Mark Vann, banjoist of Leftover Salmon, died Monday of melanoma cancer in his home near Longmont, Colorado. He was 39. Vann, a Maryland native, was a founding member of the Cajun-influenced jam band,

Mark Vann, banjoist of Leftover Salmon, died Monday of melanoma cancer in his home near Longmont, Colorado. He was 39. Vann, a Maryland native, was a founding member of the Cajun-influenced jam band, which was formed more than 10 years ago in Colorado.

The banjo player had been battling cancer for a number of months, and his fight with the disease was no secret. Last November, his friends and peers staged several benefits in Colorado and New York, which included appearances from Phish bassist Mike Gordon, former God Street Wine guitarist/vocalist Lo Faber, keyboardist John Medeski and turntablist DJ Logic. A spokesperson says these sessions are being considered for release later this year as part of a tribute album.

In a statement, Leftover Salmon vocalist Vince Herman writes that a celebration in Vann's honor will be staged this spring. "Mark lived life to its fullest and he would insist that we do so as well," Herman says. Leftover Salmon, which just signed a new deal with Compass Records, will release a concert album, dubbed "Live," on May 7. The album was culled from performances in San Francisco and Denver, as well as a yearly Labor Day festival in Lesterville, Miss., at which the band will likely perform in May.

Herman writes that Vann was a banjo player from the age of 5, and it was after seeing him win a banjo contest in Telluride, Colo., that the singer began encouraging him to join a band. Vann had been living in New York with his wife Jennifer, where the two owned a carpentry business. Herman describes Vann as a solitary musician, writing that Vann left college after two years to retreat to the forests of northern Virginia. "He built himself a one-room cabin and played banjo all day for two years," Herman says.

Herman and guitarist Drew Emmitt eventually convinced Vann to leave his New York home and business. He and his wife drove to Colorado, where he joined Left Hand String Band, which later combined forces with the Salmonheads to become Leftover Salmon.

Leftover Salmon had recently started to gain a wider following thanks to its 1999 Hollywood release, "The Nashville Sessions," featuring guest appearances from Lucinda Williams, Taj Mahal, and Bela Fleck, among others. To date, the album has sold 53,000 units in the U.S., according to SoundScan.

Vann is survived by his wife, his parents, and his brother. Condolences can be sent to PO Box 393, Nederland, CO 80466.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print