Featured artist: KEVIN BREIT
credit goes to those exceptional musicians who are able to reinvent
or recontextualize their instrument such that the listener feels
he or she is hearing it for the very first time. They achieve
this landmark result by approaching the tonal properties of their
instrument with fresh and unprejudiced ears, so the sound can
be woven into feelings normally expressed by other instruments
or fashioned to fit other genres. Aficionados of rock swear they
did not like the organ until Ray Manzarek came up with his existential,
end-of-the-night feel that became identified with The Doors. I
know a fair number who admit to their indifference to the trumpet
before experiencing the gorgeous bell tones introduced by Miles
Davis in the 1950s.
has done the same for his 5-string banjo, which he creatively
weds to the unlikely genre of jazz to great and lasting effect.
By engaging his instrument without any preconceived notion of
what its generic sound is best suited to, he kicks the bluegrass
habit with which the banjo has become monotonously synonymous,
in order to free it for moods and tempos that have been traditionally
distinguishes the voice of the banjo is the manner in which the
note suddenly springs to life only to end up, fly-swatted like,
in sudden death. Kevin mines the unique and ephemeral life cycle
of the plaintive banjo pluck, which he then refines into jazz,
as if the instrument were born for just that purpose. This is
no small accomplishment. And be as it may that Kevin Breit is
not a household name, he has collaborated with the likes of Holly
Cole, Nora Jones, Cassandra Wilson, k.d. lang, Celine Dion and
Marc Jordan, most of whom will end up in the music hall of fame.
ballad “Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head,”
from Kevin Breit & Folklarm “Skedaddle”
(2003), Breit persuades us that the banjo is the perfect choice
for capturing the life sadness that overwhelms all of us from
time to time. Never have notes evoked such vulnerability, disappearing
the moment they sound as each melancholic pluck is made to stand
alone and brave what is inevitable in all living things, that
last adieu on a final note as pure and poignant as silence.
“Don’t Worry” has in common with all enduring
music is the sudden articulation it brings to feelings that would
otherwise remain obscure or unexpressed, and beyond that, the
uncanny facility to make us feel that we have made some small
advance on the life-long task of trying to figure out what it’s
all about -- which is why we return again and again to great music.
to Kevin Breit pluck the quietly remarkable "Don't Worry
Your Pretty Little Head"