in performance: california guitar trio

california guitar trio: paul richards, hideyo moriya and bert lams.

california guitar trio: paul richards, hideyo moriya and bert lams.

A certain amount of hero worship goes into any California Guitar Trio show. Last night, at an ultra intimate, ultra sold out performance at the Kentucky Coffeetree Café in Frankfort, you heard it within the delicate precision and cyclical intensity of the group’s collective mentor, British guitarist Robert Fripp. That, along with versed classical-leaning technique, has long formed the basis of their remarkable playing. But the hero worship extended far beyond that to the myriad influences guitarists Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya assimilated, musical and otherwise, into their repertoire.

There was the way singular notes formed a bit-by-bit “circulation” construction of a Bach Prelude, a process that would inform much of the compositions within the 90 minute set. There was also the looped ambience Richards created first as an introduction, then as a backdrop for the gorgeous CGT original Punta Patri as well as the playful surf drive that fueled Walk Don’t Run near the beginning of the set and Misirlou as its final encore. And, yes, their remarkable acoustic makeover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was again as crowd pleaser, as was its mash-up of the cowboy classic Ghost Riders in the Sky and The Doors’ Riders on the Storm (dubbed Ghost Riders on the Storm), the latter as much for the way the two tunes weaved in and around each other, as for the medley’s obvious audience friendly appeal.

But these were all traits the CGT has revealed before. While all were performed last night with ample vigor, the show was also a showcase for a bounty of new material and covers the group plans on recording this spring. The Pablo Neruda-inspired What Springs Does to Cherry Trees revolved around Fripp-flavored exchanges set to a richly animated yet still-delicate melody, while The Euphoria of Pure Joy possessed an almost orchestral feel within layers of wistful lyrical slices. A cover of The Beatles’ I Dig a Pony then emphasized rhythm and groove.

All of that came into play during the CGT’s take on Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk, which was introduced with a nod to the late keyboardist Keith Emerson (who began performing the piece back in the ‘60s with The Nice). But this version owed more to the shift between the tune’s dizzying melody, its refrains of swing and how the former cleverly overtook the latter. It was trio’s most inventive and thrillseeking bit of hero worship, by far.

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