Tag Archives: United States of America

Artist Profiles: Blue Highway

Blue Highway

Blue Highway fuses tradition with progress to create their own unique and timeless style. Having played roles in bluegrass music’s most influential acts such as Alison Krauss and Union Station, Larry Sparks, Doyle Lawson and Ricky Skaggs, the members of Blue Highway — Tim Stafford (guitar, vocals), Wayne Taylor (lead vocals, bass), Shawn Lane (tenor vocals, guitar, mandolin, fiddle), Rob Ickes (Dobro, Scheerhorn acoustic slide guitar), and Jason Burleson (banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass vocals) — refuse to rest on their past accomplishments. Instead, they forge forward, carefully balancing tradition with innovation, continually contributing to the depth and breadth of a flowing bluegrass river. Skaggs himself provided the accolade, “//Blue Highway is writing their own history in bluegrass: fresh, but as old as the hills//.”

Blue Highway’s eighth album, Through The Window Of A Train was self-produced by the band and recorded at Maggard Sound Studios in Big Stone Gap,Virginia, and features 12 songs, all written or co-written by Blue Highway’s five accomplished songwriters – composers whose songs have been recorded by bluegrass staples Ronnie Bowman, Mountain Heart, the aforementioned Skaggs, and others.

The recording showcases Blue Highway at their songwriting, instrumental, and vocal peak. With a nod to family, tradition and travel on the album’s title track, the account of a fading cowboy on “My Ropin’ Days Are Done,” the characterizations of wars past and current on “Homeless Man” and “Two Soldiers,” and through the virtuosic picking on the instrumental “The North Cove,” Blue Highway simultaneously deliver the past, present, and future of bluegrass.

In January of 2010 Rounder Records released Some Day: The Fifteenth Anniversary Collection. The CD is a collection of the best of their Rounder recordings, one cut from a Rob Ickes solo album, and 3 new selections including “Bleeding for a Little Piece of Mind,” which was co-written by Tim Stafford and Darrell Scott and also features Scott on lead vocals.

Discography

* It’s a Long, Long Road (Rebel Records, 1995)
* Wind to the West (Rebel Records, 1996)
* Midnight Storm (Rebel Records, 1998)
* Blue Highway (Ceili Music, 1999)
* Still Climbing Mountains (Rounder, 2001)
* Wondrous Love (Rounder, 2003)
* Marbletown (Rounder, 2005)
* Lonesome Pine (Rebel Records, 2006), compilation of their Rebel Records material
* Through the Window of a Train (Rounder 2008)
* Some Day: The 15th Anniversary Collection (2014)
* Sounds of Home (Rounder Records, 2011)
* The Game (Rounder Records, 2014)
* Original Traditional (Rounder Records, 2016)

website: www.bluehighwayband.com

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Artist Profiles: Yo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma – Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Yo-Yo Ma was born to Chinese parents living in Paris. He began to study the cello with his father at age 4 and soon moved with his family to New York, where he spent most of his formative years. Later, his principal teacher was Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School. He sought out a traditional liberal arts education to expand upon his conservatory training, graduating from Harvard University in 1976. He plays two instruments, a 1733 Montagnana cello from Venice and the 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius.

Yo-Yo Ma maintains a balance between his engagements as soloist with orchestras throughout the world and his recital and chamber music activities. He draws inspiration from a wide circle of collaborators, creating programs with such artists as Emanuel Ax, Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Pamela Frank, Jeffrey Kahane, Kayhan Kalhor, Ton Koopman, Jaime Laredo, Bobby McFerrin, Edgar Meyer, Mark Morris, Mark O’Connor, the late Isaac Stern, Kathryn Stott, Wu Man, Wu Tong and David Zinman. Each of these collaborations is fueled by the artists’ interactions, often extending the boundaries of a particular genre.

One of Ma’s goals is the exploration of music as a means of communication, and as a vehicle for the migrations of ideas, across a range of cultures throughout the world. To that end, he has taken time to immerse himself in subjects as diverse as native Chinese music with its distinctive instruments and the music of the Kalahari bush people in Africa.

Taking this interest even further, Ma established the Silk Road Project to promote the study of the cultural, artistic and intellectual traditions along the ancient Silk Road trade route that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. By examining the flow of ideas throughout this vast area, the Project seeks to illuminate the heritages of the Silk Road countries and identify the voices that represent these traditions today.

Yo-Yo Ma is strongly committed to educational programs that not only bring young audiences into contact with music but also allow them to participate in its creation. While touring, he takes time whenever possible to conduct master classes as well as more informal programs for students-musicians and non-musicians alike.

