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Published: 2009/03/17
by Brian Robbins

Live at Jazz Alley – David Grisman Quintet

Acoustic Disc

Delete the applause and the between-song patter from the new release from the David Grisman Quintet, Live From Jazz Alley, and you’d be hard-pressed to tag it as a live album as far as sound quality. The Dawg sound team and their Acoustic Disc label pride themselves on their ability to capture the heart and soul of acoustic instruments — and this is yet another example of them doing it well. From the light-winged flight of a breathy flute solo to the long-necked swoop of a bass run, this exceptional recording lands you right in the thick of the music.

Oh and speaking of the music: not only was it recorded well it was performed amazingly, too.

Live At Jazz Alley features sets from two nights at the historic Seattle club recorded in November of 2007 with a 5-headed, 10-armed musical beast that moves as one but manages to sound loose, playful, and exciting at the same time. Grisman and cohorts (bassist Jim Kerwin, flutist Matt Eakle, George Marsh on drums, and latest member Frank Vignola on guitar) dole out selections that range from classics (Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” for example) to the title cut of 06’s Dawg’s Groove.

Eakle and Vignola are the perfect front line foils for Grisman: Eakle’s flute does everything from melody weaves to bold leads to light flutters that will have you holding your breath as you wait for the next passage. And Frank Vignola may just be the best all-around guitarist to share a stage with Grisman combining the heart of Jerry Garcia with the technical ability of Tony Rice, Vignola just plain fits. In the meantime, Marsh and Kerwin provide the underpinnings that allow the rest to stretch and go. Their presence is never overstated and even when they step to the front, they do it with taste and grace and, more often than not, fun.

And as far as the mando-master himself, David Grisman is everything we’ve come to expect him to be: gracious ringmaster who can make you laugh or put a tear in your eye sometimes in the same passage.

Live At Jazz Alley will please both the longtime DGQ fan who knows what to expect and newcomers to the world of Dawg.

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