Contemporary Jazz

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Latin American Adventure

23 MAR 10 JONATHAN WIDRAN

Years ago, after Andres Segovia heard classical guitarist David Russell perform in London, the legendary Spaniard wrote: "My congratulations on your musicality and guitaristic technique."  After 15 years, 14 recordings with Telarc and a 2005 Grammy for Aire Latino, the Glasgow-born Russell on Sonidos Latinos pays glorious and thoughtful homage to four Latin American guitar masters.

On the release, he honors Paraguay's Augustin Barrios Mangore (1885-1944), Mexico's Manuel Maria Ponce (1882-1948), Argentina's Jorge Morel (1931) and Hector Ayala (1914-1990) and Armando Neves (1902-1976). Russell carefully chose from 2-7 relatively short, but richly melodic and intricate tracks to represent each composer's works. Interestingly, in the case of Morel, the feeling is mutual. Russell performs the pieces "Recuerdos del Caribe" and "Mangore (Una Danza)," which Morel wrote with the guitarist in mind.

Sonidos Latinos is simply the latest burst of brilliance by Russell offering a musical history lesson. Previous works include a CD featuring the music of Mangore, another devoted to Spanish composer Federico Moreno Torroba and three Rodrigo concerti for solo guitar. The detailed liner notes by Richard E. Rodda explain the histories of each composer on Sonidos Latinos and the way each piece represents a slice of Latin music history.

But, even without the context provided by the essay, Russell -- who currently lives in Galicia, Northwest Spain -- artfully conveys with his strings the simple truths that the guitar truly is the soul of Spanish music and the Western hemisphere has never been the same since Spanish conquistadores and colonists brought it to the New World beginning in the 16th century.