Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn “Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn” (Smithsonian Folkways, 2020)

Abagail Washburn doesn’t leave all the banjo experimentation to her husband Bela Fleck, who has produced this new album. Where Bela has been looking across the Atlantic to the banjo’s origins in Africa, Abigail Washburn has explored, in the company of longtime friend and musical collaborate Wu Fei, a Pacific looking path for the banjo which links up Appalachian clawhammer with the Chinese guzheng. One could lazily classify this as a “world music” experiment, which is a rather quaint term in as much as it is suggests that there is music available from somewhere other than this world, but really it is an album that shows that two very different instruments – the 5 string glory that is the banjo and the 21 string “harp/zither” that is the guzheng – can make sensational sounds together. Continue reading “Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn “Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn” (Smithsonian Folkways, 2020)”

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, The Barbican, London, 25th January 2020

A rare visit to these shores for Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn saw the pair on stage at The Barbican – it was the simplest of stage setups, a couple of chairs, a few microphones and a couple of banjo stands for each player. Bela Fleck is, of course, the master of all things three fingered Scruggs style, and so much more. Having exhausted what Bluegrass offered by way of a challenge he expanded into jazz – for example his collaborations with Chick Corea – and with the Flecktones into the world of experimental electric jazz-funk. Abigail Washburn’s own banjo prowess is in the realm of clawhammer – and of course she also sings. Bela does not sing. Their combined talents have been exhibited on a series of duo albums which take a more traditional folk tack, albeit traditional folk embellished by the finest of banjo playing. Material from their recent album ‘Echo in the Valley’ has been played in the UK for the first time on their brief tour, and made up a good part of the concert. Continue reading “Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, The Barbican, London, 25th January 2020”

Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn to play UK dates

There are special gigs, there are rare gigs, there are gigs that are musical premieres.  Few upcoming gigs offer that combination in quite the same way as the 23rd January and 25th January 2020 appearances of Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn at London’s Barbican and Essex’s Saffron Hall respectively.  What makes these such special events?  Well, it’s those five special letters that spell out musical bliss – banjo.  To say that Béla Fleck is a talented banjo player is akin to saying Jimi Hendrix was a bit of a guitar player.  Only that’s still something of an understatement as Béla Fleck has taken the banjo into all sorts of music – bluegrass, of course, but wider folk, jazz, rock, jam bands, classical, jazz-funk, and beyond.  His wife, Abigail Washburn is also no slouch on God’s preferred instrument and brings her exquisite vocals to the musical pairing. Continue reading “Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn to play UK dates”