BY TIM PANTING
The Journey Continues…
An album of original compositions for the guitar is to be welcomed wherever and whenever it appears. In an age where the classical guitar’s appeal appears to be expanding at an astonishing exponential rate, it is also becoming harder to distinguish one player from the next as they all vie to play certain pieces by Brouwer, Rodrigo, etc. faster and more precisely than their rivals; so much so that it sometimes feels like the very soul is being sucked out of what we loved about the instrument in the first place. So it’s nice to be exposed to new repertoire or a regular basis.
I don’t know many biographical details about Nick Fletcher other than he was born in 1960 in Sheffield, England, started playing the guitar around the age of 12, and fairly early on was impressed by the likes of prog-rock guitarists Steve Hackett, Steve Howe, and others. Then, thanks to watching Christopher Nupen’s great Segovia documentary [Segovia at Los Olivos, 1994), he became fascinated with the classical guitar. At some point, too, he fell under the spell of Ralph Towner and one can feel the great ECM artist’s influence on Fletcher’s compositions, but in no way are they slavishly derivative.
What is immediately refreshing is the fact that Nick Fletcher is a highly accomplished player who has total control over his instrument. A testament to his compositional output is the catalogue of nearly 60 compositions published by Canada’s Les Productions d’Oz. Being on the roster of that powerhouse of contemporary works for almost all guises of the guitar is no mean feat. The scores of all the tracks on this album, except for pieces seven and 14 are available from d’Oz.
Which draws me to The Moon Circle (track 7), where Nick’s guitar is met with the gorgeous flute playing of John Hackett, younger brother of non-other than Steve Hackett, erstwhile Genesis guitarist extraordinaire. Appearing at the halfway point in the album, midpoint of the journey, it is an atmospheric piece set to an E drone, almost raga-like in feel; breathy and insistent. It’s then followed by a lovely Towneresque departure, Dance of the Eagle and the Elk. The joyful playing continues with the koto-like dreaminess of Lake Kawaguchi, followed by brilliant Baroquisms in the two fantasias.
There are too many other delights to spoil, and many interesting stylistic turns, so I would heartily encourage a listen of this wonderful recording, the production of which is superb. The tricky balance of reverberation in recording the classical guitar here is managed perfectly, with just the right touch of ethereal quality allowed to lift the playing.
Ballerina; Village Dance Number 2; Silent Stream; Crossing the Rubicon; Laelia; The Mesmerist Etude; The Moon Circle; Dance of the Eagle and the Elk; Lake Kawaguchi; Prelude in E minor – Fantasia Number 7; The Labyrinth – Fantasia Number 14; Spheres of Celestial Peace; Undercurrent; Epitaph for a Dreamer – Improvisation (in Memory of John Taylor)
The album is available to be sampled and purchased on CD Baby, bought and streamed on Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes, and streamed on Spotify and YouTube.