If you were to judge last night’s perfectly wondrous joint performance from the California Guitar Trio and the Montreal Guitar Trio at Natasha’s by its first set, you would swear each group hailed from opposing universes of style and performance temperament. The beauty of such as an estimation, though, was that it turned out to be at least partly correct.
The first set was where each trio played separately. The MGT, which was making its Lexington debut, opted for a physical and percussive command that veered off into world music accents of flamenco drive, Latin lyricism and Eastern European fancy that culminated with the raga-like drama and texture of Garam Masala.
The CGT, a near-annual visitor to local venues for over a decade, again appeared relaxed and unassuming but used its five-song introduction last night to sail effortlessly through surf, Bach, originals rich with compositional finesse and its now-popular mash up of the cowboy classic Ghost Riders in the Sky with The Doors’ epic swansong hit Riders on the Storm, aptly dubbed Ghost Riders on the Storm. The seemingly disparate melodies meshed as readily as the medley’s title.
The latter piece seemed to preview the game plan of the second set, where the two trios played as a sextet. The differences in technique were spelled out in the combined group’s very design.
CGT members Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya all stuck exclusively to acoustic guitars while the MGT players frequently switched to electric bass and accordion (Marc Morin), charango (Sebastien Dufour) and mandolin (Glenn Levesque). The combination transformed the high-spirited Breizh Tango into a Greek dance, Penguin Café Orchestra’s Perpetuum Mobile into a minimalist meditation and Radiohead’s Weird Fishes into a folk-prog séance that left artists and audience with a few beats of glorious silence at its conclusion before applause erupted.
The show closing treatment of Ennio Morricone’s theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly even went so far as to combine arrangements the trios have recorded on their own – one studied and introspective, the other more openly buoyant. It was a blissful union of two guitar groups united in senses of playfulness and discovery.