Craig Ventresco & Meredith Axelrod
Sunday, June 10, 2012, 4:00pm
Lead Belly Stage
"I first met Craig Ventresco in San Francisco about five years ago. I was walking downtown and heard what sounded like an old Blind Blake record but without the surface noise. I looked around and saw this young guy out on the street playing for tips with a $25 electric guitar. I listened to him a long while and got to know him. We now play music together one night a week in a local restaurant ("Pauline's"). Every so often there, he'll play some new obscure tune that I've never heard and it'll be absolutely great and I'll ask him where he got it from. And invariably he'll answer that he has an old 78 of it.
"Craig collects 78s also, but these turn-of-the-century acoustically recorded performances by people like Arthur Collins and Billy Murray leave me cold. They sound very corny and stiff to my ear, but Craig insists they're masterpieces. He thinks his versions of these performances are vastly inferior! I beg to differ - the melodies are basically the same, but it's as though Frank Stokes or Memphis Minnie were re-interpreting this old rendition in some great, hot, raggy style. Tunes like the obscurities on this CD - "Belle of the Phillipines," "Won't You Fondle Me," "Abraham Jefferson Washington Lee," and "The Gabby Glide" were written in the 1st or 2nd decade of this century and usually the melody line was sung, they weren't instrumentals.
"Anyway, I much prefer Craig's versions - the guy is the only musician I've ever heard these days who improves on these old tunes he steals from. There's a number of these "ragtime fingerpickers" around, but they're all very precise and genteel in their approach, and their music doesn't amount to much even if they do manage to play all the correct notes. Craig pounds it out with an incredibly strong sense of rhythm and the right feeling. It's been great to be able to spotlight him and Boeddinghaus - two of my favorite living musicians."
-- Terry Zwigoff, San Francisco 1995: In The Liner Notes From "Crumb"
Chicago native Meredith Axelrod loves early twentieth century music, including ragtime and jug band music. She learned to sing from listening to how folks did it a century ago, via cylinders and 78 rpm records.
Drawn by San Francisco’s reputation as a Mecca for weirdoes and hippies, Meredith moved to the city by the bay. It was here that she met guitar virtuoso, Craig Ventresco.. Her robust singing became a part of their act. Since then Craig and Meredith have entertained audiences at the Blind Boone Ragtime and Early Jazz Festival and the West Coast Ragtime Festival, in addition to numerous private concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area.
As a singer, she has performed with Maria Muldaur and Dan Hicks at the San Francisco Jugband Festival, and with Lavay Smith at San Francisco’s Café Du Nord, and with Devine's Jug Band at the Great American Music Hall, the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, the National Jugband Jubilee, the San Francisco Jugband Jubilee, and the West Coast Jugband Jubilee. With Craig Ventresco, she regularly sings and performs Café Divine in San Francisco’s North Beach every Wednesday night 7-9 and at the Atlas Café most Saturday afternoons.
Meredith sings, plays guitar, ukulele, cello. and jug in Devine’s Jugband, led by former Bo Grumpus percussionist, Pete Devine.