Fiddlers' Hall of Fame inductee Gretchen Koehler and U.S. Jazz Ambassador Daniel Kelly add new grooves to 200 year old jigs, reels and waltzes.
FIDDLING WITH AMERICAN TRADITIONS
Fiddler Gretchen Koehler and jazz pianist Daniel Kelly blend the raw energy of American dance fiddling with the lyricism and improvisation of American jazz. "Masterful," writes Fiddler Magazine of the duo's dynamic sound. Koehler, a champion fiddler and Fiddlers' Hall of Fame inductee, is fluent in over a dozen distinct fiddle styles. Kelly, a U.S. State Department Jazz Ambassador, has brought his depth of knowledge of American jazz to audiences around the world. Together, Koehler & Kelly spark an innovative musical conversation while celebrating their deep respect for folk traditions. Their bold approach has caught the attention of the folk music establishment, and they were featured on an episode of NPR's "The Thistle & Shamrock" showcasing the best new sounds.
On their debut album, The Waxwing (2015), they play a wide selection of reels, jigs, hornpipes and airs – some old, some original – that highlight not only Koehler’s powerful fiddling but her tremendous multi-string arrangements within the unusual matrix of Kelly’s jazz.
Gretchen Koehler grew up in New England surrounded by the rich traditions of Old Time fiddle and Contra Dance music. As a teen she established her reputation throughout the US and Canada winning numerous championships, prompting TIME magazine to call young Koehler “astonishingly good.” In 2012 she was inducted into the North American Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame (NY State rep.), and most recently Fiddler Magazine labeled her one of the futures of Celtic fiddle. gretchenkoehlermusic.com
Daniel Kelly is an award-winning pianist and composer who blends jazz, classical and folk music into a signature sound. He has been declared "powerfully moving" by Time Out New York, and has performed with jazz legends Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano, hip-hop star Lauryn Hill, and modern classical giants the Bang on a Can All-Stars. He has toured throughout Southeast Asia and India as a part of the Kennedy Center and US State department-sponsored Jazz Ambassador program. danielkellymusic.com
"A writer sets the scene and actors bring it to life on the stage. A novelist translates emotions into words on paper. A painter renders fleeting images in a permanent medium. A translator provides communication between strangers. Koehler & Kelly takes all of these skills, translating traditional music into every language simultaneously. Every lilt, accent, dialect, and punctuation mark is just right. Koehler’s originals deliver The Picture and The Thousand Words – all in her perfectly punctuated universal language.
What do you get when you cross a linguistics expert, an Irish prankster, Quebecois step-dancer, Scottish piper, and Appalachian moonshiner? Koehler’s fiddling."
-BARB HELLER, NORTH COUNTRY PUBLIC RADIO//FOLKALLEY.COM
Gretchen Koehler’s Bold Approach to Traditional Fiddling
"Gretchen Koehler is an elegant fiddler — her classical violin training shines through, yet her style is totally idiomatic. She performed in several distinct fiddling styles: New England, Old Time, Québec, Cape Breton, to name a few. Gretchen has found an improbable music partner in New York City-based jazz pianist Daniel Kelly. His accompaniments provide an unexpected sonic environment and nudge her outside the usual framework of traditional folk. A couple of times he launched into extended jazz improvisations. An excellent musical marriage, and a totally delightful concert! We would be remiss if we did not mention who stole the show a couple times. Gretchen’s 13-year-old son Sylvain joined in with his own fiddle on “Devil’s Dream” and then jumped up altar-level for some spectacular step-dancing. Bravo!"
-HILL & HOLLOW MUSIC
"...Her latest CD, The Waxwing, is a collection of multi-fiddle (all played by Gretchen) arrangements mostly Irish jigs and reels. The overdubbed fiddles play a combination of straight harmony, new rhythmic grooves, harmonic embellishments, and long bow, aural "thickener." Daniel Kelly's piano is an integral part of the arrangements, adding new voicing and rhythmic underpinnings to standard fiddle accompaniment. Soaring over all is Koehler's great, driving fiddling. Check out this masterful presentation of modern rhythmic and harmonic approaches to supporting a fiddler who has a deep understanding of traditional Irish fiddle. It works well for both listening and dancing. Welcome to the future of Celtic Fiddle."
“I heard [The Waxwing] just as I arrived home from work today and was compelled to sit in my car in the garage until the last note was finished and they announced who the artist was. I was enthralled with the longing melody and beautiful arrangement.”
— NCPR LISTENER Maitland, Ontario, Canada
... Gretchen's projects now typically involve a relatively recent collaborator, jazz pianist Daniel Kelly. Frequently, their sounds evade any previous established category. Their most recent joint venture might be Koehler’s most unique product ever, an album titled "The Waxwing" that blends concepts of Irish fiddle playing and American jazz. “The tradition is a living one," she says of their work. “The tradition is happening now.”