The supercharged “flexigrass” sound of Pete Wernick’s Live Five began as a musical experiment by “Dr. Banjo in 1992. Fresh from twelve years with bluegrass legends Hot Rize, Wernick assembled a unit based in bluegrass, but infused with traditional jazz elements. That’s something like a bluegrass band with banjo, bass and … clarinet, vibraphone and light-brushed drums.
Pete Wernick, also known as Dr. Banjo, is one of the most creative and just plain fun musicians in blue, new and/or jazz grass. He started playing instrumentals with Country Cooking in the early 70’s and went on to national and international acclaim with the group. He helped organize the group Hot Rize and is the first IBMA president. Pete’s blazing innovations have crossed back and forth over the borders of bluegrass, but fans can always count on his love and tradition, good taste and pure rippling tone.
Greg Harris’s vibraphone or “vibes” gives a sweet-ringing texture to the group’s sound. Both mellow and percussive, Greg’s mallets on bass achieve a rhythmic drive that thrills audiences.
Bill Pontarelli swings and soars on “Flexigrass” clarinet. Not many clarinet players have studied bluegrass fiddle players along with clarinet players the likes of Benny Goodman, but Bill does it all. His lightening-quick lines and sophisticated ear add many exciting moments to Live Five shows.
Kris Ditson is probably the world’s only drummer who thinks “bluegrass.” With brushes, a light touch, and a natural feel for the bluegrass beat, his easy smile and that floating pulse help keep the “live” in Live Five.
Roger Johns brings formidable bass chops and an uncanny ear to the group’s blend. Unfazed by the band’s demanding tempos, he fearlessly blazes new trails with his solos and keeps the group locked in with his strong smooth tones.