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Los Angeles Guitar Quartet's European Debut of Pat Metheny Commission Highlights Uppsala International Guitar Festival

John Ephland By

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There were periods where the music was slow, very deliberate, made up of single lines for each player, often with the others playing in support. Going then from player to player, those single lines became gradually strummed lines, the guitarists moving back and forth between each other. Eventually a pulse in five emerged from a mostly pulse-less music even as the music remained somewhat meditative, followed by two repeated four-note phrases with a bass line, ascending and descending chords with pauses interspersed. Then, as if to give this music inspired by the "great outdoors" a jolt, the quartet engaged in rapid-fire fretboard slides, abruptly muted strumming, scampering, the atonal fret work fields away from anything melodic. This led into more active chording, a robust restatement of the theme only to to be followed by a return to delicacy, each player briefly entering in their own lines imbued by a very slight pulse.

In a number of spots, it appeared that Metheny had left room for some improvisation, the crossfires and transitions by turns both subtle and obvious, the ending of some of the movements clear, others not so. In the end, perhaps the most enjoyable elements of Road To The Sun had to do with how interactive the music was, where certain members laid out while others, or just one, played. One could sense how Metheny had written this music for this group, knowing the strengths of each member. The LAGQ has recorded Road To The Sun. A release date has not been set.

Not that all the LAGQ's music was straightforward, programmatic, let alone orderly. Throughout, there were comments made by members to the audience and a fair amount of playful banter between them. The audience's response at concert's end was heartwarming, leading to two encore pieces, including a kind of slapstick unpacking of Pachelbel's Canon in D was played in a variety of musical styles. A display of this group's stylistic reach in many directions, not to mention a prevailing sense of humor, left this Uppsala crowd calling for more.


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