Archive for the ‘Jon Bekoff’ Category

Slippery Hill’s Jon Bekoff (RIP) Audio Archive

June 14, 2016


Jon sideview

Jon Bekoff (1959-2015) was a generous teacher and patient mentor to lovers of Old Time, Cajun, and World music. Although Jon never made commercial recordings, he profoundly influenced and inspired Old Time musicians throughout the US and internationally, particularly after he permitted YouTube documentation of his music. Larry Warren collaborated with Moonshine to create an archive of the audio recordings of Jon. This is a work in progress as there is still much yet to upload (so keep checking back). Much of the music shared here was collected or recorded by Nate Paine, Jon’s protege and closest jamming partner during Jon’s last decade. We students and friends of Jon wish that ALL recordings ever made of him could be posted here, publicly, free, and downloadable – as an archive for posterity and most importantly, for future music students’ learning. Because the recording settings were largely informal, private lessons or jams, we have opted to leave out the names of Jon’s accompanists, listing only the tune name, key, session location and year. The intention is to allow Jon’s music to inspire others, with the hope that others might also contribute private recordings of Jon that are not listed here, even if the accompanists might sound imperfect.  

Where there are multiple versions of Jon playing a tune, Larry selected a 3 minute sample from one of them for streaming. However, as any of you who played with Jon know, he never played the same way twice, and within a melody, a single 3-minute clip could be different than the rest of the recording. For this reason, all full versions of the recordings are also available for download at the bottom of the page.

post script: Jon died a year ago today, leaving behind elderly parents. His father Sy (almost 90) is sadly this month moving to Canada, for financial reasons. Let us hope the move goes well, because he is a kind man, who practices what Jon also practiced, cultivating affection for all beings.

post post script: The Jon Bekoff Project  was set up by Moonshine to support informal Georgia oldtime music learning projects. The first recipients to complete the JB Project scholarships can be seen with their Georgia oldtime mentors here: and here doing what Jon also liked (jamming on world music)


JB photo credit: Matt Betz

The Jon Bekoff Project for the Advancement of Georgia Old-Time Music

March 27, 2016

The Jon Bekoff (JB) Project was created in the memory of the musician Jon Bekoff (1959-2015) to promote Old-Time Georgia stringband music. The JB Project supports one-on-one and small group learning with mentors knowledgeable and skilled in Georgia old-time musical traditions.

jon GA

Jon was a gentle soul and loved to connect with people through informal learning and sharing of world music.  (For more details of Jon’s musical obituary written by Jon’s fiddle student, nicknamed “Moonshine,” see: )

Within the old-time tradition, Jon had a special fondness for Georgia Old-time music, and used to wear a t-shirt “In Gid We Trust.” In the last half year of his life, Jon made a pilgrimage from his home state of Massachusetts to Georgia, where he visited the home and burial site of the fiddler Gid Tanner, and made a video at Gid’s grave playing “a Gid tune” with Gid’s grandson, Phil.

(see ). After Jon’s death, “Moonshine” collaborated with the Center for Public History in Georgia to endow this humble project to spread a little bit of Jon’s karma, through informal learning initiatives.

For the first few years, The Center for Public History staff at the University of West Georgia administered the Jon Bekoff Project for Georgia Old-Time Music Project as part of its Regional Music Project. As of 2019, the project is looking for a new home. For the time being, the Cabbagetown-based The Patch Works Art and History Center will help host a new Georgia jam workshop series. 

Who can apply?

The program accepts applications from:

  1. Individuals who want to pursue one-on-one mentoring in Georgia Oldtime music, typically with Evan Kinney in Pine Lake, Ga. preference is given to Georgia based learners.
  2. Mentors versed in Georgia old-time music who want to organize music jam-workshops or study groups; or who want to develop open-access instructional videos. 

Applicants in the first category will:

  1. demonstrate an interest in the music of Georgia string band traditions
  2. possess a basic command of their instrument and ability to learn by ear. 

In most cases, the funds will go to the mentor, not the applicant. 

Who can be a mentor?

Musicians who are experienced in the Georgia oldtime music. 

Mentor applications will include a biography and evidence of their expertise in this field. The review committee will evaluate these applicants to determine if if they meet the program criteria as mentors.

