Two acoustic instrumentalists in a coffee house setting-- what could be more ideal for the true lover of music?
Well, it’s not perfect if the music itself is of prime concern. There’s the occasional sound of the blender concocting one or another shake for a patron and Burlington’s Muddy Waters had more than a few in attendance, through the first set of Jamie Masefield and Doug Perkins, for whom their sounds were just background while they talked among themselves.
Noticeably though, during this first set of the last night of the pair’s February residency, the chatter became more muted and almost died away altogether as the evening progressed. And this was right in proportion to how much louder the applause became as each tune ended. Meanwhile, hoots and hollers began to emerge on a regular basis as the two musicians got warmed up and became more animated--mentally, if not in body language.
The rhythms of the tunes went deeper and the intricacy of Masefield and Perkins’ sounds became more dense, illustrating how delightful it is to hear just two musicians play together; at the same time, notwithstanding their familiarity with each other, the duo demonstrated how difficult it is for musicians to play well together.
Each a group leader in his own right, mandolinist Masefield of The Jazz Mandolin Project and guitarist Perkins once and future frontman of Smokin’ Grass, collaborate only intermittently these days, at least in public, but their chemistry remains tangible: how remarkable to think and react so quickly, right in synch with each other through varied tempos, not just in tandem on a cold stop to a particular number.
Their interplay absolutely sparkled in a variety ways. Playing tightly in unison, then moving parallel and apart along melody lines, only to come together quickly again without collision, neither watched the other but instead concentrated on the movement of their own hands on their respective instruments: this was a lesson in trust as much as technical skill.
Indeed, it’d seem if Masefield and Perkins did watch each other, they’d slow down markedly. Within a selection of songs as disparate as Charlie Parker and the Perkins original “A-OK,” echoes of Django Reinhardt came and went as did strains of traditional melodies that came to sound even more timeless as they emanated from two wooden instruments and echoed softly off the wooden interior of the Burlington coffee house.
As much of a pleasure as it is to be able to witness such brilliance in a warm intimate setting, any of the attendees (whose number never topped 50) might wish it was pure choice, as a respite from larger venues and bigger crowds, rather than necessity on the part of the artists: a hat was passed in lieu of admission charge. Be that as it may, the purity of the music was right in tune with the air of the clear starry night outside, an unofficial soundtrack for the winter season if there ever was one.