David Grisman’s “dawg music” has always struck me as one of most galvanizing and yet underappreciated subgenres of the past 40 or 50 years. A quicksilver blend of bluegrass and jazz, a great dawg track is akin to watching a sleek and steely running back — like Eric Dickerson or Adrian Peterson — scamper for 30 yards. There’s a primal, earthy quality to it, mixed with cosmic intuition to create refined, sophisticated artistry.
Mandolinist Mike Marshall is one of the originators of dawg, appearing on Grisman’s classic second album, “Hot Dawg,” from 1978, and remaining a member of Grisman’s quintet for five years. Since then, he’s been in the bluegrass supergroup Strength By Numbers with the likes of Mark O’Connor and Jerry Douglas; weighed in with an amazing olio of jazz, chamber music and wigged-out folk as a member of Psychograss; played with Bela Fleck and with his old Grisman cohort Darol Anger; led the Modern Mandolin Quartet; and continued exploring his love of Brazilian music with Choro Famoso.
But the project that seems to have him most excited right now is his Big Trio, where he’s joined by a couple of young’uns in violinist Alex Hargreaves and bassist Paul Kowert, folks Marshall places “on the same shelf” as other elite musicians with whom he’s shared a stage, a list that includes Grisman, Stephane Grappelli and Joshua Bell. Their first record is due out on St. Paddy’s day, and if it can continue in the same vein as this glorious snippet from the trio’s performance at the 2009 Wintergrass festival, it will justify the hype.
But the real “Big Trio” on the bill Friday night are Marshall and the two other internationally renowned mandolin players who will be joining him. Caterina Lichtenberg of Bulgaria is a member of Duetto Giocondo with guitarist Mirko Schrader. And hometown hero Peter Ostroushko is part of the backbone of artists that continue to make the Red House label such a vital source of heartland folk music. With Marshall, Lichetenberg and Ostroushko all in the house, this sets up to become the most diverse and extraordinarily talented evening of mandolin music ever created in the Twin Cities.
Mike Marshall Big Trio at the Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. Friday, March 6, 8 p.m. $18 in advance, $20 day of show.