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Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

USA Flag Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn — Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

 SUPERB ALBUM Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn — Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn / NOMINATED for TAIS AWARDS 2015
°°   Clawhammer–style banjo player and singer who blends folk and bluegrass tradition with an impressively global worldview.
°°   An influential American banjoist whose approach merges improvisational concepts and approaches from both jazz and bluegrass.
°°   Béla Fleck: celkový počet Grammy Awards — vyhrál 15 a k tomu 30 nominací. Byl nominován v několika různých hudebních kategoriích více, než kdokoli v historii Grammy.
°°   “A daring, definite talent, whose feel for the folk idiom results in moving material. Soulful is the word”  — Wall Street Journal
°°   “Washburn stomped and skipped through fiery Appalachian takes on the local songs of Sichuan. Her bilingualism's no gimmick; she nails the dips and peaks of pitch while leading her band in scorching variations on simple, repetitive traditional melodies…”  — New York Times
B.F. born: July 10, 1958 in New York, NY
A.W. born: November 10, 1979 in Evanston, IL
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Album release: October 7, 2014
Record Label: Rounder
Duration:     46:04
01 Railroad (Traditional)     3:38 
02 Ride to You (Abigail Washburn)     4:18 
03 What'cha Gonna Do (Béla Fleck)     3:49 
04 Little Birdie (Béla Fleck / Abigail Washburn)     4:22 
05 New South Africa (Béla Fleck)     4:37 
06 Pretty Polly (Traditional)     3:46 
07 Shotgun Blues (Abigail Washburn)     3:19 
08 For Children: No. 3 Quasi Adagio/No. 10 Allegro Molto — Children's Dance (Béla Bartók) 2:17 
09 And Am I Born to Die (Traditional)     4:03 
10 Banjo Banjo (Béla Fleck)     3:52 
11 What Are They Doing in Heaven Today? (Traditional)     4:37 
12 Bye Bye Baby Blues (Béla Fleck/Juno Fleck/Little Hat Jones/Abigail Washburn)  3:26
© 2014 Béla Fleck. All Rights Reserved.
°°   Photo/Cover artwork photo by Jim McGuire. 
°°   Album artwork design by Maria Villar.
♣  Béla Bartók Composer
♣  Richard Battaglia Engineer
♣  Richard Dodd Mastering
♣  Béla Fleck Arranger, Composer, Engineer, Producer
♣  Juno Fleck Composer
♣  Jimmy Hole Project Assistant
♣  Little Hat Jones Composer
♣  Senor McGuire Photography
♣  Traditional Composer
♣  Maria Villar Design
♣  Abigail Washburn Arranger, Composer, Producer, Voice
Editorial Reviews
°°   Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn present their eponymous debut album as a duo, after many years of prominence as banjo players and composers in their own eclectic avenues. Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn is a front porch banjo and vocal album of new music, Appalachian murder ballads, gospel, chamber and blues; the culmination of a yearlong tour as a duo in 2013, following the birth of their son, Juno. Béla, an icon and innovator of jazz, classical and world, with more multi–category GRAMMY wins than any other artist (15 total), and Abigail, a formidable talent with triumphs in songwriting, theater, performance, and even Chinese diplomacy by way of banjo, turn out to be quite a fortuitous pairing with a deep, distinct and satisfying outcome. The culmination is an album like no other. The record reveals their astounding chemistry as collaborators, as the two seamlessly stitch together singular banjo sounds (through an assortment of seven banjos spanning the recording) in service to the stories that their songs tell, with no studio gimmickry needed. According to Béla, 'finding a way to make every song have its own unique stamp, yet the whole project having a big cohesive sound with only two people,' was at the core of their joint vision. Demonstrating seemingly unlimited rhythmic, tonal and melodic capabilities, Fleck and Washburn confirm the banjo's versatility as the perfect backdrop to the rich lyrical component that Fleck and Washburn offer, 'Sometimes when you add other instruments, you take away from the banjo's being able to show all its colors, which are actually quite beautiful.' Thanks to this album, the musicians' palette has never been more vivid or pure.
