3 New Releases Showcase Global Guitar Sounds
Several recordings were recently sent in to me for review, and while their individual aesthetics are very different from each other, what they all have in common are players that are worth your attention.
Jonathan Eric Wilson – GuitarViol
In May of 2011, I conducted my first interview for Guitar-Muse with Jonathan Wilson of Togaman Guitars, and it’s only fitting that his release is the first recording I’m reviewing here. In its simplest description, Wilson’s unique GuitarViol is a guitar that can be played with a bow. His GuitarViols have been used in numerous film, television, video game soundtracks and is now featured on Wilson’s own release which reveals his performing, composing and arranging skills as well. GuitarViol’s compositions cover a range of moods and styles from minimalist ambient sound cues (“Ripples”, “Big Blue Yonder”) to heavier rock tracks. In addition to featuring the textures of the title instrument, GuitarViol also showcases Jonathan’s traditional guitar playing (check out the ferocious shredding on “The Scorpion Elder”) and Bajo Quinto skills (“Before I send you away”) as well.
While the purpose of a recording like this is to license the music for other use (films, television, commercials, etc.), the tracks stand up on their own. This is particularly true for “Marianela” where the bowed GuitarViols and sparse rhythm section (Chad Watson on bass and Dave Moreno of the Bruce Dickenson Band on drums) provide a gorgeous nuanced support to the film noir-meets-Jeff Beck vibe of the track.
While you’re likely to hear many of GuitarViol’s tracks in various placements in the near future, make sure to keep an eye out for Jonathan’s next project Liquid Light Brigade, a collection of obscure psychedelic 60’s covers with completely different arrangements, as well as all of the further developments for Togaman Guitars.
GuitarViol is available on Amazon.
Vahagni – Solitude
Solitude is second cd from guitarist, composer and producer Vahagn “Vahagni” Turgutyan. Vahagni came to this cd with a substantial guitar pedigree. In addition to being the son of a classicial guitarist, Vahagni turned an early passion for flamenco (including formal flamenco studies in Andalucia, Spain and additional studies at California Institute of The Arts) into a platform for both his playing and writing.
If Flamenco music acts as the hands of Vahagni’s music, the music of his native Armenia is its heart. The compositions on Solitude take both Armenian and Flamenco based melodic and rhythmic influences and mix them with jazzy chord progressions and a prodigious guitar technique. Much of the jazz undertones of the recording also come from Vahagni’s interplay with the rest of the quintet (pianist Tigran Hamasyan, cellist Artyom Manukyan, bassist Hamilton Price, Jimmy Branly on drums/percussion and additional percussion and palmas by Gerardo Morales). Recorded in three days at Scott Frasier’s studio (Frasier is the touring sound designer and engineer for Kronos Quartet), Solitude has the feel of a live recording that is missing from many other contemporary recordings and is a testament to the skill and chemistry off all the players on the tracks.
Whether adapting traditional melodies such as “Vaxarshapati par“ or performing a traditional flamenco Solea, Vahagni brings a unique voice to the nylon string guitar on Solitude.
Stand out tracks include “The star and her protector” (with a prog-rock—ish ending), “Deconstruction” and the introspective title track.
Levante Guitar Duo – Levantine Journey (Music of Vojislav Ivanovic)
Recorded in 2011, the Levante Guitar Duo features the nylon string guitarwork of Vojislav Ivanovic and Aleksandra Lazarevic. With performances that are poised, lyrical and flawless in execution, the interplay between the two seems almost telepathic.
In addition to showcasing the guitarists’ playing, from an arrangement standpoint, the sparseness of the duo-guitar format also highlights the compositional nuances of Ivanovic’s writing. This is especially important as the compositions are a delightful mix of Ivanovic’s interests in traditional music, Jazz and improvisation.
Guitar fans will be wowed by the dexterity and drive on tracks like “Balkan Express” and “225 Steps”, but in many ways the duo’s personality shines best on tracks like the whimsical “Circus Valse”, the introspective (and almost plaintive) “Levantine Journey” and “Prelude to a Hug”.