Early in the fall of 2016, Alan Jabbour sat at his kitchen table, his face sallow from the illness overtaking his lanky frame. Just now, though, he spoke animatedly. Conversation had turned to the preambles he typically delivered before playing a tune. Alan viewed his monologues --part historical and always personal --as no less central to his live appearances than the fiddling itself.
Alan's "raps," as he affectionately termed his introductions, stemmed from his first-hand collecting of the music. He began this documentation of traditional musicians in the mid-1960s during his years as a graduate student. He recorded older rural fiddlers steeped in an earlier artistry that they, in turn, had absorbed from their seniors. Alan soon found himself not only interviewing players about their lives, but serving as an apprentice to their arts. Many of the themes he explored on stage he also pondered in print, but the requirements of live performance distilled his thoughts into evocative oral statements. Now, during my last visit at his home --we saw one another only one more time --he stressed the theatricality of these reflections that had meant so much to him.
That ardor led to this album. Soon after Alan's death in January 2017, I found myself listening to a noontime concert we had undertaken nearly twenty years before. It occurred on May 29, 1998, at the Library of Congress in their fabled Coolidge Auditorium. Titled "Americana Concert, Traditional Fiddle & Banjo Tunes from the Appalachians," it marked the last performance in a "Violin Summit," a live series of concerts hosted by the Library and focused on the instrument.
The Americana Concert --I think Alan suggested the title --ran nearly seventy minutes. Its duration afforded Alan enough time for fourteen of his discussions and fifteen of our musical offerings, a couple of which spliced two tunes together. Unlike his other published recordings, this live concert reflects Alan's raps in addition to his playing.
Throughout this performance, like all those we undertook over the years, I would improvise, finding other voicings, intervals, and registers to provide variations on Alan's melodies. As Alan once told me, "the fiddle feeds the banjo ... [allowing] the banjo to fill the creative space."
Alan Jabbour's influence still ripples and resonates from his achievements and talents. This concert presents his enduring presence, the warmth of his voice, the radiations of his fiddle.
(from the album notes)