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Partners in Time CD: $15

See the Dirty Linen Review

Listen to samples from all 10 tracks:

Partners In Time

A Visit from the Muse

Grey Hawk

Funk Tango

Etheria

Goodbye Liza Jane

Oh, Lady Be Good

Alhambra

Summertime

Monroe's Hornpipe

 

 

Download the One-SheetPartners In Time

With its deft, thoughtful blend of classical, bluegrass, jazz and swing influences, Partners In Time is an outstanding debut by a musician who feels comfortable in more than one setting—musically and personally. “I feel at home in the Blue Ridge Mountains playing fiddle tunes,” Jeff Midkiff says, “but then again, I feel at home in a professional orchestra as well.”

Filled with memorable original melodies and a selection of vintage tunes by composers ranging from Bill Monroe to George Gershwin, Partners In Time reflects a broad-ranging sensibility that’s all too rare in today’s compartmentalized musical world.A mandolinist and fiddler raised on bluegrass and a professional clarinetist, Jeff squares the musical circle on his debut solo recording, Partners In Time. The CD offers convincing proof that, in his case at least, a split musical personality is a good thing indeed. Filled with memorable original melodies and a selection of vintage tunes by composers ranging from Bill Monroe to George Gershwin, Partners In Time reflects a broad-ranging sensibility that’s all too rare in today’s compartmentalized musical world.

“As far back as when I was with the Lonesome River Band I thought it would be cool to do an album,” Jeff says, “but I didn’t really think about it seriously until a couple of years ago, after I’d been playing with the Schankman Twins for a while. Curtis Jones was their guitar player, and he and I spent our off-time together playing a lot of different kinds of music. He was writing a lot, too, and there was just a lot of creativity in the air. I had written one tune when I was a teenager, but hadn’t written any music since. All of a sudden I was getting these ideas for tunes, and as soon as I started getting creative, I thought, I need to start recording.”

Partners In Time is the result of that determination, and not surprisingly, Midkiff drew Jones in as guitarist for the album, while turning to an old friend — the Lonesome River Band’s Tim Austin, by now one of bluegrass’s busiest studio owners and recording engineers—for assistance in making the project a reality. “Curtis has been a real inspiration to me and a catalyst as well,” he says, “and I can’t say enough about the way Tim went above and beyond the call of duty, too. He’s the one who recommended Robbie Link to play bass on the album. He said, ‘He plays your kind of stuff,’” Jeff says with a chuckle, “and that’s pretty rare. What I’m doing here, going across all these genres, isn’t something just anybody is going to be able to do, but Robbie really laid it down.” For percussion parts, Midkiff turned to an old Virginia Tech friend, jazz drummer Bill Ray.

At the center of the album are a half-dozen original compositions that reflect that creative burst, as well as the varied sources of Midkiff’s creativity and musical experiences. “‘Alhambra’ is the oldest tune on the album, while ‘Partners In Time’ was written this past summer, so it’s the most recent,” he notes. “‘Grey Hawk’ was written after I left the Winterhawk bluegrass festival one year; the festival was changing its name to Grey Fox, so I combined the two for its title. That one pretty much popped into my head all at once. ‘Etheria,’ on the other hand, took a long time. I was listening to a recording of Itzhak Perlman playing the Bach E-major Partita, and it started me thinking about what I could do that would combine my classical ideas and my mandolin playing.”

Rounding out the album are four covers that pay more direct homage to Jeff’s inspirations. “Curtis and I have played a lot of Django Reinhardt’s music together,” he observes, “and ‘Lady Be Good’ and ‘Summertime’ are two we really like to do. ‘Summertime’ has always been one of my favorite tunes, whether out of Porgy & Bess or a jazz setting or even a bluegrass version. The other two are reflections of my earliest days as a bluegrass player and the environment I grew up in. ‘Liza Jane’ is a traditional tune I knew from childhood, but I don’t remember having actually done it until one day not too long ago. I started playing the tune and thought that with a little bit of arrangement, it would be really neat. I thought the album needed something that was really traditional but also showed where I am now musically. ‘Monroe’s Hornpipe’ is a tune that thse late Dempsey Young of the Lost & Found—he was my first mandolin teacher—showed me when I was a kid. I wanted to play something fast on the album, and I always liked that one, so it was a natural choice.”

—Jon Weisberger