The Knappen Street All-Star Band


A recipe for good times:

Combine clawhammer banjo and soprano sax, mix with a killer rhythm section rooted in the afro-cuban tradition, add melodies that can both swing and cry, can laugh and dance; throw in some stories and classic tunes of the last century plus some catchy dance moves, garnish with silver-smooth back-up vocals and mix with care.  Et Voila!  The Knappen Street All-Stars Band’s signature sound! Audiences have voiced their appreciation from Whitehorse to Winnipeg, from Salmon Arm to Halifax.


Clawhammer Your Way to the Top 1993 Juno Award Nominee, Best Roots and Traditional album

Life on a String 1997 Juno Award Nominee, Best Roots and Traditional album

Frailing To Succeed in May 2016!

What people are saying:

“Quirky, bizarre and beautiful music that hints at influences of klezmer, swing, classical composition and traditional banjo clawhammer styles, but the result is much more that the sum of it’s parts! It runs the gamut from gentle to humourous to haunting without a musical cliché in sight.” – Lloyd Peterson/New Tune Review

“Daniel is to Clawhammer what Bela Fleck is to Bluegrass – fresh, innovative, creative, and energetic. He’s taken the medium to a new level and style.” – Cathy Fink/Banjo Newsletter


Fraiing To Succeed - What The Critics Are saying:

Here’s a safe bet: this is the most stylistically eclectic clawhammer-banjo album you’ll hear all year. In fact, I’d bet a smaller amount of money that it’s the most stylistically eclectic clawhammer-banjo album you’ll ever hear, period (unless you’re a Vince Farsetta fan, I guess). Anyway, Daniel Koulack is a supremely gifted banjo player and composer, and on this album he explores lots of different musical styles, some of them simultaneously — “The Insomniac’s Lullaby” is a sort of calypso-jazz thing, “No Telephone” starts out sounding kind of Round Peakish before the Irish pennywhistles come keening in and usher in a jig rhythm, and “The Glenn Gould Piece” is a tribute to the late piano legend, with strings and flute. Listen to this album three or four times in a row and you’ll hear different stuff every time.

Rick Anderson - CD Hotlist

Recordings: Banjo player Daniel Koulack’s new CD has one of the best titles, and best covers, of any progressive clawhammer player this past year, or any year. The cover of “Frailing to Succeed” features Daniel, dressed like a banker, his open back beside him, lighting a cigar with a Canadian banknote. That lighthearted note is continued in the material. Happy Tune is just that, a happy banjo tune, and Simon and Micah sounds like an ecstatic cousin to the jazz-fusion tune Birdland by 1970’s Weather Report, with Daniel’s rhythmic playing joined by saxophones, electric bass and drums. Ester’s Blues is a delicate clawhammer figure paralleled by saxes and marimbas that reminds me of more of that jazz-fusion 1970’s sound. In fact, the main distinguishing thing about this CD is the pairing of Daniel’s rhythmic banjo and the percussion with the soaring sustain of the reed instruments. OK! sounds like some kind of Afro-cuban rhumba, and the groove of Two Flat Feet is akin to something Paul Simon might have included on his “Graceland” recording.
This is a wonderful record. Of special note is Daniel’s tune No Telephone, which he performs on Youtube with the Knappen Street Allstars: a simple old-timey tune with African shadings (his banjo often sounds like a thumb piano) that the full band then joins, including accordion and percussion.
And here are video interviews with Daniel and the other musicians about the record:
—most of whom were on Daniel’s first record “Clawhammer Your Way to the Top” from the early 90s… Cathy Fink interviewed Daniel for us when that record came out. Ever since, he has been one of my favorite progressive clawhammer players and banjo composers, similar to Michael Miles in his eclectic sensibility, with his jazz, Celtic, klezmer and world-music influenced originals. For more info go to

Donald Nitche - banjo newsletter

Review (for May 2017)
Frailing To Succeed, Daniel Koulack, CD,

Review by Michael J. Miles
This is supposed to be a review, but I have to do a slight disclaimer that I am not really a reviewer.  I’m a player, and a few others things, but not exactly a critic. That said, I’ll give you this player’s view of Daniel’s record, without the requisite critique.
This record is delightful. It is from an alternative universe where Daniel Koulack envisions musical fairy tales and landscapes and storybooks. They traverse the world with sounds that are at once American, French, African, Japanese, Canadian (of course), Latin, or of undetermined, mixed-race immigrant status—not quite sure where this one might be from but would love to know his/her story.  
Daniel Koulack wrote and arranged all of these tunes. As a composer he is very inventive with the banjo—stepping into harmonies and rhythms that are quite outside the domain of most banjo playing. As an arranger, his ensemble is of an alternative universe—mostly unheard of in North America…except of course in Winnipeg, Manitoba—where he recruited his Knapper Street Allstar Band. They are stunning, without question. The first musician you hear is Ben Mink with his sensational violin playing on the first track Happy Tune. The violin steps in to make the banjo sound even better, with long notes of support—followed by a harmony line, then beautiful silence before he turns it over to Bill Spornitz on the soprano saxophone to dialog with the banjo before rejoining them in trio format with bass. Sounds like your typical banjo tune, eh? And that’s just the first track.  
I remember playing at the Winnipeg Folk Festival a few times a while back. In Winnipeg, thanks to the Folk Festival, they were onto world music before the term “world music” actually existed.  I confess to some naivete about the area now. Maybe it is the flat land, late summer sun and cool air up there, I don’t know. But this recording only gets better. The tracks are all great. A few other tracks that jumped at me were the Hummingbird Waltz—as I do have a thing for birds and this one has a bird inspiration in the title. It starts with a rather sparse fingerpicked banjo—and then in slides this accordion and I’m feeling transported to a Parisian cafe. But then the Parisian cafe is visited by some jazz cat (Jonnie Bakan) who’s burns in a little urban blues on his alto sax.
And with a nod to the 19th century, No Telephone is a this beautiful modal piece accompanied by harmonized tin whistle & bamboo flute and recorded in Glasgow. (Sidenote: Daniel confesses to not owning a cellphone)
This is a recording to be experienced.  You can go to Daniel’s website and see videos of the band which also includes double bass (played by Daniel), electric bass, drums, percussion, marimba, congas, bongos, kpanlogo drums, viola, and flute.  
The packaging is rather charming as well, with Daniel looking dapper, dressed like you’d want your lawyer dressed, sipping cognac, lighting a cigar. No overalls, no barnyard. There’s a little note about the origins or the dedication of each tune—for his uncle, for his mother, for his son. I don’t know Daniel—but I do look forward to the day we meet.,