Adventure Music America
According to Darol Anger’s liner notes, he and longtime collaborator Mike Marshall had several aims when they joined some friends in the studio to record Woodshop. Topping the list: one, “To create highly structured orchestral works”; two, “Not to get too hung up on perfection but to communicate a vibe”; and three, “To showcase the glorious sound of our string instruments.”
They succeeded on all counts, but the album’s 14 performances sound a lot less calculated than the list above suggests. For all the intricately woven arrangements and the obvious attention paid to capturing crisp sonics, there’s an engaging spontaneity (and moments of sheer whimsy) that informs this session. Of course, you might expect as much from an album that opens with the delightful Marshall favorite “Peter Pan,” before paying tribute to Bach and, in passing, Eddie Harris via Anger’s “Bach, Up.” During “Replaceitall,” another Anger gem, the duo conjures a saw-toothed fiddle equivalent of the Rolling Stones’ rhythmic attack, then moves on to evoke the sound of a Turkish orchestra locked in buzzing unison on Marshall’s “The Creep.”
As always, both musicians have their hands full. Anger primarily plays violin (though he also deploys cello, “schwang guitar” and “electro-banjo creepola”), while Marshall ever-so-nimbly multitasks on mandolin (plus numerous variations thereof), guitars, bass and other instruments. Colorfully augmenting the duets are several tracks that feature some familiar fellow travelers, most notably pianist Phil Aaberg and bassists Todd Phillips and Michael Manring.