John Reischman's Biography

Grammy Award-winning musician John Reischman has been a foundational mandolinist, composer, bandleader, and musical educator in bluegrass and North American roots and folk music since emerging from the vibrant “new acoustic” bluegrass music scene of the Bay Area in the 1980s. A member of the groundbreaking Tony Rice Unit, Reischman’s mastery of bluegrass, old-time, swing, and multiple Latin American musical styles, coupled with an Old Master’s sense of tone, taste, and musicality, has brought him a global reputation as one of the finest mandolinists of his era.

His latest CD, New Time & Old Acoustic on Corvus Records, blends a lifetime of musical influences into an engaging recording with some of today’s top acoustic players including flatpicking guitarists Molly Tuttle and Chris Eldridge, fiddler Alex Hargreaves, and bassist Todd Phillips. The 14-track album includes 12 new Reischman originals and a reinterpretation of his classic tune “Salt Spring.” New Time & Old Acoustic is the most mature, accomplished solo recording of Reischman’s storied career.

Reischman debuted as a touring and recording artist with the seminal West Coast bluegrass band The Good Ol’ Persons, cementing his reputation as a powerful soloist with an original vision for his instrument.

Living in the Bay Area in the 1980s, Reischman debuted as a touring and recording artist with the seminal West Coast bluegrass band The Good Ol’ Persons, cementing his reputation as a powerful soloist with an original vision for his instrument. “They were a great outlet for me because they embraced original material from the individual band members, giving me inspiration to explore composing,” he adds.

As a member of the Tony Rice Unit featured on that band’s most iconic recordings, Reischman helped define the “new acoustic music” movement in contemporary bluegrass. His unmistakable mandolin style and signature clear tone fuses early influences from Bill Monroe and other legends of traditional bluegrass mandolin with contemporary styles played by Sam Bush, David Grisman, and the late jazz mandolinist Jethro Burns. John’s remarkably clear-voiced mandolin, in turn, has influenced a new generation of mandolinists including Chris Thile, David Benedict, and Joe K. Walsh.

After leaving the Tony Rice Unit, Reischman moved north of the border to Vancouver, British Columbia in the 1990s and formed The Jaybirds, where he recruited the best acoustic musicians on each side of the border to realize his broad musical vision. John also explored more intimate musical styles playing mandolin on several duet records with fingerstyle guitarist John Miller.

John’s remarkably clear-voiced mandolin, in turn, has influenced a new generation of mandolinists including Chris Thile, David Benedict, and Joe K. Walsh.

Building on those milestones, Reischman has released a series of acclaimed solo recordings – North of the Border, Up In The Woods, and Walk Along John – that showcase his gifts as a composer and instrumentalist. Many of John’s signature “melodic mandolin” tunes such as “Salt Spring,” “Little Pine Siskin,” and “Birdland Breakdown,” also have been adopted as bluegrass standards and can be heard at jam sessions across the continent until the wee hours of the dawn.

In addition to his solo career, as leader of John Reischman and the Jaybirds, John and his talented U.S. and Canadian bandmates have toured extensively throughout North America and abroad, bringing a uniquely Pacific Northwest sound to their brand of bluegrass and original acoustic instrumentals. After only a single personnel change in 20 years, the Jaybirds feature four exquisitely talented bluegrass musicians.

Trisha Gagnon has distinguished herself as one of the finest female vocalists in bluegrass, and provides the Jaybirds a solid rhythmic and harmonic foundation with her strong stand-up bass playing. A songwriter for the band, Trisha is also a world-class berry farmer and jam-maker. With his unique two-finger style on five-string banjo, Nick Hornbuckle gives the Jaybirds a fresh sound at one of its most crucial skilled positions. Lending strong bass vocal harmonies to the mix, Hornbuckle also composes sublime, lyrical banjo instrumentals and has released two award-nominated solo records.

Greg Spatz holds the band’s violin chair, giving the Jaybirds a selection of fiddle styles from new acoustic bluegrass, Celtic, and old-time styles when not jotting notes for his next novel. Newest member Patrick Sauber has performed with John Fogarty, Peter Rowan, John Jorgenson, and Tim O’Brien, among other greats. He gives the Jaybirds a brilliant lead guitar voice that matches the high standard of musicianship that has been this band’s hallmark for two decades. Recently, he has emerged as a second lead vocalist for the band.

Reischman remains committed to his original vision of exploring multiple mandolin genres in a style based on making each note and phrase sound uniquely rich and clear.

Together, John Reischman and the Jaybirds has earned two coveted Juno Award nominations for the best performances in the Canadian organisation’s “Roots and Traditional” category, releasing seven albums during their 20-year tenure. A sought-after instructor at mandolin workshops and acoustic music camps, John teaches the popular Melodic Mandolin Tunes series on the highly regarded Peghead Nation music instructional website.

Considered by critics and audiences as one of the true masters of mandolin today, John Reischman remains committed to his original vision of exploring multiple mandolin genres in a style based on making each note and phrase sound uniquely rich and clear. One of those rare instrumental musicians who, like his mentor Tony Rice, can be recognized immediately within his first few notes, John’s playing on his legendary 1924 Lloyd Loar-signed Gibson F-5 mandolin epitomizes contemporary melodic mandolin.

A true musician’s musician who serves the melody over instrumental flash and hot licks, John Reischman continues to explore the frontiers of mandolin in fresh ways in the 21st Century, reaching new generations of fans with his impeccable musical taste and style.