One Track Mind: Darol Anger & Mike Marshall "Donna Lee" (1988)

by S. Victor Aaron

I know exactly what our own Mark Saleski speaks of when he states that “music obsessives and regular folks alike know of the song/memory retrieval phenomenon — you hear a song and instantly remember where you were the first time you heard it.” Moreover, a song can also be forever associated with an event in your life even if the song doesn’t at all speak to the event. It just happened to be playing at the time. That’s why for the past nine September 11s, I think of the song that is the subject of this piece.

I’ve long had this long distance—OK, I’ll say it, internet—friend with whom I share music recommendations, even to this day. He’s got this eclectic taste full of unpredictability, so most everything he points me to has some sort of a surprise element to it. One of those off-the-wall recommendations was by a couple of guys I wasn’t yet privy to, Darol Anger and Mike Marshall. He shot me over a copy of Anger & Marshall’s The Duo and insisted I listen to their cover of “Donna Lee” for a chuckle. A chuckle? Over a 1947 Miles Davis-penned bebop classic tune?

To be sure, this nice and tidy rendition sports an old-time swing with some nifty mandolin picking by Marshall and dazzling fiddling by Anger, and when they zip through that booger of a theme in unison, it’s just as head shake inducing as when Jaco played it solo on his fretless bass. But smack dab in the middle of this tune is the sound of a car crashing…what the heck? It was so odd and seemingly out of place, I could only let out the predicted chuckle and continue on my morning commute to work while listening to the The Duo CD in the car.

Of course, it wasn’t long after I arrived at work that word started filtering in that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center buildings. I later found it occurred at 7:50 CT, and just as everyone in the prior generation knew what they were doing when JFK was shot, I made a mental note of what I was doing when the tragedies of the day began. I quickly deduced that at that moment I was listening to Anger & Marshall perform “Donna Lee.”

I’m not sure if there really is a lesson to be learned from being entertained by a bluegress song with a cartoon sound effect while terrorists are taking out thousands of people on American soil. Maybe the message is to cherish those small, light moments when you can, because you can rarely predict when those big, sobering moments will come and rock your world.

Or as Warren Zevon once succinctly put it, “enjoy every sandwich.”

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron