For those who've never heard of him, classical guitarist Ben Kunin makes his main living as a teacher of the sarod as well as Hindustani music theory at a school founded by legendary Indian musician and sarodist Ali Akbar Khan. However, Kunin's abilities on the nylon-stringed guitar are truly out of the ordinary, as evidenced by his debut on the Communion label. These "acoustic adventures" are exactly those journeys into spectral sound where Western classical, folk, and Hindustani traditions meet. Notions of time, harmony, mode, and interval are stretched to the point of blessed-out blur -- check the gorgeous drones that becomes arpeggio exercises in whole-tone improvisation on "A Minor Key" and "Meditation of the Heart." This playing is not merely expert, it feels divinely inspired as he travels some of the same territory that Robbie Basho and John Fahey before him have, but Kunin turns all of his notions and ideas about both Hindustani and Western diatonic scales inside out, seeking the perfect meshing together, as on "Ghost Story" and "The Crossing." Kunin plays with the transcendent freedom that all great musicians do, but channels his influences and theories into a music that is not only thoroughly accessible to anyone with the ears to listen, but so spiritually, emotionally, and archetypically sophisticated as to be in a category all by itself. For those who have been inspired and expanded by the Takoma players -- Fahey, Basho, Peter Lang, and early Leo Kottke -- this disc will serve you well and may even blow your mind because, in its stark contrast to those records, it nonetheless conveys the same spirit of adventure, quest, and exploratory chops with grace and elegance. A gem.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek