The so-called Great Guitars was a touring trio of jazz masters: Herb Ellis, Charlie Byrd, and Barney Kessel. Ellis jokingly called their title "modest," but it was accurate, and it remained so when Martin Taylor, a naturalised Scotsman a generation younger, filled in after Kessel was incapacitated.
Taylor's here, but the title's especially precise because it refers to the instruments that he and Steve Howe play. Howe's background might be partly in rock, but it's wholly in an obsession with the guitar which few non-players can share. The late Scott Chinery's obsession was exercised in assembling the mind-boggling collection of rare wonderful instruments photographed here in a thick booklet insert and also recorded on the disc. He was, it seems, generous with them.
Uncannily wonderful, this is a succession of seventeen performances composed by tape-splicing and multi-trackingstunning playing. At one extreme there's a maybe seven-guitar ensemble passage (it's hard to work out the exact numbers), at another Taylor comps on one guitar and solos (or duets, since he comes out of alternate speakers) with successive (approximately) sixteen-second passages on respectively eighteen guitars: "Blue Bossa" comes out as still human, swinging bebop.
Howe hardly plays jazz, but he can accompany as well as solo in styles not remote from Taylor's usual swing-to-bebop acoustic-based playing. Sometimes jazz and sometimes other music (mainstream is a fair approximation), the set has a nice programme balance between differently paced and variously scaled performances. As curiosities or anything else go, it's all exceptionally musical, and loving. Charlie Byrd is presumably listening in a double heaven.
Manzer, Comins, Megas, Triggs, Buscarino, and other guitar types: the booklet will be for some a volume of poetry, for some a tiny art book. The only things like it are collector's items, or CDs designed to soothe, surely none represent such virtuosity or such musicality. Forget the strangenessit's hard to think of any comparable result of such enormous dedication the venture represents. Scott Chinery's guitar collection and generosity with it was startling, this project more so. Tragically, it's also his memorial.
Personnel: Steve Howe, Martin Taylor (guitars).