Ryo Kawasaki

E: Relaxing Guitar Solo

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For his latest release, superb guitarist Ryo Kawasaki treats listeners to an album of solo acoustic guitar. There are many different sources for the material he has selected, including Antonio Carlos Jobim, Duke Ellington, and Stevie Wonder, as well as his own composing pen. But there is a thread common to all the tunes: each is given a virtuoso performance by Kawasaki. Whether it be a strutting rendition of Los Lobos member Cesar Rosas' "Cancion del Mariachi" or a cleanly strummed "There Must Be an Angel," Kawasaki seems determined to keep matters simple, avoiding heavy chordal smears. This technique allows each note to come through with stunning clarity, allowing one to enjoy it individually, as well a piece of the musical phrase of which it is a part. It's hard to believe that Kawasaki is using an acoustic guitar -- Spanish made, nylon stringed -- given how seamless his playing is. There are very few of those clunks and plunks one often hears from the non-amped instrument. Another thread common to the music on this CD is that all of it is unabashedly beautiful. On the John Lennon/Paul McCartney "Michelle," Kawasaki engages in delicate improvising above the melody line, engaging in a call and response technique with himself. Or on a subtlety lilting "Corcovado," where clear lines dominate both the melody and extemporization. It will be difficult to find a recent solo guitar album that is as satisfying as this one is. Highly recommended.

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