Five-string phenom Tony Trischka and his band Territory pull into Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs at 8pm on Friday (May 4) to kick off the two-day Banjo Summit in mind-boggling fashion.
The last time that banjo master Trischka and the full line-up of his band (including vocalist-guitarist Michael Daves) were in town, they handily stole the show from headliners Peter Rowan and Tony Rice at The Egg.
“The first record I ever had was ‘The Kingston Trio at Large,’ which I got for Christmas. I think that was in ’62 or something like that. That had a song on it called ‘Charlie on the MTA,’ which was the song that made me want to play the banjo.
But the first album that I actually bought was probably also a Kingston Trio album. I can’t remember which one at this point. Maybe it was ‘Live.’ No, ‘College Concert,’ I think it was called.”
Banjo master Tony Trischka will be playing with his band Territory (featuring Michael Daves) at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival at 6pm on Saturday on the Main Stage. He will also participate in a banjo workshop with J.D. Crowe, Mike Munford and Bill Keith at 2pm on Saturday. The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival kicks off at the Walsh Farm in Oak Hill at 2pm on Thursday (July 14) and runs through Sunday. Among the many featured bands are the Sam Bush Band, J.D. Crowe & the New South, Chris Thile & Michael Daves, O’Brien Party of Seven, the Del McCoury Band, the Yonder Mountain String Band, the Infamous Stringdusters, the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band and many more. Go here for a full schedule. Full-fest tix (with camping included are $180; single day tix are $50 (Thursday only), $60 (Friday or Saturday) and $30 (Sunday).
It wasn’t quite the full complement of banjo master Tony Trischka’s usual band. Lead vocalist-guitarist Michael Daves was on a leave of absence so he could hit the road his mandolin phenom Chris Thile to support their new duo album.
Normally, there’s not much point in playing a gig if your lead singer isn’t in tow, but the main attraction here isn’t the guy centerstage with the microphone. Rather it’s the guy nudged off to stage left playing the five-string banjo with seemingly boundless imagination, ease and grace.
Tony Trischka is simply a mindbogglingly good banjo player. I’ve known that since my high school days in Buffalo when I occasionally had the great good fortune to sit in with him in the South Happiness Street Society Skiffle Band. I’ve seen him play dozens of times since those days, and he never fails to amaze, no matter the band – Breakfast Special, Country Cooking, Skyline, Country Granola, Monroe Doctrine and lots more. Heck, I remember sitting in the crowd at some cramped Greenwich Village nightspot marveling as he played jazz all night long with flutist Jeremy Steig and bassist Eddie Gomez.
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