in performance: bert lams and tom greisgraber

bert lams and tom griesgraber. photo by oscar afsahi.

Certainly what makes the music of Bert Lams and Tom Griesgraber so intriguing is the atmospheric – almost impressionistic – ambience they create on 6-string acoustic guitar, Chapman stick and a healthy arsenal of pedal effects. But what enhanced that sense of invention last night at Frankfort’s Coffeehouse Café was one of the oldest but most trusted embellishments in the world of art and commerce – location, location, location.

The Café seats perhaps 50 or 60 patrons, tops. As such, performances there can’t help but possess the air of a house concert. Save for a few patrons that last night wanted to engage in a technical Q and A with Griesgraber between songs, the audience readily accepted the sort of active listening requirements such a setting demanded. Needless to say, so did the artists.

Griesgraber continually expanded not only the vocabulary of sounds the stick creates by tapping notes out on its strings, but also the placement of those sounds.

On Don’t Look Back, he shifted from bass colors to rich harmonic chords that played beautifully off of Lams’ guitarwork, which impressively mixed classical and minimalist references with healthy doses of improvisation. Later on Search and Destroy, the stick effects intensified instrumental dynamics in response to dazzling guitar arpeggios. And on a set-closing revision of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, Griesgraber was a virtual one man band of harmonic, orchestral and improvisational invention.

Lams’ guitarwork was no less arresting. His classical and contemporary accents triggered plaintive country melodies (during the new Prairie Suite and the middle section of the road-tested California Guitar Trio piece Train to Lamy),  rugged, amplified slide leads (on another new work identified only as New Piece No. 2) and delicate, emotive lyricism (the CGT favorite The Marsh).

Courageous and inviting instrumental music in an ideal performance setting… what more could you ask for on a gorgeous August evening?

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