Friday, April 22, 2005

Jake Armerding

Jake Armerding, a singer, songwriter, guitarist, mandolin and fiddle player extraordinaire played at Club Passim last night. It was a full house and a fun evening. Jake plays a variety of music that is heavily folk/bluegrass influenced. A great fiddle player, he predominantly played guitar during the show (looked like a Martin D-35), accompanied by a second guitarist, bass and mandolin players; the latter, his father.

Fun parts for me; at one point they played a song that the second guitarist didn't know. It was interesting to watch someone who new what they were doing trying to follow along on a song he clearly didn't know.

Jake observed afterwards that they'd talked about the difficulty of playing along on a song you don't know, and that they had decided that the fiddle was the easiest instrument because you can just saw on a sing note. Next up in difficulty is the guitar and mandolin, where you need to play chords, and it's a little difficult to fake it. Then he demonstrated how guitarists cover this up: first he played a simple chord change, then he repeated it, but after playing the first chord, instead of switching to the second, he played a soft, muted chord, before switching. Okay, it's not so funny to read about it, but it was funny when he did it. Oh, and the bass is the hardest because you have to get every note right.

At one point between songs, he was tuning the fiddle, and he played this long single note, which he repeated. Then he played a short series of scratches, followed by a series of warbling notes. It was now clear he wasn't tuning, and in fact, it seemed somehow familiar, but I couldn't place it. A couple more cycles and I finally figured it out; he was imitating a car alarm!

Jake admires Paul Simon, and one of the last songs they played was Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover. Not my favorite Paul Simon song, but it does feature one of the most recognizable drum riffs (played by the legendary Steve Gadd.) Jake recreated that riff on the mandolin quite effectively, and while I'm still not a huge fan of the song, it went up a point or two after that performance.

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