Category: Archive

Ceol: Paddy Reynolds’s brilliance shows

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

None of those pitfalls applies to “Paddy Reynolds: Classic Recordings of the Irish Fiddle Legend,” 22 tracks of transfixing virtuosity from the Longford-born musician who died this past June 15 at age 84 in Staten Island and who influenced so many musicians in New York City since immigrating there in 1947. Fiddlers John Daly and Cleek Schrey have done an admirable job of sourcing and selecting music not only befitting the legend but also burnishing it. This CD gives listeners a chance to hear Paddy Reynolds in full solo glory, whether strictly unaccompanied, with the able piano accompaniment of Jerry Wallace (1929-1991), or even with the lumbering guitar accompaniment of Louise Barnes.
Culled from bygone Eagle Tavern concert tapings, a previously unreleased studio recording by Reynolds and Wallace, and kitchen playing by Reynolds, the album varies in sound quality but not in fiddling quality. Ambient noise and production unevenness never reach a level of distraction for some of Paddy Reynolds’s finest playing ever heard on a recording. Reaffirmed are how skillfully and inventively he plays hornpipes (especially his impressive ornamentation in the unaccompanied, three-part “High Level”), how fully and beautifully he executes each note in a melody, and how he maintains a steady tempo without losing any vitality or lift.
Reynolds’s playing of the jigs “The Frost Is All Over/Cherish the
Ladies” is articulate, imaginative, and invigorating. His performance there represents a microcosm of what he believes in musically: attention to detail, respect for what might be considered the composers’ intent, technique that’s disciplined but not straitjacketed, invention with an unvain purpose, and recognition that it’s a privilege, not a self-arrogated right, to play for others.
“A serious musician should present themselves properly,” he once told John Daly. That clarity and resolve ripple through his fiddling on the entire album.
There’s a tensile strength and fluid grace in Reynolds’s bowing of another pair of jigs, “The Girls of Banbridge/The Path to the Well,” the reel “Man of the House,” the jig “Humours of Drinagh,” and the jigs “Jackson’s Rambles/The Clare Jig.” His praise for Sligo-born and fellow New York fiddler James “Lad” O’Beirne (1911-1980)–“He was the greatest I ever heard,” Paddy says–precedes his inspired performance of a reel he learned from O’Beirne, “Farewell to Erin,” in a medley that includes “The College Groves” and “The Dairy Maid.”
Reynolds’s versatility also shines through the slow air “Sliabh na mBan,” where his delicate, heartfelt playing draws out all the beauty residing within this melody.
An unnamed reel (track 4) and the reel “Colonel Rogers” feature Reynolds without any backing, and hearing him in this stark, spare setting only enhances the listener’s appreciation for his talent.
Brief testimonials from Tony DeMarco, Brian Conway, and the late Andy McGann in the 14-page CD insert are moving, while the personal essay by fiddler John Daly is by far the most illuminating writing in the CD insert about Paddy Reynolds as both an exceptional musician and a distinctive personality.
My only quibble with the album package is that not even approximate recording dates are provided for the Reynolds-Wallace, kitchen, and Eagle Tavern tracks chosen. On a purely archival basis, and from the perspective of posterity, this omission seems odd for a CD that has the words “classic recordings” in its title.
Along with “Sweet and Traditional Music of Ireland” (Rego) in 1971, “Andy McGann & Paddy Reynolds” (Shanachie) in 1976, “My Love Is in America” (Green Linnet) in 1991, and Pat Mullins’s film documentary “From Shore to Shore: Irish Traditional Music in New York City” in 1993, this new release testifies to how extraordinary a fiddler Paddy Reynolds was. It will further secure his place in the New York fiddling pantheon that includes Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran, Martin Wynne, Paddy Sweeney, Larry Redican, James “Lad” O’Beirne, Louis Quinn, Hugh Gillespie, Packie Dolan, Johnny Cronin, John McGrath, and Reynolds’s former playing partner Andy McGann.
For more information about “Paddy Reynolds: Classic Recordings of the Irish Fiddle Legend,” visit www.paddyreynolds.com or www.johndalymusic.com. Also e-mail at johndalychicago@yahoo.com or chicagofiddler@yahoo.com.

A native of Kiltyclogher, Leitrim, now living in Spiddal, Galway, fiddler, pianist, and composer Charlie Lennon was heavily involved with Ben and David Lennon in getting “The Humours of Glendart” CD made. It is 15 tracks of fiddling from Drumcully, Southwest Fermanagh’s John Gordon (1928-2002), who peaked in the late 1940s and early 1950s, says Charlie, Gordon’s piano accompanist. John Gordon is also on “Within a Mile of Kilty,” a new Cl

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