Minor 7th Jan/Feb 2002: Thom Bresh and Buster B. Jones, Goran Ivanovic and Fareed Haque, Charlie Strater, Larry Murante, Peter Finger, Egberto Gismonti and Charlie Haden, Sam Phillips
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January/February, 2002

Thom Bresh and Buster B. Jones, "Guts & Steel", Solid Air SACD 2025, 2001

Mashed potatos and gravy, ham and eggs, ice cream and apple pie, Thom Bresh and Buster B. Jones. All just fine separately -- but together, man-oh-day, something exquisite blossoms, lightning strikes, the clouds part, sweetness and light. These two magic-fingered guitarists, Buster B. Jones on nylon string and Thom Bresh on steel string, intermingle so seamlessly it's impossible to tell where one begins and the other lets off. Most of the 18 tracks on the all instrumental "Guts and Steel" were written by Jones and Bresh, either together or separately. And their arrangements of "Tennessee Waltz" and "Music, Music, Music" breathe new life into a couple of classics. But while the tracks certainly showcase their considerable talent, they weren't written merely to show off, although you may find your jaw dropping in dumbstruck awe. A keen sense of rhythm and melody is dished out throughout, along with a heavy dollop of fun. Jones and Bresh really make those guitars smile. Interspersed among the songs are three snippets of conversation lifted from the recording. After hearing such accomplished renditions, it's a joy to hear two fellows who sound as if they would be just as content out hunting pheasant or sipping a couple of cool ones on the front porch. The liner notes include their observations regarding each track. Jones' note on "Guitarville": "This tune was born, as were countless others, on the front porch of Thom Bresh's home. A day just like any other day, with guitarists coming and going, Chet Atkins visited for awhile and then Jerry Reed. I was so inspired I made up this little ditty as a tribute to this great 'guitarist magnet,' Bresh's house." This collection is a delight.
©Fred Kraus

Thom Bresh's Website Buster B. Jone's Website Buy it at Acoustic Music Resource

Goran Ivanovic and Fareed Haque: "Macedonian Blues: Laments and Dances", Proteus 001, 2001

Goran Ivanovic has compressed a lifetime of drama and artistic achievement into his young 24 years. Leaving his home in Croatia as a prodigy at the age of 12 to study classical guitar with Elliott Fisk at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, he and his family fortuitously escaped the bloody conflict that was destined to soon engulf his homeland. Though both classically trained, Ivanovic and Fareed Haque capture a passion that transcends traditional classicism on the duos in "Macedonian Blues", by forging a musical alloy of classical music with the animated ethnic folk musics of the Balkans. This is music rife with improvisation, odd meters, virtuosity and incredible spirit. Ivanovic and Haque don't shoot off all of their fireworks at once. Ivanovic's "Jano Mori" opens the CD with a quiet and metaphoric flirtation hovering between the yin and yang of spirituality and seduction. "Gajdarsko Oro" and "Ethno Dance" though, are maelstroms of jackhammer intensity. "Jovano Jovanke" sounded very familiar to me, though it took a few listens to determine that the opening phrases were actually from Haque's "Paco's Blues". This motif melts in and out of the skeleton of the Macedonian folksong via Haque's stirring improvisations, incorporating modal and lightning-fast runs with unusual slurring and trilling techniques associated with Indian and Middle Eastern music. Ivanovic and Haque have successfully parlayed their respective histories of crossing cultural geographic boundaries into more profound cultural artistic crossings.
©Alan Fark

Goran Ivanovic's Website Fareed Haque's Website Buy it at Amazon.com

Charlie Strater, "Thornhill Road", Chilidog Music, 2001

A familiar walking riff moving stepwise up the fretboard opens Charlie Strater's "Thornhill Road". "My Blues" puts us squarely in blues territory and establishes the muscular finger picking and exuberant vocals that are the trademark of this CD. On succeeding cuts, Strater works outward to explore a variety of genres, returning in the end to his blue roots with a cover of Taj Mahal's "Cakewalk into Town". The title track resonates with old-time music, complemented by Tom Yoder's fiddle and lyrics that talk about "the blackberry blossom (the title of a famous flat picking tune recorded by Doc Watson, among others) deep down in my soul." The very next song, "Blue Palm", builds on a funk beat with a chord progression reminiscent of Traffic's "Are You Feelin' Alright". A cover of Chris Whitley's "Scrapyard Lullabies" showcases the album's flashiest guitar playing. Strater's storytelling skills are on display in the outlaw tale "Riding with Patricia." "Stripmall of My Mind" brings us social commentary (and another taste of Strater’s occasionally blistering and even crass lyrics). The opening arpeggio of "Gregory's" and subsequent uncharacteristically gentle strumming and fretless bass--think of John Gorka's work with Michael Manring--help Strater convey the all-too-true and comical story of the singer-songwriter's search for venues. And, though Strater is trying to "Get Away," on the penultimate song, in the end he joyously cakewalks right back to the blues.
©David Kleiner

