Many of this year’s picks were recorded before 2020, for obvious reasons. Works by veterans (Sharp, Alcorn, Björkenheim) joined some newer voices (Naylor, Yalvaç, Gargaud) in offering us quality distractions from a nightmarish year. If you hear anything you like, please purchase something from the artist. With touring off the table, times are tougher than usual for experimental artists.
When I first heard Raoul Björkenheim in his band Krakatau it was like hearing Hendrix as inspired by Coltrane. Björkenheim’s latest recording, Solar Winds [Long Song records] is, in fact, a Coltrane tribute on which his tone and go for broke playing style still recall Jimi. It has been six years since Guitar Moderne spotlighted the Finnish guitarist, so it seemed like time to catch up. Be sure to check out the recent performance videos as well.
There were many terrific records in 2017. In another year, Charlie Rauh’s Viriditas, Dan Phelps’ Arc, and Rights by Manuel Troller’s band Schnellertollermeier might have fit on my “Best of…” list. But this year saw so many releases by modern guitar superstars that I just have to recommend reserving some money to also pick up their worthy efforts.
This list is mine; feel free to list yours in the comment section.
Some emotional vignettes, a bunch of Mary Halvorson, and, to start off, a set by Raoul Björkenheim eCsTaSy.
Raoul Björkenheim eCsTaSy Doors Of Perception [Cuneiform Records]
Björkenheim adds some new tones to his signature edgy yet vocal style, (like wave form distortion), yet his distinctive instrumental voice continues to shine through.
Wednesday was modern guitar pioneer Terje Rypdal’s 70th birthday. To celebrate, Henry Kaiser assembled a who’s who of modern guitarists: David Torn, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, Hedvig Mollestad, Jim O’Rourke, Hans Magnus Ryan, Raoul Björkenheim, Even H. Hermansen, Reine Fiske, along with long time Rypdal keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and drummer Gard Nilssen (Dungen). There is a Volume 2 that is a vinyl only release of side-long outtakes that were too good to leave on the shelf.
Kaiser also played and his production is more than up to the task of presenting multiple distorted guitars with clarity and cohesion. This tribute is a must-own for anyone interested in modern guitar playing at its best.