On his birthday, it is worth remembering Jim Hall. In many ways he was a forefather of modern guitar. His classical composition training exposed him to many sonorities that would have been unfamiliar to more blues and standards-based bebop guitarists. He never stopped experimenting, whether it was with a DigiTech Whammy pedal, to produce harmonies he couldn’t reach with his fingers, or free improvisation with Bill Frisell or Pat Metheny. Here he plays as part of a modern classical ensemble. Thanks to the great LA guitarist Ken Rosser for posting this on Facebook and be sure to read his intro to it below.
At some point Guitar Moderne will have to do a Spotlight on Paul Dresher, who has been in the forefront of employing guitar in “new music,” “modern classical,” or whatever sobriquet fits composed music that pushes the envelope. Until then, here he is on guitar (occasionally with EBow), along with guitarist John Schott and a couple of people from the San Francisco Bay area with whom I have had the pleasure of making music in the past: Gene Refkin on drums and the incomparable Amy X Neuburg on vocals, looping, and samples.
Much modern guitar focuses on atonality and noise. More rare is the forward thinking guitarist whose approach leans towards the seductive rather than the assaultive. Though fully capable of aggressive sonic forays, Charlie Rauh’s music lives largely in a contemplative realm. Echoes of Frisell-ian pastoralism can be heard, but Rauh resembles him only in a similar rootedness and a focus on beautiful tone—he is his own man.
The most successful juxtaposition of electric guitar within a classical context I ever witnessed was Bill Frisell performing a piece combining his inimitable sound with a chamber orchestra. It was written by guitarist/composer Steve Mackey, who has been, you will pardon the expression, instrumental in expanding the role of the electric guitar in the classical music realm. The New York Times just published an interesting piece about him, and he will be releasing a record by his new music/prog supergroup, Big Farm, in May. Hope to have a full interview at that time. Until then, here is a taste of Mackey.