Archive for in performance

sweet honey still rockin’

Sweet Honey in the Rock. From left: Louise Robinson, sign-language interpreter Shirley Childress, Nitanju Bolade Casel, Carol Maillard and Aisha Kahlil. Photo by Dwight Carter

Sweet Honey in the Rock. From left: Louise Robinson, sign-language interpreter Shirley Childress, Nitanju Bolade Casel, Carol Maillard and Aisha Kahlil. Photo by Dwight Carter

As it enters its fifth decade, Sweet Honey in the Rock can’t help but feel a little restless. Its membership has shifted again, altering with it the dynamics within the veteran African-American female vocal group, but so have the rhythms of the world – particularly the social, personal and political issues that have long been addressed within its music.

It short, you don’t experience a history as extensive and formidable as that of Sweet Honey in the Rock and not get used to a very honest and unavoidable constant: change.

“You always have to try new things,” said Carol Maillard, one of the group’s founding members. “With a lot of groups, I think they stick to their formula simply because audiences want that. I don’t know how those artists maintain that for 15, 20 or 30 years. But we all have such diverse interests. Even though a lot of the subjects and topics in our songs reflect the politics and the social fabric of the country, we all just really want to be able to express how we feel in general about life. Sometimes it’s not related to anything that’s going on in the world. It’s just what we’re experiencing at the moment.”

What exists most in the here and now for Sweet Honey in the Rock, aside from its return performance for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is a revamped lineup. With the 2013 retirement of co-founding member Dr. Ysaye Maria Barnwell, the group went from a vocal quintet to a quartet (its initial configuration) and cut its first studio album in nine years, #LoveInEvolution. The recording will be released on Friday.

“We’ve been a quartet, we’ve been a sextet,” Maillard said. “I’ve been onstage when we’ve been a trio and we’ve been a quintet. We’ve sung with full symphony orchestras, we’ve sung with choirs and sung with trios. We’ve sung with just percussion and bass. We’ve done a lot of different combinations. So when Ysaye retired in ’13, we had auditions and decided to have Navasha Daya, a very fine artist from the Baltimore area, join us. We enjoyed that immensely, but just started thinking, ‘What can we do?’ I was always of the opinion that we had a strong quartet. I just knew that.”

But the retooled Sweet Honey quartet – Maillard, Louise Robinson (Sweet Honey’s other original singer), Aisha Kahlil (a member since 1981) and Nitanju Bolade Casel (who joined in 1985 and also works as the group’s producer) – would be different from previous rosters. Known primarily as an a capella ensemble, Sweet Honey began touring regularly with an instrumentalist – specifically, with the Baltimore/Washington, DC jazz bassist Romeir Mendez.

“I think it was Nitanju that said, ‘Why don’t we just have a bass?’ The rest of us thought. ‘Yeah. We can do that. We can do anything we want to do, actually.’ So when we came to the end of ’14, we were clear we wanted to continue as a quartet with a bass player. So Romeir came along and he had just the right vibe. We really enjoy working with him because he is so conscientious, creative and sensitive to the music.”

On #LoveinEvolution, that music translates into a typically varied assortment of songs that range from environmentally themed originals (The Living Waters) to the powerful combination of a traditional gospel piece (I Don’t Want No Trouble at the River) with a poem penned by Dr. Maya Angelou (When Great Trees Fall). There are also interpretations of two tunes – Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) and Wholly Holy – from Marvin Gaye’s classic and still-topical 1971 album What’s Going On.

“In 2010, when we were five singers, we decided that we wanted to bring in some songs we grew up with, songs that were part of our everyday listening, singing and dancing that were also thought provoking. So there was Marvin Gaye, of course, because What’s Going On is absolutely timeless. That music still resonates. Nitanju brought in Wholy Holy, Aisha brought in Mercy Mercy Me, Ysaye brought in Inner City Blues, (also from What’s Going On). I suggested the Stevie Wonder song Love’s in Need of Love Today. We also had (The Isley Brothers’) Harvest for the World. But Mercy and Holy are the ones that are still with us.”

Equally inspiring is the occasion of Sweet Honey’s WoodSongs appearance. Maillard said the group is honored to be performing in Lexington on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“We just keep taking it day by day and putting our best foot forward… well, our best notes forward. We put our best notes forward and are very glad that we have this opportunity to have great, great songs to share in honor of this day.”

