Music historians on the trail of Kentucky mountain music might think that San Francisco would be the last place to look for any kind of old-time sounds. The city by the bay is about as far from Appalachia as you can get, and equally far from the concept of bluegrass. Yet San Francisco is exactly where some of today's finest old-time and bluegrass music is being played. Thanks to the Crooked Jades, the city is also a repository of the genre's history. Jeff Kazor, the band's founder and leader, has amassed an enormous catalogue of roots music culled from America's heartland. The band shares the traditional music of haunting ballads and romping dance tunes, as well as original numbers written in a similar vein, through live performances as well as its recordings. These include Seven Sisters: A Kentucky Portrait, a soundtrack which accompanied a documentary filmed by PBS. Among the group's other releases are its debut, Going to the Races, and Unfortunate Rake, Vol. 1, which featured Richard Buckner as co-producer. The Seven Sisters album features older instruments appropriate to the music's history, among them Weissenborns, minstrel banjos, banjo-ukuleles, and parlor guitars. Most of the tunes can be traced back to about 100 years ago, and a good number of them drew inspiration from Roscoe Holcomb, a Kentucky banjoist.
In addition to Kazor on vocals and guitar, the Crooked Jades includes Lisa Berman on dobro, clawhammer banjo, and Hawaiian slide; Stephanie Prausnitz on fiddle; Tom Lucas on fiddle and banjo; and Kevin Sandri on bass. Berman, Lucas, and Prausnitz also contribute to vocals. Live shows often feature the additions of Martha Hawthorne and 78RPM's Adam Tanner. The group has toured the U.S., and has performed in Louisville for the International Bluegrass Music Association. ~ Linda Seida