Stellar bluegrass ensemble to play at The Palms

By From page A7 | April 02, 2014

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 dynamic performances — will appear at 8 p.m. Saturday at The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St. in Winters.

The Jaybirds — John Reischman (mandolin, vocals), Jim Nunally (guitar, vocals), Trisha Gagnon (bass, vocals), Nick Hornbuckle (banjo) and Greg Spatz (fiddle) — are masterful musicians, capable of licks and solos that are nothing short of virtuosic.

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.
But virtuosic playing alone does not a great band make. 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 in addition to taking turns stepping forward with their own solos. Those solos are extraordinary both for the tremendous talent behind them as well as for the restraint and taste to fit each solo into the song in a way that augments them rather than breaking the feel and flow of the piece.
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 are $20 and 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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