On a recent Wednesday, musicians with various skill levels gathered to play during open mic night at the 202 North Main Wine and Music Shop in Mooresville.The venue, a 1900s Victorian house-turned-wine bar, was packed as patrons sampled, bought and drank a variety of wines and waited for the music to start.Around 9:30 p.m., Brad Bailey, 38, dressed in black pants and a black shirt, with glasses and stringy black hair, approached the mic. Humble could be his middle name. He adjusted the strap holding his banjo and began playing. You might expect to hear Dueling Banjos, the theme song from the movie Deliverance, or something else from the bluegrass genre that Bill Monroe, his Blue Grass Boys and Shelby-area native Earl Scruggs made popular.Instead, you hear Watermelon Man, a jazz standard written by Herbie Hancock, Baileys smooth jazz interpretation of George Gershwins Summertime and Miles Davis Freddie Freeloader, all on the banjo. I find his playing unique, said Carrie Marshall, 42, a classically trained pianist from Huntersville who has dedicated her talents to playing and singing jazz and blues. An accomplished musician in her own right, Marshall joined Bailey to sing a couple of songs on open mic night. She and Bailey began working together a year and a half ago. Nobody does what he does, Marshall said.Bailey, who lives in Cornelius, has developed a one-of-a-kind banjo it has eight strings instead of the traditional four or five (and sometimes six) so he can play and sing jazz standards he loves while incorporating the banjo sound.Bailey said he created the eight-string banjo so that he could play bass lines himself. He added three strings to his standard five-string banjo to get the effect he wanted.Three of the bottom strings are tuned low, so I can play walking bass lines under my chords and solos, said Bailey, a soft-spoken native of Simpsonville, S.C. He has been playing a variety of stringed and other instruments for more than 25 years.Bailey spent the last 12 years as church musician. He left that job last year to try his hand at being a full-time solo artist or accompanist.As it is with learning a martial art, it took about two years of slow and painstaking practice to develop the technique well enough so that he could go public with it, Bailey said. I just followed my heart and love for three things that are fundamental to my approach as an artist: I love singing jazz standards, I love banjo, and I want to be able to provide a big, full, rhythmic sound in a solo or duo setting. I squeezed those ideas together, and the eight-string banjo popped out. It combines the best of all my favorite instruments in one. I call it the 8anjo As for mastering the 8anjo and smoothly coordinating his hands while playing and singing, Bailey said its a work in progress. His listeners like what theyre hearing.At a recent Monday night performance at Amelies French bakery in NoDa, Bailey and Marshall received lots of applause for their versions of Eric Claptons If I Could Change the World and What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong and Bob Thiele.This year, Bailey released his CD 8ANJO, which consists of original works and jazz standards such as Candy (Alex Kramer, Mack Davis and Joan Whitney), Georgia on My Mind,(Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell) and What a Wonderful World.Besides his customized banjo, Bailey also plays guitar, mandolin, ukulele, drums and bass. Of all the instruments, the banjo, which originated in Africa, is important to him because of its rich history of crossing musical, political and cultural borders.He cited a number of examples. The Carolina Chocolate Drops, from Durham, feature music from black fiddle and banjo players who helped pioneer the Appalachian music enjoyed today. Bela Fleck plays banjo in a jazz/fusion style. Mumford & Sons have taken the banjo into Grammy-winning alternative rock. Why does banjo transcend so many musical styles and cultures?Maybe others are drawn to it for the same reason I am: The banjo just makes a happy sound, Bailey said. And it is so percussive and rhythmic (essentially being strings stretched over a drum). So it ties us to the real and the past in a time when technology seems to come first in music.
Monday, Jun. 24, 2013
Cornelius musician gives banjo new flavor
Want to listen? You can catch Bailey 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays at Jenns Deli Den in Terrell (close to Lake Norman). Brad Bailey and singer Carrie Marshall are scheduled to perform together July 7 at the Trump National Golf Country Club in Mooresville. Listen to some of Brad Bradleys playing at http://8anjo.com.
Kim Smith is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Kim? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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