Jimmy LaFave, Proponent of “Red Dirt Music”

“River Road” – Watch on YouTube

Jimmy LaFave was a beloved, Austin-based musician who blended country, rock ‘n’ roll, and blues into a form of Americana that became known as “red dirt music.”

Born in Texas, LaFave spent his formative years in Stillwater, OK, in the region that produced music legends Woody Guthrie, Chet Baker, J.J. Cale  and Leon Russell.

LaFave was a singer-songwriter and guitarist. He was known for his original songs and interpretations of others’ work. One of his most streamed songs is “Walk Away Renée” on his Austin Skyline album (itself a takeoff on Dylan’s Nashville classic). He recorded albums for both Rounder Records and Red House Records.

Jimmy LaFave, July 12, 1955-May 21, 2017

“Walk Away Renée” on Spotify

Dorothy Dorow, Vocal Interpreter of “Fiendish Works”

Des Hafis Liebeslider Op. 24, No. 5 “Der verliebte Ostwind” – Listen on YouTube

As her obituary in The Telegraph points out, Dorothy Dorow took on the most challenging works that “avant-garde composers could throw at her; awkward intervals, high notes, squeaks and squawks.”

Dorow had perfect pitch and a vocal range that could stretch four octaves, from coloratura to mezzo soprano. She performed works by Berg, Schoenberg and Webern and is thought to be the only singer to record three of Schoenberg’s most challenging works.

As if that weren’t enough, she learned to speak six languages and could sing in 13.

Dorothy Dorow, August 22, 1930 – April 15, 2017

“La lune solitaire” on Spotify

Kristine Jepson, Mezzo-Soprano Who Performed Worldwide

As Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo – Watch on YouTube

Kristine Jepson was a mezzo-soprano, covering the range between a soprano and contralto.  As a mezzo, Jepson sometimes appeared in male roles (such as Idamante in the above video). As Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, she played a man playing a woman. Another role that Jepson was particularly known for was The Composer in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. (Some mezzo roles were once performed by castrati, who, for obvious reasons, are no longer in great supply.)

Jepson was a graduate of the University of Indiana Bloomington, which is known for its music department. The violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk are also Indiana grads.

Jepson performed on opera stages around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, The Royal Opera, Bavarian State Opera, San Francisco Opera and Santa Fe Opera. Her Met debut was in Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice and appeared as Sister Helen in the worldwide premiere of Dead Man Walking.

Kristine Jepson, July 20, 1962-April 21, 2017

From Ariadne auf Naxos on Spotify


Slyvia Moy, Who Co-Wrote Hits With Stevie Wonder

On Recording “My Cherie Amour” – Watch on YouTube

Remember the Stevie Wonder hit “Oh My Marcia”? Of course, you don’t. But you’ve heard it by the name Stevie’s producer Sylvia Moy gave it – “My Cherie Amour.” The first female producer at Motown, Moy is credited with keeping Wonder at the label when it was unsure of how to adjust to the young prodigy’s changing voice. Working with Wonder and frequent song collaborator Hank Crosby, she discovered a new avenue for Wonder’s talent.

If you check out her page on Discogs, you’ll discover that Moy has 926 writing and arrangement credits. In that list (it runs for 38 pages) are included hits like “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” “I Was Made To Love Her” and “Never Had A Dream Come True.” The list includes songs that earned 20 BMIs and 6 Grammy nominations.

She and Crosby were inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2006.

Sylvia Moy, September 15, 1938-April 15, 2017

“Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” on Spotify

Follow the LGMR Soul/R&B/Funk 2017 Playlist here.


Allan Holdsworth, “The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever”

“Hazard Profile” with Soft Machine (1974)–Watch on YouTube

A reluctant guitarist (he wanted to play saxophone but his grandparents couldn’t afford one), Allan Holdsworth didn’t even start playing the instrument until he was 17. He learned quickly.

While he never achieved mass acclaim, he earned the respect of other musicians – Eddie Van Halen, Frank Zappa and John McClaughlin, to name a few. His fleet-fingered solos and original chord progressions amazed audiences and defied imitators.

Holdsworth moved around a lot, pursuing his own muses from group to group. A partial list includes Soft Machine, U.K., The New Tony Williams Lifetime, Tempest and Gong. The latter’s Gazeuse (Expresso in U.S.)  is listed as one of the 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die in the book by Tom Moon.

Allan Holdsworth, August 6, 1946-April 16, 2017

“The Sixteen Men of Tain” on Spotify


Bruce Langhorne, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Legendary Folk Guitarist

From Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand (1971) – Watch on YouTube

Name a folk great. Dylan? Baez? Havens? Odetta? Bruce Langhorne played with them all. He is particularly remembered for his work with Dylan, who was inspired to write “Mr. Tambourine Man” after seeing Langhorne come into the studio with a large Turkish tambourine.

Langhorne was crucial to the sound that launched Dylan’s career. Playing his 1920 Martin guitar through a Fender Reverb amp with the aid of a pickup – and emulating the Roebuck “Pop” Staples tremolo style – he built a bridge between folk and rock. He had a unique style, influenced in part by the loss of two fingers and most of a thumb due to a childhood accident.*

In addition to his session work, Langhorne composed scores for films, including Peter Fonda’s 1971 The Hired Hand. A moving video of Peter Fonda visiting the ailing Langhorne late last year is on YouTube.