All mentors must submit a vendor profile form and W-9 form to process payments.

What types of experiences are eligible?

Mentors set the course prospectus relative to the grant award and can teach in the following settings, including but not limited to the following formats.  All projects are expected to be completed over a four to six month period.

  • 1:1 learning.  Student travels to mentor although the duo can choose to meet at mutually agreed upon settings outside of the mentor’s home. Student may opt to learn on several instruments during this time (e.g., fiddle, banjo, banjolin, guitar) to master all parts of traditional string band ensemble.(For example, this might involve  10 sixty minute instructional sessions with a mentor for $500)
  • Small group intermediate workshop series.  An applicant organizes a small group workshop series with a specific mentor. The mentor and an applicant select a location to hold a workshop for at least six participants, selecting tunes to be covered in advance of each session, for learners to play together. For example, the workshop could be a “Skillet Lickers study group” to work through the repertoire of this or the group could focus on other famous Georgia old-time musicians like John Dilleshaw, A.A. Gray, Clayton McMichen, Riley Puckett, or others. The initial proposal will list the participants, but these could change during the course of the series with the mentor’s approval. Most of the tunes studied should be Georgia tunes (all should be Deep South tunes.)
  • Facilitated introductory Georgia music jam-workshop series– The mentor applies to the program to facilitate regional one-off 2-hour educational demonstrations followed by jams, featuring the mentor’s repertoire of Georgia music. 
  • Development of instructional materials for Georgia traditional music, such as YouTube videos. Mentors apply for funding to create instructional materials focused on Georgia old time stringband music traditions.
  • Intensive residencies. This category provides an opportunity for out-of-town learners to study with a mentor over several consecutive days.  For example, the residency could be three five-hour days, which would include time devoted to listening to and discussing source material together. The application should describe the residency. The grant budget may include a small stipend for the out-of-town mentee for room and board.
  • Other formats–We are open to other creative project ideas, provided they are in the spirit of informal group learning.  For example, if someone wants to organize a day of workshops and jams, to promote Georgia Oldtime and Blues music.

Application process

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed monthly. Awards will be distributed each year on a first-come, first-served basis, as funds allow.

Applicants should the following points in their application:

  1. A project narrative that includes the following:
  2. Name and contact information for the applicant
  3. Applicant’s musical background and experience
  4. Reasons for pursuing the apprenticeship, class, etc.
  5. Description of proposed type of apprenticeship, class, etc.
  6. Name and contact information for mentor or information about the class/camp
  7. Proposed project
  8. Proposed schedule
  9. Proposed budget
  1. Student applicants must also submit YouTube or other video recording that demonstrates their musical skills

Jon Bekoff, Curator of Oldtimeparty Blog, RIP (1959 – 2015)

June 19, 2015

Jonathan Bekoff died at home in the night between June 14-15, 2015, after a three-year illness and the culmination of a lifelong spiritual journey. He loved this blog and asked one of his music students to help maintain the site after he died. An excerpt of this will appear in the Summer issue of Oldtime Herald.

Jon Bekoff, Kora 2001 4

2001 1

Jon was born May 8, 1959 in Staten Island, NY. Raised in Montreal, Canada, he also lived in Ohio, Edmonton, Virginia, Oregon, and Vermont before settling in Greenfield, MA in 1996. He attended the University of Oregon, and was a gifted middle school math teacher for 27 years, mostly in Guilford and Brattleboro, VT. As his former principal at Brattleboro recalled, “Jon was a gentle soul and loved to connect with people, especially with the kids. He came into himself in the classroom; he explained things so clearly. His students loved him. Everyone loved him.”


Jon had strong passions for studying, collecting, playing, mentoring, and sharing roots music of the world, particularly American Old-time and music of Africa (e.g. Malian, Congolese, Shona) and the African diaspora (e.g. Mento, Haitian, Cumbia.) The diverse content of this blog is testimony to his manifold tastes – although all his tastes share one thing in common, i.e., rhythm and groove. To listen to the African music alone in Jon’s iTunes library would take an entire month of continual playing. Jon had a scholarly interest in the people who documented and field recorded roots music. For example, he regarded Alan Lomax, Harry Smith, and Moses Asch as the “holy triumvirate” of Old-time music; having “huge, incalculable long-term cultural influence.”

