Guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel first heard mandolin virtuoso David Grisman’s music in the 1970s. “That was such a revelation to me,” he said in an interview with DJ Easy Wind on homegrownradionj.com (for complete interview, listen below). “I was living in Sydney, Australia, at the time, and I always felt in the back in my mind, one day I’d love to get to play with that guy.”
Little did he know that he would not only get to play with Grisman, but they would record a collaborative album, Pickin’. It came out on Grisman’s Acoustic Disc label, Nov. 3, the same day they embarked on a short United States tour that comes to the South Orange Performing Arts Center, Nov. 14, for a sold-out show.
They first met in 2014. “I was playing in San Francisco,” Emmanuel told homegrownradionj.com, “and he came in, with his wife, and he sat in with us. I was playing in a duo with (guitarist) Martin Taylor, and Martin and David go back a long way, too. So we just hit it off as friends, and I love his music, his playing, always have.
“So, earlier this year, my wife and daughter and I were up in Northern California, and went up to Washington State to stay with David and (his wife) Tracy for a few days, and we ended up recording our album, Pickin’, which just came out. We decided we better get on the road and tour this thing, and see what we can do. So, we put this show together, and here we are.”
Grisman also performed on two tracks of Emmanuel’s next solo album, Accomplice One, which is due out in January. It will be a collection of collaborative tracks, also featuring artists such as Jason Isbell, Mark Knopfler, Rodney Crowell, Jerry Douglas, Amanda Shires, Ricky Skaggs, Suzy Bogguss, Jorma Kaukonen and Jake Shimabukuro.
Emmanuel has been widely celebrated for his dazzling musicianship, but is quick to point out that technique, alone, means nothing.
“My No. 1 priority is emotion, and feeling,” he told homegrownradionj.com. “I can practice as much as I like, but it’s what you play, really, from your heart, that it just flows through you … that’s the real thing.”
That doesn’t mean that technique is irrelevant, of course. “You can’t express yourself well unless you do have technique,” Emmanuel said. “Technique becomes the vehicle with which you do express yourself. You certainly very rarely have one without the other.”
Emmanuel and Grisman will perform at the South Orange Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14, with Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley opening; visit sopacnow.org. The show is sold out; call the venue’s box office at (973) 313-2787 to be placed on a waiting list.