NEWS: Dawg Day Afternoon photos and review

Written by Dylan Muhlberg, Grateful Web posting 7/20/2015

Bluegrass music is deeply integrated into American musical culture and roots. Yet bluegrass isn’t a pure form. It’s an amalgamation of many preceding styles and individual root systems. None have revealed more about the instrumental beginnings of bluegrass than David “Dawg” Grisman. His mandolin virtuosity was simply too adventurous to not stray from the vein of Kentucky-born grass. Grisman studied and embraced the music of French violinist Stephane Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhardt whose Hot Club De France band was one of the earliest string instrument only jazz bands. Grisman blended bluegrass, various Latin styles, and European string folk establishing his own new hybrid, which he coined “Dawg Music.” Decades later, so many brilliant ensembles with dozens of live and studio recordings are testament to Grisman’s valiant musical legacy. We can learn much about the past from this oddly contemporary string fusion music. Grisman’s Quintet began performing around 1975 and has continued playing Dawg Music every since.

600 george cole sonoma 2015

Grisman’s core static lineup since the early 1990s is built up of fierce flautist Matt Eakle and bassist Jim Kerwin, with percussionist/drummer George Marsh around for most of the ride. Newest to the group is Bay Area acoustic guitar wiz George Cole and completing Grisman’s sextet is fiddler Chad Manning. While the Sextet has performed steadily for years this July was Grisman’s first fully focused mini-tour with the Sextet since he established his strictly traditional institution David Grisman’s Bluegrass Experience. While this lineup has gained plenty of recognition with some supporting accolades, the “Quintet” (aka. Sextet) is the source of pure Dawg music, the form that Grisman is deeply revered for. California fans were in freak frenzy when Sonoma State University announced they would host a triple headliner bluegrass afternoon at their gorgeous Green Music Center. The woodwork in the double-balcony venue is stunning. The pew style seating in the hall carries a warmly classic vibe and the outdoor lawn seating behind is well graded for perfect sightlines from the far back. The lineup of artists is diverse and exciting. California live music junkies should put this country venue on their bucket list.

Last Sunday Sonoma State hosted Dawg Day Afternoon. Supporting acts included the legendary Del McCoury Band and The Earls of Leicester. McCoury’s career spans more than half a century. As lead vocalist and guitarist of Bill Mornoe’s Bluegrass Boys he broke onto the scene. Grisman has collaborated frequently with McCoury in the since the seventies. Del & Dawg is always a special occasion.

Earls of Lecister is a Flatt/Scruggs acknowledgment and brainchild of resonator guitarist Jerry Douglas. The all-star prototype experiment turned renowned touring act recreates the musicality of Foggy Mountain Boys, the quintessential classic bluegrass band. While their opening set was short and sweet, it was packed full of Lester Flatts and Earl Scruggs staples such as “Till The End of the Worlds Rolls ‘Round,” and “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down.” The added bonus is the presence of Jerry Douglas’ howling Dobro licks and enchanting leadership. It’s been a few years since their first performance at Rockygrass in Lyons, Colorado and the Earls won’t be going anywhere.

Del McCoury Band’s exceptional follow up set felt soulful and purposed. Del’s legacy is so far spanning notwithstanding his exceedingly gifted family band of Robbie McCoury (banjo), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Jason Carter (fiddle), and Alan Bartrum (upright bass). Del’s vocals were as strong as his early days collaborating with Grisman. Particularly outstanding was a shimmering a capella “Working On A Building,” and the obligatorily requested “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” They played a distinct rendition of “I Need More Time,” off of their newest album The Streets of Baltimore. It partnered enjoyably with the other classics. Del’s sincere affection and interaction with the crowd exposed the seventy six year old as a timeless artifact of bluegrass. His sons and nephew uphold the musical legacy with their individual talents and heartfelt vigor alongside Del.

