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 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, one of which is at The Palms Playhouse on Friday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m.
The show is the brainchild of Bay Area-based banjoist Evans and stems from his desire to showcase banjo music and leading banjoists and foster collaboration between musicians. To this end, Evans brings a new group of players 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 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 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, recently won IBMA Songwriter of the Year for his solo and group work.
Mandolinist 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.
Tickets for the Sixth Annual California Banjo Extravaganza at The Palms Playhouse (13 Main Street in Winters) are $25 and are available at Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters, Armadillo Music in Davis, Davids’ Broken Note in Woodland, online at The Palms’ website and at the door if not sold out.
For more information, visit billevansbanjo.com, charliecushman.com, bobcarlin.com, timstaffordguitar.com, johnreischman.com, chadmanning.com and palmsplayhouse.com.