The Great Banjo Summit & Other Things with Strings

The Great Banjo Summit

As might be expected this is an album by and for people who really love their banjos. The participants each spend a portion of the liner notes explaining their choice of instrument and what it brings with it:

Tyler Jackson uses as his “main axe”, a custom made Mondello “Blue”,  and on some tracks a 1931 VegaVox III.

Rob Wright provided the ukuleles that are used by the group from his own collection. He also plays a 1964 Vega Vox IV Deluxe banjo and a custom made plectrum guitar.

Howard Alden, who was on our cover in March 2017, plays tenor banjo and brought along several guitars.

They are joined by Ray Templin on drums and Evan Dain on upright bass, who are members, with Rob Wright, of the Original Wildcats Jazz band.


The simple project of The Great Banjo Summit & Other Things with Strings is to leave enthusiastic musicians in a room full of drool worthy instruments and listen to them push each other to higher things. Rob Wright describes the group’s origin this way:

“It got started when Howard Alden and Tyler Jackson wanted to meet up and I am the mutual friend.  So we planned a meeting at my house and since Tyler was coming from Texas I booked a couple of concerts to help pay for the trip.  The concerts were a big success so Howard suggested we do it again, but after creating a record.  We made a great record so now we intend to do concerts every year.”

About the album he said:

“We did very little editing.  I wanted this to be an honest rendering of five players just going for broke.  No rehearsals, roadmaps only.”

Those roadmaps follow an eclectic list of titles with solid banjo associations, “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee”, “Alabamy Bound”, and some surprises like a medley of “I’m looking over a four leaf clover” and “Baby Face”.  There is a general feeling of frivolity and novelty tunes are favored. Alden expresses his interest in Brazillian music on “Receita de Samba” and “Tico Tico”.  There are numerous classics, “12th Street Rag”, “Exactly Like You”,  “Sunny Side of the Street”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, and surprisingly only one track with banjo in the name, “Buy me a Banjo.” There are vocals here and there but the focus is on the playing.


Wright and Alden are both based in Arizona, and that’s where they have another show scheduled for October 6th at Gaslight Music Hall in Oro Valley, Arizona. I hope they also find themselves adding some spice to festival rosters.

This album will be most enjoyed by fellow musicians who can appreciate both the subtlety and flair on offer. But the non-musician will still be suitably impressed by the flair, and get caught up in the obvious joy they share.

New Vintage Music (2018)


Related: The Banjo: America’ s African Instrument, by Laurent DuBoisBanjos in Traditional Jazz and RagtimeHoward Alden: Master of the Guitars

Joe Bebco is the Associate Editor of The Syncopated Times and Webmaster of

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