California Guitar Trio - Live At The Key Club

Year of Release: 2001
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 69:56:00

The California Guitar Trio were one of many highlights at this years NEARfest festival, such that they had a very long line of autograph seekers -- not that other bands like Porcupine Tree and Banco didn't. Although perhaps a percentage of that line was for Tony Levin, who was their guest, as he is here on Live At The Key Club, I'm certain there were many in line for the trio themselves. I certainly was at least...twice, but that story is in my NF report. This review is of this new live CD, recorded this past February at L.A.'s Key Club. I've never been there myself, but from the looks of pictures scattered through out the sleeve, it is an intimate setting, though the stage looks bigger than the rest of the club. Perhaps that's just an optical illusion.

Nevertheless, the trio of Hideyo Moriya, Paul Richards and Bert Lams are joined by Tony Levin on bass and Chapman Stick and Pat Mastelotto on drums. Their connection to each other is guitarist extraordinaire (though that does have to be said of the trio as well) Robert Fripp. The three members of CGT were all students of Fripp's, and Levin and Mastelotto are/were members of King Crimson. Since the future of Levin's involvement is, as I understand it, fuzzy, he falls somewhere in between is and was (though wis doesn't like a good middle-ground word to use). Richards relates the history of CGT in track 9, "Many people ask us..." While this isn't the only segment where the band speaks to the audience, it is the first time I've seen a live CD make a separate track for it. Perhaps the thinking was that after someone had played this CD a dozen times (and you will), you can program that track out and just go from the fun and energetic "Misirlou" (Dick Dale) to "Dance Of Maya" (Mahavishnu Orchestra, I believe, as the credit is to McLaughlin). Other covers include "Apache" (The Shadows), "Discipline" (King Crimson), "Heart Of The Sunrise" (Yes), and "Caravan" (Duke Ellington).

There is some muddiness to the production, especially at the bottom end, but otherwise it is a very clean recording. Richards' addresses to the crowd are mixed a little low, at least lower than the music is. This is small stuff I think, though.

The southern-fried "Train To Lamy" opens the set, being one part western hoedown and one part melancholy, bluesy country. I thought of the Eagles a bit, if only for that "California sound." This is followed by the funky "Zundoko Bushi" which is an old Japanese traditional arranged by Moriya which also includes, at least in this version, excerpts of King Crimson's "21St Century Schizoid Man." Levin's rumbling bass becomes quite boomy with the use of the funk fingers (at least it sounds like they're being used), while the texture of the three guitars together is quite nice, giving the track a very full sound. Moriya's playing is taut and controlled, but also remains warm and playful. "Blockhead" is thick and grungy (as in dirty) with dark tones, as guitars grind out an energetically paced rhythm. What I like is how the guitars come together then separate, providing some very neat dynamics.

"Punta Patri," which follows, is a dramatic and richly textured tune - it sounds a lot like Pink Floyd, actually. This is expansive, big, and epic. There is a pulse that vibrates throughout, that by the time it gets to the end, you think it's going to explode. "Apache" is a classic The Shadows tune, and even if it isn't considered a "classic," it sure sounds like one, containing all the right elements to make it such. The phrase "spaghetti western" comes to mind, though much more western than "spaghetti." It was during their NEARfest performance of this track that they danced a little square-step, something done at the suggestion of Robert Fripp, or so Richards said. Then they looked like they were having fun, and from the sound of it, there were here, too.

There are two improv tracks on this live release as well. "Sketches On Sunset" comes first, a track that is at times very angular and very much abstract. It percolates, guitars sometimes sounding like violins, while Mastelotto's drums throb like a very unique heartbeat. The other improvised track is "Heaven's Bells" which is subtle atmospherics you'd expect to have been created by synths. I thought of Robert Rich a bit, if he were a trio of guitarists, a bassist and a drummer.

The "about" track leads into "Melrose Ave" which is a spicy, hot and twisty tune with a dash of Latin flavour and a dash of southwestern. "Heart Of The Sunrise" seems funkier here, down to Levin's bass playing - funk fingers again. They do this so well and make it their own that you don't ever think "hey, aren't there vocals on this track?" Here you don't need 'em, and if the audience were singing them, they weren't recorded doing so.

Aside from the sound quality in spots at the beginning, this is an excellent disk. This is the second volume in the California Guitar Trio Direct Collectors Series, and can be ordered directly from the CGT site.

Train To Lamy (4:56) / Zundoko Bushi (3:43) / Blockhead (3:36) / Punta Patri (5:33) / Apache (3:26) / Sketches On Sunset (6:48) / Discipline (4:51) / Misirlou (1:58) / "Many people ask us..." (3:05) / Melrose Ave (2:15) / Dance Of Maya (5:54) / Heaven's Bells (6:56) / Heart Of The Sunrise (7:22) / Caravan (5:28) / Eve (4:02)

Bert Lams - guitar
Paul Richards - guitar
Hideyo Moriya - guitar

Tony Levin - bass, Chapman Stick
Pat Mastelotto - drums

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)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: July 18th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 960
Language: english


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