The 9th year of the Mandolin Symposium was a great success. I'm slowly recovering from sleep deprivation, or I would have posted sooner. Looked to be about 60% new folks this year, along with many familiar faces from previous years.
Mike Marshall and David Grisman both seemed relaxed & happy, making good hosts for the annual event at the beautiful UC Santa Cruz campus, overlooking the ocean, where we were treated to perfect weather this year. The first night they introduce the instructors, they each play a tune and talk about what they had planned for their classes and ensembles. Mike and David played a long tune together which for me, was one of the highlights of the week......they started with a funky rhythm in 3, which threw me, and I couldn't figure out what the tune was, but watching Grisman's left hand I realized he was playing the chords to EMD, right before they switched gears and took off into a blazing rendition of the tune.......sparks flying already & it was the first night!
Classical was strong this year with both Caterina Lichtenberg, and Silke Lisko on mandolin,with her guitar playing husband Rupert Gehrmann teaching. What is better than one Baroque mandolin, played by a master? Of course two Baroque mandolins, played in tight arrangement by Caterina & Silke. Played with a feather, these instruments have a unique wonderful sound. They recorded a duet CD a few years back, and played some wonderful music all week. Of course Mike Marshall plays any kind of music & his Classical duets with Caterina, as well as the new music he has composed for them are outstanding, featuring incredibly sensitive duet playing.
Don Stiernberg AND Andy Statman for Jazz & Klezmer.......what more needs said. Don Julin was there too, leading the well attended nightly Swing jams. For my ears Statman provided another of those magic symposium moments at one of the evening concerts, when he performed a 15 minute duet with Eric Thompson backing him & trading licks on guitar. They improvised their way through a medley of tunes, including Arkansas Traveler and Rawhide, with Eric playing by the seat of his pants with a huge grin on his face. Eric was in bands with both Grisman & Garcia back in the 60's and is an ever present force in the Berkeley folk scene.....he taught Old Time music for the week, and is a musicologist having studied Americana for decades. I heard his classes were sparse at first, maybe folks weren't familiar with him, but after this duet with Andy they increased in attendance every day.
Almir Cortez and Tim Connell taught Choro.....Almir brought an upbeat attitude to everything he did, clearly he was enjoying himself. And what a fabulous player....Tim Connell gets the most improved award, he was a student at early Symposiums, and is now teaching. They even had Mike's band Choro Famoso there for students to play with......as well as playing a great performance one night with Marshall and Cortez, another symposium highlight.
The surprise for me was Jesse Cobb teaching Bluegrass..now I had seen the String Dusters several times, but Jesse is WAY more than a BG/Jamband kinda guy. He played everything thrown at him, from Dawg, to new acoustic, swing, whatever......he is just an outstanding musician, who added a lot to the event! And don't forget Marla Fibish for Irish music which is increasing in popularity each year. Her playing duets with Eric Thompson, who is another fella who can play anything, was fabulous.
Thompson was in another performance that for me was "the most memorable" performance this year, as he played a duet with Grisman, on Monroe's tune 'Watson Blues". With Doc's recent passing this was a heartfelt dedication to Doc, as they traded chorus after chorus.......rarely have I heard Grisman play any better, or with more sensitivity & passion.
Once again Lynn Dudenbostel's repair shop was a hub of activity. Lynn works on instruments with the money going to the scholarship fund.....and this year his son Matt was there, taking classes & playing Dude #1. Outstanding instruments were seen everywhere you looked, including all the great builders throughout mandolin history. Grisman brought numerous gems from his collection, as did Marshall, and these were available to be experienced during the week.
I could write tons more, about classes, jams, great young players etc........... what a FABULOUS event, every mandolin player should go at least once. Thanks to Mike & David, Steve Ruffo, Patrice, Dan Large & all the others who make this such a memorable week!