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(40:06; Montreal Guitar Trio / California Guitar Trio)
I was incredibly excited when I was contacted by Paul Richards from California Guitar Trio to see if I was interested in reviewing their new album, as I have been a few of that band for many years, and was fortunate to be in the audience the night they supported Enchant and Spock’s Beard. Both myself and Paul have fond memories of that gig and in particular the way the crowd got behind “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and as he says, “it was epic!”. But instead of 3 guys playing guitar, we instead have 6, due to a chance meeting between the two trios at an Oregon music conference a decade ago. This led to CGT’s Bert Lams, Hideyo Moriya and Paul Richards, and the MG3’s Sebastien Dufour, Glenn Levesque and Marc Morin realising that they had similarities and differences which would allow them to create very special music together indeed. Since then they have frequently played together, but this is the first album release as a sextet. The combination of CGT’s steel-string guitars with the MG3’s nylon classical guitars, along with different musical approaches, has created something which is always a delight, and at times just breathtaking. “The MG3 are highly-skilled classical guitarists and excellent players,” said Richards. “Like CGT, they have a wide-ranging repertoire, but totally different from us. I liked the idea of combining both our eclectic styles. Our many years of working with Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists, sometimes with up to 12 guitarists, prepared CGT for our work with the MG3.” “Both trios bring their own history into the sextet,” said Lams. “The CGT offers a precise, more contained and sometimes contemplative approach. The MG3 comes from a more traditional background. They studied classical guitar together. They provide a sense of joy and passion to the group.” “We also have a Latino energy in our music,” said Dufour. “So, when we bring the two things together, it seems to really expand the spectrum of what guitars can do in a typical ensemble. That's what makes it so interesting to play together in this project." There is a mix of original material and covers, and while mostly instrumental there are some vocal passages as well. One of these latter is the song I feel works least well on the album, “Space Oddity”, and I wonder if that is because it is already so well known with a large acoustic element, but their take on the title track, is nothing short of outstanding. This is music which transcends any sort of classification, and instead is simple beautiful. Six guitarists all playing individual notes as they work through the melody, with sustain being an incredibly important part of the sound. John Cage originally wrote this in 1948 to accompany a choreography by dancer Louise Lippold. It was written for solo piano or harp, and Cage felt the use of sustain pedals was incredibly important to create harmonics as the piece developed, and I am sure he would have been greatly enamoured of this, then compare that to “Fortune Island” which is loads of fun combining simple melody and contrasting chords. A truly wonderful album, and well worth discovering.
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