On Tone Poets, a follow-up to the earlier album Tone Poems, the concept is simple and deceptively pure-sounding. Acoustic Disc founder and mandolinist David Grisman brought in an array of fine pickers—a total of 42 guitarists and mandolinists—into a studio to record tracks on the same vintage instruments: a 1922 Gibson F-5 mandolin and a 1933 Martin OM-45 guitar.
Naturally, the scent of purism starts to fade fairly quickly, as these players freely veer right and left from stylistic fidelity, and that attitude perfectly suits this label’s eclectic artistic mandate. Folk, bluegrass and country filter through the proceedings, in varying degrees and hybrids. Jazz, per se, is a strong component, as well, with Martin Taylor’s solo take on “I Thought About You,” and the Djangoesque workouts of Frank Vignola’s “Gypsy Playland” and John Jorgenson’s serpentine fretwork on “Improvisation No. 1.”
Disc one features solo tracks, including guitar-fitted dobro virtuosos Jerry Douglas and Bob Brozman, while disc two brings players together in duets, including Sam Bush and Jack Lawrence on the loopy shuffle “Where You There,” young mandolin wizard Chris Thile joins Mike Marshall on “Waltz for the Underworld” and, to close, Grisman and old comrade Tony Rice on “Blues for Vassar,” a reflective tribute to the late fiddler king Vassar Clements. In all, these musicians—and in this case, the specific instruments—deserve the spotlight.