In 2004, Ma won his 15th Grammy for Obrigado Brazil, his best-selling release that celebrates the music of Brazil. The success of that recording and a subsequent international tour inspired a sequel disc, released in 2004, entitled Obrigado Brazil Live in Concert, which went on to win a Latin Grammy.

Yo-Yo Ma formed The Silk Road Ensemble in 2000. It is a collective of internationally renowned performers and composers from more than 20 countries. Many of the musicians first came together under the artistic direction of Yo-Yo Ma at a workshop at Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts in 2000. Since then. in various configurations. Ensemble artists have collaborated on a diverse range of musical and multimedia projects, presenting innovative performances that spring from Eastern and Western traditions and contemporary musical crossroads. The Silk Road Ensemble has recorded several albums and performed to critical acclaim throughout Asia. Europe and North America.

The Silk Road Project acts as an umbrella organization and common resource for a range of cultural and educational programs, participating in more than a dozen festivals, including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2002. To learn more, visit the Silk Road Project website at silkroadproject.org.

In 2011, Yo-Yo Ma participated in the acclaimed The Goat Rodeo Sessions, a collaboration that brought together four string virtuosos: Yo-Yo Ma, fiddler Stuart Duncan, bassist Edgar Meyer and mandolinist Chris Thile. The cross-genre album combined classical, jazz and American roots music. A DVD titled The Goat Rodeo Sessions Live followed in 2012.

Yo-Yo Ma’s classical music discography is quite extensive. An enormous boxed set titled Yo-Yo Ma: 30 Years Outside the Box contains 90 CDs that include his classical works as well as the albums focused on tango, the music of Brazil and other traditions.

Silk Road Ensemble Discography:

Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet (2002)
Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon (2005)
New Impossibilities (2007)
Traditions and Transformations: Sounds of Silk Road Chicago (2008)
Off the Map (2009)
A Playlist Without Borders (Sony Classical, 2013)
Sing Me Home (Sony Masterworks, 2016)

Website: www.yo-yoma.com

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Artist Profiles: Silk Road Ensemble

Silk Road Ensemble – Photo by Todd Rosenberg

The Silk Road Ensemble is a collective of internationally renowned performers and composers from more than 20 countries. Each Ensemble member’s career responds to one of the preeminent artistic challenges of our times: to maintain the integrity of art rooted in authentic traditions while nourishing global connections.

Many of the musicians first came together under the artistic direction of Yo-Yo Ma at a workshop at Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts in 2000. Since then, in various configurations, Ensemble artists have collaborated on a diverse range of musical and multimedia projects, presenting innovative performances that spring from Eastern and Western traditions and contemporary musical crossroads.

The Silk Road Ensemble has performed to critical acclaim throughout Asia, Europe and North America and has recorded several acclaimed albums.

Discography:

Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet (2002)
Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon (2005)
New Impossibilities (2007)
Traditions and Transformations: Sounds of Silk Road Chicago (2008)
Off the Map (2009)
A Playlist Without Borders (Sony Classical, 2013)
Sing Me Home (Sony Masterworks, 2016)

Website: silkroadproject.org

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Artist Profiles: Bela Fleck

Bela Fleck in 2009

 

Bela Fleck is often considered the leading banjo player in the world. He was born on July 10, 1958, and raised in New York City. Named after composer Bela Bartok, Bela picked up the banjo at age 15 after being fascinated by the bluegrass playing of Flatt & Scruggs. He began experimenting with playing bebop on the banjo in high school.

In 1982, he joined the progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival, where he made a name for himself in the country-bluegrass world. At the same time he was releasing a series of solo albums for Rounder Records.

He collaborated with Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer and Mark O’Connor in an acoustic super-group called Strength in Numbers. The group released an iconic album titled The Telluride Session (MCA) in 1989.

In 1989 Bela formed the Flecktones. The group made its self-titled debut recording in 1990 by playing a “blu-bop” mix of jazz and bluegrass and soon became a commercially successful, critically-acclaimed and award-winning band. Fleck, the only musician to be nominated for Grammys in jazz, bluegrass, pop, country, spoken word, Christian, composition and world music categories, also recorded solo releases.

 

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones

 

Bela Fleck began the decade of 2000 by signing a deal with Sony Music. The first release was Outbound, that featured the band performing with an all-star group of guest artists including vocalists Shawn Colvin and Jon Anderson (of the group Yes), guitarist Adrian Belew, oboe player Paul McCandless, and keyboardist John Medeski (of the jazz jam-band Medeski, Martin & Wood). Like previous Flecktones albums, the music on Outbound is a mix of styles-from bluegrass to jazz to world music-that is often built around Fleck’s concept of “the banjo being weird.”

