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Sylvain Luc: Ambre (2005)

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Sylvain Luc: Ambre How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Guitarist Sylvain Luc's sophomore solo album, Ambre, is similar to solo instrumental albums from other virtuosic talents—akin to, say, anything by Victor Wooten. You kind of have to be a player and student of the instrument in question, or just really into solo instrumental albums, to fully appreciate the album and the artist's technical proficiency. Maybe "appreciate" is too strong a word—one can certainly appreciate the deeply lyrical playing, wellspring of world jazz influences, and flurrying fingerpicking that colors Ambre. It's just not that enjoyable, not something the lay fan keeps on hand for repeat listening.

Ambre is nothing like Solo Monk (Columbia, 1964), on one hand, or Anthony Braxton's For Alto (Delmark, 1968), on the other. On those albums, Braxton and Monk seemed to tap into something on an emotional level that makes the technicality of the playing secondary. Ambre is all technical and difficult to really get into.

Luc's latest Dreyfus release is his fourth stateside. 2000's Duet, with Biréli Lagrène, formally introduced Luc to American audiences, with Sud (2001) and Trio Sud (2002) following. Sud has been described as having a "quiet energy and the statement also rings true of Ambre.

Luc is an accomplished artist—as evidenced by his extensive biography on the Dreyfus Records website. His roots are in Bayonne, France, the capital of Basque Country; a "child prodigy from a family of traditional gypsy musicians, Luc draws upon traditional Basque folk songs ("Berceuse Basque ), original compositions, and jazz standards ("All Blues, "A Child is Born ) in piecing together his solo masterpiece.

Through the use of multiple guitars (nylon, steel, and fretless) and multitracking, Luc is able to supplement his playing with overdubbed bass lines and percussive taps on the guitar body. To further support the for-guitar-players-only argument, the bilingual liner notes for Ambre feature detailed listings of what guitar combinations were used on each track and notification when uncommon tunings are used—again, something only a guitarist could appreciate.

Ambre does feature beautiful guitar playing that will perfectly complement your next soothing bubble bath or candle-lit yoga session. With a delicate touch, Luc caresses his instrument, at times lazily coaxing notes from the strings while other times attacking the fretboard with gypsy passion. "A Child is Born and "Gentil Coquelicot are the warmups; "Opposite World, is Luc in full exorcision; "Berceuse Basque is the cooling comedown; and the title track is the last climax of Ambre.

Visit Sylvain Luc and Dreyfus Records on the web for sound samples and more.

Track Listing: 1. A child is born 2. Gentil coquelicot 3. Bakean 4. Omenaldi 5. Oreade 6. Opposite World 7. Berceuse basque 8. All blues 9. Ambre 10. Folklore imaginaire 11. shadow of your smile 12. Warm color

Personnel: Sylvain Luc

Record Label: Dreyfus Records

Style: Contemporary/Smooth


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