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Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn at the Strand Theatre

  • Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center 50 North George Street York, PA, 17401 United States (map)

A banjo duo might seem like a musical concept beset by limitations, but when the banjo players cast in those roles are Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck — she with the earthy sophistication of a postmodern, old-time singer-songwriter, he with the virtuosic, jazz-to-classical ingenuity of an iconic instrumentalist and composer with bluegrass roots — it’s a different matter entirely. There’s no denying that theirs is a one-of-a-kind pairing with one-of-a-kind possibilities.

It was inevitable and eagerly anticipated by fans of tradition-tweaking acoustic fare that these partners in music and life (who married in 2009) would eventually do a full-fledged project together. After the birth of their son Juno, fifteen-time GRAMMY® winner, Fleck and critically-acclaimed Washburn released their debut album as a duo, “Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn” in October 2014.

From track to track, Washburn and Fleck are a nimble band unto themselves. On the trad tune “Railroad,” she sustains a droning feel, while he jabs in syncopated counterpoint. Woven into the middle of their arrangement is an excerpt from another American banjo chestnut, “Oh! Susanna,” an occasion for Fleck to briefly slip into a dixieland role. In their co-written original “Little Birdie,” he supplies what amounts to a ticklish, inventive bass line, while she plays circling arpeggios and picks out the melody. “Bye Bye Baby Blues” is her turn to toy with droll, walking bass beneath his wonderfully jaunty licks. “What’cha Gonna Do,” which came entirely from his pen, lyrics and all, rides a churning groove made up of intertwining banjo figures and foot patting.

Washburn and Fleck playfully embrace the notion that they’ve become a family band. And, at home, on stage or on record, it’s their deep bond, on top of the way their distinct musical personalities and banjo styles interact, that makes theirs a picking partnership unlike any other on the planet.

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Later Event: October 13
Kids Make and Take