On my first trip back to New York in two years, I lucked out in the modern guitar department. First I was able to meet with Ralph Gibson the fabulous photographer/musician at his studio for a wide-ranging discussion of photography, music, and life. Then, a random Facebook post revealed that Mike Baggetta was playing in Brooklyn with Jerome Harris, Billy Mintz— and Nels Cline on lap steel!
On the shortlist for the best modern guitar record of the year is Turning Towards The Light [Cuneiform Rune 406], by Adam Rudolph’s Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra. In part because it features ten of the most accomplished, forward thinking jazz guitarists in New York, which, when it comes to jazz, means the world. Rez Abbasi, Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, David Gilmore, Miles Okazaki, Marco Capelli, Jerome Harris, Joel Harrison, Kenny Wessel, and Marvin Sewell, join Damon Banks on bass to form an ensemble unlike any you have heard. The odds this aggregation would become a noisy mess were long, but Rudolph’s strong conception and lyrical conducting conspired to create glorious, surprisingly spacious music—and not just “guitar music.”
“My favorite Max Roach quote is: ‘I’d rather be a musician than a drummer, and I’d rather be an artist than a musician,’” says Rudolph. “On this record, the guitarists were all about the music and the artistry.” Towards The Light is must listening for anyone who wants to hear great music that is not about “guitar,” but nevertheless couldn’t have been made by any other instruments. Rudolph took time to explain his organizational system and the process of forging 10 disparate instrumental voices into a cohesive unit.
If I was still living in New York I would be at many of these. If you live there, or can get there, this should be an amazing run from September 8-13, 2015. I saw Marco Cappelli at The Stone back in 2012 when he was part of a Derek Bailey Tribute. His command of the instrument was matched only by his improvisational daring. Now he is back at tThe Stone for a residency.