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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Guitars, guitars, guitars, guitars, ....

It's always nice to hear great technical skill, but when it's combined with musical vision, the results are a pleasure to hear, regardless of the style or genre. Here are some of the better recent guitar trios. And it should also be said, that the results are often to the credit of the whole trio : the bass-players and drummers on the list below are sometimes superb.

Adam Rogers - Time And The Infinite (CrissCross, 2007)

Adam Rogers brings this excellent record "Time And The Infinite", with Scott Colley on bass and Bill Stewart on drums, playing some of his own compositions, but also some pieces by Gershwin, Charlie Parker and Cole Porter, already indicating that this album is among the most mainstream of the list here, but his touch is so extremely gentle and precise, that it's more than worth mentioning. He can play with great intensity, but also very sensitive, as on some of the acoustic tracks.

Charlie Hunter - Mistico (Concord, 2007)

Charlie Hunter plays in his own category, combining guitar with his unbelievable technique of playing the additional bass strings as well on his custom-made 8-string guitar. It's not always clear how he does it, but the end result is as funky and bluesy as ever, played in collaboration with Erik Deutsch on piano and Simon Lott on the drums. Even if he's a little stuck in his own creation, the music is still great fun.

Listen to samples on Charlie Hunter's website

Alex Machacek - Improvision (AbstractLogix, 2007)

I am not a fusion fan (at least, not anymore), but once in a while, I can appreciate a good album, and this one is definitely among them. Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek plays extremely well, and he also has musical ideas, which is a great asset in fusion-territory. He is accompanied by Matthew Garrison on bass and Jeff Sipe on drums, both as accomplished musicians as Machacek. I did not like his previous album "Sic" because it was too much of a show-off, but here the music dominates, and interestingly the music evolves from high speed and intense music with lots of soloing to a calmer atmosphere in the end, with subdued and even some mediative moments.

Listen to Machecek :

Eivind Aarset - Sonic Codex (Jazzland, 2007)

But the boundaries of guitar-playing are really pushed with Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset's "Sonic Codex", on which he explores the sounds of his instrument to the full, but still with a clear focus on the music, using his instrument in a very functional way. He is accompanied by a whole list of Norwegian musicians who change on every track, so I'm not going to enumerate them. Suffice to say that the music is really interesting, closer to prog rock than jazz at times, because putting layer upon layer of pre-recorded pieces, joining different styles, contradictory rhythms and utterly bizarre experimental sounds with romantic melodies. Why not, in fact? The overall effect is very captivating and entertaining, dark and light-footed at the same time.

Listen to samples on MySpace

Underground Jazz Trio - Radio Free Europa (Leo Records, 2007)

The Underground Jazz Trio consists of Irish guitarist Mark O'Leary, who's been very productive this year, Matt Lux on bass and John Herndon on drums. Lux and Herndon are known from their work with the Chicago bands Tortoise and Isotope 217, experimental ambient minimalist rock and jazz, but also musically related to - and once in a while jamming with - the Chicago Underground Duo/Trio/Quartet, hence probably the band's name. "Radio Free Europa" brings very soft, elegant, gentle experimental chamber jazz, with O'Leary's guitar tuned in its usual low tone. Despite the title and the relatively aggressive cover art, the music is calm, interesting and very creative improvization. Once in a while the intensity increases and the usual calm is replaced by high speed staccato soloing, but the overall tone is rather impressionistic.

You can download this album from for the negligeable amount of 4.42 euro.