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David Royko Psy.D


Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka, review

CHICAGO TRIBUNE


SUNDAY, May 16, 1999


OVERNIGHT REVIEWS

Music review, Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck at Old Town School of Folk Music


By David Royko

Special to the Tribune


The musical equivalent of Dr. J and Michael Jordan took the stage Saturday

night at the Old Town School of Folk Music's Chicago Folk Center, in the

guise of banjoists Tony Trischka and Bela Fleck.


For the first 25 years of bluegrass history, Earl Scruggs set the standard,

but since the mid-'70s, it has been these two men who have defined

progressive banjo music.


Both New Yorkers, Trischka was an early mentor of Fleck's. The teacher's

angular, avant-garde style mixes sweet romanticism with dips into atonality,

which Fleck used as a jumping-off point, in turn creating an entirely new

set of possibilities for the banjo.


His classical guitarist's touch combines with an eclecticism bordering on

the other-worldly. By the end of the first set, they were dueting on the

same banjo, with Trischka reaching from behind Fleck, and even if it looked

like a parlor trick, the music they created was anything but.


Through Bach, Beatles, bluegrass, and Brubeck, their personalities, as well

as their extraordinary arsenal of techniques and ideas, imbued everything

not only with integrity, but also with creativity. Ultimately, the best

moments came with their original compositions.


Fleck's recent "Katmandu" found the composer playing the entire tune without

ever touching the neck of the banjo, instead manipulating his tuning pegs,

creating a profound tone poem in miniature. Trischka's "Woodpecker" was

characteristic of his sweet-and-sour style, and gave both pickers a rich

opportunity to improvise through tricky material.


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