After playing guitar in several garage bands in his teens and studying classical guitar in college, Roger Landes’ interest in Irish music was sparked in 1981 by a recording of The Chieftains. He soon obtained a bouzouki and set about learning the intricacies of Irish and Scots dance tunes and accompaniment.
In 1982 Roger helped form the popular Celtic group Scartaglen and appeared on the group’s three recordings: Scartaglen, The Middle Path, and Last Night’s Fun. Scartaglen contributed a track to the best-selling 1993 Narada Records collection Celtic Odyssey, which was on the Billboard charts for almost two years. Scartaglen disbanded in 1994 and the next year Roger began performing in a duo with singer and keyboardist Connie Dover.
During his years with Scartaglen, Roger established himself as a first-rate accompanist and arranger, and since then has emerged as a master soloist, performing Irish tunes on the bouzouki, mandolin, tenor banjo and guitar with dazzling technical skill and creativity. He is known for his uncanny ability to translate music from the fiddle and the uilleann pipes to fretted string instruments, while retaining the essence of those more traditional instruments.
Roger’s solo CD, Dragon Reels, was recorded in Nashville with Grammy Award-winning engineer and producer Bil VornDick. Released in 1997, it garnered unanimous critical praise. Roger has produced recordings for Michael Dugger (At Early Dawn), Chris Grotewohl (Under the Influence), Dan Grotewohl (Bear in the Greengrass), Gabriel’s Gate (Departures), and Chris Smith (Coyote Banjo). The Janissary Stomp, a ground-breaking collection of original bouzouki duets with New Mexico roots musician Chipper Thompson, was released in 2001.
In great demand as a teacher, Roger has been on the staff at the St. Louis Tionól; Catskills Irish Arts Week; Friday Harbor Irish Music Camp; Swannanoa Gathering Celtic Week; Milwaukee Irish Festival Summer School; Seattle Cittern Symposium; Alasdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle Camp; Music, Arts, and Technology Camp; and the O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat.
He is the founder and artistic director of ZoukFest, the first international gathering devoted to the Irish bouzouki, which he started in 1998. ZoukFest moved with Roger to Taos, New Mexico in 2001, and since then has grown into a full-fledged world music camp, with the addition of classes for other instruments and vocals, in a range of musical styles. ZoukFest was held at the College of Santa Fe in 2007-8; in 2009-11 it moved to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; as of 2012 it takes place at the Santa Fe University of Art & Design in Santa Fe.
Roger appeared in and contributed to the soundtrack of the 1999 film Ride with the Devil, directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Life of Pi). He has appeared on the National Public Radio shows Mountain Stage and A Prairie Home Companion. In April 2001, his music was featured in a PBS documentary, Last Stand of the Tallgrass Prairie.
In 2002, Roger joined Spanish Galician master musician and Chieftains alumnus Carlos Nuñez on his first US tour. Later that year he toured in a trio with Irish fiddle phenomenon Frankie Gavin (De Dannan) and harmonica virtuoso Rick Epping (Pumpkinhead, Arcady). In 2004 he had the pleasure of accompanying legendary Irish fiddler Tommy Peoples (The Bothy Band) for a week of concerts in New Mexico. In 2007 he completed a short tour with acclaimed Irish fiddler/tenor banjoist John Carty. Roger performed for several years in a duo with fiddler and guitarist Randal Bays. Their live house concert CD House to House was named one of the Top Five Picks of 2005 by the Irish Times (Dublin).
In 2006 composer Paul Elwood completed a chamber piece for Roger— In Blue Spaces—perhaps the first ever written for Irish bouzouki. It was premiered in November 2008 with another commission, Sibling Rivalry for Irish bouzouki and electronics, by noted electro-acoustic composer Paul Rudy, with New Ear Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. Later that month Roger performed In Blue Spaces in its New Mexico premier with the Taos Chamber Music Group. In July 2012 he was a guest performer with the celebrated Irish group Frankie Gavin & De Dannan at the Colorado Irish Festival, and in September he had the honor of performing with accordion master Paddy O’Brien at the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival in La Veta, Colorado.
Since 2009 Landes has been pursuing graduate degrees (M.M., and PhD) at Texas Tech University and teaching a course in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He is conducting research into the revival of English bagpipes, as well as the interrelated revivals of bagpipes and hurdy-gurdies associated with the European dance music revival. He is the author of the upcoming Introduction to the Irish Bouzouki published by Hal Leonard.
Instructor – Bouzouki and Mandolin
2005, 2006, 2014