CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO
Komorebi
(CGT Records)

 

With the three members located all over the world, The California Guitar Trio rose to fame through their affiliation with King Crimson founder Robert Fripp during his early Discipline Global Mobile era. With a slew of great albums in their canon, CGT has far surpassed all expectations and, in 2017 they further their legacy with a another memorable album called Komorebi. Leading off with the title track—composed by CGT cofounder Hideyo Moriya—the CD features eleven sparkling, mainly acoustic guitar-based instrumentals that combine other music composed by group cofounders Bert Lams and Paul Richards. The album is also notable for some fresh CGT covers, including the early Shadows classic (penned for them by the late, great Jerry Lordan) “Wonderful Land”. Other covers on Komorebi include songs made famous by the Beach Boys (“Good Vibrations”), Buck Owens (“Buckaroo”), The Beatles (“Dig A Pony”) and even Dave Brubeck (“Blue Rondo à la Turk”). In the hands of these three excellent guitarists, these classic songs come alive as never before. Several guest artists appear—including CGT family members Tony Levin, Petra Haden and Tom Griesgraber—but the center spotlight is on the ever-changing, yet constantly brilliant, California Guitar Trio. Speaking to mwe3.com about the new cover version of "Wonderful Land" and "Dig A Pony", Paul Richards adds, "On the second CGT album we recorded a cover of the Shadows' "Apache", which was recommended to us by Robert Fripp. He even taught us the 'Shadow Walk' just before going onstage to open for King Crimson at Royal Albert Hall. We love The Shadows and Jerry Lorden's writing, so when we were deciding on a surf guitar cover for our new album, "Wonderful Land" stood out as a winner. For the Beatles tune... Yes, "Dig a Pony" is certainly one of the Beatles' novelty tunes and I love the cool guitar riff that begins the tune." A stellar album from California Guitar Trio, Komorebi is a tribute to classic music and to the art of instrumental guitar. www.facebook.com / www.CGTrio.com

 





mwe3.com presents an interview with
CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO


mwe3
: How did you decide on the name Komorebi for the 2017 CD? It’s interesting that you also included the name in Japanese too. What does it translate to and what’s been the reaction from Japan? Is Hideyo something of a guitar hero in his native country?

Paul: Komorebi (Japanese, Noun) Sunlight filtering through the leaves of trees, creating beams of light that shine on the forest floor. Last year when we were working on new music for a new album, Hideyo wrote this beautiful delicate piece and named it “Komorebi”.

We felt this music and the wonderful Komorebi album cover photo from our friend howard-snyder.com set the mood for the album very well. We haven’t had a chance to play concerts in Japan since the Komorebi release, hopefully we’ll be invited back soon. CGT has performed in Japan at least a dozen times. The last time we were there doing concerts in Tokyo and Osaka at the Billboard magazine venue, Hideyo received lots of big cheers and a very warm welcome from the audience.


mwe3: Was there a theme in the Komorebi album as far as choosing the music this time? It’s so varied with the combination of new music and covers. How do you decide on choosing the cover tracks? Is it done by unanimous consent or do you draw straws to see who wins?

Paul: The “theme” for our albums generally develop as we are recording and putting the albums together. We’ve never had to draw straws when choosing music. Many of the cover tunes are suggestions from friends and fans. All three of us have a very open mind, and are generally in agreement when we hear something that works well for us. Alternatively, if any of us feels strongly that an idea is not working well, the three of us work together to see if it’s possible to turn it into a good idea, or it’s easily abandoned. We’ve tried many cover tunes that didn’t work well for us at all. We are excited when we choose a cover tune that works out well. The proportion of original music to cover tunes often depends on how prolific we are at the time. Writing new music is a constant ongoing challenge.


mwe3: Was “Good Vibrations” picked because of its timelessness as far as summer music choices go? It’s interesting that you chose the most popular Beach Boys song yet, the Beatles' selection “Dig A Pony” is one of the most unknown Beatles hits. How challenging were those tracks by Brian Wilson and the Fabs Four to arrange for 3 guitars? Might there be other excursions into those prolific songbooks?

Bert: We picked “Good Vibrations” mostly because of its interesting composition and textural changes within the song. Very much like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, it has unexpected changes and great melodies that translate well to the guitar. But above all: these pieces speak to the imagination.

Most people have heard these songs, and when we play them, there is that recognition aspect. But we give it a ‘CGT’ twist: we strip down to the essentials of the song, without gimmicks, like distortion or layering of many vocal tracks. This way the core of the piece and the musical intention shines through in a different, more simple way.

Paul: One of our early CGT friends is a big Beach Boys fan and she had been suggesting to us since 1991 that we do a Beach Boys cover. It took us 25 years to finally take a closer look at it. Bert and I listened through many of the Beach Boys’ songs and decided on “Good Vibrations”. Bert worked hard on the arrangement and sent mp3’s and scores to Hideyo and I to learn. It’s not an easy song to play, but it came together fairly quickly once we learned the parts.

I got the idea for the CGT’s “Dig A Pony” after hearing a recording of an Argentinean musician friend of mine Alejandro Miniaci doing a great cover of this tune. Alejandro’s version reminded me of how cool the opening guitar riffs are and we also liked that it is one of the more obscure Beatles tunes.


mwe3: Americans hardly knew The Shadows, who were probably overlooked at the tail end of America’s 1950's cold war wave of the late 1950s. What’s the CGT connection to Hank Marvin and The Shadows?

