California Guitar Trio blends classical, jazz

The California Guitar Trio, from left, Hideyo Moriya, Paul Richards and Bert Lams, performs tonight and Friday at the Phillips Center’s Squitieri Studio Theatre.

Published: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 1:15 p.m.

The California Guitar Trio will do a lot of circulating in its two performances at the Phillips Center — and we’re not talking about the kind involving hobnobbing or meeting with listeners before the show.

In fact, the idea of “circulation” as performed by the group may be one of the most groundbreaking facets that separates it from other guitar ensembles, and just one that may astound guitarists and music fans of all types from the first moment they hear it.

The trio — which begins a national tour celebrating its 20th anniversary with performances tonight and Friday at the Phillips’ Squitieri Studio Theatre — began as students of King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp in the late ’80s.

And after several years of performing with Fripp in his League of Crafty Guitarists, the three — Belgian native Bert Lams, Japanese native Hideyo Moriya and American Paul Richards — convened in California in 1991 and proceeded to hone their own blending of classical-meets-jazz influences, unique approaches and other facets that set them apart from others.

Chief among those may be what Richards described in an interview as “circulation,” a technique they learned from Fripp in which they each play notes one after the other in rapid succession to create a melody that sounds like a musical equivalent of “the wave.”

“If you can imagine, it’s kind of like the wave in the sports arenas, where each person waits for their moment to join the wave,” says Richards.

“So onstage, we sit with Bert on my left, I’m in the middle and Hideyo’s on the right. And Bert would play one note, then I would play another note following him, and then Hideyo plays another note and then it goes on and on like that in rapid succession as if we were one player.

“This was introduced to us by Robert [Fripp] as a way of learning to listen to each other,” Richards says. “And we’ve taken it really seriously and it’s helped us immensely if you can imagine, being able to play your one note at just the right time and the right note.”

The performances tonight and Friday (which is sold out) also will feature material from the Trio’s new album, “Andromeda,” which Richards describes as containing more original material and more extreme use of their approach of using acoustic guitars with electronic and digital effects to create a “wider tonal palette” than they otherwise would achieve.

Tickets for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. performance in the Squitieri are $30, available by calling 392-2787.

Contact Bill Dean at 374-5039 or at bill.dean@gvillesun.com.

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