David Grisman Quintet
The Variety Playhouse
March 28, 2008
“The Groove…that’s an intangible thing. It’s not too fast, it’s not too slow…It’s a very simple thing,” says David Grisman. “Groove” is exactly the word to describe the David Grisman Quintet’s stellar performance at The Variety Playhouse in eclectic Little Five Points, Atlanta on March 28.
Each band member showcased fabulously their unique musical influences, including jazz, bluegrass, Middle Eastern, Klezmern Spanish, Django, and gypsy. Once again, the Quintet delivered a tight, synchronized, skillful performance of their stylistically rich “dawg music,” and they wowed an audience eager to see the music legends in the flesh.
The show opened with each band member jamming on “Hot Dawg,” from the early years of the DGQ. The first set also included favorites such as “Dawg’s Groove,” and a soulfoul, folksy “Dawg’s Waltz.” Mid-set, Grisman took a moment to describe “dawg music” in terms of its roots in late 50s soul, a la James Brown. The Quintet then moved into a funky soul-laden jazz tune. Mike Eakle tore it up on the flute, and the audience applauded his high energy and enthusiasm. I think the Godfather of Soul would have approved.
The second set lead with a robust gypsy jazz tune driven by Frank Vignola’s stunning Django Reinhardt-inspired guitar. Vignola stole the show. A guitarist since age 5, he performed loud and clear throughout the show. His variety of influences, ranging from New York cabaret to Jimi Hendrix, added dimension, style, and variety to the folk tunes.
George Marsh’s percussion performance was also strong throughout the show. During the second set, Grisman credited George Marsh’s influence on “Dawg’s Groove.” Without a kick drum, Marsh’s percussion was minimalist and elegant. Between Marsh and Grisman, the upbeat instrumental fabric was a fusion of jazz and subtle Middle Eastern and Klezmer influences. The absence of the kick drum kept the music sounding light, without the overpowering tendencies of heavy percussion. Also during “Dawg’s Groove,” Grisman would play a punchy riff, and Jim Kerwin would mimic it with true “dawg bass” style.
The show closed with "Shady Grove," a definite crowd pleaser with Grisman on rare vocals, Eakle on bass flute, and Marsh performing an earthy jam on percussion. Vignola’s excellent guitar added something trancy and hypnotic to the mix, and Kerwin gave the old traditional a groovy sound with his jazz stylings on bass. Overall, the show was less of a hippie-fest and more of an exercise in classical techniques performed by seasoned musicians.