Three Fiddlers on the Indie Scene
New CDs from Brittany Haas, Katy Glassman, and Mads Tolling
Fiddler Brittany Haas began touring with Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings at the age of 14, and released her first solo CD three years later. Now 24, she shows signs of being not just an amazing young fiddler, but also a maturing songwriter. Her latest offering, with Hardanger fiddler Dan Trueman, CrissCross (brittanddanband.com) is steeped in the American folk tradition that Haas cut her teeth on as a member of Republic of Strings and Crooked Still, as well as a healthy taste of acoustic jazz and Scandinavian influences. On these drumless sessions, Haas and Trueman are joined by Haas’ older Juilliard-trained sibling, cellist Natalie Haas (who frequently tours and records with fiddler Alasdair Fraser), guitarist Jordan Tice, and bassist Corey DiMario.
Snapshot (katieglassman.com) catches champion Texas-style fiddler Katie Glassman delivering often charming, sometime theatrical, vocal and instrumental performances (including guitar and accordion on two tracks). The mood is a mix of highly danceable western swing, with a splash of jump blues, and more than a sultry blues moment or two fueled by Glassman’s breathy vocals and steamy solos. The late jazz violin legends Joe Venuti and Svend Asmussen are obvious influences, and an all-star supporting cast comes along for the ride (including fiddler Billy Contreras, guitarist Sean and vocalist Andrea McGowan, dobro player Sally Van Meter, and mandolinist Sam Bush). Impressive.
Jazz violinist Mads Tolling marks his exit from the Turtle Island Quartet with Live at Yoshi’s (madstolling.com), an impressive tribute to jazz-fusion violin pioneer Jean-Luc Ponty. The music ranges from John McLaughlin’s sweet and funky “Lila’s Dance” to a Ponty medley that includes an ode to Frank Zappa to Tollings’ own “Pontyfication.” Fusion fans and those drawn to fearless improvisation should check this out.