On his latest album, Colorado blues and roots specialist Otis Taylor means “Recapturing the Banjo” on a couple of levels.
“People don’t know — whites don’t know — that blacks play the banjo,” explains Taylor, 60, who became an active recording artist in 1995, after a hiatus from music during which he was an antique dealer and cycling team coach. “Historically it’s important that people understand that. We don’t play like Bela Fleck. It’s a whole different techinque.
“The blues came from the banjo, and people don’t know that, either. I didn’t know until about 15 years ago that (the banjo) came from Africa. I talked to my banjo teacher one day and said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ He was like, ‘Oh, I didn’t think about it,’ but that definitely changed the way I look at the music.”
Banjo was actually the first instrument Taylor learned to play, as a child growing up in Denver.
He discovered it on a trip to the city’s Folkways Center, where he took his mother’s ukelele to have a broken string repaired.
“I went there and never came out,” Taylor recalls. “ I’d go there every day after school and just hang out. As a little kid I wanted to play clarinet but we were too poor. I wanted to play drums but didn’t get it together. I wanted to be a mandolin player in the ’70s but wasn’t very good.
“I just picked up a banjo there and it never left my hands. It was the perfect fit.”
Otis Taylor performs at 8 p.m. Friday (May 16) at the Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $15. Call (734) 761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.