Ed Krizni   


Owner & Producer & Technician of recording studio (U-Bin-Pickin).

As a young teen Ed taught himself how to play the guitar. With the help of some friends he eventually played in some bands in the 1970’s and 80’s. He got involved in music such as; Rock, Hard Rock, Country Rock, Old Country, Folk; and at last in the late 80’s got involved in bluegrass music. He started his first bluegrass band called Grassland. Soon after he joined up with the Fox Hill Bluegrass Band, who he had his first record with and got to play on stage with Del McCoury. After a few years went by he started playing with groups like; Out Of The Blue, East Wind, and Past Times.  Eventually he went on his own to record some of his own songs on the Looking 4 Directions Album. He had the opportunity to have an old friend, a Nashville recording artist, Travis Wetzel, to record with, as they both have Native American heritage. That recording went so well, Ed did another with him and Ron Trotta as well called Pickin' Bluegrass. Then Ed had the opportunity tto start this group called the Grassland Band. In this group you can hear Ed singing lead/harmony/vocals, playing guitar, mandolin, and banjo. Like the conductor of an orchestra, Ed loves to arrange songs and come up with new ways to do old songs.  

Ron Trotta

Back in the 1970’s, after hearing the album Will the Circle Be Unbroken, decided to learn how to play the banjo. Living in Brooklyn N.Y. at the time, finding a teacher was not an easy task, but eventually I did. Later moving to N.J. in the early 1990’s, Ron hooked up with a band called “Past Times” with whom he recorded 5 albums. Then he went on to record with his friend Ed Krizni on a few his albums. Which now brings us up to the present of Ron being the hard driving traditional sounding banjo player that he is now. Singing some or writing some; the band wouldn’t be the same without him.

Mark Farrell

Mark Farrell is a Jackson Heights, Queens native. He has lived on Staten Island, as well as Manhattan, and now makes his home in Hoboken, NJ. Mark is an avid record collector (78’s, 45’s and 33’s). He is most interested in Bluegrass and Old-Time Country records. His vast collection includes some of the selections that will be heard on Grassland’s personal appearances. Mark is most known for his stellar fiddle and mandolin playing, but he plays guitar and bass as well. Mark is a sought after musician, playing in several bands including James Reams and the Barnstormers, Yankee Rebels and Hell’s Kitchen Country. Although he has a day job as a paralegal, evenings and weekends find him playing music. Mark has a deep seated admiration for the early days of Bluegrass, so he is happy that Grassland will be playing older material, as well as newer Bluegrass hits. Mark can sing all the parts, so a Grassland show will find him singing a lot of harmony parts.  Mark will also find the spotlight on him, singing lead during a Grassland show. 

Allen Cohen

Allen Cohen has lived a life of Bluegrass music. Yes, he’s a retired pharmacist, Emily’s husband for 55 years, father of two, grandfather of two, grower of corn and plum tomatoes, driver of a 1961 Triumph TR3A roadster, past member of Community Board 3 on Staten Island, NY and home handyman. But Bluegrass has ruled his life since that fateful day in 1959 when he walked into a record shop on West 8th St. in Greenwich Village, searched the Folk Music bin looking to buy a new record and found Flatt and Scruggs.  A New York Times reviewer described Flatt and Scruggs as “folk music in overdrive”, and he was right. Since that day, Allen and Emily have attended folk festivals (Newport, RI and Asheville, NC), Fiddler’s Conventions (Union Grove, NC, Galax, VA), Bluegrass Festivals in 8 states including the first Bluegrass Festival on Cantrell’s Horse Farm in Fincastle, VA in 1965. Allen co-founded the Tri-County Ramblers in 1973 and has played with that group until the early 2000’s, since then with the Yankee Rebels and now with Grassland. Allen was the driving force behind the establishment of the Bluegrass Festival at Historic Richmond Town on Staten Island. Allen produced and was the talent coordinator, stage manager and emcee for that festival which ran for 11 years (and is currently on hiatus due to lack of funding). But he is most at home, on stage, playing Bluegrass music and making audiences happy.

Ruth Ann Knoll

   Ruth has been singing literally her entire life. Beginning as a small child, and moving on to school choruses, piano lessons, church choirs to bands and solo acts.

   As a child listening to her accomplished vocalist mother, and to her alto grandmother in church, started her love for harmony where it comes natural to her.
   Ruth also lived in 3 states which further influenced her interest in different genres of music. From N.J. to Texas to Pennsylvania and back again, where she discovered country, bluegrass and gospel.  In addition, travels to Europe and the U.K. broadened her horizons.
   Although Ruth started a family in her early adult years, music was never our of mind. She became a D.J. in the early 90s, and through that she networked and returned once again to singing publicly with numerous musicians.
   Ruth recently rediscovered her love of Bluegrass and harmony which led to her performing , chopping on the mandolin and singing lead and back-up with the Grassland Band. 

