Archive for March, 2014

in performance: pablo ziegler quartet with stefon harris

pablo ziegler 1

pablo ziegler.

Nearly every piece performed last night by the Pablo Ziegler Quartet at the Norton Center for the Arts’ Weisiger Theatre in Danville played out like a suite. A central theme or mood would introduce most tunes. But from then on, the music was like a car chase, bounding around numerous shifts in tempo and temperament – some of which were quite abrupt – before arriving home again. It was then that you appreciated how exhilarating the journey was.

Ziegler is widely seen today as the torchbearer of “nuevo tango,” the jazz-like, small combo variation of tango music formulated decades ago by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla. Ziegler served as Piazzolla’s pianist for over decade. Such insight manifested last night in a program split evenly between original compositions and works by Piazzolla.

The sharp, clipped but beautifully exact melodies of Piazzolla were echoed in the spare, mischievous playing of Hector del Curto on bandoneon, the Argentine version of the button accordion that was also the composer’s signature instrument. But that was only part of the fun. With the help of American vibraphonist Stefon Harris, a guest for roughly 2/3 of the concert, Ziegler used the bandoneon colors as guideposts for tunes that were in constant emotive motion.

During the Ziegler composition Bajo Caro, the ensemble mood became almost elegiac before left hand piano rolls opened out into a gleeful lyrical stride. The music became more fragmented on Piazzolla’s Chin Chin through band skirmishes that included a brief four mallet run on the vibes from Harris that affirmed the tune’s inherent cool along with sleek, punctuated rhythm by Ziegler, bassist Pedro Giraudo and guitarist Claudio Ragazzi.

At the core of these exchanges was a sense of playfulness that triggered the giddy melodic jabs of La Rayuela. Such instances recalled the animated piano/vibes duets of Chick Corea and Gary Burton as much the great Piazzolla.

There were other stylistic joyrides, as well, including the classically inclined Fuga Y Misterio and the darker, more spacious Blues Porteno. But it was Buenos Aires Report that best displayed the template for all of the genre-jumping – a boldly colored, effortlessly executed piano blast that balanced Piazzolla’s compositional elegance and Ziegler’s boundless musical ingenuity.

the return of nuevo tango

pablo ziegler 2

pablo ziegler.

Pablo Ziegler never thought much of tango at first. As a teenage Argentine pianist, he was far more eager to embrace the possibilities of jazz than the traditions of what he termed “old people” music.

Then he heard Astor Piazzolla.

“I thought he was great,” said Ziegler, 69. “I thought he was a genius for transforming the tango. He changed the entire mood of the music.”

So did the rest of the world. By expanding the music’s inherent mystery and romanticism to allow room for improvisation, Piazzolla founded a sound and movement often referred to as Nuevo Tango. Having served as pianist in Piazzolla’s band for over a decade (from 1978 until the composer’s retirement due to failing health in 1989), Ziegler rediscovered tango’s dark beauty – especially in the way piano interacted with the accordion-like bandoneon.

“When Piazzolla called me. I was like, ‘Really? You want to have me in your group?’ So we met to talk and I became a member of his quintet. Those years were like studying at a university. He put my mind in the music of my country.”

Today, as the unequalled heir to Piazzolla’s Nuevo Tango, Ziegler has been integral to the music’s continued evolution as well as its kinship with jazz. Furthering the latter are occasional collaborative concerts with acclaimed American vibraphonist Stefon Harris. The two perform together Saturday at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville.

stefon harris

stefon harris.

“I have a strong appetite for challenges,” said Harris, 40.”Tango was a style of music that I wasn’t very familiar with. I had some level of awareness, but to be onstage with musicians who authentically live and play that music was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up at the time. And once we got onstage, we felt there was this amazing chemistry that couldn’t have been predicted.”

For Harris, collaborating with Ziegler falls in line with his working philosophy as a musician even if the music itself is often figuratively, as well as literally, foreign.

