Benjamin Verdery is a sociable entertainer. Saturday evening, the young New Englander quickly established a comfortable parlor atmosphere in the Recital Hall at Cal State Northridge with his informal dress, conversational asides and eclectic, pops-oriented repertory.
The program featured only two works originally for guitar, both by former teachers of Verdery. Anthony Newman's "Variations and Grand Contrapunctus" revels in the exploitation of highly idiomatic special techniques and timbres. The Contrapunctus part sounded rather frantic at times, but the Variations grew effectively and the moody denouement worked well.
"Trilogy" by Frederic Hand is a set of jazz homages, harmonically afflicted with cocktail-lounge banalities. But the third movement, inspired by Dave Brubeck, jumped with sufficient energy and abandon to redeem the others.
Among the arrangements, the most exotic worked best. Vahdah Olcott-Bickford's adaptation of Strauss' "Blue Danube" is a marvelously evocative tour de force , discounting the hiccuping Scottish snaps in the main theme. In encore, Verdery offered two Jimi Hendrix songs, sounding little like the original but flashy, fluent tributes nonetheless.