CDs of Latin music for solo guitar are as common as tacos at a Mexican restaurant, and multiplications of that formula (for two, three, four, or more guitars) are hardly unusual. Many such CDs fail for basic reasons: either the music is not all that interesting, there isn't a great deal of variety built into the program, or both. Another common problem is the use of arrangements that bleed the originals of their life, or that are simply silly.
LAGQ Latin is a happy exception. The four guitarists (John Dearman, Scott Tennant, William Kanengiser, and Andrew York) don't take it for granted that listeners are uninterested in more than just the quadrupling of pretty but interchangeable sounds. The repertoire has been selected for variety and appropriateness, and the arrangements – most of them by members of the LAGQ – preserve the feel of the originals. The music remains in the foreground, rather than drifting in one ear and out the other after the first ten minutes of listening.
The focus is on classical repertoire, but the CD opens with a lovely arrangement of a tune by Sting, one-time lead singer of The Police. Fragile, written as a tribute to a friend who had been killed in Nicaragua, works beautifully when played by a guitar quartet. The song takes on added poignancy when we are reminded that Sting played it at a post 9/11 memorial concert. (This recital was recorded only three months after the attacks.)
William Kanengiser's arrangement of six selections from Bizet's Carmen is a real tour de force – one comes away from it not missing the orchestra at all, let alone the voices. Andrew York's own Syzygy (originally composed for a different guitar ensemble) is played in an arrangement that includes a flute part, here played by James Walker. Other selections include a supporting part for percussion (Fragile), and the classic flamenco palmas, or rapid clapping of hands (Sevillanas). These moments of unexpected color keep LAGQ Latin fresh and attractive.
Individually, these four players have flourishing solo careers which attest to their musical prowess. Together, their teamwork and accuracy are phenomenal. If any egotism is present backstage, there's no evidence of it on this CD.
Telarc's beautiful studio recording is warm and detailed – the best seat in the house. The digipak presentation adds to the overall attractiveness of this release. This is very enjoyable, even if you don't often find yourself gravitating towards guitar CDs.
Copyright © 2002, Raymond Tuttle