Tone Poets – various artists
Acoustic Disc 62
On Tone Poets, the latest release from David Grisman's Acoustic Disc
label, the mandolin master has assembled a series of stellar performances
from 42 highly skilled acoustic guitar and mandolin players. The two
discs were recorded sporadically over four years and feature immensely
talented players all performing on the same two instruments — the 1922
Gibson "Loar" F-5 mandolin, and the 1933 Martin OM-45 acoustic guitar — both
considered by many to be models of perfection. Grisman's own F-5 master
model, affectionately known as "Crusher," was used for the entire recording,
and a single OM-45 was used throughout as well.
Disc one features all solo performances, half of them mandolin and half of
them guitar. On both discs the players and the material they chose to
perform represents an incredible cross-section of styles and schools of
musical thought. Getting to hear John Hartford's one time sideman Mike
Compton absolutely shred the F-5 on his own "Jimmy Fell Off The Wagon," on
the same disc as young prodigy Josh Pinkham playing his own "Song For
Meghan" with heartfelt intensity and undeniable beauty with the same F-5, is
a wonderful thing.
The soloists often play in such a way that the casual listener would swear
there is more than one instrument being played. Dobroist Jerry Douglas (who
used a metal nut raiser to temporarily convert the OM-45 to a Hawaiian style
guitar, as did Rob Ickes on disc two) simultaneously plays the chords, bass
notes, and melody of "Down In The Willow Garden." Guitarist Jim Hurst takes the listener on a journey through tension and resolution, the old West, a
corner jazz cafe, and beyond, all the while plucking his own basslines and
keeping things moving along at a perfect attention grabbing pace on "Ruben's
Train." The lightning fast and diversely talented guitarist Bob Brozman
gives a musical tour of Latin America and the world on "Ananas Africain."
Evan Marshall's "Joyful Variations" finds the great classical solo
mandolinist playing around with a theme from Beethoven in the incredible
"duo style." Using complicated techniques to play two separate parts
simultaneously, Marshall astonishingly simulates the distinct sound of two
mandolins with a single instrument.
Disc two brings the mandolin and guitar players together to explore the
world of musical possibilities that is the "duo." The acoustic blues feel of
Jack Lawrence's flatpicking perfectly compliments the rocking drive of Sam
Bush's mando style on "Were You There." Bluegrass legend Del McCoury holds down the fort on rhythm guitar while his son Ronnie absolutely rages the mandolin on the old-time bluegrass flavored "Glen Rock." Sonic mad scientist Joe Craven and dobroist Rob Ickes get together on "Hattie & Jenelle" and showcase the fun filled swaggering blues grooves of which these two instruments are surprisingly capable.
Young talents Jacob Henry Jolliff (mandolin) and Ian Fleming (guitar)
absolutely nail Bill Monroe's classic "Old Dangerfield," impressively and
perfectly. The spirit of Brazil can be heard on "Chochichando," with the
melodic choro bass lines of Carlos Oliveira's guitar style and the swing of
young mandolin virtuoso Eva Scow's fiery playing. The slow and beautiful
"Waltz For The Underworld" builds to a quick rocking crescendo with Chris
Thile on mandolin and Mike Marshall on guitar.
The last two tracks on the "Duos" disc features the project mastermind,
David Grisman, on both of the instruments. Grisman plays guitar and teams up with master mandolin builder Steve Gilchrist for an emotional and intense
run through "The Old South," creating a wonderful warm and full sound. On
the ghostly and heartfelt "Blues For Vassar" Grisman and guitarist Tony Rice
pay musical tribute to the spirit of their friend, colleague, and all-around
amazing player, the late Vassar Clements.
Tone Poets is an interesting, entertaining, and practical introduction to
the incredible range of these two vintage instruments, as well as a broad
range of talented and engaging musicians.