Last week I discussed imitating styles, listening to other instruments, and how that facilitates etching out one’s own unique sound. This week I am posting an example of a one of a kind sound in action. Aaron Weinstein is an amazing mandolin player as well as a phenomenal violin player. On the mandolin he does something that sets him apart from all other mandolin players I have listened to, check out the video below to see what I mean.
He plays beautiful, clean, full-sounding chord solo arrangements for solo mandolin. In Aaron’s hands one can truly hear the versatility and range the mandolin has. I have heard others do similar things, Jethro Burns at times, Evan Marshall in his own way, but Aaron has found a niche seemingly untouched by the mandolin world.
“Chord melody,” or chord solo playing, as it often is called in the guitar world has been around. Joe Pass, George Van Eps, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Ted Greene are a few to listen to in the jazz realm. Then you’ve got players like Chet Atkins (does it all), and Andres Segovia who play’s classical guitar weaving multiple parts together. The idea is to play a song usually played with a big band or at least multiple instruments with just one. Chord economics I like to call it.
So why not mandolin? A few reasons seem to have kept this niche from being fully carved. It requires some super difficult chops! Advanced harmonic understanding and arranging, playing cleanly through extreme technical difficulty, (not having six strings and five fingers picking independently like the guitar gods mentioned earlier). A great ear for jazz language is required, hearing the walking bass lines, turnarounds, counterpoint, polyrhythms, and harmonies.
Aaron was nice enough to correspond to some e-mailed questions of mine. He gave me great advice, “listen to the greats, and listen some more.” He turned me on to Joe Pass who is out of this world. Thanks Aaron for the advice and inspirational playing. If one listens to the greats enough, eventually it becomes part of one’s musical vocabulary. Jazz standards are a fun, effective way to learn some new languages.