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ALISON BROWN’S BANJO VIRTUOSITY MESMERIZES ROCK BROTHERS AUDIENCE

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Written by Daniel Louis, photos by Jayne Drooger

Banjo virtuoso and multi-Grammy nominee and winner Alison Brown brought her talents to historic Ybor City for an unforgettable performance at The Attic. The Attic at Rock Brothers is a small intimate venue that is beautifully lit and decorated with tables and chairs, tailor made to appreciate the technical skills that were on display Saturday night by Alison Brown and her incredible band.

The banjo certainly comes with a reputation of being associated with “hillbilly” music, but that is a perception that Alison does very well to dispel. She knows first-hand that when people think of the banjo they think of car chases and bank robberies but the way Alison makes the 5-string sing will make you rethink what this beautiful instrument is capable of.

The show was a compilation of her work which spans decades of genre defying tunes from traditional bluegrass to more modern jazz and rock songs. Although the concert was mostly comprised of instrumental jams, she did have her daughter (who is a student at Berklee College of Music) accompany her on stage to sing a few tunes Including “Hummingbird” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel”.

The technical skill of Alison can be appreciated by music lovers and banjo players alike through simply witnessing the ease at which her fingers walk up and down the neck of her Prucha “Spirit” banjo that she had custom crafted. You can feel the chemistry on stage when the band is in full swing, which could be due to the fact the Alison’s husband Garry West is the bass player “…and the best bass player for the price” Alison joked.

We were treated to covers, such as “Time after Time” and originals from past albums as well as from her upcoming album “On Banjo” which is slated to release on Cinco de Mayo. The album will be an instrumental release comprised almost entirely of genre bending original music featuring collaborations with the Chronos String Quartet, Anat Cohen, Stuart Duncan, and Steve Martin just to name a few.

Alison had people cheering and dancing as she amazed the audience with perfectly executed 3 finger melodic picking. The influence of such modern banjo greats like Pat Cloud and Tony Trischka can be heard in the way her play style is pushing this instrument forward. Alison believes that with music becoming less “genre defined” and more “vibe defined” we are seeing the banjo show up more in pop music and allowing it to climb out of a strictly bluegrass genre and finding its way to a larger audience of music appreciation.

If you weren’t able to make it out to this show, don’t miss another opportunity to see this musical great when she makes her way through town the next time.

Jayne Drooger

Photojournalist Jayne Drooger not only has a creative eye for capturing stunning images but she has a keen ear for jazz and blues. Jayne is Tampa Bay Music News "jazz aficionado" and covers that music scene. She is so passionate about music and photography~ Just say when and where and she will be there!