in performance: california guitar trio

california guitar trio: hideyo moriya, paul richards and bert lams. photo by bill ellison.

california guitar trio: hideyo moriya, paul richards and bert lams. photo by bill ellison.

The music of the California Guitar Trio has always possessed enough sonic intensity to fill a ballroom while maintaining an especially crafty intimacy. But to have such conversational potency sitting in your lap, which was the case with a two-set performance last night at the Kentucky Coffeetree Café in Frankfort, made for some delicious sensory overload.

The cafe seats, perhaps, 40 people. So last night, artist and audience were practically rubbing shoulders. That gave well traveled CGT covers of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Ennio Morricone’s theme to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata an honest, presentational worth. But for longer, moodier pieces, like Pink Floyd’s Echoes – enhanced by Paul Richards’ trippy pedal and slide effects – one felt like they were right in the cockpit of some interstellar voyage.

The performance also provided the audience an up close viewing of several new CGT compositions and arrangements. Among the former was Cathedral Peak, which circulated around a luminous but bittersweet guitar chime that emphasized the trio’s sublime tone. Stylistically, though, Hazardous Z amazed most with its mash-up of Asian and Spanish accents and a score of other appealing foreign tongues.

Of the new covers, Bert Lams’ arrangement of the Rob Lane theme to the John Adams mini-series proved a highlight. The tune’s regal Americana blend centered around a quietly anthemic melody underscored by efficient and emotive strings. All of that sounded beautifully and completely orchestrated in the trio’s hands.

But the encore of the William Tell Overture flipped the coin for an exercise in technical agility and pure, almost child-like fun. Richards’ introduced the work by saying that Wikipedia has defined intellectualism as one’s ability to listen to the overture and “not think of the Lone Ranger.” Thankfully, the CGT trumped that assumption and proved just how overrated intellectualism can be.

The California Guitar Trio performs again on Monday at the Kentucky Theatre as part of a double-taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call (859) 252-8888.

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