Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Banjo Beyond

Some of you are still lambasting the banjo. Such silly people. Therefore, I am going to post a few videos of the banjo in action. It's an instrument that has been around for a long time and for the first half of the 20th century appeared in all sorts of music - folk, jazz, blues a bit, minstrel shows, etc. In the second half of the 20th century, it somehow got pigeon-holed into just being a hick instrument for playing hick bluegrass. I happen to like bluegrass, and so I will have one of those videos near the end. In the meantime here are some different ways to hear the instrument.

When you are talking about innovative uses of the banjo in the last three decades, you have to talk about Bela Fleck. Here he is with the Flecktones, doing their own thing. I guess it's jazz, but it's really their own thing. Notice both the instrumentation here -- banjo, steel drum, bass, drum machine, English horn, bassoon, and soprano sax, WTF? -- as well as the bass player, Victor Wooten. He is indisputable one of the best bass players today and he will pop up again in some future post.

If you prefer classical, here is a Bach prelude, also from Bela.

If you like old, old jazz from like the 20s, you may appreciate this video

Here the banjo appears in an ensemble in Switzerland performing old ragtime numbers.

Here's one more rather bluesy Flecktones number.

And then finally, banjo's not bad for bluegrass, so here we have Steve Martin, yes that Steve Martin, with a legendary banjo player, Earl Scruggs, and an all star band, playing on David Letterman.


Robin S. said...

Hi paca,

I like banjo music- but I have one (associative)problem with it.


I honestly don't even remember if the weird inbred kid was playing guitar or banjo in the movie - my brain has him playin banjo.

Church Lady said...

I'll be listening to these real soon!
Thanks for posting fine music ensembles!!!

pacatrue said...

I hope you get your cable guy or DSL or whatever back in soon, churkoda.

Yes, robin, they do play banjos in Deliverance. I've never seen the movie, but whenever people talk about stereotypes about banjos they talk about Deliverance.