MGT is in its third year of a very fruitful musical association, and not only was this more than apparent, we were also privy to their obvious appreciation of and respect for each other’s masterful musicianship, and their joy in making remarkable and ground breaking music together. There were sounds one might not have thought possible being brought forth from their guitars, individually and collectively.
Slava Grigoryan has beautiful hands, and what he does with them on his fret board and strings wove an instant spell over the audience with his opening offering of Tchaikovsky’s gentle The Seasons - now meditative and mellifluous, then chromatic and crunchy – followed by a stimulating performance of the quite different Incantation by Bill Loveday.
This bracket not only set the tone for the evening, but opened the gates for Wolfgang Muthspiel to show an extraordinary range of sonorities on several different electric guitars with some Theolonius Monk and his own Waifs, which was played over a ground running almost throughout in the background.
Another change of style came next from Ralph Towner. The stronger influence of Jazz on his music was apparent in his tense and exciting Catching Up, and then in his luscious Solitary Woman played on his twelve string. At last these three masters were together, and the audience enthused over this fabulous combination in some precise, rich-textured and complex inter-weavings of rhythms and runs, tunes and tempos.
After the interval, the variety continued as each played in a duet with each of the others, and a beautiful rendition by Towner and Grigoryan of Towner’s From a Dream sealed the sales in the foyer afterwards of the trio’s recent CD by the same name.
Together again for the final bracket and welcome encore, crisp precision of ensemble was expressed through their clear simpatico colleagiality in works such as Towner’s evocative and almost hypnotic Beneath an Evening Sky and Muthspiel’s Bird’s Eye View. And there was plenty of fun as Towner turned the body of his guitar into a drum.
This remarkable trio can extract uncommon sounds form this most common of instruments. Here was no simple strumming. MGT thrives on complex rhythms and sonorities, the interaction and respect between the three of them, and in the music itself. They have moved guitar playing into a new orbit.
Adelaide Festival Centre's TRANS:MISSION Program
Wolfgang Muthspiel, Slava Grigoryan & Ralph Towner
Venue: Her Majesty's Theatre
Dates: 20 August 2008