Above: The David Grisman Sextet with David Grisman (mandolin) center. The remaining members of the group are Jim Kerwin (bass), Matt Eakle (flute), George Marsh (percussion), Chad Manning (fiddle) and George Cole (guitar). 

Acoustic music and bluegrass legend David Grisman and his Sextet are scheduled to visit town September 25 for two sets at City Winery Atlanta. The pioneering Jewish mandolinist is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead as well as his work with musicians John Sebastian, Tony Rice, Bonnie Raitt, Peter Rowan and fellow Jewish mandolinist Andy Statman with whom he has recorded two Judaic inspired albums – 1995’s “Songs of Our Fathers and “New Shabbos Waltz” in 2006.

Ahead of his show at City Winery, he answered a few questions from AJT Associate Editor David R. Cohen.

AJT: You’ve played as a quintet for a long time, but your most recent recording is your first as a sextet. What was behind the decision to add a sixth instrument?

David Grisman: For the first nine years, my (then) quintet included violin. Since 1989, I have had a flute player. Now I have both! I like arranging, and having both these melody/harmony voices allows me a lot of wonderful options with the arrangements.

AJT: There are a few new faces on this album/tour. How did that change the writing/recording process? And will you be playing with your son Samson on the bass at all on this tour?  

DG: Nothing really changed that much in the writing/arranging/recording realm. I usually deal with these instruments in various combinations. My son Samson plays bass with my bluegrass band and lives in Nashville. He also plays with Lee Ann Womack and the Bryan Sutton Band. The bass position in the sextet (and quintet) has been held for the last 31 years by Jim Kerwin.

Watch: The David Grisman Sextet performs Minor Swing

AJT: Your last album (before “The David Grisman Sextet”) “Del&Dawg Live” had a traditional Jewish tune on it in Shalom Aleichem. Had Del Mccoury ever heard Shalom Aleichem before you suggested it to him? I’m just curious as to how the conversation went and I find the thought of you and Del discussing Jewish music hilarious.

DG: Del had never heard “Shalom Aleichem” before. We came up with the idea to add both “Shalom Aleichem” and the gospel tune “Life’s Railway to Heaven”. It seemed logical to both of us to combine some religious music from both our cultures.

AJT: Will you be releasing more Jewish inspired music anytime soon? Perhaps another collaboration with Andy Statman?

DG: No plans right now, but Andy and I did a second CD of traditional Jewish music awhile back. It’s called New Shabbos Waltz and is available on Acoustic Disc.

AJT: I didn’t realize this until I looked at your discography but in 1983 you released a Christmas album, an album on which you (ironically) covered the Irving Berlin (another Jew) penned White Christmas which happens to be the best-selling single of all time. Can you tell me the story behind how a nice Jewish boy from New Jersey got talked into doing a Christmas album?

DG: No one talked me into it. It was my own idea. When asked to sign copies, I always write “Happy Chanukah”!


The David Grisman Sextet will perform two sets at City Winery Atlanta September 25 starting at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $40.