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The Night Travelers are a virtuosic, artistic and charismatic musical duo with the acoustic impact and harmonic depth to please any audience.
Drawing on multiple genres (World, Bluegrass, Folk, Country, Americana, Blues, Jazz, Dawg, Celtic, Classical, and Pop/Rock) and focusing on tone and presence by creating incredible virtuoso arrangements for each instrument, The Night Travelers create a sound which presents as if way more than two people were playing. As detailed melodic lines on both instruments weave and dance around each other, audiences often comment that they could swear they hear at least 4 instruments playing and are mesmerized by the sound and carried away.
Combining these special techniques and philosophies with Master level musicianship allows The Night Travelers to lift the simple combination of a banjo and bass, above average expectations, radiating an orchestral quality which transcends genres in a distinctive voice all their own.
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James McKinney is a true Master of the 5-string banjo. One of the most advanced players anywhere and a Scruggs and Reno style expert, James is also considered a leading expert in jazz and theory in the banjo world, having been mentored by renowned jazz educator, David Baker, and Mr. Henry Ferrel (teacher of Chet Atkins and Jethro Burns).
In his early days James played often with legends such as Bill Monroe, Vassar Clements, and John Hartford. James won the South U.S. Banjo Championship at age 15 and in 1982 he won the National Banjo Championship at Winfield, Kansas, as well as first-place in dozens of state and regional championships. He made the first of several appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, The Porter Wagoner Show, and the stages of Opryland at age 19 as part "Smoky Mountain Sunshine" combining his talents as a banjoist with those of musical arranger.
In the 1980's he lived in Dallas and recorded and toured with his band "Danger in the Air" and later moved to Nashville to do full-time touring and studio work.
James spent many years as a popular studio musician in Nashville and performed/recorded with the likes of Porter Wagoner, Barbara Mandrell, John Hartford, and Johnny Cash in addition to a long and close friendship and professional relationship with legendary fiddler ,Vassar Clements, with whom he toured and performed as "The Vassar Clements Band".
James was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in November of 2015 and has recorded on many projects as well as having taught at many major banjo/music camps including SPGBMA workshops and other Master workshops all over the USA and in Australia.
Today, James lives in Atlanta, GA and has a new acoustic group called, "The Night Travelers", together with bassist Niki Portmann. They currently tour and play in the continental U.S. and are looking to future tours in both Western Europe and Australia. "The Night Travelers" first CD project, "Campfire", went into world-wide release in fall of 2012.
Progressive World,, Folk,
Blues, and more
Virtuoso Music with Heart & Soul
Born in Stone Mountain, Georgia, Niki Portmann’s family immigrated to the USA from Switzerland in 1963. She learned fluent German from her mother as a young child and absorbed a passion for engineering and science from her father who was a Mechanical Engineer.
Although no one in the family could formally play an instrument, Niki grew up with a deep love of all kinds of music from a young age. Her mother and father had a strong fascination with American Folk music and tied it together with their love of German folk music as well creating a strong foundation for Niki in appreciation of these music forms.
Her love of music lead her to experiment with various instruments and choir growing up but she decided to follow her father's footsteps by getting a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering with minors in Math and Applied Physics. She had a very successful engineering career for many years until she re-discovered music after meeting James McKinney.
With James' encouragement and support she discovered the Upright Acoustic Bass and progressed very quickly into a talented bassist and composer. Using her engineering skills she also works as the group's sound engineer and has begun her own boutique line of custom engineered speakers and amplifiers for specific acoustic instruments, “Portmann Acoustics”. Niki was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame in November of 2016.
Niki lives in Atlanta, GA and is the bassist for "The Night Travelers" with James McKinney on 5-string banjo. Together they currently tour and play in the continental U.S. and are looking forward to tours in both Western Europe and Australia. "The Night Travelers" first CD project, "Campfire", went into world-wide release in fall of 2012.