When David Grisman Sextet took the stage after a brief intermission the audience quickly reassembled as a seemingly impromptu shred-and-respond unfolded onstage. It was clear from there that those in attendance were in for some deep and dirty Dawg music. Grisman’s chemistry with these versatile virtuosos was clear as his newest Sextet worked through the nuanced genre fusion of his original compositions. Dawg music makes it unnecessary to play the genre compartmentalization game. Flautist Matt Eakle drew roars of applause regularly though he was noticeably lower in the mix than the string instruments. Grisman noted particularly his longstanding friendship with drummer/percussionist George Marsh who is additionally a Professor of Music at Sonoma State. Chad Manning’s youthful flair and musical robustness triggered an equaled response in his elder band mates. A Dawg alumnus is synonymous to expertise. George Cole’s multifaceted techniques made him a tremendous fit to follow in the footsteps of past Quintet/Sextet guitarists such as Grant Gordy or Enrique Coria. He exhibited flair and ease scaling through the vast stylistic demands of Grisman’s originals.11217944_10153221926399667_3066295373997362422_o


The centerpiece of the Sextet’s set came with their newest composition entitled “Dawg’s Bounce,” for which he broke out a mini banjo. It was a tad Euro-swingy while equally campy with Eakle breaking out a kazoo as his instrument of choice. The novelty of seeing Grisman rip a mandolin-sized banjo was a rarity indeed. The finale of Grisman’s set saw every musician from The Earls of Leicester, Del McCoury Band and the Sextet out onstage at once. It was a mighty moment as the banjoists, mandolinists, guitarists, and fiddlers all joined in their given orchestral sections. The encore was testament to the flexibility of string music and the talents that Grisman had gathered for his Dawg Day Afternoon.

While Grisman’s touring schedule sees him mostly with the Bluegrass Experience, it’s another bright project worth the devotion. Del McCoury and the boys perform more frequently than most and can be caught extensively on tour. The Earls of Leicster will be at Lyons Colorado’s Rockygrass Festival this coming weekend alongside Grisman and McCoury in case you missed Dawg Day Afternoon. Thanks to all three bands and to Sonoma State University for hosting this monstrous string orgy, something that Northern California fans don’t get so regularly all on one bill.

Gypsy jazz celebrated at Freight festival

SF gate articleFrom Sfgate NIGHTLIFE – Andrew Gilbert
Published 3:26 pm, Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Read Original Article on SF Gate

Longevity certainly has its advantages – but for musicians seeking legendary status, an early departure often seals the deal.

Widely revered and pervasively influential, French violinist Stéphane Grappelli died some 45 years after Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, with whom he founded the epochal Quintet of the Hot Club of France in 1934. While Grappelli is hardly forgotten, his short-lived but ostentatiously talented collaborator continues to get the lion’s share of the credit for creating the Hot Club’s ebulliently swinging Gypsy jazz sound.

This weekend, Freight & Salvage presents the second Esprit de Django et Stéphane Festival, a three-day event that makes a compelling case for the Hot Club’s expansive and enduring influence, while also seeking to recalibrate the historical record to reflect Grappelli’s vast contributions.

“Grappelli is the patron saint of jazz violin,” says violinist David Balakrishnan, who performs Saturday with the latest incarnation of the jazz-infused, Grammy-winning Turtle Island Quartet. “His influence is so large it’s almost a given. I hear his sound coming from everybody, but Django did overshadow him, and I know Grappelli was upset about that. You couldn’t talk to him about it. He’d get edgy.”

Given the violin’s marginal role in jazz since the 1930s swing era, Grappelli’s innovations often resounded more deeply in bluegrass. The Freight festival opens Friday with sensational fiddler Elana JamesHot Club of Cowtown, a trio that explores the twangy intersection between Gypsy jazz and Western swing.

In a particularly apt booking, the Dave Grisman Sextet closes the festival Sunday. The mandolin master reintroduced Grappelli to the United States when he featured him on the soundtrack for the 1978 film “King of the Gypsies,” a relationship that led to the violinist’s touring with Grisman’s band (and the 1981 Warner Bros. album “Stéphane Grappelli/David Grisman Live”).

Anything but a musical chameleon, Grappelli brought his effortless elegance and sumptuous sound to a vast array of settings without altering his essential approach. When he died in 1997 at 89, he had recorded with greats including Duke Ellington, Gary Burton, Jean-Luc Ponty, Yo-Yo Ma, L. Subramaniam and Paul Simon.

