When Bola Sete's widow Anna issued Ocean Memories, a series of solo recordings made in 1972, it marked the first time his sophisticated solo guitar music had been on CD. The music that appears here was recorded ten years later and issued on the Dancing Cat label. It is the only known recording of Sete playing solo with a steel-string guitar. The two suites that make up this recording are, frankly, on another level entirely than virtually anything else the guitarist issued in his lifetime. His fusion of Brazilian, classical, flamenco, jazz, and numerous folk styles was unprecedented and remains unmatched. Here, while sitting in a full lotus position, Sete moves through an astonishing array of techniques and nuances of expression that make the sound of the guitar literally float, suspended outside the time-space continuum. His aren't seemingly flashy techniques, but most guitarists wouldn't even attempt them. Often utilizing bossa nova and samba chord progressions to initiate an improvisation on a theme, he will slide through cascading minor keys (as on "Morning Rises Through the Mist") to find a place to embellish them by augmentation, suspension, and even diminishment, distilling a pattern to its essence before stretching it back out again, ending in an otherworldly counterpoint to his original premise. No cut offers a greatest example of this than the title piece, which Sete begins as a nocturne in E minor in the Spanish style before stretching it to a minor; once he establishes a rhythmic and syntactic pattern on the sixth, he constructs a bridge to an augmented ninth and folds in everything he's played thus far, before tearing it back down to a skeletal whisper of a theme. For guitar students and fans or not, Shambhala Moon is quite simply among the most inspired examples of passionate and technically brilliant guitar playing in the recorded history of the instrument. This reissue --with great notes by Ann and George Winston -- is a fitting tribute to Sete's underappreciated genius.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek