Jazz Mandolin Project
Like mandolinists Mike Marshall and David Grisman before him, Jamie Masefield is challening notions of what that stringed instrument—forever associated with folk and bluegrass music—can do. A longtime student of tenor banjo who gigged around Burlington, Vermont with a variety of Dixieland bands, Masefield switched to mandolin in college because it was easier to sit in on dorm jams with that instrument. For the past four years, he has honed his chops with the cutting edge Jazz Mandolin Project, taking the instrument to places that Jethro Burns has never gone before.
The group first turned heads with their self-titled 1996 debut. Now comes the highly interactive trio proj-ect Tour de Flux (Accurate), featuring Chris Dahlgren on acoustic bass and Jon Fishman from the hugely popular jam-rock band Phish on drums. Given the cult status of Phish, recent Jazz Mandolin Project gigs have attracted hordes from the tie-dyed set; the same audiences who flock to Medeski Martin & Wood concerts.
“There are definitely plenty of hippies at our shows,” notes Masefield. “A large part of our audience is really young, open-eared people who are ready to hear some adventurous stuff. These are the people who will get into a car and drive three hours to see a show and buy the CDs and make a huge effort.”
Regarding his passion for improvising on the mandolin, Masefield says, “I’m an oddball in that I haven’t come to jazz from bluegrass like most mandolin players have. I just kind of fell in love with the mandolin and wanted to create some kind of vehicle so that I could write my tunes and have a group and just try and do whatever we do. It’s very contrapuntal stuff, like a three-way conversation.”