a look back at a supergroup

A Windham Hill Retrospective (Windham Hill)

By John Goodin

Montreux, the band, is apparently with us no more. This Retrospective is a fine collection of tunes from their too brief career as a group and as a couple of duo projects preceding Montreux proper.

Darol Anger (fiddle, now leading the Turtle Island String Quartet) and Mike Marshall (mandolin, guitar; now leader of the Modern Mandolin Quartet) had played together in the seminal David Grisman Quintet of the late Seventies. After leaving the Dawg house they recorded as a duo and eventually teamed with Barbara Higbie (piano) and Michael Manring (bass) to form Montreux.

Their sound was different, but related to, Grisman's. With a preference for major keys over minor, the tunes were more "pop."and upbeat and less clearly related to bluegrass. The mandolin was prominent but not always the main instrument.

This CD is successful in showing the best of the band's work. Their VH-1 hit "To Be" starts things off and the romping "Free D" is a strong closer. In between are a variety of sounds, from fiddle and piano duets to two cuts that include Andy Narell's steel drums. The only thing missing is any documentation of the freewheeling, improvisational spirit that the Michael Manring version of the band brought to its live performances. However, for now this excellent Retrospective will do.