Jon was a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar (excelling at several American and African styles), mandolin, banjo, kora, balafon, etc., but fiddle was his forte. Jon started fiddling in 1978, and quickly mastered several regional styles, though he seemed to prefer the excitement and danceability of early Georgia stringbands and favored the “great southern waltzes” of the 1920s and 1930s. Jon developed a unique style of “complementary” fiddling, drawing from the Cajun tradition, but with his own characteristic counter-melodies, harmonies, and syncopated double stops. Jon disliked being the only fiddler in a jam, and said after one masters a tune inside and out, it more fun to complement the melody of another player. This approach he developed is probably one of Jon’s most important contributions to old-time music. This clip of Jon and his protege, Nate Paine, playing Coleman’s March (recorded August 2015) is a good example of how Jon started a tune with the melody lead, then shifted into accompanist fiddling:

Jon Nate Jim

Although he once played electric bass in a Zydeco band, and later fiddle in a Cajun band (the high point of his musical “career”), Jon shunned performance opportunities and large festivals in favor of creating music with small groups of friends (friends who considered him as their mentor). Despite his uncanny abilities on the fiddle, Jon was not elitist and regularly played with less skillful players of all ages. He was committed to sharing the love of music. He encouraged those who were drawn to his style to instead learn from source recordings. This self-effacing approach to music was sometimes frustrating, because regardless of the genre, Jon’s version of tunes sounded better, even more authentic, than the original recordings. One might attribute this phenomenon to his ability to intensively and actively listen to a recording, and to reproduce the music as it originally was played, embellished by his understanding of the genre from which the source recording emerged. Anyone who came in contact with him came away with their curiosity awakened and courage bolstered. As a gifted accompanist and a natural teacher, Jon had a curious ability to assess the strengths of his playing partners; his sensitivity and giving nature drew the best out of players, while gently buoying their weaknesses.


Regardless of the genre, in a good jam, Jon liked to play a single tune for no less than ten minutes and often up to 30-60 minutes, depending on the endurance of his musical partners. This reflected his need to exhaustively explore a tune’s harmonic and rhythmic dimensions. While faithful to a tune’s originally composed character, Jon experimented in a way that adds diversity and richness to an otherwise simple folk tune. After 10-15 minutes of playing a tune, one could start to hear delightful syncopated rhythms, evoking an ethnic feel from somewhere in the Caribbean or West Africa. This “complementary” fiddle ability of Jon had the effect of making anyone sound better than they could ever sound alone, and explains Jon’s popularity amongst his musical friends. For most musicians, playing music in a jam with Jon bordered on an ecstatic experience. For Jon, jamming seemed to be when communed best with others, and when he felt most at ease, “delighting in relaxed unity with the constant flow.”

According to his friend Meghan, Jon used to sing long, complex ballads in his younger days. Here’s Jon at age 24 singing Paddy’s Lamentation

jon at twin oaks

One of Jon’s unique contributions to Old-time fiddling was his ability to “resurrect” archaic ballads which he converted into fiddle tunes, e.g. Watchman Ring the Bell:

or twin fiddle “compositions” with his musical partner, Nate Paine: e.g. Charlie Poole’s “Once Loved a Sailor,” which can be seen/heard here amongst >5 hours of footage of Jon with Nate, or with other players (>100 posts by MoonshineV):

This blog Oldtime Party, was Jon’s passion from about 2011-2015, as the 3rd (and most active) blog administrator. His original goal was to create an online community of like-minded music lovers, but the blog morphed into what he described as his repository of “cool stuff” that he discovered posted elsewhere or was submitted by subscribers. Basically, Jon wanted to make it easy for others to find “cool stuff” all in one place. He once said he would have expected that Old-time musicians to find interest in the content regarding Caribbean, African, Cajun and other genres he re-posted here, in addition to the exhaustive collection of Old-time articles, music history, CD/LP reviews, book reviews, links to other archives, and classic recordings. He was our acoustic curator and lined up posts for this blog until his last 2 weeks of life (as evidenced by the posts that continue to emerge under his handle, oldtimeparty, through mid July). Anyone who wants to submit something they think Jon would like to have had posted, or who has recordings of him, contact the blog at oldtimepartyblog (at) gmail.

