A New Kind Of Old

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Instrumentalists Jamie Laval and Ashley Bruder join forces in Monterey this Sunday for a concert titled “Celtic Roots and Bluegrass Innovation.”  An appropriate name, as Laval was the 2002 US National Scottish Fiddle Champion and Broder is a two-time winner of the Western Open Master Picker Championship.  Sunday’s show promises to be a unique showcase of music from America, Scotland, Ireland and Brittany.

Seattle-based Laval is equally at home playing folk, jazz or even classical music.  His career as a musician began as a teenager; he left high school early to study music at the Victoria Conservatory of Music in Canada.  There, he trained as a classical violinist and got to play at a reception for the Queen of England.  While at college, Laval also developed a love of jazz.  “I ended up playing classical music for years,” he said, “but Charlie Parker was always my favorite because he stretched the boundaries of music and still kept it accessible and sweet.”

After several years as a concert violinist, he became interested in fiddle playing and began to learn traditional Celtic songs.  Eventually he decided that this was the style of music he wanted to play. Laval applies Parker’s approach to his own music, adding new harmonies and arrangements to traditional tunes, as well as jazz-style improvisations.  “We’re talking songs up to 400 years old here,” he said.  “We’ll experiment and try to craft an arrangement that basically sounds different from where it started but where people can still make out the melody.  The basic core is there with its old rustic sound, but I don’t have to feel like I’m sticking with the old thing.”

In addition to his live work, Laval is a much-in-demand session musician and composer.  He recently played on Dave Matthews’ “Some Devil” album, contributing fiddle to eight songs.  His playing has been featured in several movie soundtracks too, including “Die Hard III,” “Lake Placid” and even “Barney’s Big Adventure.” 

Laval has self-released one CD, 2003’s “Shades of Green,” which attracted lavish praise from the traditional music press.  “Sing Out!” magazine said “This is a rare album that is subtle and energetic at the same time. Why the record companies aren’t all over this is a mystery.”  He is currently at work on a follow-up album.

Laval is joined on Thursday by multi-instrumentalist Ashley Bruder.  Hailing from Camarillo, CA, Bruder is an accomplished cellist, fiddler and mandolin player, and recently collaborated with Mike Marshall on his series of mandolin instruction books.  She began working with Laval after they played a show together in Riverside, CA.  After the concert, while everyone was packing up, she picked up Laval’s fiddle and began playing it.  “I turned my head to look,” said Laval.  “Dang! That’s good, I thought. Later we jammed for hours and thus started a new collaboration.”  Future plans for the duo include incorporating cello into the line-up of instruments used in concert.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, January 5, 2006

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