David Pritchard – Vertical Eden – Molecular Music MM10016, 56:38 *****:
(David Pritchard – acoustic steel string guitar, classical guitar, synthesizer; Kevin Tiernan – acoustic steel string guitar; Ken Rosser – acoustic steel string guitar; Harry Scorzo – violin; Erik Kertes – electric and acoustic bass; Christopher Garcia – percussion.)
David Pritchard has chartered a different course. Reversing a common trend, he has migrated from the jazz world to a more classical genre. As a teenager, he joined the Gary Burton Quartet, receiving acclaim. He would return to Los Angeles and form Contraband, a jazz rock fusion band, releasing Time And Space to critical praise. His reputation as a jazz artist persisted with his two albums at Inner City Records, Lightyear and City Dreams (featuring Freddie Hubbard and Patrice Rushen).
Subsequently, Pritchard would make the groundbreaking transition to classical interpretation. After forming Molecular Music Company, his first release, Air Patterns confirmed an artistic vision. Consisting solely of acoustic guitar, an inventive trend was launched. After writing a book on Contemporary Guitar, he would receive an Arts Fellowship from the City of Pasadena, and a Special Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Described as a further exploration for acoustic guitars, Vertical Eden is a complex lyrical album. The nine songs are arranged to reflect the specific aggregation of instruments. The opening piece is an elegiac, flowing coalescence of five acoustic guitars, all overdubbed by Pritchard. The melody is sustained in hypnotic fluidity, with bass, lead and rhythm in unison. The second acoustic guitar (four guitars) track, “Ark Sakura”, inspired by the Japanese cautionary novel, builds to a crescendo laden peak in a decidedly eastern flavored theme. “Clockwork 3” is a delicate nuanced solo effort that highlights a unique dexterity.
As the ensemble is merged into the compositions, the intricacy of the music is revealed. “Garden Of Time”, features Pritchard and Kevin Tiernan on guitar, and urgent, rythmic violin runs by Harry Scorzo. The result is a very modern chamber piece, precise and accessible. “Winged Footprints”, in a similar configuration (albeit with four guitars and two violins), maintains a simple ruminating premise with a haunting violin lead. Pritchard has reworked “Bright Depths Revisited” from its jazzy roots (recorded at Inner City Records) to an interpretive folk excursion with several tempo changes and bass accompaniment. Restrained percussion opens “Cathedrals In The Rain” framing the steady guitar in constant tempo. The use of a synthesizer and four guitars significantly expand the aural richness of this opus.
The sound mix of this CD is pristine. The multi-faceted instrumentation is presented with clarity and cohesion. Never overindulgent, the recurrent sonic narratives retain their authenticity. Vertical Eden is transformative.
TrackList: Vertical Eden; Garden Of Time; Ark Sakura; Cathedrals In The Rain; Bright Depths Revisited; Clockwork 3; The Absence Of Presence; Deliver Us; Winged Footprints.
— Robbie Gerson