December 03, 2010

They’ve got the world on six strings

Filed under: 2010,Archive,Music

November 27, 2010

Adelaide International Guitar Festival
November 25 – 28

The Heart of Flamenco :
Pepe de Lucia, Oscar Guzman
Roshanne Wijeyeratne
Arte Kanela
Festival Theatre
November 25.

Other Wordly Sounds:
Wolfgang Muthspiel, Dhafer Youssef
Richard Bona Group
Festival Theatre
November 26.

Adelaide Festival Centre.

The Adelaide International Guitar Festival has had a fretful history. Based on the New York Guitar Festival it began in 2007 as a ten day event with an almost bewildering range of marvelous performers.  Its ambitions exceeded its audience, however, and after the 2008 festival also went into the financial haemoglobin it was time to reconsider. Now biennial, and ably guided by Artistic  Director, guitar wiz  Slava Grigoryan,  it has been re-tuned and refocused into a four day event with a clearer sense of theme and purpose.

This was immediately evident with the opening night double bill The Heart of Flamenco featuring the master Spanish singer and composer Pepe de Lucia accompanied by renowned guitarist Oscar Guzman. The delicate restraint of Guzman’s playing, the lightness of the soundboard tapping golpe and clarity of the finger work, combined with de Lucia’s haunting mournful vocals powerfully reminded us of the archaic Byzantine and Moorish origins of this Andalusian art form. The addition of Adelaide-based dancer Roshanne Wijeyeratne completed the effortless blend of song, guitar and dance.

Sharing the program was Australian company Arte Kanela whose more familiar bravura flamenco style combines the fluently inventive guitar work of composer Richard Tedesco with the exuberant hair flying, foot stomping energy of his brother, the dancer Johnny Tedesco. The combination of the two, as Johnny moved into ever more complex rhythmic excursions, drew an enthusiastic audience response. Ole, indeed.

In the aptly named Other Worldly Sounds concert, guitar virtuosity was  matched by intriguing and versatile vocals. Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel is well known to Australian audiences both as a soloist and as a member of MGT, a trio of luminaries including Slava Grigoryan and the brilliant Ralph Towner. This time, Muthspiel’s jazz-inflected, often cerebral style has been modified and simplified by the extraordinary keening vocals and oud accompaniment of Tunisian born musician Dhafer Youssef. In an entrancing set based on their recent recording, Glow, the pair exchanged engagingly repetitive, almost Keith Jarrett-like melodies enhanced by Youssef’s hypnotic singing.

Completing the evening was the Cameroon musician Richard Bona. A highly-rated contemporary bassist, he is also a fine singer, composer and entertainer. In an up-beat set he played material from his recent, globally eclectic Ten Shades of the Blues album. Accompanied by an excellent band including French guitarist Jean Christopher Maillard and New York trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt, Bona mixed Afro-beat and Indian rhythms in Shiva Mantra, sang tenderly of his Mbemba Mama, improvised intricate vocal overdubs and treated the audience to some Weather Report period Jaco Pastorius – showing us, without a hint of hubris, that he is a worthy successor to the great jazz fusion bassist.

Murray Bramwell

“They’ve got the world on six strings” The Australian, November 29, 2010, p.21.

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