Reviews of VT139CD 'Moor Music'
On one level this CD is an Important Recording. Mark (melodeon) and Jason (piano accordion) are the grandsons of Dartmoor musicians and dancers Bob Cann (one of the greatest English traditional musicians, and a huge influence on the English country dance revival until his sad death in 1990) and his friend Jack Rice. There aren't many other recordings of two English musicians, rooted firmly in a local tradition, taught by family members - and who are still in their twenties. They are also members of Bob's old band, the Dartmoor Pixies, which continues to regularly play for dances around the South West and at festivals.
But this is more than a "source recording" for the English music mafia.
The standard of musicianship amongst English squeezebox players has really taken a leap forward over the last few years, and Mark and Jason are up there with the best. It's no coincidence that the combination of melodeon and piano accordion turns up all around the world in settings as diverse as Scots dance bands, French musette, zydeco and Norteno, Tex-Czech polka bands and, last but not least, England. The blend of the grunt and dynamics of the melodeon and the sweeter, smoother sound of the piano accordion complement each other perfectly.
Mark and Jason have a feel for English dance music that is very rare indeed. The standard of playing is very high - not a duff note in sight, a huge amount of lift, drive that would make early Dr Feelgood (ask your parents) more than sweat, and Mark and Jason sound like they've played together for decades rather than just a few years (although their fathers knew each other for many years Jason and Mark only met in the mid 1990s - but they play in exactly the same style and with exactly the same feel. Uncanny. Must be something in the Dartmoor water). What's more, these guys enjoy what they do - and it shows in their playing.
The choice of tunes is excellent, drawing upon the repertoires of their grandparents and other relatives, English "standards", a lovely Jimmy Shand waltz in Christmas Morn, and tunes of their own which are rapidly becoming standards. There's variety here too, with the track order giving a nice pacing to the CD.
Gareth Kiddier and Rob Murch add rhythmic keyboard and a very tasty style of banjo playing respectively which really adds to and complements the accordions. The four of them would make a killer dance band.
If the job of a critic is to criticise, then I've failed. This is as near a perfect presentation of English music done the Dartmoor way as we are ever likely to get. So, But this CD. Now.
Shreds & Patches
Mark and Jason carry on the Dartmoor tradition from their grandfathers Bob Cann and Jack Rice, as well as writing new material themselves. They are joined on some of the tracks by Rob Murch (banjo) and Gareth Kiddier (piano).
Their playing is steady and precise yet they play with a youthful zest and spring in their step.
There are three sets of jigs (6x32 bars), one set (4x32) several sets of reels of varying lengths (I really like the track that starts with the tune "When it's night-time in Italy) and the CD ends with a very original third tune to "The Danish Double Quadrille" (Whistling Rufus).
This is a CD for dancing to, I doubt if you could sit still to listen to it, and is a must for any caller or dance club.
Folk in Kent
Mark and Jason are the grandsons of Dartmoor legends Bob Cann and Jack Rice. Bob Cann was a familiar name on the folk scene playing his old Holmer Club melodeon and calling at the same time. I recollect him on one of the best folk dance records Ashley Hutchings 'Kicking up the Sawdust'. Jack Rice was an accomplished step dancer and accordion player.
On this CD Mark (melodeon) and Jason (accordion) continue their family traditions with a collection of dance music; that you might hear played on a Saturday night in a remote village hall. There are fourteen tracks and the arrangements are very simple, They generally play in unison. They are joined on some tracks by Gareth Kiddier (piano) and Rob Murch (banjo).
The music is tuneful and many of the tunes are well known 'Danish Double Quadrille', 'Walter Bulwer's' and of course the ubiquitous waltz selection.
Grandsons of Bob Cann and Jack Rice respectively, Mark and Jason here display their enjoyment in the music of their forbears. I was at first suspicious of a duo of melodeon and accordion, instruments of very different handle; of course I did not need to be. They play as one with a tremendous bounce. Not having heard much of Bob's work I cannot say how many of the thirty tunes are duplicates from his mighty CD; I'd guess more than a few. Three are not though, because they're by the lads themselves; good'uns too. Excellent piano and banjo add interest to several tracks. Nice one, fellers.
Mark and Jason are grandsons of two of the most important traditional musicians and dancers of the last century - Bob Cann whose playing of the 'family' tunes for dances and stepping contests was so important to their continuity, and Jack Rice, mouth organ player and step-dancer, who, though not so widely known by the EFDSS revival, was another vital facet in the Dartmoor tradition. Their legacy, is not only in safe hands, but is obviously entering a new and brilliant period. Mark plays button box and Jason piano box and they are more than ably supported by Rob Murchie's wonderful English-style banjo and Gareth Kiddier's unmistakable piano. The music has bounce, joie-de-vivre (if one can say that about English music!) and real style - interesting and beautiful tunes played with love - and played wonderfully well. It also marks a bit of a departure for Veteran, as it has been recorded in a studio, rather than just being a 'field recording', resulting in a end-product of much higher overall quality. Very enjoyable in its own right as well as being an important document, this CD should be owned (and regularly listened to) by anyone who professes an interest in English traditional dance music.
I had great trouble reviewing this disc as no sooner had I started listening to it than l was inspired to pick up my box and play along with it! Mark is the grandson of the late Bob Cann and Jason the grandson of the late Jack Rice, one of Dartmoor's best step dancers. Mark and Jason play really well together, with lots of 'lift' and energy. Mark has inherited his grandfather's style which is immediately recognisable.
