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.
Nels Cline, Adrian Belew, David Torn, Eivind Aarset, Fred Frith—These superstars of modern guitar have been with us for decades and are all currently making vibrant, forward thinking music. Oz Noy and Stian Westerhus are relative youngsters in this category, still, we all might sometimes wonder where the next generation of players on this level will come from. I have featured many talented young players in Guitar Moderne, but Nick Reinhart is one of the few who embodies the rare combination of virtuoso technique on both guitar and effects required for superstar status in the world of modern guitar. His ability to spontaneously turn noise into music continues to astound me. Here he is wreaking great sounds out of a random sample of Earthquaker pedals and what are probably an unfamiliar amp and guitar.
You may notice some labels making recurrent and multiple appearances on this list and from year to year. These labels have become successful, forward thinking purveyors of boundary stretching music, so it is not surprising they are attracting the best of the best. Cuneiform has a long history in this field, which makes up and coming, virtuoso Anthony Pirog a good match. Rune Grammofon continues to support the ground-breaking work of modern guitar hero Stian Westerhus, while Anti and Nonesuch are becoming the go-to labels for roots artists looking to remain relevant.
Once again this is a purely subjective list, so please let me know if you feel strongly about a record I have left off. We are fortunate so much great modern guitar music is available, but it makes it hard for one man to keep up. Happy Holidays.
Modern guitar pioneer, Fred Frith, was kind enough to contribute to the feature I did For Premier Guitar on extended guitar techniques. His new record, a duo with saxophonist John Butcher, The Natural Order, is an improvised tour-de-force, with both players using extended techniques in a musical conversation of the highest order.