Stream of Gratitude

Gyan Riley

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Stream of Gratitude Review

by Stephen Eddins

Composer Gyan Riley described his album, Stream of Gratitude, as consisting "entirely of material composed for and dedicated to individuals and entities who have influenced my musical experience over the years, and to whom I am forever grateful." The dedicatees include composers like J.S. Bach and John Dowland, and more modern guitarist/composers like John McLaughlin, Egberto Gismonti, Agustin Barrios Mangoré, and Zoran Dukic. Sometimes the homage is immediately evident, as in the contrapuntal Fugue movement of Stream of Gratitude for J.S. Bach, but in the suite's other movements the influence can be very subtle. Riley's compositions, especially the slower ones, frequently have relaxed, improvisational character. In the faster movements, it's clearer how carefully worked out they are. Riley's style in Stream of Gratitude and Four Etudes is not exactly tonal, but there is a fleeting succession of key centers that give the music a sense of familiarity and accessibility. Zonata has a more conventional tonality and an appealing spacious lyricism. Irican has a driving, pop-influenced rhythmic momentum. Riley is a genuine virtuoso, and although his music often pushes the limits of guitar technique (most spectacularly in "Trillémolo" from Four Etudes), he always plays with stylish grace. The album should appeal to fans of new music, particularly new music for guitar. The sound of Tzadik's CD is warm and intimate without being too close, and it's nicely resonant.

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