This album is credited to Anthony Wilson and rightfully so, as this master guitarist/composer/arranger wrote the four-part Seasons" suite and led a quartet of virtuosic plectrists to perform it before a live audience. But perhaps the real leader of this session isn't a person but rather, the exquisitely handcrafted guitars of John Monteleone.
Monteleone has been making mandolins and guitars since the 1970s, and while his products have never become household name, many of the world's best guitaristslike Mark Knopflerknow it well. In any case, they've acquired enough appreciation to earn a display at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. For the display, Monteleone created four uniquely beautiful guitars inspired by the four seasons. Eventually he realized that there needs to be music to go with these guitars, so he asked his friend Wilson to compose the music. Honored by the request and inspired by the instruments, Wilson accepted the challenge and practically came up with the suite within a day.
An event last April marked the whole fine work of craftsmanship by both Monteleone and Wilson, with the Seasons" suite performed live at the museum by Wilson, along with Julian Lage, Steve Cardenas and Chico Pinheiro. This wasn't Friday Night In San Francisco but rather, a rehearsed performance of Wilson's meticulous and carefully crafted music (it's amazing he was able to whip up such completely composed and realized music in such a short period of time). Yet, Wilson shared the lead parts amongst each of the four participants, each of them leading a movement. Even the guitars themselves were shared throughout the performance. Mixing up roles and instruments engendered a more integrated and varied performance. Furthermore, the especially clean timbres coming from these guitars really shine through when the four are playing together; the collective harmonics are simply gorgeous.
Each of the movements really do reflect the mood of the season their names are attached to. Winter" is somber, and austere, while the samba pacing of Spring" mimics the sprouting, growth and liveliness of that time of year. The folky, bluegrass feel of Summer" makes this the brightest and most easygoing section. Autumn" segues from Summer" back to Winter," even returning to a chord progression first introduced in Winter." Thus, it's possible to cycle through the songs in this progression with no set beginning or end, just like the real seasons.
Following the Wilson suite are individual performances, with each of the four guitarists taking their turn. Wilson combines his own Meditation On Autumn" with Wayne Shorter's Fall." Pinheiro selects Jobim's Tide." Lage played April Kisses," while Cardenas performed Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most." These solo bits afforded to opportunity to test drive these guitars on more worn roads after being driven on Wilson's newly constructed freeway, and showcased the individual personalities of both guitar and player. The whole performance ended with the four reunited to play Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game."
There's not just an audio side to this release; the accompanying DVD includes a video of the concert, a documentary and still photos of the rehearsal and the performance.
A genius luthier and four genius guitarists create a special, one-off event that's an artistic treat for both eyes and ears. That makes Seasons: Live At The Metropolitan Museum Of Art a rare type of delight.
Seasons goes on sale today, by Goat Hill Recordings.