Sunday, December 15, 2013

Don Stiernberg: Mandoboppin!

An exciting impression of Don Stiernberg's musical inspiration
The mandolin presented in a fresh context
Jørgen Larsen

Some time ago we published a small review of mandolinist Don Stiernberg's CD from 2010 Swing 220 featuring a repertoire of swing standards performed in a string trio setting, which showcasted Stiernberg's amazing virtuosity as a jazz mandolinist. The new CD Mandoboppin!, released earlier this year adds further aspects to my impression of a highly gifted artist exploring and drawing inspiration from various branches of jazz in a most convincing way.

Don Stiernberg ( Publicity Photo, Don

Mandoboppin! is produced by Stiernberg in co-work with engineer Steve Rashid and released at Stiernberg's own label Mando Traveler. The CD has twelve tracks, ten of them are selfpenned compositions by Stiernberg, the remaining two are jazz standards - The Very Thought of You and Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, both with added lyrics and vocal by Stiernberg. The setting of the performed music is a quintet. Don Stiernberg (mandolin and vocal) is accompanied by Andy Brown (guitar) and Jim Cox (string bass) of his current trio and the trio is extended to a quintet by pianist Larry Harris and Phil Gratteau on drums.

Don Stiernberg ( Publicity Photo, Don

As mentioned, ten of the tracks on Mandoboppin! are compositions by Stiernberg - the tittle track is one of them and a nice example of be bop improvisation. There are hard swinging contributions like Donniebrook, Life Itself and Three Down Town, latin flavored tunes like Bix in Rio and Magnanimous, blues inspired pieces like Blues Santa Cruz and Short Sleeves in December and further the lyrical Questions And Answers and a waltz theme titled The Wacky Waltz. Together with the above mentioned jazz standards this repertoire on the CD gives the listener an exciting impression of Don Stiernberg's musical inspiration drawing from various branches of jazz, evrything performed excellently by the quintet. The mandolin is presented in a fresh context, and all the players contribute Expert improvisation and sensitive support.

Mandoboppin!: f.l.t.r. Andy Brown (g), Jim Cox (sb), Don Stiernberg (mandolin) (Source: YouTube still photo )

Earlier this year Don Stiernberg presented some of the repertoire on Mandoboppin! in a live performance at the Chicago based Mad Toast Live! feature. Below I'll insert the uploaded show on YouTube to give you an impression of a great artist on stage. Stiernberg is accompanied by guitarist Andy Brown and Jim Cox on string bass. Enjoy this performance of about 80 minutes.


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The new CD Mandoboppin! by jazz mandolinist Don Stiernberg has twelve tracks showcasting Stiernberg's excellent chops both as a musician and as a composer of original tunes that draw inspiration from a broad field of jazz: be bop, swing, latin and contemporary interpretation of lyrical themes rooted in jazz. Don Stiernberg has chosen a quintet setting for the Mandoboppin! cd, his current trio featuring guitar and bass is here extended with piano and drums. The mandolin is presented in a fresh context, and the musicians alltogether contribute expert improvisation and sensitive support. Mandoboppin! is a highly recommended contribution to contemporary jazz.

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