John Jorgenson’s bluegrass band J2B2 energized and amazed both students and evening concertgoers in two concerts on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at the Ralph E. Vavak Memorial Auditorium at the Montezuma-Cortez High School.
About 250 students from Cortez Middle School and M-CHS were mesmerized during a 50-minute master class presented by members of the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band. A show of hands indicated that only about 25 percent of the students were familiar with bluegrass, a genre emanating from settlers to the Appalachia region of the U.S.
The quartet performed several songs for the students and they explained each instrument’s role in the music and the intricacies of playing each. Jorgenson also spoke to the harmonies of the vocalists.
Students asked a variety of questions including, “Why doesn’t the bass get a solo?” and “How much money do you make?” Those questions prompted a song that featured Mark Fain on a bass solo, and Herb Pederson to explain “Playing the banjo, singing and writing songs has allowed me to put three children through college.” Both responses resulted in enthusiastic applause from the students.
Jorgenson and Pederson also both shared experiences about the song-writing process.
The students began to understand just how accomplished these musicians are when Jorgenson mentioned that he played in Elton John’s band (for six years), and Herb Pederson explained he had toured with John Denver for three years.
Students gave the quartet a rousing standing ovation and asked for autographs and selfies. The musicians happily complied.
An audience of 320 people, including about 50 youths, were treated to an evening performance. Jorgenson demonstrated his mastery of the mandolin from the first song to the last, with great licks on the guitar in between. Jorgenson, Pederson and guitarist Patrick Sauber blended their vocals to harmonic perfection.
Their concert included rollickin’ rhythms like “Beautiful Sound,” written by Chris Hillman and and John Jorgenson, to the poignant “Wandering Boy” by the Carter Family, as well as Jorgenson’s own ode to life on the road, “Travelin’ Angels.” A standing ovation prompted an encore by the quartet with the audience giving them one final standing ovation. While the audience included folks who “love bluegrass” to those who find it “not my favorite kind of music,” all left with a new appreciation of the genre and the musicians who play it, with “We loved it” being the most often heard comment about the concert as the audience left.