°°   Sure, in the abstract, a banjo duo might seem like a musical concept beset by limitations. But when the banjo players cast in those roles are Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck — she with the earthy sophistication of a postmodern, old–time singer–songwriter, he with the virtuosic, jazz–to–classical ingenuity of an iconic instrumentalist and composer with bluegrass roots — it’s a different matter entirely. °»   There’s no denying that theirs is a one–of–a–kind pairing, with one-of-a-kind possibilities.
°»   Fleck and Washburn have collaborated in the past, most visibly in their Sparrow Quartet with Casey Driessen and Ben Sollee. Until last fall, though, any performances they gave as a two-piece were decidedly informal, a pickin’ party here, a benefit show at Washburn’s grandmother’s Unitarian church there. It was inevitable and eagerly anticipated by fans of tradition–tweaking acoustic fare that these partners in music and life (who married in 2009) would eventually do a full–fledged project together.
°»   Now that Fleck, a fifteen–time GRAMMY winner, has devoted time away from his standard–setting jazz fusion ensemble The Flecktones to a staggeringly broad array of musical experiments, from writing a concerto for the Nashville Symphony to exploring the banjo’s African roots to jazz duos with Chick Corea, while Washburn has drawn critical acclaim for her solo albums, done fascinating work in folk musical diplomacy in China, presented an original theatrical production, contributed to singular side groups Uncle Earl and Wu Force and become quite a live draw in her own right, the two of them decided they were ready to craft their debut album as a duo, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (releasing October 7 on Rounder Records).
°»   There was one other small, yet not at all insignificant factor in the timing: the birth of their son Juno. Says Fleck, “I come from a broken home, and I have a lot of musician friends who missed their kids’ childhoods because they were touring. The combination of those two things really made me not want to be one of those parents. I don’t want to be somebody that Juno sees only once in a while. We need to be together, and this is a way we can be together a whole lot more.”
°»   That goes for touring and album–making both. Thanks to the fact that they have a first–rate studio on the premises, Fleck and Washburn could record at home — but that didn’t mean it was an easy process. Consumed with caring for their new baby and perpetually sleep–deprived, they had to get resourceful in order to carve out time to cut tracks.
°»   “Béla is really the reason that it’s finished,” Washburn emphasizes. “There were a few months when Juno was a newborn that I just really had to have somebody say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re gonna do today.’ As long as I could spend a few hours a day between nursings, we could make some good progress on the record.”
°»   The aim wasn’t simply to get the album done, but to make it feel satisfying and complete using only the sounds they could coax out of their bodies and their banjos. °»   Says Fleck, “We didn’t want any other instruments on there, because we’re into this idea that we’re banjo players, and that should be enough. Why do you always have to have a rhythm section, a guitar player, a bass player or something? Sometimes when you add other instruments, you take away from the ability of the banjo to show all its colors, which are actually quite beautiful.”
°»   Washburn and Fleck didn’t confine themselves to playing their usual workhorses, her Ome Jubilee and his pre–war Gibson Mastertone Style 75. Between them, they used seven different banjos in all, including a cello banjo, a ukulele banjo that technically belongs to Juno and a baritone banjo that Fleck commissioned specifically for this album.
°»   “We had this vision of playing different banjos in different registers,” he says, “finding a way to make every song have its own unique stamp, yet the whole project having a big, cohesive sound — with only two people.” (A giggling Juno is the only other person who appears anywhere on the album.)
°»   From track to track, Washburn and Fleck are a nimble band unto themselves. On the trad tune “Railroad,” she sustains a droning feel, while he jabs in syncopated counterpoint. Woven into the middle of their arrangement is an excerpt from another American banjo chestnut, “Oh! Susanna,” an occasion for Fleck to briefly slip into a dixieland role. In their co–written original “Little Birdie“ he supplies what amounts to a ticklish, inventive bass line while she plays circling arpeggios and picks out the melody. °»   “Bye Bye Baby Blues” is her turn to toy with droll, walking bass beneath his wonderfully jaunty licks. “What’cha Gonna Do,” which came entirely from his pen, lyrics and all, rides a churning groove made up of intertwining banjo figures and foot patting.
