Modern singer-songwriters like John Mayer, Dave Mathews and Jason Mraz (and there are many others) elevated the art of guitar accompaniment to a whole new level. You hear fresh chord voicings, exciting rhythm patterns, bass lines, percussive elements, riffs and other melodic elements supporting their vocals — and they do it all with just six strings and a pick. That’s “acoustic groove” at its very best.
The Joker is, without question, the turning point in Steve Miller's career, the album where he infused his blues with a big, bright dose of pop and got exactly what he deserved: Top Ten hits and stardom. He also lost a lot of fans, the ones who dug his winding improvs, because those spacy jams were driven by chops and revealed new worlds. The Joker isn't mind-expanding, it's party music, filled with good vibes, never laying a heavy trip, always keeping things light, relaxed and easygoing. Sometimes, the vibes are interrupted, but not in a harsh way – the second side slows a bit, largely due to the sludgy "Come in My Kitchen" and "Evil," the two songs that were recorded live…
Though a pupil of the great orchestrator Rimsky-Korsakov, and in turn a teacher to the likes of Rachmaninov, Glière, and Scriabin, Anton Arensky himself is a composer often forgotten when contemplating the Russian greats. Productive in many genres, it is perhaps in his chamber music that this unduly neglected composer truly shines. His writing has much of the same textural sophistication and melodic beauty as his close friend, Tchaikovsky. In fact, the theme on which the Second Quartet's Variations are based is drawn from a Tchaikovsky quartet. Performing Arensky's First and Second string quartets, along with the Piano Quintet, is the Ying Quartet. This ensemble's playing is characterized by a surprisingly precise, consistent uniformity of sound and exactness of articulation, making it seem as if a single instrument were playing as opposed to four independent parts. All aspects of their technical execution are polished and refined, which only enhances their equally enjoyable musical effusiveness, rich, deep tone, and understanding of Arensky's scores that casts them in the best possible light.
It is a pleasure to see the rerelease of Paul Beier's first effort on the Baroque Lute, recorded in a small church in Switzerland nearly twenty years ago. He had originally planned a program that included the works presented here, plus the suite in E minor by Bach, but after editing we found that the total time of the recording was over 90 minutes, and so sacrificed the Bach suite to be able to release the CD (which can hold no more than 80 minutes worth of music).