in performance: california guitar trio and montreal guitar trio

California Guitar Trio and Montreal Guitar Trio, from left: Bert Lams (CGT), Sebastien Dufour (MGT), Marc Morin (MGT), Hideyo Moriya (CGT), Glenn Levesque (MGT) and Paul Richards (CGT).

On paper, the blend of the California Guitar Trio and the Montreal Guitar Trio would seem an oil-and-vinegar proposition. The CGT is a classically disciplined and stylistically adventurous group whose often Zen-like stage persona mirrors a natural musical curiosity triggered decades ago under the tutelage of King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp. The MGT is more purposely brash, seemingly inspired by the percussive might of flamenco and myriad folk inspirations (its newest album, “Danzas” is essentially a meshing of all that with an occasional jazz flourish).

But onstage, and on the fine new “In a Landscape” recording, a rich, playful and ultimately complimentary camaraderie emerges. On Friday evening at Headliners Music Hall in Louisville, the two (mostly) acoustic trios began by playing separately to introduce their specific musical platforms. The MGT went first with the dramatic, dizzying meshing of Al Di Meola’s “Mediterranean Sundance” and Paco De Lucia’s “Rio Ancho” with the CGT countering with a typically effortless genre-hopping excursion that took the group from the Dick Dale tribute within “Misirlou” to the contemplative Paul Richards original “Euphoria” to the classical majesty of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.”

But it was the closing set where both trios teamed that the sparks really flew. Aside from the almost Croatian sounding “Breizh Tango” (with MGT member Glenn Levesque briefly switching to mandolin) and a profoundly giddy, folk dance-informed take on Ennio Morricone’s theme from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (with MGT members Sebastien Dufour and Marc Morin switching to charango and accordion, respectively), the collaboration focused on music from “In a Landscape.” And, musically, the resulting landscape was vast and varied.

Lesque’s “New Horizons” possessed a reserved, cinematic grace with a chattering percussive foundation while CGT mainstay Hideyo Moriya offered the dark textures and fierce, rolling tempos of the original “Fortune Island” (along with a stark spoken intro explaining his personal investment in the song’s inspiration that brought immediate quiet to the audience).

Both trios have reputations for mutating cover material to fit their string-savvy means. Here, there did so again, but in very respectful fashion with a serene yet modestly melancholy version of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” and a faithful, show-closing update of the David Bowie staple “Space Oddity.” Both tunes added strong vocal leads from  Levesque, to make this adventurous six-man guitar squad part fusion band, part pop/folk group and part classical ensemble. The blending of those traits, along with the trios’ wonderfully disparate onstage personalities, made the program something of a boundless guitar joyride.



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