Wintergrass 2015 Performers-Faast & Blair

Two Northwest Bluegrass powerhouses join
forces to perform extreme bluegrass as Faast
& Blair. Veteran band leader, Mike Faast, (The
Jangles, Brother’s Keeper, The Archtops, and
The Stringcats) and gifted banjo player Jamie
Blair decided it was high time they started
performing together. They scooped up two
other Northwest luminaries, Paul Elliott
(fiddle) and Jeff Westerinen (bass) to form
Faast & Blair. Mike Faast sings songs that are
true to the workingman and Blair brings these
stories to life with his energetic and precise
banjo playing and high tenor harmonies.
Faast and Blair move from being a duet to a
four/five piece band with ease and grace, never
letting their crisp and clear sound slide. Faast,
an accomplished songwriter, injects his own
poetic lyrics into the band’s repertoire. With
professionalism and a great respect for the
genre, one moment, their music transports
you to the 1920’s mountains of Kentucky
and the next races through their spin on
a contemporary pop tune. Mike launches
into Bill Monroe’s “A Good Woman’s Love”
and the band surrounds his warm growl of
a voice with heart-melting harmony. Jamie
is Mr. Clean as he tears through banjo riffs
and solos. He’s also possibly the only artist at
Wintergrass with Top Secret clearance from
the government. We don’t know what that
means in a bluegrass context, but we guess it
means your secrets are safe with him.
Paul Elliott is no stranger to West Coast
listeners. He has performed with The Good
Old Persons, John Reischman, Michelle
Shocked, Alison Brown, Buell Neidlinger, and
of course, The Downtown Mountain Boys.
Jeff Westerinen is also a sought after player,
performing these days as the mandolinist in
The Stray Dog

Wintergrass Preview @ The Bellevue Public Library-Cliff Perry Band

Cliff Perry Band Sunday Feb 22 at 2:00PM


A warm-up for Wintergrass

Come to Bellevue Library Feb 22 and get ready for Wintergrass Music Festival coming February 26 to March 1 to the Bellevue Hyatt Regency. Listen to some soulful bluegrass singing, heartfelt harmonies and gutsy picking by these outstanding local musicians. You’ll get a preview of what you’ll experience the next week at the festival.

     The Cliff Perry Band is:

Mary Simkin-Maass, fabulous fiddle, Ethan Lawton, marvelous mandolin,

Jamie Blair*, blazing banjo, Greg Maass, devilish Dobro,

Mary Fleischman, backbone bass, & Cliff Perry, grand master guitar

*Tom Keeney, a banjo playing host on KBCS 91.3 FM, will fill in for Jamie

Bellevue Public Library  

1111 110th Ave NE Bellevue 98004

Sponsored by Friends of the Library

Wintergrass 2015 Performers-Matuto

When guitarist Clay Ross and accordionist Rob Curto stepped out on stage in front of ten thousand party-ready Brazilians in the northeastern city of Recife, they weren’t quite sure what to expect. It was their first ever show as Matuto.

“A defining moment,” Ross recalls, thinking back to that fateful show in 2009 when he had received a Fullbright grant to perform in Brazil, and had invited the Portuguese-speaking, forró expert Curto to join the project. They had played together in various configurations around Brooklyn’s wildly cross-cultural music scene, but had never worked together so closely.

“There, on that massive stage, during the apex of Carnaval, through our jazz-influenced originals and bluegrass barnburners our ‘little project’ became the new center of our musical worlds,” recounts Ross. “Feeling that crowd stomp along, with their Brazilian dosey-doe and joyful abandon, was truly special.  Since then, we’ve toured the world recreating that moment.” It was that moment when Matuto (Brazilian slang for “country boy”) knew they were onto something.

That serendipitous, dance floor-friendly something remains delightfully open ended, a question the band poses about culture’s mutability and migratory habits, about what it means to embrace and treasure sounds from outside the musical world you were born into. It’s a question that’s unfolded throughout many centuries of African and European co-mingling in the Americas, from Brazil to the American South.

“The tension of cultural intersection is an exciting place to exist.  It’s what makes our musical choices feel relevant and exciting,” Ross reflects. “With the music we can ask:  What does it mean to be human?  Why create imaginary borders?  Music offers a safe place to live with these questions.”

Matuto’s songs can sway hips just as easily as spark insights. On stage, instruments (accordion, guitar, bass, drums, cavaquinho, zabumba, and triangle) whirl around the core of Matuto’s sound: the syncopations of Brazilian music and the folk traditions of the American South. It’s Bluegrass meets Brazil. It’s an unlikely combination on paper, but on the dance floor, it just feels right.

You’ll hear Brazil in the rich tones of Rob Curto’s forró accordion playing, in the rural rhythms of maracatu (from the Pernambuco region), in the urban beats of Rio’s samba, and in the intricate, chorinho-inspired melodies. All of this balanced with clear connections to American jazz, blues, bluegrass, and folk.

The band’s core members share a combined obsession with connecting the dots between Brazil, rural America, and creative reinterpretation of long-standing party-hardy forms. In 2002, South Carolina native Clay Ross moved to New York to pursue a jazz career, but just a few years later found himself in Recife, Brazil, immersed in the region’s folkloric music. Returning to New York, he began looking for like-minded conspirators, finding the perfect match for his love of Brazilian music in renowned accordionist Rob Curto (Forró for All). Born in New York, Curto is widely regarded as forró’s (NE Brazil’s accordion-driven country roots music) foremost ambassador in the States. He spent years living and playing in Brazil, completely absorbing and interpreting the country’s musical traditions.

