The Night Travelers are an acoustic duo offering the hottest licks you'll hear on banjo and bass. Internationally acclaimed Master of the 5-string Banjo, James McKinney and Niki Portmann on acoustic Bass. Join us on our musical journey!
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 has recorded on many projects and taught at many major banjo camps including SPGBMA workshops and other Master workshops all over the USA and in Australia.
Niki Portmann was born in Stone Mountain, Georgia to which her 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 immersed herself in playing and composing music together with James.