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Mike Marshall & Darol Anger
Mike Marshall & Darol Anger With Vasen

Review By Steven Stone
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  What happens when two American acoustic virtuosos combine forces with three Swedish acoustic masters? You get Scando/American acoustic folk/jazz. According to the album notes, "This collaboration reinforces the idea that there is a global movement towards a new kind of folk music." This CD is certainly at the movement's vanguard.

Mandolinist Mike Marshall and violinist Darol Anger have been playing together since they met in the mid 70's in David Grisman's Quintet. They were also stable-mates at Wyndam Hill Records where Marshall played on Darol Anger and Barbara Higbie's 1982 release, Tideline. In 1984, Anger and Marshall worked together on the soundtrack of the movie Countrwhile in 1985 they released their influential duo album Chiaroscuro. Since leaving Wyndam Hill in the early 90's Marshall and Anger have released four albums on Compass Records including Brand New Can and New Grange. In 2007 Marshall and Anger revisited material on Chiaroscuro on the Adventure Music CD Woodshop.

The Swedish trio Vasen has released thirteen CDs since they formed in 1990. Mikael Marin plays a five-string violinogrande (similar to a viola), Olov Johansson plays a nyckelharpa (a Swedish folk violin with keyed stops), and Roger Tallroth plays a 12-string guitar. Their music combines high-energy rhythms with improvisation grounded in traditional Swedish melodies to create thoroughly modern folk-jazz.

The Marshall/Agner duo first played with the Vasen trio in 2004 at the Lotus World Music Festival in Bloomington, Indiana. Marshall and Anger had already learned several Vasen tunes and considered themselves "fans." On stage, the two musical amalgamations meshed like perfectly machined gears. They immediately started planning to record a CD together.

So what's their music like? It's acoustic jazz based on folk melodies and rhythms. By acoustic jazz I don't mean cocktail jazz. The music isn't lethargic or overly mellow. Each tune has dynamic drive, emotional intensity, and unique rhythmic signature. Some, such as "Loke's Troubles," start with a quiet introduction and build to a feverish finale. Others, like "Skridskolaten," capture an elegant medieval contra dance-like feeling. Mike Marshall's composition "Egypt" employs a simple repetitive melody line coupled with a slippery time pattern to achieve a Middle Eastern feeling. On the Brazilian Choro tune "Os Pintinhos," which concludes the album, all the players go as far out on a musical limb they can crawl without falling off.

Produced by AoUF (All of US Fellas) and recorded by Dave Luke at Emeryville Studios I in Emeryville, CA, this album's sonics remind me of the best work from Acoustic Disc or Compass Records. The sound is clean, pure, and as natural as a high mountain stream. There is just the right amount of room reverberance for a relaxed overall ambience. In addition, during the dynamic peaks all the instruments retain their individual character. This is the way acoustic instruments should always sound on recordings.

Buy a copy of Mike Marshall & Darol Anger with Vasenfor the great sound or the great music. Either way you win. 

 

 

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