Sunday, January 8, 2012

All That Jazz: The Magnificent Seven

Alison Brown: The Magnificent Seven


How many banjo players can boast that their music has been played in the depths of outer space? Well, Alison Brown can because her music was used in early 2000 as the official wake up call for the crew of the U.S. Space Shuttle Destiny on their journey to the International Space Station. Knowing few constraints, Brown epitomizes individualism. She enjoys the challenge of adventurously pushing the envelope and her own technical skills into banjo’s final frontier. While on her voyage, Brown’s mission is to explore strange new musical worlds, to seek out new musical life, to boldly go where no woman has gone before! Thus, I chose a wonderful little new acoustic jazz tune called “The Magnificent Seven” that she wrote with Solas guitarist John Doyle. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear a seven-beat meter in the tune’s head.

The song appears on her innovative album “Stolen Moments” with its expressive elements of many genres from Jazz to Celtic, and Pop to Bluegrass. The album is an astounding display of melodic invention that characterizes this one-of-a-kind banjo player. Another favorite jazzy cut on the album is “The Sound of Summer Running.” Alison Brown’s 5-string lays perfectly into the greater ensemble’s kaleidoscope of sound with such accomplished masters as Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Sam Bush, Mike Marshall (mandolin), Seamus Egan (low whistle on one track), John Doyle (guitar), John R. Burr (piano), Kenny Malone (percussion), and Garry West (bass). Some pop numbers on the album include superb vocals from folks like Amy Ray, Emily Saliers, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Andrea Zonn, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

How did the impressively virtuosic Alison Brown get to be such a hot picker? Her expedition has actually taken her from Connecticut to California to Tennessee. Early bands were The Stringbenders and Gold Rush. The 1991 International Bluegrass Music Assn. (IBMA) Banjo Player of the Year went on to play, record or tour with Northern Lights, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Michelle Shocked, New Grange, and others. She owns her own record company (Compass Records). The Alison Brown Quartet formed in 1996. Her confidence and talent allow this daring stalwart of the banjo to play many genres including jazz. Listen to her creative and courageous musical statements that know few boundaries.

Guest Post by Joe Ross

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