°»   All that’s to say, there’s a ton going on rhythmically, tonally and melodically. Then there are the breathtaking ballads like Washburn’s “Ride To You” and the traditional “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?,” which showcase the way she caresses a lyric with the hearty yet elegant empathy of her vocals. (The story goes that Fleck was so taken with her singing the first time he heard it on a recording that he lost track of how fast he was driving and got pulled over.) He’s singing harmony on a couple of tracks too, something he hasn't had the chance to do since his New Grass Revival days.
°»   You’d expect Fleck to take the lead during intricate instrumentals, but that’s not always the case here. In “New South Africa,” which came from his Flecktones repertoire, he and Washburn each take a turn out front. And if you listen to “banjo banjo” in stereo, it’s easy to make out the subtle rippling effect of the two players seamlessly trading notes during ascending and descending runs.
°»   That kind of stuff was way out of Washburn’s comfort zone. “I come from the old-time world,” she says, “which is more about communally trancing out on old fiddle and banjo tunes. It has very little to do with soloing or anything technical or virtuosic. So for me to try to learn Béla’s music has been a big challenge, but a wonderful one. Although I'm a very different type of player, I feel very lucky that he’s a musical mentor to me. It’s a beautiful part of our connection.”
°»   Fleck chimes in, “I’m a big fan of Abby’s playing. I know it so well that I could imagine the two of us playing these tunes together. I love looking at her playing and going, ‘What can I throw into your kettle of soup that would make it bubble up just a little bit?’”
°»   The directness of her musical sensibilities had a profound effect on him, too. “I do a lot of heady music,” he explains, “and I’m always trying hard to keep soul and melodicism as important elements, but there’s also a lot of complexity going on. When I play with Abby, there’s an opportunity for me to make music that hits you in a different place emotionally. That’s one of her gifts, is a pure connection to the listener, taking simpler ideas and imbuing them with a lot of personality and a point of view. I wanted to make sure that while I was respecting my own ability to play complex ideas, I was also part of making that feeling happen.”
°»   A surprising number of the songs on the album address matters of life and death, a coincidence that Fleck and Washburn came to embrace. There are multiple meditations on the afterlife, one example being the Appalachian–accented “And Am I Born To Die,” which Washburn learned from a recording of one of her heroes, Doc Watson. And if they were going to record the Victorian murder ballad “Pretty Polly,” Washburn wanted to make sure that it was a version where Polly had a speaking part, and that it was immediately followed in the song sequence by her original “Shotgun Blues,” a song whose gist she summarizes as “I’m gonna come after that nasty, old man that keeps killing all those ladies in all those murder ballads.”
°»   Of course, Fleck and Washburn also had a new life entrusted into their care, and were overwhelmed at times by how strong the protective parental instincts hit them. °»   So, after recording one version of “Little Birdie,” they ultimately went with an alternate version where the mama bird saves the baby bird from a crocodile in the final verse. That one felt right.
°»   Judging from the way Juno dances every time he hears it, his favorite song in the bunch is “Railroad.” In fact, Fleck suggested they work it up after he overheard her singing it to their newborn. (Washburn’s mother used to sing to her when she was little too.) Juno gets to hear rehearsals and sound checks a plenty, since he accompanies his parents to folk festivals, arts centers and theaters all across the country. But he’s typically already asleep in his very own bunk on the bus before the shows start.
°»   Washburn and Fleck playfully embrace the notion that they’ve become a family band. And at home, on stage or on record, it’s their deep bond, on top of the way their distinct musical personalities and banjo styles interact, that makes theirs a picking partnership unlike any other on the planet.
Review by Thom Jurek; Score: ****
°»   According to Béla Fleck, he and his wife and fellow banjo player Abigail Washburn began playing together almost upon meeting. They’ve recorded together before on Washburn’s first album, Song of the Traveling Daughter (he produced it), and with the Sparrow Quartet with Ben Sollee and Casey Driessen, but never before as a duo.
