Jim Murdoch | Waltz to the Sea

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Waltz to the Sea

by Jim Murdoch

A solo album of original songs, traditional and contemporary melodies from Argentina, Spain, Scotland, and the Appalachians performed on accordion, cedar flute, castanets, dulcimer, guitar, harmonica, piano & vocals.
Genre: World: World Traditions
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Tara's Song
2:58 $0.99
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2. Erika's Reel
2:19 $0.99
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3. Jota
2:09 $0.99
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4. Saga of the Tamale
3:24 $0.99
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5. Golondrinas
2:33 $0.99
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6. Mi Buenos Aires Querido
1:59 $0.99
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7. Waltz to the Sea
4:21 $0.99
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8. West Virginia Hills
1:48 $0.99
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9. Appalachian Dulcimer
6:28 $0.99
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10. Beach Glass Ballade
4:26 $0.99
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11. Fandango
2:31 $0.99
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12. Autumn Again
5:04 $0.99
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13. Follow the Heron
2:46 $0.99
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14. Pomegranate Moon
3:05 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
"Appalachian Monk," chirping crickets, evening fireflys, Thelonious Monk out on a front porch up in the hills of West Virginia. Jim's original and traditional songs of Appalachia, Scotland, Spain and Argentina are sung and played on accordion, cedar flute, mountain dulcimer, guitar, harmonica, castanets, piano

A review from 'Indie-music' (from 02-08-08) :

By Jana Pochop

Waltz to the Sea is one of those multi-faceted albums where you can't quite believe the artist pulled off playing all the instruments himself. But Jim Murdoch does exactly that with this varied and interesting batch of traditional and original tunes. Murdoch handles the cedar flute, dulcimer, accordion, piano, harmonica to name a few. Oh, and he arranges it all too.

Murdoch's album starts off with "Tara's Song," a mournful and beautiful tune played on the cedar flute. It blends nicely into the jaunty and stuck-in-your-head melody of "Erika's Reel," on which Murdoch handles both dulcimer and accordion. Already the listener can tell that Murdoch is a man of many instruments, and we're only two tracks in. The Emerald Isle gives way to "Jota," a Spanish folk song complete with castanets. I don't think I have ever typed this sentence before and very well may never type it again, but ... I really enjoyed the castanets on this piece. It's exactly what a folk song from Spain should sound like.

Next Jim throws in some vocals with a great tune about one of my favorite things ... tamales. The traditional Mexican dish wrapped in a corn husk is more than deserving of a song, and Murdoch delivers an almost epic tale about the dish. What I'm curious about is what a "tamale box" is, because it gets played on this record.

One of the standout tracks is "Appalachian Dulcimer," a medley of well known tunes such as "Oh, Susanna," "Froggy Went A Courtin'," and "Camptown Races." The combination of dulcimer and harmonica manage to highlight the melodic aspect of each tune and add an almost mournful tone to it, without making them drag. It's a good approach for this song grouping.

Murdoch is also an excellent pianist, as "Golondrinas" and "Mi Buenos Aires Querido" testify. Murdoch is trained in jazz and classical piano, as well as flamenco dance. And apparently in his off-time, he makes tamales. One well-rounded musician who made a very well-rounded record. Waltz to the Sea is recommended for those who don't mind some variety in their musical palette (or salsa on their tamales, as it were).

*

Originally from Montana, Jim first performed in the San Francisco Bay Area with The Pickle Family Circus as an apprentice clown and roustabout, appearing in clown and club juggling routines. Outside the ring, Jim pursued a variety of interests: jazz and classical piano, accordion, movement and dance, including five years studying flamenco dance, castanets and music with Rosa Montoya (niece of flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya) in San Francisco.

Jim performs at festivals and fairs up and down the west coast from 'Lompoc to Puyallup,' playing his own compositions, as well as traditional songs and presenting his solo clown show, "The Dogs Bark but the Caravan Moves On," (more info at Jim's web page)

* Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival of the Arts
* The Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival
* The Great Monterey Squid Festival
* The San Francisco Festival of the Sea

Jim released his first CD, in the spring of 2006. "Waltz to the Sea," a solo effort is a collection of original and traditional music, including songs for cedar flute, dulcimer, accordion, guitar, piano, vocals, harmonica and castanets. More details are at the end of this biography...

