Five Albums for a Desert Island

David Grisman QuintetFacebook is full of lists – 25 Random Things About Me just being the best known of a recent flurry.  When I was on Facebook tonight, I saw a friend’s posting of Five Favorite Albums and thought, “Now that’s a list I could enjoy compiling.

It took me less than 3 minutes to come up with five albums that I’d want on my iPod if I were stuck on a desert island.  But the Facebook application doesn’t let you say much about the choices.  So I’ll turn to More to Come… and over the next few nights will tell you about:

  • The David Grisman Quintet
  • Will the Circle Be Unbroken
  • Time Out
  • Sgt. Peppers
  • Aereo-Plain

The David Grisman Quintet’s self-titled debut album blew me away the first time I put needle to vinyl back in the mid-70s and I still love to listen to the amazing musicianship of Grisman, Tony Rice, Darol Anger, Todd Phillips, and Bill Amatneek.  The cover of the album (see above) told you this record was all about the instruments and their players.  It looked like a bluegrass-influenced album, but from the opening notes of E.M.D. the listener was quickly dispelled of that notion.  Grisman, Rice, and Anger – taking the leads – were playing a type of string jazz influenced by gypsy, blues, and bluegrass  music that had a beauty and clarity I certainly hadn’t heard before.  At the time it was so unique that it was jaw dropping in its inspiration.  Now, 30+ years later every acoustic musician worth his or her salt can work their way through similar tunes, but the originality of Grisman’s vision in the 1970s reminds me of the breakthrough of bluegrass when Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys in the 1940s and a whole new American music was created.

CD Universe actually has a pretty good review of the album and its impact:

David Grisman’s first album as a bandleader comes flying out of the speakers from the word go, crackling with the excitement of a group of musicians heading somewhere nobody has ever quite been before. Grisman’s band may have looked something like a bluegrass group but was modeled on Stephane Grapelli and Django Reinhardt’s Quintet of the Hot Club of France. Just as Reinhardt hired one or two other guitarists to beef up a drummer-less rhythm section, Grisman has Todd Philips here on second mandolin to add snap to the grooves.

Guitarist Tony Rice had been around for a while, as had Grisman himself (most notoriously as member as member of Old And In The Way alongside Jerry Garcia). But this record was as much a coming-out for Rice as it was for Grisman. Rice’s application of flawless bluegrass technique to more jazz–inflected material sets high standards for the “new acoustic” guitarists who inevitably entered his slipstream over the next decade. Most of the tunes here are Grisman’s, and they are noteworthy for their balance of detail and simplicity. He makes elegant ensemble statements yet leaves room at times for everyone to just play.

The following video is of E.M.D., the opening track of The David Grisman Quintet.  This version is not played by the original Quintet, but instead is a quartet.  Grisman and Rice handle the mandolin and guitar respectively, but Mark O’Connor who played both guitar and violin at various times in The DGQ is featured here in a truly hideous outfit playing some very nice violin.  The bass player in this version is long-time Grisman bassist Rob Wasserman.  Enjoy!

More to come…


4 Responses

  1. […] development of David Grisman’s Dawg music, when Rice left his bluegrass roots and joined the seminal David Grisman Quintet in 1975, is worth the price of the book.  As Tony says, there are now at least 10 guitarists who […]

  2. […] for a generation:  Blake on Will the Circle Be Unbroken and Rice on the inaugural offering of The David Grisman Quintet.  But on the two CDs in my car’s player today you get to hear them at their most basic.  […]

  3. […] five albums I’d most want on a desert island – and expand that into blog posts (as in album #1, #2, #3, #4, and […]

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