California Guitar Trio wsg Fareed Hague 3.20.11

Word By Zach Zeidner
Photos By Greg Molitor
(ReMIND Photography)

The Ark – Ann Arbor, Michigan

When seeing a show at The Ark, there’s a certain feeling of intimacy that accommodates the show. With a capacity of approximately one hundred and fifty people, The Ark holds a reputation for providing its audience with a unique chance to feel personalized accessibility to its performing artist. You know from the venue’s ambiance that any performing act will bring its utmost professionalism to the table. This is demonstrated time and time again as I continue to see various acts at this solemn venue.

As we entered the Ark and took our seats for what seemed to be a sold out show, we waited for the lights to dim and the music to begin. The bill was California Guitar Trio (CGT) with special guest guitarist Fareed Haque. I thought Fareed was a part of the CGT at first, but after fifteen minutes of waiting, the lead guitarist of the CGT, Paul Richards, came out and introduced Fareed. He expressed his gratitude and admiration for the master guitarist and explained what an absolute privilege it was to have him perform with them. Fareed then took the stage and began to tune his guitar.

After informing the audience that he would be using his signature Moog guitar, he enlightened us with information about the instrument while he tuned. As Fareed began to play, he provided spacious background tones as he demonstrated the unique abilities of the Moog. He continually built a layer of tones to which he then explored small modal jazz lines in between the spacious background. As Fareed continued with his improvisations, he demonstrated his virtuosity on the guitar as he seamlessly explored tones and notes that came together to provide an almost hypnotic solo jam. He finished the jam, and the audience erupted in clapping and cheers.

Fareed then started clapping his hands and encouraged the audience to join in and do the same. Fareed showed a unique Eastern influence in his music during this tune, and as he sang the notes and counted the rhythms, he began to play modal guitar lines that recalled the structural complexity of improvisation associated with sitar playing in Indian/Pakistani music. As he ripped through scales flawlessly, the audience lost the ability to keep up. At the moment where Fareed realized the audience had lost the beat, he ended the improvisation.

Fareed then continued with the Coltrane standard, “Naima”, which is a beautiful ballad composed by Coltrane for the infamous album Giant Steps. Fareed impeccably articulated the composed section of the piece as his soulful interpretation shined beautifully through his intense rhythmic and modally-driven solos. It was apparent that Fareed is well-versed in the language of Mr. John Coltrane. This reminded me of John McLaughlin as he was truly the first musician to implement the musical theory of Coltrane on the guitar. Fareed ultimately provided substantiation of his virtuosic Jazz abilities as he faultlessly completed the piece.

Fareed’s next move was to his acoustic guitar. Playing three classical pieces as a subtly contradicting compliment to the three jazzy pieces he had played prior, he then showcased different aspects of improvisation based around the classical genre. Fareed’s ability to show both his jazz and classical chops at The Ark reinforced his true virtuosic aptitude that left many in the audience bewildered. As he finished his classical pieces, it was easy to understand why a band such as the CGT would emulate a musician of this caliber.

After a brief intermission, the California Guitar Trio came out and introduced itself. The band consisted of Paul Richards of Salt Lake City, Utah, Bert Lams of Brussels, Belgium, and Hideyo Moriya of Tokyo, Japan. They opened the show with a couple originals that verified the unique abilities that each member brought to the table. The varying styles seemed to correspond with where the musicians grew up. Paul Richards demonstrated a more rock-oriented, Americana influence in his guitar playing, Bert Lams held a classical European style of playing that added complex classical undertones, and Hideyo Moriya complimented the trio with Eastern influences. The latter, Hideyo Moriya, explored the scale structures of classical oriental music, adding distant yet accessible chord structures that held the music together. Their originals held a communal rhythmic melody that kept the centripetal aspect of the music in line and provided enough room for these qualities to take the spotlight as each member led the tunes in different directions with their solos.

After a couple songs, the band explained a method called “circulation” which was taught to them by guitarist Robert Fripp. In “circulation”, one member plays the first note; the next player then plays that note in succession, and so on with the third player. This continues throughout the piece, and if done correctly, the piece should sound like a Fugue. CGT then played a beautifully mind-blowing rendition of a Bach Fugue. The timing and precision of the players were put to the test yet they all seemed to effortlessly fly through the intensely complex polymelodic piece with ease. After another original, the CGT then played an incredible instrumental rendition of “Echoes” by Pink Floyd. This was a spot-on cover; from the lyrical solos to the precise tones used by Pink Floyd, everything was flawless. As someone who knows this composition by heart, witnessing the guitar trio perform it to perfection left me both impressed and bewildered. Their rendition of a classic Pink Floyd tune held in regard to the beautiful Fugue showed the depth of this collective’s talents.

The next couple songs included accompaniment from a young violinist from the Lansing Symphony Orchestra. The style she added to the music allowed for a more developed sound to fill the room. Layering the background with beautiful chords, she demonstrated her technical abilities as she continuously traded lines with each guitar player, respectively. The violin added a sophisticated aspect to the music as it became force that bound the guitars together. As they transitioned through the tunes, the violinist would pluck as the chorus was repeated which complimented the guitar parts well and elaborated the overall sound of the CGT.

After a couple more pieces without the violinist, the concert was over. As the audience cheered and revered for a show well played, the members returned to the stage and invited Fareed Haque to join them for the encore. As Fareed made his way to the stage, he grabbed his acoustic guitar, and the ensemble began to play a beautiful classical piece that centered on Fareed’s playing. Each member of the CGT demonstrated their classical abilities next to the skills of Fareed Haque. After the beautiful classical piece, Fareed got on the Moog guitar as CGT invited the violinist to the stage for one more song. They then explained that the next piece they were to play was written by one of the greatest guitar players ever, John McLaughlin, and that they would be playing a Mahavishnu Orchestra piece. As soon as the first couple notes came out, I could tell it was “Dreams”. One of my favorite Mahavishnu Orchestra pieces, “Dreams” is a spacious piece with a complex bridge that accompanies a rock-driven improvisation section; this sectioned allows the piece to be the passionate spiritual composition it has come to be known as.

The band absolutely nailed it. I was blown away; to have just a trio of acoustic guitars, a violin, and an electric guitar be able to successfully pull off some Mahavishnu Orchestra was beyond amazing. The violinist’s tone reminisced of the profoundly audacious tone and technique of MO guitarist Jerry Goodman. Fareed flawlessly ripped John McLaughlin lines like it was nothing. The CGT provided a rhythmic accompaniment that added a vibrantly coated background sound that proved to be the exact amount of space needed for the performers to execute this composition correctly. This final piece proved to me that the California Guitar Trio can play with the best of them. Each member played an unmistakable part in the group’s supernatural chemistry, and I highly recommend this group to anyone who appreciates what the guitar represents. Don’t miss your chance to see these cats on their 20th anniversary tour!


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