Guitarist Pablo Villegas is from Spain, so he approaches all the music of the New World to some extent from the outside. This shows both in his interpretations and in his choice of repertoire, which is inventive and owes little to established schools. It's a rare Latin American guitarist who would end with a trio of ragtime/bluegrass tunes, but for Villegas it's all part of the musical picture denoted by the word Americano, which for Spanish speakers indicates the entire hemisphere. Within the realm of Latin American music, too, Villegas finds fresh stuff, much of it, like Luiz Bonfá's samba Passeio no Rio (track seven) in a semi-popular or semi-jazz vein. There are a few big pieces like Villa-Lobos' Préludes, but generally Villegas strives for geographical breadth, which leads to musical variety that he is more than able to develop to the maximum. Especially pleasing are the arrangements of three familiar tunes from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, which take each one into new territory; hear Villegas' brief but lush fantasy on Maria, and you'll never hear the original the same way again. The highest laurels of all go to Harmonia Mundi's engineers, working in New York's Westchester Studios: they achieve a natural but precise sound that gets all of the remarkable shades of sound Villegas brings to his guitar for the various traditions, without a bit of extraneous noise. An exceptionally fresh and satisfying guitar release.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|West Side Story|