CGT is an amazing trio of innovative guitar players that come from or are inspired by the Robert Fripp school of guitarrist. These live interpretations stand as a great overview of both their work and the ability to transform different styles and other's work into the trio's musical style…
With a whirlwind of instrumental styles fusing classical, rock, blues, jazz, world music, progressive, as well as the quintessential California musical genre surf music, the California Guitar Trio's stunning virtuosity and sly sense of humor have earned them an enthusiastic following and wide notoriety, with significant crossover in the progressive, acoustic and classical music scenes.
The three talented members of the California Guitar Trio met in 1987 at a guitar workshop taught by Robert Fripp. Like Fripp, the CGT favors a trebly, textured sound and expresses its unity in complex but sweet fugues that fuse elements of pop, jazz, Americana, world music, and other diverse sounds. This 10-year retrospective begins with "Yamanashi Blues," (the title track from their highly acclaimed first album) in which acoustic guitars imitate kotos and mirror the relentless beauty of Mt. Fuji. Other selections display the trio's awesome technical skills. "Pathways," another title track from a much-beloved album, rocks mightily despite having no drums and then segues into an intense classical-derived number. Other CGT favorites here include the vaguely sinister "Happy Time in Fun Town" and three-fifths of the furious "Train To Lamy" suite. For the uninitiated, this retrospective is good place to start.
For lovers of superb instrumental music, the debut by the California Guitar Trio, Yamanashi Blues, is one of the best of the '90s. Recorded strictly on amplified acoustic guitars (supplied by Bert Lams, Hideyo Moriya, and Paul Richards), the band touches upon a wide variety of musical genres, as they cover easily identifiable classical, surf, pop, and jazz tunes, with a few originals mixed in as well. Interestingly, all the songs on Yamanashi Blues were recorded in Bert Lams' living room. Great versions of '60s surf standards like "Walk Don't Run," "Pipeline," and "Sleepwalk" are included, as well as a few J.S. Bach pieces ("Prelude In C Minor," "Chromatic Fugue In D Minor," and others). The originals fit in perfectly with the cover material, such as Lams' "Carnival," Richards' "Blockhead," and Moriya's "Kan-non Power." Unlike most other instrumental albums, the California Guitar Trio stresses the importance of songwriting over instrumental technicality.
Since 1998, the California Guitar Trio has regularly toured with expanded versions of the band. The fan favorite is no doubt the quintet form with King Crimson members Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto. A live album, Live at the Key Club, was made available in 2001 through the CGT Direct Collectors' Series. CG3+2 takes the quintet in the studio to record their repertoire. The track list includes a couple new CGT compositions, jams and studio constructions credited to the whole group, a few more of those incredible covers the band is known for, and a few old favorites revisited.
This new album has been more than 2 years in the making, and is the first CGT album to feature only new original compositions and improvisations by Bert, Paul and Hideyo. Special Guests on the new album include Tony Levin, Eric Slick, Julie Slick, Tom Griesgraber, Tyler Trotter and more.
In the studio, the CGT shine, as evidenced by this masterful 1998 release featuring Bill Janssen on saxophone. Pathways contains a delightful assortment of original tunes as well as brilliantly arranged cover tunes, such as Mason Williams' Classical Gas, and Beethoven's 5th.
Produced by Tony Levin, "Whitewater" contains mostly new and original CGT material. Both ethereal and blistering, this recording reveals the CGT's music in a new light by introducing some amazing electronic treatments while staying true to their warm, analog sound. The Bach Circulation piece on this recording was made using tiny, high-end, binaural microphones in producer Tony Levin's ears, just feet from the 3 guitars!
The California Guitar Trio have always played cover versions but on Echoes, these graduates of Robert Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists go over the top in paying homage to their roots. From progressive rock to arena rock, art music to classical music, they bring it all to their 18 strings. Although their primary instruments are acoustic guitars, they aren't averse to a little electric processing and that helps them when they tackle two progressive rock epics, Pink Floyd's "Echoes" and Mike Oldfield's “Tubular Bells.” They compress them both in time, but hit the highlights, exposing new, pastoral nuances in "Echoes" and just ripping into "Tubular Bells" to reveal its minimalist roots. These two tracks alone make Echoes worth it.