Tag Archives: Latin American guitar

Artist Profiles: Sergio Lara

Sergio Lara

For over 20 years, guitarist Sergio Lara has been respected in acoustic contemporary instrumental music. His last recording with Lara & Reyes, World Jazz, received a “Latin Grammy Award” nomination for “Best Instrumental Pop Album” in 2001.

Perhaps better known as the founder and leader of the Latin guitar duo Lara & Reyes, Sergio has explored a great variety of styles that show his eclectic taste. During his collaboration with Lara & Reyes, which included 6 albums recorded for the Higher Octave Music label, they adapted musical traditions from all over the world, with rhythms from Africa and the Caribbean, chord structures from Mexico and Spain, and melodic scales from the Middle East and India, but always with an original stamp, that is basically the Latin guitar within the spirit of improvisation.

Sergio has played different styles, including Jazz, Bluegrass and Flamenco as well as several fusion forms. His music belongs to what is known as Latin Jazz and Flamenco Jazz.

Sergio Lara appears in the international music scene in 1983 with the release of his first solo album entitled Sergiology. In this album he explores various styles influenced by Jazz and Bluegrass. During the following years he participated and collaborated with various artists in Mexico and also with his own band the “New Acoustic Unit” in Nashville, Tennessee, and San Antonio, Texas, and in 1994 released the album Guitarras Hermanas, the first one for Higher Octave Music. This album of all original music, also included a new instrumental version of the very popular and romantic song “Sabor a Mi”.

Sergio Lara was born in Mexico City. He started playing guitar at age nine and very early he discovered and began studying several musical styles. His greatest influences have been the great English Jazz guitarist, John McLaughlin; Costa Rican guitar master, Jorge Strunz; Flamenco Spanish genius, Paco de Lucia; Bluegrass and Jazz guitarist, Tony Rice, the great guitarist Norman Blake, and eclectic mandolin players Sam Bush and David Grisman, among others.

In 1996, Sergio released his next production entitled Two Guitars-One Passion, which received worldwide attention because of its original combination of different musical styles. This album included an instrumental version of the well-known Mexican classic “La Bikina,” which is still very popular on many Jazz radio programs around the world.

His next project was in 1997 with the album Exotico, which incorporated different instruments for the first time, like the piano, flute, sax and violin, making a new mixture of sounds with his guitar. With mostly original compositions this album also includes new instrumental versions of the classic “Mi Ciudad” and the standard “Brazil”.

In 1998, with the album Riverwalk, he gave a twist in regard to his compositions creating new rhythms and melodies. This record includes a medley of 2 wonderful romantic Latin songs, “Solamente una Vez” and “Amor, Amor, Amor,” and in the year 2000, in celebration of the millennium he released Navidad, on which he enters fully into the music of the Christmas season, playing new instrumental versions of 18 standard songs, incorporating the mandolin with the guitar.

In 2004, Sergio Lara immersed himself in several new productions. He recorded 2 new albums for his independent label Fusion Acustica Music.” The first one, a CD of new original instrumental music entitled Con la Lluvia, which includes a new version of the haunting traditional song “La Llorona.” The second project is a collection of traditional folk songs from Mexico and the United States, entitled Entre Guitarras y Mandolinas, performed by Sergio playing all the guitars, mandolin and 5 string banjo. In addition, this album also includes vintage recordings, rescued from Sergio’s personal archives, of traditional Mexican songs performed in a bluegrass style by Sergio playing the mandolin and guitar, joined by members of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a well known and respected bluegrass band from San Antonio, Texas.

With a career that covers many years and more than ten albums under his name, Sergio Lara has appeared in several concerts and participated in important festivals.

Discography

Guitarras Hermanas (1995)
Two Guitars One Passion (Talking Taco Records, 1992)
Exotico (Higher Octave Music, 1996)
Riverwalk ‎(Higher Octave Music, 1998)
Navidad (Higher Octave Music, 2000)
World Jazz (Higher Octave Music, 2000)
Con La Lluvia (Fusion Acustica, 2004)

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Artist Profiles: Jorge Strunz

Jorge Strunz – Photo by Eric Strunz

Jorge Strunz was born in Costa Rica and was given his first guitar at age 6. He began performing professionally in their early teens.

The travels of his diplomat father brought Jorge to the United States. In the mid-1970s, Strunz formed a Latin jazz group called Caldera, together with Argentine keyboardist Eduardo del Barrio. Caldera signed with Capitol Records and recorded as self-titled debut album. Caldera was offered another recording with Capitol, but the band was not happy with the label and had interest from CBS. They left Capitol but the deal with CBS fell through. The group disbanded in 1979.

Fortune and music brought Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah together, when fellow guitarist Ardeshir came to see Jorge perform with Caldera. When the two guitarists subsequently met, it was instantly obvious that they were brothers of the guitar from opposite ends of the earth. They quickly prepared a repertoire, began performing, and recorded their first project, Mosaico, in 1980, under the name Strunz & Farah.

