While Hendershots isn’t usually the best place to actively listen to music, the Broken String Band kept the atmosphere lively and the drinks flowing at their EP release show on March 10. Their upbeat, homegrown feel kept everyone in high spirits and even encouraged some dancing. They played songs from their new EP, “Prologue: Somebody’s Daughter”, and covered a few well-known songs including “The Weight,” popularized by Bob Dylan, adding their own bluegrass flair to it. Their three part harmonies backed by a delicious upright bass line brought a whole new dimension to my idea of bluegrass.
Sean Stephansen’s banjo playing was an obvious highlight of the ensemble, with Laura Camacho’s upright bass adding an unexpected layer. Taylor Thompson on the guitar leveled it out and a solo from “Doctor Pogo” on the drums did not go unappreciated. The balance of this band is impeccable and their chemistry is undeniable. The dueling twang of the banjo and the thump of the bass took me to a bluegrass jazz club paradise in my mind. Even if you don’t enjoy bluegrass, you can’t deny they love what they do and they’re good at it. At times the crowd was signing along and tapping their feet to the bass.
While the seating was pretty limited, people seemed happy to stand around at the bar and even sit outside and have the twangy tunes drift through the open roll up windows. As I stood near the bar, a little girl, no older than 8, approached the bar with her two younger sisters in tow and they began to pull miscellaneous coins out of their pockets and scatter them across the bar top until they had 3 dollars and fifty cents, enough to purchase a hot chocolate. The laid back atmosphere allowed this to be adorable instead of irritating and everyone looked on with smiles as they thought back to a simpler time.
Hanna offered no introduction or warning before launching into his first piece, Pierre Max Dubois’s Etude No. 10, much like a surprise Beyonce album. And much like a surprise Beyonce album, it did not disappoint. Explaining Dubois’s Etude No. 11, Hanna said it reminded him of chaotically getting ready for a party that goes off without a hitch despite the rush. I watched the tendons in his forearm move along with the fast paced notes. By the time Diane Kessel joined him on stage for a duet, I was totally entranced.
“That’s a lot of notes played in a short amount of time,” he said, after finishing a particularly fast paced portion of Harrie Janssen’s “Sonata for Bassoon.” He slowed down a bit for the duet with Kessel and her flute, a light, airy piece that blended the two instruments perfectly. I found I could alternate focus on either instrument while the other complimented it perfectly. Despite the many time changes, they stayed together perfectly, glancing up now and then in an almost disbelief. They finished to a tremendous amount of applause considering the small audience.
But of course, Hanna saved the best for last. His performance of “Pimpin’” by Jacob “TV” ter Veldhuis, complete with a warning about the language, was like nothing I’ve ever seen or heard. Veldhuis uses live samplings, in this case from conversations with pimps and prostitutes, and arranges over them. “Pimpin’” was written for saxophone and it showed as the sultry, richer notes poured from Hanna’s bassoon. In comparison to his duet piece with Kessel, it was like he was playing a completely different instrument.
Hanna finished out the recital with George Fetner’s “Black Lion”, a show-stopping piece that included electronic effects and five stands to hold all the music because there “wasn’t time to turn the pages.” This piece showcased his range, pushing out the lowest and highest notes all in the same breath. Its obvious that Hanna has mastery of his instrument, and a great taste for pieces that showcase that mastery.