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California Guitar Trio plays Cascade Locks

Oct. 30, 2010

This year, Cascade Locks has been a destination of sorts for music lovers of all ages.

First, it was the kids. Can you blame them? What I’m talking about, of course, is the fact that over the summer the town was treated to a full-on concert by a bus-load of students of rock and roll, aptly named the “School of Rock.” And rock it did.

I’m not kidding here —as I sat up front, next to the stage, I was trying to figure out the difference between what I was hearing from these kids and some other concerts I’ve seen that cost way more to see.

And my answer was: Not much. I was getting great music by people who were obviously having fun. Just like a normal rock and roll show.

As we fast forward to fall, Cascade Locks is poised to give the adults a turn on the stage, with a scheduled performance by the California Guitar Trio, on Saturday, Nov. 6. Now, since I personally know that the guitar is a ubiquitous instrument in the Gorge, I’d like to say this: If you own a guitar, you need to see this show. And here’s why:

I truly believe that most folks have a playing style that’s based on two things: You, and Someone Else.

In your subconscious, you have been a “student” by taking ideas from other guitarists and making those ideas your own.

You see, the members of this guitar trio were, and probably still are, to some degree, students themselves. These three players with very different backgrounds got their instruction and inspiration from some very influential people, including one of the world’s top-rated guitar icons, Robert Fripp.

By attending this show, you get to be the “student” again, and some of the trio’s playing just might rub off on you. Besides, not only will you be able to hear the music, but you can watch how they do it. You can’t get that experience by just listening to a CD.

The California Guitar Trio, officially formed in 1991, base themselves out of Los Angeles and they have toured all over the world. My first impression with the music samples on their Website was how precisely the music is played — and all three guitars manage to blend together. But if you’re thinking this might be a strictly “classical” concert — don’t. These guys bring in ideas from rock, surf and their own compositions that combine into a new style of acoustic guitar that only this trio can deliver.

And speaking of original compositions, the band happens to be touring in support of a new album “Andromeda,” which is 100% original, all acoustic, with a pinch of digital studio effects thrown in for good measure. And I’m pretty sure that hanging out with Mr. Fripp for a few years was where the digital studio effects inspiration came from.

The band’s playing style is very unique. You might say the California Guitar Trio has been together for so long, the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.... and the middle hand, and the other hand over there.... well, you get the idea.

Interview with guitarist Paul Richards

Paul Richards took a few minutes from the band’s recent tour rehearsal in Texas to talk about the band, and reminded me that I should really study my Pink Floyd albums more closely.— Jim Drake

Thanks so much for putting Cascade Locks on your tour schedule. Please introduce yourselves and describe what you do.

We are three guitarists, one from Belgium, one from Japan and one from Utah. We formed the California Guitar Trio in Los Angeles in 1991 and since then have been touring the world playing a unique style of instrumental acoustic guitar music.

The three of us met while studying with British guitarist Robert Fripp. Our musical influences are very diverse and this diversity is reflected in our music.

When someone asks me what kind of music the California Guitar Trio plays, it's not an easy question to answer as we play so many different styles. Each of the members of the band have a very different musical background and different influences, and we bring this all together in the music that we play with the CGT.

A performance by the CGT is like a musical journey. Along this journey you may hear music that is familiar to you, such as our arrangements of classic music, surf guitar music or classic rock music. And you will also hear music that is not so familiar as well with our original pieces, all blended together to form a very unique concert experience.

I just listened to the song "Echoes" on your website. Now, I've got a LOT of CDs, and if I'm not mistaken, this sounds very Pink Floyd-influenced. Am I on the right track here?

“Echoes” is actually a Pink Floyd song. And the version you listened to is our arrangement of that song, so yes, it is very Pink Floyd influenced!

Over the years we have done a few arrangements of classic rock pieces, but this is just one small facet of our extremely broad repertoire.

Your bio says you guys met in the “League of Crafty Guitarists.” Tell us what it was like being in that band?

The League of Crafty Guitarists is an acoustic guitar orchestra of sorts, directed by Robert Fripp. Bert, Hideyo and I toured with the LCG for several years before we formed the California Guitar Trio. Most of the music was incredibly complex and very demanding on both the performer and the audience.

It was in this group that we learned how to play well together and really listen to each other.

What is it like to work with Robert Fripp? (Fripp is a founding member of the rock band King Crimson, and has worked with David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno and many others.)

Very, very challenging and extremely satisfying. Robert is one of the most unusual and most unselfish people I've ever met. He has a very unique way of looking at music and life in general. He is uncompromising and does everything he can to make his performances the very best that they can be. I learn a lot from him, and he continues to be very supportive of the California Guitar Trio.

Your website says you have a new album, "Andromeda." Does this project have an overall theme?

Yes, the new the album is the first to feature only original music written by the California Guitar Trio. The music on this album is all played on acoustic steel string guitars, and was recorded on vintage analogue recording equipment to help capture a natural acoustic sound. At the same time we used some digital effects processing to create different textures and sounds. Blending the acoustic with the electric sounds to create something new and different.

And how did you come up with that title?

The album is named after one of the pieces on the album which sounds very much like what a galaxy might sound like if you could hear it.

When you guys learn a new song, do all the parts get written out first - and then memorized? Or do you play something and then transcribe what you played?

It depends on the kind of piece we are learning. If we are working on music from Beethoven or Bach, we work from the original sheet music. When we are working on our own music, we create the parts while playing together, and then later transcribe the parts.

After playing Oregon, where does the tour take you?

We are in Texas now, just getting ready to begin this month long tour which will takes us from Texas to Oklahoma, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and then up into Canada, traveling all the way across Canada from the West Coast to the East Coast, ending the tour in Quebec.

What advice could you give for those who would like to try acoustic guitar but don't know where to start?

A good guitar teacher can be very helpful. Learning to play one of your favorite songs is also a very good place to start.

The trio appears in Cascade Locks on Saturday, Nov. 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the Pavilion at Port Marina Park. Tickets are available the door or at www.skamaniaarts.org.

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