by Bob Bernstein
Photo by Joan Harrison
Friday evening I took a long ride up from Long Island to Poughkeepsie for the Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association Showcase of “Mando-Madness” featuring two of our local mandolin legends, Wayne Fugate and Mike Sassano along with nationally renowned mandolin virtuoso Barry Mitterhoff. An added dividend to the evening was Pat Falco on acoustic bass. The showcase at Christ Church was preceded by a high energy bluegrass jam and refreshments contributed by the HVBA.
The trip was well worth it and the boys did not disappoint, playing music ranging from well- known fiddle tunes to a jazzy bossa nova and even a Beatles tune. The good natured musical interplay between the boys was evident and the level of musicianship and playing was a true pleasure. A variety of mandolin family instruments were used during the concert including mandolas, a mando-cello, and an octave mandolin in addition to ordinary mandolins, and to mandolin lovers, the instruments themselves were a pleasure to behold as well as to hear.
The music played was so tasty throughout the night that it’s hard to single out particular songs or moments to highlight. Nevertheless, I will mention that Wayne at center stage always seemed a solid anchor throughout staying close to the melody and serving as a foundation for flights of improvisational fancy on the part of both Barry and Mike. Wayne’s solo during “Bossa Dorado” was lovely and Barry introduced us to the little known “Vicksburg Stomp,” a bluesy rag that really made a hit with the audience. On the whole, Barry’s improvisations were clean and imaginative and his economy of movement and fine technique were a great example to those of us who play. Mike’s solos often took an unexpected turn but were terrific as always, especially so during “Old Dangerfield” and the Irish flavored “Rights of Man.” He also played a sweet and melodic solo on the octave mandolin during the “Ookpik Waltz” toward the end of the evening. Pat played a number of tasteful and skillful solos as in “Black Orpheus,” a traditional jazz standard which was a wonderful addition to the set.
I could go on, but given the constraints of space I will suffice it to say that the boys put on a great show demonstrating how these instruments should be played and thanks to the HVBA for sponsoring this event. I understand other such events are planned in the future and I look forward eagerly to more musical magic in Dutchess County.