However fraught their relationship off the bandstand, Grappelli and Reinhardt never found a more inspired collaboration. They weren’t the first great guitar/violin partnership in jazz (that was Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti), but “Django and Stéphane took it to a whole other level,” says guitarist George Cole, whose combo Eurocana, with Nashville fiddler Stephan Dudash, opens every show as the festival’s house band.

A veteran rock guitarist and teacher (who mentored Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong), Cole devoted himself to a Djangocentric approach about a decade ago, drawn to the particular sonorities created by the fiddle/guitar pairing.

“The instruments are just a match made in heaven,” he says. “The guitar is like musical pointillism, while the violin produces these gorgeous long notes. Django gets a lot of the credit as the Big Bang of the guitar, but they go together. It’s the point/counterpoint that really creates the sound.”

8 p.m. Friday-Sunday. $24.50-$39.50. Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley. (510) 644-2020.

Andrew Gilbert is a freelance writer. E-mail: Twitter: @jazzscribe

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Cole Transports Audience to Paris


George Cole & Eurocana brought their white-hot gyspy jazz rhythms in the form of Tin Pan Alley pop songs to Sportsman’s Tavern Friday. Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News

By Joe Sweeney


on January 5, 2013 – 7:52 PM, updated January 5, 2013 at 7:52 PM

The air outside Sportsmen’s Tavern on Friday night definitely felt like January in Buffalo. But inside, when George Cole & Eurocana started playing, you could’ve sworn it was April in Paris.

The concept of this percussion-less Bay Area jazz quartet is apparent in its name. Under the guidance of songwriter and lead guitarist Cole, the group appeals to Francophiles and Cole Porter junkies alike, delivering white-hot gypsy jazz rhythms in the form of Tin Pan Alley pop songs – music that longs for the Left Bank and Central Park, simultaneously.

The latter was evident on the opening song, an ode to the pinstriped past of Gershwin’s New York called “Riverside Drive.” When the group launched into the subsequent tune, the smoldering flamenco instrumental “Valentino,” the band’s bi-coastal dichotomy was in full force.

While a majority of the songs shared Friday were proper pop constructions inspired by Cole’s crooner heroes – he specifically referenced Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby in between songs – his singing and songwriting abilities were not what made this show special. Cole’s lyrics, while pleasant enough, aren’t exactly original (e.g. “Walk down the street/My heart skips a beat”). No, this night was all about musicianship. Of the highest order.

Cole’s guitar playing is a marvel to see up close, his fingers leaping all over the fret board, his pick churning out the notes with a velocity and verve that would make Django Reinhardt proud. The fact that his resume includes teaching Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt (who went on to form Green Day) and touring with classic rock icon Joe Walsh is a credit to his versatility.

Rhythm guitarist Mathias Minquet (a Parisian for real) held his own as well, including on a gorgeous solo snippet where he played nothing but harmonics. Violinist Stephan Dudash gave the music a distinctly American kind of grit – that is until he broke into an inspired rendition of Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5.”

And bassist/vocalist Kaeli Earle shared the spotlight with Cole in most, harmonizing, singing lead, walking with command, and slinging out an amazing scat solo on the second-set number “Girl From Minnesota.”

Just as crucial as the people on stage was the venue itself. For all of its energy, this is the kind of music that could be seen as nothing more than some frothy retro fun, stuff that would blend into the background of a Prohibition theme party. But the way the Sportsmen’s is built, letting you feel right on top of the stage whether you’re on the floor or balcony – along with the appreciation of music that oozes from its 8 x 10 glossy-laden walls – makes it impossible not to respect the craft.

For its encore, George Cole & Eurocana took full advantage of this intimacy, stepping off the stage and delivering a pair of songs away from the microphones. It was a generous gesture from these talented people, one that the small but adoring crowd took to heart. As this unamplified music filled the space, its melodies reverberating off the pitched wooden roof, its warmth left us ready to step out and face the cold midnight with a smile.


“Though San Franciscan George Cole cut his teeth as a rock guitarist, and was at one point a mentor to Billy Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt(soon to be famous as Green Day), it took the 50-year-old a few decades into his career to confess to his first love-swing music of the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s.  Not just any swing music, either-Cole fell for both the Great American Songbrook stuff and the “gypsy jazz” of the legendary Django Reinhardt and his Quintette du Hot Club de France.

