Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jason Vieaux. Play.

Jason Vieaux.  Play.
Azica, 2014.  Jason Vieaux:

In a dozen albums over twenty years, and hundreds of concerts throughout the world, Jason Vieaux has shown that he is one of the finest guitarists around.  In terms of repertoire he ranges from Baroque to contemporary, and sometimes into jazz and pop.  Often, his albums have focused on a specific composer (Bach, Ponce, Piazzolla, Albéniz, Pat Metheny), but here he plays a set of short pieces across the spectrum of music.  We thought we’d talk about his latest album, Play, since Vieaux teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Music (where he also studied).  Oh, and because the album has been nominated for a Grammy Award.

This album is a collection of showpieces selected from a wide variety of styles and composers, although Latin American and Spanish works predominate.  In the seventeen works here, only two composers show up twice, Agustín Barrios and Francisco Tárrega.  I don’t mind a bit, since I love Barrios’ music (by way of David Russell), and Tárrega is always a joy.  Vieaux brings out the wistful atmosphere of Tárrega while still remaining crisp and technically beyond reproach.  He continues the Latin American thread beyond Barrios through compositions by Sagreras, Brouwer, Lauro, Ponce, Bustamante, Bellinati, and Jobim.  This is indeed wide-ranging, across South and Central America, with the last two listed from Brazil.  I was particularly taken by the works by Bustamante and Lauro, which require a great deal of dexterous playing and sensitivity.  Tárrega’s Spain (although perhaps not his alone) is represented by pieces by Segovia and Sainz de la Maza.  The composition by French guitarist/ composer Dyens fits in nicely with this mix, and is a fun piece.

Vieaux brings in other materials to add different spices to the program.  The contemporary pieces by Andrew York and Stanley Myers contrast in style from the previously mentioned composers, and change up the atmosphere.  The Myers piece is the only one on the album I’m not so crazy about, but others may find it quite pleasing.  He finishes up with an arrangement of Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood,” which again, fits well with much of the feel of the rest of the album, but adds a jazz touch that is welcome as a closer.

Best of luck to Mr. Vieaux in his Grammy nomination.  This album is certainly deserving of such an honor.  I highly recommend it to all those who enjoy solo guitar music.

Personnel:  Jason Vieaux (guitar).
Tracks:  Jongo (Paulo Bellinati), El Colibri (Julio Sagreras), A Felicidade (Antônio Carlos Jobim (arranged by Roland Dyens)), “Cavatina” from The Deer Hunter (Stanley Myers), Capricho Arabe (Francisco Tárrega), Sunburst (Andrew York), Danza Caracteristica (Leo Brouwer), Tango en Skai (Roland Dyens), Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Francisco Tárrega), Las Abejas (Agustín Barrios), Estudio sin Luz (Andrés Segovia), Vals Venezolano No. 3 (Antonio Lauro), Misionera (Fernando Bustamente (arranged by Jorge Morel)), Por Ti Mi Corazon (traditional Mexican (arranged by Manuel Ponce)), Zapateado (Regino Sainz de la Maza), Vals, Op. 8, No. 4 (Agustín Barrios), In a Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington (arranged by Jason Vieaux)).

Jeff Wanser

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