Sweet Honey in the Rock performs at 6:45 tonight at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third, for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Tickets are $20. Call 859-280-2218 or go to lexingtonlyric.com.

in performance: fabio mittino and bert lams

fabio mittino and bert lams. photo by danny nguyen.

fabio mittino and bert lams. photo by danny nguyen.

One might understandably picture a packed but still very intimate Frankfort coffeehouse as one of the last places to experience the music of the Russian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff. Then again, Gurdjieff compositions – essentially remembrances and reimaginings of European and Middle Eastern folk and liturgical works – aren’t standard fare anywhere. But as presented last night by Italian guitarist Fabio Mittino and his Belgian-born teacher Bert Lams at the Kentucky Coffeetree Cafe, Gurdjieff’s songs – and those composed by protégé Thomas de Hartmann – were presented as a series of snapshots that represented varying aspects of dance, spiritualism and, quite often, humor.

Making this concert all the more distinct was the fact that Gurdjieff’s music, when it is performed at all, is vanquished to the instrument it was composed for – piano. In the hands of Mittino and Lams, who arranged the music’s deceptively sparse and spacious melodies for guitar, these tunes were folkish miniatures – quiet, reflective bursts of acoustic music that seldom drifted past the three minute mark. As such, the duo packed 19 songs into a set that ran just over an hour. But efficiency proved one the more appealing aspects of this music. Melodies would capture an ancient ambience, a bit of Eastern intrigue or a rich spiritual cast with remarkable accessibility and then vanish.

The show opening Mazurka, for instance, was built around a spring-like melody spearheaded by Mittino that indulged in a delicate, dance-like setting for about 90 seconds and then was done. The Eastern European dance cast of Song of the Fisherwoman and its more mischievous musical cousin Mamasha barely clocked in at a minute in length, yet their senses of expression sounded remarkably complete.

The two broke away from the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann canon only briefly during a quick encore segment. There, Mittino indulged in a quiet but richly harmonic original tune, In the City of K, while Lams reaffirmed his stance as a classical scholar with an unhurried and unassumingly confident reading of Bach’s Prelude from Cellosuite.

The bulk of the program, though, set its compass to a different land altogether, to music of quiet, exotic serenity. What a lovely sound to set against the dead of winter.

in performance: lexington philharmonic with the brubeck brothers quartet

the brubeck brothers quartet: dan brubeck, mike demicco, chuck lamb and chris brubeck.

the brubeck brothers quartet: dan brubeck, mike demicco, chuck lamb and chris brubeck.

There were certainly tip-offs last night at the Opera House that the Lexington Philharmonic and conductor Scott Terrell were preparing to operate, in terms of style and repertoire, from a different base than usual. The first sign was the greeting that announced showtime – a lone trombone playing the melody line to the Dave Brubeck/Paul Desmond staple Take Five. The other was instrumentation assembled across the front of the stage. It belonged not to any classically derived guest soloists but to a jazz combo that would largely dictate the music to come.

What played out was an immensely enjoyable New Year’s Eve collaboration between the Philharmonic and the Brubeck Brothers Quartet. The latter was led by Chris and Dan Brubeck, two of the four sons of legendary father Dave, who had performed on this very Opera House stage two decades earlier.

Admittedly, being family to an artistic titan is hardly recommendation enough for anything other than a simple performance tribute. But the younger Brubecks also clocked many years on the road and in the studio with their esteemed father, so their artistic investment in his music has been considerable. As such, their claim as heirs to his compositions, and especially his mischievous implementation of time signatures, isn’t only justifiable, it’s a creative impetus to find new arrangements and possibilities for what can largely be termed Brubeck Music.

That was the cheerful gist of the concert, which delved into late career Brubeck works like The Basie Band is Back in Town (with a Chris Brubeck arrangement that favored Kansas City swing over his dad’s artful turns) as well as the richly percussive patterns of Jazzanians. Both showcased Dan Brubeck’s ultra tasteful drive on drums, a propulsion that modestly piloted most of the concert as much through clean, efficient fills during group and orchestral displays as through his solos.

The second set favored more established Brubeck fare, beginning with an animated Unsquare Dance. Chris Brubeck’s arrangement made the Philharmonic strings, along with his own efficient playing on fretless electric bass (he also performed, intermittingly, on trombone), willing accomplices to the tune’s improbable 7/4 time signature. The lyrics penned for the work were less engaging, although the command in the second verse to “asymmetrically swing your partner” was a hoot.

