Guest Author - Chris Curtis
Virtuoso - a highly skilled musical performer, an experimenter, a person with great skills are all definitions according to Merriam Webster. Rock artists are rarely defined in this way but Chris Thile (Nickel Creek’s Mandolin player) has justifiably earned this prestigious title. Not only is he a master of the mandolin, he is truly an innovator. Having played the circuit since he was 9 and now at the young age of 22, Chris has won the respect of the masters of bluegrass. He is frequently in demand to jam on stage or participate in ground breaking recording sessions with top veteran performers . While his musical roots lie in the bluegrass tradition, Thile, along with his Nickle Creek bandmates, have skyrocketed on the rock scene breaking all traditions.
Thile's style is a melding of bluegrass, newgrass, jazz, classical with a touch of Celtic. A blending of which is evident in his stage improvisions, his musical arrangements, and in his written compositions. Unbound by style or genre, his music is original, complex, sophisticated and mature and his sound rhythmic, melodic and very appealing. Thile stretches and expands all musical boundaries.
Some bluegrass purists have criticized Thile for being over the top. What the purists fail to recognize is that Thile is born of a new generation and his creative genius should be allowed to flourish. Like Hendrix reinvented the electric guitar and left behind a legacy, Thile has the mastery and creativity to redefine the Mandolin. His legacy will prove to change the direction of popular music once again.
When Chris Thile plays his fingers fly with technically flawless dexterity across the strings. His brow is etched with concentration as he improvises in an exciting new direction leaving you with no doubt of his mastery. It is clear that he feels the music in the depths of his soul. He is brilliant. At Merlefest 2004, Thile took stage with Mark O'Connor (fiddle), Bryan Sutton (guitar), and Byron House (doublebase) for an amazing performance of some of the cuts from Mark O'Connor's 30 year retrospective. Starting with Macedonia, the quad-virtuosos mesmerized the audience with a tune that is hauntingly beautiful. The 40 minute set was a showcase performance for Thile. Following up on another stage with Nickel Creek, it was clear Thile and his band mates were a favorite of the festival goers. The crowd well overflowed the stage area for both performances.
If your only exposure to Chris Thile is Nickel Creek, you have only heard one dimension of this highly talented musician. I suggest you take the time to explore his solo CDs, his collaboration on Mark O'Connor's "30 year Retrospective, and his collaboration with Mike Marshall "Into the Caldron" You will be amazed at the range of sophistication and innovation from an artist that knows no boundaries..
Click Here for a complete discography of Chris Thile's work.