As sure a sign as any that bluegrass has reached a level of real maturity and acceptance as a contemporary art form is the number of cross genre projects that have been produced of late. Ryan Cavanaugh on banjo with Bill Evans’ Soulgrass is one example in the jazz world, and the success of the Goat Rodeo Sessions among classical music lovers is another. And in the pop world, is there anyone left who hasn’t recorded with Alison Krauss?
Colorado banjoist Jake Schepps has been on the forefront of melding bluegrass instruments with classical music for many years. He recorded an album of Béla Bartok music arranged for a string band, An Evening In The Village, and is now preparing to release Entwined, a collection of four new compositions commissioned for his Jake Schepps Quintet.
Schepps reached out to a trio of modern classical composers with his idea, and convinced his friend and Quintet mandolinist Matt Flinner to tackle one. There are full length pieces from Marc Mellits (Flatiron), Matt McBane (Drawn), Gyan Riley (Stumble Smooth), and Flinner (Migrations) running to over 75 minutes of music.
Performing along with Schepps and Flinner are Ryan Drickery and Enion Pelta-Tiller on violin, Grant Gody and Ross Martin on guitar, and Eric Thorin on bass.
As the album was being rehearsed and recorded earlier this year in Denver, Schepps had a pair of filmmakers from Cloudgate Studios on hand to capture the excitement, and has released this six minute video as a promotion for the album. Especially interesting are the comments from the composers who began their work without much familiarity with the string band instruments.
Even if you think you don’t like classical music, most bluegrass fans will appreciate this mini-documentary.
Entwined is set to hit on January 27, but is available to hear and pre-order now from Jake’s bandcamp page. Schepps and his Quintet will tour along the east coast with this new music in January, and in Colorado in February. Full details available online.