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Guitarist and singer-songwriter Ben Harper is on the phone from Los Angeles, where he’s rehearsing for a “small gig” at a benefit show hosted by his friend, actor Ed Helms. Harper’s contribution to the concert will be “three or four songs,” and when asked if Helms will be doing something comedic on stage — his best known role is probably in the “Hangover” film series — Harper demurs: “Ed is a badass banjo player, actually.”

That is probably one of the highest compliments Harper could bestow on someone, since he’s made a career out of promoting styles of music that tend to sink or swim on an artist’s command of what jazz musicians used to call “chops.”

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