Tony Trischka is perhaps the most influential banjo player in the roots music world. For more than 35 years, his stylings have inspired a whole generation of bluegrass and acoustic musicians. He is not only considered among the very best pickers, he is also one of the instrument's top teachers, and has created numerous instructional books, teaching video tapes, and cassettes.
A native of Syracuse, New York, 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. Trischka produced the Belgian group Gold Rush's No More Angels in 1988. The following year, Skyline recorded its final album, Fire of Grace. Trischka 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. New Deal followed in 2003. The new studio album was a bluesy adaptation of bluegrass standards that featured, among other things, a vocal cameo by Loudon Wainwright.
Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular, featuring an appearance by comedian Steve Martin, Earl Scruggs, and many other luminaries, came out four years later. For this recording he went back to bluegrass and reinvigorated the double banjo tradition of that style along the way and brought along some fine companions.
In October 2007, Trischka was given an International Bluegrass Music Association award for Banjo Player of the Year 2007. Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular received IBMA awards for Recorded Event of the Year and Instrumental Album of the Year and a Grammy Nomination.
Trischka's latest critically acclaimed release, Territory, roams widely through the banjo's creative terrain. Nine selections partner Tony with fellow banjoists Pete Seeger, Mike Seeger, Bill Evans, Bill Keith, Bruce Molsky, and twelve all-Trischka solo tracks explore a panorama of tunings, banjo sounds, and traditions; tapping the creative potential of America's signature musical instrument.
Throughout his upcoming tours, he will be presenting his solo works from Territory and will continue to present an "astonishing" (Boston Herald) group of musicians to perform his Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular.
Tony Trischka has plated with: The Boston Pops Orchestra,
William S. Burroughs,*
Bill Evans (saxophonist with Miles Davis),*
, John Goodman,
Merv Griffin Orchestra,
David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter),*
, Jeannie Kendall,
National Radio Orchestra of Korea,
Van Dyke Parks,*
the Roche Sisters,*
, Phoebe Snow,
Jay Ungar and Molly Mason,*
Wichita Percussion Ensemble, and
Béla Fleck is often considered the premier banjo player in the world. A New York native, he picked up the banjo at age 15 after being awed by the bluegrass music of Flatt and 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.
Throw Down Your Heart, the third volume in Fleck's renowned Tales From the Acoustic Planet series, is his most ambitious project to date. In on-location collaborations with musicians from Uganda, Tanzania, Senegal, Mali, South Africa, and Madagascar, Fleck explores the African origins of the banjo, the prototype of which was brought to American shores by African slaves. Throw Down Your Heart is a companion to the award-winning film of the same name, which Fleck and director Sascha Paladino are currently premiering at festivals nationwide. Transcending barriers of language and culture, Fleck finds common ground with musicians ranging from local villagers to international superstars such as the Malian diva Oumou Sangare to create some of the most meaningful music of his career. The music on the album is as adventurous and varied as anything we've come to expect from Fleck, ranging from the tradition-based opening track, performed with a group of Kenyan women singers, to the exquisite title track, performed with the Haruna Samake Trio and Bassekou Kouate from Mali.
While many of these recordings were made in the field, in Uganda, Tanzania, the Gambia, and Mali, the album is beautifully recorded. The lasting impression is that Béla Fleck has revealed many subtle facets of African music, from the fully modern to the deeply traditional. It is some of the most exciting and beautiful music he's ever made.