“One of my ambitions as a musician is to lead with empathy,” Harris said. “Fundamentally, what we do is about connections and interactions between human beings, so I would like to think I could get onstage with someone for the very first time and if I’m listening and I’m aware and empathetic, I’ll be able to find a connection almost immediately.

“One of the things I enjoy most about playing with Pablo in this setting is that it reminds me a lot of my classical training in terms of the attention to detail, the way you can phrase a melody. Everything is indicated with great specificity excluding, of course, the improvisation.”

Ziegler said he and Harris only team for perhaps five or six concerts a year. They have also released only one album together – 2007’s aptly titled Tango & All That Jazz, which was a live document of a performance given at the Jazz Standard in New York the previous December.

“He has a fantastic memory,” Ziegler said of Harris. “It’s like he has a kind of library in his brain. He knows all the charts and has an incredible feeling for this music.”

“Pablo is very open as a musician, so I don’t feel like I have to completely mimic the style of tango,” Harris added. “I’m allowed to bring my own voice there, as well. But in order for me to contribute something, I have to understand what’s going on first so I can contextualize that which I hope to contribute.

“Pablo is such a brilliant musician and plays such fantastic music. Playing with him has really had a great effect on my ability to grow.”

Pablo Ziegler Quartet with Stefon Harris perform at 8 p.m. March 15 at the Weisiger Theatre of the Norton Center for the Arts, 600 W. Walnut St. in Danville. Tickets are $36. Call (877) 448-7469, (859) 236-4692 or go to

beyond treme

rebirth brass band

rebirth brass band: keith frazier, derrick shezbie, stafford agee, phil frazier, vincent broussard, glen andrews, gregory veals and derrick tabb. photo by jeffrey depuis.

When you’re speaking with a New Orleans musician as versed as Stafford Agee on the Thursday after Fat Tuesday, you place a few topics on hold.

His 20-plus year tenure as trombonist with the pioneering Rebirth Brass Band, his contributions to the popular HBO series Treme and his love of mentoring the youth in his native New Orleans – all of that, for a moment, can wait. The inevitable first query dealt with Mardi Gras and the carnival spirit that came with it last week.

“Fat Tuesday went well,” said Agee, 44. “It went well. We had a lot of people come to the city and it was a very successful Mardi Gras.

“It’s a great experience in that you’ve got a lot of people from all over the world that come in and get to see New Orleans and experience bits of music in New Orleans. We just happen to be one of the bands that they come out and see.”

Rebirth Brass Band was formed in 1983 (Agee joined in 1986) and became one of several ensembles to blend Mardi Gras’ celebratory spirit and the street parading brass band traditions of New Orleans with all manner of outside influences ranging from funk to jazz to R&B and more. Agee asserted the band’s inspirations are as varied as its membership.

“We’re an open band,” the trombonist said. “Within an open band, the members weigh all their input in on what we do and everybody puts their own personal influence into the music. I’m more into smooth jazz and old school R&B and a lot of old funk music, like James Brown and Funkadelic, stuff like that.

“So it’s like you have nine people in the band with nine different musical personalities and maybe, say, 20 different genres of music that people like to listen to. All of that is incorporated.. That’s how we get the gumbo of music that we have and create the style of Rebirth.”

Off the bandstand, Agee was one of many Crescent City artists to take an active role in Treme, the series depicting life in post-Katrina New Orleans that recently completed its four season run. Agee served as a sort of conceptual stunt double for actor Wendell Pierce, who portrayed the streetwise trombonist Antoine Batiste.

“Wendell didn’t want to be the trombone player that picks up the horn for the show and didn’t really know what he was doing. He really wanted to learn all the technical aspects of it as a musician. He wanted to have the feel, the emotions, the body language a trombone player has when he is playing. He wanted to know more about the music. He actually learned how to read music. So as a beginning trombone player, he did really well.”

