The Kruger Brothers have released an innovative new project during the annual MerleFest Music Festival in Western North Carolina. The Roan Mountain Suite is the 5th commission granted to composer Jens Kruger and the Kruger Brothers trio. The project coincides with the 50thanniversary of the inaugural meeting to conserve the Roan, an effort initiated by the late Stanley A. Murray, husband of patron, Judy Murray, of Kingsport, TN.
The trio has become world renowned for their unique classically-infused folk/acoustic music. Characteristically, this latest original work combines elements of classical, chamber music, folk, jazz and bluegrass. It was commissioned to honor the region, history and legacy of Tennessee's Roan Mountain. The Kruger Brothers are joined on the album by The Kontras Quartet.
Judy Murray founded The Stanley A. Murray Roan Mountain Suite Memorial Fund to seek support for the project, dedicated to the memory of her late husband, Stanley A. Murray, (1923-1990). The Roan Mountain Suite is a musical experience honoring the treasured landscape of the region. Stan Murray was a 14-year Chairman of the Appalachian Trail Conference, a visionary and champion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Highlands of Roan, and Founder of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, initially founded for the protection of Roan Mountain.
"Roan can be perceived in many ways through all of our senses. Countless beautiful words, have been written about the Roan, and glorious photographs have been taken, but I've always felt that Roan needed a wonderful piece of music to pay tribute to it, to honor it," Murray says. "When I heard the Kruger Brothers and works that Jens had composed, I knew I'd found my composer and my musicians."
The Roan Mountain Suite is a vibrant new example of Jens Kruger's brilliant ability to enlist the illustrative power of music to tell a story in eloquent detail. While Jens plays in a melodic style that has roots in bluegrass, his music is distinguished by long, melodic passages and a complex compositional foundation, often building on jazz or classical themes and techniques.
"Jens is able to capture the essence of a landscape and translate it into music," Murray says.
Originally from Switzerland, Jens Kruger began playing North American folk music at an early age and was particularly inspired by recordings of Doc Watson, Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and other progenitors of country, bluegrass and folk music. He writes the music for all of The Kruger Brothers' original tunes, collaborating with brother, Uwe Kruger, for insightful and stirring lyrics that complement the music. In 2006, Jens began his official venture into the themes and forms of classical music when he was commissioned to write Music from the Spring for banjo, guitar, bass and full symphonic orchestra. Jens has since received four commissions to write classical pieces which The Kruger Brothers have performed with various orchestral ensembles: Appalachian Concerto with string quartet; Spirit of the Rockies (commissioned by Canada's iconic Banff Center) with a small orchestra; Lucid Dreamer, a chamber music piece written specifically for and commissioned by the Kontras Quartet; and now, the Roan Mountain Suite.
Jens is known for his innovative banjo composition and performance, integrating folk music with European classical music. He was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music in 2013, the fourth recipient of this prestigious honor. Jens was inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame in 2011, and was nominated for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Banjo Player of the Year Award for 2016.
"Music is an enhancer," Jens Kruger says. "For instance, you can look a landscape and the right music enhances the emotion you have for that imagery. Music also shapes, to a certain degree, your perception of the landscape."
Since their formal introduction to American audiences in 1997, The Kruger Brothers' remarkable discipline, creativity and their ability to infuse classical music into folk music has resulted in a unique sound that has made them a highly respected fixture within the world of acoustic music. The honesty of their writing has since become a hallmark of the trio's work. Uwe Kruger shines as a singer who is both direct and emotive, and for his impeccable guitar playing. He is also the lyricist for the group's original songs. The trio is known for inventive compositions and performances that defy categorization. Their music is at once thoughtful and lyrical, and then virtuosic and complex. The experience is always profound.
Born and raised in Europe, brothers Jens and Uwe Kruger began singing and playing instruments at a very young age, and began their professional career in 1979. With the more recent addition of New York City native, Joel Landsberg, (who comes with his own noteworthy musical pedigree, having studied with jazz great Milt Hinton), the trio has been performing together since 1995, and is now based in Wilkesboro, NC.
In their ever-expanding body of work - more than 20 albums to date - Jens Kruger (banjo and vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar and lead vocals), and Joel Landsberg (bass and vocals) - The Kruger Brothers personify the spirit of exploration and innovation that forms the core of the American musical tradition. Their original music is crafted around their discerning taste, and the result is unpretentious, cultivated, and delightfully fresh.
"Roan Mountain resonates in a deep and personal way with all those who visit it,
and by the same token, the Kruger Brothers' music reaches into the hearts and souls
of its listeners in profound and stirring ways." ~ Judy Murray