I have heard little crossover music as satisfying as a bluegrass quartet taking on classical or jazz music. David Grisman and his quintet set the stage for these investigations. Guitarist John Carlini is no stranger to this world, having been a member on Grisman’s trail blazing quintet and performing with Grisman for the past 30 years. Carlini appeared on such essential Dawg-Grass classics as Dawg Jazz,Dawg ’90 and DGQ-20.
In the past number of years, Mr. Carlini has been attending to a modest solo career as well as providing his considerable guitar skills, arranging and composing. The Game’s Afoot is a welcome return to a group leadership role. An attractive fact about this disc is that the majority of the pieces are original compositions cast in immediately recognizable styles. "Kool Kitsch" lacks only a violin to sound like the Hot Club. "Blues Al Dente" is a moody minor swing featuring Carlini and banjo player Pat Cloud. It takes many twists and turns, all of which make sense, allowing soloists ample room to move. The lone "standard" is "Wayfaring Stranger." The quintet treats this song with respect, just not too much to stifle it. Carlini opens the piece with the unembellished melody and leads it into a gentle swing.
And so the rest of the disc goes. "Yer Bad Self" and "Musgavero" illustrate the fragile delicacy and durable swing to this music. If you're looking for something other than the current Neo-newgrass fare, look no further.