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January & February Short Takes

Chris Burton Jácome "Levanto," 2010 This CD presents music that Chris Burton Jacome composed for the flamenco ballet, "Calo Flamenco". A masterful guitarist, Jacome performs with vocalists, violin, dancers, bass guitar and percussion in various combinations. "See Another Day" opens the disc, featuring a dramatic Arabic-flavored vocal by Chayito Champion. Jacome takes several guitar solos and features himself prominently on several ensemble pieces, including "My Lighthouse", "Hope", and "To My Sister". His solid flamenco technique is evident on Ritmo-Canix (i.e., rhythm and groove) and "By Your Side". The program also includes several recorded dance sequences, performed without music. "Levanto" is a fine example of a guitarist successfully composing, arranging and performing music for the stage. © Patrick Ragains

Gordon Vincent "Confessions of a Hummingbird Farmer," 2010 This is a DIY project, from the songwriting to the instrumentation to the cover design. He even recorded it all on his Macbook. Don't judge him harshly, though, this is much more than some beginner's bumbling attempt to be a Big Star. He's actually a skillful acoustic rock singer-songwriter who knows how to arrange, play and engineer. The disc opens with a lively love song centered around a riffy guitar. "Waiting for You" is a ballad about waiting for that special person, featuring his finger picked guitar. "Talk of the Town" is grittier and in "For the Want of A Nail" he shows his rock side. Distorted guitar? Got it. Pounding bass? Yep. Some great stuff here. © Jamie Anderson

Val Bonetti "Wait," 2010 The music on this release is simply delightful. Val Bonetti is a young Italian guitarist and composer whose solo arrangements are fully realized performances that sound like a small jazz combo. Bonetti performs all selections solo, mostly on steel-string guitar. The smartly swinging "3/25" opens the disc, followed by "Then She Smiled," which is more lyrical. "Clowntown" is fun and uptempo, recalling 70s smooth jazz, specifically Bobby Womack’s "Breezin’", which was a hit for George Benson. Bonetti has great technique, but his compositional and arranging finesse holds the listener’s attention more than any hot licks, notably on ballads like "Night will be Light." In the same vein is "Three Views of a Secret," which has a feel similar to Thelonius Monk’s "’Round Midnight". Fingerstyle jazz guitar fans should consider this CD essential listening, but anyone who loves jazz and pop music will enjoy it. Bonetti currently has several performance videos on YouTube, which are linked from his profile on © Patrick Ragains

Rolf Sturm "Balance," 2010 Rolf Sturm’s "Balance" is truly a remarkable recording, showcasing ten masterful solo acoustic guitar performances. Five of the pieces are Jazz standards and the other five are musical anagrams of those standards. Sturm is an astounding fingerstyle player effortlessly alternating between swinging jazz chords and beautifully executed single note lines. His improvisational abilities are both impressive and expressive. The son of teachers Sturm studied music at Berklee, while congruently pursuing a degree in liberal arts. He also studied with Joe Pass, Bill Frisell, and John Abercrombie. Throughout "Balance" one hears echoes of the late Joe Pass in Sturm’s tuneful virtuosity. His readings of "Stella by Starlight" and "Black Orpheus" are flawless. Furthermore, the musical anagrams are clever derivatives of the originals and take on a new and refreshing musical identity all their own. Sturm is a prodigious talent and is an unparalleled virtuoso of the nylon stringed guitar. "Balance" is highly recommended and should be required listening for all fans of contemporary music. © James Scott

Anthony Ocaña, "Wet Fields," 2010 "Wet Fields," the new CD from Anthony Ocana, pushes nylon stringed guitar into all kinds of styles. This CD is really two recordings, because it’s packaged with the bonus disc "En Vivo Palacio de Bellas Artes." In that way it is a great value for your musical buck. Ocana plays both 6 and 10-stringed guitars. While the opening cut "Divertimento" is pretty traditional, we get a feeling for what is coming on track 2, "Homenaje a Heitor Villa-Lobos," with multiple parts colliding and morphing into various voices. "Improviso 2", dedicated to Anouar Brahem, drifts along slowly but with a focused intensity for over 10 minutes. Most of the songs on "Wet Fields" are dedicated to players or composers who have influenced Ocana. On "Estsudio 5", we can hear why it’s dedicated to Philip Glass: its minimalist feel drives the tune. "Ascending Soul" also follows some patterns of minimalism, with pulsating guitar and repeatedly vocal phrases. By contrast, his tantalizingly brief "Estudio 2" reveals the lovely, lyrical melody of the great Francisco Tarrega, to whom it is dedicated. "Improviso 3" has Ocana using percussive techniques on the soundboard and two-handed tapping on the fretboard, while developing a melody dedicated to the great Egberto Gismonti. This CD is an interesting study of nylon stringed styles, and worth a listen from an intuitive, sensitive musician who is creating his own unique musical space. © Kirk Albrecht

Matthew McAllister "Bach & Brouwer," 2010 The classically-minded listener is in for a real treat with Matthew McAllister's "Bach & Brouwer," which cleverly juxtaposes the very well-known J.S. Bach "Suite No. 1" with a lesser-known work, "Suite No. 2" by Leo Brouwer (b. 1939). The works, though separated by centuries, share interesting similarities in structure and harmony, and seem an absolutely natural pairing. The same musical sensitivity which likely led McAllister to couple the Suites is equally present in his playing. For example, it is easy to tell that McAllister truly savors Bach's slow Sarabande -- here, as throughout the entire work, he pays careful attention not only to the notes and ornaments, but also the space in between: a consideration that is so vital to an effective and affecting performance of Baroque music, but so often forgotten. The somewhat lighter Brouwer Suite is delightfully and deftly performed, while McAllister's final selection, Brouwer's "Canción de Cuna," is a dynamic and affecting capstone to the album. © Ryan Fark

Terence Martin "The Last Black and White TV," 2010 Years ago, when Gregory Peck introduced Bob Dylan at the Kenney Center, he recalled the impression he had as a child of old Civil War veterans "kicking up the dust" whist marching in a 4th of July parade -- that's how Bob's music sounded to the great actor. Such is the case with the bittersweet Mr. Martin on his latest release, which was co-written with Gregory Hicks. With a voice like sand and glue and words that evoke images that would impress Pete Seger and Woody Guthrie, Martin kicks up dust aplenty on this album, weaving tales of the human condition depicting these bleak times we live in. The deceptively laid back rhythm section (these players are "in the pocket" at all times) affords Martin ample space to get his message(s) across while sweetening the proceedings with tasteful lap steel, dobro, harmonica, and accordion accompaniment. My ears caught the sublime musical references to Dylan's "Queen Jane Approximately" and Desolation Row" in the haunting dirge "What Side of Town." The listener shares Martin’s confusion and longing for simpler times as the singer wearily intones "the last black and white TV in America has got something to say to me -- but I can't make it out." "Down From Sacramento" is the travelogue that Johnny Cash never got to sing. Highly recommended for fans of Bruce Cockburn, John Prine, Bruce Springsteen (Darkness on the Edge of Town, Nebraska, Tom Joad), Bob Dylan (John WesleyHarding), David Gray, and Ron Sexsmith. © Tom Semioli

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

Gary Reed - Guitar 1977
Christopher Cavaliere - Monrovia Suite
Mike Magnelli & Friends
Brady Earnhart - So Few Things
Khaled - The Rabbit Hole
Tomas Michaud - Beauty and Fire
Luna Blanca - Provence

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