Alison Brown doesn’t play the banjo. Alison Brown plays music on the banjo.
She is an American musician, composer, and producer and has won Grammy awards for her work. In her music, she blends jazz, bluegrass, rock, blues as well as other styles of music.
Although banjos typically play “tunes” or “breakdowns,” in Alison Brown’s hands, the banjo truly sings. It’s her unique musical vision. Brown never wastes a note, never launching into banjo tsunamis just because she can; stopping her precision three finger roll to leave space for a lyric or other instrumental voice when appropriate. Don’t mistake it, there is plenty of jaw-dropping virtuosity on The Song of the Banjo, but it’s always in service to the melody at hand. The great tenor saxophonist Lester Young had to know the lyrics before he played a song, even as an instrumental. Like him, Brown always plays the words as well as the melody.
The Julia Belle low banjo, release in Sept 2017, is a unique collaboration between Deering and Alison. The 24-fret low tuned banjo features John Hartford’s hand drawn artwork on the fingerboard as well as design aesthetics and features customized by Alison herself. The result is an absolutely gorgeous and unique instrument that reaches across time and generations for its inspiration.
It all started with Greg and Janet Deering’s friendship with John Hartford, a friendship that began over 30 years ago when Greg worked with John to design and build his first signature Hartford Model banjo. John’s Deering low banjo was an iconic part of his sound for many years and was an inspiration for many banjo players. Alison was one of those inspired by John’s unique voice on the banjo. As a proud owner of John’s prototype Deering low banjo, a long time friend of the Hartford family, as well as a fellow San Diegan, it seemed fitting for Alison to reach out to the Deerings to collaborate on an updated version of John’s original low banjo.