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July & August 2012 Short Takes

Marius Noss Gunderson "Visual Music," 2012 Brazilian music performed by a Norwegian? The notion is unexpected, even disconcerting, yet "Visual Music" is a flawlessly executed album that manages to meld both hot and cool styles, whether the lush samba-canÁao of Luiz Bonfa, the bossa nova and jazz of Baden Powell and Jorge Morel, or the pop-oriented songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim ("The Girl from Ipanema"). On the more classical end of the spectrum are Gundersen's own compositions "5 Cenas Brasileiras" and "Obrigado" as well as "3 Divertimentos" by Sergio Assad. Gundersen has an exceptional purity of technique and effortless virtuosity. His "Retrato Braieiro" (Powell) and "Luiza" (Jobim) are meltingly lovely, showcasing his poise and phrasing, while "Passeio no Rio" is a bravura performance with intricate changes of tempo and devilishly fast arpeggios. Gundersen can be romantic and passionate, or, as on the slightly discordant "Abaete" (Assad), powerful and cerebral. For those who love classical Brazilian music as well as those who are unfamiliar with these composers, this is an essential album by a young guitarist and composer to watch. © Cťline Keating

Olivier Giry "Perspectives," 2011 French guitarist Olivier Giry crafts alluring, intimate, and melodic instrumentals on his current release, "Perspectives." A versatile musician, Giry plays both acoustic and electric guitars, as well as keyboards. He also uses his acoustic to create intricate percussive effects. While a variety of instruments are used, they mainly serve as coloring agents. "Perspectives" is a recording where the acoustic guitar is prominently featured and Giry has a solid and graceful command of this instrument. As a case in point, the guitarist truly shines on his all-acoustic piece "Like Tears in Rain" -- a pensive, bittersweet ballad with captivating soloing. Giry also pays homage to the late Michael Hedges on "Ascension Master," a composition featuring brilliantly conceived layers of two-handed tapping, creating vibrant sonic imagery. On the closing "Thereís no End," Giry ends the piece by creating a catchy melodic vamp, slowly fading, leaving the listener wanting more as well as alluding to the promise of future offerings. While the soothing melodies and elegant playing are sure to attract New Age and Smooth Jazz fans, Olivier Giry is a consummate musician with extraordinary skills. This disc is highly recommended for all fans of acoustic music. © James Scott

"Orly" 2011 Boston-based duo Orly's self-titled album is a sparse, beautiful offering from Israel natives Orly and Yagel. The CD opens with "My oh My", a ballad that begins with a solo acoustic guitar (played by Yagel) moving delicately through a haunting arpeggio. The guitar is joined by Orly's voice, a gentle heart-wrenching alto that pulls the listener into the song. By the time the chorus rolls around and the sparse arrangement expands with the addition of string swells and light percussion, the song has got its hooks in and you're a helpless, grateful passenger. After that, the album only gets better. The second track, "Boy on a Hill" snagged Orly first prize in the folk category of the USA Songwriting Competition, and it's easy to see why. "Options" lightens the mood at just the right moment with an easy shuffle that shows off Orly's versatility, and features a fantastically unexpected horn break. Orly has one of those rare voices that can croon the line "You, only you, you mean everything, yes you do" and leave the listener doe-eyed, believing she's the first singer who's ever expressed the sentiment. The remainder of the CD carries you from ballad gem to ballad gem, and the only reasonable criticism would be that the voyage ends too soon. © Jared Fiske

Adam James Sorenson "Midwest," 2012 Two words, midwest and melancholy, sometimes go together in life, as here they do in music. Adam James Sorensen writes, "Has the midwest got you down / I hear you speaking but your heart won't make a sound." A midwest sensibility, actually a Chicago mindset, anchors this album, with numerous evocative markers that belie a young man's angst. "Desperation," "Suburban Rock and Roll," and "Chicago River" ("I'm leavin' Chicago / Before it gets cold") all make the case for the nagging sense that perhaps life is occurring somehow elsewhere. Sorensen anchors his sound palette in his nylon-string guitar, a choice associated with some of the greats like Cohen and Nelson. I have always loved the softer attack to the strings it provides, and Sorensen uses it to great effect in the midst of deft ensemble settings that never detract or distract from his clear, almost tenor voice that conveys (what else?) a touch of melancholy, with grace beyond his years. © Steve Klingaman