Jim is curently recording his second cd, "Yonder Shore." A collection of his new songs, including collaborations with good musical friends, who perform on Hawaiian guitar, violin, percussion, organ and vocals. Several demos can be heard at Jim's sonicbids electronic press kit including, 'Lovely Little Marley' and 'Dusk & Dawn.' see links - 'sonicbids'

For the past fifteen years Jim has been working as a musician at the University California San Francisco Helen Diller Comprehensive Cancer Center for the award winning expressive arts program, 'Art fror Recovery,' performing original and traditional music for patients who are recovering from surgery (including the intensive care unit), receiving chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments, and for staff and visitors. In 2008 Jim began a new songwriting project. ‘Songs from the Heart,’ a collaboration with patients and staff to create individual songs, based on their experiences at the medical center.

Since 1988 Jim has taught classes, workshops and led peer support programs to provide individual and group support through creative expression. Jim uses his training and experience in movement and dance, creative writing, oral history, music and composition, group discussion, collaboration and sometimes humor to give participants a broader understanding of issues in their lives involving change, loss, bereavement, growth, transformation and healing.

Jim works throughout the San Francisco Bay Area with a variety of populations, presenting 15 to 20 programs every month. Over the past twenty years he has presented programs and facilitated support workshops for the following

* Pediatric Oncology
* Kaiser Hospital San Francisco
* Stanford University Lucille Packard Children's Hospital
* Oakland Children's Hospital

* San Francisco Domestic Violence Women's Shelter

* UCSF Cancer Center - ongoing Husband’s Support Group for men whose wives are dealing with cancer

* Elderly and Aging
* retirement communities
* board & care homes
* skilled nursing facilities

* Hospice & End of Life


In October of 2005 Jim presented a literary symposium at the University of California Santa Barbara's College of Creative Studies, "A Musical Tour of The Accordion Music of Immigration in America, based on E. Annie Proulx's Novel "Accordion Crimes." Jim continues to present his music appreciation program describing the influence of immigration on traditional European and Celtic.
Jim has worked with the support of The California Arts Council to involve elderly people with creative projects, using music, dance, movement, oral history, video and visual art. In 2002, the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum transcribed and published Jim's oral history of a Bay Area Vaudevillian, "Thelma Langston, A Life in Vaudeville."

* most recently Jim taught a flamenco dance class for elderly people at Mendelsohn House retirement community in San Francisco


“Waltz to the Sea”
reflects Jim’s wide-ranging musical interests and eclectic sources—from original songs to traditional and contemporary melodies from Argentina, Spain, Scotland, and the Appalachians—and his extensive background as a performer. Traditional Celtic and Appalachian music, Spanish folk song and flamenco, Argentine tangos, and original and contemporary vocals are performed with a variety of instruments that include cedar flute, Appalachian dulcimer, accordion, guitar, and piano.

The CD opens with an original song for cedar flute, and continues with a traditional Celtic tune performed on Appalachian dulcimer. The CD also includes an Appalachian dulcimer medley of traditional tunes and songs by Stephen Foster. A cedar flute rendition of “West Virginia Hills,” the state song, is a tribute to Jim's grandmother, who lived in West Virginia for 94 years until her recent passing. The dulcimer and cedar flute are instruments Jim plays in his work at the University of California San Francisco Mount Zion Cancer Center, where for the past thirteen years he has performed original and traditional music for patients who are recovering from surgery or receiving treatments, and for staff and visitors.

“Saga of The Tamale”—one of four original vocal tracks—adds a delicious twist to the holiday song, as it celebrates the tradition of making and gifting homemade tamales at Christmas time. Other original vocal tracks are “Beach Glass Ballade,” "Autumn Again" and the title track “Waltz To The Sea.” “Follow The Heron,” by Karine Polwart, a young Scottish singer-songwriter honors the return of spring to the Shetland Islands with beautiful imagery, ‘the back of the winter is broken and light lingers long by the door.’

Two beautiful tangos by Carlos Gardel and a traditional flamenco fandango are arranged for solo piano, reflecting Jim’s years of training in classical piano and flamenco dance. A jota from northern Spain is played on accordion with castanet accompaniment. The accordion is an instrument on which Jim has performed for over twenty years, playing a repertoire of tunes from around the world at festivals and parties, and in his many appearances as Jimbo the Musical Clown.

Suggested Tracks

* Saga of The Tamale (track 4)

* Erika’s Reel (track 2)

* Waltz to the Sea (track 7)

* Fandango (track 11)


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Reviews


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Jean Bartlett

A brimming cup of good cheer with Jim Murdoch, the musical clown
Jean's Galley
BAY AREA ARTISTS SING OUT (BAASO)

A brimming cup of cheer with Jim Murdoch, the musical clown

November 6, 2007
 
By Jean Bartlett, Managing Editor

When I first heard Jimbo the Clown enter the performance hall, he was playing the “Libiamo” waltz from La Traviata on accordion. It’s a melt-away song, utterly transporting with its warmth and good cheer, very much like this clown man himself.  At the end of his mime performance, Jimbo played and sang one of his own compositions “Waltz to the Sea” from his 2006 CD release of the same name.  This song stays with you like an old lullaby, rocking you back and forth long after the clown has gone home.

