"What a perfect night!" Jamie Masefield exclaimed after he and Doug Perkins played their first couple numbers at Volunteers Green in Richmond last Saturday night. And he was right…for more reasons than he went into.
Masefield and Perkins‚ dubbing themselves The Mandolinquents‚ played an exhilarating hour-long set as part of the opening night of the town's weekly Filmbuzz series of the summer. With ideal summer weather‚ to be followed by a free movie - obviously not everyone in attendance was there for the music‚ so there were some distractions in the form of a growing crowd in the open air space as well as the sights and sounds of children reacting spontaneously to the lively music‚ not to mention just the customary coming and going as the duo played. It was a tribute to the power of music itself that Masefield on mandolin and Perkins on acoustic guitar supplied such an ideal soundtrack for the action that took place in front of them.
But much credit goes to the two musicians‚ for supplementing the gorgeous atmosphere. Masefield‚ the leader of Jazz Mandolin Project and Perkins‚ a prime mover of Smokin' Grass‚ have played together often in the past‚ so the fluidity of their interplay is not surprising‚ but not to be taken for granted. The notes each played meshed with accuracy and intricacy‚ whether the selection was a traditional bluegrass tune or a composition from Django Reinhardt. And the knowledge of the music itself was as important as the familiarity with each other as musicians‚ for it rendered their interaction seemingly effortless‚ though in such intimate a setting---two hundred people at max‚ as close as twenty feet from the performers-- it's quite clear how much effort is required to play so well.
But then there's the love to play live music for an audience‚ no matter the size‚ and the obvious relish Jamie and Doug displayed in their collaboration. Surely there's no pressure involved playing in such a low-key setting‚ but then the two are consummate professionals and betrayed no shortage of discipline required to present a well-rounded set. Yet it didn't take long to realize the pleasure the pair take in each other's musicianship: the one was as happy to play rhythm to the other's lead as vice-versa.
If you're not a dyed-in-the-wool fan of such acoustic music‚ you can end up yearning for the extra instrumentation of a full band‚ with bass‚ drums‚ keyboards etc‚ not to mention vocals. As the Mandolinquents' time on stage went on‚ however‚ Masefield and Perkins generated a discernible momentum‚ playing with flourishes alone and together‚ so that when they finished with a medley including Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be‚" the emphatic chording at the conclusion couldn't have been more uplifting‚ thought the volume remained comparatively low.
The purity of the music matched its setting in Richmond the evening of July 2nd... how often can you honestly say that about a concert performance?
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