“Sonidos Latinos: Guitar Music of Latin America” – David Russell, guitar – Telarc TEL-31979-02, 59:27 ****:
This is one in a popular series of solo albums on Telarc from guitarist David Russell. It’s the first I’ve heard, and I can certainly understand Russell’s popularity, given his lithe, colorful, beautifully articulated playing. Two of the pieces by Argentine-American composer and guitarist Jorge Morel are dedicated to Russell, which speaks to the special trust that musicians repose in his artistry.
In fact, Morel’s works are some of the more interesting in this compilation. Rhythmically and harmonically intricate, they provide more challenging listening than the pieces that Russell includes by older composers, Augustín Mangoré and Manuel Ponce. For me—and I hope I won’t offend guitar aficionados—this is the Latin American equivalent of easy listening. The pieces all sort of run together, and my mind wanders, though Russell gives his all to them. The subtle rubato, the perfectly gauged inflections that he lavishes on Ponce’s “Por ti mi corazón” from Tres Canciones Populaire Mexicanas is a case in point.
The disc picks up substantially with Argentine composer Héctor Ayala’s Serie Americana, a musical travelogue that essays the styles of Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, and Peru, as well as his own country. Finally, the two short works by Brazilian composer Armando Neves are tenderly expressive, without any of the modernist angst that his compatriot Heitor Villa-Lobos brought to the most memorable of his guitar music.
As you’d expect, Telarc’s sound is very immediate, catching all the delicate shading of Russell’s nuanced playing. A must for guitar buffs, this recording should give pleasure to a wider audience as well. [But not as immediate as when his previous Telarc discs were issued as SACDs…Ed.]
Agustín Barios Mangoré:
Aire de Zamba
Canción de la Hilandera
Manuel María Ponce:
Tres Canciones Populares Mexicanas:
Por ti mi corazón
Vals Peruano (Perú)
Gato y Malambo (Agentina)
Choro No. 2
Valsa No. 3
Recuerdos del Caribe
— Lee Passarella