Best of the best

Best of the best

I just wanted to know who the members think is the best banjo player in Ireland is and who the best fiddle player is. Plus say why you think they are the best. I know its so hard to choose but pick your No.1.

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Hmmm… Zina Lee and Will Harmon?

But i heard Paul Kin is very good too.

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I swear, I’ve never even played Foggy Mountain Breakdown in Ireland…but rumor has it that Glauber does an amazing imitation of a banjo on his M&E….

Besides, the last time I picked my Number 1 in public, the teacher sent me to the principal’s office…..

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Well we’re getting really silly now aren’t we!

Sorry to be a wet blanket but this question is a total nonsense. There is no best Banjo player nor best Fiddle player, they just don’t exist. Paul - your havin’ a laugh, aren’t you?!

It’s like saying the current senior All Ireland Champion is the best player for that year. Let’s face it, he wasn’t even the best player on the day - B******S, he might have been in one persons opinion a better player on the day, but ask ten people their opinion, & I guarantee you’d get quite a few different results. Heck, run the competition the next day, & guess what, someone else would probably triumph.

It is totally irrelevant. It doesn’t even come down to technique, because what use is all the technique in the world if you can’t apply it tastefully, & anyway my idea of taste is going to be different to yours.

It’s this sort of crap that keeps Comhaltas competitions running, so no, I’m going to leave this alone before I get annoyed. At my age I’ve got to watch my blood pressure after all!

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Best banjo player in Ireland is def. Gerry O’Connor, but not my favourite. Gerry’s technically brilliant but I prefer listening to Cathal Hayden - better "taste" in my book.

Best Irish fiddle player technically would be Frankie Gavin. He’s also up there with Tommy Peoples in terms of who I like listening to most, as he’s equally comfortable playing exuberantly or in a melancholy, "lonesome" style. Paddy Glackin, because of "Doublin’" in third,James Kelly in fourth ‘cos he let’s the tunes speak for themselves. After that there are about 15 players who I love for different reasons. Can you not ask an easy question, like which famous players can’t we stand?? ;

Pop a pill Ptarmigan!

As Harry Enfield’s scousers would say, "Calm down, calm down"!
I don’t think what any of our personal opinions are will colour anyone else’s. I imagine the question was asked to find out more about us as musicians - what do we value most in other people’s music and therefore our own, not to get a general consensus as to who is the best. You are right of course, personal tastes are different; maybe the question should be "Who are your favourite banjo and fiddle players?"

By the way, on the Comhaltas point, the same player probabaly WOULD triumph the next day, as long as the adjudicator was still his/her auntie’s brother in law’s cousin twice removed.

Con

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Yeah, its personal taste def & my personal taste is banjo - Angelina Carberry - she is awesome and really, really groovey & fiddle Oisin MacDirmada and Declan folan - both different reasons, Oisin is a sweet melodic player & Declan in a cranking groovy player. Anyhow - cant see why you got so het up about this question ptarmigan, there have certainly been far worse on this site - the mountain dulcimer one for example?

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Pointless.

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Will, the only banjo imitation i know how to do is the one where the banjo player gets kicked out of the pub.

I agree with Ptarmigan that this matter of choosing the best banjo or fiddle player is nonsense… now, if it were to choose the best flute player… Matt Molloy, of course! 🙂

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The best fiddle player is the one I’m listening to at the moment. 🙂 Today, that’s Sean Smyth — had a workshop with him today, what a nice guy, and what a fiddler!

Best banjo…hmmm…haven’t listened enough to figure that out.

Will’s a better fiddler than me, Glauber, by far…but I’m prettier! (It’s that eye in the middle of his forehead…)

Zina

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Hey Zina,
What did you think of Sean’s teaching? I had a workshop with him once and found it to be incredibly useful (hmm, I think I raved about it here a long time ago). Did you learn anything you’d like to pass on?

I’m with Zina, the best is the one on the CD that is currently being worn to bits on the player.

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Hmm, dont know about pointless - true there isnt a best but there are a lot of people out there who listen to the poorest excuse for Irish music ever. For example Celtic Storm or whatever they are called on the titanic movie. So maybe if there were a few suggestions of people who are actually good, people may just stop listening to rubbish!

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That’d be my *third* eye in the middle of the aforementioned forehead…. You mean you don’t find it attractive?

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I did a workshop with sean smyth as well & I though he was really good! It mustve been about 4 years ago now - but I still remember most of the stuff he taught us! So lucky you zina - Do you know if the rest of the gang are in the states at the moment (i.e Lunasa)?

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Loved it! The Lunasa boys were all there, giving workshops and lessons and such. They performed on Monday night and taught Monday day and Tuesday.

