Eclectic Guitars

Michel Sajrawy -  Yathrib
Michel Sajrawy – Yathrib
This review covers a number of guitar CDs that span several genres and nationalities. We begin with creative electric guitarist Michel Sajrawy. He plays Middle Eastern music led by electric guitar, accompanied by acoustic instruments. Despite the electric guitar, it is not rock, although some passages recall the great Andalusian rock bands of the late 1970s like Iman. Stylistically, it is difficult to categorize the album. Sometimes it’s jazz fusion; other times it sounds like a modern Middle Eastern ensemble formed by virtuoso players. His album, Yathrib (2006), is on German label Ozella, a label known for recordings that cross boundaries.

Indian guitarist Sanjay Mishra now lives in the USA. On his latest CD, the evocative Chateau Benares , at times he creates ambient layers of loops that surround his guitar sounds. On other pieces, he bends the guitar strings to make it sound like a sitar. His guests provide Indian musical instruments such as veena, tabla and flute, as well as electronics and additional guitar.

Manglis is a legendary name in Andalusian rock. He was one of the founders of Guadalquivir, a group in the 1970s that combined jazz and rock with Andalusian influences. The Spanish guitarist moved to Madrid, where he worked on numerous projects, combining rock and Flamenco with urban sounds. His latest project is a double set called Mandala, by Manglis Compás Machine, a world beat collaboration featuring Spanish and Indian sounds. Manglis plays guitars and electronics, while Nantha Kumar plays tabla. The set includes a DVD featuring live performances.

Jeff Pearce is usually connected with the ambient electronic genre, even though he plays guitars or other stringed instruments. On Lingering Light (2005), Pearce uses the chapman stick, an instrument popularized by progressive rockers and some jazz musicians. Pearce’s music is certainly not progressive rock or jazz. He weaves beautiful ambient soundscapes and minimalist loops of sound that have a comforting dreamy effect. He is a creative musician who deserves more attention.

Hands on Strings is a German guitar duo formed by Stephan Bormann and Thomas Fellow. They mix guitar virtuosity with creative melodic compositions and arrangements. The influences range from blues and jazz to tango and Brazilian music. Bormann and Fellow interpret several compositions by tango master Astor Piazzolla, with impressive results. Their latest CD is Offroad (Ozella, 2006).

For something more powerful, check out the electric blues of The Michael Landau Group Live album. His scorching style sometimes is closer to hard rock or heavy metal than traditional electric blues. If you are into rock guitar heroes, you’ll love this double CD.