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May & June Short Takes

ChromaDuo "Hidden Waters," 2011 Two top-flight classical guitarists -- Tracy Anne Smith and Rob MacDonald -- have joined forces to form ChromaDuo, and their initial CD is nothing short of brilliant, with some outstanding modern guitar music (in fact, of the 6 compositions, 5 were written for ChromaDuo, and 4 are premiered on this disc). The recording begins almost playful, with Stephen Goss’s creative "The Raw and the Cooked," a series of short pieces (miniatures) taking inspiration from sources all over the musical map -- jazz, pop, rock, and classical. The weaving of the two guitar voices is seamless and full of color and musicality; neither tries to dominate, but they complement each other flawlessly. The other piece by Goss, "Still the Sea," is a 3-part composition that takes its ideas from the legacy of the great Toru Takemitsu, so it flows with space and breath, with grace and deliberate beauty. There are two works by Christopher William Pierce. "Adagio and Fugue" follows the rough outlines of those musical forms from Bach and Debussy, but there is no mechanistic or rote sense to their playing, but a freer interpretation and the pair of nylon stringed guitars move in and out of melody, with undulating waves of sound alternately capturing and releasing the listener. "Three Pieces for Two Guitars" has richly hued textures both quick and slow, concluding with a charming movement based on Bach’s Prelude in B minor. To finish up the CD, Smith and MacDonald present two stunning pieces by guitarist and composer Roland Dyens. "NiteroI" ("hidden waters" in Tupi, where the disc gets its title) is modern guitar music at its most powerful, extending form and substance of the guitar to give the listener an almost orchestral experience. The 3-movement "Comme des grands" ("Gloomy Night," "Il funghetto," and "Clown blanc") paint impressionistic still-lifes that come alive and find their own being. This is fine guitar music; no, this is fine music, period. © Kirk Albrecht

Adam Levy "The Heart Collector," 2011 You may know Adam Levy from his yeoman guitar work with chart-topping Grammy goddess Norah Jones (and Dan Hicks, and Tracy Chapman) however Levy’s musical waters run much deeper than simply backing his former bosses and collecting a paycheck. "The Heart Collector," as the title implies, is an intimate collection of songs de amour. Yet lover boy Levy, ever the chameleon, assumes a unique persona for each composition. He takes on the guise of a down-and-out torch song crooner (ala Tom Waits) on the title track, a cosmic cowboy (ala Gram Parsons) on "A Promise to California" and "Painting By Numbers," a world weary bluesman (ala Taj Mahal) on "This Is The Sound," an artsy guitar god (ala Johnny Marr) on "When I Lose Myself" and a Greenwich Village folkie (ala Fred Neil) on "Promised Land." Levy employs occasional string accompaniment, however it's his guitar virtuosity, melancholy melodies, vocals -- multiple musical personalities -- that will surely mesmerize you. The more Levy the better! © Tom Semioli

Tony Haven "The Driftwood LP," 2011 Fantastic lap-tapping, UK acoustic guitarist, Tony Haven, has released his debut album, "Driftwood." His influences range from classical to jazz to Metallica, which all comes through in his own unique style and compositions. He’s a real DIY guy, having recorded the album in his home studio and booking his own tour through the UK and Europe, playing anywhere they’d have him. He’s shared festival dates with Cypress Hill, Calvin Harris, and The Streets, and when not on stage can be found on a nearby street corner busking. His recordings and performances are natural and raw, and, at times, even inspired. And he’s young, in his early twenties, so expect a lot more from this talented and original performer. © Chip O'Brien

Christopher Dorsey "Antiguo Canto," 2011 For his first solo CD release, Christopher Dorsey has selected a collection of works by Argentinean composer Marcelo Coronel. Coronel is a self-described "popular musician with formal musical training", who's compositions take a strong influence from South American culture and traditions. The result is music that is oftentimes lively and refreshing, sometimes solemn and reflective, and always suggesting a deeper message. While superficially the compositions are tastefully peppered with Spanish-South American flavour, beneath the surface are complex dimensions that engage the listener in thought and move them to emotion. On the guitar, Christopher Dorsey's precise interpretations, flawless execution, and lush tone are no doubt the culmination of his years of study and experience. Not only is he a proven performer, thanks in part to his excellent work as a member of the Sante Fe Guitar Quartet, he is also an erudite scholar, completing his Doctor of Musical Arts (Performance) in 2005. While there is a vast and vibrant South American musical culture, only once in a while does a composer manage to transcend in the way that Coronel has with his works. If you find yourself drawn to the music of Barrios, Lauro, or Piazzolla, you will surely enjoy this disc. © Timothy Smith

Ernesto Schnack "A Work in Progress," 2010 Although similar in the texture and repertoire offered in his first full CD, "Wood" (2002), German/Panamanian composer and guitarist Ernesto Schnack’s second full CD, "A Work in Progress," has a more unified and holistic vibe throughout. He mixes melodies that are haunting and delicate such as " An Eloquent Goodbye" or playful like "The Griot" with the percussive grooves of "The Single Purpose Room" and "Post-" the alternately driving and hypnotic "I’m Getting Old". Schnack’s fretwork exhibits an exotic quality that often entices and intrigues in a manner that eludes many of what seems the plethora of percussive/tap players out there. His musical resume includes classical/metal, which might explain some of the textural and compositional breadth of "A Work in Progress." © James Filkins

Pete Christie "Frank," 2011 Long live the confessional singer-songwriter. Pete Christie has seen his fair share of fire and rain, which makes for great art, and even greater albums. Akin to such well respected veteran tunesmiths as Graham Parker, Lloyd Cole, and Ray Davies -- Christie sings and plays guitar straight from his broken heart and quizzical mind. His gift for tethering his romantic ruminations to memorable melodies (and instrumental harmonies) is refreshing, and sound as if they draw inspiration from deep well of the best of the Brill Building and British Invasion. Sure, "Normal Shade of Blue" and Dylan’s "Not Dark Yet" are bona fide tear-jerkers -- but Christie’s delivery somehow lifts the spirit, proving once and for all that misery loves company -- in pop music anyway! Kudos must be afforded to Christie’s musical mates, most notably fretless bassist Pete Wallbridge, who excels with simple, sympathetic accompaniment that supports the singer and the song with style and grace. Calling in the Band of the Royal British Legion Christchurch to back him on the cinematic "Waiting in the Wings" is the off-the-wall stuff of Brian Wilson and Sir Paul as produced by Sir George Martin. And Katy Perry should consider covering Christie's classic rockin' "Easy Come, Easy Go" (though I would have preferred Petula Clark or Nancy Sinatra back in the day...). Only question is - who is Frank? © Tom Semioli

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

Jonathon Hill - Know Strings
KastningSiegfried - Gravity of Shadows
Dan Chauvin - Small Town Life
David Kraus - Between Silence
Fraser Anderson - Little Glass Box
Bob Warren
Andrew Kasab - 7
Assaf Kehati Quartet - Flowers and Other Stories
Dave Lomardi - Cherry Wine
Mark Ayling - Memories & Ghosts
Deja - Laila
Richard Coker - Taiga
Rachel Harrington - Celilo Falls
Renee Ruth - What I Need

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