Guitar Heroes

Guitar Heroes

Now available in discrete multi-channel surround SACD as well as the CD recording! 2005 Grammy Award Winner for Best Classical Crossover Album

The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet—John Dearman, Bill Kanengiser, Scott Tennant and Andrew York—has established itself as a state-of-the-art and classical guitar ensemble, mastering the classics and at the same time exploring a wide range of world and Latin musics, as evidenced in their Grammy nominated 2002 release, LAGQ Latin. Their latest release finds them returning to their roots, paying tribute to a range of artists representing styles as diverse as jazz, bluegrass, rock and flamenco. Guitar Heroes, the quartet’s new album on Telarc, is a collective thank-you to those artists who inspired them to pick up the guitar.

“The heroes generally fall into three camps: rock, jazz and finger style,” according to the liner notes by Diane Krieger. “The quartet’s extrapolations, however, remain stubbornly none-of-the-above. This is label-defying new music—the systematic rethinking of a dozen guitar legends commissioned, composed or arranged by and for LAGQ. The pantheon includes Frank Zappa, Hendrix and Michael Hedges; Pat Metheny, Django Reinhart and John McLaughlin; Steve Howe and Ralph Towner; Chet Atkins, Norman Blake and David Bromberg.”

Nearly all of the thirteen tracks on LAGQ’s Guitar Heroes were either arranged, written or commissioned expressly for this project—by members of the quartet in some cases, and by outside sources in others. The program opens with the familiar “Icarus,” the new-age anthem of the ‘70s originally penned by fingerstylist Ralph Towner of the group Oregon. Augmented by African and Brazilian percussion instruments, the LAGQ rendition of “Icarus” immediately takes on a world-music dimension.

“B&B” is Andrew York’s tribute to the bluegrass fingerpickers Norman Blake and David Bromberg. The two-part piece features double-bass accompaniment by Ben Levine, who provides a steady foundation for the arpeggiated guitar parts swirling around it. “Letter from Home,” composed by jazz great Pat Metheny, highlights LAGQ’s lyric side with a sumptuous and expressive rendition of this heartfelt ballad.

Other noteworthy tracks include “Aire para un Dia (Mood for a Day),” Kanengiser’s flamenco re-interpretation of a piece originally penned in the early ‘70s by Yes frontman Steve Howe; and Matthew Dunne’s “Gypsy Flower,” a multi-styled tribute to jazz pioneer Django Reinhart, with elements of contemporary jazz, “Hot Club” swing, and Reinhart’s sweetly melancholy side.

“Lament and Wake,” written by Evan Hirschelman, is a tribute to new-age guitar innovator Michael Hedges. The piece is a fusion of classical and heavy metal that employs slap harmonics, right-hand tapping, two-hand picking and various other pyrotechnics made famous by Hedges, who died in 1997.

“Let’s Be Frank” was written by Bryan Johanson and inspired by the irreverent genius Frank Zappa. A mini-suite set in five movements, the piece includes such Zappa-isms as serial atonality, bebop fugues, and comic opera funk. The album closes with “Blue Ocean Echo/Country Gentleman,” a melding of two classic tunes by Chet Atkins; the quartet captures Atkins’ wit and humor by doing an uncanny acoustic imitation of an echo machine, and whipping out the slides to sound like pedal steel guitars.

Guitar Heroes is LAGQ’s tribute to the great players who inspired the quartet—as individuals and as a group—to reach the level of acclaim that they themselves have achieved. More than just a tribute album, though, it’s a snapshot of four innovators who are in turn inspiring the next generation of young guitar players.

Reviews:
“A great concept and a grand conceit… the astonishing virtuosity of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet's playing makes believers of everyone and the astounding reality of the sound of Telarc's recording makes everyone believe that they are sitting in the same room.” -- All Music Guide