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Enneagram Records

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           Giant Strings


August | September 2009  Volume 23, No. 4

Some of my favorite recordings over the past couple of decades have been duos. Typically these are piano or guitar and bass, occasionally a solo instrument and piano or guitar.

This is a different duo altogether. It’s a somewhat unusual combination, guitar and harp.

But of course the combination is not the point. Like other fine duo recordings, this is really just a nice quiet musical conversation between fine players. And Michael Oshiver and Max Berry have great conversations with a handful of the best known bossa nova tunes (mostly penned by Tom Jobim) plus some blues.

The rhythms of bossa nova lend themselves to these conversations, where the rhythm guitar can really get into the groove.

Four bossas open the proceedings, all with a familiar format – one player takes the lead, the other comps, and then they switch. All four are songs with melodies that both Berry and Oshiver can dig into, and do. The inherent sadness of “How Insensitive” is a brought out by both players, for example. The “Waterhouse Blues” (a Berry/Oshiver original) gives us a walking rhythm and a break from Brazil, before we return to Rio with “Wave” (which used to be overplayed but not so much in recent years) and two more bossas. “Lucky Man” is the old Emerson, Lake, and Palmer tune, and the attractive minor waltz fits in fine with other material.

Oshiver’s playing throughout is marvelous, and overcomes the instrument’s lack of dynamic range. It’s a unique sound that blends well with the fine Berry acoustic guitar work. And that sound contributes to making this duo effort different from most. So maybe the combination is largely the point, after all.

Roger Atkinson

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