As with any outing by the California Guitar Trio, last night’s sold out performance at Natasha’s boiled down to the playful and engaging interplay of three factors.
The most immediate was the technical prowess of Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya. Rooted in classical music, they displayed not just the technique but also the dynamics to make Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 sound both dazzling and human.
But that just set the stage for the next factor, the trio’s vast stylistic scope. Last night, classical sat side by side with Ennio Morricone’s theme to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, a lullaby-like reading of the pop standard Sleepwalk, Dave Brubeck’s dizzying jazz manifesto Blue Rondo a la Turk (which offered a rare, round-robin set of blues-based solos by the three players) and the trio’s familiar mash-up of the Western staple Ghost Riders in the Sky and The Doors’ Riders on the Storm (which was especially appealing when the themes from both tunes wistfully intersected near its conclusion).
The covers were just half the fun, however. The trio’s fine original works included the Argentine-inspired show opener Chacarera, the multi-level Train to Lamy (which shifted from slide-enhanced drama to animated hoedown to bordertown reflection) and the beautiful encore meditation Eve.
All of these tunes, as is usual for the CGT, were performed solely on three acoustic guitars. But pedal effects regularly provided rockish electric accents to several pieces without sacrificing the trio’s richly organic sound.
Finally, what always seals the deal at a CGT show is how unassuming the entire program was. Brubeck alongside Beethoven? Seemingly incomprehensible degrees of instrumental challenge? Recording the whole event while performing so it could be offered for sale on flash drive after the show? None of it seemed like a big deal to these guys. There were no performance histrionics of any kind hampering the music. Instead, what resulted was another remarkably distinctive evening executed on three guitars but instigated by a trio of players with boundless imaginations.