Sean gives lots of individual attention and advice, making you feel like he’s noticing what you’re doing even though everyone is playing at the same time. He was far more friendly and approachable than I expected. Very open and good at making you feel like you’re doing well. Too bad I’m not writing at the moment, I’d love to have gotten in an interview for the Cafe.

We only had an hour (far too short!), but went over some bowing issues, methodologies for learning when you’re past the beginning stages but not really close to being expert, and he gave us some of his signature tricks to use…that triplet into a cut thing, and what he calls a ‘hammer-into-almost-a-slide’. He taught us Mike McGoldrick’s "Slip Jig for Baby Rory" to do it in. Nice tune.

We also discussed the two different kind of rolls issue, East Galway music, and how players in Ireland are much less purists than players just about anywhere else ("There’s not much pure about me!" he said, and laughed when we asked if we could publish that.)

So, not too shabby for an hour.

Will, it’s just that the third eye is rather disconcerting when you’re batting the eyelashes like that… 🙂

Zina

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Lol—just be glad there *are* eyelashes on the thing….

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For me Charlie Piggott is the best banjo player and Kevin Burke the best fiddler; reason: they both really swing it, it’s irresistible!

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Ha ha ha
Best banjo player indeed?

Can we safely say that Maurice Green is the fastest man on the planet.
And leave it at that.

This is the most irritating discussion I’ve ever seen on this web site.
It gets my gout so much, I’m leaving

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Gerry O Connor is the best in my opinion, but i prefer to listen to Kieran Hanrahan.

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now I’d be truly heartbroken if I thought you meant it michael 😉)

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I love Celtic1234’s comment, that tongue in cheek response says it all. How could you possibly consider one guy to be better, but prefer listening to the other guy. Obviously if you prefer listening to the 2nd guy, then he must be a better player in your opinion than the first guy.

For example, I just love listening to Micho Russell play Whistle. Now nobody can claim that he was technically brilliant, but who gives a S**t, he had such heart & style & boy did he have rythm. There are a lot of young whiz kids on the circuit who’s playing sounds like demented Synths. who’s tachnique I can admire, but who, I’m sorry but, I tire of listening to very quickly. In my opinion they would do well to take a leaf out of Micho’s book every now & then, & slow down & smell the flowers.

How could you possibly say that these whiz kids are better Whistle players than Micho. If you don’t understand this, then you don’t really understand what Traditional Music is all about yet.

As for this Maurice Green chappie, I’ve never heard of him, but I have a suspician I may not be all that impressed.

If it’s any consolation Henk, I love listening to Charlie Piggott’s Banjo playing too, but if you get a chance, have a listen to Mick O’Connor, London, he is one fine, fine Banjo player. In fact listen to as many players as you can, most of them have something to offer, & for any favour, don’t just get hooked on one player or one style, develop your own style by listening to as much & as many as you can.

Bottom line - If you went up to any musician & told him or her, they were the best player ever, I guarantee they would not puff up with pride, but they would instead just squirm with embarrassment at the total absurdity of the whole notion of a best player - you’d be laughed out of town.

So if you were, after all, being serious Celtic1234, ho ho ho, the next bus leaves at ……….ho ho …………

Oh, & if you do really have a third eye Will, well I would get on that bus too, not that I’m eyeist or anything you understand but…………….

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I also think there’s no such a thing of "best player". But anyway, here are my favourites: Gerry O’Connor, and two very different styles of fiddle playing: Matt Cranitch & Mair

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"Eyeist" — *snicker*

Con

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Aye, (groan) Ptarmigan, and I’m glad that you’ve volunteered to get on that bus and leave me where I am. *grin*

And here I thought that the best banjo player was someone who knew how to play banjo but wouldn’t….

(For the scholar’s margin: Note to absolutists. The next time you start a conversation at your meatspace session and everyone else joins in but on a completely different and likely silly topic, like eyes in their foreheads, take the hint.)

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Just in case you care, but probably not, Maurice green is the one who one the 100metres sprint at teh sydney Olympics!! Its true there is no best player of Trad, but goddamn, Ian Thorpe is the best swimmer in the world!!!!! 😉))

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Less of yer lip Harmon, or I’ll set that Green fella after ye. (oh, you don’t happen to have three lips as well do ye?)

There’s room for light & shade in every debate, although with three eyed beings in the company, lets make sure that light stays on!

I’ve got it, Harmon is only your middle name - your surname is in fact Munster!
That explains the third eye.
Give my regards to that ‘Hand’ thing, next time you see him, her, it!
Or was that the Adams family?

Munster

Like in the Star of Munster reel?

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Heh, heh…unmasked at last. Yep, Harmon Munster here, with Thing playing the bodhran, and Lily doing her best Cathy Jordan impersonation. I swear Grandpa is the best banjo player in Transylvania, at least since Uncle Fester moved to Minnesota to be governor….

