Ilya Portnov – Strong Brew

Harmonica player Ilya (i l e e y u h) Portnov’ s debut instrumental album contains nine eclectic tunes, seven of which are originals together with an arrangement of ‘Cincinnati Flow Rag’ and ‘In A Town Garden.’Here’s what Ilya has to say about his new recording:

“On this album, I wanted to feature different kinds of music that play a big role in my life. Being in the US I’ve been playing a lot of blues and roots and some jazz music. I’ve been also playing and recorded with a few bands that play Brazilian music in the styles of choro and forro both here and in Brazil. As I grew up in Russia, I was exposed to a lot of European and Russian classical music and folk music from Europe and Russia.

I wrote most of the music for this album and at first the plan was to feature all these three countries on the album. I was going to record the “American” and “Russian” parts here in the US and then go to Brazil to record the “Brazilian” part and mix everything in the US. But after we started recording here in the US I realized that the overall sound of the album seemed very “American,” even though there were a lot of elements coming from Europe and Russia. So, I decided to exclude the Brazilian part from this album and record a separate album in Brazil (hopefully sometime soon).

I wrote tunes in different styles for it; there is one that is kind of a tribute to a great early jazz clarinet player Sidney Bechet. There is a surf-rock tune. There are several kinds of blues. There is an old American ragtime tune by Rev. Gary Davis, ‘Cincinnati Flow Rag.’ There is a popular Russian tune from the 1940’s, ‘In A Town Garden,’ (one of my grandmother’s favorite) that we recorded in a kind of organ trio style. There is a waltz that I wrote. Tango is very big in Russia especially in the first half of the 20th century and many Russian composers wrote tangos. So, I wrote one for this album.

It was all recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose, which mostly specializes in blues and roots music. Kid plays bass and guitar on the album and was the recording engineer too. It also features some other great musicians that specialize in blues, roots and jazz music. Chris Burns plays piano and keyboard. June Core on drums and percussion. There are also a couple of special guests – Rob Vye on acoustic guitar on one of the tracks. (Rob and I have a country blues duo that participated in the 2017 IBC representing the Golden Gate Blues Society). And Ben Andrews plays violin on two tracks. (Ben also plays in my other band, Choro Bastardo).

So, there is a big mixture of things on the album and a lot of different styles and I was trying to be very respectful to each of these styles.”

BACKGROUND

Ilya was born in Russia and grew up in the suburbs of Moscow. As he was born in 1989, all his documents say that his place of birth is the USSR. He came to study at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he obtained his Master’s degree, as the first person to be accepted with the diatonic harmonica as the main instrument. After graduating from NEC in 2014, Ilya moved to the West Coast. At first to San Francisco and now he’s based in Los Angeles.

Ilya started out playing piano at the age of four, mostly classical music. His dad is really into rock music, so he always heard a lot of British rock (Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc.) growing up. He also had a couple of friends, who played blues on the harmonica, and he was really into its sound. Finding an old harmonica that belonged to his dad, he was hooked and spent all his free time practicing, even skipping college just to stay home and practice. As he already had theoretical knowledge about music, he progressed swiftly on the harmonica and five years later was accepted into the Master’s program at the Contemporary Improvisation department of New England Conservatory, one of the most prestigious music schools in the US.

His first harmonica teacher in Russia, Alex Bratetsky, greatly influenced Ilya’s technique, developing an excellent basic foundation and introducing him to the “overblow” technique, which allows one to play a full chromatic scale on a diatonic harmonica. His teacher also introduced Ilya to the music of Jason Ricci, Howard Levy and Carlos del Junco, a major turning point in his development. “After hearing these guys, I realized that I can play anything on the harmonica and that’s when I became very serious about it,” says Ilya. “I always liked the blues and that’s what I started with on the harmonica, but I could never see it as the only thing I would do just because of my background, the place where I grew up, and the culture I was surrounded by. So, hearing these three guys really changed a lot for me and I realized I can play anything I want on the harmonica. And later I was lucky enough to study with all three of them on different occasions. Also since coming to the US (and especially after moving to the West Coast) I started studying blues and American roots music on a deeper level and it’s now a much bigger part of what I do. After graduating from NEC, I started playing chromatic harmonica too. And even though I can play all the chromatic notes on a diatonic harmonica, the chromatic harmonica has a different sound and I do like it for certain projects.”

“Strong Brew” is his debut solo project. A few years ago, Ilya recorded an album with one of his bands called Choro Bastardo, which plays Brazilian music, and he has also recorded on a bunch of other people’s albums. Some of them are released in the US, some in Brazil, and some in Russia. Ilya is featured in an NPR Music article on the harmonica – http://www.npr.org/2015/12/26/460860955/pocket-sized-revolution-behind-the-harmonicas-world-music-takeover.

