Darol Anger breaks new ground—again.
Thursday, February 19, 2004
After a quarter century in the string-band vanguard, fiddler Darol Anger isn’t about to stop his innovative ways. From his first major gig with mandolin master Dave Grisman in the mid-1970s, through his long tenure as a founding member of the jazz-infused Turtle Island String Quartet and his work with neo-grass ensembles like Psychograss and Newgrange, Anger has been at the forefront of an international movement of string players steeped in traditional musical styles but eager to push into uncharted territory.
His latest project, the American Fiddle Ensemble, celebrates the recent release of its gloriously eclectic new album, Republic of Strings, with a performance Wednesday in Carmel Valley.
The AFE is a multi-generational Bay Area supergroup, featuring guitar virtuoso Scott Nygaard, young local cellist Rushad Eggleston, and 17-year-old fiddler Brittany Haas. It’s a lineup that Anger describes as “a phenom, a master, a prodigy and a legendary weirdo. Scott’s the master; Rushad is the phenomenon; Brittany’s the prodigy and I’m the weirdo, though I think Rushad’s working really hard to take that title away from me.”
The seeds of the AFE were planted several years ago when Anger and Nygaard were looking for opportunities to play together. Nygaard made his reputation as one of the most prodigious modern bluegrass guitarists through his work with Laurie Lewis’s Grant Street and Tim O’Brien’s O’Boys, but had largely dropped off the scene in order to spend more time with his family. He and Anger formed an acoustic bar band called The Improbables and then Anger encountered Eggleston, an amazing young cellist versed in bluegrass and jazz. Almost finished with a degree from the Berklee College of Music, Eggleston made his recording debut with Anger, Michael Doucet and Bruce Molsky in Fiddlers 4 on a CD that was nominated for a 2002 Grammy.
Haas, who started playing violin at four, first discovered old-time music at eight while attending Alasdair Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School in Boulder Creek. Later she began studying with Molsky, who sent her to Anger, which led to her joining the AFE, a move that Anger sees as the best defense against the rising tide of talented young players. “As my old boss David Grisman says: if you can’t beat these kids, you better hire ‘em.”
American Fiddle Ensemble, plays Wed. at the Hidden Valley Music Theater, Carmel Valley Road and Ford Road. 625-1229.