Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Diego Barber : "Choice " (Sunnyside Records 2011)

Generations of musicians and listeners have found inspiration and enjoyment from the guitar. The instrument, whose history spans more than a thousand years, remains a mainstay in nearly every form of music from rock to classical. Guitarist/composer Diego Barber has dedicated his life to the study of the guitar and composition. Barber views his relationship to the instrument as serendipitous, as if the guitar chose him. Barber s new Sunnyside record, The Choice, is dedicated to the guitar, which has meant so much to him and allowed him to find his own paths of musical expression. 

Through years of rigorous training and study, Barber has emerged as a prodigious talent on the classical guitar. His resolution to challenge himself and extend his musical vocabulary into jazz is an unusual choice for a classical musician. In doing so, Barber has extended his compositional voice, straddling the classical and jazz worlds. I work a lot on the forms of my music, but I am not subjected to them, expounds Barber. One may perceive a great deal from formal composition, where my intuition naturally leads, but there is always room for improvisation. Everything has to flow. Ample evidence of his command of technique and composition is displayed in his unique music. 

Originally from Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Barber spent many years studying classical guitar and composition throughout Europe. Having performed professionally in several classical settings (including his first place win at the Classical Guitar International Contest in 2004), he moved to New York City in 2007 to pursue further study of jazz. Barber s intent has been to bridge the divide between the genres.

The musical selections on The Choice are arranged in two parts: Barber s compositions for jazz ensemble and a solo guitar sonata in three movements. The musical differences between the two seem to disappear as stylistic choices unify the pieces. The music of the fully written Sonata maintains the character of his jazz compositions, displaying an ability to write moving music regardless of genre and a style that is unique to the guitarist. Barber employs fantastic musical talent to flesh out his ensemble passages, including delightful playing from bassists Larry Grenadier and Johannes Weidenmueller, drummer Ari Hoenig, and saxophonists Mark Turner and Seamus Blake. 

The ensemble pieces are structured to allow a full spectrum of color from the nylon-stringed guitar to shine alongside the conventional jazz instrumentation. Barber adds, I have given a great deal of attention to the orchestration of the instruments. We are only four, but each instrument enters and exits at deliberate moments in a constant flow... 

On The Choice, Barber focuses on the guitar and it s vast potential to express his unique musical ideas melding classical and jazz influences. The music that he creates is natural and cohesive, which has been a challenge for genre blends in the past. Barber s decision to let his guitar shine (regardless of genre) is truly a gift to listeners.

MUSICIANS : Diego Barber: guitar; Larry Grenadier: bass (2, 4, 6); Johannes Weidenmueller: bass (1, 3, 5); Ari Hoenig: drums (1-6); Mark Turner: saxophone (2, 4, 6); Seamus Blake: saxophone (3, 5).