Gramophone, William Yeoman
If, like me, you usually find anything more than two classical guitars a transgression of good taste and a guitar orchestra a complete abomination, this surprising new release from the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet will force you to revise your opinions.
Formed while its original members (of which two remain) were students at the Royal Northern College of Music, the AGQ is an award-winning ensemble that can easily stand alongside the likes of the excellent LA Guitar Quartet, whose 2007 release “LAGQ Brazil” (Telarc) perhaps inspired the younger quartet’s own “Spirit of Brazil” (it’s worth noting that the AGQ has received instruction from LA Guitar Quartet member Scott Tennant).
Whereas the LAGQ’s “Brazil” also features the talents of São Paulo-born jazz vocalist and composer Luciana Souza, Flautist Katisse Buckingham and percussionist Kevin Ricard to bring some extra colour and variety to the mix, the AGQ goes it alone, imitating percussion instruments such as the quica where necessary and generally having a ball. Listen to the compelling groove in the vibrant opening Bluezilian by Clarice Assad, daughter of Sergio of Assad Brothers fame (who is also represented here with his evocative Uarekena), or the sensitive, improvisatory phrasing in the moving Gismonti duet Memória e Fado which ends the disc.
Then there are gems such as the successful arrangements of Villa-Lobos’s Bacbianas Brasileiras No 5 by former Aquarelle member Richard Safhill, and the incredible six-movement Brésils by Roland Dyens, in which the AGQ manage convincingly to sound like an Amazonian rainforest and a marching band at the Carnival de Rio. Guitarquartetphobes – your cure has arrived!