So Tar ‘im agin, you got something against people with extra lips? (grins)

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Zina, Harry Enfield is an impressionist on TV. He’s a bit hit and miss but he does a good over-the-top impression of an aggressive, thieving, track-suited Liverpudlian with 70’s style perm and moustache. Apologies to any real Scousers as this is of course a wildly inaccurate stereotype. ;

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So, how do you play in donkeys?

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Short for "donkey’s years", i.e. a long time! I suspect you already knew that and weren’t actually imagining some XXX-rated session :

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Conan, I met up with Mick in London many years ago, & a pure gentleman he was, quite apart from being a wonderful player. I’m glad to hear he’s still going strong, even if he is a little bit late, an odd time!

I remember I was actually able to pass him a tune (steps back in amazement!), it was a wee syncopated version of The Pigeon on the gate, I had picked up from the playing of Charlie Piggott in a folk club, in the lovely town of Mullingar, one night a few months before.

As well as hearing Mick in Milltown about ten years ago, I heard him in the street, in Ennis, at the All Ireland Fleadh of ‘77, just after I watched Kieran Hanrahan win his All Ireland medal. Did anyone else see that amazing session that Kieran played with Maurice Lennon in the street that Saturday evening. Maurice of course also won that day & boy were they high on glory!.

I seem to remember a certain young Flute player doing rather well that day, who later went on to do a bit of fancy dancing around the world. Aaaah…memories…..

Haven’t had the pleasure of hearing Mick Moriarty, but Isn’t it great though, doesn’t matter how many good musicians you know of, there’s always another one just round the corner ready to surprise, & delight you.

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Conan, speaking of banjo Mick, he

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What’s that you say, Con

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Ptarmigan, wish I’d seen that session. I think I missed the last heady days of Miltown by a few years. Now if you’d known how Michael Flatley was to progress, would you have shook his hand or kicked him up the Harris?

Mike, thanks for the invitation! I’l check the dates and see if I can get a flight. What’s happening in Lourdes that weekend, a festival?

Zina, my heart goes out to you; you must have had a bit of a shock. I’m sick of spam but sometimes you’ve got to laugh. I get everything from hair restoration procedures to breast enlargement. The former isn’t too bad an idea, but being a male accordion player the latter isn’t on my wish-list just yet!
Con

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Yes, Con

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I knew this subject would get you going. I think Gerry ( banjo) O’ Connor is the best but I prefer to listen to Keiran Hanrahan. If you noticed at the end of the first message I said pick your No.1 that doesn’t mean he is number one. If someone ask me that question I would pick my favorite player not because he is the best in the world but the fact the the music touches the heart like no other person. On the fiddle I’d have to say frankie does it for me. I just smile in bed at night when listening to him. Gerry O’ Connor is brillant. His music is crap but Jesus he can play.

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OK and what the heck? I have read enough and I don’t think I could damage this post by saying I wish Mark O’Connor had taken up the Irish Fiddle. We would be arguing over who the second best was.

By the way - Did I miss the point again?

The other Mark

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Point? Was there a point? Does there have to be a point? 🙂

Zina

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Favourite fiddle player? Gerry O’Connor [not banjo Gerry] and probably Frankie Gavin. Though I do also love the Donegal style epitomised by Mair

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It’s good to see Mick O’Connor mentioned here - he deserves it. Incidentally, his Shepherds Bush session is listed here - and I usually turn up later than him (but he’s still the better musician). The definition of a really good banjo player is one who can play The Mason’s Apron, but doesn’t (sorry, Paul-Kin). Mick O’Connor can do anything, but doesn’t. Gerry, on the other hand, can do anything, and does everything.

Do these No.1s have to be alive? As far as fiddlers are concerned, one name which hasn’t been mentioned, and deserves it is Denis Murphy (he’s only been dead 28 years) .

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David, I love your distinction between Mick & Gerry, right on the button!

Absolutely, if Mick was one of the Mr. Men, when it came to Banjo playing, he’d be Mr. Taste, or Mr. Class or Mr. Cool, or quite simply - The Man - can ye dig it!

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Who is Mick O’Connor David. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of him. I good banjo player to me is, one that is not to loud and knows his tunes.