Since that Carnival coup in Recife, the U.S.-based group has toured North America and Brazil, playing hundreds of shows each year, from popular American world music and folk festivals to major Brazilian celebrations. They have been featured showcase artists at the prestigious annual world music gathering WOMEX and have toured as U.S. State Department musical ambassadors in Africa, Europe, and The Middle East.

Tapping NYC’s diverse jazz, roots, and world music scen4_matuto-by-vincent-soyezes, they have recorded three highly regarded albums including most recently The Africa Suite, a series of original pieces based on the band’s engagement with the people, sounds, and traditions on the road as ambassadors. The Africa Suite focuses the band’s fascination with the cultural push and pull between Africa and the Americas, creating a musical snapshot of the five countries on its 2013 State Department-sponsored tour.

Matuto revels in cultures colliding and in the ongoing exchange of ideas.  They know its history is not without tension, but those very tensions can fire creative expression and good times.  “We’re questioning the boundaries and borders of the present and past” muses Ross. “We can’t always answer these questions, but we can let them guide us towards new possibilities through music.”

Wintergrass 2015 Performer-Aoife O’Donovan

The thing about fossils is that they take a very long time in the making, and it’s not an enFossilsTourPhoto-web(1)tirely intentional process. The making of Aoife O’Donovan’s debut album Fossils has hardly been a glacial affair, but it has spent rather more than a decade forming about in her creative subconscious. It was time well spent, for she’s crafted a beautiful, timeless record, the natural evolution of an accomplished singer and songwriter.

The album’s roots stretch back to Aoife’s time at the New England Conservatory, where she dreamed of one day recording an album with celebrated producer Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Tift Merritt). Upon graduation, Aoife (pronounced “ee-fuh”) hit the road as the lead sinAoife O'Donovan Photo by Eric Frommerger and principal songwriter/song-finder of Crooked Still, which grew into one of the world’s most acclaimed progressive string groups over the ensuing decade. The stunning versatility and appeal of her voice brought her to the attention of some of the most eminent names in music and led to collaborations across a wide variety of genres with everyone from Alison Krauss to Dave Douglas, along with a role as vocalist on the Grammy-winning Goat Rodeo Sessions alongside Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan.

O’Donovan never forgot the call of that solo record, though, and last year she headed to Portland, OR, to fulfill her dream and record with Martine. Rich in songs and unexpected textures, the resulting album bears the remarkable fruits of their creative partnership. Both joyously open and profoundly private, the album is at all times an opportunity to enjoy O’Donovan’s thoroughly modern and deeply rooted vocals.

The album opens with “Lay My Burden Down,” perhaps O’Donovan’s best-known song simply because Alison Krauss recorded it on Paper Airplane. O’Donovan acknowledges the risk in this choice, and the reward. “One of my uncles loves to say that nobody owns songs, and I think that’s true. My version is so different from hers, and it really sets a nice tone for the record,” she says.

O’Donovan and Martine have carefully placed her songs in a variety of musical settings, from the chorus of horns which opens “Thursday’s Child” to the country-rock of “Fire Engine,” from Charlie Rose’s pedal steel, running throughout Fossils, to the sometimes squalling electric guitar on “Beekeeper.” It is a rooted album, to be sure, but not precisely a roots album.

O’Donovan chuckles a little. “I guess it just feels totally natural,” she says. “It’s how a lot of these songs have just come to life over the years.”

Most of O’Donovan’s songs are character-driven, and many of them resemble portions of the folk traditions in which she was raised. The second track, “Briar Rose,” for example, is based on an Anne Sexton poem, a recontextualized fairytale. Though she will concede that a couple tracks are somewhat more personal.

And that she is quite properly proud of Fossils. “This solo album seems like it was a long time coming to me,” she says, the sounds of an airport in the background. “I’ve been thinking about it since I was 18 years old.”

Time well-spent. Fossils, after all, are among nature’s most durable, lasting creations.

Wintergrass 2015 Performer-Joe Craven

Creativity educator, former museum curator, visual artist, actor/storyteller, festival emcee and recipient of the 2009 Folk Alliance Far-West Performer of the Year, Joe has made frontal-joe-w_cbgmusic with many folks ranging from multi-string instrumentalist David Lindley to Blues slide guitar master Roy Rogers to Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia and groups from Psychograss to The Persuasions to The Horseflies. He was percussionist and fiddler for mandolinist David Grisman for almost 17 years and was special guest with fusion banjo player Alison Brown and her Quartet for almost 7 years.

Always looking for the next expression and object to make music with, Joe is a musical madman with anything that has strings attached or not; violin, mandolin, tin can, bedpan, cookie tin, tenor guitar/banjo, mouth bow, canjoe, cuatro, balalaika, boot ‘n lace and double-necked whatever. He has created music and sound effects for commercials, soundtracks, computer games and contributions to several Grammy nominated projects. Joe’s performed at festivals and theaters worldwide, from Hardly Strictly to The Kennedy Center and from CA Worldfest to Carnegie Hall, where he joined folks like Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O’Connor to help celebrate Stephane Grappelli’s 80th birthday concert.

A Cum Laude graduate in both Museology and Aesthetics and an award-winning educator for nearly 20 years, Joeʼs clients include numerous schools, universities, teacher in-services, detention centers, special needs facilities, music camps, American String Teacherʼs Association and corporate clients such as Wells Fargo and Enloe Medical Center. He is the Director of RiverTunes Music Camp and is Co-Director for the Wintergrass Youth Academy. And no matter who Joeʼs connecting with – a community workshop in Costa Rica, a university lecture and demonstration in Washington, or on stage in front of thousands of school kids in Scotland – Joeʼs at home and loving every minute.

Wintergrass 2015 Dinner Concerts