On the occasion of three decades of service to the avant-garde community, I would like to wish Downtown Music Gallery a Happy Birthday, with hopes for many more to come. I encourage you to try them first when seeking out records by modern guitarists so they can continue far into the future. Check out this video of artists paying tribute to this singular shop.
Despite the lockdown, modern guitar releases keep coming apace. Here is the latest bounty from Jessica Ackerley, Jo Jena, Nick Milevoi, Henry Kaiser, a couple of Tim Motzer records, and others. There is still time to get many of these releases on Bandcamp, where today all the proceeds go to the artists, but don’t let that stop you from buying them in subsequent days.
I have wanted to talk to Blake Mills, well forever, but especially since he recorded Look, a collection of instrumental pieces recorded almost entirely with old Roland guitar synthesizers. Since then he has used the synths on Mutable Set, a group of dark, intimate, minimalist songs that create a unique world. More recently, he busted out the guitar synth for a few moments in Notes With Attachments (see videos below), yet another unique-sounding record created in conjunction with world-class bassist, Pino Palladino. This time I contacted him through Instagram and we connected. Our conversation ranges far and wide, as Mills proves as thoughtful as he is musical.
I used to see Ribot play at the same club as I did, performing with an R&B horn band. He would strum rhythm on his Barney Kessel Gibson until it came time for his solo, and then mouth the pick to play blistering lines with his classically trained fingers. I lost track of him for a few years, after which he emerged playing a Telecaster with a new skronky style. Watch this before they take it down.
One of the younger modern guitar maestros, Anthony Pirog knows nothing of stylistic limitations—his music is beyond category, embracing not only jazz, but avant-garde and indie rock, free improvisation, electronic sound, and ambient soundscapes.
Pirog has himself established with his work as one-half of the duo Janel & Anthony, the electric jazz improvisational Five Times Surprise, the classic DC-scene twang inspired Music From The Anacostia Delta, and the exciting trio Messthetics, with Brendan Canty and Joe Lally, the rhythmic section from Fugazi.
His new solo record, Pocket Poem, features the same musicians as 2015’s Palo Colorado Dream: acoustic bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Ches Smith. For this trio record Pirog wanted to layer the compositions with sounds created using modern technology and vintage guitar synthesizers. All of which and more we discuss here.