New Studio Space

Work is progressing on our new studio space in Grand Junction, Colorado. We have acquired a house with a large, walkout basement are fitting it with acoustic treatment and sound isolation for the doors and windows.  The new studio does not have a name yet, but we are excited.  The space is twice as large as the previous Double Diamond Studio in Oracle, AZ.

tritraps_sSo far this year we have produced two CD projects for local singers and bands. There is a lot of acoustic music happening in the Grand Valley,  and I am excited to be a part of it.  Here is a shot of the far end of the room with some initial acoustic treatment in place, TriTraps (bass traps) from GIK Acoustics.

The Bone Tree CD was recorded in our temporary facilities in a rental house in GJ, so it looks a bit crowded. The new space will be a welcome change.  Bone Tree is from Whitewater, CO nearby.  Here is Bob Eakle of Bone Tree. Bob and Lisa made a great debut CD that is available from them at

Bob and Mando

Pea Green Concert 2012

Just completed my first live performance with Way Down Yonder, a long-time Grand Junction bluegrass band, at Pea Green on Dec 22, 2012. Yes you heard that right, Pea Green is a performance hall located out in the fields and farms of Delta, Colorado, and a nicer and more appreciative crowd cannot found. We had a great, and opened along with the McCoys for one of my favorite local bands, Stray Grass. Way Down Yonder consists of myself on fiddle, Joe “Que” Quesenberry on mandolin, Dennis Costlow on banjo and lead vocals, Carol Quarrels on guitar and vocals, and Big Dog Kyle on acoustic bass.

Way Down Yonder

Joe “Que” Quesenberry on mandolin

Barn Jazz Vol 2 – The Night of the Dancing Vegetables

My latest CD is complete! Started work on it in 2005, received the final master back from Bob Speer at CD Mastering Services in April, got the first 100 pressings from Discmakers last week. Sounds really good, and great feedback from the first few people to get a copy. It is available on CD Baby for physical purchase or digital download at
cover art

Cover art courtesy of John Medley, Oracle AZ, from his collection of vintage vegetable crate designs.

By the way if you go to CD Baby you can preview some of the tracks to get an idea of what this barn jazz stuff is all about. I would really appreciate a review if you find the music worth the time.

Current and completed projects – Things are hopping!

“danielRize” original indie-folk CD project for a 25 year old singer-songwriter (aka Phillip Levenson) from Fort Worth, TX, really an amazing CD with heartfelt, poetic imagery and fine playing. CD’s will be ready by April 1.

Renee Arner, “Banish Misfortune”, traditional and original Celtic harp tunes, we’ve been working on this for the better part of a year and its finished, ready for manuf. Features a guest performance from Aneko Arika (“March Forth Kenya Kids”) from Kenya, on African drum on the song “Spirit Man”.

Projects currently underway:

Phil Maffetone, original folk CD with wife, Coralee Thompson and additional instrumental overdubs from yours truly. Phil and Coralee are local Oracle physicans and musicians who have made numerous cd’s with help of luminaries in Nashville and LA (including legendary Rick Ruben). Phil’s CD has all original songs that are very well written and played. Should be out sometime later this year. No title yet. (n.b. it came out in 2012 as “Living on a Dead End Road”).

Ready to record a new client, Broken Chair Ranch band for a marathon two days this coming weekend (Mar 26, 27, 2011).

Have done several tape transfers for Jerry Aman from Saddlebrooke, including a 25 year old 1/4″ reel-to-reel piano recital from his son, Mark, that came out very well, as well as a 1955 1/4″ of his wedding.

Working on a small video project for Stone Age (Butcher, Coven) compiling a nice podcast for him from an old 1985 clip of Coven playing at a party.

Award for CCEDC Pod-cast

Oct. 26, 2010. Barnjazz and HCE won an Impact Award from the Public Relations Society of America, Southern Arizona chapter, for its podcast, Discover the Copper Corridor. The video and audio production features narrative and visuals for the towns that make up the Copper Corridor region of southeast Arizona, with an emphasis on eco-tourism, history, and natural environment. The video was created for the Copper Corridor Economic Development Coalition, located in southeast Arizona. You you may view at Vimeo, or open the Media page on this site.

Plundering the Chicago Store

Sometimes you live right. The Chicago Store in downtown Tucson, on E. Congress street, had a store-wide clearance this weekend, and I could not resist. I had not been in there for years, even though I spend a lot of time working downtown. I remember going inside on a whim, maybe 10 years ago, looking over the selection of violins and mandolins, and having Joe “Chicago” try to talk me into a purchase. Now old Joe and his brother, Phil, have sadly gone on to the hereafter. Their son, Mark, owns and runs the shop.

