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Nylon strings notwithstanding, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet has long outgrown the pigeonhole of "classical ensemble". None of the group's members grew up exactly steeped in the classics. Bill Kanengiser fantasized in his youth about being lead guitarist for the rock band Yes. John Dearman taught himself to play by memorizing Chet Atkins tunes off the phonograph. Andrew York fronted bop, fusion, pop, funk, dance, and grunge bands before he ever gave classical a serious thought. Even child prodigy Scott Tennant grooved to flamenco.
In other words, LAGQ's folk roots run deep. And therein lies the idea behind this album. In a fit of collective introspection, the players set out to play homage to the "guitar heroes" of their youth, virtuosos who guided the quartet's musical journey across a quarter century.
The heroes generally fall into three camps: rock, jazz, and fingerstyle. The quartet's extrapolations, however, remain stubbornly none-of-the-above. This is label-defying new music - the systematic rethinking of a dozen guitar legends commissioned, composed, or arranged by and for the LAGQ. The pantheon includes Zappa, Hendrix, and Michael Hedges; Pat Metheny, Django Reinhardt, and John McLaughlin; Steve Howe and Ralph Towner; Chet Atkins, Norman Blake, and David Bromberg.
The LAGQ's Tennant, York, Dearman, and Kanengiser never met these gazetted heroes. But a handful of heroes closer to home also have a place on this album: early mentors and role models like Pepe Romero and the Romeros Quartet, the Assad's Duo, and, in Andrew York's case, his own guitarist father.
1. Icarus (Ralph Towner/arr. Kanengiser)
NORMAN BLAKE AND DAVID BROMBERG:
2. B & B (Andrew York)
3. We Know You Know: Reverie for Mahavishnu (Brian Head)
4. Pluck, Strum, and Hammer (Bryan Johanson)
5. Letter from Home (Pat Metheny/arr. Mark Small)
6. Uarekena (Sergio Assad)
7. Aire para un Dia (Steve Howe/arr. Kanengiser)
8. Gypsy Flower (Matthew Dunne)
9. Pop (Andy York)
10. El Baile de Luis Alonso (Jeronimo Gimenez/arr. Pepe Romero)
11. Lament and Wake (Evan Hirschelman)
12. Let's Be Frank (Bryan Johanson)
13. Blue Echo/Country Gentleman (Chet Atkins, Boudleaux Bryant/arr. Kanengiser)