The Western Flyers perform February 24th in Harrisburg, Hot Western Swing with Joey McKenzie, Katie Glassman + Gavin Kelso

Recently named the 2017 Best Western Swing Group at the Ameripolitan Awards in Austin, Texas, the award winning Western Flyers are one of the most exciting new bands to glide onto the music scene in years!Their music is a distinctive cross section of the Great American Songbook: authentic Western swing, Hot jazz and swing standards, cowboy songs and electrifying old-time fiddle tunes.

 

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The Western Flyers come to central Pennsylvania on Friday, February 24, 2017, for a 7:30 p.m. concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

Internationally renowned guitar master Joey McKenzie drives the train with his powerful rhythm, while reigning National Swing Fiddle champion Katie Glassman and world-class upright bassist Gavin Kelso add fuel to the fire. A blending of tradition and innovation, The Western Flyers are a singular musical experience; a fresh take on a venerable American art form performed by three Western swing virtuosos.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.

We had a chance to speak to Gavin Kelso about the band, the music that they play and the big award that they just won!

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FOLKMAMA: Wow! Congratulations on winning Best Western Swing Group! That must have been pretty exciting!

GALVIN: Yes, thank you. We were all surprised. We’re really a pretty new band. We didn’t expect it.

FOLKMAMA: So, what are the Ameripolitan Awards and how does it all work?

GALVIN: The Ameripolitans are an organization that is interested in promoting roots music from the Western states. They give awards in several genres; Western Swing, Honky Tonk, Rockabilly and Outlaw. The have a fabulously produced awards ceremony and concert and hold it in a beautiful Neapolitan style theater—the Paramount Theater—in Austin. What happens is the DJs who specialize in these genres compile a list to be considered for the award and people vote for the band that they like best on social media.

FOLKMAMA: So did you win the vote because you’ve been really getting around during the last few years and getting better known or do people listen to MP3s and select their favorite that way?

GALVIN: A little of both. We’ve tried to keep the road as hot as we can given everybody’s availability. Sherry McKenzie, Joey’s wife and our manager has just done a really tremendous job of making sure that we have the opportunities that are going to present our music in the best light and people who are going to get the most out of it.

That’s why we’re playing at your concert series again. That was a really wonderful experience for us the first time. We go where we think people are going to dig hearing it. You can only be one place at a time and we try to go where it’s going to make a splash and I think we have done that.

FOLKMAMA: Thanks, glad you enjoyed playing for Susquehanna Folk! But for those that didn’t get to see you last time you were in Harrisburg, tell me what a Western Flyers concert is like.

GALVIN: If you come to a Western Flyers show you are going to see a three piece band, and you’re going to see way too much energy on stage than three people ought to have! We’re pretty enthusiastic about what we do.

All three of us come from the Western Swing tradition. It’s a genre within American traditional music, that’s broad on one hand, but narrow and specific on the other. For example we play swing music, but the slice of swing music that we play is from the 1920s, 30s, 40s. And we play country music too, but mainly from around that time period. And of course the meat and potatoes of what we do is Western Swing and the greatest artist and composer in that genre is Bob Wills. So we’re the biggest Bob Wills fans that you could encounter!

And then fiddle music kind of rounds us out. Fiddle music is kind of the “kingpin” of so many traditional American styles like Appalachian old-time, Ozark fiddling, Cajun, Celtic fiddling. But when we talk about fiddling we are primarily concerned with Texas style breakdown fiddle.

So Western Swing is a narrow section of American music but it draws from a much larger pot including swing, different styles of fiddling and some country shuffle music. There is a lot of gold to pan for a band like us because the repertoire of possible music is big.

So that’s the kind of music that people are going to hear and how we pull it off is there are three of us and me and Joey form up the rhythm section and I play upright bass and Joey plays acoustic rhythm arch top guitar. Katie is our fiddler and we all three sing.

 

FOLKMAMA: I’m curious of the “arch top guitar”. What is it and why does Joey choose to play that style rather than a more common flattop guitar?

GALVIN: Before guitars were amplified with electromagnetic pickups they were designed in a way acoustically to give the most volume and ensemble projection, while still maintaining a really beautiful bell like tone. If you look at photos of the Count Basie Band, for example, you’ll see that their guitarist Freddie Green played an arch top guitar. It’s been called an “orchestra guitar” because it’s built to be loud enough to be heard over the drums and horns in a traditional swing band.

