Ken Silverman: Visionaries (2013)
A New York-based guitarist/composer who also plays charango, oud, and synthesizer on this solo date, Silverman chose a diverse list of honorees for this album, but each person fits the titular mandate. Innovative film forces (Alfred Hitchcock), poet/theologians (Rumi), flamenco masters (Sabicus), blues bards (Blind Lemon Jefferson) and psychedelic trendsetters (Syd Barrett) all made the cut.
No two tracks sound alike, which makes perfect sense given the dissimilar nature of most of the subjects. Hitchcock receives a simply strummed, 54-second nod that's hardly as macabre as the man's work, while Robert Fripp gets an alarming electro-soundscape nightmare on "Pig Snort." "Sabicus" references its namesake with a flamenco-friendly sound, Bolivian charango legend Ernesto Cavour is honored with some start-stop strumming, and the brilliant-yet-disturbed Syd Barrett receives his due with steady synthesizer eighth notes that come off like the musical equivalent of having an acid trip on a gently moving carousel ride.
Visionaries' two most intriguing numbers arrive in the second half of the program. The title track, which alternately honors blues giant T-Bone Walker, Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Cuban bandleader Arsenio Rodriguez, and "Hamza," a layered oud outing that pays tribute to Nubian oudist Hamza El Din, prove to be most engaging.
Visionaries isn't an easy listen by any means, as Silverman takes his time fleshing out his ideas and pushes the accessibility envelope ("Pig Snort"), but it presents unique portraits of important figures. Each one challenged the status quo in his respective work, so it should come as no surprise that Silverman follows suit in his own artistic pursuits.
Track Listing: For Alfred H.; Pig Snort; Iranian; Sabicus; Por Ernesto Cavour; Visionaries; Hamza; For Syd; Blind Lemon.
Personnel: Ken Silverman: acoustic and electric guitars, oud, synthesizer, charungo.
Record Label: Soundseer