Can you determine the sex of the artist just by listening? Candy Dulfer sure had me fooled when I first heard her playing saxophone. (Was it David Sanborn or Lou Marini?) Beyond Berkeley Guitar will put you to the test as well. A collection of seven pieces, all performed on acoustic guitar by seven different artists (one or more female?), offers an attractive variety of styles and rhythms as tribute both to the instrument and the stars of Northern California and the Bay Area. We recently reviewed Lee Ritenour’s tribute to the instrument with twenty of what many consider to be the greatest guitarists currently performing, and the collection included no women. It’s nice to see women are making their mark — at least in the West!
This project began four years ago with Berkeley Guitar and showcased the work of three guitarists from Northern California. Beyond Berkeley Guitar continues with seven solo performances, all original compositions by the artists themselves. None of these seven appeared on the first CD. Each has their own take on the instrument and submit their compositions to evoke different moods and emotions.
When we attend the opera, I seldom pay attention to the lyrics. Though I do not speak Italian, German, or any foreign languages, I enjoy the performances for the emotion and enthusiasm of the singers. Here, too, as I listen for the various themes of the compositions, there’s a certain thrill to experience the performance by the composer.
The seven artists, in no particular order, are: Lucas Boilon, Aaron Sheppard, Ava Mendoza, Richard Osborn, Sean Smith, Trevor Healy, and Chuck Johnson. Song titles relate to the sounds and feelings evoked by the music; for example, “A Dream of Distant Summer” and “Wrapped in Water” made me feel like lying in the grass watching the clouds on a hot afternoon or being surrounded by free-flowing, crystal-clear water respectively. “The Transmigration of the Old West” begins with a dark and foreboding atmosphere, suddenly stops, then resumes with a more upbeat tempo and a faster paced melody; it goes from serious to smiling in just a few bars. It reminded me of the contrasting moods in the musical Oklahoma!
This collection of artists represent a cultural as well as sexual cross section, presenting a range of styles from “finger-picking,”, “free raga,” “American primitive,” to gentle playing influenced by rock experience. Liner notes describe the playing style of Ava Medoza, the woman in the group, as “wiley and highly technical.” Whatever label is attached to her playing, it’s alright with me. Her track was one of my favorites on the CD.
Would I buy Beyond Berkeley Guitar? Yes! Disappointed that I missed the first album, but Amazon can fix that.