°»   The music on this self–titled offering was developed on tour before cutting it in their home studio. The tunes range from traditional folk songs to originals with compelling instrumentals woven in: two pieces by Béla Bartók in a medley, a redo of the Flecktones’ “New South Africa,” and the pair’s “Banjo Banjo,” which might be the best of the three for its timbral colors, warmth, and thematic variety. Both players are versed in many forms of music, and while that can’t help but be on display, the real showcase is musical intimacy. These two banjo players combine different styles to shape a dialogue that speaks directly and distinctly to a love for tradition; they carry it forward as well. “Railroad” (as in, “I’ve Been Working on the…”) contrasts her clawhammer style and Fleck’s three–finger jazz–oriented syncopation. The bridge between approaches is the blues, outlined in a unique cadence by Washburn’s crystalline vocal. In the murder ballad “Pretty Polly,” the banjos talk to one another over octave ranges, conversing over time and space as modern stylistic developmental imagination is balanced by old–timey utterances. Washburn’s voice relates the harrowing tale with haunting resonance. Her “Shotgun Blues,” featuring her Gold Tone cello banjo, displays her percussive thumb strokes accenting each sung line as Fleck improvises on Celtic reels and Appalachian folk styles. His “What’cha Gonna Do” updates the gospel song “Sinner Man” but is still a warning — this one signals a judgment day wrought by the earth as recompense for human abuse. Washburn’s “Little Birdie” is almost hypnotic; her thumb stroke creates a near drone as Fleck bends notes to underscore the song’s narrative meaning and assent to her vocal. The traditional folk song “And Am I Born to Die” offers not only Washburn’s finest signing on the set, but innovative instrumental sections composed by Fleck that add power to the song’s history. “What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?” is one of the more beautiful country gospel songs in the canon. The instrumental understatement displays canny melodic interplay. The set closes with “Bye Bye Baby Blues,” featuring new lyrics drenched in modern irony. It preserves the swinging Texas feel of George “Little Hat” Jones’ OKeh version (and uses his chorus), while highlighting the tune’s rag–like quality. The way almost tuba–like basslines, tight chord voicings, and slippery fills wind around one another reveals what is so distinctive about the album as a whole: Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck don’t need a band — they and their banjos are one.
°»   If American old–time music is about taking earlier, simpler ways of life and music-making as one’s model, Abigail Washburn has proven herself to be a bracing revelation to that tradition. She — a singing, songwriting, Illinois–born, Nashville–based clawhammer banjo player — is every bit as interested in the present and the future as she is in the past, and every bit as attuned to the global as she is to the local. Abigail pairs venerable folk elements with far–flung sounds, and the results feel both strangely familiar and unlike anything anybody’s ever heard before.
°»   One fateful day 9 years ago, Washburn was miraculously offered a record deal in the halls of a bluegrass convention in Kentucky which changed her trajectory from becoming a lawyer in China to a traveling folk musician.  Since then, Abigail has been recording and touring a continuous stream of music.  Her music ranges from the "all–g'earl" string band sound of Uncle Earl to her bi–lingual solo release Song of the Traveling Daughter (2005), to the mind–bending “chamber roots” sound of the   Sparrow Quartet, to the rhythms, sounds and stories of Afterquake, her fundraiser CD for the Sichuan earthquake victims.  Her latest release, City of Refuge (2011), written with collaborator Kai Welch, takes her bold and expansive musical vision to new heights with enigmatic songs that "mingle Appalachia and folk–pop, with tinges of Asia and Bruce Springsteen" (Jon Pareles, The New York Times). 
°»   Having toured the world, Washburn is also armed with Chinese language ability and profound connections to culture and people on the other side of the Pacific.  Washburn is one of the few foreign artists currently touring China independently and regularly. She completed a month–long tour (Nov — Dec 2011) of China's Silk Road supported by grants from the US Embassy, Beijing.  Abigail, along with 24 other innovative and creative thinkers worldwide, was named a TED fellow and gave a talk at the 2012 TED Convention in Long Beach about building US-China relations through music.  In March of 2013, she was commissioned by New York Voices and the NY Public Theater to write and debut a theatrical work titled, Post–American Girl, which draws from her 17–ear relationship with China and addresses themes of expanding identity, cultural relativism, pilgrimage, the universal appeal of music and opening the heart big enough to fold it all in.  Abigail was recently named the first US–China Fellow at Vanderbilt University.  Her efforts to share US music in China and Chinese music in the US exist within a hope that cultural understanding and the communal experience of beauty and sound rooted in tradition will lead the way to a richer existence.
