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Dawg-gone Great!
9 October 2010
 
 
Being unemployed, I usually just stay home all day. But the week before last I was driving in my truck, running some errands and listening to the local public radio station in Eugene, KLCC. Right when I had parked and was ready to shut the engine off, I heard the announcer say that the David Grisman Quintet was going to be giving a concert in Corvallis on October 8th. Oh my goodness! DAVID GRISMAN!! I almost fell out of my truck! I just couldn't believe it!

The first time I ever hear David Grisman's music was way back in 1984 when I was attending Cal Poly university in San Luis Obispo, California. I was visiting some friends who lived on Pismo Street, and that particular day they were playing David Grisman's Hot Dawg album. I had never heard that style of music before, and in a short amount of time I was totally captivated! So, what is his style, you may ask? According to the David Grisman entry on Wikipedia:

"Dawg Music" is what Grisman calls his mixture of bluegrass and Django Reinhardt / Stéphane Grappelli-influenced jazz. It was Grisman's combination of Reinhardt-era jazz, bluegrass, folk, Old World Mediterranean string band music, as well as modern jazz fusion that came to embody "Dawg" music.

 Well, as soon as I got back home from running my errands, I rushed to the computer to buy myself a ticket. The concert was being held at the Corvallis High School Mainstage Theater — a venue I had never been to before. In the process of purchasing the ticket I was able to see a seating chart, and I noticed that there was one little lone­some seat in a good spot on the fourth row (right where the red square is on the map to the left). Wow ... pretty sweet ... the fourth row! In the photo to the left, you can see what the empty theater looks like from the stage. Once I made my purchase and printed my ticket, I was all set to go!

Finally the big day, Friday 8 October, came. As I was about to head out the door, the thought came to me that David Grisman might be signing CDs after the concert. So on an impulse, I grabbed my Hot Dawg CD, which I have owned for a good twenty years. The high school theater was not difficult to find, and I was in my seat a half-hour before the concert started — an early bird as usual!

 
A little bit after 8:00 p.m. the David Grisman Quintet took the stage. I was relieved that there was not a warm-up performer first, particularly after the "interesting" performer they had before the Rodrigo y Gabriela concert I went to almost exactly a year ago. The Quintet features David Grisman on mandolin, Matt Eakle on flute, Grant Gordy on guitar, Jim Kerwin on double bass, and George Marsh on percussion. From the get-go, the band was tight, and a pure pleasure to listen to. Although I own only five of the almost 60 albums David Grisman has recorded, I was pleased that the first two songs were ones that I knew well. On the other hand, as the evening progressed I also enjoyed discovering new pieces that I had never heard before.

Following is a collage of the band members I made from video stills of the footage I recorded from time to time throughout the evening:

There were numerous musical highlights during the concert that can only be experienced, not described. One notable incident occurred shortly before the intermission. The Quintet was playing a piece composed by guitarist Grant Gordy. Having been raised in Eugene, Oregon (about 45 minutes' drive away), him mom was in the audience, and the song was dedicated to her. Gordy was playing his guitar very intensely, right in the middle of a solo, when all of a sudden the high E string broke. The audience made loud gasping and groaning sounds in sympathy!

Perhaps he was dying inside, but he never missed a beat! He kept right on with his solo without even dropping a note! Without that high E string, he surely must have had to adjust his solo, but it still sounded great. After the song he rushed off stage to put on a new string. Meanwhile, Grisman told some banjo jokes, and then launched into an unplanned song, which Gordy joined in once he had his guitar back in tune. Definitely a professional performance all around!

The evening passed all too quickly. The final song of the set was from the Hot Dawg album that I heard that first day I discovered David Grisman way back in 1984. But the song — 16...16 — was actually recorded even further back, in 1978. Of course, in the original version, the lead solo instrument was a violin, not a flute. Still, it was a real treat to see and hear them perform this live. You can watch the majority of the performance in the seven-minute video below:


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At the end of the video you can see people starting to stand to their feet. The entire audience gave them a one or two minute standing ovation until they came back to perform one more song — the crowd-pleasing Shady Grove. Grisman didn't sing all of the verses, but it was quite a long and wild performance, with plenty of solos for each band member. And lucky for me, before they left the stage, Grisman announced that he would be signing CDs in the lobby! Hot dog!

A bit later I got in line, and then pulled the Hot Dawg CD out of my backpack. When it was my turn, I handed him the CD cover insert, and he signed the front for me, as you can see to the right. I thanked him for his autograph, and for coming to Corvallis. I finally arrived back home around 11:00 p.m. to find Catherine ready to call the police because she felt I was so late! But even though it was way past my bedtime, I popped the memory card from the video camera into our blu-ray player so I could see how the 37 minutes of footage I took came out. Gorgeous! Makes me wish I had videoed more — especially when you see the generally poor quality of the David Grisman videos on YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube, I noticed on David Grisman's Wikipedia article that he sued YouTube in 2007 to "prevent individuals from posting recordings of Grisman's music." I'm not sure exactly what the crime is — is it that the posted videos are of such poor quality that it's almost criminal, and so it makes him look bad, or is that these videos appear on YouTube at all? I have to say that the footage I took is WAY better than anything I've seen on YouTube. I'm tempted to put some clips on YouTube as a service to his fans, but in light of his lawsuit, I guess I won't — I'll just be content with the one video on this page.

But really — I don't think Grisman or other musicians have anything to worry about. Video clips like these help spread the word about their music, and whet the appetites of the listeners for more. I have no doubt that such online videos INCREASE his album sales rather than decrease them. Mr. Grisman, if you happen to come across this page, I hope that you won't be upset by the photos and video I have posted. Rather, I hope that you will appreciate my glowing report of your concert and music, my 26 years of being your fan, and that my recommendations and links to your products will actually increase your bottom line.

