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Bryan Johanson : The Bootlegger’s Tale


Bryan Johanson : The Bootlegger’s Tale

Bryan Johanson

Les Productions D’Oz: 20 pages


This latest work by the American – born writer/performer is a substantial work in four movements and relates in part to his ancestors who, originally from Ireland, briefly became bootleggers there.

This work is in four movements and aptly tells four episodes in the life of a bootlegger, beginning with Lament for a Broken Still, which spells out the problems of constantly having to move a still, to avoid it being found by the authorities, and yet not damaging it in the process. It is set in Dm with a dropped D 6th and is Lento Maestoso with a mournful set of harmonies but also having a number of four note demi – semi quaver turns in the melody that makes it sound almost 16th century in style at times but with at times a modern twist. This very doom laden opening is followed by ‘Ode to Whiskey, with a couple of doubles’ the title of which speaks for itself! This, by way of contrast is a Presto 6/8 that really moves and takes a very good technique to master, but is a tour – de force that players and listeners alike will love, and at seven pages of quavers at 360 beats a minute, you will see exactly what a handful it is. The third is the shortest at just one page of an Adagio, sempre intensive, called Cat and Mouse Interlude, and is full, of angst ridden harmonies as the bootleggers try to keep their places of work a secret! It has a wide spanned set of often discordant chords or arpeggios, closing with nine topped by harmonics and spanning almost three octaves at a time. The attacca at the close leads right into the final Head for the Hills, which again speaks for itself as a title! Marked Correndo Rapidamente in mostly semi – quaver passages that leap and dodge all over the fingerboard, and including many changes of time signature along the way this proves a fitting and exciting conclusion to what is a major work by this fine composer, many of whose works I have admired before.

Nothing here is remotely easy, or even intermediate and so advanced players who want something more than a 2 or 3 minute trifle will love getting their teeth int5o this fabulous piece of writing. Definitely recommended!


Chris Dumigan

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