duos – Produced by David Grisman – (2 CDs) Acoustic Disc
(HDCD-encoded) ACD-62 ****:
This terrific collection of 31 tracks was taped by mandolin and “Dawg
music” maven Grisman at his studio in Marin County, California over
nearly four years. He used Neumann KM-84 and 85 mics going directly to
a half-inch Ampex ATR-100 analog deck with no mixer or EQ. The
set is a sort of follow up to Grisman’s earlier Tone Poems projects,
except that that series featured dozens of different guitars and
mandolins, along with photos and histories of each instrument. For Tone
Poets Grisman provided all his visiting pluckers the same instrument –
one which would be the equivalent of the Stradivarius Regina
Carter was allowed to play in Italy for just one day for her last
The mandolin is a 1922 Gibson “Loar” F-5, lovingly referred to as
“Crusher” by mandolin freaks. It has a huge dynamic range and the
powerful rhythmic “chop” which could be played with it was central to a
whole new genre of music launched by Bill Monroe – bluegrass. The
guitar is a 1933 Martin OM-45, with steel strings. The OM stands for
Orchestra Model; replacing gut strings with steel increased the volume.
The neck is narrower than most guitars and there are more frets. Its
balanced tone is superior to any other steel guitar ever built, and it
is one of the most sought-after Martin guitars of all time. It was only
produced for five years in the 30s.
Disc One is all solos, with a heavy emphasis on mandolin. Disc Two is
the duos of mandolin and guitar. There are photos and a paragraph on
each one of the 42 musicians involved (the total differs because some
play both instruments). A few are exceptional students of the pros such
as Grisman, Mike Marshall and others – one as young as age 16.
The selections themselves span a wide range of acoustic music genres –
including classical, bluegrass, jazz, gypsy jazz, hymns, traditional
folk, and varied mixes created by the performers themselves. The
variety of sounds coming out of those same two instruments recorded
with exactly the same equipment is nothing short of astonishing!
Among the 42 musicians are Sam Bush, David Bromberg, Tony Rice, Martin
Taylor, Frank Vignola and Enrique Coria. This is a must-have for any
fan of acoustic pluckin.’
Tracks: Solos = Blue Bells of Scotland, I Thought About You, Corrente
in D Minor, Ananas Africain, Jimmy Fell Off the Wagon, Down in the
Willow Garden, Spring Break, Gypsy Playland, Backin’ Playwards, Ruben’s
Train, Cherokee, Improvisation No. 1, Joyful Variations, Afternoon Rag,
Song for Meghan, Ave Maria.
Duos = You Are My Flower, Impromptu, Glen Rock, Lost Highway,
Cochichando, Were You There, F-5 Riddle Blues, Constant Lowdown,
Moonlight in Vermont, Hattie & Jenelle, The North Shore, Old
Dangerfield, Waltz for the Underworld, The Old South, Blues for Vassar.
– John Henry