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International Guitar Night Offers Music Without Boundaries

February 11, 2017


The humble guitar may be the most diverse of all instruments in form and function. There are variations with four, six, seven, 12, even 42 strings. They come electrified, acoustic, and hybrid, made of wood, plastic, or metal in every conceivable shape. Strings can be strummed, plucked, tapped, or hammered with bare fingers and nails, fingerpicks, flatpicks, and bows. Notes are determined on fretted, unfretted, and scooped fingerboards with fingers, metal tubes, bottlenecks, or knives.

Each year the International Guitar Night presents four innovative acoustic guitarists from around the globe for an evening of genre-busting solo and ensemble playing that incorporates all of the above. The eclectic concert takes place in San Francisco at the Herbst Theatre, on Feb. 18, as part of the Omni Foundation’s Dynamite Guitars series.

The brainchild of fingerstyle guitarist Brian Gore, this traveling showcase is now in its 17th year. Gore is on sabbatical this year, but he has assembled a fascinating group of guitarists hosted by Lulo Reinhardt, great-nephew of jazz manouche (gypsy jazz) legend Django Reinhardt. Although fully steeped in the fiery traditions of his great-uncle’s swinging Hot Club style, Reinhardt’s playing melds flamenco, Latin, Brazilian, and jazz elements into an amalgam he calls “Latin Swing.” His right-hand technique is particularly interesting, and he is equally adept at the lightning-fast, down-stroke flatpicking typical of jazz manouche and at the fluid strums and rasgueado of Spanish and Latin-American styles.

Expect some altered tunings, slapping, tapping, and wild double-handed fretting when Italy’s Luca Stricagnoli takes the mic. The self-taught artist’s unconventional approach turns the instrument into a one-axe ensemble with melody, bass line, counterpoint, and chords churning along with percussive highlights in an infectious groove.

Chrystian Dozza is in the vanguard of young Brazilian musicians. The guitarist has won numerous prestigious awards for his performances and compositions, and noted fellow Brazilian guitarist Sérgio Assad says, “Chrystian Dozza is, today, one of the great compositional talents of Brazilian guitar ... With his combination of formalism and freedom, Chrystian gives us pieces that will certainly make their way into the traditional repertoire of the Brazilian guitar scene.”

The most dramatic revelation of the evening for most listeners will be Hindustani slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya, who improvises Indian ragas on unique guitars of his own design — refinements of efforts by earlier generations to adapt the lap steel guitar for use in classical Indian music. Bhattacharya’s Chaturangui has six primary melody strings, two chikari high drone strings, two additional drones, and 12 or more sympathetic resonating strings. He plucks all of these with a thumbpick and three fingerpicks and notes the strings with a metal slide. The ethereal sound melds tones from traditional Indian instruments like the sitar with the expressive keen of blues slide guitar.

Come with ears open and expect the unexpected.

Paul Kotapish is the managing editor for SFCV.  You can learn more here or at guitarfish.net.

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