Double-banjo acoustic bluegrass spectacular

Tony Trischka will be performing as part of the "Second Saturday" concert series at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Westcott Community Center, 826 Euclid Ave., Syracuse.
One of the world's most dynamic and inventive banjo players, Syracuse native Tony Trischka returns to his hometown to celebrate the release of a new CD fronting a double-banjo, all acoustic ensemble. A veteran of many local bands, Trischka has used his gifts as a musician and arranger, coupled with his unrivaled knowledge of banjo history and technique, to inspire a whole generation of progressive bluegrass musicians.
This concert will celebrate his new Rounder Records CD, "Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular," released this month. This album, his 16th, marks Trischka's return to acoustic bluegrass. On it, he has surrounded himself with a cast of fine musicians and fellow banjo players including Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, Alison Brown and Steve Martin. The songs include several of Trischka's original instrumental compositions as well as some traditional bluegrass vocals with Dudley Connell, Chris Thile and Michael Daves adding their voices. Classically styled and dynamic, yet still finding new ways to expand timeless traditions, "Double Banjo" is bluegrass as only Trischka can envision it.
To coincide with the CD's release, Trischka is touring with a crack acoustic band. Vermont- based Gordon Stone is one of the premiere progressive and traditional banjoists in the country. For years he has led his own band (Gordon Stone Band) and has made inroads in the jam band scene with his creative improvisations and inspired compositions. Also on hand will be Michael Daves on vocals and guitar. Daves has toured the US and Europe with Roseanne Cash and is a fixture on the Northeast bluegrass scene. His appearance at Merlefest this past spring was a triumph. With a powerful voice and a blazing lead guitar, Daves is in line to be one of the all-time acoustic greats. Skip Ward, who has studied with Jaco Pastorius and tours with Phoebe Snow, will lay down the standup bass lines that anchor the band. Brittany Haas, the great, great granddaughter of an old-time Missouri fiddler, bows seamlessly between old-time, bluegrass, and post-new acoustic fiddling styles. The music will be primarily bluegrass oriented with a few side trips to other acoustic ports.
Throughout his 35-year career, Trischka has defied boundaries and explored a wide variety of genres commonly considered out-of-bounds for the banjo. What had previously been a primarily Southern-based bluegrass and old-time instrument became, in his hands, an instrument of greater melodic and harmonic sophistication. His styles have changed like a modern painter's: he had a traditional folk and bluegrass period, moved into jazz fusion, tried out clawhammer style banjo and experimented with traditional African melodies.
Trischka's interest in banjo was sparked by the Kingston Trio's "Charlie and the MTA" in 1963. Two years later, he joined the Down City Ramblers, where he remained through 1971. That year, Trischka made his recording debut on "15 Bluegrass Instrumentals" with the band Country Cooking; at the same time, he was also a member of Country Granola. In 1973, he began a two-year stint with Breakfast Special. Between 1974 and 1975, he recorded two solo albums, "Bluegrass Light" and "Heartlands." After one more solo album in 1976, "Banjoland," he went on to become musical leader for the Broadway show "The Robber Bridegroom." Trischka toured with the show in 1978, the year he also played with the Monroe Doctrine. Beginning in 1978, he also played with artists such as Peter Rowan, Richard Greene, and Stacy Phillips. In the early 1980s, he began recording with his new group Skyline, which recorded its first album in 1983. Subsequent albums included "Robot Plane Flies over Arkansas" (solo, 1983), "Stranded in the Moonlight" (with Skyline, 1984) and "Hill Country" (solo, 1985). In 1984, he performed in his first feature film, "Foxfire." Three years later, he worked on the soundtrack for "Driving Miss Daisy." In 1989, Skyline recorded its final album, "Fire of Grace." He also recorded the theme song for Books on the Air, a popular National Public Radio Show, and continued his affiliation with the network by appearing on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, From Our Front Porch, and other radio shows. Trischka's solo recordings include 1993's "World Turning," 1995's "Glory Shone Around: A Christmas Collection" and 1999's "Bend." Along the way, Trischka has shared stage and studio with such folks as David Grisman, John Denver, The Boston Pops, William S. Burroughs, Hazel Dickens, Jorma Kaukonen, Ralph Stanley, and countless others.
The Second Saturday Concert Series at the Westcott Community Center is made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency. Admission is $15 ($12 for WCC members). For reservations call the Westcott Community Center at 478-8634.

Rating: 2.8/5 (12 votes cast)

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