The extended Brandenburg Gate Revisited, the most orchestral Brubeck composition of the evening (the others were mostly retooled quartet works), brought out the best in the Philharmonic as it shifted from third stream variations to intervals of combo swing. Equally engaging was the dramatic role the orchestra played in bolstering the wildly playful melodic skirmishes within Blue Rondo a la Turk.

In its most elemental and engaging moment, though, the performance came down to an unaccompanied exchange between the brothers during a 12 minute revamping of Take Five. For a few brief moments, what was at work was a two man rhythm section of electric bass and drums glorifying the groove without any hint pretense or over-embellishment. It’s a good bet father Brubeck would have gotten a charge out of it.

in performance: mark o’connor, ‘an appalachian christmas’

mark o'connor.

mark o’connor.

The songs that opened Mark O’Connor’s An Appalachian Christmas concert last night at the Singletary Center for the Arts were all dutiful, decorative sound ornaments for the season. A spry Jingle Bells, a stately Beautiful Star of Bethlehem and a swing-savvy Winter Wonderland were all suitably festive. Yet for an artist of O’Connor’s vast stylistic reach, they sounded a touch safe.

Then, four tunes in, the Grammy winning violinist, composer and educator turned to a contemporary piece penned by Kentucky favorite son Steve Wariner called Now It Belongs To You. After a typically deft and virtuosic turn on the strings, O’Connor dropped nearly all of the country accents that pervaded the work to let a three member violin team – himself, Kate Lee and wife Maggie O’Connor – transform the music into shimmering chamber chatter that eventually possessed Pachelbel-like brightness.

The true charm of An Appalchian Christmas, as it turned out, far exceeded the program’s obvious holiday intent. It gathered a handful of styles – bluegrass, country, classical, swing and jazz – that O’Connor has employed more sparingly and specifically in past Lexington performances. Last night, you pretty much got everything, and what a feast it all became.

Carol of the Bells, for instance, again used the violin trio to play off of the chime-like playing of banjoist Cia Cherryholmes and mandolinist Forrest O’Connor (the headliner’s son) for a sound that nicely approximated the genre-bending progressive grass music father O’Connor and his contemporaries explored during the ‘80s. Blue Christmas utilized the hushed vocal appeal of Lee, who regularly recalled the singing of Alison Krauss. Then, at the start of the show’s second set, Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor performed a duet mash-up of the former’s classical/bluegrass hybrid favorite Appalachian Waltz and Silent Night that was rich in improvisational depth, technical command and wonderfully intuitive interaction.

At what was arguably the performance’s high point, the band took on Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas staple Linus and Lucy, pumping it full of bluegrass gusto and jazzy expression while keeping the tune’s very child-like wonder intact as fiddles – er, violins – appropriated the melody lines Guaraldi designed for piano. A jovial, but way too brief bass solo by Michael Rinne enhanced the fun even more.

In summing up the second set, O’Connor and band reversed the flow established earlier in the program by the letting the patient beauty of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring shed its classical frame to fully embrace the festive Americana/Appalachian spirit that drove – but by no means commandeered – this beautifully inventive holiday celebration.

in performance: acoustic jam 2015

brandy clark.

brandy clark.

Out of the 12 artists that took turns swapping songs last night at the Opera House during the three-and-a-half hour Acoustic Jam 2015 benefit for the Kentucky Children’s Hospital, the show-stealer was the songwriter that adhered least to modern Nashville formulas and most to an often abandoned sense of country tradition.

The victor, by a country mile, was Brandy Clark, the veteran songwriter who has penned tunes for celebs like Miranda Lambert, The Band Perry and Reba McEntire but has revealed herself over the past three years as a vocal stylist with similar shadings of tradition and narrative cunning.

The crowning moment last night, quite fittingly, was a song no one had heard – a new single scheduled for February from an album not due until April. Titled Girl Next Door, it was a tale of unapologetic defiance and ragged confidence that suggested Loretta Lynn’s edgier songs in terms of temperament. “If you want the girl next door,” Clark sang with almost sardonic reserve, “then go next door.”