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Jon’s last words were laid out in a letter to family and friends, in which he informed us that his last year of life was his “most peaceful, clarifying, and meaningful.” [ ] In addition to communing with others through music, Jon adored spending his last few years alone, exploring alternative healing, spirituality, reading, listening to audiobooks, podcasts and his expansive world music collection, and hunting material for his blog. Jon left this world without fear and with profound gratitude for his 56 wonderful years; he wished us to cultivate affection for all beings. Let us honor him by taking a moment to browse through the blog’s archives. Jon never made commercial recordings, but several hours of his unique fiddle style can be experienced at MoonshineV Old-time Field Recordings YT Channel

One of Jon’s fiddle students in his final year posted a highly personalized tribute movie for Jon. All the audio was fiddled by Jon or came from his personal audio collection. Audio borrows heavily from the Harry Smith Anthology and visuals borrow from Harry Smith’s 1950s stop-motion film “Heaven and Earth Magic,” as well as from photos/vdo contributed by Jon’s old-time musician friends. Astute blog followers will also note many world music images from posts of this very blog.  Jon viewed this 22-minute tribute twice in April and said he liked it.

Remembrances can be posted here (but cannot be edited immediately after posting, so check your wording first.)

More recordings will be added below or in an upcoming OTP Blog Page devoted to Jon’s music. What follows are muses on Jon’s music, which we will flesh out over time:
Nate and I believe that Jon learned all the great tunes in old-time in the 1980s and 90s, and by the 2000s had taken the best ones and developed his own twist to them. By example, we present his early and versions of the same tunes:
Here is Jon playing straight Peter Francisco, 1985:

And here is a recording of Jon and Nate playing a modalized Peter Francisco in 2014, when Jon applies his “complementary” fiddle style:


Here’s is Jon fiddling Old Jake Gilly in 1985

And here’s is Jon fiddling Jake Gilly in 2014, with Nate, when Jon applies his “complementary” fiddle style:


Jon fiddling at Galax mid 1980s


Here’s Jon fiddling Bibb County Hoedown in 1985, recorded in Port Townsend, obtained by Nate’s dad, Don.

Below’s Jon and Jim fiddling Bibb County in 2006 at Harry Smith Frolic (Jon once said Jim Burns bows breakdowns exactly like him – Georgia style):

Here’s Jon fiddling Bibb County in 2014, with Nate (flatfooting by Moonshine); Jon applies a light version of his “complementary” fiddle style after a few rounds through on the melody line:

NB: Jon said the most interesting site along his drive through S Georgia to Atlanta in January 2015 was passing the sign “Welcome to Bibb County!”


Jon said he leaned Cajun fidding from recordings, but he attributed his application of Cajun styling in the Old-time context to Vermont fiddler Bob Naess (here they’re playing “Eunice Two Step”, then the beautiful “Aimer et Perdre” Champlain Festival 2009, recorded by Mara):

Aimer et Perdre (#2)


Found this recording of Brandan Taaffle with Jon playing african style guitar on Brandon’s website: Go to sleep, weary Hobo:


This is Jon 1985, playing Dance Terpsichore, recorded in Port Townsend, obtained by Nate’s dad, Don.

It is remarkable how well Jon played music throughout his last year of life. Below Jon and Nate playing Omie Wise in March 2015:

Here is a beautiful rendition of Kitty Waltz with Jon and Nate in March 2015 (Carter Family version) Music starts after a 35 seconds: This is a great example of Jon’s complementary fiddling for a waltz.  He starts to really cool things after minute 6, note how he pulses variations of the 3/4 rhythm! This is an example of inserting other African rhythms into old-time while always respecting the original spirit of the American folk tune.

This is the last tune Jon played, and recorded, June 14, 2015, an adaptation of a Congolese tune called Kuyina, with Jon playing lead in a guitar duet with Eddie. He died later that night. Note his little laugh at the end of playing! Music brought Jon great happiness his entire life. Original below.