Charlie Strater's Website Buy it at Amazon.com

Larry Murante, "Water's Edge", Weeping Wood LM 1512, 2000

A folksinger at heart, Larry Murante tests rockier shores with "Water's Edge," his second CD release. This collection finds Murante, who penned all 11 tracks, in a more uptempo mode than on his 1994 ballad-heavy album, "Kiss Me One More Time." With the backing of a competent assemblage of musicians, Murante thoughtfully reflects on life's bittersweet slices. Somewhat ironically, the standout turns out to be the most ballad-like track, "Those Days," an achy, nostalgic reminisce of writing music with a good friend. Its simplicity and purity ring true and Murante's earnestness could wring a tear or two from a prickly pear cactus. Murante's heartfelt tales journey through an adolescent's love that lingers on in "Between the Road and the River," to the disturbing incident of a knife-wielding man of "Streets of Seattle," to the sketch of a seemingly tough-skinned old fishing buddy in "Water's Edge." The singer/songwriter, who also contributes guitar and harmonic, functions best when his stories contain enough of an Everyman element to convey a universal theme. Murante falters when he grows too specific, as with "Katie's House" and "John Korman," both of which suffer from a lack of perspective crucial to success. Murante closes this set with a live recording of "Chumstick Chow," a nutty, lively, bluesy rag he sings from the point of view of a dog. Its departure from the tone of the rest of the album seems too jarring to warrant inclusion despite its admittedly goofy appeal.
©Fred Kraus

Larry Murante's Website Buy it at Amazon.com

Peter Finger, "The Collection", Solid Air SACD 2019, 2001

Guitar lovers not familiar with the work of German sensation Peter Finger are in for a treat. Solid Air Records has begun releasing compilations of some of their artists, and Finger is one of the first. This collection is a wonderful mix, revealing not just Finger's blazing speed up and down the fretboard, but his melodic and compositional strengths as well. The CD is a glimpse into five previous recordings, a stunning view into a body of work which has left most listeners gasping for breath. All the songs are in two of his favorite tunings, EBEGAD and DAEGAD. He begins with "Irish Landscape", a jaunty, elegant jig. We're stunned by the frenetic "Getaway", and we rise and fall in the undulating "A Trip Through the Pyrenees". There are some sumptuous moments as well, as in "Fur Dich", with its stark simplicity and lilting melody accented by singing harmonics, and the soulful "Unforgettable". We also get the playful, spicy "Fanesca", "The Strange Girl", "101 South", "Come to My Window", and close with "Just Another Day in May", dedicated to Finger's mother. It's a well-rounded intro into a master's craft.
©Kirk Albrecht

Peter Finger's Website Buy it at Acoustic Music Resource

Egberto Gismonti and Charlie Haden, "In Montreal", ECM 1746, 2001

The combination of bass and acoustic guitar is a daunting one. Without a drummer to keep time, the rhythmic responsibilities fall on the shoulders of the string players who must improvise, forge melodies, and support each other simultaneously. Charlie Haden and Egberto Gismonti, two jazz masters with historic resumés, show the world exactly how it's done. Recorded live in 1989, this set is a stunning musical dialogue between two intelligent and creative players. On the opening cut "Salvador" Haden hands the intro to Gismonti who firmly states the melody then vigorously solos while the bassist pumps out simple eighth notes sans harmony. Midway through the piece, Gismonti comps with similar figures while Haden embellishes the guitarist's introductory motifs. When Gismonti switches over to piano, as in "Maracatu," Silence" and "Palhaco" the harmonic interplay is slightly altered due to the keyboard's ability to sustain notes with more clarity and precision, but the ideology remains the same: two players working together to construct a single sound. The use of bass harmonics as a percussive device in "Em Familia" is intriguing, especially when Gismonti reciprocates by turning his lightning fast arpeggios into pedal tones for Haden to expand on. Gismonti's atonal piano break in "Frevo" and the playful riffs at the onset of "Don Quixote" are equally captivating as Haden juggles half-time, double-time, and quarter-time figures in a duel of counterpoint solos that make the last twenty minutes of the concert whiz by. This disc is a must have for jazz players seeking refreshing ideas in a duo format.
©Tom Semioli

Egberto Gismonti's Website Charlie Haden's Website Buy it at Amazon.com

Sam Phillips, "Fan Dance", Nonesuch 79625-2, 2001

Beautiful and strange, Sam Phillips' Fan Dance is a surreal vision, a disjointed psychological journey with an achingly lovely soundtrack and a few talented friends along for the trip (like Gillian Welch, Jim Keltner, and husband/producer T Bone Burnett). In a fan dance, the fan allows the dancer to hide or become something else (a peacock for instance). Throughout this album, Burnett alternately reveals and disguises herself. Written almost exclusively in first person, many memorable lines read more like Zen koans than lyrics: The places I go are never there... When we open our eyes and dream we open our eyes... The music is as cryptic as the words. The title cut opens with a typically abstruse but tuneful chorus leading to pentatonic verses. Marc Ribot (perhaps best known for his work with Tom Waits on Rain Dogs and elsewhere) makes his first appearance, here on Quattro banjo guitar. On "Soul Eclipse," he plays something called an Optigan. "Edge of the World," with guitar by Ribot, sounds fresh out of the Threepenny Opera. "Wasting My Time" finds Phillips in a duet with Martin Tillman's cellos, arranged by the artfully esoteric Van Dyke Parks. On the Waits-like tune "Incinerator," Phillips' sensual vocal belies the vulnerability in the lyrics while Ribot's guitar roughens the mix. From there, Phillips moves to the Beatlesque changes and acoustic guitar strumming of "Love is Everywhere I Go." The final cut begs someone to "Say What You Mean," an ironic ending to an album this inscrutable. But, taking the Ching-like advice of "Five Colors," every time I listen to Fan Dance, "I don't mind if I am getting nowhere;" the ride is exquisite.
©David Kleiner

Sam Phillip's Website Buy it at Amazon.com

Phunquie Pholk: Guitar Instruction and Jazz CDs

Please visit Phunquie Pholk, hosted by guitarist, writer and instructor Eric Elias, and where you can buy jazz instruction materials, CDs and more!

Buster B. Jones In Concert!
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