I have often extolled Downtown Music Gallery in New York as a great place to order records by many of the artists I cover. I have also found it to be a terrific resource for discovering new modern guitarists.
Their periodic email blast often lists records featuring players that have escaped my attention and sends me scurrying to YouTube to check them out. Patrick Higgins is one such guitarist. He is also a composer of note on the modern classical scene. How he has remained unknown to me over a decade of touring and recording, I have no idea, but I hopefully have rectified that for you here.
Patrick was on his iPhone and on the move when we did the interview, so if you suffer from motion sickness, you might want to just listen. Either way, you will find our conversation rewarding.
In 2019, I kept running into Ed Pettersen at Big Ears. We had some interesting conversations during which I learned that we both lived in Nashville and that he was something of a musical polymath. He recently sent me an email describing the effect that Covid has had on his musical plans. I thought that many GM readers could relate and that it would be a good time to officially introduce Pettersen to the Guitar Moderne community.
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.
As I said about their travel-size instrument in my NAMM 2020 report: “This is what an acoustic guitar from future might look like. FreeBoost Technology on the pickups uses rear surface of the guitar as a speaker, complete with reverb, delay, and chorus, all without an amp.” Now Lava has come out with a full size version with tap tempo and a 50% solo boost. At $800 the mini-ME seemed a bit dear for a travel sized guitar but at around $1400, the Pro seems well within, er, pro pricing. As I also said then, it is great to see something truly new in the acoustic realm. Again, we have the lovely and talented Mary Spender to demo it.
Stian Westerhus and Eivind Aarset were two of the main guitarists that led me to found Guitar Moderne. With their obvious technical skills, command of analog and digital effects, and rock star charisma, they made it easy to get excited about new forms of guitar playing. Stian has just released a recording of a live set from DOKK-huset in Trondheim Norway, available on Bandcamp. Even though half the performance is Westerhus processing his vocals, there is plenty of astounding guitar. If you purchase the audio recording, you get access to a beautifully shot video of the live performance. We talked about the record and many, many other things.