Stellar bluegrass ensemble comes to The Palms

By From page A8 | April 10, 2013

John Reischman & The Jaybirds — an award-winning five-piece American and Canadian bluegrass ensemble that combines breathtaking instrumental mastery, spot-on multi-part vocal harmonies, and five talented songwriters and arrangers into vibrant recordings and dynamic performances — will appear at 8 p.m. Friday at The Palms Playhouse. Tickets are $20.

The members of The Jaybirds — John Reischman (mandolin, vocals), Jim Nunally (guitar, vocals), Trisha Gagnon (bass, vocals), Nick Hornbuckle (banjo) and Greg Spatz (fiddle) — are all masterful musicians. Reischman’s fingers fly up and down his exquisite Lloyd Loar-made Gibson mandolin in a blur creating gorgeous streams of notes; Nunally does acoustic acrobatics on the guitar that are all the more surprising given his economy of movement; Spatz lets loose some tasty fiddling that is by turns joyful, fiery and plaintive; Hornbuckle employs clawhammer and Scruggs-style banjo to create sounds ranging from driving to delicate; and Gagnon’s bass-playing adds subtle and lovely harmonies to the instrumental mix.

Nearly all of the Jaybirds have been featured in publications specializing in their instrument; all are highly sought-after sidemen, mentors and teachers.

The Jaybirds have all the necessary ingredients that allow them to rise above being an aggregate of powerfully gifted pickers to being an engaging and enjoyable ensemble. Rather than cranking out mind-bendingly complex solos that do little more than say “Look what I can do!” the Jaybirds use their instrumental prowess to support each others’ vocal and instrumental solos.

The Jaybirds’ vocal talents and diverse arrangements are a significant part of the band’s appeal. With more than one Jaybird fully capable of singing lead (Gagnon and Nunally do the lion’s share), The Jaybirds fit the right voice to each song; the variety in vocals makes for a more dynamic listening experience as well.

Reischman, Gagnon and Nunally blend their voices into a mellifluous three-part harmonic “stack” so well that it’s difficult to tease apart the sonic braid and find where one voice ends and the other begins.

With five talented songwriters in the band, John Reischman & The Jaybirds are in the enviable position of being able to draw their material from multiple original sources from within their midst, bringing another layer of diversity to their sound. In addition to the original tunes, The Jaybirds are talented arrangers who take traditional songs and turn them into something fresh but never in a way that sounds forced or contrived.

Tickets for John Reischman & The Jaybirds’ show at The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St. in Winters, are available at Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music in Woodland, Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters and at the door if not sold out. For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com and thejaybirds.com.

Kate Laddish

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