To a degree, the Batiste character mirrors Agee’s own life story as a child of the streets that found not only a career but a lifelong calling in music.

“Me being a lover of music and playing music, I believe, was more spiritual than anything,” Agee said. “I came from a well balanced home life and upbringing. But just seeing stuff in the street and seeing stuff that’s around you, you tend to sometimes be a product of your environment. The more I was around music, the more I started to love being a creator of music. So I started loving all aspects of it.

“I have been volunteering in high schools for about six years mentoring the kids. I know how life on the streets of New Orleans can be because I was once one of those kids coming up in that same lifestyle. I just want to let those kids know that there is a brighter picture than what they may find in everyday life.”

Rebirth Brass Band performs at 7:30 p.m. March 15 at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St. in Frankfort. Tickets are  $25-$45. Call (502) 352-7469 or go to

bob’s back

sammy shelor

sammy shelor will perform a BOB concert with the lonesome river band at natasha’s on june 9.

Your best local concert festival buddy is returning for a second year. Yes indeed, BOB is back.

Short for Best of Bluegrass, the weeklong series of predominantly free concerts debuted in 2013 as a celebratory prelude to the 40th annual Festival of the Bluegrass. BOB proved an immediate hit in bringing patrons downtown to a variety of venues before passing the ball to the Festival of the Bluegrass over the weekend.

This year, BOB is bigger in scope with a broader performance schedule that will include free shows by such established national bluegrass acts as Steep Canyon Rangers, Town Mountain and the Lonesome River Band.

At a press conference yesterday at Natasha’s that announced in the initial BOB lineup, Mayor Jim Gray said the event helps preserve and fortify one of Lexington’s most enduring cultural traditions.

“We use the words potential and possibility when we think about our rich legacy and history,” Gray said. “We’re one year short of 240 years of being a city and this music is so much a part of it. Continuing and embracing that legacy and strengthening that fabric is a very good deal.”

While several of the performers at BOB are still to be announced, one the biggest confirmed concerts will kick off the festival on June 9 – a double-bill featuring the traditionally inclined North Carolina troupe Town Mountain and the veteran Lonesome River Band, still with multi-award winning banjoist Sammy Shelor, at Natasha’s. A bluegrass themed program for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour will precede the show at the Lyric Theatre.

Another heavyweight act, the Grammy-winning Steep Canyon Ranges (which just released a concert recording with Steve Martin and Edie Brickell) brings BOB to Pauley’s Toasted Barrel on June 11 following a Red Barn Radio program at ArtsPlace with the Misty Mountain String Band. Three-time reigning International Bluegrass Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year, takes BOB to the heart of downtown with a Thursday Night Live performance on June 12.

All of the shows, save for the WoodSongs and Red Barn Radio tapings, will be free. Still to be announced will be BOB shows on June 10 at Southland Jamboree, Willie’s Locally Known and Al’s Bar.

This year’s roster at the ticketed Festival of the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horse Park, which runs from June 12-15, includes The Grascals, Seldom Scene, Mountain Heart and the current IBMA Vocal Group and Entertainer of the Year Gibson Brothers.

A joint venture between the Lexington Area Music Alliance and numerous local sponsors and organizers, BOB is welcoming the involvement of LexTran this year, which will help transport patrons from the Horse Park (especially campers arriving earlier in the week) to downtown.

“What we are about to present is some of the best bluegrass music in America, if not the world, for free,” said LAMA president Tom Martin.

For more information on BOB, go to For the Festival of the Bluegrass, go to

charlie chaplin’s golden silence

the gold rush

charlie chaplin and dinner companion in ‘the gold rush’ (1925).

When Charlie Chaplin unveiled The Gold Rush in 1925, silence wasn’t necessarily golden. It was in glorious black and white.

