Meet The Banjo Rascals
Geri Rheel, left, Brian Nalepka center, Jim Rheel right
Jim Rheel, Tenor Banjo, Plectrum Banjo & Guitar, vocals, Geri Rheel, Tenor banjo, Mandolin and vocals and Brian Nalepka, String Bass, Tuba, Bass Sax and vocals the heart and sole of the Banjo Rascals. Working as the smallest version of the Banjo Rascals, Geri, Brian and Jim provide lively renditions of various styles of music. From classic Scott Joplin rags to traditional banjo sing-a-longs, vocals in three-part harmony, to great Dixieland Jazz to classic Country & Western music to 50s & 60s rock-n-rock. Brian, Geri and Jim always provide a fun filled family show. When they add their fellow jazz musicians the Banjo Rascals become a classic Dixieland, 20s – 30s swing band, providing audiences with foot stomping, hand clapping, dance music hard to find in the New York tri-state area.
Jim Rheel began playing the banjo at the age of twelve years old with his dad, Harry Rheel. Jim studied banjo under the tutorage of Roy Smeck and met his wife Geri, the musical director of the Banjo Rascals, while taking lessons from Roy. Jim is the President and Band Leader of the Banjo Rascals. Jim plays exclusively with the Banjo Rascals working in some of New York’s most fashionable clubs like the Princeton Club, The University Club, The Yale Club and the Union League. Jim has performed for President Ronald Reagan and the family of George Bush Sr., Governors Nelson Rockefeller, Hugh Carey and George Patacki. Jim has also performed for Mayors Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg. Jim has performed on the QE2, aircraft carrier Intrepid, Lincoln Center,Yankee Stadium and all of the major Race Tracks in the New York area. Jim provided the music for CBS’s television documentary “On Going Racing” as well as the movie, Last Summer in Coney Island. Jim has recorded on all five of the Banjo Rascals Cds.
Geri Rheel began playing the banjo at the age of sixteen playing with her dad, Fred Schmidt, with the Long Island Banjo Society. Her talents quickly earned a first chair banjo seat with the All American Banjo Team where she first started to do vocals. Her ability to sing harmony quickly added three part vocals to The All Americans teaming her with her sister Grace Anderson,a noted national and international vocalist, and Katie Agresta,the distinguished vocal teacher for Cindy Lauper. Geri began lessons with Roy Smeck where she met her husband Jim. Geri now plays exclusively with the Banjo Rascals working in some of New York’s most fashionable clubs like the Princeton Club, The University Club, The Yale Club and the Union League. Geri has performed for the family of George Bush Sr., Governor George Patacki and Mayors Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg. Geri has performed on the QE2, aircraft carrier Intrepid, Lincoln Center and all of the major Race Tracks in the New York area.Geri has recorded 8 albums, the last four with the Banjo Rascals. Geri also appeared in the movie Last Summer in Coney Island.
Brian is one of the founding members of the Manhattan Rhythm Kings. In addition to his work with the “Kings”, Brian is a busy New York free-lance musician, having recorded 7 albums with Leon Redbone, as well as numerous commercials and movie soundtracks. Brian was also a member of Woody Allen’s jazz band and Jim Cullum’s band in San Antonio, Texas. He has also performed in the Broadway show “Chicago”, as well as numerous shows at New Jersey’s Papermill Playhouse. Brian’s work with the “Kings” includes performances with Mr. Tommy Tune since 1984. Their collaboration continues today and the act has performed together in venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall and Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza, and a tour of the former Soviet Union, where they commanded standing ovations in Moscow, Tiblisi, and St. Petersburg. Brian has shared the stage with Bob Hope, George Burns, Leonard Bernstein, Judy Collins, Bette Midler and Gregory Hines. He has also appeared at Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes as part of Peter Allen’s Easter Spectacular.
Brian’s latest work comes in The Aviator, starring Leonardo DeCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese and featuring The Manhattan Rhythm Kings with their song "Happy Feet". Brian has also appeared in HBO's Boardwalk Empire.
Brian has been performing with the Banjo Rascals since 1997.
Ed Polcer, Cornet
Ed joined Benny Goodman's Sextet for an American tour in 1973. An expert showman, Ed has led numerous concerts with varied themes, including his extensive U.S. tours for Columbia Artists.
If you dropped in at Eddie Condon's club in New York City between 1975 and 1985, chances are good you ran across Ed. Besides being the resident cornetist and bandleader at that historic jazz spot, he was also the manager and co-owner.
During the past several years, Ed Polcer has become one of the most sought after performers on the jazz festival circuit. He has appeared in hundreds of concerts, festivals and jazz parties throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, including numerous return appearances at the Newport/Kool/JVC Festival in New York. Ed’s musical versatility and leadership have earned him a reputation as a dynamic bandleader, and he is often called upon to organize festivals, concerts, dances and parties.
