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Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer

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Saturday October 11, 2008

from the Washington Post

Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer
By Rebecca J. Ritzel

Before Chris Thile picks a high note on his mandolin — a note that will climax a long solo run — he rises up on the balls of his feet, thrusts his pelvis forward and sticks out his tongue just slightly. His eyes roll back in his gently lolling head, and he plucks that final pling.

Thile gets away with such orgasmic display when he shares the stage with an equally virtuosic straight man, bassist Edgar Meyer. Tuesday night, Thile, best known for fronting Nickel Creek, and Meyer, a musician respected across genres, performed together at Lisner Auditorium. The 20-something bluegrass heartthrob came onstage in his hipster best. And Meyer, well, he looked like Mr. Meyer, your middle-school band director. Mismatched their wardrobes may be, but musically, Thile and Meyer never fail to coordinate. Last month, Nonesuch released their first duo album. About a third of Tuesday’s set list was straight off that self-titled disc, including “The Farmer and the Duck,” “This Is the Pig” and “Rabbit Cake.” (The titles taken, apparently, from barnyard Mad Libs.)

Heard live, Thile and Meyer are most enthralling when they pass a melody back and forth, fingers flying. Concert highlights included four original Bach arrangements and a rousing round of audience-generated improv chamber music. The crowd recommended a few nouns, and Meyer and Thile responded by improvising a sonata. What would it sound like if Cookie Monster wandered into a Japanese koto factory, devoured a plate of cookies and escaped on a luge? Only the lucky folks who came to Lisner will know.

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