In addition to the five core members, Grassland has the good fortune to have 3 seasoned Bluegrass musicians available to add a sixth (and seventh) piece to the band when the venue or the event requires a six piece band (or larger).  The additional instruments would be fiddle and/or Dobro.

Bill Turner 

(Guest Artist)

Bill has had a long career in Bluegrass music, first hearing it in the early 1960’s. He has been playing the guitar since 1958 and eventually learned to play the banjo, dobro, fiddle, and mandolin as well. Bill has played dobro with the Beth Coleman Band and Uncle Steve Crockett & the Log Cabin Boys, with whom he appeared 6 times on the Grand Ole Opry Stage during the DJ Convention Week in the 1980’s. He has also played dobro with Rhonda Vincent on her NJ concerts. Bill has been a full time musician since 1973 and has toured internationally starting in 1974 with Bill Haley & the Comets, and continuing to this day on his own. With his band Blue Smoke,  Bill has played commercial soundtracks for MTV, as well as films. He has appeared as a background actor in movies such as; Birdman, Pickings, and in TV shows, Boardwalk Empire, Golden Boys, Royal Pains, and most recently in Difficult People, and Homeland. During the winter months Bill appears on WDVR Radio’s Heartland Hayride. In the Grassland Band, Bill will play Dobro most often, but may play any other instrument, depending on the song, and adding precision harmony vocals.

Bruno Bruzzese

(Guest Artist)

Bruno comes from a family of mountain people, the mountains of Southern Italy.  If you watch a few old, black and white Italian movies, eventually you will come across a scene with a family, on a train headed north, carrying their chickens in their arms and leading a pig on string; those are Italian hillbillies.  Bruno’s family never took the train north to the factories of Torino and Genoa.  Instead, they took a boat to America and settled in Brooklyn.  With them came guitars, concertinas, Italian bagpipes, harmonicas and tambourines.  Maybe they only played a few songs on each instrument, but those songs were as much a part of their life and family as the traditional meals they ate.  The fret board on the guitar Bruno’s father played is so worn down where his fingers fell on a D chord and an A7, that if you didn’t know how to play them, you could figure it out by the marks left from decades of playing those two chords to accompany the duets he sang with his wife.
Before he played any music on his own, Bruno was a part of the family circle when tables and chairs were pushed to the walls and everybody danced to the organetto and tambourine.  His feelings about music and the energy he plays with come from a happy, celebration of good people and good times that was part of every family gathering from his childhood.
Like good Italian parents, Bruno’s sent him for accordion lessons when he was about twelve.  He learned a little about reading music but didn’t take to the instrument very well.  Friends in high school were guitar playing folkies, some of them listening to Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.  Those songs rang a chord with Bruno.  Seeing as all his friends played guitar, Bruno decided to get hold of a banjo and learned all he could from the Pete Seeger instruction book and then the Earl Scruggs banjo book.  There were lots of square dances in 19070’s New York City and soon Bruno decided he’d like to be able to play a few square dance tunes on the Fiddle.  His father thought it was nice when he learned a little guitar and banjo; but when Bruno came home with a violin borrowed from the high school orchestra, he said – “What do you want with a violin?  That’s an instrument for real musicians!” I know, it sounds bad; but really, it’s how Bruno feels about music too.  It’s not something you do to make a living or get fame, it’s something that is a part of life and makes life better for you and everyone who shares it with you.
After high school, Bruno spent a year bumming around Europe, playing on the streets and in clubs and bars.  The experience of getting up at 4am to claim a profitable spot in the Paris Metro so he could make enough money during the morning rush to pay for a hotel and a meal that night, injected an element of playing as if his life depended on it.  People often comment on his enthusiasm and energy – that’s where it comes from.
In his twenties Bruno did the usual things of school and work but always played music in local bands and venues, festivals and fiddle contests.  Over the years he played and recorded in many circles, Bluegrass, Old Time, Country (he played in one Arizona Honky Tonk 4 nights a week for 3 years); Old Time Jazz and Swing, Cowboy Jazz, Texas Swing (he spent 6 years playing at Trad Jazz festivals with a band called Igor's Jazz Cowboys); Trance Dance Jam Bands, New Wave Songwriter Bands, Arabic, Turkish and Armenian folk music and classical Egyptian music. But now he has returned to playing Bluegrass fiddle and is enjoying it, and being enjoyed by others, more than ever before.

Don Sojka

(Guest Artist)

With the exception of the fiddle, at any given time and at a moments notice if need be Donny can pick up any bluegrass instrument and play with precision, however, his instrument of choice  is the Dobro or as others call it resonator guitar. This instrument, which is not easily mastered, Donny excels at with his almost effortless and smooth-sweet style, delivering a performance that is not easily forgotten. He started playing bluegrass music in the 1960’s and his well valued instrumentation skills are duly respected in the bluegrass community. Donny is an avid vintage instrument collector and is a noted source of authentication of valuable collectable instruments. He is also well versed in Bluegrass history. Donny also lends his skilled baritone and tenor vocals when needed and has performed and recorded with several bluegrass bands.