Clark’s recently Grammy nominated Hold Your Hand (a loving ode to country innocence) and Get High (the exact opposite) completed her three song set.

To be honest, the only other artist that even approximated Clark’s musical distinction was newcomer Drake White, whose singing was ripe with the soul inflections of his native Alabama. Then again, the other artists (Craig Campbell, Chase Bryant and RaeLynn) he performed alongside during the evening’s first set of round-robin performances constituted such a snoozefest of stoic sentimentality and grossly pop reared convention that the rootsy drive White summoned couldn’t help serve as a jolt.

It’s not that there weren’t other appealing moments. Regional hero John Michael Montgomery had the eyes of all other performers from the evening’s second round (Scotty McCreery, Keifer Thompson and Lauren Alaina) firmly focused his way as he delivered a quietly solemn reading of Letter From Home. There was also a refreshingly hardened toughness to Easton Corbin’s A Little More Country Than That and Jerrod Niemann’s One More Drinkin’ Song during the show’s final round. That lineup also featured Clark and a largely overblown performance by Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelly.

But this night clearly belonged to Clark, the girl next door that that left everyone else in the December dust.

in performance: mary fahl

mary fahl.

mary fahl.

Mary Fahl had not performed in the Cincinnati region in over two decades, not since a 1995 concert by the wonderfully unclassifiable October Project. In those days, the powerfully sonorous clarity of her singing fronted an equally huge pop sound that gathered elements of prog, folk and even a touch of worldbeat.

Last night at the Southgate House Revival in Newport, Fahl returned not as the Goth-like figurehead of her former band but as a solo artist as chatty, vibrant and revealing as October Project was insular and proudly withdrawn. But that voice – that extraordinary, almost operatic voice – had not lost an iota of its emotive impact, deep seeded mystery or tonal clarity. Fahl may have had nothing but her own guitarwork and a discreet level of reverb in the sound mix as accompaniment, but that’s all she needed. Her extraordinary singing rightly took possession of the spotlight.

In terms of repertoire, Fahl went to a pair of October Project gems right off the bat, describing the group’s sound as “Peter Gabriel meets Indigo Girls drowning in a sea of Enya.” The show opening Deep as You Go and a gorgeously plaintive Ariel nicely set the mood. But with the songs pared down to skeletal acoustic arrangements, the lustrous colors of Fahl’s voice sounded especially commanding.

It wasn’t a forced singing style, either. When Fahl delved into a sleek cover of the Nina Simone hit Wild is the Wild, she held on to the phrase “clings to a tree” with delicious and undeterred confidence. Similarly, on October Project’s most identifiable hit, Bury My Lovely, she bent notes during the chorus in a manner that sounded like a variation of yodeling. The final delivery, though, was all textural cool.

Fahl was hardly held in place by the October Project material. Along with the Simone tune, she visited the affirmative pop-folk of Joni Mitchell’s Both Side Now (but in a lyrical fashion that better recalled Judy Collins’ hit version), the lullaby-like fragility of the Edith Piaf-popularized La Vie en Rose and, in the show’s most inventive turn, a folk-fortified makeover medley of Brain Damage and Eclipse, the collective finale of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon.

As satisfying as any of the covers, though, was the Fahl original Going Home, a Civil War inspired requiem delivered during an extended encore last night as a sparse, comforting prayer of peace.

in performance: robert earl keen

robert earl keen.

robert earl keen.

The peculiarity of a songwriter long associated with the musical ways and means of Texas approaching the string music traditions of bluegrass in a Central Kentucky concert hall was not lost on Robert Earl Keen.

“What we do is Ray Price,” he said last night at the Lyric Theatre, referencing to the late Lone Star-born country giant. “So to be doing Bill Monroe up here is a little strange.” With that admission behind him, Keen and his six man band slid into the Monroe classic Footprints in the Snow, one of the cross-generational bluegrass standards featured on his recent Happy Prisoners album. Sure, the show was advertised as a bluegrass event. Yes, the record the concert was promoting was a scrapbook of string music standards spanning multiple decades. But to paraphrase an overworked saying, you can take the bluegrasser out of the Texan, but not the other way around. In other words, Keen’s usual plethora of Lone Star inspirations – the sweeping country melodies, the bittersweet narratives, the suggestions of swing – were all still very much in evidence.

