Artie Traum

 

 Rich with tradition, reaching into adventurous jazz and rock forms, the music of guitarist and composer Artie Traum is the story of contemporary acoustic music - from the heady days of the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s through the explosive growth of guitar music into a contemporary American art form with roots of its own.

Traum's music begins in New York but wanders back in time from there. Born in the Bronx in 1943, Traum took a liking to folk music and began playing banjo in the style of Pete Seeger. Working through old-time banjoists like Roscoe Holcomb to technical masters Don Reno and Earl Scruggs, Traum eventually moved on to acoustic guitar and found it offered even greater variety. He says, "I learned how to play from my older brother Happy, who was listening to people like Big Bill Broonzy and Brownie McGhee. He would take the subway down to Harlem and take lessons from McGhee.

"In one night in New York you might be able to go out and see Bill Monroe, Mose Allison, and Miles Davis - there was so much going on! We didn't realize how extraordinary those times were. We took it for granted - it seemed natural and we didn't think it would ever be any different."

Traum frequented music stores and folklore centers, playing guitars and jamming with David Grisman, John Sebastian, and others in the burgeoning folk scene, and made regular trips to music clubs in Greenwich Village. "I would see people like James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Bob Dylan, all of them just starting out," Traum recalls.

I started moving toward urban blues, and then country blues. Like every other guitar player I listened to a lot of Robert Johnson.Howlin' Wolf's album Moanin' in the Moonlight is still some of the funkiest stuff I've ever heard. From there I got into Chicago blues, old funky stuff, and then more modern players at that time, like Albert King. "So I was being pulled in a lot of different directions by all this powerful music. I've always been very restless staying with one style or influence - I like to do as many different things as I can."

Performing as a sideman in various bands, Traum made his first record with a band called Children of Paradise, "somewhat reminiscent of the Mamas & Papas sound," he recalls. At the same time Traum began performing shows with his brother. The guitar duo was drawing national acclaim when they signed a management contract with Albert Grossman, whose other clients included Dylan, The Band, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Janis Joplin. Grossman quickly arranged a recording deal, and The New York Times wrote, "Their debut album is one of the best records in any field of pop music."

Opening shows for the likes of Dylan, The Band, Paul Butterfield, and other headliners put Artie and Happy in front of huge audiences."We really went international then," Traum recalls. "Those years did a lot for us. We were touring regularly in America, Europe, and Japan. We finally slowed down around 1984, partly because of our different musical sensibilities. Happy has always been more centered on folk music, where I have trouble sticking to any one style."

Listening to Earl Klugh, Bob James, Acoustic Alchemy, Weather Report, and David Sanborn (who recorded with Artie and Happy), Traum was moving in new directions. "I was listening to all those chords, the harmonic possibilities, and thinking I'd like to be writing some of those tunes. And, truthfully, I was tired of attempting to sing - I never was a great singer. I wanted to concentrate on the instrumental side of things."

The popularity of his jazz efforts surprised Traum. "I had no idea my record would ever do anything with people like Pat Metheny on the charts," he says. Nevertheless, Traum's Letters from Joubeé was No. 1 on Gavin Report's Smooth Jazz chart and stayed at the top of Gavin and R&R's charts for six months.

• Artie Traum:
South of Lafayette, 2002, Roaring Stream Records
The Last Romantic, 2001, Narada
Meetings with Remarkable Friends, 1999, Narada #46957
The View From Here, 1996, Shanachie #5016
Letters From Joubee, 1993. Re-released on Narada Records in 2000.
Cayenne, 1987, Rounder #3084
From The Heart (w/ Pat Alger), 1980, Rounder #3039 out of print
Life On Earth, 1977, Rounder #3014 out of print

• with The Woodstock Mountains Revue:
Live at The Bearsville Theater Vol.2, 1990, Village Green #74 (Japan)
Live at The Bearsville Theater Vol.1, 1990, Village Green #73 (Japan)
Woodstock Mountains: Music From Mud Acres, 1995, Rounder #11520
(CD compilation from the first four WMR releases noted below)
      Back To Mud Acres, 1981, Rounder #3065 (vinyl only)
      Pretty Lucky, 1978, Rounder #3025 (o-o-p)
      More Music From Mud Acres, 1977, Rounder #3018 (o-o-p)
      Mud Acres: Music Among Friends, 1974, Rounder #3001 (cassette only)

• with Happy & Artie Traum:
The Test Of Time, 1993, Roaring Stream Records #201
Hard Times In The Country, 1975, Rounder #3007 (o-o-p)
Happy & Artie Traum / Double-Back, Import 2-fer reissue, Vivid #534 (Japan)
Double-Back, 1971, Capitol #799 (o-o-p)
Happy & Artie Traum, 1969, Capitol #586 (o-o-p)

• with Bear (w/Eric Kaz, Steve Soles, Skip Boone & Darius Davenport):
Greetings, Children Of Paradise, 1968, Verve Forecast #3059 (o-o-p)

• with True Endeavor Jug Band (w/Danny Kalb, Artie Rose, Sam & Ann Charters and Sita Dimitroff):
The Art Of The Jug Band, 1963, Prestige #14022 (o-o-p, three tracks from this release are included on The Prestige/Folklore Years: Volume Three, Prestige/Folklore #9903)

• Happy & Artie also appear on (and host) the Bring It On Home compilations, Vol. 1 (Sony Legacy #52997) and Vol. 2 (Sony Legacy #52998), both 1994.

VIDEOS ON HOMESPUN TAPES
NEW! Essential DADGAD For Beginners (VD-ART-DG01)
Essential Riffs For Acoustic Guitar (VD-ART-RF01)
Guitar Accompaniment (VD-ART-GT01)
Guitar Chord Magic (2 tapes, VD-ART-MA01 & VD-ART-MA02) Audio Cassettes Basic
      Jazz Guitar (AD-ART-JZ), Hot Licks For Guitar (AD-ART-HG) Lead Guitar (AD-ART-LD);
      and CDs Essential Chords & Progressions for Acoustic Guitar (CDZ-AT01) &
      101 Essential Riffs (CDZ-AT02).

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