Rudy Cipolla, Portrait of an American

If you like great mandolin music with a worldy, timeless flavor, I think you'll like this CD.



A letter from David Grisman

This portrait of Rudy Cipolla and his music is an extension of a larger project underwritten in part by a grant from the Rex Foundation. I proposed this as a way of organizing Rudy's music because a few years ago, when Bob Bruen and I were visiting Rudy, we noticed mountains of music in boxes and old files. We thought it was time to deal with it and Rudy agreed.

Rudy has had a life in music largely unregarded by mainstream America, like many musicians throughout the country who are really folk musicians; talented homemade musicians that have never cultivated big careers. Rudy is such a musician.

After Bob Bruen first introduced us, I took several lessons from Rudy as a way of getting to know him. Rudy's way of playing with the edge of a pointed pick was totally alien to me, but he got me into reading mandolin music and thinking about certain kinds of chord changes, such as the use of a diminished chord.

At times, Rudy -- composer, player and teacher -- is a taskmaster with strong ideas about his own music and how he wants it played: at other times he'll say "If you don't like a part, make up your own." He's got strong aesthetic convictions and he's been a great influence on all of us "younger" players. Rudy is a totally generous person. He would give his time and knowledge to anyone who walked into his store and wanted to talk about music or find out about anything, and a flock of musicians found their way there, including most of the players on this recording. Profit has never been his motivation; I've been on gigs with him where he's put in a great deal of work for very little pay. And he's always willing to share, particular as a composer -- every piece is dedicated to someone special in his life.

Musically, Rudy lives in his own world and has carved out an area that he calls "Continental." It's music from another time and place, probably similar to the music that Rudy heard when he was growing up. You can also hear the music of the Argentine Trio in his composing -- rumbas and tangos played on the mandolin, mandocello and accordian. It's like nothing surrounding him in the world of contemporary San Francisco. He's an American who is preserving his own European roots.

Rudy's greatest wish is to have his work played by others, because then it extends beyond him and breathes new life into the music. This recording combines Rudy's own interpretations with those of many of his adherents. Evan Marshall and Radim Zenkl, two of today's leading mandolin virtuosi, offer solo and duo mandolin arrangements; long time Rudy associates Bob Bruen and Antonia Cipollina perform a unique mandocello/piano duet; Kaila Flexor & Third Ear add some Eastern-refined sensibilities to "La Civetta" and "Monica"; and my own quintet plays "Mighty Little Samson" as written and also as if it were bona fide dawg music ("Mighty Swingin' Little Samson").

Also included are the earliest known recordings of Rudy (playing mandocello, an instrument he helped pioneer) and excerpts from the Capone soundtrack, released here for the first time. This project attempts to present a well-rounded portrait of Rudy Cipolla and his fascinating musical life; I hope you enjoy it.

- David Grisman
Mill Valley, California

Price: $15.00 plus shipping


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