Contrabuffoon from EZRA

Here’s a new outfit with an adventurous approach to modern acoustic string music, clearly informed by bluegrass.

The quartet calls themselves EZRA, and consists of Jacob Jolliff on mandolin, Jesse Jones on guitar, Max Allard on banjo, and Craig Butterfield on bass. They describe themselves as a progressive bluegrass/chamber ensemble, and their debut, self-titled album was released last week on Adhyâropa Records.

Specializing in instrumental music, these are composed pieces carefully arranged by the band for recording and performance.

All four are noted as exceptional players, and have met and known each other through Jones. He and Jolliff have been friends since meeting at an Oregon bluegrass festival when Jacob was only 11 years old, and already a monster mandolinist. Jesse has long split his time between bluegrass and classical music, and he met Butterfield while the two were on the faculty at the University of South Carolina’s School of Music. Allard came into the picture when Jones was his advising professor while a composition student at Oberlin University.

The four came together a year ago at Jesse’s home to work on a series of pieces he had written, and bonded as a unit staying together at Jones’ place, where they worked on music all day for a week, and ate their meals together.

Their most recent single release is a tune with the interesting name of Contrabuffoon. Jesse gives some background on how he picked that title while they were working it out.

“I was playing the mandolin part for Craig, and as he was trying out different bass grooves. I suggested he try one of those goopy Edgar Meyer-like pizzicato lines, like in ContraMonkey on Uncommon Ritual. Craig knew exactly what I was talking about, and came up with the opening bass line, which stuck.

The character of the melody has always felt slinky and jokester-esque, so Contrabuffoon seemed like a good name (it gives inspiration credit to Edgar, while also playing on the word contrabassoon).”

Here’s a video of Contrabuffoon by EZRA at the First Church in Oberlin, where they recorded the album in January of 2023.

Contrabuffoon, and the full EZRA album, are available from popular download and streaming services online. It can also be purchased directly from the artists on audio CD or by download at bandcamp.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.