In 2003, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones released Little Worlds, the first new studio album from the group since 2000’s Grammy-winning Outbound. Produced by Bela Fleck, the new album is a monumental work on 3 CDs and includes many special guests, including Sam Bush, The Chieftains, Jerry Douglas, Branford Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, Nickel Creek, Derek Trucks, and Bernie Williams. The album is a collaborative effort showcasing the ever-evolving group dynamics of the band.

The ambitious Little Worlds is an eclectic, yet cohesive, collection of 27 musical pieces. The limited-edition 3 disc set includes liner notes by Bela Fleck and a 24 page booklet filled with photos taken by the Flecktones and their crew. The group began work on the album in October 2001, with the original intention of creating a “lean and mean” “no rules” record with just the four band members: Bela Fleck (banjo), Victor Wooten (bass), Future Man (synth-axe drumitar), and Jeff Coffin (tenor and alto sax). As the recording process progressed, it became apparent that these were no ordinary sessions and the floodgates of musical inspiration and diversity had opened. Ranging from jazz to Gaelic airs and bluegrass to classical and world music Little Worlds is the band’s most adventurous album.

Throw Down Your Heart, Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3: Africa Sessions (2009) chronicles Fleck’s musical journey to Africa to explore the little known African roots of the banjo. Bela’s boundary-breaking musical adventure took him to Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia, and Mali, and provided a glimpse of the beauty and complexity of African music.

In 2006, jazz keyboardist Chick Corea and Béla Fleck joined together to explore the interactions between the piano and banjo. Corea was an admirer of Fleck’s bluegrass-meets-jazz band the Flecktones and Fleck had been inspired by Corea’s pioneering jazz-rock fusion band, Return to Forever. The two musicians recorded The Enchantment, released in 2007. This collaboration also led to multiyear international live tours.

 

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

 

Béla Fleck and his wife (also an acclaimed banjo player) Abigail Washburn released Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (Rounder Records) in 2014. The recording featured new music, Appalachian murder ballads, gospel, chamber pieces and blues. Both musicians are generally credited for revitalizing and revolutionizing the banjo and decided it was time to collaborate. “We didn’t want any other instruments on there, because we’re into this idea that we’re banjo players, and that should be enough,” said Béla. “Sometimes when you add other instruments, you take away from the ability of the banjo to show all its colors, which are actually quite beautiful.”

 

 

Béla Fleck and Chick Corea followed up in 2015 with a recording titled Two (Concord Jazz), a live double album with material from The Enchantment, along with Corea and Fleck classic pieces and a few additional new compositions.

 

 

Discography:

Solo albums

Crossing the Tracks (Rounder Records, 1979)
Natural Bridge (Rounder Records, 1982)
Deviation (Rounder Records, 1984)
Double Time (Rounder Records, 1984)
Inroads (Rounder Records, 1986)
Daybreak, compilation (Rounder Records, 1987)
Places, compilation (Rounder Records, 1988)
Drive (Rounder Records, 1988; SACD reissue: Mobile Fidelity, 2004)
Tales From The Acoustic Planet (Warner Brothers, 1995)
The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 2 (Warner Brothers, 1999)
Perpetual Motion (Sony Classical, 2001)
Music For Two (Sony Classical, 2004)
Tales From The Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3: Africa Sessions (Rounder Records, 2009)
Throw Down Your Heart – Africa Sessions Part 2 (2010)
The Impostor (Mercury Records, 2013)
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (Rounder Records, 2014)
Banjo Banjo, with Abigail Washburn (Rounder Records, 2015)

With the Flecktones:

Béla Fleck and the Flecktones (Warner Bros. Records, 1990)
Flight of the Cosmic Hippo (Warner Bros. Records, 1991)
UFO Tofu (Warner Bros. Records, 1992)
Three Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Warner Bros. Records, 1993)
Live Art (Warner Bros. Records, 1996)
Left of Cool (Warner Bros. Records, 1998)
Greatest Hits of the 20th Century (Warner Bros. Records, 1999)
Outbound (Columbia, 2000)
Live at the Quick (Columbia, 2002)
Little Worlds (Columbia, 2003)
Ten From Little Worlds (Columbia, 2003)
The Hidden Land (Sony, 2006)
Jingle All the Way (Rounder, 2008)
Rocket Science (eOne, 2011)

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