Review of Stream of Gratitude by Gyan Riley, Tzadik, 2011
It’s a real wind of gratitude that crosses this cd, with Gyan Riley inspired music, dedicated to giants of music and guitar. Gyan Riley, California guitarist, composer and experimentator, presents with this CD evident evidence of acquired artistic maturity both as a composer and as an interpreter. Here we listen to him playing his classic guitar, an instrument that might seem somewhat out of place for a person who played with classical musicians such as electric violinist Tracy Silverman, violinist Timb Harris, the Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, drummer Scott Amendola (Nels Cline Singers),the Dither electric guitar quartet and his father, Terry Riley, one of the historic fathers of American minimalism, frequentations that gave him a multicultural vision over music.
In his first record release for John Zorn’s Tzadik, Riley decides to play four of his compositions devoted to his musical influences. Stream of Gratitude, the composition who gives the title to the CD, is a new four-piece suite dedicated to J.S. Bach. Riley’s writing can be disconcerting but is far from seeming impenetrable. Riley’s sound is similar to the soul of a folksinger, but is animated by a “rubato” similar to jazz. Both the Stream of Gratitude (2010) and the following “Four Etudes” (2007) move through the permeable membrane between classical composition and other idioms, infact these four studies are dedicated to particular figures such as the Brazilian composer / guitarist / pianist Egberto Gismonti, English luteist and composer John Dowland, guitarist / composer Agustin Barrios Mangore and John McLaughlin, a true guitar hero of our time. His music moves on emotional territory in the three-part composition “Zonata” (2005), composed for the Croatian classical guitarist Zoran Dukic. The album ends with the six-minute Irican (2009), “for the Mother Lands”, which for Riley includes Ireland and Africa, as well as India and Spain.
Each of these music features some precise technical challenges, but Riley’s precise touch, the deep and overlapping reflections that can be obtained from the sounds of his guitar demonstrate a guitar technique characterized by impeccable articulation and intonation that can become almost invisible, created solely for being music expression service. Impeccable recording that puts even more emphasis on Riley’s personal sound environment, featuring rich and warm sounds.