String Theory: Guitar Survey - Carlos Barbosa-Lima, Harry Stojka, & Rez Abbasi

C. Michael Bailey By

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There has been a flood of jazz guitar releases lately, similar to the deluge the market has experienced with female jazz vocalists and jazz trio recordings. Here are a few ethnically-seasoned examples recently plucked from the ether.

Carlos Barbosa-Lima
Zoho Music

Brazilian guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima has built an impressive resume while recording for Zoho Music, including Mambo No. 5, Natalia, and Siboney. Barbosa-Lima typically has a light theme to his recordings and this is the case with his newest, Carioca, a recital of tunes from Brazilian roots music genera choro, chorinho and samba. These musics are the collision between Portuguese, African, Island and Brazilian culture and are rich with the roux of these origins.

It is fascinating to listen to Alfredo Vianna's "Cochichando and Ernesto Nazareth's "Carioca or "Odeon, and in solution with the above mentioned influences hear the seeds of Scott Joplin's and Louis Chauvin's rags. These are charming pieces—vignettes, musical snapshots of humid, breezy Rio nights. Marcilio Lopes' mandolin on Nazareth's "Brejeiro and "Odeon provide the cross between a traditional South American and All-American listening experience. Barbosa-Lima has done for Brazilian music what Ry Cooder did with Cuban music on the Buena Vista Social Club and Mambo Sinuendo. His command of Jobim ("Desafinado and "Samba De Uma Nota So ) alone would endorse this recording. This is music from which to drink deep.

Harry Stojka
A Tribute To Gypsy Swing
Zoho Music

An ocean and continent away, Austrian guitarist Harri Stojka channels the spirit of Django Reinhardt with his collection of gypsy jazz, A Tribute to Gypsy Swing. On this recording, Stojka readily illustrates the facile ability of the gypsy artists, as well as Le Quintette Du Hot Club De France, of taking not only Eastern European folk melodies and those from American Tin Pan Alley, straining them through the same filter and creating a new brand of jazz that still today sounds revolutionary.

Stojka opens the recording with Stephen Foster's novelty "Swanee River, making the song sound as if it belonged in the gypsy repertoire naturally. His Reinhardt ("Nuits De Saint-Germain-Des-Pres, "Nauges ) are robust and invigorating. But where Stojka and his European band shine is on the cross pieces, mostly from the '20s and '30s, such as danceable "Limehouse Blues and "Avalon and a swinging "Just One Of Those Things and "Sweet Sue . Stojka makes a rock and roll argument on Fats Waller's "Undecided that is hard to dispute. Stojka even approaches Sidney Bechet ("Petite Fleur ) emphasizing the French slow drag element of New Orleans music. A Tribute To Gypsy Swing is beautifully authentic and fresh. This recording should satisfy even the fussiest purest.

Rez Abbasi
Zoho Music

Heading further East, our guitar tour finds itself in Pakistan, in the rich Middle East, and in the case of guitarist Rez Abbasi, focused through the lens of New York City. Abbasi delves further East in influence on Bazaar than he has previously on Modern Memory, Third Ear, or Snake Charmer. Abbasi's guitar-sitar by its nature infuses these compositions with an Eastern feel. Add his interest in odd meters and there you have it—the love child of American jazz and Middle Eastern folk music.

The title cut could have been a tame Coltrane composition in another dimension, sporting a serpentine hypnosis-inducing melody. Rudresh Mahanthappa's alto saxophone gets properly worked out. Abbasi continues his Middle Eastern prance with the beautifully odd "Leather. This is the most unique jazz organ trio music I have heard this side of Skip Heller. Abbasi's solo is jaunty, angular, and craggy, insinuating the pieces' harmony while having his way with the melody. Danny Weiss' drums have hardly a whiff of a Western accent. It is Gary Versace's organ that brings the listener back around to the jazz personality of the recording.

"Life Goes is superbly complex with a Beatles' introduction and an almost carnival feel in the melody and soloing. Timewise, the piece is all over the map. Abbasi enjoys keeping the listener off balance, thereby always providing a surprise. Bazaar is Rez Abbasi's most fully realized jazz-cum-Middle Eastern hybrid—a sublimely courageous recording.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Cochichando; Passeio No Rio; Carioca; Carinhoso; Samba De Orfeu; Um Amor De Valsa; Um A Zero; Desafinado; Romance; Brejeiro; Renunciar; Entre Guitarra Y Voz; Soy; Odeon; Poema De Amor; Samba De Uma Nota So; Lorena; La Voz Del Guiro.

Personnel: Carlos Barbosa-Lima: guitar; Danny Rivera: vocals; Marcilio Lopes: mandolin; Nilson Matta: acoustic bass; Duduka Da Fonseca: drums, percussion.

A Tribute To Gypsy Swing

Tracks: Swanee River; Nuits De Saint-Germain-Des-Pres; J'Attendrai; Bei Mir Bist Du Scheen; Avalon; Nuages; Limehouse Blues; Petite Fleur; Undecided; Song For My Daddy; Just One Of Those Things; Sweet Sue; Schee Is So A Ringlspu.

Personnel: Harri Stojka: guitar; Claudius Jelinek: guitar, banjo; Eva Berky: violin; Ivan Ruiz Machado: electric bass; Heimo Wiederhofer: snare drum.


Tracks: Bazaar; Leather; Thin Elephant; Life Goes; You People Intro; You People; Mid-Life; Hindu Myth; Destiny Owes You.

Personnel: Rez Abbasi: electric guitar, sitar-guitar, acoustic guitar; Gary Versace: Hammond organ; Dan Weiss: drums, tabla; Kiran Ahluwahlia: Indian vocals; Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto sax; Marc Mommaas: tenor & soprano sax; Gautram Siram: mridnagam; Naren Budaker: whistling.


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