That hardly proved detrimental to the performance, however. In fact, it was refreshing to hear exclusively acoustic instrumentation frame Keen’s songs. Pedal steel guitarist Marty Muse played dobro all evening, guitarist Rich Brotherton and bassist Bill Whitbeck reverted to the unplugged cousins of their usually electric instruments and drummer Tom Van Schaik (“You probably can’t find bluegrass drums in a Kentucky dictionary,” Keen remarked) cooled the percussion artillery to just a single snare and the train-style rhythms it triggered when brushes were applied. Mandolinist Kym Warner and fiddler Brian Beken nicely augmented the troupe.

But the Texas accents were far too pronounced– from Keen’s raconteur-like stage manner to the emotive leap frogging his songs took – for this performance to pass as bluegrass. Luckily, that proved to also be one of the show’s great charms. Keen has always possessed a knack for flipping, often abruptly, the sentiments of his songs with remarkable ease. Last night, his take on Jesse Fuller’s 99 Years (and One Dark Day) transformed the often-covered murder/prison ballad into a surprising chipper acoustic romp capped by an especially spry bass solo from Whitbeck. But the Keen original Not a Drop of Rain was so rich in melancholy, resignation and ghostly ambience that it could have been a product of the Dust Bowl era. Of course, Keen couldn’t help but preface the song with a whimsical reflection of his childhood in the Texas holler known as Bandera (“where any male over the age of 15 had no visible means of support”).

Keen’s most popular works similarly danced along the generous borders the performance established between bluegrass and Texas Americana music, as was the case with Copenhagen (an ode not to the city but to the chewing tobacco) and the woozily dysfunctional sing-a-long Merry Christmas from the Family.

The performance took the red eye back to Lone Star country for the show-closing encore of The Front Porch Song, a tune that still reveled in extended yarn-spinning between verses. With bluegrass now fully at bay, Keen was free to champion the high times and lasting friendships of his college years. Not surprisingly, it was all delivered with the almost romantic candor of an elder song stylist and the honest cheer of a scribe still proudly young at heart.

in performance: the robert cray band

robert cray.

robert cray.

Robert Cray isn’t much of a talker onstage. Last night at the Lyric Theatre, he packed 17 songs from 13 different albums into a very businesslike 100 minute performance that left little room for chat. The concert’s framework didn’t vary much from his other regional outings through the years, either. The guitar tone was spotless, the singing sounded remarkably unblemished by age and the overall sound remained a vital hybrid of blues and Memphis flavored R&B. In short, it was business as usual – which with Cray, was just fine.

Still, Cray slipped a curve ball into his encore with a work titled What Would You Say. It was an original composition from his 2014 album In My Soul (a record dominated by vintage R&B covers) that spoke directly to the here and now. Cray didn’t elaborate on its inclusion in the setlist, but it was difficult not to view the tune as a prayer for peace in light of the Friday terrorist killings in Paris.

“What would you say if we quit waging war and children felt safe?” Cray sang the verse with the soulful delicacy of Otis Redding in one of his more reflective moods. Redding’s spirit popped up several times last night. You heard it in the dub-like drive of Poor Johnny, the Otis Rush-style blues cool of the show-opening I Shiver and the solemnly paced soul affirmation of I Can’t Fail. But on What Would You Say, Cray’s singing was especially comforting. It serviced a moment of pause and reflection that was almost medicinal considering the events of the day. That the song was given such an inconspicuous presence in the performance made it even more powerful.

Outside of that, the show’s emotive highlights centered on Cray’s way with blues ballads. He usually delivers one mammoth ballad per show. Last night, he served up three – I’m Done Cryin’ (where pain was centered not in romantic betrayal but in less glamorous, real life losses of a job and home), The Last Time I Get Burned Like This (a 1985 gem that shoveled betrayal by the bucketload) and Time Makes Two (a smoldering epic for voice and guitar).

Dependable as ever, Cray didn’t disappoint. While a few of the decimated hearts populating his songs were dealing with a more worldly pain last night, Cray’s musical comfort proved as resolute and effective as ever.

in performance : storm large

storm large.

storm large.

After quickly professing her love for the Bluegrass, Storm Large greeted a Kentucky Theatre crowd last night by purposely pinching a nerve.

“Hear you have a new governor,” she said cheerfully. “How’s that going for you?”

When a collective audience groan greeted her query, the singer snapped to attention and made clear who was in charge for evening.

