Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mike Marshall on jam bands

I caught up with Mike Marshall after the mandolin workshop and before the Vassar tribute, which he would be leading. At the workshop, he had talked about his own role in the newgrass movement and as part of a generation of musicians who changed the music. I asked him if thought that the new generation of jam bands was doing something similar.

"Grisman and Bush and Béla took the music in a natural progression from what Bill Monroe and others had laid down as a foundation," he said. "The jam band thing to me feels like a turn more than a natural progression. They are trying to accomplish something different, which is in essence is a party. When you see Yonder Mountain it is really about the atmosphere of the evening more than about taking the instruments to the next place.

"What is cool is that they are bringing a whole bunch of people to the music that otherwise weren't interested because socially they weren't comfortable. So they provide a social environment for that social group where they feel at home, but what's good is that some of those people will go check out Del McCoury or David Grisman."

I asked Marshall what trends in the music he thinks will influence the future. "It is probably going international. We have embraced all the Americana grooves and melodic ideas--blues and rock and Cajun and funk--and incorporated all that into what we call bluegrass. So it is natural that the next generation will expand their reach to Cuba, Brazil, India, and China," Marshall said.

Most of Marshall's festival appearances are as part of a duet. He played Wintergrass will Hamilton de Holanda. In June, he'll take the stage at Telluride in a duo with Edgar Meyer. "For some reason, I go into these very intimate kind of situations where it is like a converstaion between two old friends. I love the intimacy and space that happens when there are just two instruments," he said.

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