Personal life:
°»   Washburn is married to banjo player Béla Fleck. Washburn first met Fleck in Nashville at a square dance where she was dancing and he was playing. In August 2007, Washburn was reported as being the "girlfriend" of Fleck. In May 2009, the Bluegrass Intelligencer website satirized the union, with Driessen joking that the couple promised a "male heir" who will be the "Holy Banjo Emperor". In February 2010, The Aspen Times reported that Washburn was Fleck's wife. On Sunday May 19, 2013, Washburn gave birth in Nashville to their baby, a boy named Juno Fleck.
°»   Song of the Traveling Daughter (Nettwerk; August 2, 2005 / US Grass #3, US Heat — )
°»   City of Refuge (New Rounder; January 11, 2011 / US Grass #2, US Heat #9
Uncle Earl
°»   She Waits for Night (2005)
°»   Waterloo, Tennessee (2007)
The Sparrow Quartet
°»   The Sparrow Quartet EP (2006)
°»   Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet (2008)
Afterquake Music
°»   Afterquake EP (2009)
Booking: Ali Hedrick at Billions ali@billions.com
Booking Bela and Abigail: James Ziefert at Ted Kurland james@tedkurland.com
Management Partner:  Carissa Stolting carissa.stolting@icloud.com
Publicity:  Carla Parisi kidlogicmedia@gmail.com
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Abigail: http://www.abigailwashburn.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/abigailwashburn
Management Partner:  Carissa Stolting carissa.stolting@icloud.com
Publicity:  Carla Parisi kidlogicmedia@gmail.com
Agent: Ali Hedrick: Billions Agency
Tumblr: http://abigailwashburn.tumblr.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abigailwashburn
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bela-Fleck-Abigail-Washburn/dp/B00MIWR6DM
:: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-10-12/entertainment/chi-abigail-washburn-interview-banjo-player-abigail-washburn-profiled-20121012_1_bluegrass-band-abigail-washburn-china
°»   Just in case you aren’t familiar with Béla Fleck, there are some who say he’s the premiere banjo player in the world. Others claim that Béla has virtually reinvented the image and the sound of the banjo through a remarkable performing and recording career that has taken him all over the musical map and on a range of solo projects and collaborations. If you are familiar with Béla, you know that he just loves to play the banjo, and put it into unique settings.
°»   Any world–class musician born with the names Béla (for Bartók), Anton (for Dvorak) and Leos (for Janáček) would seem destined to play classical music. Already a powerfully creative force in bluegrass, jazz, pop, rock and world beat, Béla at last made the classical connection with “Perpetual Motion”, his critically acclaimed 2001 Sony Classical recording that went on to win a pair of Grammys, including Best Classical Crossover Album, in the 44th annual Grammy Awards. Collaborating with Fleck on “Perpetual Motion” was his long time friend and colleague Edgar Meyer, a bassist whose virtuosity defies labels and also an acclaimed composer. Béla and Edgar co–wrote and performed a double concerto for banjo, bass and the Nashville Symphony, which debuted in November 2003. They also co–wrote a triple concerto for banjo, bass and tabla, with world renown tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain entitled The Melody of Rhythm.
°»   In 2011, Béla wrote his first stand alone banjo concerto, on commission with the Nashville Symphony. This work, entitled “The Impostor”, along with his new quintet for banjo and string quartet will be released in August on the Deutche Gramaphone label.
°»   These days he bounces between various intriguing touring situations, such as performing his concerto with symphonies, in a duo with Chick Corea, a trio with Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer, concerts with the Brooklyn Rider string quartet, duos with Abigail Washburn, with African artists such as Oumou Sangare and Toumani Diabate, in a jazz collaboration with The Marcus Roberts Trio, doing bluegrass with his old friends, and rare solo concerts. And Béla Fleck and the Flecktones still perform together, 25 years after the band’s inception.
°»   The recipient of Multiple Grammy Awards going back to 1998, Béla Flecks’ total Grammy count is 15 Grammys won, and 30 nominations. He has been nominated in more different musical categories than anyone in Grammy history.
Website: http://belafleck.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/belafleckbanjo
Agent: Ted Kurland Associates (617) 254-0007 agents@tedkurland.com

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn