Jay Ungar's fiddling is brimming with playfulness, drama, soulfulness and technical verve, as he explores the many musical styles and idioms that he has internalized and made his own. His compositions include tunes such as Ashokan Farewell, Lover's Waltz, Wizard's Walk, and Popcorn Behavior.
Starting with a chance meeting in the '70's, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason have become one of the most celebrated duos on the American acoustic music scene. They played fiddle and bass, respectively, in the band Fiddle Fever (with fellow fiddlers Evan Stover and Matt Glaser and guitarist Russ Barenberg), which recorded two classic albums. The early ’80s also saw the beginning of Jay’s Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camps, a world-renowned destination for enthusiasts of American music and dance traditions. Several years later, Molly became a full partner in designing and running these programs, which are still going strong.
When filmmaker Ken Burns heard their playing, he was so taken with Jay's evocative and haunting melody Ashokan Farewell that he used the tune in several films. Burnswound up inviting Jay and Molly to provide music for many of his projects, including his landmark PBS documentary The Civil War. The result: an Emmy nomination for Jay and a Grammy for the soundtrack album.
Jay and Molly have recorded American Dreamer, a collection of the songs of Stephen Foster, and Waltzing with You, an elaboration on their score for the film Brother’s Keeper, a Sundance Film Festival prizewinner. Perhaps the duo’s best-known composition is the title track of The Lovers’ Waltz, an album of romantic fiddle music from Appalachian, Scandinavian, Celtic, Klezmer and Swing traditions. Jay and Molly’s 1999 release on Angel Records, culminates in their 20-minute orchestral work, The Harvest Home Suite. In 2002, Jay and Molly produced, arranged and performed on A Song of Home, a collaborative recording for RCA, with flutist Sir James Galway, mandolinist Peter Ostroushko and bassist Steve Rust. Now, with Relax Your Mind (Angel Records), Jay and Molly, with their band Swingology, take a slightly different direction: American dance music with a focus on country blues and swing. Included are more of the beautiful waltzes that have become their signature pieces. On radio and television, Jay and Molly have appeared on CBS Good Morning, The Rosie O’Donnel Show, All Things Considered, A Prairie Home Companion, and the BBC’s Transatlantic Sessions. And they have no shortage of future musical projects.