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Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (18 Nov. 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Compass
  • ASIN: B00ELXK8G8
  • Other Editions: Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 213,017 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Product Description

Grammy-nominated banjoist Noam Pikelny has been praised as "a player of unlimited range and astonishing precision" by comedian-banjoist Steve Martin. "Playing not only traditional bluegrass, but classical, rock and jazz oriented music." His new release, Noam Pikelny plays Kenny Baker plays Bill Monroe, is a banjo adaptation of Kenny Baker's 1976 seminal recording of Bill Monroe instrumentals that is poised to take the bluegrass world by storm. The concept for the album grew out of an inside joke but, the more Pikelny explored the idea, the more he realized that it was both musically viable and extremely challenging. Pikelny delved into the intricacies of Kenny Baker's fiddle playing and emerged with note for note versions of Baker's fiddle arrangements for banjo. Joining Pikelny on this tour de force project are the finest instrumentalists in bluegrass: Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), and Mike Bub (bass). Noam Pikelny plays Kenny Baker plays Bill Monroe is Pikelny's third recording for Compass Records. It follows on the heels of 2011's GRAMMY-nominated Beat The Devil and Carry A Rail. Upon release, the album hit both the Billboard Top Heatseekers and Bluegrass album charts and was the focus of a Funny or Die parody video starring Pikelny with appearances fromSteve Martin, Ed Helms, Earl Scruggs, Chris Thile, Gillian Welch, and others. Pikelny is also the inaugural winner of the 2010 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass which earned him an appearance on The Letterman Show. Pikelny will be on tour this October in support of the album with a band that includes Bryan Sutton (guitar), Jesse Cobb (mandolin), Barry Bales (bass), and Luke Bulla (fiddle).

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Modern banjo master Noam Pikelny plays traditional bluegrass music, many a banjo fans dream come true.

Noam finds a challenge and boundaries to push by recreating Kenny's classic fiddle lines from the definitive bluegrass fiddle album, duplicating the album track for track. Typically Noam's first break in each song is note for note, he frees up in later breaks the flowing melodic picking seems effortless. The supporting cast of bluegrass superstars are allowed freedom too, the whole sounds great.

I wasnt familiar with the Kenny Baker album so bought that first, helped me appreciate this more.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If you enjoy banjo music I recommend that you hear this from the Punch Brothers excellent Noam Pikelny. The great Bryan Sutton is also a part of this project, on guitar.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x92ac7e28) out of 5 stars 42 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92b7f894) out of 5 stars This is Art, Folk 7 Oct. 2013
By D. Ogdin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
It takes some pretty big balls to reinterpret an album that is possibly the sole standard-bearer for classic instrumental bluegrass, originally made by the earliest practitioners of the art form, no less. It also takes some incredible diligence and technical creativity to transpose the fiddle lines of Kenny Baker onto the five string banjo - as one instrument is defined by resonance and sustain (fiddle) while the other is defined by opposite tendencies of sharp, quick "pin-pricks of sound" as Pete Seeger has described the sound of the banjo. Not only does Pikelny manage to do the material justice - both in terms of the larger album and also the specifics of those fiddle/banjo transpositions - but he manages to transcend, enrich, and give these compositions new life. Rarely does a work of art manage to be so deeply reverential while also so restlessly innovative, but Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe does just that - with some seriously wry wit holding it all together. This is American art at its best.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92b7f4a4) out of 5 stars One for the ages - a fantastic re-imagining of the classic 2 Oct. 2013
By Tech of all Types - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Noam Pikelny's tribute to the best of traditional bluegrass is a brilliant, exciting album that is enjoyable listening throughout.

It's always interesting when a great artist decides to re-create an existing work. It opens up our understanding of both the original and the new version. One is aware that - like the new expression of the piece - the original was also created out of multiple decisions of what to do and how to do it. Listening to "Kenny Baker plays Bill Monroe" and comparing track to track with Noam Pikelny's new recording is a fascinating and expanding experience. We can think about how Baker assigned parts, just as Pikelny had to: after the banjo takes the fiddle part, what do you do with the banjo part? what does the fiddle do, etc. And that leads back to the arranging Kenny Baker did. Of course, then there's Bill Monroe's original. But I digress.

