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Album Review

What unites these three banjo players — Tony Trischka, Bill Keith, and Béla Fleck — is their shared status as stylistic innovators on an instrument that, to most people, embodies strict traditionalism. There's still debate as to whether Trischka or Keith originated the "melodic" style of bluegrass banjo playing, one which tends to follow the melody exactly and fill in the spaces with scalar embellishments, rather than hitting occasional melody notes from within cascades of arpeggios, as is the practice in traditional, Scruggs-style picking. Neither Trischka nor Keith has proved willing to claim precedence over the other, so the debate may never be settled. At the time of this recording, Fleck (who would later go on to great fame playing a sort of banjo-based jazz fusion) was a young player expanding the boundaries of the Trischka/Keith school. The banjoists take turns leading separate groups through bluegrass standards such as "Black Mountain Rag" and "Fiddler's Dream," as well as unusual fare like the Irish tune "Paddy Kelly's Jig."


Born: 20 December 1939 in Boston, MA

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Bill Keith had great impact on modern banjo playing, particularly in the direction of "newgrass." He even had a picking style informally named after him. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Keith began taking banjo lessons at a young age, and also learned to play piano and ukulele. During adolescence, he played in a few Dixieland bands, but by the late '50s became interested in folk music after listening to such inspirational artists as Pete Seeger and Earl Scruggs. Using instruction books, the Amherst...
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