Perhaps the definitive depiction of Chaplin’s signature screen character The Tramp, the movie has long been considered a classic of the silent film era. When Chaplin revisited, reedited and rereleased The Gold Rush in 1942, its original black and white splendor was retained. But color nonetheless poured from an orchestral score composed by The Tramp itself.

On Friday, the Lexington Philharmonic will present the sight and glorious sound of Chaplin’s masterwork by performing the score of the 1942 version of The Gold Rush live to a screening of the 1925 original. Befitting the occasion, the orchestra is encouraging patrons to dress in black and white for the occasion.

“While we have done several multi-media projects, performing a true film score that actually accompanied a film is something we’ve not done yet,” said Philharmonic music director and conductor Scott Terrell. “Also, Chaplin has been underappreciated in terms of people knowing how incredibly musical he was. The entire movie is driven by the music. It’s really quite virtuosic for the orchestra, too. It’s unrelenting. It’s 80 minutes of non-stop playing, so it runs as long as the movie does.”

Chaplin introduced The Tramp in the 1914 film short Kid Auto Races in Venice, making this year a centennial for the character. But by the time The Gold Rush reappeared in 1942, Chaplin was acting, directing, scripting, editing and scoring his films – a remarkable feat considering he had no formal musical schooling.

“Still, he played string instruments and composed at the piano,” Terrell said. “He was a sort of an innate musician even though he wasn’t necessarily a studied or trained one. But that didn’t stop him from writing his own scores, which I think is fascinating. He had a sort of natural musicality.

“Chaplin really believed that the music wasn’t simply meant to accompany. It was meant to drive the action, which is a different philosophy than most people would think of. We get used to a film score by John Williams or whoever where the music fits the plot. I think Chapin came at it from the other direction.

“There is a lot of music in the score people are going to know. There is The Flight of the Bumble Bee, there are Tchaikovsky waltzes, there are Brahms quotes, there are Rimsky-Korsakov quotes. The score gets its inspiration from a lot of classical music. It just has a slightly different bend.”

Having seen the two versions of The Gold Rush “a total of 80 to 100 times” and guest conducted a chamber-style version of its score in 2010 with the Charleston Symphony, Terrell said the synchronization of live music and vintage cinema presented numerous performance challenges.

“If I’m a little quick and I get a ahead of the scene, then I have to find a way to pull the reins back and get us to where we need to go. It’s imperfect – that I can assure you. But what makes this score work really well is that it was written in such a way that the more sentimental music has great elasticity. It can move and pull back as needed. So it’s more an approximate than an exact.

“For me, my job for the orchestra this week is to get to the point where they know the score so very well that they can sort of adjust as we go.”

To that end, Terrell and the Philharmonic will be on their own on Friday as the program will feature no additional selections or guest soloists.

“It’s all orchestral and all Charlie. He’s the guest.”

The Lexington Philharmonic performs Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush at 7:30 p.m. March 14 at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Tickets: $20-$70. Call (859) 233-4226 or got to

critic’s pick 328: drive-by truckers, ‘english oceans’

english oceans“Somebody’s gotta mop up the blood,” sings Mike Cooley at the onset of English Oceans, the newest batch of exquisitely literate meat-and-potatoes rockers from Drive-By Truckers. That such a remark is made with non-threatening candor over a Memphis flavored roadhouse groove that recalls the Rolling Stones in all their Exile of Main St. glory should come as no surprise. This is the sound of the Truckers coming to life again and saying “howdy” with an arsenal of vital rock ‘n’ roll misfit songs.

In fact, English Oceans isn’t high on the element of surprise at all. With the departure of bassist Shonna Tucker, the band relies squarely (and, for the first time, equally) on the narrative-heavy songwriting of Cooley and Patterson Hood. Early reviews claim the record to be a more solidly rocking affair, although its most potent tune is Hood’s album-closing Grand Canyon, a eulogy to longtime band ally Craig Lieske. The song indulges in wave after wave of power chord affirmation (“I lift my glass and smile”) before taking a dive into a pool of divine feedback until nothing is left but the scattered yet highly purposeful beat of Truckers drummer Brad Morgan.

