NEW HAVEN — CT Folk opens the new year of its Folk Fridays series on Jan. 4 with the Too Blue string band.
Too Blue features tight harmonies by flat-picking guitarist Betsy Rome and award-winning banjo player Joan Harrison and a repertoire that starts with bluegrass but also includes swing, Celtic and jazz influences.
Showtime is 7:30 p.m. in the First Presbyterian Church Hall (704 Whitney Ave.). Tickets are $25 at the door or $20 in advance, with advance tickets available until 3 p.m. the day of the show at ctfolk.com.
The band, appearing as a quartet this time out, also includes Michael Sassano on mandolin and Jamie Doris on jazz-inflected bass.
Too Blue’s latest CD, “Trouble With the Grey,” produced and engineered by Bob Harris of Ampersand Records, has received national radio airplay and enthusiastic reviews from Bluegrass Today and Bluegrass Unlimited.
Recent performances include the Main Stage of the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, Daryl’s House Club, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, the New Haven Museum and the Greenwich Historical Society.
Harrison’s melodic banjo technique was developed as a student of banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka. In 2010, she took first place in bluegrass banjo at the Pickin’ and Fiddlin’ Contest in Roxbury. Her former bands include “Breakeven” and “Mike Burns and North Country.”
Rome’s guitar playing has been featured in Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. She is one of a relatively small pool of female performers of flat picking, a demanding style of rhythm and lead guitar.
Her playing blends bluegrass, old-time, Celtic and swing. She has won or placed in contests including Roxbury, the Pizza Hut International Bluegrass Showdown, as well as the fiddler-voted Best Accompanist award at the Arizona State Fiddle Contest.
Rome and Harrison have been singing together since 1995.
Doris, who has a jazz background, attended the Jazz and Contemporary Music program at the New School in New York City, where he studied with jazz greats such as Reggie Workman, Buster Williams, Chico Hamilton, Junior Mance, Cecil McBee, and Arnie Lawrence.
He has shared the stage and screen with the likes of Larry Goldings, John Popper (Blues Traveler), Sasha Dobson, Aaron Johnson (Musical Director, Fela!, Antibalas), and Bilal, among others.
Sassano studied mandolin with Jay Ungar and later found himself in the middle of the New York City progressive bluegrass scene. As a founding member of the eclectic “Out to Lunch,” Michael honed his harmony chops creating dynamic twin mandolin arrangements and solos with bandmate Wayne Fugate.
He has performed with Byron Berline, Barry Mitterhoff, David Amram, Walt Michael & Company, Buddy Merriam & Backroads, Jon Sholle and Grammy award winner Lisa Gutkin, among others.