New Words (Novas Palavras)
A meeting of minds, cultures and wizardly techniques, here’s yet another reminder of mandolinist Mike Marshall’s well-documented habit of placing himself in challenging and intriguing settings. This time around, Marshall, who previously has collaborated with the likes of David Grisman, Darol Anger, Béla Fleck and Stéphane Grappelli, teams up with Brazilian virtuoso Hamilton de Holanda, who is heard here playing the 10-string bandolim and an Irish bouzouki. The instrumental weaves produced by the duo are often as intricate as they are distinctive, which is saying a lot, since in addition to mandolin, Marshall briefly plays mandocello and tenor guitar.
Yet for all the remarkable handiwork on display, the performances also reveal a natural, even chummy chemistry at times, and leave little doubt that both musicians are suckers for string-band romps and romantic themes. Given the overlapping influences, it’s oversimplifying things to say that the tunes here—original pieces as well as Appalachian anthems (“Blackberry Blossom”), pop standards (“Autumn Leaves”) and several South American charmers (not least Hermeto Pascoal’s “São Jorge”)—reflect a convergence of cultures. But the colorful hemispheric shifts certainly make for a lively and lyrical session.
Those who need to see in order to believe this duo’s high wire act will especially welcome the bonus DVD, featuring three concert performances. But pickers who scan these videos with hopes of stealing some hot licks should be forewarned: Prepare to encounter feelings of woeful inadequacy.