Truly a guitarist's guitar recording, Masterpiece Guitars is a showcase for the vintage guitar collection of curator and collector Scott Chinery, brought to life by the duo of formidable British acoustic guitarist Martin Taylor and Yes lead guitarist Steve Howe.
While you might be expecting to hear an acoustic version of "Roundabout" or "Starship Trooper" more than any jazz songs, Masterpiece Guitars offers just shades of the former and quite a few of the latter. Throughout an eclectic program, a wide variety of textures and tones are heard from such desirable instruments as an original Orville Gibson archtop and a D'Angelico Teardrop.
Martin Taylor's versatility and nimble fretwork are on display in delightful versions of the Django-inspired "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" and Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are," where he accompanies himself on no less than four different guitars thanks to studio tracking. Even more compelling are the variety of approaches he employs on Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa," vacillating from single line melodies to pizzicato passages to chordal exercises with unerring ease.
The presence of Steve Howe, though, is something of a mixed bag throughout the proceedings. While his accompaniment to Taylor is sympathetic in these carefully controlled environs, compositions like "Two Teardrops" and "Ae Fond Kiss/Farewell To Erin" are exactly the kind of treacly mood songs that have bogged down Yes recordings for so many decades. Much more successful are the country swing and folk influenced songs like the Chet Atkins style "Goofus" and, most impressively, Taylor's "No Pedestrians," which features a crackerjack imitation of Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant's high speed honky-tonk.
But the Appalachian folk of Howe's "Tailpiece" might be the best example of the magic that Chinery's rare instruments can create when played by experts. The interplay of the Bigsby Steel and the Gibson Century Mando is as hypnotic and natural as a ribbon of fog around a mountain and sounds entirely of another time. And that might be worth the price of the record in and of itself.