Review: Latin Café Guitars Alive Quartet (formerly known as Guitars Alive Trio)
Review by: classicalguitarcanada.ca

One of the things I love about this recording is hearing classical guitarist Philip Candelaria switch musical vibes and let loose. I just met with him a few months ago and thought he was a super nice guy. He’s had a long and interesting musical career so I had a great time talking with him. I’ve heard Candelaria on a few Canadian Guitar Quartet albums as well the G8 Guitar Ensemble but here he explores a completely different kind of collaboration. Joined by electric guitarist Gary DiSalle, acoustic guitarist Paul Dunn and bassist Tom Linklater, this album is filled with a vibe reminiscent of Lucía/McLaughlin/Di Meola but with a really nice filling out of the lower register and a groovier and more laid back feel to the album.

The music selection is a mix of Latin tunes will a jazzy feel with some original compositions by DiSalle. Each player has something to contribute to the mix. DiSalle offers the sustaining lines that only electric guitar can pull off. He also has some nice bluesy material here and there. Dunn offers everything from great chording to slide and a brighter sounding upper register that has a glassy shimmer. Candelaria adds something that I really appreciated on the album: figuration in the accompaniments that offered a level of compositional complexity to the texture. The lines that classical players come up with sound a bit different than those of steel-string players and the mix of the three styles is quite pleasing.

The album offers something that strictly composed music can’t usually offer: a causal flow and relaxed groove. Some of the material sounds very worked out and some completely improvised. Classical players will enjoy the album for it’s lighter feel and mixed instrumental texture (much less mid-tone-mud compared to three classical guitars). General guitarists out there will simply enjoy the different ideas, colours, and personalities that come out in the music.

It’s a bit weird for me to hear the electric guitar in there but it does actually blend quite well and, of course, contrasts well. I might have personally enjoyed the sound of an all acoustic group but at the same time I do really like the personality and contrasting sound of DiSalle. The album is fairly light so I recommend we get over that and enjoy it for what it is. It’s a really fun album in the sense that you never know what kind of sound will emerge from the texture.

Conclusion:

A fun album filled with groovy tunes, a few cookers, and some beautiful slower tunes as well. The playing is solid but also filled with the personalities of each player. Their ideas and influences become clear as you listen and you’ll start to identify with each player. This is not as easily done in the more uniform aesthetic of the all classical guitar ensemble.

A groovy album of Latin music sure to charm listeners of all kinds. Nice one!