16 March 2014

Chops assumed

I like plucked solos on nylon string guitars. They are fast, flashy, exciting, with that dull thud with edge. Classical guitars use nylon strings and they claim a range of tones with fingerpicking. But this is different, not classical. It's a thrilling sound, with its references to Spain and flamenco. This was like that. Richly embroidered with rhythms form three guitars, often fingerpicking with ring and pinkies, along with picks and strums. I also like it when several people play the same instrument together. Their approaches and concepts are easy to hear. This was Mike Price, Greg Stott and Stuart King playing as Hermoso Sonido and they were obviously different in tone and soloistic styles.

I also like it when chops are assumed and the tunes take centre stage. I don't notice it too often and it's not always too obvious. I noticed it during a rich pop tune from Elvis Costello, Favourite hour. The solos were great, the interplay was wonderful with three similar instruments never stepping on each other, each taking a part, perhaps unconsciously, passing solos or supporting as a duo. This was so easy and the tune was paramount. Favourite hour was through composed, with great lyrics (but nobody offered to sing) and with unusual changes. They also played a rough transcription from Jan Lorenz, who Mike had seen in Barcelona, and a few originals from Greg and Kenny Wheeler's Kind folk, which I've heard before from Mike. I only heard the second set, having come from the Australian Haydn Ensemble, but they'd played some Chick Corea, one of which was the lively Open your eyes you can fly from the first, from the first incarnation of Return To Forever with Airto and Flora Purim and Joe Farrell and Stan Clarke. I got two things from this gig. Firstly, how well they played together. This was a lesson in three similar instruments not getting in each others' way. I realised when Mike was soloing, Stuart was strumming and Greg was filling with notes from chords. Very neat. And how three very good players on the same instruments can display such markedly different approaches.

This was a wonderfully involving concert with a settled quietness about it all. Thrilling in solos and skills and communicative in chatter and presence. Not loud, not forced, but driving and unified. Clearly three local masters at their craft. Hermoso Sonido are Mike Price, Greg Stott and Stuart King (nylon strung guitars).

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