In addition on this disc we have the superb banjo playing of Rob Murch who plays on four of the tracks and the powerful piano/keyboard of Gareth Kiddier. When all four are playing together we have a big band sound of the highest calibre, excellent to dance or to listen to. The CD is a splendid mix of traditional and modem tunes. The first track 'KP's Jig' (a tribute to the late Ken Penney) and the Rose Garden' are a pair of lively jigs composed by Mark and Jason, and rattle along accompanied by Gareth. 'Trip To Gidleigh' is also self composed. Track 4 ('Lady In The Boat /Briarfield Jig /Ford Farm Reel / Cornish Quickstep') is great, jigs turning to reels - you can't hear the join ! A set of reels ('Night Time in Italy /Climbing Up The Golden Stairs Thaxted Square'), the first two leant from Bob Cann. and the third a Simon Ritchie tune, make it big hand sound just great! Perhaps the best track of all is the last, another set of reels ('Danish Double Quadrille /Old Comrades March /Whistling Rufus'), again with the big hand sound.
And what of the rest? In actual tact, all good material, well played. I even warmed to the three waltz tracks on my third listening. The sleeve reminded the of a Smith & Jones TV sketch, and the sleeve booklet is full of interesting facts. I thought l detected a concertina on track 7 - and did I hear a fourstop melodeon somewhere? But these are not mentioned in the booklet. Should you buy it :' Yes! yes! yes! I predict (stick my neck out!') we will be hearing a lot more from these two musicians. They are indeed off to the states in July to expand their considerable experience and repertoire. I wish them luck.
An eminently listenable 50 minutes’ worth of dance music played by Mark and Jason, both highly active exponents of the living Dartmoor tradition (on home ground at village hall dances with the Pixie Band, elsewhere at festivals). Mark’s the grandson of famed melodeonist Bob Cann, while Jason’s the grandson of Jack Rice (ace mouth-organ player and stepdancer from the noted Rice family of Chagford), and together they make vital and accomplished music as to the manner born. Their sense of rhythm is conveyed with a matchless spring in their step, and their combined playing is so together you’d think they were brothers. The thought of a whole album of just two melodeons pumping away should not frighten you, as the time just flies by…….. On some tracks, Mark and Jason are augmented by the banjo of Rob Murch and/or the piano of the Bismarcks’ Gareth Kiddier, to excellent effect (although once or twice the piano seems a little forwardly balanced). The material played comes largely from established English dance repertoire, with a couple of the duo’s own compositions and two by Bob Cann. What comes across in spades on this recording is the total conviction and sheer enjoyment in the playing. This album is an absolute delight, and not to be missed.
Bazeley & Rice are the living embodiment of a tradition of country-dance music in the Dartmoor region of Southwest England.
These are end-to-end tunes, played for the purposes of social dancing, step dancing, broom dancing and bone rattling! Bazeley (melodeon), and Rice (piano accordion), obviously know this music inside out (indeed, there's a recording available of Bazeley playing as a boy with his grandfather Bob Cann), and seem to each be in possession of an unusually large number of fingers. They're accompanied on some tracks by Gareth Kiddier's vamping piano and the banjo of Rob Murdoch which sounds not unlike delighted laughter.
For the non-dancer, listening at home, this still has a huge amount to recommend it. For one thing, it's an open window to a music not only "as it was," but more importantly "still is," in this remote, rural part of the country. For another, it's a collection of fabulous tunes performed by two musicians who are indisputably the best people for the job.
Almost twenty years ago I had for many years the privilege to be Sam Sherry's musician and during this time we performed together at numerous festivals and one has always held a place dear to my heart and that was Dartmoor.
But the story starts a few years earlier when I purchased from Rosemary Tawney, who with husband Cyril were at that time living in Lancaster, a copy of a record by Bob Cann. Bob became my hero, a man whose style of playing was so danceable and so alive it became a constant source of inspiration ... so back to Dartmoor.
On the Sunday after Bob and the Pixie Band were playing on a cart on the playing field and I was asked to join them for a memorable afternoon's music ... so you may ask, where is this leading ... well, playing along with the band was a young lad, Bob's grandson Mark Bazeley...now you see where I'm coming from.
Mark has teamed up with Jason, the grandson of Jack Rice who was one of the finest of the Dartmoor step dancers and an outstanding accordion and mouth organ player. Together they provide a link with the great masters of the past a true living tradition.
We have kept alive the Dartmoor Pixie Band but are taking the music farther afield to a young and eager audience who cannot fail to be impressed with the musical ability and obvious enthusiasm with which Mark and Jason play. Evident too is their passion for the tunes so often lacking in some of today's bands.
This compilation pays due respect to the tradition of their grandparents with tunes such as Uncle Jim's Waltz, When it's Night-time Italy and Christmas Morn but also follow Bob's tradition of writing tunes and the CD opens with two cracking self penned jigs KP's written in honour of the late Ken Penny and The Rose Garden.
Instrumental variety is ensured in the form of Rob Murch on banjo and Gareth Kiddier on piano.
This is a well produced CD with comprehensive sleeve notes well presented. Turn the lights down low, switch on the sound and the magic of Bob Cann lives on but with a youthful zeal and a spring in the step. If you like folk music go out and buy it now, then join the EFDSS because this is truly the essence of English country dance music today. We have been a long time waiting for talent like this to come along and we need the society more than ever now to promote it.
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