Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Vassar Clements, RIP

In my blogging slump of the last few weeks, I neglected to post on something that I needed to. That's the death of the great fiddler, Vassar Clements. Clements was mostly a bluegrass fiddler but unlike many of early bluegrass musicians he was very open to playing other types of music. But unlike the second generation of bluegrass musicians who came to the fore in the 1970s, he could play other kinds of music tastefully and superbly. When I hear David Grisman going on in an 8 minute mandolin solo I get board. When I hear a Tony Rice record where he's covering Paul Simon, I sigh. When I hear Bela Fleck doing his thing, I lose interest. So many bluegrass musicians decided that they needed to fuse bluegrass with something else in order to make a living or be relevant or whatever. Clements didn't need to that. When he played jazz, he was playing jazz. Sure there was bluegrass in there but for that song he was a jazz violinist. The day after he died, I was listening to a local public radio station and the DJ played a Clements cover of a Sonny Rollins tune. It was so great. He was his own man and was able to make the song his own while keeping to the spirit of the original. He could swing, he could play traditional Appalachian dance music, he could play on rock albums. He was just a really great musician. The world will miss Vassar Clements.