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Into The Cauldron by Mike Marshall / Chris Thile

That problem with labels, again.... these two musicians have backgrounds in bluegrass and that relatively new (the late 70s or so) fusion genre (or sub-genre, depending on who you ask) Newgrass or New Acoustic Music, coming from the intersection/overlap between jazz (swing & post-bop) and bluegrass.

From The Cauldron is one of those albums that defies E-Z categorization: it’s solely two fellows playing mandolins, nothing else (‘cept for the mandolin’s cousin, the mandocello). Marshall (who's played w/ Stephane Grappelli & Bela Fleck) and Thile (Nickel Creek, Jerry Douglas) - ace players, the both of ‘em - engage in some exhilarating, concise (11 tunes: no muss, no fuss, no yellow waxy buildup, and no extraneous displays of technique, though each has it to spare) and swinging folk-based, classically-tinged jazz improvisation on a wonderfully eclectic program: the program includes tunes by J.S. Bach ("Goldberg Variations"), Charlie Parker ("Scrapple From The Apple"), Steve Kuhn ("The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers") and some British Isles traditional tunes ("Fisher’s Hornpipe").

As with the best duos, their sounds intertwine around, amiably spar and play off of each other, but always with affectionate attention to melody. Unlike most old-school types (Bill Monroe and Jethro Burns, to name two mando-bosses), these guys aren’t afraid to push the envelope in spots with some bracing Coltrane/Ayler flurries. Newgrass? Stringband jazz? Third Stream post-folk? When it sounds this good, who cares....

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mike Marshall / Chris Thile
  • CD Title: Into The Cauldron
  • Genre: Folk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Record Label: Sugar Hill
  • Musicians: M. Marshall: mandolin, mandocello; C. Thile: mandolin.
  • Rating: Five Stars
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