September 17, 1999
BANJO VIRTUOSO TONY TRISCHKA REDISCOVERING THE PAST
By DAVID ROYKO
Tony Trischka's age--he is 50--does not show when the progressive
banjo innovator is fronting his new hard rocking jazz fusion Tony
Trischka Band. The TTB features the banjo/saxophone/electric guitar
combination Trischka pioneered 25 years ago, and which Bela Fleck--
Trischka's most famous protege--has recently incorporated into the
When performing solo concerts, however, Trischka's age does show,
but in a positive sense. Where the young turk in his twenties was more
intrigued with where the banjo could go, especially with him
navigating, a generation or two of musical exploration has stirred in
Trischka a passion for exploring where the banjo and the music
associated with it was born.
"For my solo shows, I play an African tune on gourd banza [a
precursor to the modern banjo], and music that was probably played
later by the slaves," says Trischka. "I do a minstrel banjo tune on a
replica of an 1842 banjo, a turn of the century march, some old-time
music, some bluegrass, a Beatles medley, some originals," the latter
being the advanced music most listeners associate with Trischka.
Trischka's solo performances also touch on an obscure yet important
facet of a living folk music legend.
"I [also] do some Pete Seeger music, which I've fallen in love
with," says Trischka. "He was so far ahead of his time. When I started
working up his arrangement of 'Blue Skies' [from Seeger's 1954 'Goofing
Off Suite'], I was like, 'Whoa, this is not easy stuff.' Seeger's
returned to being my hero. After all these years of being, like, too
hip for Pete, now it's like, Pete's too hip for me!"
And even though a solo banjo show tends to draw an older crowd than
might the TTB, even that is changing.
"Nowadays, a part of my audience is the jam band audience, kids
that are very open minded," says Trischka. "They're not falling for the
MTV party line. You can just get up and play music, whatever it is, and
they're open to it."
Tony Trischka performs Sunday, 8:00 PM at Schuba's, 3159 N. Southport,
phone 773-525-2508 (tickets are $15 at the door, $12.50 through
Ticketmaster via www.schubas.com); and Monday, 7:00 PM at the David
Adler Cultural Center, 1700 N. Milwaukee, Libertyville, phone 847-367-
0707 (tickets are $20, $15 for Adler members)