The Sound Cafe
Chicago-Based Banjo & Guitar Wizard, Max Allard, Has Released Solo Debut Album Of Contemporary Work
Max Allard has been composing and learning music for as long as he can remember: figuring out tunes on his toy instruments, or making music from half filled water glasses or pots and pans. After many years of asking for a piano, he finally got one at the age of six. But Max vividly remembers picking up the banjo at eleven and the guitar a few years later. He has always been interested in harmony, and he brings the influences of many genres, cultures and styles of music to his compositions. Max plays a mix of bluegrass, jazz, new acoustic, and his favourite style of all: unclassifiable.
Max released his debut solo record Odes / Codes in January 2022. It is made up of material that he wrote in 2020 and reflects the contemplative feeling of that year, capturing moods of melancholy, nostalgia, longing, and hopefulness. It’s is an example of a new way of thinking for the banjo and how it fits in non bluegrass music. Max has performed all over Chicago as a solo artist, in a duo (Bushel & Peck with his brother Otto) and with a trio (From the Start with Ruben Whitaker and Otto Allard).
Max says of his new release, "Odes / Codes is my debut solo record. It’s made up of material that I wrote in 2020 and reflects the contemplative feeling of that year, capturing moods of melancholy, nostalgia, longing, and hopefulness. It’s an example of a new way of thinking for the banjo and how it fits in non-bluegrass music.
Mostly a solo banjo record with two solo guitar tracks and a solo piano piece, Odes / Codes explores the banjo’s depth and warmth and its pianistic similarity in a new way for banjo players to think and play. The three odes were written for people with whom I had a profound connection in 2020. The rest of the tracks are codes, or how I think of music, in patterns and as a language. There are a couple of banjo covers of piano pieces from musicians that inspired me, and there’s a banjo duet with producer Jayme Stone because I could not pass up a chance to collaborate with one of the greatest improvisers I know."
He has also toured the midwest with the Minneapolis-based progressive bluegrass band Barbaro. In February of 2020, Max and Otto had the thrill of opening for Sam Bush at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. Max is the winner of the 2018 RockyGrass Banjo Competition and the 2019 FreshGrass Banjo Award. He was selected to participate in the 2020 Acoustic Music Seminar (part of the Savannah Music Festival).
Max released his EP Soleil in September 2019, and some follow up singles on his EP Rooster in April 2020. Max was hired by composer Warren Leming to reimagine his 2001 album A Rich Man’s War and a Poor Man’s Fight with new instrumentation. Max and his brother Otto arranged the 15 tracks they play on, and they worked to help usher this project through production. The project Warren Leming’s A Rich Man’s War and a Poor Man’s Fight: Songs and Tunes Inspired by the Civil War was released in April 2020. In December 2020,
Max participated in a YouTube project called the 12 Days of Licksmas, in which Eli Gilbert invited Max and 4 other banjo players to take part in a series of writing, presenting and applying banjo licks into tunes each day for 12 days, recording videos of that and cross posting them to their YouTube pages. In total, there are 72 videos (12 each from 6 pickers). In March of 2021, Max embarked on a challenge of writing and recording one new piece per day for every day for the entire month. These were home recordings and ranged in style to include many of the genres that interested Max: from solo banjo and acoustic guitar to looped electric guitar, piano, multi-tracked tunes with banjo, guitar, bass and harmonium, and even a piece featuring the trombone. Called March Maxness, this is an exclusive release for his Patreon supporters.
Max scored the documentary film Hog Haven, directed by Christopher Beeson.
Max is currently studying composition at Oberlin Conservatory.
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