Search - Mike Marshall, Darol Anger :: Chiaroscuro

Mike Marshall, Darol Anger
Genres: Country, Folk, Jazz, New Age, Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #1

A high watermark in the development of what's come to be known as "New Acoustic" music, this 1985 Windham Hill collaboration between violinist Anger and mandolin and guitar ace Marshall is an eclectic blend of gypsy jazz, ...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Mike Marshall, Darol Anger
Title: Chiaroscuro
Members Wishing: 5
Total Copies: 0
Label: Windham Hill Records
Release Date: 8/25/1998
Genres: Country, Folk, Jazz, New Age, Pop, Rock
Styles: Bluegrass, Meditation, Adult Alternative, Jam Bands, Bluegrass Jam Bands
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 019341135524, 019341104346

A high watermark in the development of what's come to be known as "New Acoustic" music, this 1985 Windham Hill collaboration between violinist Anger and mandolin and guitar ace Marshall is an eclectic blend of gypsy jazz, bluegrass, and folk sensibilities. Sparse arrangements, most without percussion, serve to make buoyant tunes like "Saurians' Farewell" (with bass by fretless wizard Michael Manring) and "Beneath the Surface" (with Andy Narell's steel drum melodies) even more spacious and open-sounding. More about careful ensemble playing than solos, the album nevertheless features flatpicking flights of fancy from Marshall and blustery fiddle forays from Anger, whose melodic twists on "Beloved Infidel" and "Placenza" cement the album's mood of hopeful romanticism. The album's title refers to the play of light and shade in photography; Anger and Marshall use their instruments here to similarly picturesque ends. --James Rotondi

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CD Reviews

Early Anger.
Bob Zeidler | Charlton, MA United States | 02/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Darol Anger - an impossible-to-pigeonhole fiddler - has been one of my favorite fiddlers for nearly two decades, going back to when I first discovered him on some early Windham Hill albums (including this "Chiaroscuro" album). Since those early days, he's gone on to do such a wide range of projects with so many other string players that it is almost impossible to ascribe a single style to him, save to say that he's one of the most original fiddlers, and on occasion one of the hardest-swinging dudes I've ever stumbled across. Name a fiddler, and Darol has probably worked with him or her: Mark O'Connor, Michael Doucet, Natalie MacMaster, Bruce Molsky, Vassar Clements is only a very short list.

Sadly, the Windham Hill label has had more than its share of ups and downs over the years. Once the vision of its founder, Will Ackerman, it boasted a catalog of some of the very best acoustic and electronic artists. These days, the label - and its stable of artists - are mere shadows of what they once were. And, in its early days, "New Age" had some value as a descriptor of the types of music possible by these artists. Regrettably, over the years the genre has become so devalued that one of its first practitioners has long since come around to stating that the expression should rhyme with "sewage." Indeed!

One of the casualties of these various Windham Hill "catalog shakeouts" was an early Darol Anger effort titled "Live at Montreux: Darol Anger/Barbara Higbie Quintet." To this day, their "Near Northern" track on that CD remains one of my favorite Darol Anger efforts. In fact, it was more than "good enough" to be anthologized on the Windham Hill "Sampler '86." Oh, the losses!

Fortunately, this "Chiaroscuro" album is still listed by (although no longer shown in the Windham Hill catalog). And it's a good thing, too, because it contains some of the best "early" work of Darol Anger and Mike Marshall. But - with backup work from the likes of Michael Manring (electric fretless bass), Todd Phillips (upright bass), Andy Narell (steel drums) and Barbara Higbie (synthesizer) - this album is more than "just duets." (In fact, with Darol on violins, viola, cello and diverse other instruments, and Mike on steel string and classical guitars [often with steel string guitar in one channel and classical guitar in the other], mandolins and mandocellos, this is obviously a "studio" effort, with much overdubbing of multiple tracks, always to good effect.)

The lead track - "Dolphins" - gets the album off to a flying start. Michael Manring's fretless bass work on the second track - "Saurians' Farewell" - is astounding; almost trombone-like in its timbre; this then leads into a nice riff by Mike on electric guitar, answered by Darol on violin. A very nicely swinging track.

The next track - "Beneath the Surface" - gives a nice sense of the use to which steel drums can be put when not in "calypso mode." I doubt there is anyone on the planet who has a way with these that can match Andy Narell.

I could continue like this, describing every single track (and risk this review being overly long). So let me just mention a few other highlights.

"Piancenza" must, when all is said and done, be one of my all-time favorite Darol Anger tracks.Once again swapping riffs with Mike Marshall (on steel string guitar), here Darol takes his licks on viola. Skip all the dumb viola jokes, folks. Darol swings with the best of them here, and the timbre of the instrument is absolutely perfect for the tune.

"Dardanelles" is a track to be enjoyed for the richness of its back-up tapestry provided in the introduction, with Mike Marshall on steel string guitar and Michael Manring once again providing his awesome electric fretless bass "bottom." When, once past this intro, the music takes off, it does so with a vengeance, only to return to the opening rich tapestry of sound.

"Beloved Infidel," the final track, is a masterpiece of multiple-track recording, with Darol providing a complete string quartet in a serenely reflective introduction. Once past this introduction, the group gets into what I like to characterize as "Darol's curiously-loping rhythms" full of off-beat accents. Curiously refreshing, too.

This is "strings and things jamming" at its best; a near-perfect blend of acoustic and electronic sounds. Get it while you can. And, if you run across those other two out-of-print Windham Hill albums mentioned at the top, get those as well. If you've read this far already, I've got you figured for "won't be disappointed!" And, who knows? Maybe Windham Hill will get itself straightened out some day and realize that, in losing its vision, it also given up on some of its best titles, and, along with these, some of its best artists. Stranger things have happened.

Bob Zeidler"
Acoustic instrumentals at its very best
Bob Zeidler | 09/30/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you enjoy contemporary (non- classical) violin music and acoustic guitar instrumentals, then the combination of the two here is without question a masterpiece. This is a must for any one who enjoys music. An easy to listen to, very impressive array of instrumentals that is relaxing and envigorating at the same time. Marshall and Anger have created a piece of music that trancends time and will always be a current favorite for a Sunday morning breakfast, romantic dinner, or (my favorite)..a ride in the country during foliage season. A great contemporary alternative to classical."
Judith E. Pavluvcik | Dreaming of the beach in Hawaii, but living in the | 05/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"My first taste of Mike Marshall and Darol Anger and I have to say ~ very nice indeed!! Dolphins (track #1) and Bach Bouree (track #9) are played on many "new age" stations, so people will be familiar with those pieces. I must say that these two are my favorites as well.Interesting combinations of violin and guitar, as well as other stringed instruments. Had my doubts that it could work, and was very pleasantly surprised! Very nice indeed~!Well worth listening to and I found this cd to be very soothing and relaxing."