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MUSIC REVIEW : Four Views From Guitar Summit : A master sampler reflects styles from two cultures that have contributed greatly to the instrument's evolution. The musicians will play Sunday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.


PASADENA — It was a diverse audience that filled the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena on Wednesday for the first Southland stop of the definitively diverse Guitar Summit program. The message was clearly one of pluralism, bringing to one stage the disparate talents of guitar greats Joe Pass (jazz), Paco Pena (flamenco), Pepe Romero (classical) and Leo Kottke (Kottke-esque folk).

In effect, this was a Spanish-U.S. accord, reflecting styles from two cultures that have contributed greatly to the instrument's evolution. By nature a sampler, this program was no occasion for obscurity or chance-taking, but the overall musical substance of the three-hour concert had a powerful impact.

Kicking things off with the supple single line melody to "I Remember You," the self-effacing Pass wove his particular magic in the difficult realm of solo jazz guitar. Better than anyone on the scene, the self-reliant Pass mixes chordal and linear inventions and shifts between floating rhythm and an internal, propulsive sense of swing.

From another improvisation-friendly musical style, Pena has mastered the flamenco vocabulary of scalar flurries, whisking arpeggios and percussive effects. Most important, he invests both precision and passion into his playing. In four characteristic pieces, Pena illustrated flamenco's bridge between serious and folk traditions.

True to the conservative nature of the program, Romero stuck to the stock stuff of "Romanza" and music by Tarrega, closing with "Fantasia," by his guitarist father, Celedonio. Behind a guitar, he exudes confidence and Spanish bravura and boasts a mastery of tonal range.

In some ways the most individualistic player of the evening, Kottke showed his uncanny ability to make folk music sound like capital-A Art. His flowing brand of instrumental music, with his mumbling thumb and nimbly drawn swatches of melody--both earthy and ethereal--matches his trademarked droll, between-song patter. In short, he's a virtuosic digressionist.

When the guitarists convened onstage at the end for a few tentative duets and one quartet piece, it didn't matter that they didn't exactly click together. This was a peace-keeping mission, setting aside differences and celebrating a few good masters.

The program moves to UCLA tonight and to the Irvine Barclay Theatre on Sunday.

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