in performance: california guitar trio

California Guitar Trio: Hideyo Moriya, Paul Richards and Bert Lams.

To recognize the scholarly technique and stylistic dexterity of the California Guitar Trio when appraising one of its concerts isn’t exactly detective work. The ensemble has stressed both traits with unassuming ease throughout its 27 year history, so much so that such a design has allowed the music it fashions for three acoustic guitars to remain both accessible and adventurous. In short, the game plan has long been standard operating procedure. The music and musicianship within it, however, remains anything but.

The CGT’s annual visit to the Kentucky Coffeetree Café last night in Frankfort, one of the most intimate venues the group plays on a regular basis, offered an especially well-rounded repertoire that embraced the familiar but emphasized the new.

The four selections that opened the 90 minute performance made for a refresher course of the band: a faithful cover of “Classical Gas,” the surf staple “Walk Don’t Run,” the Argentine folk-inspired original “Chacarera” and the slide blues-meet-Western mash-up “Train to Lamy Suite.” Collectively, all have made frequent rounds in CGT shows through the years. Last night, though, they provided a crash course in the textures, techniques and sheer stylistic cunning the band was capable of. For all their familiarity to CGT die-hards, the tunes all sounded fresh and immediate.

There were also less obvious entries, like the beautiful “Euphoria,” a relatively recent entry from CGT member Paul Richards that revolved around a light, spacious group melody that quickly dived into deeper, layered colors. While not exactly an obscurity, Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” returned after an extended absence from the CGT repertoire, but still boasted a richly percussive drive.

It was also a blast to hear two career-spanning originals by fellow CGT co-founder Hideyo Moriya played back to back – 1993’s “Kan-Non Power” (which strongly summoned the influence of group mentor Robert Fripp both in its percolating arpeggios and the long, sustained mock-electric sounds Richards created with pedal effects) and “Komorebi” (the title tune to the CGT’s 2017 album, which sported a considerably lighter, more openly atmospheric makeup).

Four new entries were also added to the CGT catalog last night – a beautifully fragile arrangement of Radiohead’s “Daydreaming” by the late Collin Landinguin, a jubilant take on the Ventures’ surf classic “Diamond Head,” a loose but extremely fun stab at the Beatles’ “Get Back” and a wonderfully textured work by Buenos Aires guitarist Alex Anthony Faide entitled “Where It Goes, We Go.”

Then it was back to CGT essentials to close the show with guitarist Bert Lams helping co-pilot the mix of cinematic ambience and drama within “Punta Patri” and an encore cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that underscored the sense of combustible fun that still sits at the heart of the trio’s immensely inventive and inviting music.



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