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Rt.3 Box 290
Galax, VA 24333
Arnie Solomon (mandolinist)
Every creative artist has within him a special muse that nurtures his soul and enlarges the dimensions of his being. For Arnie Solomon – New Yorker by birth, high school administrator by profession, Southerner by choice- that muse has been, for the past quarter century, the mandolin- the bluegrass mandolin.
In Ed Solomon, Arnie was blessed with a father who appreciated bluegrass music. Arnie had already heard Bill Monroe perform before, at a park in Pennsylvania, but the time Monroe played at a YMCA in Manhattan proved a turning point in Arnie’s eleven-year-old life. Arnie was so taken with Bill’s performance of “White House Blues” and his informal lesson with Bill backstage, that he then and there decided to play the mandolin.
The mandolin stayed close to Arnie during most of his free moments from then on. Ed affectionately recalls Arnie cradling the mandolin on his lap while he was watching television, so he could play it during commercials. Before long, Arnie began appearing on stage with Roger Sprung who was well known for the number and diversity of musical styles he would assay. Thus, even before he was ready to play lead “breaks,” Arnie was becoming comfortable and conversant with many musical styles from many lands.
New York City in the 1960’s was home to David Grisman and Andy Statman, and Frank Wakefield would play there frequently. All three are brilliant, trailblazing
Mandolinists, and all three were exhibiting fully developed alternatives to Monroe’s original bluegrass style. Arnie would later become especially taken with Grisman’s “Dawg” music during his college years, and he credits David with showing him by example to play his best but not to overplay. But, from the time he studiously learned Monroe’s “Rawhide” during his eighth grade year until present, Bill Monroe has remained Arnie Solomon’s chief mentor and musical influence. “You’ll notice,” Arnie says, “that no matter how far out I go, I always come back to bluegrass.”
Arnie had already written his first mandolin tune, “Metro,” when he entered college at Oneonta, N.Y. There, he met Will Lunn, a fine musician who helped found the Peaceful Valley Festival. (Arnie and Will would also perform at that festival, as members of The High Street Boys.) Arnie would gain a lot of experience during those years and taking a course in jazz further broadened his musical horizons.
As his career took him to various locations, Arnie, as they say, “kept his chops up.”
When there were good bands to join, he joined them. When they broke up, he kept on playing for his own enjoyment. In fact, based on how few bands he has been a member of, and how little recording he has done, Arnie has come to regard himself as an “underground” mandolin player. But by no means was Arnie aloof or reclusive. A principal musical oasis for him has been the venerable Galax, Va., Fiddlers’ Convention, not far from Arnies Greensboro, N.C., home. For the past twenty-five years, the second weekend in August has always found Arnie in the Felts Park parking lot, “jamming late into the night.” In fact, almost all the supporting pickers heard in this collection are musicians Arnie first met during these jam sessions. Arnie usually found time to enter the mandolin competition as well. For two years he placed first, but the vagaries of contest judging being what they are, it’s more significant to note that he has placed among the top ten entrants in the mandolin competition fourteen times, more often than anyone else in the entire 60-plus-year history of the convention itself. (Yet Arnie, with characteristic diffidence, has stated he does not regard himself as a “contest” mandolin player.)
Most of the tunes in this compact disc come from Arnie’s two Heritage cassettes, “Brooklyn To Galax,” (1991) and “Transatlantica” (1993). There are also four additional tunes recorded especially for this collection. With Arnie leading the way, they are all expertly played by a revolving group of top flight musicians. These twenty-one selections provide an intriguing glimpse into the diversity of Arnie Solomon’s musical appreciations, from respected, unhackneyed traditional Southern mountain tunes, through seven of Arnie’s original compositions, to the contemporary jazz anthem, “Move.” As heard here, “Move” offers a vivid example of Arnie’s calibre will play to the other musical form in which they discovered a particular tune: Arnie, on the other hand, always airlifts such a tune a good portion of the way back to bluegrass.
A full-time job in most fields usually includes a two to four week annual vacation. In the education business, however, a full-time job can mean time off at Christmas and summer, time that Arnie Solomon has used propitiously, traveling overseas on many occasions. Like his mentor, Bill Monroe, Arnie’s truelife experiences have yielded distinctive musical compositions. His first, “Metro,” was crafted to evoke the atmosphere of a Paris subway station, while “Transatlantica” celebrated memories of another trip to Europe. “Arnie’s Fifth” and “Brooklyn To Galax” were written while Arnie was still an undergraduate, “Quarter Century” commemorates Arnie’s twenty-five years of dedication to bluegrass mandolin playing, and aptly titles this collection. Never a contentious individual, Arnie found himself obliged, several years ago, to fight one serious battle – a battle with cancer that could have proved fatal. Riding home from his last chemotherapy treatment, the tune a special friend would later name “Road To Recovery” came to him, its long, solemn opening passage symbolizing the travails of his illness, and the upbeat main portion of the tune celebrating his joyous return to health. People who know and care the most about bluegrass mandolin playing have long recognized that Arnie Solomon, in his self-professed “underground” fashion, is one of its finest practitioners. With this release, the bluegrass listenership at large will also have a chance to join the growing ranks of Arnie’s admirers.
WTJU – FM, Charlottesville, Va.
Transatlantica © 1994
Brooklyn To Galax
Brooklyn To Galax © 1991
Quarter Century © 1996
Arnie Solomon and Transatlantica
April 24, 2004
Tony Trischka, Walt Michael, Arnie Solomon, and other bands
National Soccer Hall of Fame
Music in the Museum Festival
June 19, 2004
Arnie Solomon, Glen Alexander, and Friends
Gold Hill, NC (Cabarrus Co.)
July 24, 2004
Arnie Solomon, Glen Alexander, and Friends
Union Grove, NC
Sunday,August 23,2009 Music In The Park Concert
7:15 - 8:30 PM Bur-Mil Park HWY 220North, Right on Owls Roost Road
Arnie Solomon and Transatlantica______________________
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