Minor 7th Nov/Dec 2001: Masa Sumidé, Anne McCue, Strunz and Farah, Ken Hatfield, Gary Myrick, Jenn Adams
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Reviewing the best in guitar CDs, from jazz to folk to rock to new age, emphasizing acoustic and independent or obscure releases

November/December, 2001

Masa Sumidé, "The Collection", Solid Air SACD 2020, 2001

The area between tiny Maizuru, Japan, Tulsa, Oklahoma and New Brunswick, New Jersey encompasses a lot of geography. This triangle formed respectively by the hometowns of guitarists Masa Sumidé, Tuck Andress and Joe Pass is vast, yet the musical landscape of their three instrumental styles could not be more proximate. It's not lost that this triangle also bounds the creative stomping grounds of Michael Hedges, whose brassy influence shudders through some of the more memorable tunes on Sumidé's solo instrumental retrospective, "The Collection". "Mister Blue", "Night Rider", "Addicted to Swing" and "Skinny Dog Boogie" are pure funkifized gumption, sassy tapotements skipping proudly over taut wires. Truly an artist, Sumidé can effortlessly maneuver a quicksilver steer from syncopation to contemplation. "Little Min" and "Night Groove" swing easily through an architecture of jazz voicings that meld comping with melody, capturing a sensation simultaneously wistful and content. Sumidé takes the opportunity on "Nobody Knows" to credibly assert the pleasing heresy that Brasilian guitar can ring too on steel rather than nylon. And though a fishing village on the coast of the Sea of Japan is almost absurdly opposite in context to the image brought to mind by the term "honky tonk", Sumidé's ragtimey "Paris Rag" proves that there is an inclusive universality to the engaging language of music that transcends the narrow scope of each of our heritages.
©Alan Fark

Masa Sumidé's Website Buy it at Amazon.com

Anne McCue: "Amazing Ordinary Things", Relentless Records M2R20554, 2000

Anne McCue's new album opens with one of life's Amazing Ordinary Things, the sound of crickets. Their rhythmic chirping is joined by percussion, confident rhythm guitar, and finally a band, to create music that swells to a hook you can remember. "Angel Inside", produced by Joni Mitchell's ex and frequent collaborator Larry Klein (who plays a number of instruments including the dulcimer-like marxophone) starts with guitar, then voice. Drums enter to signal another radio friendly chorus. "Laughing", showcased in a video that finds McCue suspended in mid-air, builds from acoustic guitar to an insistent chorus with rhythmic harmony and electric slide. Yes, this record works overtime to highlight its hooks. Yet it succeeds in disarming us anyway with a pleasing mix of sensuality and spirituality in McCue's singing and the little mysteries in her words. Musically, there's always a new wrinkle. A coy vocal on the CD's earthiest lyric ("My Only One") precedes the purity of "More Than This". A live recording of "Love We Made" finds Ms. McCue in a simpler setting with a smoky voice and guitar playing that supports Billy Di Cicco's trumpet. In "Desert in the Rain," Jerry Goodman unleashes a swinging violin solo, as he does on the opening cut. McCue contributes driving electric lead and a powerful solo; she's responsible for most of the guitar work throughout. The yearning vocal of "Always" sends us another beautiful riddle which asks, "Can you see that the meaning of life has no reason?" In the album's final, rocking tune McCue waits, either for a man or a messiah. "Amazing Ordinary Things" is a heady combination of sexuality, mysticism, little enigmas, and carefully orchestrated music.
©David Kleiner

Anne McCue's Website Buy it at Amazon.com
Listen to Riding Away (RealAudio)

Strunz and Farah, "Stringweave", Selva SV-CD 1008, 2001

On "Stringweave" the dueling Spanish guitars of Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah become one voice. Strunz and Farah possess amazing dexterity, trading solos on each cut with clarity, perfect harmonic intonation, and rhythmic diversity. Though fellow guitarists may be impressed with their technical prowess the real mark of genius on this disc lies in Strunz and Farah's melodic expertise. Often repeating phrases with slight variations before breaking into a flourish, the twosome are constantly reinforcing the primary motif throughout their improvisations, allowing the audience to become familiar with each composition almost instantly. Most of all, these two guitarists and their sidemen know how to use space. With Alberto Salas' syncopated comping on keyboards, a myriad of percussive textures, and bassist Eliseo Borrero outlining the changes with simple root/fifth configurations, Strunz and Farah can stretch their phrases over the bar-line and take liberties with key and time signatures. The final three tracks add L. Subramaniam's violin to the mix to conjure a mood not unlike Shatki, the most interesting of which is "Laleh" and giving the impression of one continuous solo even though there are three different musicians under the spotlight. Though "Stringweave" is a guitarists' dream the emphasis is clearly on the music.
©Tom Semioli