Although record companies at that time were not yet ready for this new hybrid music, jazz radio embraced it enthusiastically, and the duo caught the attention of Milestone that released two of the duo’s CDs in the early 1980s, ‘Frontera’ and ‘Guitarras’.

The intimate audiophile recording Misterio was commissioned and recorded by Waterlily Acoustics in 1989. Following this came the phenomenally successful recordings Primal Magic (1990) and Americas (1992) on Mesa/Atlantic, which won Billboard’s World Music Album of the Year and a Grammy nomination, respectively. The artists then started their own record company, Selva, as an artist-friendly alternative to the majors and put out Heat of the Sun, (top 10 Billboard World Music chart) and Live, the artists’ first live performance recording. Strunz &Farah received back the rights to Primal Magic and Americas, which were re-released on Selva, which the artists will own and distribute independently.

In 2010, Jorge Strunz released an excellent acoustic guitar solo album titled Neotropical Nocturnes.

Solo Albums

Neotropical Nocturnes (Selva, 2010)

Strunz and Farah Discography:

Mosaico (1982, Reissued on Selva 1997)

Frontera (Milestone 1984)

Guitarras (Milestone 1985)

Misterio (AudioQuest 1989)

Primal Magic (1990, Reissued on Selva 1999)

Americas (1992 Reissued on Selva 1999)

Heat Of The Sun (Selva 1995)

Live (Selva 1997)

Wild Muse (Selva 1998)

Best of Strunz &Farah (Selva 2000)

Stringweave (Selva 2001)

Rio de Colores (Selva 2003)

Zona Torrida (Selva 2004)

Desert Guitars (Selva 2005)

Jungle Guitars (Selva 2006)

Fantaseo (Selva 2006)

Journey Around The Sun (Selva 2011)

Moods and Visions (Selva 2014)

DVD

In Performance (2003)

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Artist profiles: Strunz & Farah

Strunz & Farah

Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah, originally from Costa Rica and Iran respectively, have pioneered a new expression for the acoustic guitar. Bringing the cultural riches of their native lands to their highly virtuosic rhythmic and improvisation-rich original compositions these “fieras de la guitarra” (“wild animals of the guitar”) have profoundly influenced guitarists everywhere creating a new genre.

Jorge given his first guitar at age 6 grew up in a Caribbean environment, playing flamenco and classical guitar, incorporating jazz, Afro-Latin and Latin American folk forms. Ardeshir Farah was raised in Iran and England and also played guitar since childhood focusing on popular music and improvisation. Both began performing professionally in their early teens.

The travels of his diplomat father brought Jorge to the United States while Ardeshir arrived as a student of architecture. Fortune and music brought the two together when Ardeshir came to see Jorge perform with his Latin jazz-fusion group Caldera (which put out 4 albums on Capitol). When the two guitarists subsequently met it was instantly obvious that they were brothers of the guitar from opposite ends of the earth. They quickly prepared a repertoire began performing and recorded their first project ‘Mosaico’ in 1980.

Although record companies at that time were not yet ready for this exotic new music, jazz radio embraced it enthusiastically and the duo caught the attention of Milestone with whom they put out two CDs in the early 1980s ‘Frontera’ and ‘Guitarras’.

The intimate audiophile recording ‘Misterio’ was commissioned and recorded by Waterlily Acoustics in 1989. Following this came the phenomenally successful recordings ‘Primal Magic’ (1990) and ‘Americas’ (1992) on Mesa/Atlantic which won Billboard’s World Music Album of the Year and a Grammy nomination respectively.

The artists then started their own record company Selva as an artist-friendly alternative to the majors and put out ‘Heat of the Sun’ (top 1 Billboard World Music chart) and ‘Live’ the artists’ first live performance recording. Strunz & Farah received back the rights to ‘Primal Magic’ and ‘Americas’ which were re-released on Selva, an indepent label owned by the artists and distributed independently.

On Stringweave, Strunz and Farah are accompanied by guests such as Indian violin master Dr. L. Subramanian. Puerto Rican cuatro virtuoso Edwin Colón Zayas. Persian violinist Bijan Mortazevi and many others.

Discography:

Mosaico (1982, Reissued on Selva 1997)

Frontera (Milestone 1984)

Guitarras (Milestone 1985)

Misterio (AudioQuest 1989)

Primal Magic (1990, Reissued on Selva 1999)

Americas (1992 Reissued on Selva 1999)

Heat Of The Sun (Selva 1995)

Live (Selva 1997)

Wild Muse (Selva 1998)

Best of Strunz &Farah (Selva 2000)

Stringweave (Selva 2001)

Rio de Colores (Selva 2003)

Zona Torrida (Selva 2004)

Desert Guitars (Selva 2005)

Jungle Guitars (Selva 2006)

Fantaseo (Selva 2006)

Journey Around The Sun (Selva 2011)

Moods and Visions (Selva 2014)

DVD

In Performance (2003)

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