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In concert: Alison Brown

Alison BrownAlison Brown displayed a colorful musical repertoire Saturday at the Kennedy Center. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

By Mike Joyce

As career moves go, Alison Brown's decision to move from investment banking to banjo picking appears downright prescient these days. "I think we may see more of that," quipped the Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist at the Kennedy Center's KC Jazz Club on Saturday night.

(A family affair, plus more pictures after the jump.)

Alison Brown

Brown's seasoned quartet doesn't exactly qualify as a jazz ensemble, but then it doesn't exactly qualify as anything genre-specific. Its charm derives in large part from a delightfully colorful repertoire that manages to sound both rooted and fluid, traditional and contemporary. Not surprisingly, bluegrass inspired some of Brown's finest banjo picking, a sound illuminated by sparkling finger-roll patterns and the occasional chromatic flourish.

When she switched to acoustic guitar, she saluted Doc Watson with a self-penned homage titled "Deep Gap," one that evoked his flat-picking virtuosity with the requisite down-home ease. Even so, the focus more often than not was on the ensemble sound, with pianist John R. Burr and drummer Larry Atamanuik playing prominent roles. When the band was firing on all cylinders, the music often took on a contemporary jazz flavor or, in the case of "The Wonderful Sea Voyage of Holy St. Brendan," vibrant cinematic qualities.

A family affair, the band featured bassist Garry West, Brown's husband and a steady source of rhythmic propulsion, and, in a cameo performance, 7-year-old daughter Hannah West, who sang "You're a Grand Old Flag" with winning poise and pipes. The early show ended with a seat-of-your pants romp inspired by Scots-Irish fiddle tunes and some lighthearted detours.

Alison Brown

Alison Brown

By David Malitz  |  March 15, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Alison Brown  
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