Playing music without looking at the page requires knowledge, skill, and desire. Local jazz musician Marvin Falcon demonstrates this talent naturally by playing his guitars and ukulele. “I’m a jazz guitarist with a classical interest,” he says.
Originally from Brooklyn, Falcon began playing the ukulele as a teenager. He explains: “I went with my friend to help take care of his uncle’s son. My friend asked his uncle to play the ukulele. I was surprised that his uncle was missing his right hand due to a childhood accident. I asked him how his uncle was going to play. ” One-handed? My friend said just watch and listen. “The guy put on a watch strap attached to the ukulele stump. The band had a felt pick attached. The pick would extend so he could strum.” played melodies. It was magnificent. His uncle talked about life-changing moments, and this was certainly one for me. “
Falcon knew then that he wanted to play the ukulele. “I asked my mom for 5 bucks and bought a plastic ukulele. I sat in my dad’s office playing while the performances were going on. I also played with my friend’s uncle. I taught myself to play everything by ear. I know that music was something you would write, I thought it was just an environmental issue. “
Falcon played ukulele in a band with friends from high school. One of the boys suggested that Falcon learn to play the guitar and call an instructor he knew. “My friends wouldn’t let me get out of the phone booth until I talked to the guy.” His name was Stanley Solow. “I explained to Stanley that I don’t have a guitar. He was so welcoming that he made me play my ukulele for him, and then he instantly helped me pick up the guitar and read music, which is a gateway to the world of music. He has his own vocabulary and sound. Solow became a personal mentor. Now I was in a career that I didn’t choose, she chose me. “
After graduating from college and playing guitar professionally in the United States, Falcon returned to New York in the 1960s and began teaching. He got a call from a popular black musician, Miriam Makeba, to play guitar in a political performance. When Falcon asked for the music, instead, they gave him preview recordings and had to learn the material by ear. Falcon explains; “It was an adventure. We only rehearsed in apartments. I was never told that Makeba’s performance starts in total darkness. I was worried about finding my position on the guitar. Makeba showed up, the drums started playing and I only had to play a chord repeatedly during Then, Makeba was the center of attention with an outfit that reflected a lot of light. I used that lighting to perform the rest of the show, which was a huge success. ” Following that performance, Falcon toured with Makeba through Africa, which included musician Harry Bellafonte to honor Kenya’s emancipation from British rule.
In 1972, Falcon moved to Allentown with his wife and two children. His son Ted is a professional violinist living in Brazil. Falcon has played ukulele with Ted numerous times, which he says is a blessing. “We just know how to play together. We don’t even have to look at the page or at each other.” They have played together in Mayfair. It once featured Falcon’s daughter singing with them on stage.
Falcon feels: “In Allentown, jazz musicians think I am classical and classical musicians think I am more jazz. My background comes from the world of jazz, which is creating music in the moment. I think therefore it is easier for a jazz musician to become a classical musician. Jazz musicians can immediately analyze music and understand it from a musical point of view. ” He is passionate about the difference between the two.
Falcon rehearses weekly with a group in his home studio. You can play just about anything by heart. He still plays regularly with a band called the Barrel House Brothers at Steelstacks and The Speakeasy Bookstore at Bethlehem. They play traditional jazz from the 1920s and 1930s. Falcon will also teach a ukulele course in September at the Lehigh County Senior Center. “I am a weapon for hire. I can understand music from the composer’s point of view when I play it.”