Chris Biesterfeldt – Urban Mandolin [TrackList follows] – self BR1001 ****:
(Chris Biesterfeld, mandolin; Adam Armstrong, bass; Eric Halvorson, drums)
Mike Marshall and the Turtle Island Quartet [TrackList follows] – Adventure Music AMA1083 2 (3/18/14) *****:
(Mike Marshall, mandolin & mandocello; David Balakrishan & Mads Tolling, violins; Jeremy Kittel, viola; Mark Summer, cello)
Biesterfeldt keeps very busy around NYC’s Broadway playing on various different instruments in various ensembles. Some there don’t even know he also plays the mandolin. He does some amazing things with his simple instrument on 16 tracks of mostly jazz but with some pop by the Beach Boys and Bonnie Riatt thrown in, a delightful Brazilian choro, and even some Switched-On Bach. Accompanied only by bassist and drummer, he presents an outstanding acoustic string interpretation of the Weather Report jazz-fusion hit “Teen Town.” It’s a thoroughly eclectic program, but the jazz section is very well represented with names like Bird, Diz, Corea and Monk.
Everything is very fast, almost breathless, like a sort of musical joyride for an hour. He has in his “Thanks to” section one to the string players of the Radio City Music Hall for putting up with his questions about fingerings. Well, he certainly go those fingerings down and the high speeds he zips thru some of these tunes. I was reminded of the couple of players who have recently come to the fore with their virtuosity on the ukelele. This is a similar sort of thing.
1. Bebop (Dizzy Gillespie)
2. Quasimodo (Charlie Parker)
3. Freedom Jazz Dance (Eddie Harris)
4. Bach G-Minor Presto (Johann Sebastian Bach)
5. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Mike Reid / James Allen II Shamblin)
6. Teen Town (Jaco Pastorius)
7. Bright Size Life (Pat Metheny)
8. Ready and Able (Jimmy Smith)
9. Armando’s Rhumba (Chick Corea)
10. Bye-Ya (Thelonious Monk)
11. Witch Hunt (Wayne Shorter)
12. Segura Ele (Benedicto Lacerda / “Pixinguinha” Alfredo Vianna)
13. God Only Knows (Brian Wilson / Tony Asher)
14. Back at the Chicken Shack (Jimmy Smith)
15. Some Skunk Funk (Randy Brecker)
16. Rollo Interior (Frank Zappa)
Grammy-nominated mandolin master Mike Marshall and the Grammy-winning Turtle Island Quartet had been collaborating on concerts for almost three decades now, but this is their first CD together. Their work brings together five of the most versatile string players of today, playing a sort of music that causes a lot a head-scratching about where to put it in collections, CD shops, and review publications such as this one. Both artists have been sort of filling in the spaces between jazz, classical, bluegrass and Latin music all their lives.
The founder of the TIQ is violinist David Balakrishnan, and some of his original works are included here, as well as those of mandolinist Marshall. But there are also Brazilian items from Gismonti, K-Ximbinho and Chiquinha that take you thru Rios’ streets, and finally violinist Darol Anger’s arrangement of a blues by Robert Johnson, “Crossroads.”
The disc opens with a work by Balakrishnan titled Interplay and described as “For Mandolin and String Quartet in Four Movements.” It was originally written especially for Mike Marshall when he was a member of The Modern Mandolin Quartet. First is “Shoka” – a sanskrit work that is loosely translated as “dignified sorrow.” Next is “Inner Voices,” which allows Marshall to show off some of the virtuoso mandolin playing he is capable of. “Richi’s Dance” is self-explanatory, and the closing “Thyaga” means in sanskrit “non-attachment to the fruits of one’s actions.” (Sounds very Buddhist.)
The following 7 1/2-minute choro medley is a highlight of the disc for me; the arranger was Carlos Oliveira. Four works by Marshall and one by Gismonti close out the album before the concluding Robert Johnson blues arrangement.
The album was recorded in Berkeley in 2011 & 2012 and is another winner in the fine series of Brazilian-influenced albums on the Adventure Music label.
Shoka • Inner Voices • Rishi’s Dance • Thyaga
Brazilian Choro Medley: Apenhei-te Cavaquinho /Ternura /Corta Jaca
Egypt • Loro • House Camp • Gator Strut • Sweets Mill • Crossroads