Friday, September 14, 2012

Meet the person behind the guitar-playing hands

You could call this "introduction week" for The Crossover Music Channel, a bit of a "getting to know you" time.  I've introduced you to my musical wife, my musical college roommate/good friend/"bro," musical friends of his that I've come to know since the first of this year, even an online friend of several years from "across the pond" who'd like to make something with his musical talents.

Paul Richards of the California Guitar Trio (Photo By John G. Miller)
Now, to wrap up this "meet week," I'd like to introduce you to the person whose hands are playing the gorgeous six-string acoustic guitar that's shown in the title photo:  Paul Richards of the California Guitar Trio.

My introduction to the trio (CGT for short) came early last decade with members of an online progressive rock music discussion site raving about them.  They talked about CGT being "disciples" of Robert Fripp, the mastermind behind the trailblazing prog rock group King Crimson -- a favorite of mine.  They talked about CGT always putting on a spellbinding live concert experience.  CGT got sparkling reviews from those who'd seen and heard them, and the fact that they played with and learned under a genius like Fripp sealed it for me:  I had to check them out.

So, in 2002, I went to a well-stocked and locally owned music store, found a copy of the CGT album "Yamanashi Blues," and bought it.

It was love at first listen.  The sound of those three guitars together just jumped out of the speakers, thanks to the quality of the trio's playing and the quality of the recording itself.  That CD has had a very regular place in the rotation of any 10-disc changer I've had ever since, and it's because the music runs the gamut of my own musical tastes.  There's rock, there's classical, there's classic surf tunes, there's a jazziness to it at times ... their musical tastes are boundless.  They can change it up at a split second's notice.

That's why I have Paul Richards' hands playing the guitar featured here so prominently -- it's music that crosses over so quickly and effortlessly.

I later went on to add the CGT album "Rocks The West" to my collection.  Any CGT release I can get my hands on is treasured.

Hideyo Moriya (Photo By John G. Miller)
But CGT is not about three guys from California playing guitar.  Richards is a Utah native, and he still keeps his home base in Salt Lake City.  Hideyo Moriya is from Japan.  Bert Lams is from Belgium.  Each of them has a residence in the United States now, but they're scattered except for the days when they're on tour or recording together.

When you witness the awe-inspiring teamwork that goes into their playing, it makes the fact that they live so far apart even more impressive.  But that kind of teamwork tends to happen when you play together for the better part of 21 years and study together with Fripp before that, as CGT has.  Since studying with Fripp, they've gone on to open for King Crimson, to play in Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists, and to play and record and become good friends with legendary Crimson and session bassist Tony Levin.

Even after about 10 years of appreciating CGT's music, I had never had the opportunity to see them play in person.  Thanks to being on Richards' Facebook friends list and the fact that we live in the same area, that all changed in early August when I received an unexpected Facebook invitation to a live "private event" the group was throwing together at the "A" Gallery in Salt Lake City the evening of August 11, "thrown together" because a date at Park City that night had fallen through and CGT wanted to do a local show before setting off on a southwest leg of a U.S. tour.  I was very pleasantly surprised to see the invitation to the private show at the gallery's outdoor sculpture garden.  It didn't take me long at all to accept the invitation.

Bert Lams (Photo By John G. Miller)
If you've never had the chance to experience CGT live, here's a simple suggestion:  Do it!

Another review and more photos from CGT's August 11 Salt Lake City show

My wife Amy and I arrived early enough to get seats in the front row, just a few feet in front of the trio's effects boxes.  I was spellbound for the rest of the night and days later.  Questions that I'd had for a long time (for example, "How do they get those electrified sounds out of those acoustic guitars when they play something like Pink Floyd's "Echoes?") were answered just by seeing them play it, up close and personally.  I was fascinated by the trio's ability to communicate with each other without them having to speak a word.  I was amazed watching them play a complicated Bach piece using a technique taught to them by Fripp himself, "circulation."

If there was a particular point in the setlist that showed CGT's "crossover ability," it was when they played "Ghost Riders on the Storm" -- a flawless mix of the cowboy classic "Ghost Riders in the Sky" mashed up against The Doors' rock gem "Riders on the Storm," and it was performed flawlessly.  All I could do as I sat and watched was to shake my head and laugh in amazement.

When the show was over and "Happy Trails" was played, we made our way inside the gallery to look at the paintings and sculptures, and to meet Paul's wife, Stacey Richards.  We had a common love for American Eskimo dogs we could talk about with her.  She served as a gracious hostess.

We then made our way back to the autograph/merchandise table, where I could meet Paul in person after having introduced ourselves to Hideyo and Bert and chatting briefly before and after the show.  Each of the players are very personable, very easy to talk to, more than willing to take as much time as needed for a "fanboy" like me to grab a photo with the group.

Not all groups are that warm and welcoming.  It was all part of one very memorable night.

Hideyo Moriya, myself, Amy Miller, Bert Lams, and Paul Richards.

The official California Guitar Trio website

No comments:

Post a Comment