Daniel Koulack's Winnipeg Banjo Roots

Article Contributed by HearthMusic | Published on Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Personally speaking, this new album of Canadian banjo roots has been helping us feel better. The full-band arrangements of banjo-rooted music are just joyful in nature and even somewhat innocent. It's hard not to get swept up in the spirit of this album, and we think it'll lift your spirits too!

The banjo moves through a constellation of modes, meditations designed to be expanded upon. In his new album of original compositions, Frailing to Succeed, Winnipeg banjo master Daniel Koulack’s clawhammer style is the sun around which soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet, flute, violin, marimba, percussion, and drum kit—the tradition instruments of jazz—revolve. The result is a project that pushes traditional roles of a banjo through different instrumentation, improvisation, and counter-melodic explorations, an interplay that also parallels what makes Winnipeg, Manitoba, Koulack’s hometown, special. For instance, jazz guitar legend Lenny Breau lived in Winnipeg for many years and his rhythm section would work with him as easily as with Métis fiddle icon Reg Bouvette. The interconnected nature of the Winnipeg music scene has always meant that hard-gigging musicians are adept at switching between traditional, world, swing, and jazz music genres. Koulack himself has spent his career working with superb jazz, African, klezmer, French-Canadian, and classical musicians. He and his band bring this flurry of influences together in the most surprising ways on the cosmos that is Frailing to Succeed.