Paul: Back in 1992, Robert Fripp suggested that CGT do a cover of "Apache". This was our first introduction to The Shadows. We immediately loved Jerry Lordan’s writing and Hank Marvin’s guitar playing. In 1995 as CGT was getting ready to take the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London opening for King Crimson, Robert taught the 3 of us the 'Shadowwalk', which significantly enhanced our live version of this great tune. Last year when we were working on our Komorebi album, we were listening to some of the Shadows classics and “Wonderful Land” stood out to us as a winner. After further investigation I found out that “Wonderful Land” was a number 1 hit in the UK in 1961 and stayed at number 1 longer than any other song that year. It’s about time we introduced this song to America!


mwe3: The title track is brilliant, yet it’s one of the shortest tracks on Komorebi. Did you set out to make a kind theme song? If so, that’s a great theme song. How does the title evoke the cover art and can Hideyo say something about the Japanese characters of the name Komorebi?

Hideyo: The first 4 bars with the intro chords appeared while I was playing my guitar at home. I kept in mind that the piece needs a lot of space in between the notes; I had an image of “the pale sunlight through the green leaves of a tree”. Later when we met as CGT in Atlanta, the piece took shape very quickly in one afternoon session. So, I was very glad since sometime it took forever to finish.

I changed the title to “Komorebi” in Japanese because it much simpler and mysterious.
Ko (__means Tree.
More (___means Leak.
Bi (__means Sunlight.

The piece “Komorebi” is more gentle image of the sunlight on the ground, and many Japanese imagine it in that way. The album title and cover of Komorebi is more strong sunlight through the trees, which stands for all the pieces in the album.


mwe3: You mention how you worked with Tom Griesgraber on making of Komorebi and how Tom did research and experimented with Neumann mics this time. How different was recording Komorebi compared with your last albums? Do you strive to improve your recorded sound with each album? The new album has a uniquely recorded sound.

Bert: As a trio, we grow and change in a dynamic way. We’ve been together for 26 years now, and over the years we’ve enjoyed experimenting and playing with different sounds and technology, relating to the acoustic guitar.

We’ve known Tom for many years; he is an excellent Chapman Stick player, who joined CGT on tour many times. I played many concerts with him as a duo over the past ten years. Two years ago, I released an album with him, called Unnamed Lands.

Tom also runs a recording studio from his home. Since we know each other so well, it was an obvious choice for us to work with him on this new album. He did a lot of research before the recording even started, trying out different microphones and set ups for our specific situation: we wanted it to sound as if we are playing right in from of you, without too many gimmicks, reverb, effects etc. Just us three, the guitars and the music. We needed someone like Tom who would be open to work with this particular situation.


mwe3: Tell us about working with Tony Levin on Komorebi. When did you meet Tony and does he represent the King Crimson / CGT connection in the current times? Who else guests on Komorebi and what do you make of the latest music by Robert Fripp and King Crimson? And what else do you hear from the KC camp these days?

Paul: CGT met Tony Levin when Robert invited CGT to open 130 concerts for King Crimson in 1995 and 1996. We became good friends with Tony during that tour and then began playing music together with him soon after. In 2001 we released a live album called Rocks The West made from a series of concerts that we did with Tony. Tony has remained one of our favorite collaborators playing on many of our albums and doing live shows together when possible.

Last year, Tony was very busy touring with Peter Gabriel and Sting. At the end of this tour Tony had 3 days at home before he left for England to begin the King Crimson tour. I sent Tony 3 tracks from our Komorebi album, and on his few precious days off he recorded beautifully on “Cherry Trees”, “Euphoria” and “Spiritual”.

On Komorebi we also have Petra Haden, who is the daughter of jazz bassist Charlie Haden, singing on “Euphoria” and “Spiritual”. A violinist friend of mine here in LA, Nora Germain plays on “Euphoria”, and we also have famous Italian violinist Davide Rossi on “Claymont Waltz”.

I got to see King Crimson play twice last month, once here in Los Angeles and once in Denver. Excellent shows! I’ve personally seen King Crimson play over 140 times, yes, one hundred and forty!, and this new line up is superb. I don’t know all the band members now personally, but I enjoyed catching up Tony, Pat and Bill after the shows. Robert generally keeps a very low profile while on tour and doesn’t socialize much. I was in the right place at the right time on two separate occasions and got to say hello to Robert twice. I feel very thankful for all the KC connections!


mwe3: CGT play the Raymond Kraut, Ervin Somogyi and Breedlove Guitars on Komorebi. Have you used this combination of guitars before? Are you always on the lookout for new guitars for live shows and recording?

Bert: We’ve played many guitars over the years. In 1991 we started out with the Ovations, and have played many different guitars since, including Martin, Taylor, and Washburn guitars.

In 1995 Ervin Somogyi, one of the greatest luthiers in the world, crafted special guitars for the CGT. We played these beautiful instruments for many years, and Paul used his for the Komorebi album.

Hideyo’s been playing Breedlove guitars for many years now, and they made a special model for him: a CM model with cocobolo back and sides and spruce top.

Two years ago I was approached by master luthier Raymond Kraut, offering to make me a custom designed guitar with walnut back and sides and fanned frets. I’ve been playing this fine instrument since.


mwe3: What other plans do you have for 2017 and beyond and have you given some thought as to future plans as far as writing, recording and live shows?

Bert: Currently, we are touring and promoting our Komorebi album, and this summer we will record a new album as a sextet with our friends from the Montreal Guitar Trio. As for next year, we have different ideas floating around. One of them is to do an album with your suggestions in mind, covering the music from the surf and beach guitar groups on acoustic guitar. People really seem to enjoy that aspect of the CGT.

We just posted a new video of us, covering “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, and it received 36,000 hits on our Facebook page in under a week. There is a lot of music of that era that I would really enjoy playing on the acoustic guitar, and an album with that music would be a fun CGT project to do. It looks like we’ll be in your neck of the woods next year! Our agency has confirmed concerts in Florida for February 2018 in Delray Beach and Miami.



 

 
   
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