J.S. BACH ON THE BANJO, REVISITED!
Twenty-five years after his Janos Starker-endorsed debut,
banjoist Michael J. Miles releases American Bach Revisited
Michael J. Miles, world-renowned banjo master, is releasing his eighth CD entitled “American Bach Revisited” featuring J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites I and III, as well as Miles’ original composition “Chicago Suite.”
Performing J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites on the banjo has rarely been tried but as Chicago Tribune’s respected critic, Howard Reich, stated about Miles’ American Bach CD from 1997:
“Miles has dared to take on some of the most profound and dramatic music ever written, and succeeded.”
Janos Starker, (1924-2013) who recorded the Bach Cello Suites five times and is considered one of the greatest cellists of all time, added his own atypically effusive praise describing Miles’ 1997 work as:
“A remarkable feat, my first reaction to his playing was a smile, and then amazement.”
American Bach, featured J.S. Bach’s Suites I & III for Unaccompanied Cello arranged for banjo with an original continuo line performed on double bass, as well as Miles’ original work, “Suite for the Americas.”
American Bach Revisited in 2023—presents an all new duet format featuring renowned Chicago cellist, Jill Kaeding. The banjo takes Bach’s melodies on Cello Suites I & III, and the cello delivers well-seasoned contrapuntal lines. The “Chicago Suite,” also featured on American Bach Revisited, is Miles’ original instrumental portrait of specific Chicago streets and alleys, the city Miles has always called home.
With a warm tone and downward right-hand attack, Miles plays the banjo in clawhammer style which has roots deeply seated in ancient-African, drum-based string instruments, quite removed from the Earl Scruggs bluegrass style but with an articulated timbre not unlike the harpsichord.
Miles is a self-taught banjoist, who grew up in Chicago in an Irish family where everyone sang, read and talked politics. His musical passion was fueled by the curiosity around, high-achieving siblings, and a restless drive to find his own muse with composition and the works of J.S. Bach. Twenty five years after the first release of American Bach, with a few decades of practice and free-lance musicianism, Miles was compelled to go after Bach again, to reach ever closer to what he considers one of the wonders of the world. This is the result.
As to the American Federation of Musicians, Miles first joined the union in 1977 and has been a member of Local 1000 for 25 years. His collaborators for this project are also union members–Jill Kaeding & Margaret James, Local 10-208 and Ron DeGrandis, Local 45.
ABOUT MICHAEL J. MILES
Michael J. Miles is a master banjoist, guitarist, award winning composer, author of a dozen theatrical works combining music and history. He is an acclaimed music educator with six books published by Hal Leonard and 25+ years working as music grad school guest lecturer. Miles is past president of the International Folk Alliance and former Program Director for the legendary Old Town School of Folk Music. Alone in concert or with his signature stage production, From Senegal To Seeger, he has had standing ovations on four continents. In a world poisoned by international heartache Michael has reached across borders with music as a powerful and wordless weapon of respect. For his work in Morocco, Lebanon, and Turkey, Michael has been heralded by the US State Dept on three occasions for his powerful and enduring musical diplomacy.
“This is one of the most beautiful recordings I’ve heard in all my 70 years….it’s enough to make me want to learn the banjo all over again.” (Miles’ first recording, Counterpoint) – Pete Seeger
“I commend you for your hard work as an educator, and send my best wishes.”
– President Bill Clinton