Equally un-rockish is the Hood-penned piano lament When Walter Went Crazy, which is frightening not because the song’s namesake character torches his own home, but because family and neighbors look on (“like a crash in slo-mo”) as though the destruction was entirely expected.

Cooley and Hood manage to flee the Truckers’ much beloved “Dirty South” for a few tunes, too. Cooley’s Made Up English Oceans follows a pack of embittered, scripture-quoting politicos with a misty country shuffle that sounds like Marty Robbins laced with Hank III. Then Hood offers The Part of Him, a saga that outrageously rhymes “phoning in” with “Nixonian” as it outlines the blind ambitions of a pandering Southern candidate “indifferent to honesty.”

None of these songs go overboard on the rock ‘n’ roll, although the record’s inherent soulfulness plays itself out nicely on the Tom Petty-esque Primer Coat and the Creedence Clearwater Revival meets Wet Willie strut of Hearing Jimmy Loud (both Cooley tunes) as well as the Neil Young-style thud of Hood’s When He’s Gone.

The music is all electric and, yes, rock-worthy. But it’s also structured so that you don’t miss a word of the dark rural tales Cooley and Hood cook up. That’s the real beauty of English Oceans.

in performance: crosby, stills and nash

csn 3

crosby,stills and nash: david crosby, stephen stills, graham nash. photo by eleanor stills.

It’s easy to dismiss Crosby, Stills and Nash in the 21st century as the product of a bygone pop era – a trio of 70-something, Woodstock-born journeymen still singing idealist protest songs in a way that makes its members seem forever long in the tooth.

Such a notion even seemed welcome last night during the nearly three-hour, sold out performance CSN staged at the Louisville Palace. The second song out of the gate (following Stephen Stills’ solemn, aptly themed Carry On) was Graham Nash’s Chicago, a diatribe rooted in the 1968 Democratic National Convention with its battle cry chorus of “we can change the world.”

A never-say-die reflection of political revolution? Perhaps. But while the bulk of CSN’s performance was devoted to late ‘60s and ‘70s songs (Stills’ Southern Cross was the only tune representing the ‘80s and ‘90s), what was revealed was a broader time capsule repertoire where the most evocative moments addressed the cultural climate of its day as much or more than the era’s political unrest.

A beautiful case in point was another Nash composition, the classic Our House, a 1970 love song that again unfolded with such wide-eyed innocence that it triggered the evening’s most hearty sing-a-long and ovation. Ditto for David Crosby’s Guinevere, a more fanciful romantic remembrance from CSN’s 1969 debut album where the two part harmonies between the songwriter and Nash (which fueled much of the evening’s vocal charm) sounded suitably golden.

Sure, there were instances where CSN turned pointedly political, such as the “thank you in advance” Stills offered the audience in hopes of ousting Mitch McConnell in this fall’s senatorial election or the far sterner sentiments Crosby and Nash summoned during a brief a capella reading of What Are Their Names?, a would-be encounter with the powers-that-be. Pulled from Crosby’s 1971 debut album If I Could Only Remember My Name, the tune was the evening’s biggest surprise entry.

While such a repertoire suggested a folkie agenda, CSN remained very much an electric outfit last night with a five member band built around the keyboard orchestration of James Raymond (Crosby’s son) as a backdrop and Stills’ immensely resourceful guitarwork, alternating with colors and leads from co-guitarist Shane Fontayne, leading the charge. Of particular interest were a pair of relaxed, fluid solos Stills provided his Buffalo Springfield classic Bluebird and Crosby’s Deja Vu that possessed an almost jazz-like feel.

