Tony R Clef – Tuesday Afternoon – Big Round Records BR9816, 37:09 [Distr. by Naxos] ****1/2:
(Tony R Clef – nylon-string guitar)
The current resurgence in solo acoustic guitar is diverse and emanates from many sources. In the case of Tony R Clef, the journey started in his native Vermont, where he studied classical guitar. Not content with limiting his repertoire, he became an avid follower of Brazilian popular music, including samba and bossa nova. To underscore the non-conventional nature of his career, he works in IT at Harvard. As with many new artists, he has garnered attention for videos posted on YouTube.
Clef’s release, Tuesday Afternoon on Big Round Records is a tour de force on the nylon-string guitar. Covers of eclectic classical, rock, Brazilian and popular music are arranged with texture and precision. Without intrusive engineering, the tones of the guitar and playing techniques are emphasized. The opening track, “Me, O Ye Gods” (Henry Purcell) is a fluid baroque piece that is framed by Clef’s deliberate expressive style. A 20th century piece, “Valse Chemins De L’amour” takes on a gypsy-influenced waltz signature. The guitarist infuses both of these pieces with emotion. Moving into the realm of show music, two interesting lesser-known compositions are rendered. From the 1971 movie, Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, Clef reinvents this Leslie Bricusse melody (“Pure Imagination”) with a deft picking style and jazzy chords. A whimsical treatment of “Out Of My Dream” (representing the quintessential American musical, Oklahoma) pays tribute to Richard Rodgers in a brisk and lilting two minutes.
A trio of rock numbers changes the mood of the album. Paul McCartney’s “When I’m Sixty-Four” maintains the playful exuberance with its vaudevillian rhythm. The last verse benefits from a harmonic-based lead. With bluesy musical hall bravado, Ray Davies’ descant loaded “Sunny Afternoon” is as quirky and loopy as the Kinks’ original version. The title cut captures the atmospheric pulse of vintage Moody Blues with a full complement of strumming and individual notation. All three of these covers are faithful to the originals, but with a plethora of nuanced instrumentation.
Clef has significant perception of latin melodies. Jobim’s rumination on loneliness, “A Felicidade” coalesces the melancholy and up tempo samba intonations with flair and graceful precision. A subtle, lively undercurrent revives Lo Borges’ “Clube Da Esquina #2”. Also, there are nimble tempo brakes that are catchy. The late-night romanticism of “Melodia Sentimental” (a memorable song by Heitor Villa-Lobos from Floresta Do Amazones) is heartfelt and supple.
Whatever the genre (New Age, Guitar Instrumental), Tuesday Afternoon is a musical treat.
TrackList: Me, O Ye Gods; Pure Imagination; Out Of My Dreams; Melodia Sentimental; When I’m Sixty Four; A Felicidade; Clube Da Esquina #2; Moontime; Valse Chemins De L’amour; Sunny Afternoon; Tuesday Afternoon
A lesser known jazz pioneer gets a re-mastered vinyl upgrade.