I rarely write about books, perhaps because there are few coming out that seem to fit the GM format. Still, two relatively recent publications should be of interest to modern guitarists.
Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom, Before 1970 by David Toop [Bloomsbury Publishing] If you haven’t read Toop’s Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds, stop reading this and buy it immediately. For that matter if you care about modern music at all make sure you get around to all of his books. Into the Maelstrom is his long awaited first installment about the philosophy and practice of improvisation (both musical and otherwise). His erudite discussion leans towards England and Europe, but then so did much of the free improv scene. His personal relationship with many of the players makes the reading that much more interesting.
It’s that time of year again: Trees being decorated, candles being lit, balls being dropped, and, of course, year-end top ten lists. You love ’em, you hate ’em but no publication worthy of the name is without them. So here is mine. There were many great records of modern guitar released this year (read about them in the various Record picks posts) but these are the ones that found their way most often to my virtual turntable.
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.
Listening to the throbbing, minimalist soundcapes on Noël Akchoté’s record, Rien [Winter and Winter] did not prepare me for the bluesy, rooted, jazz guitarist I later saw performing with the Big Four (Max Nagl, Steven Bernstein, Bradley Jones) at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York. That Akchoté straddled the ground between Derek Bailey and Freddy Green with aplomb, throwing in the occasional Muddy Waters raunch and Bill Frisell offbeat elegance where appropriate. Here, the French guitarist explains how he doesn’t hear the distinction among those legendary players that others might.