Shannon and matt heaton
Matt and Shannon Heaton.

Extremely helpful 'tune cookbook'

      Folks, there’s lots to report on at the minute, so stay tuned as I will be covering a lot of ground in the coming weeks.  And a good few things to let you know about this week as well!

      First thing’s first: readers will recall how I wrote about the new reissue of Paddy O'Brien, Seamus Connolly and Charlie Lennon’s seminal recording “The Banks of the Shannon” a few weeks back.  A bit of news there: the album will be launched at the Willie Clancy Summer School in July, however I recently heard from Eileen O’Brien (Paddy’s daughter) that it is now available to purchase through Custy’s Music Shop in Ennis. It’s a must-have album, so do what you can to pick this one up.  Visit custysmusic.com for more information.

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      In other news: Boston-based musicians Matt and Shannon Heaton are just out with “In Harmony: Tune Cookbook for Learning,” a new instructional tune book intended for beginning to intermediate players.  If you’re a budding instrumentalist looking for a bit of help to get a leg up, this new book should be on your list.

      A “tune cookbook,” you say?  Indeed!  Although there are no recipes (boo!), the book’s introductory material very reasonably likens playing Irish music to cooking, furthering the analogy by including select quotes about cooking, many from the great Julia Child, a longtime resident of Cambridge, Mass. Working with what the book has to offer, you’ll find yourself cooking in no time.

      Matt (guitar; mattheatonmusic.com) and Shannon (flute; shannonheatonmusic.com; by the way, her “Irish Music Stories” podcast is up to 60 episodes) have done a fine job here.  The collections includes a well laid-out PDF book (which includes introductory material and sheet music for all the tunes) and four folders, one each for reels, jigs, slip jigs, and hornpipes, that contain 63 MP3.  The MP3s consist of each tune played three times each (twice “straight,” the third time with some variation) at a very moderate but musical pace.  Each track is engineered with both melody and harmony players in mind.  Flute and guitar are on opposite sides of the stereo field, allowing a melody player to play over guitar backing and vice versa.  It is very easy music to follow that manages to convey a sense of the lilt these tunes are to be played with.

      I expect developing players will find this book extremely helpful.  If you’re a younger musician trying to build repertory and develop your feel, or if you’re someone coming to the music later in life and having trouble getting your bearings in sessions, this is an ideal book because it has an encouraging and very forgiving approach.  The text is written with a gentle sensibility that draws readers toward a tasteful approach to playing.  (Not surprising, as this is a feature of “First 50,” “Music for a Virtual Session,” and “More Music for a Virtual Session,” the Heaton’s other instructional books.) 

      Check this one out if you’re fresh into your musical journey!  Because it’s so tastefully done, it’d also make a fine gift for the budding musician(s) in your life.  To purchase, visit shannonheatonmusic.com for more.

      And speaking of Boston, Brian O’Donovan, host of WGBH’s radio show “Celtic Sojourn,” recently partnered with Eric Jackson, host of the station’s jazz program “Eric in the Evening” to present  "JazzNOW: Emerald Jazz," a wonderful jazz-Irish fusion concert in Boston at GBH’s Fraser Performance Studio.  

      The concert matched uilleann piper Cillian Vallely (Lúnasa; www.lunasamusic.com) and Oisin McAuley (Danú; www.danu.net) with saxophonist Stan Strickland, pianist Witness Matlou, bassist Ron Mahdi, and drummer Ron Savage in a truly fascinating exploration of Irish tunes and jazz sensibility.  The musicians find superb common ground and the result is music that’s warm and complex.  Well done and well worth checking out!  To watch, visit tinyurl.com/EmeraldJazz (I’m not sure how long this one will be online, so don’t wait on this one for too long!)