 

TITLE
STRONG BREW
LABEL
SELF
RELEASE DATE
NOVEMBER 10, 2017
DISTRIBUTION
CD BABY
LINKS
Artist Website
Artist Facebook

Harmonica player Ilya (i l e e y u h) Portnov’ s debut instrumental album contains nine eclectic tunes, seven of which are originals together with an arrangement of ‘Cincinnati Flow Rag’ and ‘In A Town Garden.’Here’s what Ilya has to say about his new recording:

“On this album, I wanted to feature different kinds of music that play a big role in my life. Being in the US I’ve been playing a lot of blues and roots and some jazz music. I’ve been also playing and recorded with a few bands that play Brazilian music in the styles of choro and forro both here and in Brazil. As I grew up in Russia, I was exposed to a lot of European and Russian classical music and folk music from Europe and Russia.

I wrote most of the music for this album and at first the plan was to feature all these three countries on the album. I was going to record the “American” and “Russian” parts here in the US and then go to Brazil to record the “Brazilian” part and mix everything in the US. But after we started recording here in the US I realized that the overall sound of the album seemed very “American,” even though there were a lot of elements coming from Europe and Russia. So, I decided to exclude the Brazilian part from this album and record a separate album in Brazil (hopefully sometime soon).

I wrote tunes in different styles for it; there is one that is kind of a tribute to a great early jazz clarinet player Sidney Bechet. There is a surf-rock tune. There are several kinds of blues. There is an old American ragtime tune by Rev. Gary Davis, ‘Cincinnati Flow Rag.’ There is a popular Russian tune from the 1940’s, ‘In A Town Garden,’ (one of my grandmother’s favorite) that we recorded in a kind of organ trio style. There is a waltz that I wrote. Tango is very big in Russia especially in the first half of the 20th century and many Russian composers wrote tangos. So, I wrote one for this album.

View post on imgur.com

It was all recorded at Kid Andersen’s Greaseland Studios in San Jose, which mostly specializes in blues and roots music. Kid plays bass and guitar on the album and was the recording engineer too. It also features some other great musicians that specialize in blues, roots and jazz music. Chris Burns plays piano and keyboard. June Core on drums and percussion. There are also a couple of special guests – Rob Vye on acoustic guitar on one of the tracks. (Rob and I have a country blues duo that participated in the 2017 IBC representing the Golden Gate Blues Society). And Ben Andrews plays violin on two tracks. (Ben also plays in my other band, Choro Bastardo).

So, there is a big mixture of things on the album and a lot of different styles and I was trying to be very respectful to each of these styles.”

BACKGROUND

Ilya was born in Russia and grew up in the suburbs of Moscow. As he was born in 1989, all his documents say that his place of birth is the USSR. He came to study at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he obtained his Master’s degree, as the first person to be accepted with the diatonic harmonica as the main instrument. After graduating from NEC in 2014, Ilya moved to the West Coast. At first to San Francisco and now he’s based in Los Angeles.

Ilya started out playing piano at the age of four, mostly classical music. His dad is really into rock music, so he always heard a lot of British rock (Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc.) growing up. He also had a couple of friends, who played blues on the harmonica, and he was really into its sound. Finding an old harmonica that belonged to his dad, he was hooked and spent all his free time practicing, even skipping college just to stay home and practice. As he already had theoretical knowledge about music, he progressed swiftly on the harmonica and five years later was accepted into the Master’s program at the Contemporary Improvisation department of New England Conservatory, one of the most prestigious music schools in the US.

His first harmonica teacher in Russia, Alex Bratetsky, greatly influenced Ilya’s technique, developing an excellent basic foundation and introducing him to the “overblow” technique, which allows one to play a full chromatic scale on a diatonic harmonica. His teacher also introduced Ilya to the music of Jason Ricci, Howard Levy and Carlos del Junco, a major turning point in his development. “After hearing these guys, I realized that I can play anything on the harmonica and that’s when I became very serious about it,” says Ilya. “I always liked the blues and that’s what I started with on the harmonica, but I could never see it as the only thing I would do just because of my background, the place where I grew up, and the culture I was surrounded by. So, hearing these three guys really changed a lot for me and I realized I can play anything I want on the harmonica. And later I was lucky enough to study with all three of them on different occasions. Also since coming to the US (and especially after moving to the West Coast) I started studying blues and American roots music on a deeper level and it’s now a much bigger part of what I do. After graduating from NEC, I started playing chromatic harmonica too. And even though I can play all the chromatic notes on a diatonic harmonica, the chromatic harmonica has a different sound and I do like it for certain projects.”

“Strong Brew” is his debut solo project. A few years ago, Ilya recorded an album with one of his bands called Choro Bastardo, which plays Brazilian music, and he has also recorded on a bunch of other people’s albums. Some of them are released in the US, some in Brazil, and some in Russia. Ilya is featured in an NPR Music article on the harmonica – http://www.npr.org/2015/12/26/460860955/pocket-sized-revolution-behind-the-harmonicas-world-music-takeover.

