Their music doesn't demolish genre boundaries. They do a Brazilian piece and Charlie Parker's "Scrapple from the Apple," but there are also several traditional tunes on Into the Cauldron. In general, Marshall and Thile are firmly within the tradition of bluegrass-jazz fusion begun by Grisman and elaborated by a group of marginally well-known but fabulously committed players. Compared with banjoist Bela Fleck, whose trio precedes Marshall and Thile in town by three days, they're less exotic and more classical in more ways than one, for they play a luminous version of one of J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations. Their music elaborately fills in possibilities Fleck has bypassed.
So go to hear Mike Marshall and Chris Thile to find out what the post-Bela Fleck generation is up to, if you like. That pair of concerts presents lovers of progressive bluegrass and new acoustic experiment we're a rare but hardy breed! with an extremely unusual double feature (or triple feature if you count Special Consensus on December 5). I'll be there to hear a great concert in its own right; reports from other towns describe a pair of master musicians pushing themselves to the limit, exchanging high-fives in enthusiasm, and finishing up in near exhaustion.
[Originally published in December, 2003.]