Rob Curto (composer/songwriter, piano and diatonic accordions) is a musician with a reputation for dizzying skill and deft mastery of the accordion across musical and geographical boundaries.
Mixing the roots Americana stylings of the great Bill Monroe with rhythmic and melodic elements from Brazil, Curto has been part of a movement to establish the accordion as a versatile and important instrument in contemporary roots music. He is a founding member of the "Brazilian Bluegrass" band Matuto, who have toured extensively across North America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Curto has been a staple at music festivals and events, including Wintergrass, Red Wing Roots, and Rhythm and Roots.
In addition to the Brazilian music for which he has become well known, Curto has gained a reputation as an all-around master of the accordion and has been in high demand across genres. His musical collaborations include performing and recording with Latin Grammy award winner Lila Downs; Klezmer clarinetist David Krakauer; trumpeter/composer Frank London; Punjabi Indian singer Kiran Ahluwalia; and icon of Brazilian Forró, the great accordionist Dominguinhos.
He spent years living and playing in Brazil, completely absorbing and interpreting the country’s musical traditions and is widely regarded as forró’s foremost ambassador in the States.
Since relocating to Philadelphia with his wife and abundance of pets, Curto has developed an interest in Irish button box, adding B/C button accordion to his repertoire. He studies with NEA National Heritage Fellow and multi-All Ireland Champion, Billy McComiskey, and occasionally with John Whelan and PJ Hernon. Curto is profoundly interested in the (relatively) recent history of accordion in traditional Irish music, a passion that has brought him zig-zagging around West Kerry and Co. Sligo, joining sessions and absorbing tradition and tunes.
Fish Harmonics is a Philadelphia-based ensemble, led by accordionist Rob Curto, that plays adventurous, unabashedly accordion-focused American roots music.
Influenced by celtic, old time, and modern bluegrass sounds, the band brings a unique free-wheeling and improvisational energy to both classic tunes and original compositions.
Featuring Curto’s mastery of the piano and diatonic accordions, coupled with rhythmic arco bass playing, old-timey strings, and groove-oriented drumming, the band is creating an exciting blend of sounds both familiar and new.
Chris Coyle (acoustic bass) is a bassist, composer and music educator based in Philadelphia, PA. As a very active performer, he can be found in an array of musical settings including Jazz (with his own Outside Sound ensemble, and with noted musicians such as John Swana, Behn Gillece, Doug Hirlinger, Matt Scarano, V. Shayne Frederick and others), Americana (Noggin Hill, Lady Bird), Experimental (Son Step, NotSoSilentCinema, Rhinoceri Trio) and World Music (Oscuro Quintet, Cunjunto Philadelphia, Ensemble Novo). As a composer, Chris has been recognized by the American Composers Forum, the McKnight Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
Doug Hirlinger (drums) is a multifaceted musician whose diverse history includes extensive experience as a drummer, composer, educator, and producer. On drum set Doug is as much at home in jazz and experimental settings as he is on stage with the Philadelphia Orchestra. During the past 20 plus years Doug has toured Europe and the US, played many times in the most prominent venues in New York and Philadelphia, and established lasting relationships with an abundant list of collaborators.
Brennen Ernst (banjo, guitar)
Brennen Ernst is a multi-instrumental multi-genre musical daredevil. In his career thus far he has taken on—and mastered—piano, banjo, and guitar, adding tenor vocals and exploring multiple genres—bluegrass and old time, jazz and swing.
Originally from Lucketts, VA, he started playing piano at the age of 5. Within 3 years, he had fallen in love with the music of Scott Joplin and focused on ragtime. At 14 he picked up the banjo and was introduced to classic bluegrass, followed shortly by the guitar, ingniting passion in bluegrass and old-time music. He then discovered jazz luminaries such as Django Reinhardt, Benny Goodman, and Charlie Christian leading to his first traveling work with Seattle-based pianist and bandleader Solomon Douglas, touring the southeastern US as a teen.
In 2013, at the ripe age of 19, he started playing banjo with central Texas-based bluegrass band The Karl Shiflett and Big Country Show, until 2018. He also began a long-standing partnership with the great VA fiddler Billy C. Hurt Jr. and spent three years living with Hurt in Franklin County, VA absorbing a tremendous amount of traditional Virginian music, as well as many aspects about Appalachian life and culture. It was during that period that Hurt started the old-time band “Five Mile Mountain Road,” which Brennen plays in to date.
In 2016, he moved to Philadelphia to pursue more varied musical opportunities, where he currently lives in West Philly with his wife. He can be found teaching and playing jazz, ragtime, bluegrass, and other kinds of music all over the city.
Mazz Swift (fiddle) is critically acclaimed as one of America’s most talented and versatile performers today, engaging audiences all over the world with her signature weaving of song, melody and improvisation.
Mazz combines elements of classical, folk, rock, jazz, free improvisational music and electronica to create a rich, unique and diverse musical experience. She is a singer, composer and Juilliard-trained violinist who plays electric and acoustic instruments and has, over the years, performed and recorded with a diverse accumulation of artists including Whitney Houston, Perry Farrell, Dee Snider, James “Blood” Ulmer, Vernon Reid, Valerie June, DJ Logic, William Parker, Butch Morris, Jason Lindner, Kanye West, and most recently as string mistress for D’Angelo’s “Vanguard Strings.”
Isaac Standford (dobro, lap steel) plays the pedal steel, lap steel, and dobro in several projects around the Philadelphia area. He has brought the steel guitar into some unusual contexts including a three-year collaboration with BalletX, performances with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Kimmel Center’s theater residency. Stanford also uses the steel guitar in more conventional genres with several projects in the Philadelphia area playing bluegrass, western swing, gypsy jazz, and country music. His instrumental Hawaiian-inspired quintet, Slowey and the Boats, keeps an active playing schedule and can be found at tiki bars and luaus throughout the region. When not playing music, Isaac teaches 7th grade Geography in the Cheltenham School District.
Saantis Fenmu Davis (percussion) is a performer and educator specializing in traditional African music and percussion from all parts of the world. Originally from Philadelphia, Davis trained in New York before returning to his hometown to share the gift of unity through music.
Davis has a traditional African band, "Benu Ausar Philly,” and is a percussionist for the Philly Reggae Band, Arrastao do Dende, Bad Kitty, Funk Logic, Rafael Ponde and Band, and Children of Adam. He has recently recorded an album with Ponde, "Live at the Boom Room with Rafael Ponde." He is also a music teacher in the Philadelphia school system, and works with youth to educate them on percussion instruments from around the world. Davis has over 20 years of experience playing traditional African music, and studied with under Tchet Kater of Benu Ausar Drum Company, Brother Yao of Asase Yah Drum, and Dance & Basi Kolo.