SalsaGrass: A Garden-fresh Concoction of Latin American, Americana, Bluegrass and Country
SalsaGrass? An experimental dish at a vegan cafe? Nope, it’s a band.
Or as their Facebook page explains: “What do you get when you mix a banjo and gitfiddle with the sensuous rhythms of syncopated Salsa? Find out as the SalsaGrass performs. SalsaGrass is an ensemble fusing Salsa, Colombian music and a little Bluegrass in a unique sound that is certain to delight.”
The band had an inconspicuous beginning.
Many moons ago, Al Kalbfleisch hosted a bring-a-plate buffet to celebrate his wife Mary’s December 26 birthday. “We invited many of the musicians we knew to attend,” Kalbfleisch says. The party happened to provide a heavy dose of jamming as well. “We never dreamed how it would take over the next 10 years and the doors it would open.”
The first member to be recruited was Luis Martinez, a native of Colombia, who worked at Natrona County High School. “I asked him to put together a band,” Kalbfleisch says, “which would include a mix of music…new boundaries. He said yes. We began to recognize how great the banjo sounded rhythmically against those wonderful tunes.”
“It was a large adjustment for everyone, crossing musical boundaries, but everything seemed to progress. Our first audiences were very forgiving and encouraged us.
“We found that, with Martinez, Colombia had lost a musician of great regard who was also willing to learn the likes of ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’ and ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’–as an American.” He also recruited Dan Hauck, “because he had that big Mexican looking bass, a great ear and could hold a Kentucky Country bass line on it.” Over the years, new members came and old ones left.
Current members include Dan Hauck, Martinez, Cole Miller, Richard Turner, and as Kalbfleisch bills himself, “plus the old guy.” Member Anna Schenfisch has just moved on to Carnegie Mellon to do research in Mathematics. “She’s also a brilliant musician and she’s indicated she hasn’t left the band completely,” he says.
“We don’t have a band leader as such,” according to Kalbfleisch. “Any of our members can suggest a tune, work it up, and present it. We believe the key is listening and learning his part and being able to drop it into a song whenever an emergency, nod, twitch, or grimace occurs. This allows five guys to bring in work, instead of one.”
“It’s taken years to develop the program we have now, partly due to member turnover, song trials, and a language barrier. We experimented a lot, as every band does, in order to find a voice. When someone leaves they take a part of us with them, but we’ve also been touched by them. An empty chair leaves a new voice to be found.”
Subscribe to Beartrap Summer Festival on