Violinist extraordinaire Alex Hargreaves rides a wave of Corvallis alums in town in the coming weeks to bring their world-class talents back home. His band, Grisman, Leslie, Hargreaves & Smith, will be appearing at the First Presbyterian Church on Friday, June 5, as part of their West Coast swing supporting their new EP, The Brotet.
Hargreaves went to Corvallis High School, and recently returned to perform for the home crowd in support of Grammy nominee Sarah Jarosz last year. In addition to Jarosz, he’s also toured with the likes of Bela Fleck, Hall & Oates as well as the legendary mandolin master, David Grisman. He also came up playing alongside Rebecca Lomnicky, another Corvallis ex-pat who has become a violin virtuoso, and plays the Majestic Theatre this week.
Hargreaves now plies his fiddle trade with a quartet of friends he’s played with off and on for a decade. With Sam Grisman, son of David, on bass, Dominick Leslie on mandolin and Nathaniel Smith on cello, the quartet pumps out smooth and innovative jazz and funk-infused bluegrass.
We spoke with exciting and rhythmic ahead of the show and he shared a few thoughts on the homecoming.
On the group’s roots:
“We played our first gig as a band in June 2014, but have all been playing together in various configurations for about 10 years. We grew up going to the same music camps and festivals, jamming together and learning from our heroes. I feel grateful to have grown up in a musical community that provided so many opportunities to be around the masters. I’ve toured with both Sam Grisman (bass) and Nathaniel Smith (cello) as sidemen for Sarah Jarosz, which was a great setting to develop our way of playing together. Dominick Leslie (mandolin) and I were roommates for three years in Boston, and have also performed together quite a bit as a duo, and also in a band led by the great guitarist, Grant Gordy. Having all of these experiences together, both professionally and informally, make us the band we are today. Those guys are also some of my closest friends, and I think that plays a big role in our sound.”
On the changing face of roots music audiences:
“Younger audiences have been appreciating roots-influenced music more and more these days. Everyone in the band has studied the traditions of bluegrass, old-time, jazz, etc. and will continue to do so, but we also listen to all kinds of music, and I think those influences come through as well. One of our priorities as a band is rhythmic feel, and I’d like to think that music with a strong sense of groove can connect to people of all ages.”
On their genre:
“We have also been influenced in a major way by those who came up in traditional bluegrass, but then created something new, combining tradition with more modern influences. The thing is, musicians who are often thought of as being ‘traditional’ in any genre, like Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs or Louis Armstrong, were completely modern and innovative, so that makes you question what tradition really means in the first place. Original music is a big part of our sound, but I know none of us will ever get tired of raging a fiddle tune!”
On playing for the home crowd:
“For me, it can be a bit more intimidating than an average show, which is ironic because my friends and family are probably the least judgmental crowd out there!”
On the Corvallis musician’s scene:
“I think Corvallis has a great musical community to grow up in. Young musicians have access to great orchestras, bands and choirs via the public school system as well as OSU, and the Folklore Society brings a lot of live music to town. I was very fortunate to have some incredible music teachers in the Corvallis area including Jessica Lambert, Penelope Wolff, Dave Storrs, Neal Grandstaff, Carol Nelson, Starr McMullen, Sila Shaman and Rebecca Jeffers.”
This is a rare opportunity to turn out and support one of our local products who has made it big on stages outside the Valley. Hargreaves sums up his fondness for his hometown succinctly: “Even though a big part of my musical upbringing happened outside of Corvallis, I wouldn’t be the musician I am today if it wasn’t for the local community.”
Grisman, Hargreaves, Leslie & Smith will be performing at the First Presbyterian Church on Friday, June 5 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Grass Roots bookstore.