Impromptu Sessions No. 2: Trust In Most
Dominick Leslie plays the mandolin with a sense of humor. While commonly recognized as one of the most versatile pickers of his generation, he always approaches songs with playful levity. On his recent record, Impromptu Sessions No. 2, Leslie puts this quality on full display, evenly matched by his duet partner, multi-instrumentalist Ric Robertson. Following the duo’s 2020 release, Shrimp Tales, this album is a mixture of originals and covers, spanning multiple genres. However, for all of their range in content and style, where Robertson and Leslie really shine is the buoyancy that remains constant between them. They volley off of one another comfortably, unafraid to follow the arc of each other’s phrases to their full conclusion.
For the majority of the album, Leslie plays a Gilchrist mandolin while Robertson covers the lower octaves on a Gibson mandola. However, the two work mostly in tandem. There is a great deal of melodic interplay between them, neither quite taking on a supporting role. The result is a conversational flow of motivic development; the two interlocked in a dance, completing unfinished ideas and filling still moments.
The track list features bluegrass stalwarts like the Carter Family’s “East Virginia Blues” and Bill Monroe’s “Evening Prayer Blues,” but there is an assortment of genres represented. They also cover John Lennon’s seminal “Jealous Guy,” jazz standards “Autumn Leaves” and “Saga of the Harrison Crabfeathers” and David Grisman’s “Dawg’s Waltz.” One can hear traces of Grisman on these songs, as he both pioneered the introduction of jazz into the bluegrass lingua franca and served as an early mentor to Leslie. This jazz influence is also apparent in both Robertson and Leslie’s closely controlled tremolo and openness to space in the architecture of their solos. None of this is to say the album is without a tender side. The songs “One Love,” “What a Friend” and “Farther Along” take a turn for the decidedly delicate.
Like the other recent Padiddle release, this album demonstrates its mood in the laughter that graces its lead ins and outros. Robertson and Leslie share the kind of musical kinship that can only be grown over time. They can chase each other down various rabbit holes because they are used to their respective sounds. The joking shared between them is familiar, which says almost everything about what a listener can expect to hear on this album.