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In his promotional notes, guitarist Joe LoPiccolo advises that the twelve original compositions in this album are "reflective of many musical influences including African, Brazilian, Classical, Eastern European, Indian and Jazz genres." After listening to Passages, I would agree that most of those elements are present in his playing, but there is very little to call this disc a jazz-influenced album. However, there is no reason to detract from this effort as good music that jazz enthusiasts might enjoy in the same light as one might relish hearing Yo-Yo Ma playing Brazilian music or John Williams playing romantic classical guitar music.
LoPiccolo, who is an ambitious California musician and educator, does perform in the Pasadena area, in small group settings as a jazz guitarist; he has established credentials as a guitarist and composer often appearing in duo with guitarist Ray Sandoval. For this occasion, LoPiccolo provides a number of settings including two solo guitar efforts, pairing up with Andrew York (of Los Angeles Guitar Quartet) or Balkan guitarist Miroslav Tadic in a duo or quartet setting, and with the addition of Eric Barber primarily on soprano sax.
The album begins with "Jensen" as a Nouveau Flamenco number that sounds as authentic as a performance in Barcelona. The compositions pairing LoPiccolo with York or Tadic, such as "Thunder," "Waves," or "Spirit Dance," produce a flurry of skilled fingerpicking with great facility on the part of the respective guitarists. Barber is featured on several numbers, largely playing soprano sax, and he provides the same effect as Paul McCandless in giving a New Age setting for the small group. As an added change of pace, LoPiccolo duets with bassist Steen on "Seulb" and "Etude #3."
The primary appeal of the album should be for classical guitar enthusiasts, and while LoPiccolo reports that all but one of these tracks contain improvisation, it would be difficult to shoehorn this entry into a chamber jazz categorization. It is, however, a most listenable effort for those plectrists who enjoy the performance of a facile picker in whatever you should choose to call his music.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.