Cristina Azuma "Dreams," 2012 Concert artists are constantly in search of ways to creatively pair works programmed in concerts or on recordings. In her latest CD, Brazilian guitarist Cristina Azuma uses works which reflect the variety of moods felt by a parent. While one might think this a daunting task, Azuma has recorded a unique collection of works, some quite obscure, that all satisfy her premise. The works include compositions by Paulo Bellinati, Marco Pereira, Sergio Assad, Carlo Domeniconi, and others. The performances are quite convincing. Azuma displays wonderful tone and musical interpretation. The jovial nature of Thierry Rougier's "Pels Pichons" (For Children) is easily and convincingly conveyed. Antonio Lauro's "El NiŮo" is also masterfully performed. Azuma's original composition Roda Vida is charming. This wonderful collection of miniatures can easily be enjoyed by all. © Philip Hemmo

Howard Emerson "It Ain't Necessarily So," 2012 Well, I have to post a disclaimer at the outset of this review: I have always found Howard Emersonís guitar playing hypnotic in its clean lines and pure tone. In listening to "It Ainít Necessarily So", the latest CD from Mr. Emerson, I again succumb to the hypnosis. On songs where he needs to be dirty, heís dirty. When he needs a little sweetness, he spoons it in. The sound quality is excellent, and Emerson sure gets the most out of his Flammang L-40 six string. Most of the 13 tracks are just instrumentals, and thatís fine by me, because when Emerson plays, thereís so much to hear. The title cut is a great, bluesy cover of the George and Ira Gershwin tune from "Porgy and Bess." One of those sweet tunes is "Sit Calm, Leigh," a happy melody that conjures daydreaming summer days. The vocal tunes are a cover of J.J. Caleís "Crazy Mama," with all the bounce and attitude of the original. Emerson is a true fingerstyle player, weaving bass, mid, and treble voices. "Hi, Calliope" uses a high-string Collings Baby guitar, and darn, it has all the markings of being a calliope Ė ha! Every tune is a good one, and taken together, they again show the depth and breadth of Emersonís playing. Just a shade over 30 minutes, my only regret with this disc was that Emerson didnít give us more fine music. © Kirk Albrecht

Raymond Gonzalez "Open Tuning," 2012 "Open Tuning," the eighth solo CD from guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, producer and singer Raymond Gonzalez, travels further down the path explored on two of his most recent releases "Tunes from the Blue Fish I" (2006) & "II" (2008). A seasoned fingerstyle virtuoso, Gonzalez nimbly and astutely presents 15 original compositions that are clearly defined, yet also represent a body of acoustic bliss that has a sweep and majesty in its completeness. I can't remember the last collection of tunes I heard that worked so well together. Could this be Gonzalez's classical chops shinning through? Tracks 12-14, "Three October Preludes" are evidence of this delicious sense of continuity that is evidenced through out this meticulously crafted and performed ensemble of tunes. Just the right sense of complexity, "Cheetah" and "The Red Leaf", and melody,"Angel Park" and "One Summer Day" abound in "Open Tuning." © James Filkins

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

Valorie Miller - Turtle Shell
Sheila Mac Donald - Half Light
Tony Haven - Sun Set To Rise
James Sera - Reality of the Fantasy
Abi Hercules - Cycling in Stilettos
Eric Bickerstaffe - New Day
Andrew and Noah Band
Dave Potts - Live at Sundilla
David Francis - On a Shingle Near Yapton
Richard Thorne - Coming From the End
Wall Matthews - The Dreaming Light
The Plastic Arts Academy Clonez
Fragile Balance - Seasons Change

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