Blending the fire of Reinhardt with the ice of say, Cole Porter or Bing Crosby, might not seem like an obvious move, but Cole made it work, bathing his own compositions in the forgiving glow of nostalgic familiarity, and adding a healthy dose of instrumental virtuosity to the equation, as evidenced by the George Cole Quintet’s latest effort, “Riverside Drive.”

The George Cole Quintet brings its hybrid swing sound to the Sportsmen’s Tavern(326 Amherst Street) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.”

-Jeff Meirs- 12/30/11- Buffalo Evening News


George Cole Quintet set to ‘string’ in the new year at Howmet Playhouse

Published: Wednesday, December 28, 2011, 6:22 AM
By Dawn Veltman | The Muskegon Chronicle

WHITEHALL — ‘String’ in the new year with the George Cole Quintet and an evening of elegant and whimsical jazz.

The San Francisco-based national touring group’s style, dubbed “Eurocana,” is a rich blend of the Great American Songbook and the string-driven swing created by French gypsy-jazz legends Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in 1930s Paris.
Cole, 50, is the band’s lead vocalist, guitarist, composer and producer. And while the songs and lyrics the group performs are all originals, what comes to mind is the music of Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, the Gershwins, Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz — his heroes.

“It’s like pop music only from another era; it’s very accessible,” explains Cole. “It’s so authentic, what we play will sound as if you’ve heard it before.
“We’re an acoustic string band — very romantic and delicate — but with a sound that has a lot of muscle. Our guitar-driven rhythm, called le pompe or “the pump,” is what gives our music its energy and a twist on the Great American Songbook.”

In addition to Cole, the ensemble features Hale Baskin, vocals; Nancy Kuo, violin; Jimmy Grant, rhythm guitar; and Christopher Bastian, bass.

It wasn’t until about eight years ago that Cole began playing Eurocana-style music. Before than, he had another life, he said, as a rock guitarist. He’s performed with such stars as Chris Isaak, Joe Walsh and Keely Smith, among others.
He’s appeared on Grammy-nominated releases and has won a California Music Award for Best New Major Label Artist.

One of Cole’s claims to fame is having been a mentor to Green Day guitarist Billy Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt.

“I’m super proud of them and their tremendous success,” he says.
His turning point came when he saw a performance by Bireli Lagrene, a French guitarist and bassist in the style of Reinhardt. He sold all of his electric guitars, amplifiers and electronic musical gadgets the very next day, he said.

“I grew up in the rock era,” he explains, “but the secret is that I always liked my parents’ music — Bing Crosby, the Andrew Sisters, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra. … I was the odd one, and kept it to myself. Now I guess I’m out of the closet and, since I started touring, find that there are many more out there who love this music just like me.

“Truth be told, I never imagined that I’d play this music professionally, but I’ve discovered there is a real interest. And when I began writing and singing the songs, it just came out in the style of my earliest musical influences. I was as surprised as anyone at what I was creating.”

Cole said the quintet is real people playing real instruments in real time.
“And, I think, in this era of so much electronic dance music, people value that. I love the nostalgia we create. There’s something that’s comforting that we do — especially during the holiday season — to see someone really performing and playing live without electronic backup.”

Recordings Cole has produced include “Riverside Drive” released in 2010, “Samois Faire (The Hot Club)” from 2007, and the self-titled “George Cole” released in 2004.
“I have more fun playing this music than anything,” Cole said. “To see the expression on people’s faces, they really get a kick out of the guitar and violin pyrotechnics. It’s fun for us to turn people on to this new-old sound, and do it live.”
“People can look forward to great melodies, swing and, even though they’re originals, they’re (Cole Quintet) very easy to listen to,” said Lazaro Vega of Blue Lake Public Radio. “Guitar players will especially enjoy it as the players can really let it go.”

Cole said that, after two 50-minute sets with one intermission, the group will be on hand in the lobby to meet and greet audience members and sign autographs.
A cash bar will be open before, during and after the concert.
Dawn Veltman is a Chronicle correspondent.

