Violinist and Singer-Songwriter Andrew Bird on His Stealth Jazz Influence, and 'Finest Work Yet'

May 2, 2019

Andrew Bird is mostly known for his tightly crafted and intricately layered pop songs. But this violinist also thrives in extremely loose and often chaotic environments — settings that favor unpredictability and ample space for improvisation — as we learn on this episode of The Checkout.

At this year’s GroundUP Festival in Miami, Bird staged a special Great Room performance, engaging in a rare duo with the Cameroonian bassist and vocalist Richard Bona. We’ll get an exclusive taste of that music, and delve into Bird’s new album, My Finest Work Yet. We’ll also learn about the violinist’s myriad musical influences, from Maurice Ravel to Lester Young to the semi-obscure blues artist Geeshie Wiley.

Andrew Bird at The GroundUP Music Fest in Miami
Credit Stella K

“If I just worked on my same 12 songs over three years and kept honing those songs, I wouldn’t be exercising a whole 80 percent of my musicianship,” Bird says. “My band is all New York jazz guys. I’m not under the jazz banner. However, the people I play with and general philosophy and ethos is jazz — that’s the bedrock of what I’m doing.”

Bird’s jazz spirit, which comes alive on this show, is also showcased on his YouTube series, Live From The Great Room. Its premise is that he invites another musician to perform with him in his home, live on film. Here is an episode with bassist and singer-songwriter Esperanza Spalding, who featured Bird on her 2017 album Exposure.

Andrew Bird performs at the Kings Theatre and Brooklyn Steel in mid-September; for more tour dates and information, visit his website.

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Concert Mixes from GroundUP Festival by Nic Hard.