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January & February 2014 Short Takes

Duo Amaral "Textura," 2013 Duo Amaral's second release, "Textura," presents an enchanting auditory experience from beginning to end. The Baroque, Romantic and Nationalistic repertoire Mia Pomerantz-Amaral and Jorge Amaral finesse to life with artistry, precision and grace captivates and invigorates. "Sonata in G Major" by Giovanni B. Sammartini is performed with intricacy and depth of both harmony and melody resulting in an ebullient esprit de duo. Although not a connoisseur of classical music, I am drawn to guitar and string performances far more than those that are arranged for keyboard. "Textura" simply confirms my proclivity and Duo Amaral's performance and transcription of Isaac Albéniz's "España's Op. 165" is, perhaps, the perfect example of the wondrous expressive range a guitar possesses in the right hands. "Textura" offers so very much to enjoy and experience! © James Filkins

Tev Stevig "Jeni Jol," 2013 Tev Stevig's current release "Jeni Jol: Music of the Balkans, Greece, and Turkey" is an eastern Mediterranean odyssey of carefully crafted arrangements and exquisite original compositions. Stevig took up the guitar after high school, eventually graduating summa cum laude from the Berklee College of Music with a degree in Jazz Performance. Soon the prodigious talent immersed himself in the study of Middle Eastern and Eastern European Music, exploring exotic stringed instruments such as the Turkish oud, and the Macedonian tambura. For "Jeni Jol," which aptly translates into "the New Path," Stevig uses a fretless classical guitar played in a unique clawhammer style. Although his approach may appear to be esoteric and unconventional, the music he creates is captivating, accessible, and based on traditional folkloric styles. The opening compositions are clever deconstructions of traditional dance cycles. The hypnotic "Cherambe" is based on customary Macedonian themes, while "Ruchinista" is an up-tempo Bulgarian sequence played in a challenging 7/8 time signature. The American folk sounding original "Leo in the Morning," played on a steel stringed acoustic could be a tribute to Leo Kottke. However, the inspiration actually comes from the "Kopanitsa," another popular Bulgarian dance. One more original composition "Dinner at the Meads'" is a delicate, articulate folk balled that transcends musical genres and boundaries. Tev Stevig's "Jeni Jol" is truly an extraordinary recording of Eastern European inspired compositions and should make an excellent addition to collections of international music. © James Scott

Ólavur Jakobsen "Awake My Soul, and Sound Your Strings," 2012 Ólavur Jakobsen is a classical guitarist from the Faroe Islands, a Danish archipelago halfway between Norway and Iceland. His current release, "Awake my Soul and Sound your Strings," is an alluring and eclectic collection of Faroese compositions. Jakobsen studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, attended master classes with Sir Julian Bream and David Russell, and currently performs as a soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe, South Africa, and the United States. On "Awake my Soul and Sound your Strings" Jakobsen cleverly navigates his way through gorgeous, melodic Faroese melodies mixed with daring atonal excursions. The opening title track contains lush, pastoral themes and pensive, thoughtful interludes. On "Pictures, Self Portrait," Jakobsen executes some nice glissando and percussive phrases supported by determined and dynamic musical motifs. The album ends with the modern, surrealistic epic, "40 Miles Ground," serving as an appropriate conclusion to an adventurous but accessible recording, which should bring the music of the Faroe Islands to a larger listening community. Ólavur Jakobsen's "Awake my Soul and Sound your Strings" is a bold, noteworthy release, and is highly recommended for enlightened listeners of contemporary classical music. © James Scott

Marc Douglas Berardo "Whalebone," 2013 This soulful singer-songwriter with the gritty edge offers a solid collection of originals with an interesting look at life, from ruminations about a relationship ("Our Troubles") to a poignant story about a counter-culture character named "Lightning," always with his acoustic guitar at the center and a full band on these rock/folk songs. He tries to tell you he's a bad idea in "Don't Wait for Me (Slow You Down)": "I'm a broken down roller coaster in an empty amusement park." Dobro player and vocalist Abbie Gardner (Red Molly) appears on four cuts, her lovely clear voice a nice counterpoint to his rougher one. They sing a wonderful duet on one that they co-wrote, "My Mistakes." For a guy who does 150 dates a year, it's no surprise that he includes "This is What I Call Fun," recounting a life where there's always time for one more song. It includes some tasty electric guitar from Jon Pousette Dart. The disc ends with the joyful "Another Song." © Jamie Anderson

Pairdown "Aesthetic Guitar," 2013 Guitarists Raymond Morin and David Leicht, better known as Pairdown, have a synergy and chemistry that is at once obvious and intriguing. "Aesthetic Guitar," the duo's most recent release, offers an eclectic mix of styles and acoustic palettes that rambles (Stephan Grossman's "Struttin' Rag"), saunters (originals "Lye & Snore" Buddy Holly's "Learning the Game") and flows (Satie's "Gymnopédie No. 2" and Ellington's "Black & Tan Fantasy"). The organic feel of the performances and recordings are at times raw, occasionally discordant (Michael Hedges-ish), but always adventurous. Similarly, Morin and Leicht leave in many ambient nuances that include countdowns, voices, hand movements and even a faint "Daddy, I'm Home" infusing "Aesthetic Guitar" with a sonic flavor like the pie only your mother could bake, offering an intimate slice of life. Yum! © James Filkins

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

Warren Nicholson - Latin American Guitar Favorites
Tom Salvatori - A Year in the Life
Austin Kasner - Vibration Creation
Duo Beija-Flor - Muzica
Manfred Melcher - The Hours
Esther Golton - Stay Warm
Barbara Martin - Every Little Thing

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