The downtown Chicago Music Store, Tucson, Arizona

Many a famous player who has passed through Tucson, including Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, has had the privilege of perusing the “attic” section, normally off limits to civilians. According to a newspaper article, musicians would point out this and that instrument or piece of gear, and have the items shipped out. It sounds like an old tale where a sailor stumbles upon the lost plunder of a pirate ship.

Well this time the “attic” (the old dusty roped off upstairs area) was open to the public for the first time. So I went in right after opening time, 9 AM, not too many musicians in sight this early. After a short recon, up the stairs I go, in great anticipation.

OK, its not a pirate hoard, but a Sargasso Sea of old live sound and DJ gear, neglected guitar amps in various conditions of old age and disrepair, nothing much of interest here, except maybe that old Crate vintage amp…..

On to the next level, up the creaky old wooden stairs with all kinds of warning signs saying “Keep Out!”. Surely this is where all the old string instruments go to die. I stare at maybe several thousand cases for violins, violas, cellos, some instruments lying around out of the case, some hidden inside. Hopeless! I am beginning to feel like Indiana Jones…

After a few minutes of poking around, I find that most of the cases are empty, or contain badly maimed and broken old instruments. I am not a luthier, so I get ready to leave, but no… One last time, I ask the universe, “is there anything here I need to see?”.

Having faith (if not a touch of mental illness), I find myself staring at what turns out to be a very old rectangular, tan Roth violin case. I open it up, and behold, just about what I expected, an old beat up violin. She has a dark brown to black finish (“ox blood” according to my friend Tom B.), maybe something that the devil would play when going up against Charlie Daniels.

But hey, its playable, and I am looking for something to rent to my students, or maybe use for a different flavor while recording. I pluck the out of tune strings, thinking, “this one sounds pretty good!”

I put it back in its drab looking case, walk away, and start poking into a few more of the cases stashed like old coffins in the corner. Nothing. An old fellow is now up there as well, looking at a cheap Chinese violin that he found in one of these cases. I show him that its not very good, and a 1/2 size anyway.

He then goes over to where the old Roth case sits, and I say to myself, “Hey buddy, not today”. I go over and pick it up again. I look around and find Mike, an affable salesman for the store, showing another guy an enormous old bass fiddle in the next aisle over.

Mike looks at the violin I am holding, and agrees that it needs some work, and has no maker’s tag (the store tag says “no name, German, $400”). I am thinking maybe $200 tops?

So he says, “how about $75?”. I reply, “I think I can do that!”

So back downstairs, I lug down the old Crate amp that they wanted $39.00 for as is. Mike plugs it in, it does not turn on. Fuse is good. OK, so he says the speaker alone is worth at least that, maybe more. He is right, its a great old vintage Crate with the old style wooden crate box covering the sides. So it does not work – Mike has the name of a great local Crate amp tech. $20 – sold! (n.b. I later replaced the fuse holder, and now it works!)

About now I am feeling pretty good about this plundering of the old attic. On the way out I ask Mike, do you have any great old Mandolins? He says not really, except maybe that old Martin over there. Originally marked at $1500, on clearance for $500.

I pick it up. Its an old Martin turtle back, tag says its vintage 1898 – 1910. Mother of pearl inlay, and it does look very old, but in fair condition. It is not really playable due to a warp in the neck, but it sounds pretty good from what I can tell. Its not exactly the kind of mandolin I normally play. But 1898?

I say, “well can’t really afford $500, I have a limit today.” Mike comes back with, “well this weekend I could do $400…you come come back, the sale runs through Sunday”. Here we are, then, the spirit of old Joe, channeled through Mike, who obviously has been around long enough to know the drill. So I counter with “$300”, but I feel pretty bad about that, I know its probably worth at least $1000 or more in the collector market, but hey, its me mano-a-mando with Joe-Mike, and its worth a try. But Mike is not budging, and in fact I think he’s having second thoughts about the $400.

So I go up to pay for the amp and violin, and then that old voice clicks on inside my head, “don’t be an idiot, get the thing!”.

I turn to Mike and say, “go ahead and bring it over, let’s ring her up”. Some of the other sales guys are now aware of the action, and ask Mike, “who’s getting the Martin? How much did you sell it for?”. I am now feeling pretty good about this.

