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May & June 2013 Short Takes

K's Choice "Little Echoes," 2011 Where's the best place to start with "Little Echoes?" The breathtaking a capella section near the end of "River to the Moon" (my favorite cut)? The sensual "Cannonball" ("There's still a little part of your face I haven't kissed.") that juxtaposes a xylophone sound in the arrangement with the intensity of the theme ("…it's not hard to fall when you float like a cannonball")? The surprising gem of a cover of "No Surprises" that acoustically enters Thom Yorke's world of alienation with a spare and beautiful arrangement that accepts the original's "handshake of carbon monoxide"? The Fleetwood Mac reminiscent "I Wanna Get Lost," which should have been the opening track? Where to start? The better question might be where to end with this CD. Long after you've stopped listening, the best of "Little Echoes" will come back to you. © David Kleiner

Carlos Barbosa-Lima and The Havana String Quartet "Leo Brouwer/Beatlerianas," 2013 This fine disc offers a potpourri of compositions from Leo Brouwer. The works included are for classical guitar and string quartet, solo guitar, string quartet, and guitar duo. The highlight of the disc is a setting of Beatlerianas, works based on compositions by the Beatles, featuring guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima. Originally scored for guitar and string orchestra, this arrangement still captures Brouwer's compositional intricacies and nuances. Of particular note are "She's Leavng Home," "A Ticket to Ride," and "Penny Lane." Barbosa-Lima's performance is very musical. He also offers wonderful performances of "Zapateo" for solo guitar, and the 5 movement "Micopiezas" for two guitars. I recommend this CD to any fan of Brouwer's music. © Philip Hemmo

Nate Najar Trio "Blues for Night People," 2012 Florida-based guitarist Nate Najar offers up this spectacular tribute to the late and legendary classically charged jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd. Playing Byrd's very own 1974 Ramirez 1a Nylon string classical guitar, Najar, bassist Tommy Cecil, and drummer Chuck Redd, perform a collection of tunes connected to Byrd over his long career. The title track is funky and reminiscent of Byrd's bluesy side. What is so great about this album, however, is the arrangements. Najar has a penchant for both detail and novelty and dramatic flare a-plenty. John Lewis's piece "Django," with it's smoky, spare, and classical flavor and beckoning triangle is exquisite. The addition of vibes on several tracks adds great color and depth. It is Najar's solo rendition of Duke Ellington's elegant "The Single Petal of a Rose" which truly tears at the heartstrings, however. His playing is precise yet adventurous and full of soul. And while equally at home on electric and competent in different styles of guitar playing, his work on "Blues for Night People," signals the arrival of a superior musical talent, one that speaks to both tradition and innovation, but to the heart as well. © Chip O'Brien

Jim Kimo West "Na Lani O Maui (Maui Skies)," 2011 With guitarist for "Weird Al" Yankovic on his resume, it might surprise many that Jim Kimo West has released five CDs of slack key music. His most recent release, Nalani O Maui (Maui Skies), includes eight original compositions and a variety of other tunes, many traditional arrangements among them. Opening tracks, "Lilikoi Pie" and "All Jam Up", instantly and seductively slide the listener into the realm of Pacific breezes without overtly leaning on the traditional notion of the Hawaiian slack key style. West's melodic, relaxing and gentle fretwork is remarkably his own, yet retains the best of the slack key style. On Nalani O Maui, West combines this style with the vibe and techniques of contemporary finger stylists and produces an enriching and enjoyable auditory experience. © James Filkins

Keith Calmes "All We Know is Now," 2013 I have to start off this review with an admission: I honestly hadn't heard of Keith Calmes, and was unfamiliar with many of the composers featured on this recording. Well, apparently, I've been living under a rock; more on that later. I started off this review as I do any other, by glancing briefly at the track list, taking a comfortable seat, and then listening to the album once through. Within the first couple of minutes I found myself struck not only by Calmes' exceptionally tasteful and expressive playing, but also by what was turning out to be some very interesting pieces of music. As the album progressed, I continued to be totally engaged by all of the unfamiliar music Calmes was introducing to me. My personal taste in new music tends to lie somewhere in the realm of what some call 'extended harmony', which, while at its core relies tonal harmony, is meanwhile decorated throughout with less frequently heard harmonies, creating a lush, dream-like atmosphere. It appears my tastes and those of Calmes line up perfectly, as all of his selections I found to be absolutely lovely. It's Calmes' obvious affinity for these types of works that translates so beautifully into his sensitive and expressive interpretations. Throughout the recording he expertly shapes every complex phrase, reaching the essence of each work so gracefully, that I could believe he had composed all of the music himself. Finally, I was driven to want to learn more about Calmes, and the composers he features on his recording, which brings me to that rock I mentioned earlier, the one that I now know I've been living under. It turns out Calmes performed his Carnegie Recital Hall debut over twenty years ago, has three degrees in classical guitar performance, has been published multiple times by Mel Bay, is a widely respected guitar pedagogue, and has a long, eclectic, and illustrious career as a performer. To those of you who, like me, enjoy getting lost a in a set of lovely and engaging new music, look no further than this disc. © Timothy Smith

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

Mason Razavi - People, Places & Monsters
Michael Kolk - Platero Y Yo: An Andalusian Elegy
Hey Mavis - Honey Man
Devon Kelts - Objective Leap of Faith
Pete Ahonen - In the Blood
Daniel Lippel - Song Cycle
Rozanne Gewaar - Songs From Church Street

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