Jim’s 2006 CD “Waltz to the Sea” takes the listener for a joy ride through Murdoch songs of sea, and tango, Appalachian dulcimer, flamenco and more.  He’s an incredibly skilled musician, with elegant notes of virtuosity showing up all over the place.  His words and his music are very easy and rhythmic and playful on the ears.  It’s like that sensational innate childhood recognition: that we can sing every day.

In talking with musician, composer Jim Murdoch about his life as Jimbo the Clown, legendary mimes and jesters who came before him, stroll between sentences like a coveted walk along Clown Alley.  Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, the Fratellini Brothers of the Cirque Medrano in Paris, Lou Jacobs and his pint-sized Chihuahua, Knucklehead – they are all on the same pages as those that performed this ancient craft back in the days of Pharaohs.  Murdoch explained that he is a part of a tradition that is as old as civilization.

“Clowns have been around in all cultures, forever,” said Murdoch.  “In other cultures their role is understood to be in spirituality and healing.  They are a way to bring people back into balance, within nature and within themselves.”

“For me, there is something appealing about a clown as a mythological creature, an archetype.  To be able to use that in live performance is very rewarding.  This archetypal figure is a symbol of transformation of how beauty and art can enrich people’s lives.  And that is what my clown show is about – kids being able to come up and participate.  They get to express themselves with creativity and have fun and their parents can see their enjoyment.”

“I first started performing as a clown back in 1978.  I performed with my teacher, Bobby Morse, who was a professional clown.  We got a job in Santa Barbara to do our clown show in the heart of downtown on State Street.  We had a two-ring circus.  He did tricks with a chair and I had a ring where I juggled and played the harmonica.  We also performed a courtship melodrama, a tightrope act and sang about our beloved dog.  That’s where it all began.”

Born in Helena, Montana, Jim’s family moved to California when the artist was two.  Growing up in Southern and Central California, Jim didn’t have any particular affiliation with clowns other than: “I remember watching Red Skelton, Art Carney and Jackie Gleason and totally enjoying them.”  His household, however, was definitely musical.

“My mom studied the clarinet and the violin as a kid.  My dad had also studied the violin and he loved to sing and to dance.  My sister had a xylophone which I played melodies on and I had a Mickey Mouse guitar.  My parents asked me if I wanted piano lessons but after seeing my friend being almost dragged to lessons, I decided to pass.”  Among the music choices, a bit of clown study did sneak in.  “From watching old W.C. Fields movies, my older brother taught me how to juggle.”

Murdoch headed off to UC Santa Barbara and obtained his degree in Sociology.  He also took a piano class for non majors in his senior year.  “I had been playing the guitar with my friends all through high school and college and I thought; it’s time to check out the piano.  An opportunity to study music seriously.”

Serendipity also stepped in when Jim took a summer class on mime.   One class lead to another and eventually Jim took a clown workshop.  “After graduation I worked part-time, practiced piano eight hours a day and eventually volunteered at organizations in need of a musician and/or a clown.”  The guitarist and pianist would also learn to play: flute, dulcimer, accordion, harmonica and castanets.

In 1980, Murdoch moved to San Francisco and apprenticed with the Pickle Family Circus for 18 months.  Along with the rest of the company, apprentices set up bleachers, took the show down and participated in all aspects of circus work.  In addition, Jim performed in a clown skit with lead Pickle Family clown Larry Pisoni and three other clowns.  “Larry played the tuba,” said Jim.  “I played my small accordion.  Each clown in the skit played a different instrument and we all did a hat routine, which of course created purposeful friction.” In the spring the Circus would travel to venues within a day’s drive.  In summertime their cars headed up through Northern California, to Oregon and on up into Washington.

“We each had a tent.  We cooked together and of course performed together.  It was a wonderful time,” said Murdoch.  “It was like car camping.”  The experience would enable Jim to go out on his own.

In his clown show, Jimbo has kids help him fish and juggle and play different musical instruments.  He also tickles their funny bone as he displays his musical acumen on a Godzilla-size harmonica, a teeny-tiny harmonica, and a just right harmonica.  His frequent dusting of volunteer stage hands is met with giggles and his music inspires lots of free form dancing.

