154

California Guitar Trio: rocks the west

By

Sign in to view read count
Somewhere deep within the town of Precision – which lies perilously close to the active volcano, Mt. Pretension – lies the California Guitar Trio. The three acoustic guitar virtuosos that make up this eclectic band, Bert Lams, Paul Richards, and Hideyo Moriya are summa cum laude graduates from Robert Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitar Players. This pedigree is not surprising once you’ve spent some time listening to them - their guitar playing is practically flawless, both rhythmically and melodically. Their capabilities run the gamut of almost every known form of music, and they’re main focus on rocks the west is to make sure you are aware of their incredible versatility. Ranging from awe-inspiring (their arrangement and performance of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is simply beautiful) to downright audacious (Arranging Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” for three acoustic guitars is a bit TOO over-the-top), rocks the west will definitely grab your ear and demand your attention. These fellows are simply masters of their instruments, and it shows – even in their less successful arrangements and compositions.

Lams, Richards, and Moriya are joined at times by prolific stick-man Tony Levin, and saxophonist Bill Janssen, and while Levin and Janssen certainly add to the weight of the tracks they contribute to, the guitarists are clearly (and deservedly) the stars of the show. These guys leave no musical stone unturned, going from classical to jazz to rockabilly and back in a dizzying display of 6-string versatility. Their incredible arranging capabilities are apparent in their adaptations of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (arranged by Lams) and Yatsuhashi Kengyo’s Rokudan (arranged by Moriya); even when the results are less than stellar (Lams’ adaptation of “Bohemian Rhapsody” doesn’t come off too well), CGT must be admired for their adventurous spirit.

Actually, some of the strongest cuts on the album are not their interpretations of other’s work, but their own compositions. The opening cut “Scramble” – penned by all three guitarist – is an excellent example of their guitar playing abilities, and shows-off some nice interlocking guitar work reminiscent of 80’s-era Crimson. Lams’ “Punta Patri” is a very pleasant journey through a harmonics-filled soundscape accompanied by some beautiful low-end work from Mr. Levin. However, there are times when the group becomes too clever for their own good: Janssen’s “Blue-eyed Monkey” and the group-penned “Happy Time in Fun Town” are both a bit too chaotic – they’re either poor compositions or bad improvs. Fortunately, these trip-ups are few and far between, and songs like the Richards penned “Blockhead” more than make up for the occasional miss. “Blockhead” – which closes the album – features some fantastic chord structures and excellent soloing by saxophonist Janssen, and is a perfect way to finish up an impressive effort from CGT.

rocks the west is an excellent example of an instance where the total of a band is definitely more than the sum of its parts. The variety of sounds that come out of these three guitars is nothing short of amazing – these guys are constantly in musical motion, daring the listeners to guess what they’re going to try next. And even though most of the time your guesses will most likely be wrong, you’ll be glad at what you hear nonetheless. Simply put, if you are a fan of acoustic guitar your collection is incomplete without a CGT album, and rocks the west is a very good one to start with.


Track Listing: 1. Scramble (2:22), 2. Symphony No. 9

Personnel: Bert Lams: Acoustic Guitar; Paul Richards: Acoustic Guitar; Hideyo Moriya: Acoustic Guitar; Tony Levin: Bass, Stick (Tracks 1,5,6,8,10,11,13); Bill Janssen: Saxophone (Tracks 7,8,10,11,13)

| Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock


Shop

More Articles

Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Sol Boricua" CD/LP/Track Review Sol Boricua
by James Nadal
Published: April 30, 2016
Read "Jungle: Live At Okuden" CD/LP/Track Review Jungle: Live At Okuden
by John Sharpe
Published: November 17, 2016
Read "Prog Noir" CD/LP/Track Review Prog Noir
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 3, 2016
Read "Joy Comes Back" CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Music Box Music" CD/LP/Track Review Music Box Music
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "Black Shuck" CD/LP/Track Review Black Shuck
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 19, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!