Well, I guess I had better get on with those recommendations and links! First and foremost, here are the vital David Grisman links:
 
Dawgnet
This is Grisman's official Web site. Click on the "David/DGQ" button to find out more about David and the band. Click on "Tour Info" to see if Grisman will be performing in your area — if he's anywhere near, you will definitely NOT want to miss it! On this site you can also explore the multitude of recordings Grisman has made and listen to samples.
Acoustic Disc
Grisman's own record label, promoting his own and others' acoustic music — more than 70 albums to choose from!
Acoustic Oasis
During the concert, Grisman mentioned his new Acoustic Oasis Web site a number of times. He told us that it contains a lot of music that you can't find anywhere else, and that there are free daily downloads. This sounds like just the place to get your acoustic music fix on a regular basis!
Amazon.com's David Grisman Store has 41 of his albums for sale on CD, and 35 albums in MP3 format. Hot Dawg!!
As mentioned previously, you can find a large number of not-so-great-quality David Grisman video clips on YouTube.
If you really want to see some good-quality videos of Grisman, you'd be much better off buying one (or all!) of the David Grisman videos on Amazon.
 
Next I will briefly mention the five David Grisman albums and one video that I currently own:
 
 
One of the earliest David Grisman Quintet albums, this classic recording is the one that introduced me to "Dawg" music. Hot Dawg features the extraordinary violin playing of Stéphane Grappelli on a few of the tracks — and it reached the 14th position on the Billboard Jazz Albums Chart. Out of the hundreds of songs Grisman could have chosen, two of the pieces performed at the concert were from this 32-year-old album.
 
If Hot Dawg got you hungering for more Stéphane Grappelli, you'll definitely want to check out Stéphane Grappelli and David Grisman Live. The only bad thing about this now out-of-print album (you can still buy it used) — besides it being out of print — is that at 42 minutes it's WAY too short — it absolutely should have been a double album. Just can't get enough of this awesome music!
 
Another out-of-print album (also available used), Acousticity definitely has a stronger jazz flavor, as evidenced by the appearance of drums, trumpets and saxophones on a number of the tracks. This delightful album reached the number 6 position on the Billboard Jazz Albums Chart. If you are a Grisman fan at all, you will definitely want to get a copy of this album before it is totally unavailable. When I was looking for it a few years ago, all I could find was a vinyl copy, which I digitized into MP3 — talk about desperate!
 
For an excellent overview of the first two decades of the David Grisman Quintet, look no further than DGQ-20: A Twenty Year Retrospective 1976-1996. This 216-minute (that's over three-and-a-half hours!), 39-song, triple-disc extravaganza explores a wide-range of Grisman's musical tastes and abilities, and includes the same musicians who were performing at the concert (with the exception of Grant Grady). For example, the included rendition of 16...16 is not the earlier violin-based version, but a later flute-based version featuring Matt Eakle. For a comprehensive taste of ALL of Grisman's musical styles, this is the (triple-)album to get!
 
As if to prove that you can't pigeonhole Grisman into a certain musical box, Songs of Our Fathers finds Grisman and Andy Statman musically exploring their Jewish roots. This fresh-sounding Klezmer-Dawg synthesis is followed up by a second helping entitled New Shabbos Waltz. The Editorial Reviews for both of these albums on Amazon.com really sum them up well — be sure to read them, and then buy the albums!
 
This documentary film from 2000 "details the deeply rooted musical friendship between Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. It includes live Garcia/Grisman performances as well as rare and unique personal moments from the studio, backstage and home-style jam sessions. Interviews with friends and family are intertwined with live and archival elements, creating an intimate portrait of Jerry and David's relationship." (More info at IMDb.) The 80-minute Grateful Dawg — which won the 2001 Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Newport International Film Festival — "celebrates the easy friendship and truly inspired musicianship of Garcia and Grisman" in a home-style, behind-the-scenes way that will delight fans of both performers.
 
Well, there you have it — my report of the thoroughly-enjoyable concert and my tribute to the one-and-only David Grisman and team. I hope that you will take the time and effort to explore the vast musical riches that David Grisman has to offer — may they provide you with as many years of pleasure as they have provided for me!

For reviews of other concerts I have had the privilege of attending while living in Oregon, be sure to check out:
This article is 5th a series of articles on this Web site related to Literature, Music and Photography which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
1.
17  Oct  2009
2.
24  Oct  2009
3.
12  Dec  2009
4.
2  Jan  2010
5.
Dawg-gone Great!
9  Oct  2010
6.
10  Jan  2011
7.
1  Sep  2011
8.
13  Mar  2012
9.
28  Mar  2013
10.
29  Jul  2013
11.
22  Sep  2013
12.
26  Oct  2013
13.
2  Aug  2014
14.
12  Aug  2014
15.
14  Aug  2014
16.
12  Sep  2014
17.
19  Sep  2014
18.
12  Apr  2015
19.
21  Dec  2016
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Reader Comments
On October 21, 2016, Dave Campbell wrote:
It's hard to believe that in the years since you have made the initial posting that there have been no comments on either the clean, unaffected prose that characterizes your writing or the clarity of the video in which you so accurately captured an essence of this distinctive musical performance, highlight the performers as they negotiate individual riffs with energy and expertise born of long hours of practice and performance. Mainly, thanks for sharing such a good time!
 
You can also send comments to me privately at: 2bits@briansbits.com
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