Los Angeles Guitar Quartet Explores the Brazilian Groove
LAGQ Brazil, the acoustic quartet's fourth Telarc CD, features newcomer Matthew Greif and Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza
For nearly three decades, the Grammy-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet has forged an unmatched reputation for making brilliant and compelling music - both on stage and in the studio - with little more than four acoustic guitars, an uncanny musical vocabulary and a boundless spirit of musical innovation and cross-cultural adventure. This fall, the quartet explores the guitar's rich Latin heritage with the September 25, 2007, release of LAGQ Brazil.
Recorded at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, CA, LAGQ Brazil features the music of Sergio and Odair Assad, Marco Pereira, Hermeto Pascoal, Baden Powell, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Heitor Villa-Lobos and others.
The new album marks the LAGQ debut of guitarist Matthew Greif, who replaces long-time member Andrew York and joins founding members Bill Kanengiser, John Dearman and Scott Tennant. In addition to being an accomplished and award-winning classical guitarist, Greif has also played with many famous non-classical and jazz musicians, including Chet Atkins. "Matt is incredibly laid-back and very positive," says guitarist Bill Kanengiser, who co-produced LAGQ Brazil. "He doesn't have a big ego, but he delivers the goods when it's time to play. He's a fantastic guitar player."
LAGQ Brazil also features the rich and engaging voice of Luciana Souza, the São Paulo-born jazz vocalist and composer and three-time Grammy nominee. Souza joins LAGQ for Sergio Assad's "Medley" of Jobim tunes and a quartet version of Marco Pereira's "Sambadalu" (originally a duo which Pereira performed with Luciana on her 2005 album, Brazilian Duo's II).
"We've always loved Brazilian music," says Bill Kanengiser, whose unique arrangement of the classic "Mas Que Nada" serves as the album's opening salvo. "We grew up listening to it. Some of our most prominent guitar influences are Brazilians. But we avoided recording Brazilian music for a long time. Our thinking was, ‘This is what the Assads and so many other great Brazilian composers and arrangers do. It's their bag, and they're so great at it because they grew up there.'"
But it was Souza, who toured with the quartet in 2006 and 2007, who encouraged the guitar foursome to take the plunge and finally cut an album of Brazilian music. "Luciana inspired us a lot," says Kanengiser. "She's a fantastic artist and a really great person. We became very good friends during the tour, and she encouraged us not to be scared about it, and to just follow our instincts."
In developing the pieces for LAGQ Brazil, the quartet collaborated with some of the top names in the Brazilian guitar scene, many of whom are close friends of the four guitarists. Paulo Bellinati, the celebrated guitar virtuoso and musician, arranged his "Carlo's Dance" for LAGQ and flutist Katisse Buckingham. Bellinati also dedicated his "A Furiosa" to LAGQ, which they recorded with percussionist Kevin Ricard.
Marco Pereira is a major figure in the current guitar movement in Brazil, and he is a frequent collaborator with Luciana Souza. He adapted his "Sambadalu" especially for this recording for LAGQ to play with Ms. Souza.
Ramundo Penaforte is one of Brazil's rising stars in the chamber music and symphonic stage. His "Preludio and Gangorra" was dedicated to LAGQ and premiered at the Tucson Chamber Music Festival.
"Working with LAGQ was a thrill," says Souza. "I feel we all grew so much from the experience. I have been a huge fan of their sound and their musicianship for many years. I think the joy and the beauty of the music speaks well about how much we enjoyed making it."
In the final analysis, LAGQ Brazil is very much a mix of purism and innovation. "There are some tracks on this record where we're trying to be the real deal, and do the really traditional thing," he says. "But there are others where we are very clearly genre-bending. I think that's been our hallmark over the years - to approach a piece of music, or an entire style of music, from our own perspective and come up with a hybrid of the original inspiration and our own musical perspective."
- See more at: http://www.lagq.com/recordings/lagq-brazil