Second Solo Album from Member of the Punch Brothers
Pictured (L-R) in Ocean Way’s famed Studio A, are banjoist Noam Pikelny, assistant engineer Rouble Kapoor, guest banjoist Steve Martin, engineer Dave Sinko, and producer Gabe Witcher. Photo by David Goggin.
Banjoist Noam Pikelny invited comedian/banjoist Steve Martin to make a guest appearance on his second solo album, recording at Ocean Way in Hollywood. Pikelny, a member of the Bluegrass band Punch Brothers, was the recipient of the 2010 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.
Pikelny was in the band Leftover Salmon from 2002 until leaving in 2004 to play in the John Cowan Band from 2004 to 2006. In 2006 The Punch Brothers was formed. Chris Thile of Nickel Creek was planning to form a string quintet,
but did not know what direction he wanted to take it, except that he wanted it to include fiddler Gabe Witcher. After Thile had a jam session with Witcher, Pikelny, bassist Greg Garrison and guitarist Chris Eldridge, he decided he wanted the band to be a quintet. The band was called “The How to Grow a Band” in 2006 when they were the backing band on Thile’s solo release “How to Grow a Woman from the Ground,” as well as the following supporting shows.
After on and off touring throughout 2007, coinciding with Nickel Creek’s “Farewell (For Now) Tour,” the band’s name was changed to the “Tensions Mountain Boys” briefly, and subsequently to Punch Brothers (borrowed from a short story by Mark Twain). The Punch Brothers released their first official album as a band, Punch, on Nonesuch Records in 2008.
The banjo was a staple of Steve Martin’s 1970s stand-up career. On the “Comedy Is Not Pretty!” album he included an all-instrumental jam, titled “Drop Thumb Medley,” and played the track on his 1979 concert tour. His final comedy album, 1981’s “The Steve Martin Brothers,” featured one side of Martin’s stand-up material, with the other side featuring live performances of Martin playing banjo with a bluegrass band.
In 2010, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers appeared at the New Orleans Jazzfest, Merlefest Bluegrass Festival in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, at Bonnaroo Music Festival, at Red Butte Garden Concert series and on the BBC’s “Later… with Jools Holland.” Martin recently performed “Jubilation Day” with the Steep Canyon Rangers on The Colbert Report and on Conan.
In 2010, Noam Pikelny appeared on “Late Show with David Letterman” playing a comedic version of “Dueling Banjos” alongside Steve Martin, and later performed with Martin and The Punch Brothers. Pikelny’s second as-yet-untitled solo album is scheduled for Fall release on Compass Records.
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