BÉLA FLECK AND ABIGAIL WASHBURN
Banjoists Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn have mastered the deceptively intricate art of the duet. Their performances embrace a diversity almost unthinkable-coming from just two banjos and one voice. Washburn’s beguiling composing, playing and singing blend with Fleck’s riveting and virtuosic musicianship to create music both unique yet familiar in texture.
Fleck, a 15-time Grammy winner, has collaborated with Chick Corea, Oumou Sangare, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer, Dave Mathews, Earl Scruggs, and the entire Cleveland Orchestra for his Banjo Concert ‘The Impostor’.
Washburn’s banjo has taken her far beyond the usual old-timey comfort zone, musically and geographically. An alumnus of Uncle Earl, the powerhouse all-female stringband, Abby’s adopted second homeland is China, and her music resounds with echoes of Appalachia and the tidal wave of emerging Chinese cultural influence.
Together, Fleck and Washburn employ the relatively rare 3-finger and clawhammer banjo duet to create an explosion of musical white heat. No wonder that they are married and have a new baby.
Some say he’s the premiere banjo player in the world. Others claim that Béla has virtually reinvented the image and the sound of the banjo through a remarkable performing and recording career that has taken him all over the musical map and on a range of solo projects and collaborations. If you are familiar with Béla, you know that he just loves to play the banjo, and put it into unique settings.
The recipient of Multiple Grammy Awards going back to 1998, Béla Fleck’s total Grammy count is 14 Grammys won, and 30 nominations. He has been nominated in more different categories than anyone in Grammy history.
If American old-time music is about taking earlier, simpler ways of life and music-making as one’s model, Abigail Washburn has proven herself to be a bracing revelation to that tradition. She—a singing, songwriting, Illinois-born, Nashville-based clawhammer banjo player—is every bit as interested in the present and the future as she is in the past, and every bit as attuned to the global as she is to the local.
Her music ranges from her bi-lingual solo release Song of the Traveling Daughter (2005), to the mind-bending “chamber roots” sound of the Sparrow Quartet, to the rhythms, sounds and stories of Afterquake, her fundraiser CD for the Sichuan earthquake victims; her love for Chinese culture began at a young age, spurring her on to full fluency in the Chinese language and profound connections to the culture and people on the other side of the Pacific. Washburn is one of the few foreign artists currently touring China independently and regularly.
Her latest release, City of Refuge (2011), written with collaborator Kai Welch, takes her bold and expansive talent to new heights in its raw, ethereal, and at times lushly orchestrated musical vision. In conjunction with this release, she completed a month-long (Nov-Dec 2011) tour of China’s Silk Road supported by grants from the US Embassy, Beijing. Abigail, along with 24 other innovative and creative thinkers worldwide, was named a TED fellow and gave a talk at the 2012 TED Convention in Long Beach about building US-China relations through music.