Grisman had been maturing his mandolin style in Greenwich Village coffeehouses while San Francisco-born Grateful Dead guitarist Garcia was grazing in bluegrass and jazz. The two were introduced at a Pennsylvania concert of father of bluegrass Bill Monroe, appropriately. So after Grisman relocated to the West Coast in the '70s, he engaged Garcia in collaborations that would be renewed on through the early '90s (under monikers including Old & in the Way).
The two hirsute, harmonically engaging musicians both manifested an allergy to pigeonholing. Little surprise considering Grisman started listening to his inner ear early on as a teen in New Jersey, where he ignored his piano teacher's advice against taking up the mandolin. Over the more than 40 years during which he's been producing and playing on records, Grisman -- or "The Dawg" as Garcia nicknamed him -- has mixed flavors of bluegrass, jazz, bossa nova, Latin and more into a creative, musical mutt lovingly referred to as "dawg music."
"I think categories are way too general," says Grisman, grumbling over the phone from his Marin County, Calif., office. "That's why I created my own category."
In that category, Grisman has played many roles. Grisman launched careers both as a producer (for the Smithsonian Folkways label) and as a mandolinist-of-choice for the likes of singer/songwriters Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor, jazz legend Stephane Grappelli, and country star Dolly Parton. Even after Garcia's death in 1995, Grisman continued to celebrate his friend in a series of releases of archived material, on Grisman's Acoustic Disc label, and in the 2001 documentary Grateful Dawg, directed by daughter Gillian Grisman. Now the David Grisman Quartet, originally founded in 1976, is his flagship for the sort of variety and spontaneity he used to share with Garcia.
"I abandoned having a set list several years ago," says Grisman, pointing out how his performing group has dispensed with another sort of structure. "Most people go out and play the same list every night, and I just figured, why not just try and wing it? My only criterion is that I try to go as many gigs as I can without repeating songs. And we can go a long time. We have a rather large repertoire."
So, of course, does Acoustic Disc, the label founded a dozen years ago by Grisman and a couple of other Marinites. As one might expect, there's much string music in the catalog, some of it historical and/or foreign -- including two recordings by the scintillating late Brazilian mandolinist Jacob do Bandolim and Grisman's collaborations with Garcia, the latter unplugged from his amplifiers and his Grateful Dead conspirators. The latest from the Grisman/Garcia duo (Been All Around this World) may be of special interest to Deadheads as it features never-heard-before vocals by Garcia on such numbers as Bob Dylan's "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" and James Brown's "I'll Go Crazy."
The David Grisman Quintet appears on eclectic Acoustic Discs with such tongue-in-cheek titles as Dawgwood, Dawganova, and Dawgnation. And the Quintet's Argentinian guitarist, Enrique Coria, performs alone and exquisitely on the classical-toned Solos From South America.
"The aesthetic value is a high component here, attention to detail, and musicians tend to notice that stuff," says Grisman about his multiple-Grammy-nominated label. "It's kind of opposite of the way they record classical, where they find a 'great-sounding' room and put up two microphones hung from the ceiling.
"They record essentially the sound of the room, and I try to eliminate the sound of the room, I use a real 'dead' environment. I want to record the instrument, so I use close-micing techniques, which are frowned upon in the classical world. But," he hastens to add, "I don't have a formula. Tomorrow it will be different, for some reason, so you have to be prepared to adjust."
And to celebrate difference.
"your favorite local atlanta band sucks"
Thanks for reading, and thanks for the catch!
Tues, Dec 31st. Not 21st.
Innovative & fresh sound !!!
Too many memories. I remember we were smoking meth on the back patio and a…