Strunz and Farah's Website Buy it at Amazon.com

Ken Hatfield, "Dyad", Arthur Circle Music ACM-3482, 2001

Charlie Byrd pioneered it, and Ken Hatfield is continuing a marvelous legacy of melodic nylon-string jazz guitar. With his third CD release, "Dyad", Hatfield is gaining notice with his ability to cross over musical boundaries and play it right. The more I listened to this recording, the more I was struck by how much music is on it. This is Hatfield's most ambitious work to date, and the ensemble joining him brings out the best in his compositions. We get memories of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli in the bouncy "To and Fro" and "Do You Know Joe Jones?", as well the ballad "A Bit for Miss Fitt", where Hatfield exchanges the staccato of Django for more subtle chordal phrasing. On "Impressario" Maucha Adnet's voice provides the melodic base for Hatfield's guitar and Valentin Gregor's seductive violin work, whose sound undulates from the swing of Stephane to shades of Jerry Goodman's early work with John McLaughlin. The rhythm section of Duduka da Fonseca on percussion, and Hans Glawischnig on double bass keep things moving. Other highlights: "Incantation", with its changing rhythms pulling us in and out of the sultry melody; and the soaring, upbeat "Endymion", where Hatfield showcases his cross-string picking. The release of "Dyad" makes it clear that this Hatfield is the real McCoy.
©Kirk Albrecht

Ken Hatfield's Website Buy it at Amazon.com
Listen to Dyad (RealAudio)

Gary Myrick, "Waltz of the Scarecrow King", Tangible Music 56818-2, 2001

Waltz of the Scarecrow King animates two landscapes, Gary Myrick's Texas (Jesus, the El Camino, the trailer, Elvis) and his California (nightclubs, waitresses, musicians yearning for a hit). At home, the songwriter can do what he wants in obscurity. In LA--if he pleases the right people--he might find fame. The music reflects this conflict. The guitar work is stripped down, Texas style, whether leisurely picked on an 1894 Washburn or ferociously attacked on dobro. LA inhabits the project's high concept: basic tracks, voice and guitar, recorded live with string quartet added later. The quartet duets with clean Cotton picking in "Honk if You Love Jesus". In "Fame is Dangerous" a nimble run introduces strings. "Hometown Waltz", a lament to lost innocence from someone driven insane by "tour buses and radio", is a lilting Texas waltz with a tasty guitar solo. A trio of dobro, guitar, and violins takes us away from the bleak "Redeemer". "Scarecrow King" offers particularly lovely interplay. The album's penultimate cut, jauntier than most, finds the singer failing to sell a song, but consoled by Elvis' admonition to rock on. The final tune's atmospheric slide playing morphs briefly into raga. We're left in California's Mojave yet somehow closer to Texas than LA. A string quartet in pop is often shorthand for significance. Myrick does go for the big statement. Listeners will have to decide for themselves how well "Waltz of the Scarecrow King" holds up under the weight of its desire. But no one can deny its moments of beauty or its ambition.
©David Kleiner

Gary Myrick's Website Buy it at Amazon.com

Jenn Adams, "In the Pool", White Boxer Music, 2000

The opening chords of "In the Pool" would lead you to believe it’s a soft record, folk in roots and blues in influence. This CD isn’t background music. You have to turn it up, and you have to listen. But it does fool you. The CD starts out folky with acoustic guitars on "Joliet" and "Most Precious Days" and the appropriately titled "The Garden Song" with nice vocal touches á la Phoebe Snow. But then you get to "Not Tonight". Drums hit, guitars are plugged in and a sultry, kind of swamp-like feel erupts and you find yourself making that subtle head-nod move and you just might get up and dance. Not disco dance. Solid blues/rock dance. She never really states what she’s not going to do tonight, but I’m telling you just don’t bring it up. She is NOT going to do it. I shouldn’t mislead you, Jenn Adams’ acoustic guitar is prominent throughout. The songs are promising with good but not great lyrics. But when she takes it that extra step there is magic, as on "Mozambique Is Burning". Arrangement credits aren’t given, but that person deserves one of those little statues they give out on glitzy Hollywood nights. Passionate drums lead by sultry vocals. The CD is fine, with touches of brilliance. Suggestion to Jenn: don’t accept your final version of the song or the lyrics. Take two more steps into them and you will find a special soul. Like you did on Dylan’s "All Along The Watchtower". You made it into something new. No small feat.
©Mike Gormley

Jenn Adam's Website Buy it at Amazon.com


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