Backed up by Stuart Duncan, Ronnie McCoury, Bryan Sutton, and Mike Bub, Noam has re-imagined Kenny Baker's original 1976 album while being true to its roots. It has the same tracks, in the same order, but with the banjo taking Kenny's fiddle parts. Noam - and the other excellent musicians - skillfully blend their five instruments to reiterate and further explore the theme and progressions in Bill Monroe's tunes. Gabe Witcher produced, brilliantly. It's creative, highly musical, and fun to listen to.

Noam's best album to date - they just keep getting better!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92ad0180) out of 5 stars Outstanding tribute to the bluegrass masters by a group with the chutzpah to pull it off! 13 Dec. 2013
By Charley Pennell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Noam Pikelny looks slightly out of place in a white cowboy hat and naturally resembles neither Kentuckians Kenny Baker nor BIll Monroe. Still, here are all of the tunes from the landmark LP, County 761 released in 1976, all assembled in the same order and played with the same reverence and fervor as on the originals. Pikelny knew better than to ask fellow Punch Brother Chris Thile to play Bill Monroe to his own Vic Jordan, as this is a traditional bluegrass album (more or less) and calls for a more subdued virtuosity from the other players. That isn't to say that he has not chosen his accomplices well however. This band is easily the equal of that assembled by Dave Freeman in 1976. Bill's role is filled ably by former Bluegrass Boy Del McCoury's son Ronnie, who has his Monroe mandolin licks down to a "T" along with that historic tone! While Kenny's original lead role is really Noam's here, Stuart Duncan gets the Baker double stops and fiddle tone just right without overdoing it. Then we have the added bonus of Bryan Sutton on guitar. Joe Stuart, who played in the Bluegrass Boys and on Baker's original LP, was an excellent rhythm guitarist (and multi-instrumentalist), but he was no Bryan Sutton. Rounding off the band is the tasty stand-up bass of Mike Bub, who even gets a break here and there. This CD, while derivative in the best sense (like the Bluegrass Album Band, or the Grascals channeling Bobby & Sonny Osborne) is destined to be placed on the same bluegrass pedestal occupied by its 40 year old predecessor.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92ad045c) out of 5 stars Good Job, Noam! 3 Oct. 2013
By sprint - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
"Kenny Baker plays Bill Monroe" is a classic album in every sense of the word! As a quick retrospective of Monroe's work, it's easy to love this as a primer/sampling of some great tunes and for the back story behind it (Initially, Monroe reluctantly agreed to play on a couple of tracks but then got hooked on the project & stayed for the entire session!). It is as great as the live Monroe/Watson masterpiece. Noam's album successfully captures the spirit of the earlier work and pays tribute to it while allowing each of the players to offer up their own unique takes on their respective parts. Bravo for Ronnie, Stuart, Mike, Bryan and Noam (and Gabe as Producer)! What's next? How about an album of duets with various styles, a "Strength in Numbers" type of ensemble (somehow, Punch Brothers isn't quite the same) or, better yet, taking up where the Tony Rice Unit left off??
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92b70fb4) out of 5 stars 'Nuff Said 18 Jan. 2015
By A reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If you've ever seen Pikelny play live, you know that he's very laid back, with a wry sense of humor that comes out in his manner and his playing. He makes it look easy. His sound is pure, his phrasing and melodic sensibilities are artful and creative, and his technical proficiency is flawless. Like many of today's A-list bluegrass musicians, he's fluent in every genre from traditional to jazz. And like his closest forerunner, Bela Fleck, Pikelny takes a melodic and harmonic approach to the banjo that's more complex than the traditional, but still totally accessible. Already a master, Pikelny is going to inspire new generations of great players for a long time.

On this award-winning recording, Pikelny tips his cowboy hat to one of the great traditional masters of bluegrass fiddle, Kenny Baker, who in turn was tipping his own brim to the father of modern bluegrass, Bill Monroe. Bluegrass is steeped in tradition, and Pikelny shows proper respect by taking on the demanding task of transcribing Baker's fiddle solos (that were originally Monroe's mandolin solos) for the banjo. But the result is much more than rote copying. It's an awesome and beautiful reinvention.

This is an instrumental album that delivers bluegrass virtuosity. There isn't an uninteresting moment on this whole record. Maybe you can name some other musicians who are as talented as Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Mike Bub (bass), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin) and Bryan Sutton (guitar) -- but you won't name anyone better.

I can't say enough about this recording, so 'nuff said. If you are a true fan of bluegrass music, I guarantee you will love it. Bluegrass this good was made for what ails us. I wouldn't want to have ears without it.
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