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California Guitar Trio

Live in Eugene, OR, 2003

Review by Bob Cooper

After many failed plans to catch the California Guitar Trio in performance, my wait was finally rewarded when they came to Eugene's WOW Hall. As some of you may know, Eugene is a college town where the "hippie era" is still thriving and alive, so I believe I picked the ultimate venue to see these three guitar virtuosos perform for my first CGT show. I brought along my wife to share in the music with me, since the CD impressed her.

Attendance was "intimate" on this night, which I attributed to the fact that they were competing with Leftover Salmon who were also playing that night at another venue, so there was the distinct feeling of one-on-one-ness which, for my money, lent to the specialness of this show. First, let's talk expectations. As a kid growing up and schooling with a plethora of other guitar players (and very few that played other instruments), the thought occurred to us on many an occasion that it would be quite cool to have a band that consisted of all guitarists. However, on our attempts it all came out as sort of a twisted pandemonium comprised of a mixture of "Smoke On The Water", "Roundabout", and "Stairway To Heaven" swirled together and to be quite frank, it sucked. So the thought that someone did finally succeed is primarily what lured me to this endeavor.

What I found on this tiny stage is perhaps one of the tightest and most well orchestrated example of guitar virtuosity I have ever experienced. Here we have Hideo Moriya to our left, Paul Richards center stage, and Bert Lams to our right, all stone-faced and proper, walking out onto the stage. None of the band is actually from California, but these three are students of Robert Fripp's Guitar Workshop, so one could correctly depend on the fact that they wouldn't suck. Suddenly, with a twinkle in his eye, Paul strikes one note. He looks over at Bert, who then hits a note. Then Hideyo, then Paul, then Bert, with the speed picking up until soon this amazing melody erupted. (They later explained that the alternating note thing was a Fripp exercise that they used to do with upward of 25 guitarists). The amazement continued through the next song and the remainder of the 1-hour-plus set, where they presented many tunes from their latest CD CGT+2, including "Melrose Avenue", a beautiful Moriya tune called "Zundoko-Bushi", and "Train To Lami". They also brought out a couple old songs as well, but in truth I was waiting to hear a song that, if properly executed, would prove the prowess of these 3 talented guys: "Heart Of The Sunrise". Well, as it turned out they didn't play that song, but fear not-they went one step further. To my surprise and inequivocable delight they performed Queen's entire "Bohemian Rhapsody"! And they did it flawlessly no less.

All told, I would have to say that this show was every bit worth the 100-mile drive to see! I would highly recommend checking out the latest CGT CD, entitled CGT+2, with the "+2" being none other than Tony Levin and Pat Mastelotto.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 3 at
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