One of the finest guitar quartet recordings I’ve ever heard

One of the finest guitar quartet recordings I’ve ever heard

American Record Guide, Kenneth Keaton

When I reviewed the Aquarelle’s last release, Spirit of Brazil (J/A 2009) my praise was high, and it is even more so for this performance.

This is fine music making. The quartet— Michael Baker, Vasilis Bessas, Jame Jervis, and Rory Russell—has it all: gorgeous tone, a wide range of sounds and dynamics, rock solid time, absolute precision, inventive arrangements, expressive phrasing. The only sound they seem incapable of making is ugliness.

As you’d expect, a release called Dances is made up of dance music, but with such variety! We have music from Brazil, Macedonia, Italy, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, France, the UK, and the US. The longest work is Andy Scott’s Seven Dances and Not Looking Back, written for the quartet. The influences are jazz, Latin music, and film music; but the work somehow manages to avoid the obvious cliches. The final section, ‘Not Looking Back’, in fact looks back, with cyclic recall of the earlier movements and cadenzas for each of the players.

Catriona McKay was a fellow student at the Royal College of Music in Manchester. She is from Scotland, a harpist, and her gentle piece ‘The Swan’ has a lovely Celtic lyricism. Cuban Eduardo Martin wrote ‘Hasta Alicia Baila’ to persuade his friend Alicia to dance. One wonders how she could have remained still, hearing the infectious music. Two of the traditional works are from Macedonia, with lots of exotic sounds, harmonic treats, and percussive effects. The other two are based on music of the Chilean traditional ensemble Inti-Illimani Historico, again arranged by quartet members.

This is the real thing, folks—one of the finest guitar quartet recordings I’ve ever heard.