Famed Jazz Banjoist/Entertainer Brings Her Swingin' Sound to Birdland

Famed Jazz Banjoist/Entertainer Brings Her Swingin' Sound to BirdlandCynthia Sayer, the internationally celebrated jazz banjoist and vocalist, will lead her Joyride Quartet in "The Hot Jazz Banjo Show" in a rare New York City concert appearance at the legendary jazz club Birdland on Thursday, March 15 at 6:00 PM. Birdland is located at 315 W. 44th Street in Manhattan. Tickets: $30.

The founding member of Woody Allen's jazz band, who honed her virtuoso chops playing with many renowned artists, is known and beloved for her electrifying, swing-based performances featuring her distinctive style of jazz banjo, the guitar's predecessor in jazz. Sayer's vocals are divine and her banjo a driving force of nature - think Bela Fleck meets Django Reinhardt - as she delights audiences with an unexpected mix of hot jazz, Great American Songbook, vaudeville, tango, classical, and more.

Accompanying Sayer for "The Hot Jazz Banjo Show" will be Dennis Litchtman on clarinet and violin, Jared Engel on string bass, and Larry Eagle on percussion.


  • The banjo evolved from gourd instruments brought over by Africans who were captured for slavery.
  • There are huge bass banjos, standing as tall as a string bass, overgrown-looking cello banjos, and even tiny piccolo banjos.
  • The banjo was wildly popular in jazz until about 1934, when the guitar came into fashion.
  • It was once commonplace for women to play banjo as parlor entertainment for their guests.
  • In the late 1800s, there was an effort to "elevate" the lowly image of the banjo by playing classical music on it.
  • Early banjo strings were often made from catgut - i.e. sheep or goat intestines, not kitties.
  • If you played in a banjo orchestra or banjo club in 1890, then you were extremely cool.

ABOUT Cynthia Sayer

Multi award-winning instrumentalist/vocalist/bandleader Cynthia Sayer is acclaimed by musicians, critics, and fans alike as one of the top 4-string jazz banjoists in the world today. Praised for her "drive and virtuosity" by the New York Times, Cynthia enchants audiences with her electrifying, swing-based performances and captivating stage presence wherever she appears.

Recent festival appearances include headlining at the 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival and the 2017 Rochester International Jazz Festival. Multiple international jazz festivals have honored Cynthia as "Festival Favorite" and readers polls have named her "Favorite Living Banjo Player," "First-Choice Headliner," and "Best Banjo Player" and she is an inductee into The American Banjo Hall of Fame. Cynthia has appeared as a guest and performer on CBS, FOX & ABC network television shows, including Good Morning America and The Morning Show, as well as on NPR's Piano Jazz, BBC Radio, and elsewhere. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, DownBeat, Fretboard Journal, International Musician, People Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and countless other local, trade, and foreign media outlets.

Sayer first rose to international prominence as a founding member of Woody Allen's New Orleans Jazz Band, all the while exploring her wider musical interests and playing with such legendary jazz, popular, and roots music artists as Bucky Pizzarelli, Dick Hyman, Les Paul, Marvin Hamlisch, Wynton Marsalis, Andy Statman, John McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) ), Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox, Charlie Giordano (with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band), as well as leading jazz contemporaries such as Wycliffe Gordon, Anat Cohen, Vince Giordano, Scott Robinson, Randy Sandke, and many others.

A multi-instrumentalist heard on distinguished feature film and TV soundtracks and comfortable in many genres, Cynthia identifies first and foremost as a jazz banjoist, touring extensively with her bands and as a guest artist across four continents. At home, she performs at prestigious venues like New York City's Lincoln Center, Winter Jazzfest, and Joe's Pub at The Public and is producer of the annual "Hot Strings Festival" at City Winery NY.

Her feature CD's, nine in all, have received rave reviews and multiple "Best of" nominations and awards in various categories, including two Jazz Journalists Association best pick lists. Sayer has played for two U.S. Presidents (once at The White House), performed with several symphony orchestras including The New York Philharmonic, was the official banjoist for The New York Yankees, and is proud to be the subject of a Trivial Pursuit game question.

Sayer is an avid educator, presenting clinics, programs, and lecture/demonstrations at schools, colleges, and cultural organizations. She was filmed for a national educational project co-sponsored by The Smithsonian Institution and has contributed articles to several American and British trade publications. Her play-along program, You're IN The Band, is popular with players of all instruments learning and practicing traditional/hot jazz and swing.

Cynthia lives in New York City and endorses Ome Banjos, GHS Strings, Blue Chip Picks, and The Realist Banjo Pickups by David Gage.


Launched almost 70 years ago, legendary jazz club Birdland treats midtown Manhattan to some of the best jazz on the planet, including memorable sets by such musicians as Oscar Peterson, Pat Metheny, Diana Krall, Roy Haynes, Michel Legrand, Dave Brubeck, Pat Martino, Tony Williams, Hank Jones, Michel Petrucciani, Maynard Ferguson, Freddie Hubbard, Marian McPartland, John Pizzarelli, Kurt Elling, Joe Lovano, McCoy Tyner, Michael Brecker, Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Jon Hendricks, George Shearing, James Moody, Yellowjackets, John Scofield, Phoebe Snow, Dave Holland, and Tito Puente, as well as the big bands of Chico O'Farrill, Duke Ellington, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Maria Schneider. In addition, Birdland is home to such popular musical events as the Umbria Jazz Festival in NYC and the Annual Django Reinhardt NY Festival.


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