“$400 it is, and worth every penny!” (so says the ghost of Joe “Chicago” who by now is smiling. I can feel it).

Best of Music from Fiesta de las Calabazas 2003-2006

REVIEW of CALABAZAS 2003-2006 CD by David Auerbach

This is real country music, ladies and gentlemen. The day before I listened to the Best of CD by various Calabazas artists, I came up with the following rule, which in an attack of Texas-sized ego I’ll call Dave’s law of fake country:  If a song makes use of any electronics save a microphone and some speakers, and maybe, just maybe a mixing board, it’s not country music, regardless of how ‘Southern’ the singer sounds. And we’re not too sure about that mixing board. Now, there’s nothing wrong with liking Carrie Underwood so long as you admit that you’re listening to a type of pop music. Don’t get me wrong. I like Carrie Underwood. I like pop music sometimes. But calling it “country” when it’s not peeves me just a little bit. I wonder how many of our “country” stars live in the country. Here’s a hint: Nashville has 607,000 people in its metropolitan statistical area. Maybe that’s a small town in China, but not here. And Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington-etc-etc-etc would be considered a major metropolis anywhere. And one more thing: Texas and Tennessee don’t have a duopoly on countryside.  I think I lost the point. What was it? Ah, yes, this CD is real country, even though they call it Jazz for reasons that remain unclear.

It has non-electric instruments and non-modified voices and that’s it. There’s no synth, no computer making their voices sound like they can do things they can’t, no fake Southern accents, no fireworks or laser shows, and no “earworm” beats designed by sound engineers in Los Angeles (metro population: 16 million plus). It’s just a few ordinary folks who are singing because they like to sing, not because they want to be rich or famous or popular.   And they live in Oracle, which you can see is in the country – for the time being, at least – just by looking around. This isn’t Hollywood or Dallas or even Nashville, it’s just Oracle. It admits what it is, unlike big-money “country” pop music. But it’s good. It’s music for listening, not dancing or marketing or whatever else.

Track 6 (Gina Lollobrigida, The Carnivaleros) is awesome. I didn’t know a harmonica could do that. Track 5 (Lost in the Graveyard, Carnivaleros) is spooky like Kansas before a storm where the ground is a smooth featureless green and the sky a creamy gray – and that’s it. Track 4 (Vamp in the Middle, Greg Morton Trio) is like a gathering of friends at the state park. Several songs are actually about here – sky islands, cacti, and whatnot. Track 9 (Sky Island Home, Freddie Terry) feels like there are real saguaros around, not cartoon ones. You can laugh (just a little) at the one and only Bob Dylan (wink wink) on Track 12 (I Am Bob Dylan, Rod Mac Donald) if you want. I know that not all of these singers are from this particular patch of countryside, but you can tell they love it the same as a native – maybe more. It has the obligatory dueling banjos and home on the range tribute, though you have to listen pretty closely to hear that tune – I’ll let you find it.   Really, they have something for most moods.

Buy this CD. Support Oracle. Support Oracle State Park. I’m keeping my copy.

(David is the Music Critic for The ONE Newsletter, Oracle. He is taking this CD with him to China on a teaching gig.)

Standing Stones of Beara

Good for background music — and foreground music
Reviewer: Martha Retallick
True confession: I recently made several hundred cold calls to drum up business for my design studio. If you’ve ever cold-called, you know how stressful it can be. So, to calm my nerves, I had “Standing Stones” playing softly in the background. It REALLY helped. And Jim, you’ll be happy to know that your music just helped me land a new client. Thank you! Now it’s time to put the CD back in the player, turn up the volume, and dance around the living room…

Standing Stones of Beara

Remembering the breathtaking beauty of the Irish Republic

Reviewer: Cactus Cathy / KXCI 91.3 FM Tucson
In 2000, I hiked for 2 weeks in Cork and Kerry Counties, and thought I would never be able to recreate in my mind the haunting beauty of the Beara Peninsula. When I heard Diamond Jim’s Standing Stones, I was engulfed in the nostalgia of everything Irish. Personal favorite tunes are Glenrastel and Standing Stones.

Barn Jazz Live!

Jan. 12, 2006 – Diamond Jim & the Barn Jazz Ensemble wow us again by spanning the genres from “I am a Pilgrim” to “Jeepers Creepers”, two of my favorites on the Live! CD. The one I play most on the air is “Caravan”, exotic and down home at the same time —- How do they do that? – Cactus Cathy DJ on KXCI