In the 1980’s, Ed was honored to serve as President of the International Art of Jazz, as well as a member of the Advisory Panel of the Jazz Musicians Foundation of New York. Ed’s biography has been included in the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, the Encyclopedia of Jazz in the ‘70s and the Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, both compiled by Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler, and Trumpet Kings by Scott Yanow. In Great Britain, Ed is listed in The Guinness Who’s Who of Jazz, as well as Jazz, the Essential Companion and Jazz, the Rough Guide. Chip Deffaaa devoted a full chapter to Ed in Traditionalists and Revivalists in Jazz.
He has recorded extensively and his playing can be heard on the soundtracks of several movies. His recent CD for Blewz Manor, “Let’s Hit It!” was nominated for a 2003 TEC Award for Technical Excellence and Creativity. Ed has been performing with the Banjo Rascals since 1985.
Randy Reinhart, Cornet, Trombone
A cornetist of great talent, Randy Reinhart is familiar to jazz lovers. Randy is the band leader of the Bix Beiderbecke All Stars Orchestra. Unforgettable is his tribute performance to cornetist Bix Beiderbecke. Born in 1953 in Plainfield, NJ, he made jazz his profession at the age of 18. Amazingly skillful and versatile as a multi-instrumentalist, Orchestra leader Randy Reinhart displays an amazing range of talent on trumpet, cornet and trombone. He has collaborated with many artists – among others Jim Cullum, Kenny Davern, Marty Grosz, Bucky Pizzarelli, Dan Barrett, Jake Hanna, Howard Alden, Warren Vache – recording for various record labels specialized in this genre. Reinhart recently received complimentary reviews for his work on his latest solo recording “As Long As I Live,” recorded with jazz mates Kenny Dovern, James Chirillo and Dan Barrett. Randy has been performing with the Banjo Rascals since 1988.
Dan Levinson, Clarinet, C Melody and Tenor Sax
The cover of the August 1998 issue of The Mississippi Rag refers to Dan Levinson as the “in-demand reedman.” Indeed, during an active career that began in the 1980s, he has enjoyed working with such jazz luminaries as Dick Hyman, Mel Tormé and Wynton Marsalis. A specialist in the music of the 1920s and ‘30s and an ardent Benny Goodman devotee, Dan’s periodic tributes to the clarinet legend have brought him many accolades over the years. In 1996 he gave a televised concert in Reykjavík for the president of Iceland and the prime minister of Italy. He has been involved in numerous recreations of Goodman’s famous Carnegie Hall jazz concert on both sides of the Atlantic.
Dan's "rags-to-riches" career began modestly enough on the streets of Paris, performing with a quartet led by American cornetist Dick Miller that featured a fifteen-year-old up-and-coming vocalist named Madeleine Peyroux. Dan lived in New Orleans, where he performed nightly at the prestigious Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street and at such jazz meccas as Fritzel's, Mahogany Hall, and on the steamboat Natchez. Dan tours Germany periodically with Andrej Hermlin's Swing Dance Orchestra, performing in the country's most prestigious concert halls. With Mr. Hermlin's band, Dan has performed the Carnegie Hall concert in Munich, Hamburg, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Potsdam, Nürnberg, Dissen, and twice to a sold out house of 1700 people at the world-famous Konzerthaus Berlin.
He can also be heard on the soundtracks to the films Ghost World, The Cat’s Meow, and most recently Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.
Dan has been performing with the Banjo Rascals since 2000.
Mark Shane, Piano
Mark Shane began his professional career as a pianist in dance bands in the metropolitan New York Area. His jazz influences came from the recordings of the masters: Louis Armstrong, Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Benny Goodman.
Mark has been featured on radio and television jazz special broadcasts and has appeared as a featured soloist at major jazz festivals throughout the world. He has toured with the Smithsonian Jazz Repertory Ensemble under the direction of Bob Wilber, and was featured in the 50th Anniversary Benny Goodman memorial concert at Carnegie Hall. Mark has played jazz piano for the Grammy-Award-winning soundtrack of the film “The Cotton Club.” Other film work includes the soundtracks to “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “Biloxi Blues,” “Working Girl,” and other films made for television. In 1989, Mark played a Royal Command performance for HRH Princess Anne in London’s Festival Hall.
Mark Shane has played for society and cotillions throughout the United States, for Presidential Inaugural Balls in Washington, D.C., and for the Mayor of New York City at Gracie Mansion. He has also played private parties for Mikhail Gorbbachev, Henry Kissinger, Estee Lauder, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and for openings and fund raising events at major libraries, museums and cultural centers throughout the United States. Corporate audiences such as IBM, AT&T and others have also enjoyed Mark’s piano in New York’s finest hotels and clubs, including the Waldorf-Astoria, Plaza, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, 21 Club and others.
Mark started performing with the Banjo Rascals in 2005.