Guitar Spring: Music For a New Season

by | Apr 3, 2024

I had some time on my hands. Many folks did during the 2020 pandemic. Some who were fortunate to socially distance at home were able to spend time exploring curiosities and long-held interests. I’ve always enjoyed classical guitar music. I decided to finally get a guitar and get to practicing.

I’ve been making music for years, mostly as a producer. I also play the jazz bass. But the bass is an instrument that usually accompanies other instruments. During the pandemic, there wasn’t anyone with whom to play, and I didn’t enjoy playing bass lines as much as I used to.

At the same time, I was producing albums for a few classical guitarists. They didn’t use a pick, and that intrigued me. I had developed dexterity in my hands from years of playing the bass. Could I learn how to play the guitar?

I borrowed my neighbor’s electric guitar. I watched guitar tutorial videos on YouTube and used an app to learn basic chords. But I knew the sound I wanted to make. I wanted to play the nylon string guitar. My friend Larry del Casale helped me find an Alhambra guitar in 2021. I enjoyed playing it and fell in love with its delicate sound. I wanted to find a teacher to guide me. I asked Aaron Larget-Caplan, a celebrated guitarist, and he agreed to teach me via Zoom.

I struggled through the first few months of lessons. My musical ideas were far ahead of my technique. I was learning a new instrument and wanted to express what I could hear and feel. Aaron guided me with lessons, exercises, and even stretching routines. Little by little, I learned the repertoire on this album. I joked with friends about the subtitle: “The first songs I learned on guitar” or “The only songs I can play.”

At the same time, these songs became the soundtrack of my life. My family likes to have tea together around 4 PM every day. I played classical guitar for them for what became hours. It was wonderful to share fully formed songs. It has been so enjoyable playing a polyphonic instrument where I can play the melody and harmony together. That’s the thing about the guitar – you have a metaphorical orchestra at your fingertips, with rich timbres and tonalities.

The album begins with “Felicidade” which is the famous bossa nova piece by Antônio Carlos Jobim. When I heard Roland Dyens’ arrangement of it, I stopped everything. It was amazing and arresting. I loved the jazz and classical mashup. I had to learn this piece. I practiced it every day for months, trying to get it under my fingertips. While the piece is a stretch for me technically, I’m proud of how it came out.

Lagrima” by Francisco Tárrega and “Romance Anónimo” are standard Spanish guitar pieces. The first is melancholy and the latter is something to enjoy with a bottle of Pinot noir. I wanted to learn pieces with lyrical melodies. If I was going to spend weeks learning a number, it had to be something that others enjoyed. I selected “La Paloma,” which was composed by Sebastián Iradier and arranged by Tárrega, because it brings a smile to everyone’s face. I performed it for my classmates at an executive education program at the Harvard Kennedy School.

René Bartoli’s “Romance” is the second or third piece I learned to play. The B section unfolds with haunting beauty. I had the honor of performing it for President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter at their home in Plains, Georgia.

Tárrega’s “Adelita” is another familiar piece in the classical guitar canon. I wanted to include a piece by Fernando Sor, and I chose “Estudios 5, Op. 35 No. 22” because of its simple yet memorable lines. I learned Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie” because it’s a piece that you just have to know how to play. I wanted my rendition to have a dreamy quality, so I opted for sustained reverb. I hope this piece evokes a sense of fantasy and wonder.

The final piece “La Paloma (Solo Version)” is the most me. I’m a jazz musician, and I wanted to solo. The habanera vamp is irresistible and beckons for a jam. During my solo, I quote “Day-O” (The Banana Boat Song) made famous by Harry Belafonte, with whom I had the pleasure of collaborating. He had passed away weeks before I recorded this piece, so I wanted to honor him.

I kept the production process straightforward. I recorded at Studio Magic in the Atlanta metro area and mixed at Studio Unicorn in Redding, Connecticut. I had the pleasure of joining Paul Avgerinos at his studio in Redding during one of my free weekends as a Navy reservist while I was taking a staff course at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. I listened to the final mixes with headphones while walking around campus wearing my Navy uniform.

Spring is a time of beginnings. I’m releasing Guitar Season: Music for a New Season in spring 2024. Playing the guitar is a new chapter, a new season for me. I hope that you enjoy this album. Maybe it will inspire you to start a new chapter in your life. Don’t let becoming the best in something prevent you from getting started. I’m only trying to be the best version of myself.

Here’s to new beginnings and the joy of exploration.


Submit a Comment