Banjoist Jake Schepps crosses over into classical music on his latest release An Evening in the Village (out this week via Fine Mighty). Joined by a group of crackerjack country music performers, he explores the repertoire of Twentieth Century Hungarian composer Béla Bartók (1881-1945). While at first glance this might seem like a curious cross-pollination, on further inspection bluegrass and Bartók share a number of affinities. Both are use traditional folk music as source material, both value syncopation and other rhythmic surprises, and both employ a pitch language that favors scales that depart from unadorned major and minor to instead explore other patterns.
In addition, one can readily see a kinship between the Eastern European folk bands that performed the material that inspired Bartók and, apart from the banjo, the composition of a bluegrass ensemble. But Schepps does a fine job of performing this music convincingly on the instrument, and he ably leads his collaborators through the various metric shifts and dissonant surprises that populate Bartók’s scores. This is not adulterated Bartók; it’s the real deal, just re-orchestrated. That said, the CD’s musical equilibrium is equally supported by the spirit of bluegrass.
Schepp is performing music from the CD in Brooklyn on Monday.
released 04 October 2011
Jake Schepps: banjo
Ryan Drickey: violin
Matt Flinner: mandolin
Grant Gordy: guitar
Ross Martin: guitar
Ben Sollee: cello
Greg Garrison: bass
Ian Hutchison: bass
Eric Thorin: bass
All music by Béla Bartók, ASCAP except
Cousin Sally Brown: traditional, arr: by Jake Schepps, BMI
Produced by Jayme Stone
with Jake Schepps and Matt Flinner