Classical and jazz guitarist and composer Andrew York, the featured artist for the second program of the 2012 Community Arts Program Summer Concert Series, had some stiff competition last Thursday night, facing off against the Miami Heat hosting what turned out to be the final game of the NBA Championship. After CAP Artistic Director Mark Hart’s groaners (“Despite the bad weather, there will be no ‘thunder’ tonight” and the recital “promises to be a slam dunk.”), the acoustic concert quickly got underway. Well aware of the big game, York mentioned that he would know how well he was doing by seeing who returned after intermission.
York, one of the solo guitar artists on the worldwide circuit, cuts a striking image with a grey beard opposite a knitted cap, a short kaftan-like jacket hiding a black shirt, and a head leaning back in perpetual motion. He created a mood so subtly diverse that to the unfamiliar ear it might have sounded repetitious. York pulled from both personal experience and imaginative ideas for inspiration. His opening piece, “Glimmerings,” written for a friend’s (two time cancer survivor) 60th surprise birthday party, contrasted well against the final piece of his program, “Mechanism,” where two machines attempt to and succeed in communicating with each other.
“Glimmerings” was a five movement piece affecting a lively distinct melody with supported bass, the bass then all at once mirroring a slower melodic passage, morphing into a childlike middle, curious and innocent, then darting and scampering to a full blown finish. “Albaycin,” the second composition, written for a Japanese friend, contained a Spanish flair while “Yagmur,” insinuating itself, was written for a colleague's Turkish girlfriend, the lower hand producing a hypnotic rhythm, York humming to a free, lifted, smiling melody, making this a song you could easily breathe in. Prior to intermission, “Woven Harmony” began with a simple plucked melody moving through a nervous section returning to a melody for all times, allowing for a perfect fade.
York explained that he traveled with only one classical guitar which he seemed to retune before every piece. He revealed the nature of nylon strings being the sort of strings that don’t like change. “Tune them up and they tend down. Tune down and they creep up.” Like life. For the Bach Cello Suite # 5 in C minor (selections) he tuned his guitar to that of a cello, creating both a truly unique guitar-imitating-cello sound and a lovely and entirely pleasing rendition of the J. S. Bach Suite, the counterpoint and runs accomplished with honest craft. “Centerpeace,” originally a collaborative band piece with Andy Summers (guitarist for The Police) was a sublime meditation reminiscent of the Windham Hill sound, the melody and bass line so simple and distinct, dark and light rolling into each other, plucked harmonics buttoning up this musical garment. “Mechanism,” humorous while sporting shades of emotion, portrayed two machines learning to communicate when words just won’t do and the desire to connect was abundant. One could hear the machines growing and learning and continuing to attempt to communicate, at once very busy and then suddenly calculating and measured.
York, eyes closed, expressions changing throughout the concert, responding to the musical notes as if they were lyrics, drew upon unencumbered melody and straight ahead technique throughout the evening. His encores were well chosen, The “Linus and Lucy” Vince Guaraldi arrangement was impeccable, boasting a jazzy bridge in the middle. The Minuet from Ana Magdalena’s Songbook by Bach topped off the evening, seguing sweetly into the night and the Heat win.
York spent 16 years with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ) specializing in Baroque, Bluegrass, Flamenco, Rock and New Age repertoire, receiving a Grammy Award in 2005. He actively performs in 30 countries, recently in Columbia, Turkey, the Czech Republic and Japan. York's compositions have been recorded by top shelf guitarists John Williams and Christopher Parkening, and Japanese pianist Mitsouko Kado.
The Summer Series at the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ is in its 27th season. Check out “Centerpeace” on YouTube to glimpse York’s signature sound. This will turn your difficult day around and make a good day even better.