David Grisman’s FolkJazz Trio performs at Miami-Hamilton
David Grisman has been a lover and purveyor of acoustic music since the early 1960s. Perhaps best known as a founding member of Old and In the Way and his subsequent collaborations with Jerry Garcia, Grisman continues to push the boundaries of modern acoustic music.
He currently plays with several different ensembles, as well as offering fans a chance to download classic recordings through his website AcousticOasis.com. A few of the latest releases include: deluxe editions of projects like Tone Poems, Doc & Dawg and Dawg ’90. He has also released Old & in the Way – Live at the Boarding House, four complete sets released 40 years after being recorded by the seminal band featuring Jerry Garcia, Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements and John Kahn.
Grisman will bring his FolkJazz Trio to Hamilton’s Parish Auditorium on Saturday, Nov. 16. He recently sat down with the Dayton City Paper to talk about the Trio, the development of “Dawg” music and the state of acoustic music in the modern age.
Your upcoming tour will see you play with the FolkJazz Trio, the Sextet and Bluegrass Experience. What are the different approaches to playing with different groups and musicians? Specifically, what are the advantages of playing with the Trio over other configurations?
Each group has its own repertoire and they all have their own challenges and advantages. The FolkJazz Trio is more intimate with slightly more expanded roles for each member, but at the same time it’s more exposed and each member is more responsible for the overall sound. The trio covers a lot of musical territory – from Stephen Foster to Chet Atkins, Skip James, Les Paul and even the Rolling Stones.
Jim Hurst (guitar) has a great range of abilities from blues to country, folk and jazz, playing the guitar equally well with his fingers or a flatpick with incredible groove. He’s also a fabulous singer with great dynamics and expression. My son Sam is a fine bassist who, even at his young age, has developed a unique approach to both accompaniment and soloing. All in all, it’s a very rewarding experience for me to play with these guys – plenty of precision and plenty of improvisation as well. – David Grisman
Few musicians can claim to helping give birth to and fostering a new style of playing music. Dawg music, in theory, seems to be a melding of two concepts so diametrically opposed to each other that it would never work. In the early days, was it something that took a lot of work to create a framework, or did the dynamic of your playing mixed with a force like Jerry Garcia just magically fall into place?
In the early days, we rehearsed a lot because I was learning how to orchestrate and present my own music. I don’t really see the disparity between discipline and experimentation because, in a sense, the more disciplined you are, the more you have to utilize when things get looser. Jerry was also a very disciplined musician who recognized what’s involved in learning various styles and playing in various combinations. We both appreciated many of the same musicians and songs and had done a lot of homework along the way, so when we did get together it was very harmonious and we were ready for the magic. – DG
I imagine every interview and fan you speak with brings up Garcia. What is it like to be a part of that world? When you think back, do you remember the musical moments with him or just the friendship more? Has your concept of the definition of Dawg music changed since his passing, and if so, how?
Jerry was a great friend and musical cohort. It’s hard to separate the music from the man, but he had and continues to have a great impact on me and my music. Dawg music is ultimately about my expression and I’m hopeful that it is always growing wider and deeper. -DG
I imagine it was hard to convince traditional music audiences to follow you into new and strange places, especially in the beginning. Do you think it’s important for a style like bluegrass to continually evolve?
Music, like all art forms, is an evolutionary process. The important thing to understand is the difference between true evolution and other changes in music that have no real aesthetic basis. For example, when Bill Monroe decided to orchestrate some of his songs with double or triple fiddles, it was an evolutionary step because it evolved naturally from something he already was doing. When his record producer decided to add a piano player and electric guitarist to some of his sessions, it was primarily a change intended to sell more records. And let me be clear – it’s not about the instruments necessarily, it was the fact that neither of those instrumentalists were schooled by working in Bill’s band or being immersed in his own very personal musical culture.
As far as the “traditional” audience goes, they either avoided my quintet or realized, as I do, that all traditions usually evolve from somewhat heretical roots, i.e. bluegrass “revolutionized” what we now call “old-time music.” -DG
David Grisman will play with the FolkJazz Trio on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m at Parrish Auditorium, 1601 University Blvd. in Hamilton. Tickets are $20-30 for reserved seating. For more information, please visit dawgnet.com/tour.html. To purchase Grisman recordings and to search for a free daily download, please visit wacousticoasis.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at RustyPate@DaytonCityPaper.com.