Groove Jazz Harp Guitar and Other New Music

Well, the first task I’m catching up on after the month-long series on my France trip is something two years behind now: updating the Harpguitars.net Music page, where we list all CDs and DVDs that include harp guitar.  I just finished.  If you don’t see something on there that you think should be, let me know – it’s becoming quite difficult to keep up with these days!

I know that many of you share your music and keep up with others’ on Facebook; for those who don’t (guilty, as charged), I’ll start with what’s come through my mailbox in the last few months:

cds2013-1Craig Sharmat was a neighbor of mine (he recently moved up the coast) who came over one day almost 2 years ago to try out some instruments and discuss harp guitar particulars.  He was specifically looking for a unique instrument that would inspire him to do something special with his original music in the genre of Smooth Jazz (he calls his “groove jazz”), in which he has had notable success (a Billboard hit, for one).

He eventually decided to commission a completely custom instrument (patterned on the Sullivan-Elliott design) from Woodley White.  That was this one, featured in my profile of Woodley of June, 2012.  I was sworn to secrecy on its owner, as Craig wanted time to get comfortable with it and incorporate it into his next planned project – which came out recently.

On Bleu Horizons (2013), his state-of-the-art “groove jazz” CD (featuring many of today’s smooth jazz heavyweights), Craig includes it on 3 tunes (“Manhattan Morning, ” “Mumbai Mojo” and “Open Plains”).  He tells me he ended up not using the subs much (as he already had an expert bass player), saying, “I had to often stay away from the bass as not to clash with the bass player but played where I could and often doubled. On ‘Open Plains’ I was able to play bass on all bass notes though there is a bass player.”  His super-trebles were used for color and musical embellishment on all 3 of the above tunes, and reminded me a bit of the koto flourishes in the music of Yutaka.  Again, you can hear them to best effect in “Open Plains” (coincidentally my favorite track on the album).  I had initially asked Craig if he hoped to do any solo work on it, but he said no, his very specific goal was to do something completely different with harp guitar, and also something completely different in smooth jazz.  Indeed, this is a first in that field: groove jazz harp guitar!

cds2013-2Ken Bonfield recently completed Legacy (2013), a successful Kickstarter project, providing him with the funds to record this most recent CD (good plan, Ken – next time I won’t have to ask my wife!), consisting of all solo acoustic fingerstyle music on 3 instruments built by his friend, luthier extraordinaire and mad scientist Al Carruth.  Two of these are baritone guitars, and one is of course the harp guitar “The Beastess” (the follow-up to the prize-winning “Beast” – an unfortunate but appropriate name coined by myself).  Ken does 5 tunes on the HG.  Fidelity is great, and you can really appreciate the clear-but- intense lows of all three instruments.

cds2013-3Austria’s Harald Peterstorfer is a name occasionally associated with the harp guitar, as some time ago he had a friend fit a separate steel-string super-treble box to his classical 6-string guitar (along the lines of James Kline’s “side car” on his Perlman arch-guitar).  He calls it a “guitar-harp.”  His brand new CD Konigskinder (2013), alas, features just one tune with the super-trebles (and it’s the most magical), but the whole album is a pleasant listen with an expertly-captured (recorded) sound.

Other additions since the last Music page update that I haven’t yet blogged about (some have been mentioned on the Forum) include this slew of releases from 2012:

cds2013-4Long-time Harpguitars.net contributor/supporter and Gathering-goer Nate Blaustein completed what was probably at the top of his bucket list: his first harp guitar album.  In fact, it’s called First (2012).  He played all solo harp guitar on his modified (for 19-strings) Hewett.

cds2013-5Fager som en Ros (Fair as a Rose)(2012) by the group Nykken includes Verlene Schermer (whom you met in my October, 2010 blog) playing Benoit Meulle-Stef’s elaborate 21-string harp guitar on 6 tracks.  BTW, she explained that, as they use harps in the group, she deliberately spelled it “harpguitar” in the liner notes so that their fans wouldn’t get (understandably) confused and think it was just a harp and a guitar…although, frankly, I’d think the crazy instrument on the cover might be a clue!

cds2013-6On his new CD titled …Chemin St. Benoit (2012), Martin Larose specializes in slap harmonics (which he expertly nails).  He includes 2 tracks on his Alan Beardsell harp guitar.

cds2013-7Stephen Roane plays over a dozen instruments on his String Pieces, Volume Two (2012) CD, including two on his own homemade harp guitar.

The ever-prolific Stephen Bennett released not one, but two brand new CDs in 2012!  High St consists solely of originals, while Cool Tunes for Harp Guitar consists of, well, really cool covers (Hey, I did come up with the title).

Lest we forget, and not to blow my own horn (he lied), there have been three new Harp Guitar Music releases in these last 2 years: Further Beyond Six Strings, Christmas Present, and our surprise Stephen Bennett tribute album The Water is Wide.

Other catchup Music page entries from 2011 include CDs by Keith Medley, Simon Wahl, Jon Mendle, Peter Havlicek, and Profundkontra.

Keep the music coming!

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