The program wasn’t wholly rooted in the past, either. Two songs from Crosby’s fine new Croz album – Radio and What’s Broken – echoed varying senses of salvation within melodies that were simultaneously assured and restless. Stills reprised the similarly haunting Don’t Want Lies from last year’s sessions with The Rides while Nash beat everyone in terms of turnaround with a piano-based love song, Here For You, that was composed as recently as last week.

But the encore of Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, the Woodstock anthem that had the coarse throated Stills still hitting the high notes, proved clearly where allegiances within the audience stood. While the new music was consistently engaging, it was through a past where the sightseeing wasn’t always warm and fuzzy that crowd felt most at home. To that end, CSN proved an especially accommodating tour guide.

in performance: bela fleck and abigail washburn

bela and abigail 2a

bela fleck and abigail washburn.

Near the end of a two-set, two-banjo performance last night at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort, Abigail Washburn thanked the crowd for allowing her a few hours of quality time with husband Bela Fleck. Such are the sacrifices of the modern day family band, where a quiet night on the town winds up playing out onstage.

Curiously enough, there was a charming and very casual intimacy at the heart of the performance, where the married banjoists sans rhythm section allowed the broad differences in their playing styles to support and compliment each other.

On paper, that might seem like quite the task. Washburn displayed an elemental, largely traditional sound built around rhythmic, clawhammer-style patterns but with a major global twist. She sang three songs in Chinese, using the music’s often exotic drama as a passport out of the rural stigma that still dogs the banjo.

Former Lexingtonian Fleck, on the other hand, has never operated within the banjo’s stylistic norm. Throughout last night’s program, he shot off riffs of dazzling speed and agility, displayed an improvisational intuition that was endlessly imaginative (but was never overplayed) and wrapped it all up with performance style that was consistently playful.

During a solo segment where he showed off the gorgeous, meaty tone of the baritone banjo, he bobbed his head back and forth to a childlike melody with a subtle but decidedly wicked grin on his face. Later, during the set-closing acoustic revamp of his Flecktones tune New South Africa, one of the tunes where Washburn said she felt brave enough to venture into “his territory,” the riffs flew by like gusts of winter wind. Fleck, as always, made such Olympian string sounds seem like second nature.

But there was also a wonderful stylistic simpatico to the show, from the effortless melodic harmony the couple’s divergent banjo styles discovered during the Washburn original Bring Me My Queen to a duet encore reading of His Eye is On the Sparrow with Fleck on banjo and Washburn working exclusively as a vocalist. It was the simplest of of gospel-fused joys – a spiritual that was truly spirited.

Leave it to the mighty banjo, along with the family stamp from two of the instrument’s foremost ambassadors, to make the heavens rain with a distinctly different kind of string music.   

critic’s pick 327: the allman brothers band, ‘play all night’

abb 1aA new concert compilation marking the earliest stages of The Allman Brothers Band’s storied annual performance residencies at New York’s Beacon Theatre falls somewhere between a memoir and an epitaph.

As a glance, Play All Night is a powerful representation of the band’s third major incarnation – one that teams co-founder Dickey Betts with a young Warren Haynes to form the twin guitar section that takes the Allmans from their Southern rock beginnings to a new generation of jam band fans.

The two come out swinging on Statesboro Blues and You Don’t Love Me with slide savvy gusto that salutes the spirit of the long departed Duane Allman. But the two quickly stretch out in directions of their own.

Two of Betts’ best known instrumentals, Jessica and In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, define the hearty duality of his playing. Jessica is all riverboat glee, a portrait of Betts at his most jubilant (although it remains an unfinished work without the equally joyous piano rolls Chuck Leavell added to the song during the ‘70s) while Elizabeth Reed is offered here initially as a Santana-like dirge before it explodes with long, sinewy breaks by both guitarists. The 20 minute tune’s eventual collapse into a series of drum solos is Play All Night’s only weakness.

Haynes, who produced Play All Night out of concert recordings made during the 1992 Beacon run by the late, legendary Tom Dowd, asserts himself with a slide solo rampage  that triggers Hoochie Coochie Man, the Willie Dixon blues staple that was a signature stage moment for original Allmans bassist Berry Oakley.