George Cole Quintet brings Django-style jazz to Foundry Hall

By JEREMY D. BONFIGLIO – H-P Features Writer
Published: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 11:31 AM EST
SOUTH HAVEN – George Cole did his time in the rock ‘n’ roll trenches.

He toured with Joe Walsh, recorded with legendary producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Paul McCartney), and played alongside Warren Zevon.

About eight years ago, after seeing a group of gypsy jazz guitarists perform at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in Oakland, Calif., Cole went home and sold every electric guitar he owned.

“All my electric guitar friends thought I was crazy and probably still do,” Cole says by telephone from his home in San Francisco, “but I was ready to embark on this new journey. I grew up in the rock ‘n’ roll era, but the truth is I always secretly liked my parents’ music, and now I’m out of the closet.”

He now fronts the George Cole Quintet, an ensemble that draws its inspiration from the string-driven swing created by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli in 1930s Paris, and the Great American Songbook of composers such as George Gershwin, Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter. The group will be playing at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Foundry Hall in South Haven.

“That was some of the first music I was exposed to as a child on my grandmother’s old record player, which I still have,” Cole says. “It’s a joyous sound and it’s amazing guitar playing. Jazz improvisation is like instantaneous composition, and when you hear Django playing it, it has this abandon to it that you never know what he’ll do next.”

Reinhardt’s jazz guitar technique (often called hot jazz) has become a living musical tradition within Belgian gypsy culture. After his third and fourth fingers of his left hand were badly burned and partially paralyzed in a fire, Reinhardt relearned his craft, playing all of his guitar solos with only two fingers, and using the two injured digits only for chord work. With violinist Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, and went on to compose the jazz standards “Minor Swing,” “Daphne,” “Belleville,” “Djangology,” “Swing ’42” and “Nuages.”

“I mostly see it as a style of music and not just an era,” Cole says. “Our take is a little different because we have vocalists and write our own songs but the sound is still that acoustic, French jazz string-driven sound.”

Cole, who was born in San Francisco, started playing accordion in kindergarten, then shifted to classical guitar between sixth and seventh grade. In high school, he studied guitar under a couple of Bay Area greats – the late Dan Boyd and Jimmy Luttrell, who played with Spade Cooley and Lawrence Welk in the ’50s.

He credits both men with putting him on a rather extraordinary musical path.

Cole was the lead guitarist for pop rock band Beatnik Beatch (Atlantic) and the American group Big Blue Hearts (Geffen/Interscope Records), which was produced by T Bone Burnett and toured with Walsh of the Eagles. Cole went on to play on Chris Isaak’s platinum-selling album, “Forever Blue,” and alongside folks such as Robert Cray, Boz Scaggs, Buster Poindexter and the late Zevon. As a long-time guitar teacher, Cole was an early mentor to Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt.

“San Francisco isn’t really an industry town but I ended up playing on a lot of records and did some producing over the years,” Cole says. “I’ve played rock. I’ve played blues. I’ve played country. I’ve slept around musically, and I’ve always enjoyed that.”

Seven years ago, Cole founded The Hot Club of Berkley, which was meant to be a Reinhardt tribute band until he started writing original music in the same vein.

“That was fine for a few months, but when I started writing and singing, the music took a different turn,” Cole says. “It’s so technically demanding. I don’t have time for anything else. It’s all I practice, it’s all I play to continue to get better.”

The George Cole Quintet, which also includes Jimmy Grant (rhythm guitar), Chris Bastian (upright bass), Nancy Kuo (violin) and Hale Baskin (vocals), is the latest incarnation of that effort. The band has been touring a little more than a year in support of its debut album “Riverside Drive,” which features 11 originals as well as Luttrell’s “Roma Danse,” arranged by Cole.

Tuesday’s set list, Cole says, will feature several songs off “Riverside Drive,” from the title track to the debut single “Ridin’ to the Poorhouse” as well as some instrumental and a surprise or two.

“Not to take anything away from classical guitarists or great bluegrass pickers, but to me this is sort of the highest calling on the guitar,” Cole says of the hot jazz style. “And now that I’ve figured it out, I pretty much adhere to that form.”