Albums featuring a lone instrument are often the most difficult to review, especially if the writer is not a musician. After commenting on technique, sound and musical selections, what more is there to say? It is even more troublesome when said instrument is a guitar, as there are legions of virtuosos on the scene today, both here and abroad, the bulk of whom sound nearly identical to the untrained ear.
And it is with these caveats in mind that guitarist Rolf Sturm
's latest recording, Young,
must be addressed. Technique? Flawless. Sound? Immaculate. Musical selections? It is here that more words are needed, as Sturm has devoted the album to compositions by a pair of melodists surnamed Young: Victor and Neil, the first of whom spent much of his career in Hollywood writing for films, while the other is best known for his long and successful career as a pop / rock composer and performer. Victor Young was nominated for no less than twenty-two Academy Awards, winning once, for his score to the film Around the World in Eighty Days
in 1957. Neil Young, for his part, was inducted twice into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, first as a solo artist and second as a co-founder of the celebrated group Buffalo Springfield.
Eight of the dozen songs on Sturm's album were written by Victor Young including several of his best-known themes: "Stella by Starlight," "My Foolish Heart," "Love Letters," "Golden Earrings," "Ghost of a Chance," "When I Fall in Love." The Canadian-born Neil Young's works number four: "Cowgirl in the Sand," "One of These Days," "Pocahontas" and "Tell Me Why." Sturm opens with two more of Victor Young's familiar melodies, "Sweet Sue" and "A Weaver of Dreams." Needless to say, Sturm plays each one of them with the dexterity and assurance of someone who has performed all over the world, appeared on more than sixty CDs and drawn praise from such fellow guitar masters as Joe Pass
, Jim Hall
, John Abercrombie
and Bill Frisell
. If there is a downside to Young,
it lies in the relative uniformity of tempo throughout the session, which doesn't help when it comes to uncoupling Sturm's best efforts from the realm of background music.
Having said that, there is no doubt that Sturm is a superb guitarist, nor that Young
is a well-polished and highly listenable album whose musicianship is beyond reproach and whose eloquent music is well worth hearing and appreciating.
Sweet Sue, Just You; A Weaver of Dreams;
Cowgirl in the Sand; A Ghost of a Chance; When I
Fall in Love; One of These Days; Love Letters;
Pocahontas; My Foolish Heart; Stella By Starlight;
Tell Me Why; Golden Earrings.