California Guitar Trio
To anyone familiar with the distinctive music of the California Guitar Trio, please bear with me a moment. You have heard this appeal before. But if you have yet to indulge in the wonderfully unclassifiable sounds of three acoustic guitarists, all with astounding technique, as they navigate through everything from folk to classical to jazz to prog to movie/TV themes and more, all with a bounty of engaging, original material leading the charge and served with unassuming humility, … well, please forgive what might seem like a redundant appeal.
Simply put, this trio is one of those rare musical experiences that can be heartily recommended to anyone. Their music is that original, that entertaining and that appealing in its stylistic scope.
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The trio — Utah native Paul Richards, Belgian-born Bert Lams and Japanese native Hideyo Moriya — has visited Lexington and Central Kentucky venues on a near-annual basis for more than a decade. But sometimes it takes a little discussion to fully outline what unsuspecting patrons will be in for at a CGT show.
In terms of musicianship, the three continually dazzle. But their demeanor is deceptively casual. There is no undue drama in the presentation of their music. They have worked together as a group for 25 years, and their technique is matched splendidly by their sense of intuition. Much of that comes from initial studies with veteran British guitarist Robert Fripp. Watching Richards, Lams and Moriya engage in a Bach’s Prelude Circulation is very much akin to eavesdropping on a conversation. The give-and-take among the three in such a setting is astounding.
Then there is the repertoire. That has long been the most accessible selling point of a CGT performance and perhaps a key to its broad audience appeal. On any given night, the trio might offer an Argentine folk tune (Chacarera), a cherished movie theme (Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly), an extended slice of vintage prog (Pink Floyd’s Echoes), a serving of time-crunched jazz (Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk), established rock ’n’ roll (Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, usually with encouraged audience participation) and a mash-up of the cowboy classic Ghost Riders in the Sky and The Doors’ Riders on the Storm (which the CGT dubs Ghost Riders in the Storm).
But the CGT is far from a jukebox. Original works have long fortified their catalogue, including Train to Lamy, a staple suite of the trio’s live shows that shifts from slide-enhanced drama to animated hoedown to border-town reflection, and the lovely requiem/reflection Eve.
Richards, Lams and Moriya return to the region for two performances beginning this weekend.
On Sunday, the three play perhaps the most modest room on their touring schedule: the Kentucky Coffeetree Café in Frankfort. The trio has long favored the venue’s unavoidable intimacy over the years. Lams, in fact, performed there with Italian guitarist Fabio Mittino as recently as January. Given the limited seating capacity for the performance, a visit to the Café’s website for ticket availability is highly encouraged.
Monday brings a return visit to WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Lyric Theatre with blues harmonica ace Sugar Blue. A word on the latter: Blue is an artist with an astounding dossier that includes credits on three Rolling Stones albums and numerous associations with jazz and blues greats Art Blakey, Willie Dixon, Lionel Hampton and B.B. King. In addition to being featured in the new blues documentary Sideman: A Long Road to Glory, Blue will issue his first new recording in five years, Voyage, in late April.