Describing David Grisman means figuring out how to explain how he combines bluegrass, klezmer, jam bands, and jazz.
But that’s what the virtuoso mandolin player has done in a 50-year career during which he has played with, among others, fiddler Vassar Clements, French jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, klezmer clarinetist Andy Statman, and close friend Jerry Garcia — the legendary Grateful Dead guitarist.
Grisman and his band, the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, will bring their music to the David Posnack Jewish Community Center, 5850 S. Pine Island Rd. in Davie this Saturday, March 4, for a concert featuring bluegrass and maybe a little klezmer too.
Organizers hope the show will be a first step toward turning the “J” into a West Broward venue offering an eclectic menu of jazz, reggae, New Orleans funk, and other genres.
“There’s a space and an opportunity that, with the right musical performances, we can really open up as a venue for the South Florida music scene,” says Maya Harvey, the J’s adult programs coordinator. “We’re not going to compete with the Culture Room or Revolution or the AAA, but we're going to be a cultural experience in a small theater with really, really good sound.”
Grisman, age 71, began his career in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early '60s, when he played in the Even Dozen Jug Band with future musical luminaries such as John Sebastian and Maria Muldaur. He played with Red Allen & the Kentuckians, Tom Paxton, and Del and Jerry McCoury. He and guitarist Peter Rowan, a bluegrass legend, also formed the psychedelic band Earth Opera.
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In 1964, Grisman met Garcia, who had begun his musical journey playing banjo. In 1973, the pair formed Old and in the Way with Rowan, Vassar Clements, and bassist John Kahn. It was Garcia, for whom the band was a favorite side project, who gave Grisman the nickname “Dawg.”
Grisman fused the gypsy-jazz style of Django Reinhardt and Grappelli with bluegrass, folk, and jazz fusion to create what he calls “dawg music.” His work with longtime friend Statman yielded Songs of Our Fathers, an album of Eastern European Jewish tunes in klezmer style.
In addition to performing with the Bluegrass Experience, Grisman also plays with the David Grisman Sextet. Acoustic Disc, Grisman’s independent record label, specializes in bluegrass, folk, and new acoustic music and distributes his nearly 70 albums.
8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center, 5850 S. Pine Island Rd., Davie; 954-434-0499; dpjcc.org. Tickets cost $60 to $90 via dpjcc.org and $72 at the door.