Pete Wernick & FLEXIGRASS
Clockwise starting at left: Greg Harris, Kris Ditson, Roger Johns, Bill Pontarelli, Pete Wernick, Joan Wernick (Photo: Todd Radunsky)
Pete Wernick & FLEXIGRASS is a supercharged blend of bluegrass with classic jazz and “Dr. Banjo” originals. The all-star 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 sparkling vocals range from soulful bluegrass to stylish jazz and Kris Ditson (drums) and Roger Johns (bass) provide a strong pulse that doesn’t overpower, but pops and sizzles!
Surprising traditionalists is nothing new to bluegrass Grammy-nominated Wernick. The Hot Rize banjoist and 15-year president of the International Bluegrass Music Association is “among the most creative and just plain fun musicians in (blue, new, jazz) grass” according to Bluegrass Unlimited magazine.
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 set of sounds. The band has outlasted the skeptics and the audiences roar their approval!
FLEXIGRASS has performed from Carolina to California, and made two trips to Ireland. Fans from Béla Fleck to George Winston have sung its praises, and the press has reacted with words like: fundamentally futuristic, an amazing accomplishment, truly great, beguiling, instantly accessible, fantastic, wildly enjoyable, monster players. Give them a listen!
Meet the band members
|Pete Wernick (“Dr. Banjo”) has been described by Bluegrass Unlimited as “among the most creative and just plain fun musicians in (blue, new, jazz) grass.” 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). He’s also been mentor to thousands with his music camps, best-selling books and videos, and from 1986 to 2001, President of the International Bluegrass Music Association. Pete’s blazing innovations have crossed back and forth over the borders of bluegrass, but fans can always count on his love of tradition, taste, and tone.|
|Joan Wernick adds to Flexigrass’ show with sparkling vocals and an irrepressible sense of fun. In solo vocals and duets with husband Pete, she expertly tackles everything from bluegrass to jazz, with audience-pleasing style.|
|Greg Harris’ vibraphone, or “vibes”, gives a sweet-ringing texture to FLEXIGRASS. Both mellow and percussive, Greg’s mallets on brass achieve a rhythmic drive that thrills audiences. His background is in jazz, leading his own group and earning a Masters in Music, but he also plays bluegrass guitar. He recently returned from six months in Africa, studying a variety of mallet instruments. Greg is the newest addition to FLEXIGRASS, and stands 6’6″!|
|Bill Pontarelli swings and soars on flexigrass clarinet. Not many horn players have studied bluegrass fiddle players along with Benny Goodman, but Bill does it all. His lightning-quick lines and sophisticated ear add many exciting moments to FLEXIGRASS shows. A veteran of the Denver dixieland and swing music scenes, Bill helped found the Platte River Jazz Band. Amazing but true, Bill once bowled a 300 game!|
|Kris Ditson is possibly the world’s only drummer who thinks “bluegrass”. With brushes, a light touch, and a natural feel for the bluegrass beat, Kris has teamed with greats such as Andy Statman and Tony Trischka, and performed with a number of bluegrass bands including Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mt. Boys. Kris’ easy smile and that floating pulse help keep FLEXIGRASS cooking!|
|Roger Johns brings formidable bass chops and an uncanny ear to the FLEXIGRASS blend. A mainstay among Denver’s traditional jazz artists, Roger’s extensive repertoire includes not just countless standards, but many fine antique jokes. Unfazed by the band’s demanding tempos, he blazes new trails with his solos, and keeps the group locked in with his strong, smooth tones.|
“Exciting, intriguing… Delights at every turn. Superb composing and arranging.”
“I love the way [FLEXIGRASS] blends bluegrass banjo into an early jazz band. A very appealing combination.”
“Fantastic acoustic music. Is it bluegrass? Dixieland? Bebop? Who knows? If you’ve ever felt your body move of its own accord when listening to any of these styles, you’ll like this.”
“A joy to hear. An amazing accomplishment… Lights a real spark under bluegrass…”
“It’s fun, well-crafted, entertaining. Should appeal to anyone who enjoys hearing top-notch musicians strut their stuff.”
“This was a SHOW. Magnificent music. A vastly entertained audience, a double encore and standing ovation said it all.”
—The Black Rose
“One of the most exciting sounds I’ve heard this year.”
“Wildly enjoyable instrumental music.”
—Pinecone Traditional Review
“I love it.”
“They sound great.”
“Wernick, the masterful banjoist of Hot Rize fame, combined bluegrass with dixieland jazz to land the hippest sound. Action-packed.”
“It works. Accessible, fundamentally futuristic music.”
—Knight-Ridder news wire
“My absolute favorite band. The most unique, the most creative.”
—Meredith Carson, Concert Director, Swallow Hill Music Assn.
“Truly great instrumental album. This one is the award winner.”
For Booking Info
7930-P Oxford Rd.
Niwot, CO 80503
or contact Pete directly via email at: [email protected]