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May & June Short Takes

Paul Bourdeau & Shane Simpson "Wild Rice", 2003 There may be nothing about either Paul Bourdeau or Shane Simpson's guitarwork individually that will shoot you out of your socks... but put them together and you immediately realize that they create a rare synergy that blooms into something truly world-class. They dub their instrumental style "jazzgrass" and it seems apt. Their music conjures up minor modes often paired with Methenyesque melodies, the repartee between steel and nylon dances joyously with the uplifting earthiness of bluegrass. The magic is in their improvisational telepathy. "Wild Rice" is a great reminder that collaboration in music, as in all of life, can inspire equal partners to truly reach a higher ground. © Alan Fark

Chris Cortez "Hold it Right There", 2003 With "Hold It Right There" Chris Cortez set out to pay homage to a different era when it was possible to lay down a great groove and put a nice solo over it without trying to change the world with each song. In spite of the schmaltz that accompanies this type of endeavor, that is what "Hold It Right There" does. Pleasant versions of standards like "Lullaby of Birdland" and "Ain't Misbehavin'" abound, each performance laced with competent and occasionally interesting arrangements and improvisations. Cortez sings with a smokey, seasoned baritone, and his guitar playing is reminiscent of Tal Farlow and Pat Martino. One appreciates the range and depth of Cortez's vocal upon hearing his rendition of James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight", which fits snugly among these golden oldies. © Chip O'Brien

Nelson Faria "Nelson Faria" 2003 Brazilian guitarist Nelson Faria has studied under such luminaries as Joe Pass and Ted Greene. In Brazil he is one of the most in-demand guitarists for workshops and clinics, and he has appeared on over fifty albums. Faria's most recent release is a testament to these rich musical experiences. Faria's own compositions harken back to those of Antonio Carlos Jobim, and his playing draws natural comparisons to the incomparable Charlie Byrd and, at times, even the jazzier side of Pat Matheny. Notable tracks include a dark reharmonization of Lennon and McCartney's "Yesterday", "Mexidinho", a Faria composition, where he's joined by guitarist Richard Boukas, and "Let's Be Happy Together", to which Karolina Vucidolac contributes a gentle and haunting vocal. © Chip O'Brien

Andy Logan "Last Dance on the Wild Frontier", 2002 With a voice like sand and glue, veteran Andy Logan succeeds via simple melodies, strong guitar lines, and heartfelt lyrics. Akin to David Gray, Pete Yorn, and John Hiatt, Logan has developed an identifiable singing and composing style, setting him apart from the pack of singer-songwriters looking for that lucky break. "Congratulations" is fine example of intuitive arranging as Logan commences by singing against the beat, then falls into a comfortable groove just in time for the infectious, repetitive chorus and verse motifs. Logan exemplifies the creative options available despite a low budget, especially in "Taking What Your Giving" shrouding his voice in delay/phase while keeping his guitar clean and up in the mix. The snappy, simple staccato guitar solos of "Puttin' It On" juxtaposed against the flourishing instrumental interludes are dramatic and refreshing, as is every cut on this record. Why don't we hear more stuff like this on the radio? © Tom Semioli

Tabitha & The Turn 2003 The Turn is LA-based songwriting duo Leon Rafael and Trevin Pinto. They've figured out a spin on pop music that has surprisingly never been done. By staging multilayered nylon-string guitars as the backdrop behind a talented young Latino diva, Tabitha, they've created a radio-ready sound that synthesizes together all the best elements of flamenco, R&B and Tejano. © Alan Fark

Carlos Bernardo "Įgua Nova", 2002 Carlos Bernardo's experience composing and performing for stage and film are evident on this self-produced project featuring steel- and nylon-string acoustic guitars, electric guitar, bass, Vietnamese lute and banjo-shamisen. He concentrates on layering instruments and building pieces with contrasting textures. Bernardo is both inventive and technically accomplished, although this project would have been more interesting if he had emphasized development of melody, harmony and rhythm and had relied less on multitracking. He achieves good results on "Vazio quase escuro," which begins with one steel-stringed guitar, then introduces an overdubbed single-string line that swings nicely. Several other tracks include a compressed & distorted-sounding electric slide guitar and don't come off as well. Bernardo may need to gain a better understanding of the audience for instrumental guitar music, which he might achieve by using another producer to focus his efforts. © Patrick Ragains

Judy Handler & Mark Levesque "Two Guitars, Live!", 2003 Every bit of music on this 71-minute CD is entertaining and infectious. Classical guitar master Judy Handler provides much of the harmonic and rhythmic grounding, while Mark Levesque concentrates on the top end of things, playing both nylon-string guitar and mandolin. An upright bassist and drummer accompany the duo. Latin influences are the group's strong suit. They particularly favor Brazilian choros, including Waldyr Azevedo's "Brasileirinho" and "Pedacinhos Do Ceu" and Jacob Do Bandolim's "Noites Cariocas." "Honeysuckle Rose," "Besame Mucho," "Summertime" and "The Girl From Ipanema" are among the more popular pieces on the CD. Arrangements are tight where necessary to state themes and hooks, yet each selection has a healthy dose of ad-libbing from Levesque, bassist Genevieve Rose and drummer Gregory Caputo. In addition to the group's ability to hold an audience in its collective palm, Handler and Levesque's presentation is consistently high-caliber from a musical standpoint. This CD will please musicians and more casual listeners alike. © Patrick Ragains

Harmonius Wail "Gypsy Swing", 2003 Harmonious Wail revives the spirits of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, shakes 'em up and takes them for a spin on "Gypsy Swing", a whopping 18-track celebration of European jazz. Wail's five accomplished musicians, led by founder and Sims Delaney-Potthoff, play tighter than a tambourine head. This acoustic string swing band lays its ethnic twist on such standards as "Sheik of Araby", "After You've Gone" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", with some amazing mandolin and fiddle paving the way. Some of the more traditional gypsy-style tunes retain their authenticity while receiving a 21st-century infusion of energy. If Chet Atkins were born and raised in Hungary, he may have sounded a lot what is going on here. Elements of bluegrass add another spice to this interesting and often feverishly energetic goulash. © Fred Kraus

Mark Geary "33 1/3 Grand Street", 2002 Mark Geary sings inscrutable riddles over down-to-earth progressions, pairing a folk sensibility with contemporary beats. "Gingerman," the standout cut (so durable it's appeared on two Geary CD's, one EP, and two compilations), sounds great the first time and stays that way. Starting with "All Along the Watchtower" chords played acoustically, the band gradually surrounds the impenetrable lyrics ("Alison, the carousel / Broken hearts, another cell"), with a solid B-3 bottom, lovely harmonies, and funky fuzz-tone bass sounds. Geary knows how to work with words ("The Tappan Zee Bridge has grown ears / To hear the drowning volunteers") and connect the listener to emotional scenes of darkness and wonder © David Kleiner

Kathy Compton "Gentle Ravings Under a Martian Sky", 2003 Like Diana Krall, the musical and physical package that is Kathy Compton jibes well together in a very alluring way. Compton can do the sultry jazz songstress į la Krall as on her breathy vocal intros to "Wilderness of Sin" and "Hollow Day". But Compton is clearly more at home in the world of pop where she is able to resurrect the legacies of Madonna, The Cure and Stevie Nicks, all with an acoustic twist. © Alan Fark

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