Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Southwest Guitar Festival, Day Three

The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet played the world premier of Sergio Assad's new Concerto for Guitar Quartet and Orchestra, Interchange at The Majestic Theatre last night.

The Guitar Institute of the Southwest, where I studied with Jackie King, Herb Ellis, and Pat Martino - among others - was on the 14th floor of The Majestic Building, so these are old stomping grounds for me. I used to watch parades down Houston St. from the balcony above that sign.

The Majestic Theatre is one of those old super-ornate movie theatres built back in the early 1900's. I took this shot with my iPhone from my seat before the concert started.

Everything was restored, so even the ancient cloud machine works. That's right, those clouds appear to move across the night sky. Today, The Majestic is home to The San Antonio Symphony. Back in the late 70's, before the restoration - when the place was full of cobwebs and looked like a haunted castle - me and my buds used to sneak in there and smoke pot. LOL!

I ran into Bill Kanengiser - the head of the LAGQ - before the show (I got there WAY early), and he actually remembered me from playing some of my originals for him at a master class he gave back in the early 90's. We just basically said hello, I told him I was excited about the world premier, he admitted to being a little nervous, I said they'd rock, and that was that. He's a real gracious guy and a class act. Hell, he even makes music page-turns look elegant.

Mr. Assad's piece is quite nice, and an excellent - as well as much needed - addition to the repertoire for GQ and orchestra. He wrote it especially with the LAGQ in mind, so he was able to tailor movements to suit the strength of the various players: Bill the super-legit classical guy, Scott the Flamenco monster, John with his 7-string bass-extended Humphrey Millennium guitar, and Matt - the FNG LOL! - and his big-time jazz chops. Seriously, it was way better than I expected. Sergio has developed some serious orchestration chops, which frankly surprised the hell out of me (Most guitarists suck at orchestration, myself included), and Bill needn't have been nervous, because the guys rocked, as I told Bill they would.

Sure, there were some moments of very slightly out of kilter and out of sync stuff, but considering that this is a positively monumental undertaking of a piece, it went amazingly well. I was very pleasantly surprised, because my expectations were pretty low, to be blunt. Regular readers know I think the guitar is kind of ridiculous as a concerto instrument, but last night the LAGQ had just a touch of amplification, and you could hear the guitars quite well without any overt intrusions by the amp tech. Seriously, it was one of those things that made me go, "hmmmm."

I just got home from the competition finals. I'll write that up tomorrow night.

Simple and natural is good.


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