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Classical Guitar Magazine (UK)

Fake Book 

Oregon Guitar Quartet (John Mery, recording engineer)

Cube Squared Records

Paired tunes yield intriguing results. This well-recorded and expertly played CD has an interesting concept - namely, eight pieces, four very "classical", where every note is pre-planned, and four others where the fake-book idea of improvising over a given set of chords and melody comes into play. The pieces are divided into pairs, one featuring each approach. So, for example, Mozart's Ronda Alla Turca, a wonderfully bright and effective opener, makes way for "Blue Rondo A La Turk" by the great jazz pianist Dave Brubeck - a very clever piece with continuous passagework in multiple harmonic lines sounding so convincing. 

Two waltzes are next, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Waltz in D minor from his 1938 Suite No. 2 for Jazz Orchestra is one of those pieces with a great tune that you will recognize even if you think you don’t know it. (It was also the opening theme for the Stanley Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut.) This is contrasted with a beautifully melodic and warmly harmonized work by another jazz pianist, Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debby.” Two summer pieces follow: Summer Sky, from Tchaikovsky’s piano work The Seasons, which is as lovely as anything he wrote, and then George Gershwin’s famous “Summertime,” treated to a slightly off-the-wall arrangement that has more abrasive har- monies than what we might expect, but an intriguing concept nonetheless.

A pair of works that reference the myth of Orpheus close the CD—Jacque Offenbach’s Infernal Gallop, which fits the four guitars very well, and then Luiz Bonfá’s Orfeu Negro, another melody you will certainly know, marvelously played. —CD 

Soundboard Vol. 41, No. 3

Mery, John. Argentina 

Works by Fleury, Gardel, Piana, Piazzolla and Guastavino. Cube Squared Records C2R-607, 2015

John Mery's Argentina is a beautiful traversal of music from that country. His selection cover styles from the most traditional - singer Carlos Gardel and bandeneonista Anibal Troilo - to more recent figures such as Piazzolla. Along the way we get fascinating sets of the works of Carlos Guastavino, undeservedly less well known than many other South American composers, and the fascinating Abel Fleury. Virtually every performance and every piece is a little gem. It certainly adds up to a first rate disc. Sound is very good but the liner notes are quite inadequate: more information on the pieces, composers, and sources would have been most welcome!

 

Oregon Arts Watch

In the pit, conductor William Vendice and his mini-orchestra seemed to be having a rousing good time — again (I’m guessing) the effect of Argento’s benevolence to his performers. This music, with its almost cartoon-like parodies of every music form imaginable, sounded fun to play. Some particularly nice moments were provided by guitarist John Mery and Mark Casperson, who ran the gamut from clarinet to bass clarinet to alto sax. Connie Yun’s truly exceptional, sensitive and varied lighting design really made the unchanging set come alive and provided much-needed contextual changes for scenes.

Houston Classical 91.7 FM

The arresting linear clarity that makes the listener sit up and take notice in the Bach transcription portends several things: the emergence of a new, major force in the world of guitar playing, defined (among many other things) by a close ensemble precision and a collective instrumental mastery; the judicious mix of homophonic and contrapuntal textures and the end result (which seems, somehow, guaranteed from the start) that every strand of sound, every musical line worth hearing, comes into bold relief every step of the way. And, especially in Bach, every musical line isworth hearing.  The Oregon Guitar Quartet is not the first group of its kind to essay Baroque music, but it does it much better than most.  Bryan Johanson, one of this group’s members, is also a composer — perhaps that has something to do with the end result.  Each of the four artists—Johanson, John Mery, David Franzen and Jesse McCann— is a master of his instrument and a conscientious musician.

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