David Grisman

New River

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Many of the projects chosen for David Grisman's Acoustic Disc label are beautifully simple. On New River mandolist Grisman and jazz pianist Denny Zeitlin have arrived at the studio with no more than their instruments, four self-penned pieces each, and the desire to cut an album of intimate duets. They have also co-authored a ninth tune titled "DG/DZ Blues," a piece that they successfully extend for over ten minutes, giving the listener an inkling of their daring on this album. The loose structure of "Brazilian Street Dance," followed by the progressive jazzgrass of "Dawg Funk," also notifies the listener that this will be a stylistically varied set. It should be mentioned that the piano and mandolin, two instruments seldom paired, work quite nicely here. The overall approach is fairly abstract, creating music that is more thoughtful than emotive. This tendency is perhaps most evident on Zeitlin's compositions like "Moving Parts" and the title track. Grisman also shows a knack for writing expansive tunes with "Waltz for Gigi," a piece that may remind some listeners of modal jazz. Its elastic structure provides an evocative mesh for both players to improvise against. The success of this project derives from the players' ability to understand one another and offer engaging support. This intuitive approach also synthesizes the variety of styles -- Latin, swing, and modern -- to give the album an integrated unity. Since there isn't a category for good acoustic music, it's difficult to know where this album will be shelved at the local record store. It will, nonetheless, be worth tracking down. New River is a lovely undertaking, fresh and in a category by itself.

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