Joey is a real flame keeper in terms of the style of guitar that he plays and the instruments on which he plays that style.

 

 

 

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Kevin Neidig, Henry Koretzky, Ken Gehret & Bruce Campbell on Saturday February 18th at the Fort Hunter Barn in Harrisburg

The Susquehanna Folk Music Society is excited to be presenting a concert and an Early Jazz Clinic with t_neidig_koretzky_gehret_campbellat 5300 N Front St in Harrisburg, PA. The Early Jazz Clinic begins at 4:30 and is open to any instrumentalists, singers and listeners. The concert begins at 7:30.

These four extraordinary folk musicians from south-central PA represent some of the best acoustic musicians in our area. During Saturday’s concert they’ll share with us their great blend of originals, bluegrass, old-time and jazz. Always looking for ways to keep their music fresh and lively, this year the band is delving a little deeper into vintage jazz and swing.

This concert is part of a National Endowment of the Arts’ grant which has explored the banjo. This concert will focus, among other styles, how the banjo has been used in jazz.

Not sure that the Early Jazz Clinic is for you? Ken Gehret, who will lead the clinic, says that any ability level and players/singers of every genre are welcome! Just bring an instrument and your singing voice. The focus of the workshop will cover a little bit of the history and characteristics of this uniquely American form of music, and the connections between jazz and folk music. Participants may play a simple song like “Wayfaring Stranger” or Scat along/improvise to a 12 bar blues progression. We’ll have fun together and learn that playing jazz is not daunting at all!

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS members and $10 for students. The early Jazz Clinic is free. For tickets and information visit www.sfmsfolk.org.

We had a chance to speak to Ken Gehret about what attendees should expect and what it’s been like preparing for this concert.

FOLKMAMA: I know that the four of you don’t usually play together and that you are each involved in many different musical projects. What’s it like playing with these exception musicians and how have you been preparing for this concert?

GEHRET: It’s really been an absolute joy. I’ve known these guys for many years and have played in some different combos with all of them, but playing for the Susquehanna Folk Music Society periodically is just about the only chance that we get to play as a quartet. We all started with bluegrass and folk, but along the way we have each taken on some different styles. We’ll bring all of that to this performance…a little gypsy jazz, bluegrass, folk, vintage and contemporary jazz, some originals and lots more.

Everyone’s playing is of the highest caliber, which has allowed us to be able to pull two sets together without actually being in the same room together very often! We send MP3s around, pool our resources; decide who is taking the lead—that kind of thing. Then there’s always the Fear Factor! The show’s coming up and we thrive on that feeling of urgency. That really helps to kick us into gear!

FOLKMAMA: One thing that I wanted to bring our readers attention to, especially those that are Susquehanna Folk Members, is the zippy jazz number “Monday Morning” that you recorded for the 2016-2017 Concert Sampler. That’s a really fun piece! I understand that you wrote it just for us. A SFMS original!

GENRET: Yes, as you know we wanted to add a few more jazzy numbers into this year’s concert, so I wanted a piece that represented one of the styles that we will be performing. I wrote “Monday Morning” well, on a Monday morning just in time for the deadline to turn in the recording. It’s all my playing; tenor banjo, guitar, mandolin and bass.

FOLKMAMA: Wow! Talk about being a multi-instrumentalist! Will other musicians in the group be playing multiple instruments too?

GEHRET: We will definitely be doing some switching around on the stage. Kevin and Henry, for example, will be picking up banjos for a few of the numbers. I’ll be bringing two banjos myself, a tenor one that is usually found in jazz and also a five string bluegrass banjo.

FOLKMAMA: I hear the banjo a lot in early vintage jazz recording, but in contemporary recordings, not so much. Why is that?

GEHRET: It’s really because the banjo is a much louder instrument and before sound systems, a louder instrument was needed to be heard along with wind and brass instruments. Today, if a band has a strumming instrument, it would most likely be a guitar.

FOLKMAMA: A folk music enthusiast may not think that they like jazz. Would you still encourage them to come to your performance?

GEHRET: I always tell my students that “It’s all jazz”. What I really mean is that music is all connected. We’ve attached labels to the different genres, but there is really a lot a movement between different styles of music. On Saturday night everyone, no matter what their preferences, will hear a lot that they will really enjoy!