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November & December 2013 Short Takes

Stephen Robinson "Imagine," 2013 In his eighth studio album, Stephen Robinson presents a satisfying blend of both core classical guitar repertoire and less commonly recorded works. Recognized throughout the musical community as both a virtuoso as well as an erudite pedagogue, Robinson offers a rich blend of dazzling technique, refined tone, and learned interpretations. The disc opens with a touching arrangement of John Lennon's "Imagine", which properly sets the mood for the entire recording, as well as leaving no doubts to the forward-thinking approach of the repertoire selections. "Imagine" also alludes to the approachable nature of this album; all of the selections will touch any music lover, classical guitarist or not. And while the album emphasises memorable melodies and beautiful harmonies, do not underestimate its musical depth, or the mastery with which it's delivered by Robinson. Among the more well-known classical composers on the album we find the likes of Carlo Domeniconi, Lennox Berkeley, and John Duarte. Robinson navigates each work with a sense of both technical ease and with pleasing, natural interpretations. This disc is wonderful example of a mature, master of the instrument, looking to share the beauty of the classical guitar with as many people as possible. © Timothy Smith

Eli Conley "At the Seams," 2013 That voice! You'll recognize it everywhere. Eli Conley possesses the rare gift of a distinctive vocal timbre that separates him from scores of singer-songwriters in the modern folk ilk. On his stunning debut long-player Conley partners with multi-instrumental producer Michael Connolly who is wonderfully skilled on keys, upright bass, accordion, dobro, lap steel, and mandolin to name a few. Akin the classic era of the singer songwriter genre – think Jackson Browne, early Elton John, Stephen Stills, and the more recent work of Melissa Etheridge – Conley's cinematic lyrics and strong sense of melody along with Connolly's spare, supportive arrangements serve artist and the listener well. Unforgettable songs of love, yearning, and spiritually abound. Every track is a winner, though I will single out three cuts in particular: the funky "I Found You," the melodramatic "What Is It About Me" and the tender ballad "Draw the Line" among the best as Conley's percussive guitar rhythms and vocal phrases divinely intertwine. This is the stuff that long, successful careers are made of. © Tom Semioli

Andrew Kasab "Guitar.Tune.Art" 2013 "Guitar.Tune.Art" is my first encounter with gifted guitarist and composer Andrew Kasab. Each track of this self-produced collection is played solo on a harp guitar. Kasab uses the tonal diversity and range of the harp guitar with aplomb and artistry. Percussive picking, harmonic tapping and dynamic fretwork in concert with melody are present throughout this CD. The opening "thrive", "fireflies" and "leaves"are all examples of the depth and breadth of composition as well as the attention to craft that truly shines on this collection. The first three tunes beckon and call inviting the listener on a sonic journey sure to delight and open the door wide to the eclectic sonic tapestry that Kasab creates on "Guitar.Tune.Art." © James Filkins

Leonel Lorador "Suave," 2013 I first heard Lorador playing in Pennsylvania Station, New York City, a coveted spot for performance given to artists who have been chosen as part of Arts for Transit and Urban Design. I, like thousands of others, was hurrying for a train, but I was stopped in my tracks, as it were, riveted with his virtuosity and with the quality of his playing, and later surprised to find he is not more well known in the States. Born of a Portuguese father and a Spanish mother, Lorador studied classical guitar at conservatories in the Algarve and Lisbon and draws on the music of all these traditions, as well as that of Brazil and Latin America and flamenco, in his music. The CD has eight original compositions and four pieces by others, including "Love Is You" by Santana and "Hearts" by Jesse Barish, all performed with soulfulness and a command of color, tone, and timing. Most arresting are Lorador's compositions, like "Saoirse," "Saudade," and "Del Sur," that fall on the classical/flamenco end of the spectrum, but there is something that will satisfy every taste on "Suave," which one hopes will bring Lorador's gifts to a broader audience. © Céline Keating

Here's some other great music we received this month:

Chris Watkins - Winter Birds
Ken Totushek - Real Life Stuff
Dave Desmelik - Instrumental Swim
Jeff Saxon - Blujanova
Dan Israel - Live On
Marcus Corbett - Strung Deep

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