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10 LIVE VIDEO CLIPS with some of the world's greatest musicians--Darol Anger on violin, Corky Siegel on harmonica, Erkan Ogur of Turkey and many more. 

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Fingerstyle guitar with Darol Anger on violin 

 

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BOB DYLAN FOR BANJO

 

FIRST 50 SONGS
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(co-written with Greg Cahill)

 

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Bach every day is my new mantra.   As an antidote to the onslaught of the cruel world, I'm attempting to infuse each day with the playing of Bach.  I realize that it is my own ivory tower of sorts, as people literally run for their lives and suffer from malnutrition.  For that, I remain an active part of the political resistance with every fiber of energy I have to give.  But that fiber is tougher, more articulate, and more vital when it is fueled by the nutrition of good art by the overconsumption of the daily news.  And for me, the best of art and music that I have come to know has been my personal encounter with Bach--which is like gazing into the eyes of wonder. 

Today, for example, in the pre-dawn January darkness of a sub-zero Chicago morning there was the Allemande in C from the third cello suite.  And like a poem that presents a word with a slightly different emphasis and deeper meaning, the work just keeps giving and giving richness. 

Twenty years ago I published the American Bach CD that had JS Bach's first and third Suites for Unaccompanied Cello, arranged for clawhammer banjo and double bass.  I had spent the best part of seven years playing not too much else but Bach.  That is not exactly the typical pathway for banjo players, but it was good for me.  When I recorded them, it was just a moment in time then.  The great cellist Rostapovich waited until he was 65 to record them.  When asked why he waited so long, he replied, "I've been practicing."    

I can speed-read the NYTimes and the Chicago Tribune and stay on it.  I will stand in the cold on Jan 20 with the women of the world.  I will write music and create art this year that draws inspiration from the likes of Paul Farmer and Bill McKibben and my own Senator Dick Durbin and he who I hope to become the Governor of Illinois, Daniel Biss. 

But on these pages, I'll give you my weekly updates of how the the world is balancing between the wicked and sublime.  Steinbeck said that "good will always win over evil, but evil will always return."  I'm holding on to the good and hope to share what I can and help how in the ways that I know best.   Some of that will be reflected in recordings on these pages.  Here's the first recording of the year.   

 

Panorama* ran every month for 10 months at the Hideout this year featuring narration by Rick Kogan and music by my ensemble of musicians that regularly featured Lloyd Brodax King on flute and Johnse Holt on guitar, but across the year also included Nora Barton on cello, Jimmy Keane on accordion, Greg Cahill on banjo, David Jennings on drums and vibes, Corky Siegel on harmonica, Glenda Zahra Baker, Shanta Nurulah. Tsehaye Hebert, Allie Stephens, John Abbey, Kathy Cowan and her Irish choir and others.  There was a tribute to Mike Royko and to Studs Terkel that included Tony Fitzpatrick.  The final night was Diwali featuring members of Funkadesi--Rahul Sharma and Maninder Singh--in our own festival of light.  Below are some of the posters.  My heartfelt thanks to Rick Kogan for his undying passion to art and the spoken word.  

*"Panorama" took its name from the arts section of the Chicago Daily News, started by Herman Kogan, Rick's father.

 

I'm just back from a three plus week tour of Ireland, Spain and Portugal.   There were lots pictures posted on Facebook, lots of great people along the way.   Here were a few promotional posters---one from Barcelona, Spain and the other from Clarinbridge, Ireland.   In a time when the world is literally up for grabs, I count my lucky stars that I get to travel across the world to play music and sing a few songs and that there are people here and there that appreciate what I do.  Peace on earth!  

Funkadesi Trio

TUES, OCT 17, 6:30pm @ THE HIDEOUT. 

The 10th and final episode of Panorama will feature the FUNKADESI TRIO --three musicians from the legendary Chicago world music ensemble playing in celebration of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light.

Seated in the middle is the amazing Lloyd Brodnax King on flute.   On his left is Maninderpal Singh on tabla; on his right is Rahul Sharma on sitar.  These players will be joined by Johnse Holt on guitar and I'll play banjo.     

Tickets at HideoutChicago.com. 

Existential Banjo, Episode 12.   Last Thing On My Mind.  Tom Paxton wrote and recorded this song in 1964.   Literally 50 years later, I had the privilege to play a few concerts with him.  If you know him, you'll know he was in fine form on this night.  And if you don't know him, allow me to introduce an American treasure. PLEASE SHARE.  PLEASE COMMENT. Peace on earth.  

Existential Banjo, Episode 11.   Dokunmak with Erkan Ogur in Istanbul.  This was a concert that we did in October 2015, just four days after the bombing in Ankara.  Erkan is a pioneer of the fretless guitar that he uses to play the microtonal pitches required for such grand melodies.  Western instruments can get close, but not quite right.  Listen to the same melody played by on Erkan's guitar and then on the banjo to hear the difference.  

 

Here is Existential Banjo, Episode 10.   Corrina Corrina is a traditional 12 bar blues tune played here on the fretless banjo accompanied by Aziz Sahmaoui, a Moroccan musician, playing ngoni.  His instrument is one of the grand African elders of the American banjo.  

Banjo Newsletter published a glowing review of my new book about Bob Dylan, written by Tim Jumper.  It's quite the honor to bring the banjo to Dylan's exquisite work.  And I'm further grateful that Tim Jumper has a such a thoughtful and gracious understanding of what I was trying to achieve.  

Click here for review. 

 

Bob Dylan

 

EXISTENTIAL BANJO, EPISODE 9:  Gaudete & Sleepers Awake.  This weeks episode is a medley from the 16th century.   "Gaudete" is a sacred hymm from 1582 first appearing in the Piae Cantiones.  "Sleepers Awake" was originally created by Philipp Nicolai in 1599 and later adapted by J.S. Bach in 1731.  This performance features the extraordinary work of David Jennings on vibes.  

Here is EXISTENTIAL BANJO, Episode 8---Opus 821.  This is a composition of mine that was originally performed in a Chicago Humanities Festival commissioned show, entitled "How Africa Met Ireland In American Song."  Opus 821 served as both an opening and closing theme.  This performance features the great Brazilian percussionist Geraldo de Oliveira and was filmed by Academy Award nominee Aaron Wickenden (Finding Vivian Maier).  

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