The League of Crafty Guitarists

Conceived as an offshoot of the Guitar Craft residential seminar series founded in 1985 by Robert Fripp, the newly resurgent LoCG, sans Fripp, has emerged in the past six months as a touring name assumed by whatever group of Crafty adepts happens to be doing a performance course. 45-minute set never really took flight until the final number.

With:
Band: Tony Geballe, Bob Williams, Sandra Prow, Travis Metcalf, Chris Gibson, John Henning, Igor Abuladze, Collin Londinguin, Curt Golden.

Conceived as an offshoot of the Guitar Craft residential seminar series founded in 1985 by guitarist Robert Fripp, the newly resurgent LoCG, sans Fripp, has emerged in the past six months as a touring name assumed by whatever group of Crafty adepts happens to be doing a performance course. The distinctive Guitar Craft sound consists of intricate, tightly composed ensemble pieces with strictly assigned parts and little room for deviation. Their 45-minute set, though consistently well-executed, never really took flight until the final number, the Fripp-composed “Driving Force.”

When it works, the result is powerful and amazing, a battery of amplified acoustic guitars that roar and caress, enrapt and delight, six or nine or 12 players executing uncannily as one. The deeply satisfying counterpoint of Bob Williams’ “A Sigh and a Kiss” came out filled with mystery and fulfillment, while the Chris Gibson piece “Ikada-Jima” found pay dirt exploring the pentatonic space of guitar-as-koto, replete with eerily authentic bends and inflections.

However, the same tight discipline that makes this complexity possible also tends to render GC perfs stiff and lifeless, inadvertently sacrificing feel and emotion in favor of the extreme technical competency called for by the music. “Eye of the Needle” seemed threadbare and automatic, and during “Butterfly” some players were so self-absorbed in their playing they seemed asleep.

It’s a rare Crafty who can consistently transcend the discipline and actually look like he or she is having fun. When enough of this group relaxed, the music had room to soar, but too often the mien was flat and deadpan, despite ensemble leader Curt Golden’s periodic jovial banter.

The League of Crafty Guitarists

Genghis Cohen, Los Angeles; 90 capacity; $10

Production: Presented inhouse. Reviewed April 15, 2004.

Cast: Band: Tony Geballe, Bob Williams, Sandra Prow, Travis Metcalf, Chris Gibson, John Henning, Igor Abuladze, Collin Londinguin, Curt Golden.

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