The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, the Grammy-winning ensemble that has spent the past quarter century extracting brilliant music from a rich and organic stew of stylistic and cultural perspectives, takes an eclectic ride with the release of LAGQ Spin. The album marks the third Telarc recording for guitarists John Dearman, Bill Kanengiser, Scott Tennant and Andrew York, the innovative foursome collectively known as LAGQ.
The album title comes from a piece composed by York, who took his initial inspiration from a line of poetry written by a friend: “Let love spin you around and around…” York was suddenly aware of the various and diverse meanings of the word “spin.” In the most literal sense, an object can be set spinning on its axis. A storyteller might spin a tale. A spider spins a web. A deejay spins records. In the world of physics, quantum mechanics dictate the spin of subatomic particles.
In that same sense, LAGQ likes to “spin” together a variety of pieces and ideas in their programs—a kind of free flow of the creative spirit that founding quartet member William Kanengiser calls “a boiling pot” from which “new concoctions are extracted.” Spin provides not just a selection of recent pieces from the quartet’s repertory—most of them composed specifically for the ensemble—but also offers a view of the musical world as seen through the kaleidoscope of LAGQ.
“We’ve had four or five recordings in a row that were essentially theme records—either with the idea of world music, or Latin music, or the guitar heroes tribute,” says Kanengiser. “It just seemed like time for us to do something that didn’t box us into a predetermined over-arching theme, but rather something where we could mix it up a little bit and go wherever we wanted to go.”
with: Colin Currie -- percussion
That journey begins with Kanengiser’s “Turn to the Sea,” [mp3 preview] a Celtic-sounding piece set in an odd meter (5/4) that gives it an unusual twist. The title of the piece is a play on words referring to the opening note played by York, who hits the open B string then turns the tuning peg to raise the note to a C. The following track, “Hidden Realm of Light,” [mp3 preview] was penned by York just a few days before it was recorded. “Andy seems to always be able to do this, practically the day before we go into the studio,” says Kanengiser, “and it always ends up being one of the freshest, coolest tracks on the record. It’s a short piece, just a little more than two minutes, but we just loved the sparkle of it.”
“Freaky Dancer,” [mp3 preview] heavily inspired by Indonesian gamelan music, is one of two tracks on the record to feature Scottish percussionist Colin Currie. “That piece has a hypnotic sonic quality and an amazing energy,” says Kanengiser. “Once it hits the fast section, about three minutes in, it just takes off. It has a minimal quality to it, but it also has an incredible groove.”
“Stairs,” [mp3 preview] by L.A.-based musician David Pritchard, is a deceptive piece in that it bears a minimal, new-age sensibility on its surface, yet is underscored by a subtle yet unmistakable rhythmic complexity. “There are moments where we have these overlapping patterns where, for every eight notes that one of us is playing, someone else is playing nine,” says Kanengiser. “There’s a beautiful energy to it.”
The five-part “Solstice Poem,” [mp3 preview] written by Grammy-winner Vince Mendoza, is what Kanengiser calls the “meat and potatoes” of the recording. “It has a heartfelt theme with some pretty jazz-inspired variations. Vince is an incredibly talented jazz composer and arranger.”
Also in the jazz vein, but in a more lighthearted sense, is “Stirfry,” [mp3 preview] penned by Dusan Bogdanovic. “I think this piece is hysterically funny,” says Kanengiser. “I hope people get the joke. It reminds me a little bit of the music from the film Sideways—jazzy, but with a sort of tongue-in-cheek approach to it.”
“For all of its eclecticism, there’s a cross-current that runs through this record,” says Kanengiser. “As always, we’re trying to see how far we can push four guitars sonically and stylistically. We recently celebrated our 25th anniversary as an ensemble, and I think the maturity we’ve gained in that time shows up on this recording.”