There are loads of other highlights, as well, including the wicked bass lines Allen Woody uses to piledrive the album closing Whipping Post, the scorched vocal charge Gregg Allman lends to the then-new End of the Line and, best of all, a three-song acoustic segment highlighted by a gospel-rific Come On In My Kitchen.

So why is Play All Night also a eulogy? Well, Duane Allman and Oakley died in separate motorcycle crashes in the early’70s, Betts was ousted from the band in 2000, Woody died that same year and Haynes, along with the Allmans’ other mainstay guitarist Derek Trucks, will depart the current lineup at the end of 2014, leaving the band’s future in serious question.

But Play All Night falls between the cracks of those losses to serve as an expert remembrance of the Allmans’ earliest Beacon shows as well as an outstanding document of a band reborn.

banjo family

bela and abigail 1a

abigail washburn and bela fleck.

Remember the old adage about what happens to the family that plays together? Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn certainly do. One of the primary reasons these two pioneering voices of the banjo, who also happen to be husband and wife, tour as a duo is to stay together.

In the past, however, collaborative concerts were sporadic events squeezed into extensive and very separate performance schedules. Multiple Grammy winner and one-time Lexingtonian Fleck has juggled shows in recent years with jazz icon Chick Corea, bluegrass/classical bassist Edgar Meyer, the contemporary string quartet Brooklyn Rider and his longrunning fusion group The Flecktones. Washburn worked extensively with the all female bluegrass troupe Uncle Earl before exploring a world of banjo possibilities that took her from Appalachia to China.

But after the couple welcomed son Juno into the world last year, a renewed focus was placed on duo shows. It was practical, as the two were able to tour together with Juno in tow, as well as prophetic in that Fleck and Washburn have also begun work on their first fully collaborative recording.

“We knew it was a new chapter and new epic era in our lives when Juno came along,” said Washburn, 36, by phone last week. “I’m not sure I would tour any other way. I would really not want to be separated from Juno at this point and I know that it’s very hard for Bela to be separated from him. So there is this comprehensive satisfaction to being together on the road because, luckily, it really does work well musically. And on a personal level, it’s just so special.

“I absolutely love it,” said Fleck, 55, of his touring family life prior to a November concert with Brooklyn Rider in Danville. “And I love it for a lot of reasons. One is that it is a wonderful feeling to go out onstage and play with your partner, your wife, and do something really special together and feel like the two of you are complete. At our shows, it’s just the two of us onstage and it feels wonderful the whole time. I never feel like, ‘Gosh, I wish we had a band’ or something like that. It’s very intimate.

“The other side of it is that our child is always with us. That’s very satisfying, but also very different from any other experience I’ve ever had as a musician – to travel with your wife and child. And it’s lovely.”

In the end, though, what Fleck and Washburn are creating is a musical scenario that is as distinctive as any of their other projects – a band made entirely of two banjos. There is no rhythm section, no other instrumental ornamentation – just banjos.

“The challenge of two banjos is probably public perception,” Washburn said. “‘How could a two banjo show for a whole night really be good?’ But I think when we come together, there is some overlap between the people who like what Bela is doing and like what I do.

“Bela is this incredibly versatile three finger picker. I can do some two finger picking in the old mountain style and I also play clawhammer banjo. These roles are very different but they also have this ability to blend into each other, like a rippling waterfall. Water is what comes to my mind – images of water moving in and out with a flowing, rippling effect. That’s what Bela and I are going for and what we would like to think we achieve a lot of the time. It can really be a gloriously soothing sound which I don’t think is what people picture when they hear two banjos.”

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn perform at 7:30 p.m. March 4 at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St. in Frankfort. Tickets are $30, $40, $50. Call (502) 352-7469 or go to

Next entries »

Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | About Our Ads | Copyright