“I never use my audience to make fun.  I just want them to realize they are creative and that it is fun to be creative, in spite of what our art teacher or music teacher might have said.”

Maybe that’s why after each clown performance the 6 foot 5, size 13-shoed Murdoch receives many warm hugs around the knees.  “That’s about as high as the three and four year olds can reach,” said Murdoch.  “And knee hugs are a wonderful thing.”

Along with appearances on television or at libraries, schools and parks, Jim really enjoys being Jimbo at inspirationally named festivals and parties such as: the Great Monterey Squid festival, the California Prune Festival (now the Dried Plum Festival), the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the Hayward Zucchini Festival, the Reno Italian Festival, the Seattle Bumbershoot Arts Festival and the San Francisco Ballet Sugar Plum Parties.  Though more of a bird watching event than a silliness gathering, Jim would love to perform at the Kern River Valley Turkey Vulture Festival because the name simply spells; fun.

One of Jim’s favorite visual Festival recollections happened at the Strawberry Festival in Oxnard.  “It was in May and there were huge gourmet designer strawberries dipped in chocolate.  One of the vendors was Jack Daniels and the company had a 20-foot inflatable Jack Daniels bottle and there was a deck in front of it.  So at 10 in the morning, there were a bunch of guys dressed in black, wearing hats, dark glasses, smoking cigarettes and looking like Waylon Jennings, sitting there drinking their Jack Daniels with chocolate dipped strawberries.  It was a sight.”

Along with being a clown, Jim the musician had a calling to work in community service.  In the mid 1980s San Francisco’s World Arts West, then known as City Celebration, would send performers to bring entertainment to local adult day centers and convalescent hospitals and Jim signed on.  “It was an arts organization that really helped continue the community service I began in college.”

In 1993 Jim started working at the Cancer Center at the UCSF Mount Zion campus.  “For the past 14 years, I have worked for a nonprofit program called “Art For Recovery.”  It is an expressive arts program for patients to use simple art media like water colors or pens to help express their feelings.  My part is to play music.  I play on the units where people have had surgery.  I play for those having radiation or chemotherapy.  I play in the pre operative waiting area while people are being wheeled into surgery and where their families are waiting.  I even play in the Intensive Care Unit.”

“An amazing doctor, an oncologist Dr. Ernest H. Rosenbaum, really got the music program going.  One of his patient’s family gave a donation to start the program.  I remember the first patient I went to see.  The Nursing Supervisor and the Director of the Program gave me a nudge to take myself and my accordion and to go knock on doors and see how people would respond.  The man on the other side of that first knock was a fellow who had AIDS.  He was going to be transferred to Laguna Honda Hospital and he was nervous about the change.  He told me he was from Louisiana.  I told him I knew a Cajun song: “Te Petit, Ma Te Mignon” (You’re Little, But You’re Cute.)  I played it and sang it and he immediately burst into tears. It was a way for him to have an outlet for his emotions.”

“Most of the time people don’t ask me to sing specific songs, they say just play whatever I want.  So I play what first comes to mind and people make a connection and they tell me a story.  Music opens a door.”

I played an instrumental Celtic tune for an 80-year-old Irish woman .  She told me it reminded her of her husband who was in the Merchant Marines and each time before he set sail, he would make this strong black sailor’s coffee and the two of them would sit there in the dark and look out at the morning stars together. 'It took me a long time to get used to that coffee,' she said.”  This and other experiences with people in the hospital have inspired some of Jim’s compositions for his upcoming CD to be titled "Yonder Shore."

“I see how music can help alleviate suffering in the sense that music makes the place friendlier.  People come to the hospital; they don’t want to be there.  They are facing something very serious, something that is life threatening.  To hear music is the opposite side, the balancing element.  It is life affirming and positive.  So suddenly everything is not just tragedy.  It helps people relax and go through what they need to go through.  It is true for the staff as well, if not more so.”

“As to how I feel about it – it goes back to what I learned from a book called “Black Elk Speaks” (1932 autobiography of an Oglala Sioux medicine man).  Black Elk talked about how in the terms of healing, you are a companion accompanying someone during a difficult time in their life, whether they survive or not.  To me, that clarifies what my role is.  I can be a witness and a companion who is present with that person.  That is where the gift is.  You don’t make wishes for them, you just be there with them.”

Murdoch generally does not appear as Jimbo the Clown at the hospital.  “Except on Halloween and during the holidays. I show up not as Jimbo the Clown but as Jimbo the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeon – hoping to help the ‘other’ doctors.”

