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July/August 2016 Short Takes

Geordie Little "A Journey into Seahorse Valley" 2016 Australian Geordie Little has released several solo recordings, was previously half of the guitar duo Little Spencer, and now makes his living as a street musician and concert performer. Upon first listen I was intrigued by the dialogues Little created with the percussionists on this recording. Wrong. Checking out his YouTube channel, particularly "Geordie Little Live at the Jade 2015," I was surprised to see that he's both guitarist and drummer - on one instrument. Little plays various nylon string guitars in both upright position and lap style and gets an incredible amount of sound from these little guys. He emphasizes groove, which is to say that chords and melody are strongly present, but rhythm is their master. The CD's program of eleven tunes leaves the impression of a long, thematically coherent suite, as does the aforementioned concert video. Highlights are "A Collection of Short Stories," "Eight in One," and "Last Three Words." Recommended. © Patrick Ragains

Vance Gilbert "The Nearness of You" 2015 Every review on Minor7th of a Vance Gilbert record (and I've done three and interviewed Gilbert with Ellis Paul) has praised the performer's prodigious skills. These are on good display -- with the exception of songwriting -- on his latest release, The Nearness of You," an album of standards. And, indeed, Gilbert brings himself closer to the listener by paring down to vocals and guitar, recorded live (with one notable exception). His warm, relaxed tenor sounds great on songs like "When Sonny Gets Blue" and "Mas, que Nada!" His guitar work shines in very swinging versions of "Ain't Misbehavin" and "I'm Beginning to See the Light," complete with solos and some scat singing in the latter. Players should listen to the thumb work in "I'll Buy You the Moon." Gilbert's song interpretation skills make "For the Good Times" sound right in place next to the other standards. Along with all of that, Gilbert unleashes a new talent with an impressive mouth-trumpet solo on "'Round Midnight"- the only overdub on the recording. This is the record Gilbert has longed to make since training to be a jazz singer. He's gone full circle to create a very intimate and listenable portrait of his relationship to that music. © David Kleiner

Rupert Boyd "Fantasias" 2015 Australian classical guitarist Rupert Boyd, on his new CD entitled Fantasias, has handpicked several musical "fantasies" from several epochs into one solo guitar collection. Whether the CD title or repertoire came first is unknown, but appropriately included are "Fantasie" by John Dowland (1563-1626), "Fantasia in A minor" by Legnani (1790-1877), "Fantasia on Verdi's La Traviata" by Julián Arcas (1832-1882) and Byron Yasui's present-day "Fantasy on a Hawaiian Lullabye." Not only are the compositions culled from several different centuries from over a 400 year period, but the album program is spread across multiple regions of the world (sounds like an H.G. Wells novel…). The recording took place in an English church and one can almost see the smile of satisfaction and approval on God's face as if in validation of Boyd's flawless technique and expressive interpretation. Fantasia is a "must hear" experience for the avid classical guitar audience. Hop into that time and space machine along with Sherman and Mr. Peabody to explore these sonic fantasies through time. You won't be disappointed. © Mark Bayer

Adam Michael Rothberg "Soul of a Man" 2015 Adam Michael Rothberg's third full CD release, Soul of a Man, offers a pleasing mix of pop ("Crazy for Me "and "Only Human"), contemplative and lyrical songs ("Gonna Be Fine" and "Lullaby") and even a touch of bluegrass ("The Guitar Song"), all produced and recorded with exceptional skill allowing Rothberg's many talents to come to the forefront. He channels songwriters like Greg Brown, Cliff Eberhardt and Paul McCartney throughout. Ironically, the highlight here is Rothberg's dark and, dare I say soulful, cover of the oft-recorded Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul of a Man." The title track reveals a brief flash of another side Rothberg's talent and leaves me hoping he follows this path fully at some in the future. © James Filkins

Bill Phillippe "Parade" 2016 If young Tom Waits grew up in the Mississippi Delta, developed a fascination for the New Orleans vibe as well as the classic bluesmen from the region, he may have evolved into present-day Bill Phillippe as he emerges on his most recent CD, Parade. Perhaps not, but it's interesting to note that the creaky-voiced guitarist closes his 11-track collection with a Waits composition, "Take It With Me." It's really the only track not penned by Phillippe here, and his arrangement makes it feel as it could be one of his own. Phillippe employs the fine work of clarinetist Ivor Holloway, bassist Sten Hendrickson and accordionist Glenn Hartman to create a moody, reflective atmosphere as he shares his take on life's unending parade. Phillippe, based in San Francisco, covered New Orleans funk for 10 years with his band before turning his musical explorations toward acoustic blues in 2012. That journey resulted in a CD, Ghosts. Part 2 of that journey has emerged as Parade. One hopes there's room for a trilogy in Phillippe's sojourn. © Fred Kraus

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