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JT Video Premiere: “Dexterity” by Mike Barnett

A fiddle-and-bass take on a Charlie Parker classic comes with a moving backstory

Mike Barnett
Mike Barnett (photo courtesy of Compass Records)

In the world of country music, fiddler Mike Barnett is a heavyweight, having played with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, the Bryan Sutton Band, David Grisman, Tony Trischka, Northern Lights, and many others. His own album, Portraits in Fiddles, received a Grammy nod for Best Bluegrass Album in 2018. For its follow-up, Barnett assembled an album of duets with players such as Skaggs, Sierra Hull, and Molly Tuttle. The album, titled +1, was completed and scheduled for release in September 2020. Then cruel fate intervened.

Last summer, Barnett suffered a brain aneurysm and had to be hospitalized. The album release was delayed to give him time to recover. With help from medical professionals and from his wife, classical violinist Annalise Ohse, Barnett has regained the ability to walk and talk and is currently hard at work on musical rehab, reconnecting his brain to his arms and hands.

Now that the fiddler is finally able to appreciate the occasion, +1 is back on Compass Records’ release schedule, due out on March 19. As a preview, JazzTimes is honored to premiere the video below, which pairs Barnett with bassist Jeff Picker on a supple cover of Charlie Parker’s “Dexterity.”

Barnett says of the track: “Jeff Picker and I met in NYC, playing bar gigs around town. A lot of them … Bar gigs can be pretty brutal, but a bar gig with Jeff was always something to look forward to. These days we’re musical cohorts in Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, mostly playing bluegrass, but Jeff is also an incredible jazz player. We decided to take a stab at this Charlie Parker bebop classic.”

Watching the dexterity, for want of a better word, that Barnett exhibits during this video, can be more than a little sad, given the physical conditions with which he’s now struggling. But all the more reason to marvel at his skills, celebrate the fact that he remains with us, and hope for his complete recovery.

For more information about Mike Barnett, visit his website.