When not in costume, or working at Mount Zion, you might find Jim playing guitar at a Napa winery or in a San Francisco cafe, or playing Celtic music at a local venue or maybe even teaching the flamenco to Chinese American senior citizens at a retirement community in San Francisco.

“Years ago I saw some flamenco performers in Santa Barbara and I was captivated.  When I moved to San Francisco, I saw that Rosa Montoya was teaching flamenco.  I just wanted to learn about it.  I felt it would help me become a better musician.  It would add to the ballet and tap dance I had learned for my routine.  I studied with her for five years and she taught her students everything – technique, choreography and castanets, and at one of the student’s requests, the occasional singing lesson of flamenco cante.  Even though I am a piano player, it took me a year to roll the castanet with my right hand.”

“Flamenco is very participatory and sort of the opposite of choreography in that through self-expression, one sings, plays music and dances.  My students at the retirement community were used to traditional Chinese folk dances where you stick to the page.  This is a dance where you put your own expression and emotion into it and it took some time to learn even at a beginning level, as it is supposed to.  One of my students told me: ‘Because you teach us patiently, we can learn patiently.’  I’m happy to say the end result was really extraordinary.”

Despite Jim’s adventures with writing silly songs on guitar in his college days; it wasn’t until he was on his own as a clown in the 90s that the songs really began to flow.  “I would stroll and make things up on the spot.  And I started composing from improvisation.  But I waited for a while before I recorded.  I wanted to build my song vocabulary from more life experiences.”

“One of my friends said the more personal music is the more effective it is.  I think that is really true.  And if I may quote Carlos Gardel (Argentinean legendary singer recognized as the King of Tango): “I like to leave a little piece of my heart in everything that I do.”

Come January, Jim will head into the recording studio with a whole new batch of songs.  He’s bringing good musical friends with him and at the time of this interview, sharing an early draft of several compositions.  The tunes are crossover folk, thoughtful, melody reverent and fine; a musical soufflé well worth waiting for.

As to those who are looking for clown tips.  “Shop at Astrid’s Rabat on 24th in San Francisco where they can order you great socks,” said Murdoch.  “Read the book called “Silent Clowns” by Walter Kerr which is very informative and interesting.  Pursue a course of study that inspires you.”

As to whether Jim Murdoch is who he wanted to be when he grew up, the clown musician man answers: “I didn’t know this was what was going to happen.  But yes, life makes sense.”

(To purchase his CD, find out his schedule and to learn more about Jim Murdoch and Jimbo the Clown, visit the artist’s website at: www.jimmurdoch.org
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Jana Pochop

'Waltz to the Sea'
A review from Indie-music (from 02-08-08) :


By Jana Pochop

Waltz to the Sea is one of those multi-faceted albums where you can't quite believe the artist pulled off playing all the instruments himself. But Jim Murdoch does exactly that with this varied and interesting batch of traditional and original tunes. Murdoch handles the cedar flute, dulcimer, accordion, piano, harmonica to name a few. Oh, and he arranges it all too.

Murdoch's album starts off with "Tara's Song," a mournful and beautiful tune played on the cedar flute. It blends nicely into the jaunty and stuck-in-your-head melody of "Erika's Reel," on which Murdoch handles both dulcimer and accordion. Already the listener can tell that Murdoch is a man of many instruments, and we're only two tracks in. The Emerald Isle gives way to "Jota," a Spanish folk song complete with castanets. I don't think I have ever typed this sentence before and very well may never type it again, but ... I really enjoyed the castanets on this piece. It's exactly what a folk song from Spain should sound like.

Next Jim throws in some vocals with a great tune about one of my favorite things ... tamales. The traditional Mexican dish wrapped in a corn husk is more than deserving of a song, and Murdoch delivers an almost epic tale about the dish. What I'm curious about is what a "tamale box" is, because it gets played on this record.

One of the standout tracks is "Appalachian Dulcimer," a medley of well known tunes such as "Oh, Susanna," "Froggy Went A Courtin'," and "Camptown Races." The combination of dulcimer and harmonica manage to highlight the melodic aspect of each tune and add an almost mournful tone to it, without making them drag. It's a good approach for this song grouping.

Murdoch is also an excellent pianist, as "Golondrinas" and "Mi Buenos Aires Querido" testify. Murdoch is trained in jazz and classical piano, as well as flamenco dance. And apparently in his off-time, he makes tamales. One well-rounded musician who made a very well-rounded record. Waltz to the Sea is recommended for those who don't mind some variety in their musical palette (or salsa on their tamales, as it were).
Read more...