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Hit Pick

Leave it to Pete Wernick, aka "Dr. Banjo," to come up with a musical hybrid that combines bluegrass with early jazz. After all, as a member of Hot Rize, he was fond of running his banjo through an electronic device called a "phase shifter." "That got a surprisingly favorable reaction," Wernick says, "as long as I used it sparingly. But even some fairly traditional bluegrass people would come up to me and say, 'That's weird, but I like it.'" The same might be said of his band, Live Five, which marks its tenth anniversary with the release of Up All Night, on Wernick's own Niwot Records ( The disc finds Wernick and his bandmates -- clarinetist Bill Pontarelli, vibes player George Weber, drummer Kris Ditson and bassist Roger Johns -- alternating between familiar bluegrass instrumentals ("Foggy Mountain Breakdown," "Foggy Mountain Special"), early jazz delights ("Sweet Georgia Brown," "Seven Come Eleven") and tasty originals. Several of the tracks were recorded live at the Boulder Theater. Although the late Bill Monroe, who was famous for saying things like "That ain't no part of nothin'," might not approve of Live Five's eclectic, break-the-rules style, Earl Scruggs has given the band his blessing. "I played 'Foggy Mountain Special' for him, and he liked it,' Wernick says of his mentor. "He told me, 'Don't let anybody tell you not to do that.'" Join Pete and the boys -- along with Wernick's wife, Joan, on vocals -- at Swallow Hill Music Hall on Friday, September 6, for a CD-release party.
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David Hill