Jeff Little Trio

Blue Ridge piano trio
Boone, North Carolina

 Photo: Pat Jarrett

Photo: Pat Jarrett

Jeff Little continues an often hidden, yet fascinating tradition of piano playing in the Blue Ridge Mountains. With few exceptions, the piano does not play a prominent part in Appalachian music, and is rarely the lead instrument. But Jeff Little is an exception—and a remarkable one. His distinctive two-handed style, much influenced by mountain flatpicked-guitar tradition, is breathtaking in its speed, precision, and clarity.

Jeff Little comes from Boone, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge, one of America’s richest regions for traditional music. So it is perhaps not so surprising that Jeff began playing piano at age five. His family ran Little’s Music Store in Boone, where musicians of all types frequently dropped by to play a tune. Among those was Doc Watson, a neighbor and close family friend, whose music helped to shape Jeff’s unique piano style. While Watson was a keeper of deep Appalachian traditions, he also pioneered the flatpicking of intricate fiddle melodies on the guitar and played rockabilly.

A professional musician since the age of 14, Jeff is conversant with traditional jazz, old-time, country, bluegrass, rockabilly, blues and rock ’n’ roll. With rack-mounted harmonica and vocals, he can also be a one-man show. Jeff settled in Nashville for a while, where he worked as a session man in between stints on the road with a wide range of commercial country artists, most notably Keith Urban. In 2004, he returned to the Blue Ridge and started teaching at colleges around the region; currently, he is a full-time faculty member and Artist in Residence for the Popular Music Program at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Jeff frequently appeared with Doc Watson, and he is a regular at Merlefest, the Merle Watson Memorial Festival in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He has released four CDs, and been featured on NPR several times. Jeff has taken his exciting piano style around the world on U.S. government goodwill tours, performing in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bahrain, Oman, France, and Tanzania. In 2014, he was inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame.

Appearing with Jeff Little is the father-son team of Steve Lewis and Josh Scott. Steve is one of the most respected banjo and guitar players in the Blue Ridge, and has taken top picking honors in a host of contests, including the Walnut Valley Nationals, Merlefest, Galax’s Old Fiddlers’ Convention, and the Wayne C. Henderson Guitar Competition. Josh Scott is an accomplished bass player with over a decade of professional experience.