Matt Flinner was a banjo prodigy who began performing at bluegrass festivals as a child. He won the National Banjo Contest in Winfield, Kansas, in 1999, and won best mandolin player the following year.
The Matt Flinner Trio – comprised of guitarist Ross Martin, Eric Thorin on bass, and Flinner playing mandolin, will perform in Moab on Sunday, Jan. 31, at Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.
Flinner has toured and recorded with a wide range of musicians including Tim O’Brien, Steve Martin, Darrell Scott, Leftover Salmon and many others.
The jazzy bluegrass-newgrass group is known for its “music du jour” tours where each musician writes a song the day of a concert – the trio then performs the songs that evening.
“It’s a huge commitment,” Flinner said. “We have to be very mentally focused. We rehearse beforehand. We give it the best treatment we can. We’re as ‘on’ as we possibly can be.”
Most of their material comes from du-jour shows. In fact, their new CD, titled “Traveling Roots” is comprised of 12 of “the most beautiful tunes” from past du-jour shows, Flinner said.
As a musician and programmer at KZMU Community Radio in Moab, Eric Jones has long been familiar with the Matt Flinner Trio, as well as Flinner’s other band affiliations. Jones programs a bluegrass and acoustic show on Sundays from noon to 3 p.m., called “The Grass is Greener.”
“There’s very much a freshness about (the trio); the group has its own sound,” Jones said. “They are three phenomenal musicians.”
While Flinner describes their music as “bluegrass and newgrass,” with elements of jazz and classical, Jones said he hears it as “clearly jazz, heavily influenced by the bluegrass tradition.”
Mandolin player David Grisman and jazz legend Miles Davis, as well as the music of Tin Hat Trio and the Swedish jazz trio EST, have all influenced the Matt Flinner Trio.
The idea for their du-jour shows came from Davis’ “Kind of Blue” – an album recorded in the studio with only “sketches” of the songs presented to the musicians beforehand, Flinner said.
Martin lives in New York City, where he performs regularly with jazz and bluegrass artists. Thorin is based in Lyons, Colorado, where he is in demand as a bass player in the Denver music scene.
For the past 10 years, the trio have come together periodically to record music and tour.
The Jan. 31 performance at Star Hall will include songs from their new CD, as well as traditional old-time music – “ancient fiddle tunes we put our own treatment on,” Flinner said. The group will perform two 45-minute sets.
The Moab performance ends a leg of the tour that includes Colorado’s Front Range and Salt Lake City.
“Moab is a special place,” said Flinner, who grew up in Salt Lake City, and often hiked and camped in the Moab area. He and his wife Wendy Harlin married in Moab more than a dozen years ago. He’s performed at Star Hall previously with various groups.
Flinner is based in Nashville, where he often plays in pick-up bands.
“The bluegrass scene here is amazingly deep,” he said. “There are tons of awesome musicians you’ve never heard of that live here whom I’m inspired by.”
Matt Flinner Trio comes to Star Hall on Jan. 31
“There’s very much a freshness about (the trio); the group has its own sound … They are three phenomenal musicians.”
When: Sunday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m.
Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.
Cost: $10; tickets available at the door
For more information, go to: www.mattflinner.com.