Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rodrigo y Gabriela: re-Foc (Album Review)

Released: Sometime in 2002
Reviewed: August 2nd, 2011
Label: Rubyworks

Rating: 9.5/10

Track Listing:
1. Diem
2. New One
3. Foc
4. Georges Street - The Tartar Frigate
5. 30 de Marzo
6. Paris
7. Take Five
8. Temple Bar

Even though the duo of Rodrigo y Gabriela is perhaps not defined as 'jazz' in the strictest sense of the word, their music is a fusion of a wide variety of styles and I feel it has an element of jazz. It certainly carries the same soothing vibe that characterizes jazz music. It comes as no surprise to me that the duo often participates in jazz festivals, like their appearance in the Nice Jazz Festival in Portland last year. Over the course of their short but much celebrated musical career, they have collaborated with jazz aficionados like Alex Skolnick, and their music often exudes a very recognizable Al Di Meola influence. Hence I found enough reason to write about them in this blog. I start with their re-Foc album, which was technically their second album but it was really the first album that was easily accessible to everyone.

The album starts off with "Diem", a tune decorated with brilliantly crafted acoustic guitar segments of varying speeds along with the violin which provides the smooth touch, if you can call it that. Besides being terrific musicians, Rodrigo and Gabriela are also huge fans of music themselves, and they often dedicate their tunes to some of their favorite musicians, Dave Mustaine in the case of Diem. The following tune "New One" is slow in tempo, giving you ample chance to absorb and savor the incredible melody of the acoustic guitars. The layer of vocals and violin on top of the guitars makes the tune even more powerful than it already is. "Foc" brings back the speedy Di Meola-esque style of musicianship that was evident in the opening track, and by the time I was done listening to the 5 minutes and 40 seconds of this tune, I was gasping for air, such is the breathtaking splendor this tune possesses.

"Georges Street - The Tartar Frigate" has a more prominent violin sound, even though the acoustic guitars are in full flow as usual. The interplay between the guitars and violin is just beautiful. It's followed by "30 de Marzo", a slow, soft and melancholic tune that perhaps serves as the breaking point of the album. These incredibly powerful 4 minutes lead into "Paris" which comes across as a complete contrast. The interlude contains a small portion of "Blitzkrieg", a song originally written by a band of the same name, covered years later by Metallica. "Take Five" follows, the longest tune on the album and certainly the most enjoyable one as well. This is another tune with a reference to Metallica, as it contains an excerpt from the song "One". The tune carries forward with a brilliant build-up to the One interlude which then leads into a delightful final segment. "Temple Bar" brings the album to an end. It's a very interesting tune in terms of its composition, as it alternates between full-sounding passages, those that consist of nothing but a single layer of guitar, and others with only percussion. It breaks the tune into several segments and I would very much like to see this played live, as it should turn out to be a great live tune.

Overall, this album proves the sheer brilliance the duo possess in their musicianship. If acoustic guitar-oriented music is something you enjoy, you shouldn't look past Rodrigo y Gabriela's re-Foc.

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