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Tone Masseve: Amp L'étude

Glenn Astarita By

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This is a posthumous release by guitarist Tone Masseve, whose vision led him to reformulate celebrated classical pieces by Chopin, Bach and others into the rock idiom. At the time, Masseve said, "In my childhood I was exposed to many different musical styles and genres. Although I am really a blues player, I also love the music of Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Chopin and Debussy. I wanted to play their classical pieces with a rock sound and attitude." Sadly, Masseve succumbed to pneumonia in 1997, but he started recording the guitar parts in 1995. Post- production got underway with longtime Jethro Tull drummer Doane Perry and Garry Kvistad, who is a Grammy Award- winning master percussionist and member of the percussion quartet Nexus. In addition, the vocal group Prana added voices to certain tracks.

Perry provides sturdy support via heavy backbeats, and bassist Sam Pell's complementary lines anchor these predominately slow- tempo rock renditions. To a large extent, Masseve simplifies these historic pieces to focus on the chief melody lines without becoming pretentious, or drilling the classical component into lengthy and/or exceedingly complex cover versions.

As a youngster, Masseve was allegedly a prodigious talent and caught the ear of fabled rocker Graham Parker, who asked him to perform a few gigs, but the affiliation was relatively short-lived. Thus, his streaming layers of sustain-driven guitar lines, multi-tracked with poignant rhythm parts, comprise the bulk of this program. The guitarist uses closed-hand techniques, harmonics and single-note leads, and makes his guitar sing, often in the upper registers.

Masseve injects bluesy inflections and howling riffs during "The Swan (In Wind on Water)," and the choir provides low-key background vocals on "Maria, (She's So) Ave," amid Masseve's delicate chord voicings and weaving notes. Kvistad's cyclical and accenting orchestral percussion patterns tender a metronomic timestamp along with some oomph on "Prelude #4 (To the Grave)," as the guitarist sculpts choruses with vocal-like characteristics.

Masseve's succinct soloing and tangy rhythm guitar sound on Debussy's "O Fortuna" is peppered with gong hits, in conjunction with a delineation akin to a rock-goes-to-church aura. Yet this is not your traditional rock meets classical outing, which, in many instances, is a welcome relief. Other than casual listeners or those who may be curious, aspiring and seasoned guitarists may derive some positive benefits by checking this album out.

Track Listing: Aire on a G String (A Whiter Shade); The Moonlight Sonata (On the Hill of the Skull); Pre-Lude- Num-Ber-One-Num-Ber-One; Serenade for Strings (For Her Majesty); The Swan (In Wind on Water); Maria, (She's So) Ave; Prelude #4 (To the Grave); Prelude #6 (It Tolls for Thee); Edulerp; Prelude #20 (The Last March); The Sunken Cathedral, (Turns the Tide Gently, Gently Away); O Fortuna.

Personnel: Tone Masseve: guitars; Doanne Perry: drums; Garry Kvistad: orchestral percussion; “Willy” Sam Pell: electric basses; El Hectro Plait: drums (4); Maria Todard: choir conductor; Choir: Tess Brewer, Briana Devol, Amy Fradon, Kirsti Gholson, Baird Hersey, Timothy Hale, Bruce Milner, Chris Vallone.

Title: Amp L'étude | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

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