Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile – Deluxe Edition – Nonesuch Records CD + DVD

by | Oct 21, 2008 | CD+DVD | 0 comments

Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile – Deluxe Edition – Nonesuch Records CD + DVD 514400-2, 48:00 *****:

Except for the one J.S. Bach Prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier, it’s kind of hard to categorize this recording. On the surface, pairing a mandolin and double bass makes as much sense as combining a tuba and flute. Years ago, when I was taking a college composition class, I remember the teacher warning us all against this very thing: don’t combine two extremes in registers. Well, after he said this, I couldn’t help but do that very thing for my next assignment. And in class, the teacher used my composition as an example of an exception to the rule. It can work and rules are made to be broken. In this recording the same occurs, albeit at a much higher level than my own humble attempts. And that is higher, as in stratospheric.

Edgar Meyer is a musician that straddles the worlds of classical and vernacular music with equal aplomb. He’s just as comfortable playing one of his own compositions for symphony orchestra as he is sitting in as a sideman in a bluegrass recording. Chris Thile is the mandolinist from the former hot young bluegrass group Nickel Creek and now with the Punch Brothers. Thile is not content to stay strictly within the confines of bluegrass. He reaches into other musical forms such as jazz, classical, rock, and free improvisation to wring out impossibly complex music and virtuosic performances, pushing the boundaries of the mandolin. When you combine these two musicians, you get magic. Of course, it’s magic that explodes out of any boundaries that you might want to impose on them. It definitely not bluegrass, but it’s closer to contemporary classical music or maybe some intellectual forms of jazz. In a word, it’s wonderful.

In addition to the CD, you also get a DVD called “Duo” that is a documentary on this project and these two musicians. You hear a bit of their thoughts about collaborating and you hear their thoughts and background about each song on the DVD. The talk is just padding around various concert performances and playing in their home studio, which you see in great detail. Both artists are incredibly fun to watch as they play. Meyer is solid and serious as Thile dances and grooves. Together, their music forms a sonic landscape with Meyer providing a earthy ground while Thile becomes the clouds and breezes that sweep overhead. Both the music on the CD and DVD are performances of the highest level, and as such, they get my highest recommendation. [And unlike some of these CD + DVD combos, the DVD disc is professionally done and enjoyable to view…Ed.]

CD: Ham and Cheese; The Farmer and the Duck; G-22; Just as Well; Rabbit Cake; FRB; Slow Song for a Dog; Fence Post in the Front Yard; This is Not the Pig; This is the Pig; Cassandra’s Waltz

DVD “Duo”: Introduction; Free Improvisation/Smoothie Song; Concert Duo of Violin and Double Bass: Movement I; The Farmer and the Duck; I Wasn’t Talking to You; This is the Pig; Waltz for Dewayne Pomeroy; Concert Duo for Violin and Double Bass: Movement IV; Prelude XIII from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I; G-22

– Hermon Joyner

Related Reviews