The David Grisman Quintet

Bank One Lonesome Pine Special Kick-Off

By Paul Moffett

What if?

What if a bunch of second-generation hippie Deadheads came to the Bomhard Theater to see a (formerly) cosmic newjazzgrass band play?

They'd holler a lot, especially whenever the first name of their now-deified leader was mentioned onstage, or when one of the musicians did something outstanding in the way of a solo, which was constantly.

It didn't bother the band, though. They just kept right on blazing away through their "dawg" music, as David Grisman labels the music performed by the his Quintet.

The show kicked off the Bank One Lonesome Pine Special 1996 Summer Concert Series and it was an appropriate choice, as Grisman has had much influence on musicians who have played on the LPS, including Sam Bush and Bela Fleck. His eclectic-to-the-max approach to the world's music catalog exactly reflects the tastes of LPS founder/ director Richard Van Kleeck.

Consider the genre list for the night: bluegrass, jazz, klezmer, bossa nova, malambo, country and James Brown soul. Those are the ones I could name, and I only knew about the malambo because they identified it from the stage. With a twenty-year band performance and recording history to draw from, these musicians had all the playlist choices they needed and wanted; they were there to continue an extended musical conversation, while the audience got the chance to listen in.

Grisman, who is commonly referred to as the "Paganini of the mandolin," has the track record and the chops to attract only the best of players for his band. His bassist, James Kerwin, has been with him for eleven years, while percussionist / violinist / second mandolinist Joe Craven and flutist Matt Eakle have over five years with the group. The "new" member, guitarist Enrique Coria, has played with the Quintet for two years.

Kerwin's bass work laid the foundation for the pyrotechnics of the rest of the group, in particular the flashiness of Craven, who constantly switched instruments as needed. Craven looked like he was having the most fun, particularly when he did a 'hambone' routine, beating time on his cheeks and chest. He also mimcked other instruments vocally: he made noises with his mouth.

Guitarist Enrique Coria, an Argentinean by birth, brought South American and Spanish guitar technique to the mix. Rather than using the bass / strum motion common to bluegrass guitarists, Coria's right hand played fluid, crisp arpeggios that bluegrass players would have a hard time copying. The technique did have an odd effect on the bluegrass, though. Coria particularly shone on "Dawganova," the title tune of DGQ's most recent album. Coria called it a "Malambo," but most in the audience would have said it was a bossa nova.

Matt Eakle doubled on flute and bass flute, plus adding percussion occasionally. His solos at times left him breathless, not an improbable outcome, considering the size of the bass flute he was playing.

As for the songs, they ranged from bluegrass to soul to Central European to South American; their precise titles were mentioned rather off-handedly, since they were more the platform for the performance than the purpose of the show.

The tunes that Grisman recorded with the late Jerry Garcia elicited the most 'whoops,' but that was more a reflexive gesture to the leader of the Dead than genuine enthusiasm for Grisman. By the end of the evening, though, all who came and stayed were genuinely enthusiastic.