Tiny Moore & Jethro Burns – Back To Back

Back To Back

The original 1979 Kaleidoscope edition of this album is labeled “country” on allmusic.com. Which should come as no surprise; musicians have been stereotyped by their resumes (or in this case part of their resumes) probably since cavemen were beating on logs. But despite the fact that this session teamed an alumnus of the Texas Playboys and one-half of the country comedy/musical duo Homer & Jethro, both mandolinists were exceptional swingers, as this double-sized jazz CD reissue proves.

It was that type of ignorance and stereotyping that mandolinist David Grisman was trying to combat – regarding both the music and the instrument – in the mid/late ’70s when he invented “dawg music” with his David Grisman Quintet. Producing this album was part of the same campaign, but also simply a void that needed to be filled, and if Grisman did nothing else, this would have been plenty.

I realize this is Vintage Guitar magazine, not Vintage Mandolin , but Moore’s playing (on Bigsby electric five-string mandolin) owes more to Charlie Christian than to Bill Monroe, and Burns’ acoustic picking (on his Gibson A-5) recalls Django Reinhardt. Also, Grisman enlisted the perfect rhythm guitarist for the date, Eldon Shamblin – yes, playing his Stratocaster as he had with Bob Wills – along with jazz/studio legends Ray Brown and Shelly Manne on bass and drums respectively. Sadly, all of these giants are now gone; like I said, Grisman deserves a special place in mandolin heaven – which, come to think of it, is no doubt already waiting for him.

The songs here range from Wes Montgomery’s boppin’ title track to Duke Eillington’s swinging “In A Mellotone” to fine originals by both leaders. Even when the pair pays respect to bluegrass mandolin king Bill Monroe, with Grisman joining in on “Moonlight Waltz,” they give it an uptown slant.

A tape box of live-to-2-track alternate takes was discovered in October, and Grisman wisely included a second disc with different versions of all of the songs in the same running order. On second thought, this is mandolin heaven.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s June ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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