Alison Brown Quartet Performs
The Rooster's Wife presents the Alison Brown Quartet for the second of a dozen summer concerts in Aberdeen on the porch of the Postmaster's House, 203 E. South Street. The concert is at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 24.
Brown has achieved an international reputation as a banjo player by pushing the instrument out of its familiar Appalachian settings and into new musical territory.
Through four albums on the renowned Vanguard Records label and one on her own Compass Records, Brown has composed and played her way into the affections of fans of jazz-hued acoustic music with a unique voice on a relatively unexplored instrument.
Many bluegrass fans are aware that Brown's first marks on the national scene came when she was asked by Alison Krauss to join her band, Union Station, in 1989.
Fewer are aware that Brown honed her chops as a teenager in Southern California with some of the best pickers and singers to emerge in the subsequent decades.
She met fiddler Stuart Duncan as a 12-year-old. They performed extensively together and sometimes sat in with country superstar, Vince Gill, and Gene Libbea, now bass player with the Nashville Bluegrass Band.
"The San Diego Bluegrass Club used to meet once a month at the Shakey's Pizza Palace," she says.
"They had a stage, and people would jam out in the parking lot. And that's where I started getting to play with other people."
In the summer of 1978, she traveled the country with Duncan and his father, playing festivals and contests. A first place finish at the Canadian National Banjo Championship helped her land a one-night gig at the Grand Ole Opry. And around the time Brown graduated from high school, she and Duncan recorded a duo album titled "Pre-Sequel" for Ridge Runner Records.
Brown's journey to a professional music career then took a detour. She attended Harvard, studying history and literature, then UCLA, where she earned a master's degree in business administration. That led to two years with the public finance division of Smith Barney in San Francisco.
After taking a hiatus to return to composing and recording music, Brown assembled the material for her solo debut.
While it heralded a new voice on the banjo, "Simple Pleasures" also owed much to the California-based jazz/bluegrass hybrid sound pioneered by mandolinist David Grisman, who produced the album.
Around the same time, Brown joined Krauss for a successful three-year run that included a place on Krauss' Grammy-winning "I've Got That Old Feeling," as well as bluegrass music's highest accolade for an instrumentalist: the International Bluegrass Music Association Banjo Player of the Year in 1991.
"Simple Pleasures" earned a Grammy nomination, and Brown went on to make a total of four records for Vanguard as a bandleader and composer. Her most recent jazz-tinged release, "Out of the Blue," on Compass, featured the smooth sound of her custom electric nylon-string banjo; together, her five solo projects represent a substantial musical evolution.
On the strength of these projects, Brown has been featured on "CBS Sunday Morning," National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and "Weekend Edition" and BET's Jazz Central, as well as in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Dirty Linen and Acoustic Musician.
Alison Brown is also a big hit with astronauts. Mission Specialist John Grunsfeld chose to take a physical copy (an interesting fun fact as most astronauts carry only iPods during missions) of her new album, "The Company You Keep," on the recent final Hubble repair visit after fellow astronaut Marsha Ivins clued him in to Brown's signature hybrid banjo sound a few space missions back. Grunsfeld couldn't get Brown's tunes out of his head, so he saved up his first listen of "The Company You Keep" for orbit.
This is the fourth time Brown's music has journeyed into space as Mission Control has chosen three of her tunes as wake-up calls for the astronauts on past shuttle missions.
The rain location will be 111 Main Street.
Tickets may be purchased online, www.theroosters wife.org with debit or credit card. Tickets may be purchased at the door as well. Adults are $9; children under 12 are always free in accordance with the mission of the Rooster's Wife to bring affordable music to the Sandhills, and to create quality listening experiences for the children of the area.
The Rooster's Wife is a private nonprofit association organized to celebrate the performing arts.
For a complete schedule, check the Web site www.theroosterswife.org, or call (910) 944-7502.
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