Big Ears starts Thursday. For those of you attending, here is a sample of the amazing guitar performances planned. For those of you who can’t make it, here is what you will be missing. There are still General Admission tix available, so if you can get to Knoxville this week, please do.
Today marks the release by ECM of Open Land: Meeting John Abercrombie, a film by Arno Oehri and Oliver Primus. Music docs usually have a variety of talking heads discussing the artist, but almost all the speaking in this film is done by Abercrombie. He talks about his childhood, and his attraction to electric, not acoustic guitar. He is shown talking to and about luthier Rick McCurdy. Speaking of his guitar collection, Abercrombie demonstrates the dry wit with which anyone who knew him was familiar. “It’s easier than collecting pianos,” he says.
Sometimes you start listening to a recording and instantly know you are hearing something special. On the ECM release, White, guitarist Marc Sinan joins Oğuz Büyükberber on clarinet, bass clarinet for a series of partly composed, partly improvised duets. And when I say joins, I mean joins; rarely have I hear two artists so in synch they sound like a single consciousness. Sinan augments his custom-made electric with intermittent real-time processing, and extended techniques positioned to add maximum emotional weight. Sinan discusses his unique take on “classical” music combined with improvisation.
There were many terrific records in 2017. In another year, Charlie Rauh’s Viriditas, Dan Phelps’ Arc, and Rights by Manuel Troller’s band Schnellertollermeier might have fit on my “Best of…” list. But this year saw so many releases by modern guitar superstars that I just have to recommend reserving some money to also pick up their worthy efforts.
This list is mine; feel free to list yours in the comment section.
I discovered Harry Pepl’s unique guitar approach on the Enrico Rava/Dino Saluzzi record Volver [ECM] in 1986 (a must listen). His chorused sound and fluidity were reminiscent of Metheny, but his attack was harder and his sensibility was decidedly more “out.” I loved it and searched the ECM site for more records with his playing on them. I found Cracked Mirrors, his outing with Herbert Joos and John Christiansen, but to my dismay it was only available in Europe. Now, thanks to the glorious fact that (almost) the entire ECM catalog is available for streaming, I am able to experience that record. Unfortunately, ECM has not seen fit to make Werner Pirchner, Harry Pepl, Jack DeJohnette available for some reason (though it is available on YouTube). There are other Pepl recordings to be found on both Spotify and Apple Music. Check out “Cracked Mirror” to hear how his playing in 1988 sounds fresh even today.