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March & April Short Takes

Acoustic Guitar Trio "Acoustic Guitar Trio", Incus Records CD 46, 2001 Before you put this disc into your CD player, take a few deep cleansing breaths and open your mind very widely. Nels Cline, Jim McAuley and Rod Poole, by exclusively improvising extemporaneously on three acoustic guitars for 57 minutes, have produced an iconoclastic work characterized by slack-stringed quarter tones, mantra-like discourses, simmering chaos and shamisen percussives. Most musicians attempt to take the music somewhere, this CD is unique in that the music takes the musicians somewhere. ©Alan Fark

Judy Handler and Mark Levesque "Acoustic Blend", 2001 Judy Handler and Mark Levesque's "Acoustic Blend" features 16 tracks spanning from musical trajectories as diverse as Dutch Gypsy, Brazilian, Irish, Russian, Venezuelan, American, and French Canadian. In this sense "Acoustic Blend" represents not a singular aesthetic thematic but rather an exploration into some very sophisticated tunes. The listener will readily come to recognize an intriguing blend of jazz/folk/swing/classical musical strategies being deployed in virtually every selection. Handler and Levesque's nylon-string guitars constitute the dominant texture for the entire work, which provides the perfect vehicle for expressing the more traditional feel that the album seeks to cultivate. One of my favorite pieces, "Muriel" (composed by Handler and Levesque) contains an elegant set of interlacing themes counterpoised by some rather exquisite flute solos. I recommend this album for anyone who enjoys the beauty and cleanness of a nylon-string guitar unhampered by glittery neck runs. ©Bernard Richter

Kasey Anderson "Harold St. Blues", Resonator Records, 2001 Kasey Anderson wraps his bruised-orange voice around a song like a third skin. His scratchy, world-weary narrative conjures the spirit of singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt and brings to mind such folk-based stylists as Steve Earle and Bob Dylan. It comes as a bit of surprise that a 21-year-old can evoke such classic imagery and characterization. Anderson uses the spare, almost stark arrangements on his 10-track CD, Harold St. Blues, to further carve out a world of hurts both big and small. But Anderson manages to infuse a warmth throughout, offering hope and a gentle nudge toward life's pleasures. Anderson enlists his bandmates to complement his minimalist guitar work with the occasional banjo, mandolin, mouth harp and bass, but it is mostly all Anderson and that straw dog voice. Anderson offers his own thoughts on the liner notes for "Harold St. Blues," which is on Resonance Records: "These songs are about the spaces between childhood and adulthood, love and hate, fact and fiction, or, usually, all of the above." He adds, "They're songs about knowing where you stand in relation to where you once stood. Mostly, though, they're songs that helped me get from one day to the next without too many scars." And he sings them like he means what he said. Though he missteps when he ventures into the rollicking bluegrass of "Gambling Man", Anderson's definitely one to watch. ©Fred Kraus

Joe Carter (with Nilson Matta) "Two for Two", Empathy Records E 1011, 2001 American jazz musicians have been in love with the soothing vibe of Brazilian music for years. Antonio Carlos Jobim and Baden Powell are practically household names, known even in popular music, with the likes of "The Girl From Ipanema". In this 3rd Brazilian journey, Joe Carter brings over a decade of immersion in the feel of Rio and Sao Paulo to listeners, along with Brazilian bassist Nilson Matta. Carter does justice to the music in a stark duet, yet brings the full flavor of samba and balao through nuanced phrasing and sensitive interplay with Matta, who shines in establishing groove, and taking the listener on his own journeys. "Papa's Balao", a Carter original, reveals the simple but lovely northeast Brazilian form, and perhaps Carter & Nilson are at their best here. Carter never plays it fast, or tries to do too much with the music, allowing it to stand on its own, to the pleasure of the listener. Matta's own "Nascente" gives us some of the richest textures of interplay between guitar and bass, highlighting Matta's powerful technique. Included are some gems by Jobim, "Ligia", Luciana", and closing with the beautiful "Estrada Do Sol". A fine CD for relaxing on your favorite Rio beach! ©Kirk Albrecht

Andrew Wagner "thank you, but our princess is in another castle", Losing Blueprint Records LPB 010, 2001 Many are the guitar virtuosos who lose themselves in self-absorption and technical showmanship. Then there's Andrew Wagner, a master player with a sense of humor, intellect, and a penchant for compiling melody upon melody. A self-proclaimed "math geek", overtly proud of his inner child, Wagner addresses his observations of the human condition with surrealistic word-play and a myriad of guitar styles fused into compositions that read like novelettes. Wagner tosses out multiple hammer-ons, harmonics, arpeggios, inverted guitar voicings, and every known rhythmic device to get his point across with measured reckless abandon, even going as far as to forge trippy backwards tape-loops on the intro to "Your Penmanship Is Deplorable " and the bridge of "The Glass Engine Room." A must for acoustic guitar aficionados of all ages. ©Tom Semioli


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