• Photo Shoot: John Reischman and the Jaybirds in Calgary, Canada

    John Reischman and The Jaybirds. Photo by Skye Lizotte.

    CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA — John Reischman and the Jaybirds performed last weekend at the Irish Cultural Society in a concert put on by the Foothills Bluegrass Music Society. It's a COVID-era event with vaccine passports checked at the venue door and nearly everyone but the performers wearing masks. There are lots of foggy glasses and coats on the backs of chairs, but the excitement in the room is palpable: for most of the audience, this is the first live bluegrass they've heard since the Po' Ramblin' Boys show here January 23, 2020. It's just the second time in a year and a half that the Jaybirds have performed together, the first being a small concert the night before.

    "Slowly coming out of Jaybird hibernation here, we're still learning how to play music but it’s just like riding a bicycle... sort of," Reischman jokes. It's an international group, with members from LA to Nanaimo on either side of the Canadian-American border. Reischman is as furious and methodical as ever, leading his band with the kind of calm charisma that comes from years of performing. COVID hasn't slowed him down one bit.

    The Jaybirds went through an eclectic mix of songs, lots old, lots new, and lots of original work written primarily by Reischman, Trisha Gagnon (bass), and Nick Hornbuckle (banjo). There's a clear amount of love in this music, and the concert had the energy of a backyard jam elevated to the highest level, and what it lacked in curation it made up for in pure enthusiasm. They kicked off with an old favorite, "Elkhorn Ridge," then showcased "The South Road," which comes from banjo player Nick Hornbuckle's Juno-award winning album, 13 or So, which is a commemoration of family that invites tapping feet and invokes tons of nostalgia.

    Hornbuckle is joined by fiddle player Greg Spatz on a quietly moving rendition of Mace Bell's "Civil War March," which felt closer to a dance between the two musicians. Spatz is a former State of Maine Fiddle Champion, and a man of many talents with a published novel under his belt as well.

    Trisha Gagnon grounds the group on upright bass, and lends her voice (and songwriting chops) to a good portion of the group's repertoire. She closes her eyes and leans into her instrument as she sings about a childhood of harvesting berries, and she hops from wistful to empowering on the turn of a dime. She also, very notably, sells homemade jam at every Jaybirds concert. Her raspberry jam won an international Jampionship, which yes, is a real thing.

    John Reischman and the Jaybirds ended the evening with Reischman's classic "Daylighting the Creek," with Patrick Sauber on guitar with incredible energy to his soloing since joining the group in 2017.

    And with that, a bow, and lots of smiles, the audience headed home to find out exactly how good that jam is. (It's very good.)

    Skye LizotteAbout the author: Skye Lizotte is a freelance photographer and music writer based in Alberta, Canada. This is her third assignment for the Mandolin Cafe. Her musical interests vary widely and include everything from Yann Tiersen to Marty Robbins. She shoots with the Sony mirrorless system and Sigma lenses.

    John Reischman and the Jaybirds in Concert. Photos by Skye Lizotte

    John Reischman & The Jaybirds. Photos by Skye Lizotte.

    John Reischman and the Jaybirds

    John Reischman and the Jaybirds

    Nick Hornbuckle. Photo by Skye Lizotte

    John Reischman & The Jaybirds. Photos by Skye Lizotte.

    John Reischman & The Jaybirds. Photos by Skye Lizotte.

    John Reischman & The Jaybirds in Concert. Photos by Skye Lizotte.

    John Reischman & The Jaybirds. Photos by Skye Lizotte.

    John Reischman & The Jaybirds. Photos by Skye Lizotte.

    John Reischman & The Jaybirds. Photos by Skye Lizotte.

    About the concert sponsor: Foothills Bluegrass Music Society is a 12-member volunteer board that facilitates concert series from September to June with monthly events featuring international, regional and local performers from throughout the bluegrass world. Other events include pot-luck dinners & BBQs, band scrambles, open stages, dances and trivia contests, workshops, local jam sessions, bluegrass band performances in schools, hospitals and seniors' residences at no cost to the beneficiaries, and many other activities that promote bluegrass music in the community.

    Additional Information

    John Reischman teaches his popular course Melodic Mandolin Tunes on Peghead Nation, where you can learn more than 60 of his tunes, including several he has recorded with the Jaybirds. And in early 2022, Peghead Nation will add a new John Reischman course called Old-Time Mandolin, where he will focus on teaching tunes from the old-time music canon, backup techniques, and more.

    Comments 6 Comments
    1. BrianWilliam's Avatar
      BrianWilliam -
      They’ve got all the jams!

    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      I got to try the peach jam. Deadly good. Pretty sure she sold out what she brought to the gig.
    1. Don Grieser's Avatar
      Don Grieser -
      Thanks for the photos. Great to see them playing shows again.

      JR & the Jaybirds have a wonderful total band sound, such great ensemble playing.
    1. AZmando's Avatar
      AZmando -
      Superb photography! Really like the photo of the banjo player and especially the close up shot of John's Mando. That's one of the best sounding mandolins on the planet. Well done, Skye.
    1. Denman John's Avatar
      Denman John -
      Thanks for sharing! We’ll being going down to Victoria to see them in December and this just wet the appetite…
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Noting the anniversary of this feature.