“Hey! There will no booing at the beginning of the show.”

Thus was set in motion a cabaret style performance of broadly re-imagined pop covers, acerbic yet reflective original tunes and a level of bawdy humor that often seemed traditional in a speakeasy kind of way. But most of all, there were the vocals – an arsenal of rich, robustly clear singing munitions that were alternately serene, romantic and rocking. Large’s voice was exactly that – huge and commanding with a range she glided up and down from with natural ease and a sense of dramatic flair that was theatrical in design but always emotively honest in delivery.

Large opened with a musical warning of sorts – a slice of unapologetic and strangely affirmative reflection titled Call Me Crazy. “Call me psycho,” she stated with jazz like intimacy. “Because I am.”

In a wild streak that typlified the program’s rollercoaster pace, Large followed with a pair of Cole Porter gems retooled for the modern age. I’ve Got You Under My Skin was goosed with an earthy defiance as well as a generous nod to Large’s rock ‘n’ roll roots while It’s Alright With Me became a jubilant bit of tambourine shaking fun with a vocal charge as animated as it was strikingly clear.

The song selection navigated through numerous stylistic waters throughout the rest of the 95 minute program from a decidedly non-diminutive version of the Grease classic Hopelessly Devoted to You (or, as the singer tagged it, “Grease meets Carrie”) to the after hours cocktail arrangement of the country murder ballad Long Black Veil to the wonderfully torchy treatment to the 1967 Jacques Brel by-way-of Dusty Springfield hit If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas).

Of course, Large was as much a raconteur as a powerhouse vocalist. A self-described “sailor mouthed” humorist, she offered ruminations on true romance (“If the cops weren’t called, you weren’t really into each other”) and the taboos of modern language. The latter helped set up 8 Miles Wide, a tune of anatomical pride “in the pants area” that countered any possibility of offense with operatic vocal blasts that made the humor all the more wicked.

in performance: chris thile

chris thile. photo by danny-clinch.

chris thile. photo by danny-clinch.

On record, Chris Thile is an instrumental scholar whose mindblowing technique is matched only by his stylistic restlessness. Onstage, such a balance manifests in an exuberant, inexhaustible and likely well caffeinated manner that offsets his virtuosic turns with combustible vigor. Imagine Neil Patrick Harris – from the wiry body frame to the boundless physicality – but with bluegrass leanings and you have a respectable portrait of Thile in performance.

Usually Thile plays in a rotating number of duo and ensemble settings. Last night, however, he bounded onstage at Asbury University’s Hughes Auditorium in Wilmore with just his longstanding musical weapon of choice, the mandolin, as a sidekick. Exhibiting dizzying string runs on some tunes and remarkable technical clarity on others, Thile offered an intimate view of the classical, pop and improvisational regions his bluegrass-bred playing leads to. Additionally, the 100 minute concert was designed as a career overview that boasted works by the two bands he is most readily associated with – Nickel Creek (Jealous of the Moon) and Punch Brothers (My Oh My). There was also music from recordings cut by the all-star Goat Rodeo Sessions (Here and Heaven) and his underrated duo project with guitarist Michael Daves (Rabbit in the Log).

In its more purposely reckless moments, Thile seemed to delight in creating train wrecks, as was the case in what he tagged “the ill-advised mash-up” of Josh Ritter’s Another New World and the Nickel Creek favorite The Lighthouse’s Tale. What resulted devilishly shifted mood as much as style as Thile went back and forth from the arctic chill surrounding the former to the comparative folk comfort bolstering the latter.

But when Thile chose musical order, the results were stunning. During a 20 minute reassembly of Bach’s Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, the novel lute-like precision of the playing (and, for that matter, the arrangement) all but reinvented the piece with all its alternating delicacy and fury intact.

Where else did the performance go? Well, Thile jumped head first into bluegrass with a suitably warp speed reading of Bill Monroe’s Mollie and Tenbrooks, served up a fun but self-effacing bit of grandstanding on the original Too Many Notes and even fashioned an impromptu ode early in the program to Wilmore that referenced the Ichthus festival, his teen years in Murray and a curious sense of bluegrass duality: “In Kentucky, two bluegrasses grow; one makes thoroughbreds, one was made by Monroe.”

The mad mandolin music dispensed throughout this performance may well have constituted a third variant.

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