Evans, Cushman, Carlin headline Sixth Annual California Banjo Extravaganza
Move over, “Dueling Banjos,” and make way for the Sixth Annual California Banjo Extravaganza. This year’s line-up features Bill Evans, Charlie Cushman and Bob Carlin on five-string banjo, supported by an all-star backing band of Blue Highway’s Tim Stafford on guitar, John Reischman on mandolin, Chad Manning on fiddle and Sharon Gilchrist on bass and mandolin.
The California Banjo Extravaganza is created for just a handful of concerts each year. This year’s edition will run from Wednesday, Nov. 8 to Sunday, Nov. 12 with shows across Northern California.
The project is the brainchild of Bay Area-based banjoist Bill Evans and stems from his desire to both showcase leading banjo players and foster collaboration between musicians. To this end, Evans brings a new group of pickers together each year to play with a specially created backing band for a string of shows.
Evans’ talent for collaboration is matched by his skills as a player. He’s a dynamic musician and is unafraid to blend traditional and progressive bluegrass with occasional dashes of jazz, classical and world music. Evans’ enthusiastic exploration of the history of the banjo in America and its roots in Africa is also evident in his playing. Banjo great and Extravaganza alum Tony Trischka said, “To be able to add an indelible mark to the whole history of the instrument is getting ridiculous. High kudos to Bill Evans.”
When people think of bluegrass banjo, they’re thinking of a sound pioneered by Earl Scruggs. Charlie Cushman, who won International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Banjo Player of the Year in 2015, is widely considered the most skilled interpreter of the Scruggs style. Cushman is a member of Jerry Douglas’ Earls of Leicester, an award-winning band that pays tribute to the pioneering bluegrass of Flatt & Scruggs. Chushman’s other playing and recording credits include work with Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien, Joe Diffie and Michael Cleveland.
Unlike Scruggs style banjo, clawhammer playing emphasizes rhythm over melody and is a mainstay of old-time music, and North Carolina’s Bob Carlin is one of its foremost authorities. Carlin was a long-time member of the storied John Hartford String Band, has several Rounder Records solo albums to his credit, is a sought-after teacher and producer and is the author of several books on Southern music.
Guitarist, singer and songwriter Tim Stafford will join the All-Star Band for the first time this year. Stafford’s hot picking and warm voice are integral to award-winning bluegrass band Blue Highway’s sound. Stafford, who was previously a member of Alison Krause & Union Station, won this year’s IBMA Songwriter of the Year award for his solo and group work.
Mandolinist John Reischman (Tony Rice Unit, Good Ol’ Persons, John Reischman & The Jaybirds), bassist and mandolinist Sharon Gilchrist (Peter Rowan & Tony Rice Quartet, Uncle Earl) and fiddler Chad Manning (David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands) will complete the line-up.
In addition to the five concerts, Carlin, Cushman, Evans, Stafford and Reischman will teach banjo, guitar and mandolin classes at what Evans describes as a mini music camp at The Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on Saturday afternoon.
For more information about the California Banjo Extravaganza, visit billevansbanjo.com, charliecushman.com, bobcarlin.com, timstaffordguitar.com, johnreischman.com, chadmanning.com and the venues’ websites.
Sixth Annual California Banjo Extravaganza dates:
Wednesday, Nov. 8: The Great Room in Los Gatos, Calif.
Thursday, Nov. 9: Trinity United Methodist Church in Chico, Calif.
Friday, Nov. 10: The Palms Playhouse in Winters, Calif.
Saturday, Nov. 11 (afternoon classes): Banjo Extravaganza mini camp at The Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, Calif.
Saturday, Nov. 11 (evening concert): The Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, Calif.
Sunday, Nov. 12: Sebastopol Community Cultural Center in Sebastopol, Calif.