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Is it Mick Maloney your talking about David

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Dear Ptarmigan
When i say i prefer to listen to Kieran Hanrahan but think that Gerry O Connor is the best, i mean that Gerry in my opinion is technically the best but his Cd’s are not as good as say Kieran Hanrahans. Kieran plays more of the stuff i like whereas Gerry has African music etc on his cd which is’nt up my street.
I would’nt agree that if you prefer to listen to a certain musician but think another is better that this is a "tongue in cheek" answer.
Eric Clapton might be the best guitarist in the world but i prefer Mark Knofler. What’s tongue in cheek about that.
Andy Irvine might be the best mandolin player but some of the stuff he records is crap.
Maybe i’m losing my marbles but i can’t see how my answer "says it all"

best musician versus preferred musician

I disagree with Ptarmigan in the "best banjo player" discussion.
I think that Gerry O Connor is a better banjo player than Kieran Hanrahan but i prefer to listen to Kieran Hanrahan. Basically because his Cd’s are better than Gerry’s in my opinion. Ptarmigan disagrees and thinks that "how can you think a certain musician is the best but prefer to listen to somebody else".
What do people think? Does anybody else prefer to listen to a musician but think that another is technically better. Or is it that (in your opinion) who you prefer to listen to, must be what you consider the best musician.
E.G i prefer to listen to Paddy Keenan but do not consider him the best piper.. Andy Irvine may(in my opinion) be the best with a mandolin but i prefer the style of others.
Maybe this is a silly discussion but i wonder do people prefer a certain artist because he/she is technically better or because they prefer what that musician has recorded. Am i the only person to prefer a musician even though another is technically better(in my opinion).
Am i going mad to be interested in how people determine their best musician versus their preferred musician.

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I also disagree with Ptarmigan on that.
My perfect example (and I know I’m going to hurt many feelings here among fiddle players) is Martin Hayes. He’s a brilliant player, amazing technique, but I don’t like the way he plays, so I rather listen to other ‘less flamboyant’ players, let’s put it this way.
Another good example is Matt Molloy. Gosh, what a wonderful player!. But he rolls almost every note, and that’s a bit too much for my taste (Although I confess I hate him for being soooooo good.🙂

Anyway, I still think there’s not a ‘best player’, just extremely good different players.

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Sorry, I just don’t get it, everyone here seems to be hung up on the amount of technique a player demonstrates, proving that he is a better player. Does this come from the dreaded competition world a lot of musicians are dragged, or drag themselves through these days.

If you really want to get inside Traditional Music, I would recommend that you get away from the hero worship mentality, this best player notion is in my opinion a dead end. Try & get away from this - technique is all - hangup.

Believe me, Gerry O’Connor is not a better player than Kieran Hanrahan, & I’m sure he would hate you for even thinking it - he has more sense.

By the way, I love how Toni, starts off by saying how he disagrees with me, then proceeds to back up my argument. Martin Hayes is not a better player than the other folk you like listening to, & he would cringe at the thought of it. Listen to that man talk sometime *please*, he will put the simple style old players of East Clare way ahead of himself, & who are we to argue with someone with that amount of tradition in his soul.

Study technique by all means, to improve your own playing, but don’t make it your only musical god, for beware lest it prove to be a false idol.

Poor old, or young, celtic1234, is obviously still hung up on technique being far more important than style. The fact that so many people here are writing about so & so having better technique, but they actually prefer someone else’s playing - does that not tell you something about technique? Think about it.

More technique does not mean better.

Oh & bringing CDs into this is a red herring. It doesn’t matter what the magical sound men do to the music, we’re talking about the players here.

One last thing - Eric Clapton better than Mark Knopfler - are you being serious - just listen to yourself there, do you have any idea how rediculous that sounds. I bet Eric & Mark are pi**ing themselves right now! In the words of John McInroe (sp) ‘You cannot be serious Man!’

By the way, are you lot ganging up on me? I smell conspiracy! Stop pickin’ on me, I’m only a wee fella.

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Yes, but you’re a wee fella with a large voice, Dick. *grin* Besides, you always fight back, and that’s always fun.

hehehe

Zina

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If it comes to a virtual tennis tournament on this matter, I’m on your side Ptarmigan. Dueling tennis raquets at 20 paces (or something). I’ve never seen such nonsense - and ITM isn’t Wimbledon, for crying out loud.

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Shall we go back to discussions about Will’s third eye now? Or choose a new round of nonsense? 🙂

Zina

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And, by the way, Dick, we’ve covered the competition issues in our usual fashion in the past on three or four different threads: loudly, vociferously, lots of strong opinions…do a look up, you might find it interesting, even if it doesn’t shake your iron clad resolutions. 🙂

Zina

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But its sorta funny seeing everyone get so emotional…teehhheee

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So… who’s the best banjo player in Ireland?

(ducking for cover, turning off the computer and going to bed)

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Paul Kin, Mick O’Connor is a London-based player. He used to play with the Four Courts Ceili Band, and won the All Ireland about 30 years ago. Although he’s not as high profile a player as, say, Gerry O’Connor or Kieran Hanrahan, he’s known far and wide and is one of the best around.