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JAZZ REVIEW

Master Guitarists' Styles Complement One Another

November 05, 1996|BILL KOHLHAASE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Guitarists Paco DeLucia, Al DiMeola and John McLaughlin, a.k.a. the Guitar Trio, opened their appearance at the Universal Amphitheatre Sunday with brief individual performances that served to define each of their musical personalities.

DiMeola played his solo piece with determined drive and persistence using a variety of tonal effects that ranged from buzzing, wiry exclamations to soft, percussive thunks. DeLucia played with more patience, letting the emotional level build while developing pastoral moods that contrasted sharply with DiMeola's more urban sound. McLaughlin strung together long, inquisitive phrases over synthesizer chords triggered by the playing of his acoustic guitar.

But when they joined together, the music took on another personality. As they've done for the last 15 years, the three transcended their individual styles to play as a single voice in a manner that uses the Spanish classical guitar tradition as a base for expanding into a variety of musical styles and interactions. The "nouveau Flamenco" movement currently championed by a number of sales-conscious world-beat guitarists sounds thin and derivative when compared to the music of DeLucia, DiMeola and McLaughlin.

Playing before an audience composed mainly of "guitar freaks" (as DiMeola dubbed them) who greeted every blistering run with hoots of encouragement, the trio had little time for meditative moments, opting instead to let speed and dense chordal interplay set the mood. DiMeola's "Beyond the Mirage," pulled from a recently released album, was typical, with its shifting theme and accompaniment that came in sea-like waves. Though there were some competitive moments between the improvisations, the three mostly stuck to supportive accompaniment and encouraging embellishment as they backed one another's efforts.

When the tempos did slow, the sounds were warm, intimate and tightly woven. McLaughlin's "David" found DiMeola developing a pensive, Middle Eastern mood inside his solo. Luis Bonfefa's "Manha De Carnaval," played in a duet by McLaughlin and DiMeola, provided the evening's most melodic and moving moments.

* The Guitar Trio appears at Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, Wednesday, 8 p.m. (714) 740-7878.

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