Being quite a fan of world music, I have seen many Latin guitar instrumental groups. I find I tend to either really like them a lot or really dislike them a lot. Because I play guitar myself, I'm generally predisposed to enjoying these sorts of groups but I have heard many that I find bland, unexciting and self-indulgent. I'd compare it to how I feel about most "Smooth Jazz", pleasant in the short-term, but with no edge, passion or real emotion being conveyed. The lack of vocals also can contribute to this coldness. There may be some excellent playing, but if there's no emotional connection, there's no point to it all. So when I heard that the group "Incendio" was a replacement booking at Russ and Julie's House Concerts, and that they played "World Fusion Guitar", I wasn't sure what to think. But because Becky likes this kind of music even more than I do and because Russ and Julie's glowing recommendation is something I know I always can trust, I decided we should go check out "Incendio". What a good move!
So we arrived at the concert just as the doors opened, with our treats in hand for the potluck appetizer/dessert table as always. The room was already almost full but we found a couple of pretty good seats, greeted our hosts and nibbled a bit. The crowd seemed to skew even older than usual, hardly anyone looked under 40. "Incendio" took the stage. I later found out that the band sometimes plays with a drummer and a percussionist, but in this intimate setting they consisted of the core trio, acoustic guitarists Jim Stubblefield and JP Durand and 5 string electric bassist Liza Carbe, who also played classical acoustic guitar on several songs. As the band launched into its first number a couple of things were immediately apparent. These guys could really play and their sound was anything but stereotypical Latin guitar noodling. And, while the other players were excellent, JP Durand seemed to be the "straw that stirs the drink", so to speak.
The opening numbers were inspired by visits to Barcelona and Edinborough. The Barcelona song, whose name I never heard, was Latin-sounding as you might expect but featured a guitar solo by JP where his guitar sounded just like a piano. Now that by itself is hardly noteworthy, these days junior high kids can afford the gizmos that make this possible. But never have I heard a guitar player adjust his technique to the extent that the attack and decay, and the voicings all sounded like a piano would. Its hard for me to convey just how difficult what he did was! The Edinborough inspired song, "St. Margaret's Tears", was more Celtic in flavor and the next tune, "Illumination", written by Jim, was Middle Eastern sounding and had a solo by JP that this time recreated the sound of an organ.
The set continued with Liza putting down her bass and playing a classical acoustic guitar on a couple of numbers. First a Peruvian waltz, whose different meter was a change of pace and then "Lightdancer", a bouncy, jazzy song. From there we were treated to a very classical medieval sounding piece that was very contrapuntal and whose name I missed. The band closed the set with a Venezuelan inspired "Malaga Sunset" which was quiet and very pretty and then "Rhythm of the Heart" which reminded me of the California Guitar Trio, a favorite act of ours and a wonderful band to be compared to.
Well here we were at intermission, and we had already "travelled the world" while sitting in Russ and Julie's living room! And intermission at Russ and Julie's means eating as much chocolate as our consciences would allow and mingling with some very friendly people. It can be almost as much fun as the music and we made the most of it!
The second set began with another light bouncy tune, "Rambla Pacifica", which featured some very syncopated riffs. The next tune,a tango whose name I also never caught, featured an "accordion" sound on JP's first solo, an impressive bass solo by Lisa, and then another "piano" sounding solo that was very tasty. Lisa again made the switch from bass to classical acoustic guitar for the next tune, another slow beautiful waltz called "Haunted".
The night was beginning to wind down but we still had some musical "traveling" in store for us, first "One Night in Monaco" for more of the European taste followed by the classical-sounding "Espiritu". Lisa then moved back to bass for the closing "Temple of the Sun", a samba that featured an excellent jazzy "piano" sounding solo from JP and the only sound effect that I thought didn't really work well, a "steel drum" sound that was a little bit hokey-sounding. But that was only a minor "bump in the road" in a night of amazing guitar work with a real variety of sound and flavors from around the world. The crowd loved it all, responding with a standing ovation. And I ended up going home that night VERY glad I had chosen to see "Incendio" and chalked up another great success to Russ and Julie. These folks never let us down!
Here's a link for "Incendio":