We posted last week about the upcoming project from Tony Trischka, Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular, which will feature Tony in duets with Earl Scruggs, B?©la Fleck, Steve Martin, Alison Brown, Tom Adams, Bill Emerson, Kenny Ingram, Scott Vestal and Noam Pikelny. It is due for a January 23, 2007 release on Rounder.
At the time, we noted that no audio samples were available online, but Rounder now has snippets from all 14 tracks on their site, in both RealAudio and Windows Media formats.
I had a chance to discuss this new CD recently with Tony, and was especially interested in how he decided on a twin banjo project.
“After doing two electric band albums, I’d approached Rounder about doing a bluegrass album, a la my Hill Country record from the early ’80s. Ken Irwin thought it might be more fun, and have more of a commercial hook if I turned it into a double banjo album. And that’s what it became.
All the duets were recorded live except for the one with Scott Vestal. I was going to have JD on one cut and at the last minute something came up and he wasn’t able to make it, so I cut the track by myself as part of the Sam Bush sessions. After a week or so I decided to have Scott add the double part. He did it at his home studio and when he emailed it back to me, I flipped. His playing is ridiculously amazing.”
Tony told me that the project was exciting, both putting it together, and recording with so many of his favorite players, but that it took a long time to complete, given the difficulty of scheduling nine different banjo players. Still, he says the whole thing was a thrill, and well worth the trouble in the end.
“The biggest treat was getting to record with Earl. It was a huge honor and more than that, a gift. Sitting across from him while running it down I was impressed with the power of his right hand. I’ve heard him live on various occasions, but hearing him from three feet away is another story.”
Another highlight for Tony was working with Steve Martin.
“Getting to rehearse with Steve Martin was also a treat. He’s a great guy and really serious about the banjo. He has a lot of banjo music in his laptop and was sharing some of his favorite tunes with me. At one point he clicked on something and I could hear someone speaking French. I said ‘Clouseau?’ and he said,’Yep.’
While most folks these days have their banjos set up with the tailpiece all the way up, Steve’s is way down, so he gets a crisper, more high end sound. It made for a nice contrast in the double banjo format.”
Tony also recorded with his protege, B?©la Fleck, who had studied with Trischka when still a student in New York in the early 1980s. They recorded three songs together for Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular.
“Need I say more about Bela? His playing is completely inspiring and technically ferocious when needed, but sweet and mellifluously tasty when that’s called for. And, as I remember it, it was his idea to speed up the tune “Twilight Kingdom” in the middle. That makes the whole tune. Not only is he a great guy and stupendous banjo player, but a great producer as well.”
Trischka will be touring in the northeast with a band to support the new project in January. He’ll have Noam Pikelny on second banjo, along with Michael Davies on guitar and vocals, Brittany Haas on fiddle and Skip Ward on bass. Plans are in the works now for west coast and southern tours in the spring.
Find tour dates as they are added on Tony’s web site.