CD & Book Reviews
Maestro Alex Gregory
12 Jokes for Heavy Metal Mandolin
Nidus Music Productions
Rock'n'roll is notably short of mandolin heroes. This guy doesn't mind being the first.
Years ago Time magazine ran a tiny blurb about a fellow named Mark Wood, a Juilliard-trained violinist/luthier/recording artist who set out to prove that heavy metal music could be performed on the violin. Well, everything Wood did for the violin, Maestro Alex Gregory has now done for the mandolin. British-born Gregory has a degree in composition from the University of Milan, and receoved the "Maestro" title from the British government. Now here he is designing and building instruments, and playing and composing heavy metal. Gregory apparently uses two 1950s Fender Mandocasters as well as two 5-string, 29-fret "Pentalins" of his own design.
Let's get one thing clear: The "jokes" in this CD's title don't refer to the idea of playing heavy metal music on the mandolin. If you think that's a joke, one listen to this disc should change your mind. "Joke" is simply the English translation of the Italian musical term scherzo—an uptempo composition with a humorous feel. OK? So here we have 12—count 'em—virtuosic scherzos for heavy metal mandolin.
This cat has serious talent. Backed up by Mark Craney on drums, Matt Bissonette on bass, and himself on rhythm mandolin and guitar, Gregory takes lead mandolin playing to places it's never been. You'll hear crosspicking, bends, arpeggios, and lightning-fast stratospheric licks, cranked up, distorted, and played with authority, humor, and panache. My favorites are the unaccompanied "Red Neck Punk Lullaby," which sounds like a classical etude on bad corn liquor, and "She Got Her Knickers Down!"—which, despite the title, is a slow, sensitive serio-comic waltz, with Gregory showing off his expressive side. Albert Collins would be proud of the greasy "Dead Mojo Blues," and Gregory has a bit of fun channeling influences as diverse as Strauss' "Tales from the Vienna Woods," Mozart's Symphony No. 40, and a killer version of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love."
A virtuoso piece is meant to be a brief showcase where the artist displays his chops, and the 12 cuts here clock in at 36:26, total. But there's plenty of technique to chew on, and this isn't heavy metal of the ear-splitting, obnoxious, boring kind. Each piece has a distinct mood and feel; I wouldn't call half of them "metal" at all, but what do I know? This thoroughly enjoyable disc is the perfect item to play for unsuspecting fret-heads, and watch their jaws drop when you tell them they're listening to a mandolin. You can order a copy directly from Emando.com.
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