Despite plague, lockdown, transportation issues, and touring revenue loss, a surprising number of artists managed to release new material last year. Current modern guitar legends, Eivind Aarset, Stian Westerhus, and Nels Cline all make appearances. Legends in the making Ádám Mészáros, Tim Motzer, Nick Milevoi, and Eyal Maoz’s chime in as well. On a sad note, rumor has it that the Rare Noise label is folding. They are going out with a bang though, contributing three records to this year’s list. I hope I am misinformed.
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.
The past year was a banner one for modern guitar.There were many notable records by artists covered in Guitar Moderne and others. Here, in no particular order are some of the highlights.
Raoul Björkenheim Out of the Blue [Cuneiform]
Raoul made the list last year and this year’s release is equally stellar.
This is a long one because I have fallen behind in telling you about all the great new releases. Record Picks is a periodic offering from Guitar Moderne: a listing of recordings brought to my attention that I feel are momentous enough to bring to yours. These are not reviews. Feel free to submit recordings (downloads preferred), but they must be purchasable worldwide, reflective of modern guitar (subjective, but no blues, classic rock, be-bop, country, etc.—all well covered elsewhere) and on a par with the ones below to rate a mention. Many of these are available from DMG in NYC. If you have sent me a recording, feel free to remind me.
Two new ones feature guitarist Nick Millevoi.
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.