 

TITLE
STRONG BREW
LABEL
SELF
RELEASE DATE
NOVEMBER 10, 2017
DISTRIBUTION
CD BABY
LINKS
Artist Website
Artist Facebook

David Bragger and Sausage Grinder

Sausage Grinder, Los Angeles’ all-natural hillbilly and country blues band, combines the traditional sounds of fiddle and banjo breakdowns with the low-down sound of country blues, topped off with a touch of ragtime and hillbilly jazz. The versatile acoustic ensemble features fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, jug, washboard, and a few odds and ends.

Sausage Grinder was formed in 2008 out of a desire to play this classic music “right” without being slavish imitators or academic lecturers. As old-time and blues fiddler Adam Tanner puts it, Sausage Grinder’s “reverence to the old 78s hasn’t restrained them from exploring even grimier nooks and crannies … unrestrained and impolite the Grinder’s performances are visceral and joyous — a blast from the past with a nod to the immediacy of the future!” Or as LA Weekly says succinctly, the band’s performance feels “reminiscent of an old Mickey Mouse cartoon.”
You can hear their music on our album Delicious Moments, which features features fiddle tunes, hot mandolin ragtime and songs from Memphis Minnie, the Lone Star Cowboys, Little Brother Montgomery, Sleepy John Estes, Banjo Ikey Robinson and more. Delicious Moments is available at CD Baby.

Sausage Grinder has headlined at the Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest, the Goleta Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention, and the Los Angeles Old Time Social, and has performed throughout Southern California with artists including Frank Fairfield and Triple Chicken Foot. In 2006, David and Chris performed on Cold as the Clay, a solo album of traditional and original material from Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin; Greg makes a special guest appearance on Delicious Moments, singing harmony on “Deep Ellum Blues.”

About the band

Chris Berry, a native of Long Beach, California, has been playing country blues and old-time country music on guitar and banjo for over 20 years. He learned many tunes from the late legendary Illinois/Southern California fiddler Mel Durham and plays banjo on his CD “Skillet Fork.” He has taught and played at many Los Angeles-area festivals including the California Traditional Music Society’s Summer Solstice and Equinox Festivals, the Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest, and the Goleta Old-Time Fiddlers Convention. When Chris isn’t busy playing old music or watching ’60s British television and ’70s American game shows, he works as an editor and web designer.

David Bragger was an itinerant street magician and collector of folktales in India following his degree in Religious Studies. Now, his wizardry can be seen and heard as the fiddler and mandoliner of Sausage Grinder, with occasional prestidigitation on the 5 and 6 string. After years of visiting with old-time musicians including Mel Durham, Tom Sauber, Charlie Acuff, Clyde Davenport, Benton Flippen, and Lester McCumbers, David is the go-to-guru in Los Angeles for learning old-time fiddle, banjo and mandolin. His students have won awards in fiddle/banjo contests from coast to coast, including the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, Virginia and the Goleta Old-Time Fiddlers Convention in California. He has recorded and toured with Greg Graffin of Bad Religion and occasionally directs short art films and music videos.

David Bragger’s debut CD–Big Fancy

“David Bragger’s soul snakes itself out of his core, like a cobra being charmed from a basket, and this soul does indeed find it’s way to that fiddle bow…” –Ernie Hill, No Depression!

“…a fascinating listening experience.” –Bob Buckingham, Fiddler Magazine

“It seems like many folks have known for years what an amazing player David is (we both remember the first time we heard his fiddling, and our jaws dropped). But what we have here folks is a monster musician – diverse, knowledgeable, and with his own unique voice. For us, this – his debut album – is required listening for any old time music fans.”  —Pharis and Jason Romero

“…Every cut has something captivating about it….The best Washington’s March I’ve ever heard!”  –Dave Bing

“David Bragger’s new CD is yummy.  I wanted to play on every cut.” –Joe Newberry

Susan Platz was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She studied classical music for 20-odd years, earning a degree in music from Lawrence University in 2005. Soon after migrating to California in 2008, old-time music stole her heart and she hasn’t looked back! She studies with David Bragger and frequently collaborates with various local musicians in square and contra dance bands. When she is not sawing away on fiddle, Susan works as a massage therapist and enjoys exploring Los Angeles.

Timothy Riley was raised on an apple farm in Oak Glen, Ca and was surrounded by music from an early age playing guitar and harmonica in the family band for their square dances at the orchard. Along the way he picked up the jug, saw, bones, fife, and other sonic bric a brac. Taking up the bagpipes in a local competition band he eventually journeyed for a time between Scotland and Ireland to study the instrument further while busking on the streets to support the habit. He’s worked variously as a film extra, bartender, and museum living historian. Tim now works his own farm with his wife back on the home ground and also moonlights as a chimney sweep.