Suspended Alive at the Spider
Q: Mix equal parts
of Johnny Gimble, Tiny Moore, and Jethro Burns, add a voice like a
trombone, and what do you get?
A: Seth Rosen,
or “SethRo” as he’s known to his bandmates. Mr. Rosen and those
bandmates have been busy of late: He plays in two northern Ohio swing
bands, the Suspenders and Crazy Rhythm, and both of them released CDs in
As its title suggests, the
Suspenders’ disc, Suspended Alive at the Spider, is a live
set recorded at Cleveland’s Barking Spider Tavern. The quintet plays a
pleasing mix of traditional swing and jump blues, both on standards/covers
and originals by its saxman, “Big Jonny” Abrahamson.
Six of the 16 cuts feature SethRo's mandolin, and
each one offers some exemplary playing on both lead and rhythm. Seth plays
an '87 Flatiron Festival A with a Fishman M100 transducer into a BOSS
pre-amp/EQ and a Fender Deville 4x10. His backup playing borders on
minimalism: he allows the rhythm section to carry the composition and
plays just enough perfectly timed chording to fill out the changes. This
works beautifully. On five of these six tunes, no one is playing a guitar!
It’s up to Seth to handle the chords and the lead breaks, and he shows
exactly what an electric mandolin is capable of.
When it comes to taking those breaks, Seth is
confident, tight, and melodic without being overly flashy. I particularly
like the solos on “Fingers of Just One Hand” and “Walking Shoes.”
When he isn’t pickin’ his mandolin on this disc, he’s playing
guitar, violin, or bass, or singing. Four of the Suspenders’ members
take turns on lead vocals, but I like Seth’s the best.
If you can’t afford to attend one of Seth’s
swing workshops at the Augusta
Heritage Center in West Virginia, buy
this disc instead and teach yourself his breaks and rhythm patterns.
You’ll be on your way to being a great swing mandolin player.