Five classical guitar albums for new guitar students to listen to (in no particular order)
1. Play - Jason Vieaux
Why: A brisk-paced program of stand-alone encore repertoire ranging from the toe-tapping to the sublime, all played by a guitarist whose tone, interpretation, and musicality I consider to be the model of how a classical guitar should sound. The perfect place to start. (Plus, this album is one of the few solo guitar albums to ever win a Grammy - can't be all bad, right?).
2. Christopher Parkening celebrates Segovia - Christopher Parkening
Why: Like the album above, this album offers key examples of the classical guitar repertoire played by a truly sensitive and refined musician. Some of the music here is also found in Play, offering a chance to hear how two guitarists can make very different music come from the same piece.
3. Art of Segovia - Andres Segovia
Why: Every guitarist needs to know where they come from. Whether you prefer his playing or not, Segovia's legacy undeniable, and all guitarists continue to be judged be the standard the Spanish maestro set. This double-album is as much a history lesson as anything else.
4. Sergio and Odair Assad - Latin American Music
Why: Because two guitars are twice as nice - especially when they are played at superhuman levels of unity and technicality. An exciting look at some of the most important names in South American guitar composition by arguably the most important guitar duo to have ever graced the stage.
5. Rodrigo: Fantasia para un gentilhombre/Brouwer: Concerto elegiaco
- Julian Bream (Leo Brouwer, conductor)
Why: There will be plenty of time to listen to Aranjuez later. Concerto elegiaco is one of the most exciting guitar concerti out there and the perfect introduction to the language of Brouwer, in itself a wonderful introduction into the world of contemporary music. The Fantasia is sweeping too, yet considerably lighter than that *other* Rodrigo concerto for new listeners. Plus, Bream is a joy. Enjoy.
BONUS: Images of Metheny - Jason Vieaux
Why: (You'd think I were a fan of this guy or something.) I love this album of Pat Metheny cross-over arrangements because it takes away all pretense of what classical guitar should be, allowing the listener to simply enjoy the music for what it is. Here you'll find gut-wrenching melodies, soul-churning harmonies, and an atmosphere oozing with sentimentality. Images of Metheny teaches us that classical guitar doesn't always have to be so... well, classical.
2. Virtuoso - Joe Pass
Why: I was only impressed by Joe's lightning speed when I picked this up as a teenager who didn't know anything about jazz. Now that I'm an adult who still doesn't feel like he knows anything about jazz, I am equally awed by Joe's seemingly effortless approach to voicing, articulation, and embellishment. Like many solo jazz guitar albums it can be a tiring front-to-back listen, but all-in-all I find this to be the perfect pass (no pun intended) at one of the greatest guitar legends to have ever lived.
3. Djangology - Django Reinhardt
Why: The quintessential introduction to gypsy jazz. Also, guess how many left-hand fingers this guy used? Yeah, you're going to be stunned when you find out the answer and hear how it didn't slow him down a bit. Enjoy your dose of "la pompe."
4. Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
I don't think there's anything I can say about this album that hasn't been said in great hyperbole, so I won't even attempt to. I understand I'm opening a can of worms here by including a non-guitar album, but come on, this isn't just required listening to be a jazz musician, this is required listening to be a functioning member of society. Why are you still reading this? Go listen now!
5. We Like it Here - Snarky Puppy
My personal favorite Snarky Puppy album (I haven't found one I disliked). I recommend this album to students to hammer the truth that though studying standards is an effective template for learning in academia, jazz is so much bigger (and more alive!) than we can see with a purist mentality. At the end of the day, ya gotta be able to play - and these cats can do just that in boatloads.