Modern electric guitar music has, at times, suffered from bouts of sameness. Employing techniques pioneered over a half century ago by Derek Bailey and Fred Frith, guitarists fanatically avoid repetitive rhythmic and/or melodic motifs and use similar preparations, to the point where they all sound virtually identical. Perhaps the form had to go through growing pains.
More recently, whether due to more schooled guitarists entering the field with wider technical skills and musical tastes, or the many new processors that allow a wealth of distinctive tones, a plethora of players, from all over the world, are creating personal voices within this idiom. The records here, solo and band, emanate from Italy, Argentina, and the US, each with its own approach to modern guitar performance.
Though live music shows are starting again, it is with limited audiences—hence limited money, so it would help these artists if you were to buy their recordings. Also, it will give you something to do all while we all wait this out.
I first saw Brandon Ross with Cassandra Wilson back in the Nineties. His application of a jazz sensibility to Wilson’s Sarah Vaughn meets Joni Mitchell stylings was revelatory. I later learned about the amazing Harriet Tubman, his band with drummer J.T. Lewis and bassist Melvin Gibbs, but am sorry to say it was at a time when I was not ready for them. Delving into Ross’ work for this interview, I discovered that he embodies everything Guitar Moderne is about: personal style, adventurous playing, disregard for genre, and experiments with electronics. Our conversation ranged wide and very long. I tried to include the best bits here.
Benn Jordan doesn’t actually tell you everything you need to know about MIDI guitar, though he gives you a fair introduction. But he pulls no punches in his review of the Boss SY-1000. His dismay at the presets is more understandable when, later in the review, you get to hear his own presets, which, unlike he Boss ones, sound more like something you might have heard in the last 20 years, and harness the emotive potential of synthesis in a way that the Boss presets fail to do.
I am way behind on these but here are a bunch to keep you busy until I catch up
Sun SpeakMoon Preach [Flood Records]
On Sun Speak’s release Moon Preach, Chicago guitarist Matt Gold, with Nate Friedman (drums and percussion), carve out a unique, dark, moody sound that contains overtones of jazz and Americana, but is a bit more aggressive than some others exploring this territory.
JP Schlegelmilch/Jonathan Goldberger/Jim BlackVisitors [Bandcamp]
Every few years the organ trio gets reinvented. Guitarist Goldberger’s group with organist/keyboardist Schlegelmilch, and drummer Black delivers a personal take on the combination that builds on work done by Larry Young, and later John Abercrombie.
The Lie DetectorsPart III Secret Unit [Chant Records]
The latest from Eyal Maoz is a killer guitar/drums workout with moments of mayhem mixed with quieter but no less sonically interesting and intense music.
Jessica AckerleyA New Kind of Water [Bandcamp]
Ackerley coaxes warm tones out of her Strat while demonstrating an advanced sense of space and musical interaction.
Ben GoldbergGood Day For Fishing [Pyroclastic Records]
Fascinating concept: Goldberg wrote 12 pieces based on poems by Dean Young. He then gathered trumpeter Ron Miles and guitarist Nels Cline, and the trio recorded those pieces. Young then wrote 12 poems based on listening to those pieces being recorded, without knowing which poem each piece was based on. The boxed set comes with the CD, notes and 12 cards, with the before and after poems printed on either side. What could have been a gimmick has resulted in some excellent music.
Max Kutnerrummagelore [Bandcamp]
Henry Kaiser collaborator Kutner offers a solo acoustic outing that ranges from pastoral Americana to Derek Bailey modern, cruising through classical and other styles along the way.
Harvey ValdesSolitude Intones Its Echo [Destiny Records]
Like Charlie Rauh’s Innocent Speller record, Valde’ recording reveals him as another master of concision (could this be a trend?). His 18 short, lyrical, solo electric guitar performances of compelling compositions hook you and leave, well before wearing out their welcome.
Record Picks is a periodic offering from Guitar Moderne: a listing of recordings brought to my attention that I feel are worthy of being brought to yours. These are not reviews. Feel free to submit recordings, but they must be purchasable worldwide, reflective of modern guitar (subjective to be sure, but no blues, classic rock, be-bop, country, etc.) and on a par with the ones above to rate a mention. Many of these are available from DMG in NYC. If you have already sent me a recording, feel free to remind me.
If you are a fan of modern guitar, Knoxville, Tennessee is without doubt the place to be March 21-24, 2019. The lineup at last year’s Big Ears Festival was terrific, but this year’s crop of modern guitar mastery is even more bountiful. Get your tickets and reserve your rooms soon. For starters, Bill Frisell is performing in two contexts.