Monday, December 7, 2009

Rob AKA Volvoxburger: Round Midnight

On Mondays, a day that it is hard to get out from under the covers, I typically feature a cover song of another artist’s recordings. I got my birthday present of a melodica on Friday and I began to look for songs that featured this great little keyboard instrument and stumbled upon today’s feature – Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight” by an semi-anonymous keyboardist named Rob who calls himself Volvoxburger.

If you remember, I discussed the Hohner Melodica briefly in the post on the Hooter's "And we Danced." The term melodica was a trademarked identity for the Hohner Corporation’s instrument; however, the trademark must have expired without renewal as my version is officially called a melodica as well. My cheaper, er, more economical version was made by the Schoenhut Company. This company also makes toy pianos (I have one of those as well – but that will be discussed in a later post).

The instrument has a generic name, but it currently escapes me. It is clavi-something, but not Clavietta, as that is a brand identity. It is certainly not clavier, clavichord, clavinet, or clavicle. For what it cost (a little over $30.00), mine is a fairly good instrument. It also came with a nice soft carrying case.

As I have been banned to the cellar to play the thing, I tried it out for several hours the other night. I found it easy to adapt to the smaller piano keys, and accidentals came naturally – a technique that many melodica players use. You hear the same style used by accordionists. My instrument does not require that much breath – not like the bagpipes I once owned.

One fault with mine is that the low Eb is flat. It is not noticeable until you play Eb and Ebm chords or Eb octaves – then you can hear the dissonance (and the beating between the two notes' frequencies). It is not noticeable when playing single note runs, as every other note is in tune. Rather than returning it, I am going to re-tune it myself. This means I have to take it apart and file the reed in question.

My wife is a little nervous with this, but I told her I had to do this all the time with my Wurlizter electric piano (may it rest in peace), as replacement tines were not tuned – you had to do this yourself. I was forever breaking tines or knocking them out of tune. I was able to replace one and tune it in about 20 minutes.

I also learned to quickly replace the key contacts on my Prophet 5 synthesizer – guitar strings make an excellent substitute in an emergency – but long term – they rust and may not make contact. I always carried extra 0.14 unwound guitar strings for just this reason. A screwdriver, wire cutters, soldering tool, solder and a guitar string was all that was needed and I was ready for the next set. All I need then is a hammer, a roll of duct tape, and a coat hanger and I can fix about anything. They don’t call it Jimmying for nothing. Some things you learn to do when you play every weekend.

Our mysterious keyboardist a features a Thelonious Monk composition (from circa 1938-1942) that is called either “Round Midnight” or “Round about Midnight.” I first heard this song on a single I inherited in the early sixties by the Bill Evans’ Trio on Riverside. Their live version of this Monk tune was one of the jazz singles that I referenced in last week’s post on Mose Allison. Rob, our mystery artist, accompanies the melodica with some fine Fender Rhodes work. He really is a talented guy and I encourage you to listed to some more of his own recordings that he has on YouTube under the name of Volvoxburger. Enjoy this Monk cover.


  1. I was sad to learn that you've pulled your videos from youtube. I really enjoyed tham a lot and learned plenty. how about a change of heart?
    the best,

  2. I hadn't realized he had done this. It is a pity as he is an excellent musician and his music needs to be shared.