Susan Alcorn Quintet


The American pedal steel guitarist emerges as a singular bandleader, bringing improvisational rigor to an expansive blend of styles. Her nimble quintet corrals four string players and an agile percussionist in a feast of liquid, contrapuntal melody.

Susan Alcorn Quintet

Susan Alcorn Quintet

© Nicola Farah Smith

Past Dates

Concerts online
Watch this concert as a recording on  ARTE Concert or in the  Berliner Festspiele Media Library.

Live concert in Berlin

Susan Alcorn Quintet: “Pedernal”

The pedal steel guitar has long been associated with country music, and Susan Alcorn cut her teeth on the instrument playing in honky-tonk bands across Texas during the 1980s and 1990s. Yet Alcorn had always loved all kinds of music, and her innate curiosity eventually led her to jazz and improvised music. Last year, at age 67, she finally released her first album as a bandleader. The music was written during a retreat on a New Mexico mesa, which provided the album “Pedernal” with its title, and the pieces convey its expansive vistas, otherworldly atmosphere, and contemplative aura. With the exception of drummer Ryan Sawyer, the entire quintet is string-based, producing gorgeous strands of harmony and woozy, contrapuntal melody that glides and shimmers, melding post-bop, 20th century classical music, western swing, and ambient drift, without falling into any single style or category. Built upon the sturdy bass lines of Michael Formanek and imperturbable yet splintered grooves of Sawyer, Alcorn, electric guitarist Mary Halvorson and violinist Eddy Kwon (filling in for Mark Feldman, who plays on the recording) weave together a gorgeous lattice of liquid lyricism that conveys the natural beauty of the American Southwest with the mindset of seasoned improvisers.

Susan Alcorn pedal steel guitar
Eddy Kwon violin
Michael Formanek double bass
Mary Halvorson guitar
Ryan Sawyer drums