To me music is a representation of life. It can be portrayed and represented in so many ways, however in it's purest forms it is an extension of one's personality and interests. I have made it a priority in my musical endeavors to exploit and display these characteristics on an instrument that is somewhat of a newbie to expression; the banjo.
The first couple of the banjo, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, will release "Banjo Banjo," the companion EP to their debut duo album on Aug. 21 on Rounder. Available on CD Oct. 2 and vinyl Oct. 30 (both exclusively through Barnes and Noble), the EP features three previously unreleased tracks paired with live versions of Washburn's murder ballad "Shotgun Blues," the duo's minor-key take on "Railroad" and the instrumental "Banjo Banjo," written for their 2 year-old son, Juno.
The previously unreleased studio songs are arrangements of age-old Chinese folk, Bartok and metal. "Hao Hua Hong," ("Beautiful Red Flower"), sung by Washburn in Mandarin (she's near-fluent), is adapted from the Buyi people who live high in the mountain forests of Guizhou. Fleck offers "Evening in Transylvania," with an instrumental of Europe's "The Final Countdown," arranged for the A.V. Club's Undercover series. Europe was an '80s hair metal band.
The duo's self-titled debut came out last fall.
Béla Fleck is often considered the premier banjo player in the world. A New York City native, he picked up the banjo at age 15 after being awed by the bluegrass music of Flatt & Scruggs. While still in high school he began experimenting with playing bebop jazz on his banjo, mentored by fellow banjo renegade Tony Trischka. In 1980, he released his first solo album, Crossing the Tracks, with material that ranged from straight ahead bluegrass to Chick Corea’s “Spain.” In 1982, Fleck joined the progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival, making a name for himself on countless solo and ensemble projects ever since as a virtuoso instrumentalist. In 1989 he formed the genre-busting Flecktones, with members equally talented and adventurous as himself.
Enter to win a Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo signed by Bela Fleck and jazz pianist Marcus Roberts! Hurry - this all entries must be received by the end of July 4th, 2012.
New York Banjo Summit to Feature Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, Bill Keith, Eric Weisberg, Richie Stearns, Pete Wernick, Noam Pikelny, and Mac Benford
Many of the world’s most influential five-string banjo players – all with ties to New York State - will unite to perform a “Banjo Summit” in a limited ten-concert tour of the East Coast from October 25 through November 4, 2012.
Generally considered the most accomplished master of the instrument, Béla Fleck will be joined by fellow pickers Tony Trischka, Bill Keith, Eric Weissberg, Noam Pikelny, Richie Stearns, Pete Wernick and Mac Benford in concerts that will find the banjo being performed in both conventional and unexpected ways. In performances ranging from solos and duets to full-tilt banjo blowouts with all the players and an acoustic band, the stage setting will range from the traditional backdrop of bluegrass and old-time country music to the more unconventional banjo genres including jazz, classical and rock music.
Béla Fleck – a native of Manhattan - began making waves with a series of progressive banjo-centric recordings in the 1970s and as a member of the Newgrass Revival in the 1980s. As leader of the genre- busting Béla Fleck and the Flecktones since 1989, he has used the banjo to define the band’s one of a kind fusion of jazz, rock, bluegrass and world music. His collaborations with a wide diversity of artists such as jazz piano icon Chick Corea, Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain, classical bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer, and African artists Toumani Diabate and Oumou Sangare, have brought the banjo even further into unchartered territories. Béla Fleck has been nominated for Grammy awards in more categories than any artist in history, and has won 15 to date, with 30 nominations.
Tony Trischka - originally from Syracuse - took the bluegrass banjo to a whole new level in the 1970s with a series of recordings that explored rock and avant-garde jazz. He served as young Béla Fleck’s banjo teacher, and continues to explore the traditions and possibilities of the banjo through his “World Turning” concerts, his band Territory and as a record producer for artists such as Steve Martin.
Bill Keith, from Woodstock, is widely considered a trail blazer of the melodic style of banjo picking he brought forward as a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys. He went on to join the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and then helped pioneer the early newgrass movement with his work in bands with artists such as David Grisman, Peter Rowan and Richard Greene. He invented the “Keith tuners” that are used by banjo players around the world and which he distributes through his business Beacon Banjos.
Eric Weissberg – also a Woodstock resident - helped to bring the sound of the bluegrass banjo to mainstream America with his performance of “Dueling Banjos” on the soundtrack of the major motion picture “Deliverance”. This signature tune has gone on to become the world’s most familiar bluegrass instrumental.
Richie Stearns of Ithaca, brought the old-time clawhammer banjo style to a whole new audience with the jam bands Donna The Buffalo and The Horseflies, and has accompanied artists such as Natalie Merchant, Jim Lauderdale and Vassar Clements.
Pete Wernick – AKA “Dr. Banjo” – originally from New York City - is renowned as a hot-picking force in several trend-setting bands including Hot Rize and Country Cooking. A respected author and teacher of the instrument, Pete is a long-term President of the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Noam Pikelny, currently residing in Brooklyn, played in Leftover Salmon and the John Cowan Band before joining the Punch Brothers in 2006. The recipient of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass in 2010, he has also recorded two albums as leader of the Noam Pikelny Band.
Mac Benford of Ithaca spearheaded the old-time music revival through his work with the Highwoods and Backwoods String Bands in the 1970s – he currently fronts Mac Benford’s Woodshed All Stars.
The banjoists will be accompanied on stage by a stellar acoustic band that features guitarist Russ Barenberg (of the Barenberg, Douglas & Meyer band), mandolinist Jesse Cobb (of the Infamous Stringdusters), violinist Alex Hargreaves (of the Sarah Jarosz band) and bassist Corey DiMario (of Crooked Still).