote, “Whiskey Lullaby.”

“Nobody misses the bass player until he/she is gone.” Don’t know who said that, but there is a big hole in a bluegrass band when there is no bass player. Not to worry in the Jorgenson Bluegrass Band however, as Mark Fain is in the spot light on that one.

In addition to the dynamite instrument players in this band, the vocals are the main course in this bluegrass plate special. If you haven’t already done so, check ‘em out in a live performance if you get the chance. In this day and age you get to be ahead of that and get some samples on the internet.

A meet-and-greet before the performance by bluegrass bands would be a new twist. Something in addition to the quick-talk at the CD table after the band’s performance. Audience appreciation would take on a new, warm glow, from the smallest to the biggest venue.

Haven’t heard the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band live myself, but I’d jump at the chance. And now I’m thinking if I did it wouldn’t be surprising to get a bluegrass-gypsy-bluegrass “sandwich” performance out of the deal!

Posted:  3/8/2014

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