Here are 5 songs (plus “Mr. Tambourine Man”) featuring the acoustic and electric guitar work of Bruce Langhorne:

Carolyn Hester “I’ll Fly Away” (with Bob Dylan on harmonica)

Odetta “Anthem of the Rainbows”

Joan Baez “Farewell Angelina”

Tom Rush “You Can’t Tell A Book By The Cover”

Richard and Mimi Fariña “Reno, Nevada”

Bruce Langhorne, May 11, 1938-April 14, 2017

“Mr. Tambourine Man” on Spotify

*LGMR recently profiled jazz pianist Horace Parlan, another musician who turned a disability into distinctive sound.

Follow the LGMR Folk 2017 playlist here.



Mika Vainio, Experimental Electronic Artist, Formerly of Pan Sonic Duo

What’s In My Bag? at Amoeba Music – Watch on YouTube

I usually try to feature a video of the musician performing, I made an exception in this case. In this video produced by Amoeba Music in Hollywood, I think it’s fascinating to see what music Vainio was interested in, from blues to experimental bands to avant-garde composers.

Vainio was  Finnish electronic and experimental artist, who composed and performed in the duo Pan Sonic (known as Pansonic before 1998) before moving on to solo projects as ø and later, under his own name.

Music writers Sean Cooper and Andy Kellman sum up the duo this way: “Pursuing the jagged edges of minimal and hardcore techno, Pan Sonic earned an enduring association with industrial and noise music through their incorporation of antiseptic production techniques and power-tool electronics.”

Interview on Brainwashed.com – Watch on YouTube

Thomas Brandis, Former 1st Concertmaster of Berlin Philharmonic

Beethoven Mass in D (Missa Solemnis) – Watch on YouTube

Between the years 1962-1983 and under the direction of Herbert von Karajan, Thomas Brandis was 1st concertmaster for the BerlinPhilharmonic. In noting Brandis’s death on the orchestra’s website, board member Knut Weber said: “Thomas Brandis’s extraordinary musicality has been documented in many recordings, from Mozart’s Haffner Serenade to Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra. His playing gives a condensed account of the qualities of the Karajan era: a rich, singing tone and an unerring sense of musical dramaturgy.”

In 1976 Brandis founded the Brandis Quartet, an ensemble that lasted for 25 years. He taught at Berlin University of Arts, the University of Music Lübeck and at the Royal Academy of Music, to name a few.

“The concertmaster must prepare bowings for everyone, and then they all shout at you, ‘This down bow is terrible.’ Orchestras are not easy…” –Thomas Brandis

Thomas Brandis,  1935-March 30, 2017

Schubert String Quartet No. 10 in E-Flat Major on Spotify

Arthur Blythe, Alto Saxophonist of the Avant-Garde

Arthur Blythe Quartet at the Jazzfestival Berlin (1980) – Watch on YouTube

In the opinion of critic Chris Kelsey, alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe came close to bringing avant-garde jazz into the mainstream through a series of albums for “hype-heavy” Columbia Records. (From the 1960s through the early 1980s, Columbia always had great packaging; check out the album cover below for Blythe’s Lenox Avenue Breakdown.)

But Blythe was still too “out there” for a mass audience, according to Kelsey, and the label turned to its more palatable young star Wynton Marsalis. (Speaking about “out there,” I liked that a tuba was part of Blythe’s quartet.)

Still Blythe managed to bring a new edge to older, more familiar jazz compositions. He did so quite literally in In The Tradition, a 1979 album that included four songs from the 30s, 40s and 50s with two original compositions. Here’s a comparison of Blythe’s versions with famous earlier recordings.

“Jitterbug Waltz” – Fats Waller  & Blythe

“Caravan” – Duke Ellington & Blythe

“In a Sentimental Mood” – Duke Ellington with John Coltrane & Blythe

“Naima” – John Coltrane  & Blythe

Arthur Blythe, July 5, 1940-March 27, 2017

“Lenox Avenue Breakdown” on Spotify


Louis Frémaux, French Maestro Led Birmingham And Sydney Orchestras

Beethoven Symphony No. 7 with Sydney Symphony Orchestra – Watch on YouTube

Louis Frémaux was a French-born conductor (and former French Foreign Legionnaire) who led the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1968-1978) and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (1979-1982). His first musical directorship was with the Orchestre Philharmonique Rhône-Alpes (1969-1971).

In Birmingham, he formed the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus with baritone Gordon Clinton as Chorus Master. He was awarded an honorary DMus from Birmingham University and joined the Royal Academy of Music. Unfortunately, his tenure ended due to deteriorating relationship with the musicians, and he was replaced by the then-25 year old Simon Rattle.

His discography includes over 50 works, including of John McCabe’s “Nottuni ed Alba” and Second Symphony, for which he received a special citation from the Koussevitzky Jury.

Louis Frémaux, August 13, 1921-March 20, 2017

Saint-Saens The Carnival of the Animals, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – On Spotify