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Banjo Trailblazer Brings Bluegrass-Jazz Group to Alamosa

Photo of Pete Wernick and Flexigrass

Pete Wernick & Flexigrass

Pete Wernick is renowned worldwide for his accomplishments and contributions to bluegrass music: the hot banjo picking force in several trend-setting bands including Hot Rize, respected author and teacher, songwriter, and long-term President of the International Bluegrass Music Association. Now he brings his latest all-star band, Flexigrass, for a free concert in Alamosa, Colo.’s Cole Park, Sun., July 11 at 6pm, as part of the Alamosa Live Music Association (ALMA)’s “Sundays@Six,” series.

“Among the most creative and just plain fun musicians in (blue, new, jazz) grass,” according to “Bluegrass Unlimited,” Wernick, also known as Dr. Banjo, has recorded bluegrass chart-topping hits, conducted instructional camps nationwide and overseas and created bestselling instructional videos and books. Flexigrass follows two other significant Wernick-organized bands: groundbreaking bluegrass instrumental wizards Country Cooking (1970-76), and the internationally acclaimed Hot Rize (full-time 1978-90 and still occasionally performing).

Grammy-nominated Wernick has performed with many musical legends, from Doc Watson to Bill Monroe to Jerry Garcia. But perhaps his most high-profile and exciting appearance was in Sept. 2005, performing on the David Letterman show with his lifelong inspiration, Earl Scruggs, along with comedian/actor/banjo player Steve Martin, picking a high-speed “Foggy Mt. Breakdown.” Wernick has since assisted Martin with a number of projects including production of Martin’s Grammy-winning banjo album “The Crow.”

Based on a deep understanding of musical tradition, Wernick follows the lead of important musical innovators by fusing compatible sounds and building an original and entertaining style. Flexigrass plays a supercharged blend of bluegrass with classic jazz. The group blazes new trails everywhere they play, as young vibraphone master Greg Harris and hot clarinetist Bill Pontarelli trade licks with Wernick and the band’s tight arrangements provide many surprises. Joan Wernick’s vocals range from soulful bluegrass to stylish jazz, while Kris Ditson on drums and Roger Johns on bass provide a strong pulse that pops and sizzles.

Local favorites Mariachi San Luis promote mariachi music for all ages on Sun., July 18 at 6pm in Cole Park. In case of inclement weather, the shows will take place in Leon Memorial Hall on Richardson Hall on the Adams State College campus. ALMA’s gracious members and business sponsors support the free summer “Sundays @ Six,” concerts and other ALMA events.

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