Mannheim Steamroller is an old band, founded in 1974 by (record producer and composer) Chip Davis. And in case you’re wondering, the name comes from an 18th-century musical technique originating in Germany called Mannheim roller (or, in German: Mannheimer Walze); it’s a crescendo passage having a rising melodic line over an ostinato (derived from Italian, it means stubborn and is a (musical) phrase that repeats itself in the same musical voice, usually at the same pitch) bass line.
I know I’ve always wondered about this…and thanks to Wikipedia, I now understand!
Chip Davis (who had done a few things prior to this) collaborated with two friends and did an album of classical music played entirely with electric basses and synthesizers; quite obviously, this album had a very unique sound to it.
But, alas, there was no record label willing to distribute this album! So what did Chip Davis do? Created his own music label! American Gramaphone (which is a play on another record label) was founded and with this Chip Davis released the album Fresh Aire under the pseudonym Mannheim Steamroller. By the way, you should check it out!! It’s different, but in a splendid way!
Other albums were to follow in a series of albums; the first four of which were meant to represent the four seasons!
Keyboardist Jackson Berkey and Chip Davis played whatever instruments they felt would sound best for the twists on classical music (mixed with some jazz and rock) they were recording; some songs featuring a toy piano while another would use a pipe organ, often combined with piano and harpsichords. Fresh Aire Interludes (1981) featured all of Berkey’s ten piano interludes from the first four Fresh Aire albums. In all, there are eight Fresh Aire albums; the later four exploring different themes; the fifth album is subtitled “To the Moon,” the sixth peeks at Greek mythology, the seventh is based the number seven, and the eighth is based on the theme of infinity.
Quite the beginning to a band! It wasn’t until 1984, however, that Mannheim Steamroller became more well known. They had just released their first of many Christmas albums, this one entitled Mannheim Steamroller Christmas; some of the others to follow were Fresh Aire Christmas (1988) and Christmas in the Aire (1995).
A light jazz series was started in 1991 (through 1998) called Chip Davis, Day Parts; with each album having its own subtitle. I have one of these on my computer and listen to it often! 🙂
They have an album of Disney music, too! It was released in 1999 and is called Mannheim Steamroller Meets the Mouse; wonderful takes on classic Disney songs! 🙂
As I’ve been writing this, I’ve had their album Halloween playing in the background. This two-disc album was released in 2003 and I honestly can’t remember an autumn season that I’ve not listened to it! It’s not their only Halloween album, either; if you include the compilation album, they have four of them.
This album is fantastic! It feels very creative, but still sounds very Halloween like; not exactly worthy of chills, (it’s too lighthearted for that) but still a good representative of the holiday.
Currently, the Fresh Aire albums are some of my favorites! I usually listen to the first four of them, but not for any real reason–just because they’re the first few that come up when I search it on Youtube! 😀 I’ve been contemplating treating myself to the vinyl (*gasp*!!) albums, or perhaps just the digital downloads…I listen to them that much!
There are many, many more albums that they’ve done– I’ve only listened to a handful of them! They’re all unique, but that’s the way I like my music. 🙂