WHO IS HE?
Tony Furtado's music career has had several incarnations. Although he listened to jazz, folk, pop, blues, Celtic music and classic rock while growing up, he initially made his mark in bluegrass. After taking up the banjo at 12, he became known as a teen-age prodigy, twice winning the National Bluegrass Banjo Championship and playing for the band Laurie Lewis & Grant Street until 1989. In the '90s, he became enamored of the slide guitar, thanks to his interest in blues and folk, and started playing roots-rock instrumentals that attracted the attention of the jam-band community. Eventually, he exposed his songsmith tendencies by allowing vocal tunes to sneak into his sets. Now 46, he is well into a career as a singer-songwriter in the Americana vein, while his eclectic tastes and virtuosity have earned him comparisons to Ry Cooder, Béla Fleck, David Lindley, Taj Majal and David Grisman.
A longtime resident of Portland, Ore., Furtado has performed in Tucson several times, and he headlined the Tucson Folk Festival in 2011. He currently tours with bass player Sam Howard and drummer Russ Kleiner. The same line-up plays on his latest CD/DVD, Live at Mississippi Studios, which is the final project resulting from Furtado's 10-year association with Tucson's Funzalo Records.
BUY THIS ALBUM
Furtado had been moving toward combining all of his musical influences for several years by the time 2002's American Gypsy was released, but its meld of bluegrass, folk, blues, Celtic and funk was a revelation and a turning point in his career. His first release for Funzalo, These Chains, in 2004, marked his emergence as a singer-songwriter; he penned nine of the 13 songs on it. He also recently saw the release of Special Event 22, a live-in-the-studio solo acoustic album on the audiophile label Blue Coast Records. It is available only as a super-high-res digital download at bluecoastrecords.com/store/tony-furtado/special-event-22
Most of Furtado's cuts are winners, but especially exceptional are his cover of the traditional "Man of Constant Sorrow" (featuring Tom O'Brien) from the 1994 album Full Circle; "Deep Water," the title track of his 2008 CD; and the Afro-funk-bluegrass-jazz instrumental "Portlandia," from the 2012 record Golden.
Tony Furtado and his band will play at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 31, at Monterey Court, 505 W. Miracle Mile. Salvador Duran will open the show. Advance tickets cost $15; $20 the day of the show; available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/677689. Call 207-2429 for more information.