Mandolin virtuosos Chris Thile and Mike Marshall build upon their first set of instrumental dialogues, 2003's studio set Into the Cauldron, with Live Duets, exploring ever more fertile musical landscapes. Save for two covers, the songs are once again original compositions, all evincing a heightened concern for melody and harmonics, all rich in scintillating textures and moods. Thile's lovely "I'd Go Back if I Could" is a delicate, impressionistic lament that the Nickel Creek philosopher-king infuses with melancholy, alternating trilling chords with terse single-string musings while Marshall plays brooding mandocello lines. The two have a lot of fun with their collaborative, fancifully titled "Carpathian Mt. Breakdown," which offers the slightest hint of Romanian folk melody, the players wending their way through a speed-picked sonata movement, a slow, deliberate second movement, a dancelike scherzo movement, and the briefest hint of a closing rondo. Inspired by a traditional Bulgarian folk song, "Sedi Donka" is a marvel of fleet-fingered energy that embraces twin discourses on the main theme and breathtaking solo flights notable for their majestic, cascading flourishes. J. S. Bach, a Thile favorite, is onboard via "J. S. Bach DM Gigue," a sparkling interpretation of a passage from Bach's Violin Partita No. 2, with Marshall again adding the mandocello's heavier tone as an underpinning to Thile's impeccable and flawlessly executed rapid-fire melody lines. And that's mere prelude to the brilliant improvisatory fireworks Thile sets off in his sections of "Joy Ride in a Toy Car/Hey Ho," which must be heard to be believed -- the same could be said for Live Duets as well.
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Live: Duets based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Playing Time – 53:00 -- With Mike Marshall in the left speaker, and Chris Thile in the right, “Live Duets” captures two virtuoso mandolin masters at work. After the opening cut of their composition, “Shoulda Seen It Comin’,” we can hear one of the players comment, “We’re gonna have fun tonight!” And that is no doubt why this record was made … for us to enjoy the fun and energy of their 16 strings in consummate performance. After the second cut, Mike says, “This is fun!” Based on their power and strength, the dynamic duo could very well be two super heroes in disguise. This sequel to their successful 2003 collaborative effort, “Into the Cauldron,” takes us into some similarly adventurous territory. To these guys, Mandoville has no city limits. Four cuts feature one of the guys playing mandocello, and one of those (Thile’s “Hualalai”) actually has Marshall on both mandola and mandocello. There are a couple ways to tune into the music of this indefatigable duet. One is to listen very intently to appreciate the sensational musical telepathy and groove happening between the two. Mandolin players might want to follow this course. Another approach is to merely relax and let the notes and rhythms casually weave their way through a Zen-like atmosphere in search of truth and understanding. To me the players’ minds seem clear of all limitations as they strive for oneness in their music. They realize that there’s really only one way that they can collaboratively succeed – and that is along a musical path that is straight, open, wide, and free of obstructions. A traditional Bulgarian tune, “Sedi Donka,” begins with Thile demonstrating the complicated rhythm to the audience ... long, short, short, long, short, short, short, short, long, short, short. The song’s genesis includes aqueous improvisation and tremolo built around the tune’s unique melody. Through invisible, sound does have much color. Marshall and Thile use their instruments in much the same way that Monet and Piccasso used paintbrushes. The juxtaposition of one’s notes with the other’s creates each piece’s coloring. Notice how their sonic colors work together to produce feelings. I was very happy to see a delicate piece like Marshall’s 2-minute “’Til Dawn” breathe some slower air into the overall set. With high musical intellect, good ears, and considerable sensitivity, the duo works well together to create nuance and significant emotional content. Check out their musical canvas to discover the special quality of their sound. As with most live albums, applause between songs can be a little annoying. (Joe Ross)