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Guitars on Three Continents

Geno Thackara By

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Gonzalo Esteybar
One Look
River Flow Records
2017

Even when you can glean a lot from a first glance, it still usually means just scratching the surface. Gonzalo Esteybar knows his way around the instrument enough to have studied in Robert Fripp's Guitar Circle and repeatedly toured with its performing arm, the Orchestra of Crafty Guitarists. Interestingly, though, his bio lists him as a producer first and guitarist next. All those things are combined in shaping his second full-length. Without needing to replicate the complex technical stylings of the large OCG ensemble, Esteybar applies some of their defining qualities (such as precision and discipline) to a range of contemplative solo pieces.

One Look is a batch of songs that feels grown as much as written, having developed over the span of a couple years in between his production gigs and work with the Once Guitars quartet. Quiet acoustic strums or stretchy electric lines form a base of steady patterns while there's always a melodic element somewhere to engage the ear. The aim is to create a series of moods, and each piece is sketched out just simply enough to do what it needs to. Just as much attention naturally goes into the production side of things—with a shifting series of tones and occasional guitar samples processed into percussive backing parts, it makes a solo pastiche that rarely sounds like just one person playing. From the jaunty rhythms of home in Argentina to wistful folk or airy ambience, Esteybar's wide-ranging musical interests make for an expressive recording that deserves more than just one look.

Alex Schrock Trio
Punk Jazz
Self Produced
2016

Like Esteybar, Ohio native Alex Schrock finds his music significantly shaped by his day job—in this case, that of guitar teacher. His trio is a tightly energetic unit, though Schrock's string-slinging consistently steals the show with fiery and fluid technique. The songs follow suit in an upbeat blend of electric rock energy and slick jazzy interplay. Its title inevitably evokes the great Jaco Pastorius, and though this Punk Jazz won't be confused with any of the fusion bassist's work, the same sophisticated sense of fun can definitely be felt.

Schrock's full-bodied tone and fluid fretwork honor the lineage of classic jazz guitar from Wes Montgomery to Pat Metheny, while the pieces allow the whole trio to groove, clatter and jam in lively fashion. However fancy the unison licks and chord structures get, there's usually a straightforward punchiness that comes more from the world of rock and R&B. The trio has done well learning and absorbing all those elements—their debut stays on the short side, but this handful of dynamic jams hints at a promising future as they continue spinning the old and the new into a mix of their own.

Christer Fredriksen
Vit
Losen Records
2017

Christer Fredriksen isn't a technician or often much of a guitarist in the usual sense on his third outing; he acts as a texturist, if there's such a term (and if not, there really should be). A melody might emerge here or there as he improvises, but he's primarily interested in gently coaxing just the right sounds from the strings and letting them drift—echoes of fellow Norwegian Terje Rypdal are present but hardly defining. Vit sets him off on quite different approach from the more conventional albums that preceded it, a pair which Fredriksen now describes as research for this endeavor. He states, "I would say that the tones are less significant to me now. The sound is more important. The sound is everything."

Using only a simple gear setup and a looping pedal, he's open to being guided by that sound as much as guiding it himself. Echoes of David Gilmour are inevitable, especially on the slow-drifting likes of "The Day I Lived" or the aimless-seeming but evocative "Underwater Birth." In other spots, short circular lines fall in drips like water from an icicle. It's a fairly unnerving jolt when Fredriksen turns to angry slashing chords for "I Did Nothing" in the later stretch, though it gives way to a pair of more peaceful reveries to wind things down. The disc is often unsettled without quite becoming unsettling, though it makes sure we get aural shadings from all different sides of life by the end.

Tracks and Personnel

One Look

Tracks: Before; Home; Abandoned Sea; 1000 Days; How Do We Know; Black and White and Brown; Lion; Future Plpans; One Look; 11 Years; Show and Tell.

Personnel: Gonzalo Esteybar: guitar and effects.

Punk Jazz

Tracks: Sunflowers (Mikaeri Bijin); Origami Dreams; Soul Shuttle; Limitless; Icy; Not My Blues.

Alex Schrock: guitar; Chad Greenwald: bass; Ryan Jewell: drum set.

Vit

Tracks: Preludium; The Day I Lived; Five Drops of Love; Go with the Grain; Underwater Birth; Flow; I Did Nothing; Raindancer; Meditation for Tina.

Personnel: Christer Fredriksen: guitar, Kenneth Silden: keyboards (4, 6); Jan Erik Pettersen: percussion samples (4).

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