David Grisman Sextet: Top Drawer

David Grisman Sextet
Freight & Salvage
Berkeley, CA
January 27, 2013

David Grisman Sextet: Top Drawer

Last weekend, the Freight & Salavage in Berkeley hosted a weekend tribute to famed jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, including concerts, workshops, panel discussions and an open house for all things string jazz.  The weekend extravaganza ended on Sunday with a performance by the David Grisman sextet, which was appropriate enough since DG had actually performed on many occasions with Stephane Grappelli and even recorded an album with the legendary violinist.  Of course, DGrisman has achieved virtual living-legend status himself.  He is the Yo Yo Ma of the mandolin.  His name is virtually synonymous with the instrument.  And for good reason.  You will simply not be able to find a better, more accomplished mandolinist.

Django Reinhardt is oft times cited by jazz aficionados as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.  He is certainly one of the most influential jazz guitarists of the last generation.  Together with Stephane, he virtually invented acoustic string jazz.  Their style of music is sometimes called ‘hot jazz’ though it at times gives a mis-impression of being rather laidback or languid.  I love it for all the space in the music.  It certainly evocative and reminds me of Parisian cafe life.  It is definitely not a wall of sound like so much pop and rock music.  Django’s style of jazz guitar briefly bubbled into popular consciousness after Sean Penn played a Django-obsessed character in the movie “Sweet and Low Down.”

On Sunday, the David Grisman sextet played a generous set of some of Django and Stephane’s most well known tunes.  For being 68 years old, David Grisman has a lot of energy.  He is also a very generous musician frequently allowing the other members of his sextet to shine.  One annoying thing about listening to a jazz performances today is the incessant insistence of the audience to applaud after every solo which I’m sure the musicians appreciate but also interrupts the song and means that I'm applauding six or seven times for each song.  This is a ridiculous tradition that should die off but probably won't.  Nevertheless, as the night went on, the set got better and better.  It started as a top-drawer performance and, by the end of the night, I was hoping to find a live recording.  That’s a good concert.

Check out the original: Django and Stephane playing here and here.  

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