California Guitar Trio with Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto - CG3+2

Year of Release: 2002
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMA 2043-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:16:00

Released in 2002, CG3 2 is, to date, the most recent studio album from the trio of guitarists Bert Lams, Paul Richards and Hideo Moriya, here with guests Tony Levin on bass and Pat Mastelotto on drums. Most reviews will probably start with mention of the cover of a beloved Yes tune, but what I think is more interesting to note are the last two tracks on the album, as they quite different from anything else on the album. First, there is "What I Am," which is full of guitars that shimmer, play soft, elongated notes, occasionally dipping into a funky, yet quite mellow, beat. It's chillout music, essentially, evolving and forming as the quintet follow various idea strands. Slightly darker is the quirkier "The Chase." What makes it quirky is that unlike the other tracks on this album is its atmospheric elements and the angular, leaping and loaping rhythm. Well, there is that truly quirky bit at about 5:30 minutes in that can easily be described as eccentric. There are a many layers to this composition which makes it a deeper track than any of the others. That isn't to suggest the rest of the album is shallow, it's not, but this piece is much artier than anything else on the album.

"Melrose Ave.," which begins the album, has an exotic flavor, middle-eastern mostly. Strings are plucked and strumned, playing in time, play off each other, creating a rhythm that is memorable at once, rich in tone, and energetic without being tiring. Playful and bouncy describes the cheerful "Dancing Anne," which has moments of joyful abandon, only momentarily pausing for reflection - as if for a moment she feels self-conscious about something? but then, just as suddenly, care is set aside and she resumes dancing. Though "Hanagasa" is Moriya's arrangement of a Japanese traditional, in this context, it has instead more a southwestern twang to it? a Japanese flavored cowboy western say - and not in a campy way. It has a walking rhythm that just suggests a horse and rider making their leisurely way across the scrub brush of the American southwest. The more "campy" version comes with the humorous "Zundoko-Bushi," another Japanese traditional arranged by Moriya; listen as the who quintet stops on a dime, and picks right up together - and from what I recall from seeing them at NEARF2001, they can do it live, too, that lockstep stop/start. It's a piece that also quotes from King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man." When you think contemporary instrumental, guitar-focused music, the style, sound and texture is what we hear from CGT and company on tracks like "Skyline," "Dancing Anne," "Blockhead" or "Eve." Stylistically, it's expected, even with his Howe-y hints here and there in "Skyline" (say, wasn't that the title of a Howe CD? Yes, it was; also a 2002 release). Though a little beefier and assertive than most contemporary instrumentals, "Blockhead" fits into the category, yet at times seems of a piece with?that Yes cover? There're are enough sharp edges to belie this quintet's connection to King Crimson, some of which also appear on the above mentioned "The Chase."

"Swampy Space" is as hot and muggy as one thinks Louisana must be, especially down by the bayous - its laidback and relaxed (and full of all sorts of noises that sound like critters in the bayous). This carries over into the next track, "Swampy Return," which is darker and mysterious (hinting, too, at "The Chase" in many ways). "Train To Lamy" opens with a bluesy, screaming, fuzzed guitar solo that loses the fuzziness once a frenetic bass line from Levin comes in, but none of the bluesy screaming? crying, actually. Before become a raucous, twangy hoedown? and then a delicate solo guitar piece.

And oh yes, there's that Yes cover - "Heart Of The Sunrise." I remember hearing this live at NEARfest 2001, the whole crowd (or nearly so) singing the words. Here what is instantly recognizable is the bass line, and Levin does a thunderous job of it, making it seem as if the whole room will vibrate. It's a very good rendition capturing many nuances of the original -- side from Squire's bass, oddly that other nuance would be Anderson's voice, though not tone. Now, whether you "hear" Anderson's voice in instruments, or just in your "head" is hard to say. Another cover is "Dance Of Maya" the Mahavishnu Orchestra piece that is a slinky, sexy and sultry number.

All in all it is a very nice and varied mix of original and covers that goes beyond what might think of as just an acoustic guitar album. And not just because there are drums and bass in there, too. It's the mix of material that keeps the album moving from one track to the next.

Released in Europe by InsideOut (SPV 085-65242 CD IOMCD 107)

Melrose Avenue (2:16) / Skyline (4:41) / Dancing Anne (3:38) / Heart of the Sunrise (7:16) / Hanagasa - (3:32) / Zundoko-Bushi (3:37) / Blockhead (3:47) / Dance of Maya (7:12) / Swampy Space (3:40) / Swampy Return (2:10) / Train to Lamy (5:11) / Eve (4:11) / What I Am (6:29) / The Chase (7:36)

Paul Richards - guitar, slide guitar
Bert Lams - guitar, tenor guitar
Hideyo Moriya - guitar, mandocello
Tony Levin - bass, Chapman Stick
Pat Mastelotto - trap kit, buttons

The Bridge Between
Yamanashi Blues
Pathways (1998)
An Opening Act: Live On Tour With King Crimson
Rocks The West (2000)
Monday Night In San Francisco
Live At The Key Club (2001)
CG3+2 (2002)
A Christmas Album (2002)
The First Decade (2003)
Whitewater (2004)
Echoes (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: June 7th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1135
Language: english


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