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Harvey Valdes — Novare: J.S. Bach Lute Works on Electric Guitar
(Destiny Records no#, 2022, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-12-09

Novare: J.S. Bach Lute Works on Electric Guitar Cover art

When I reviewed Solitude Intones Its Echo, I noted that Harvey Valdes is skilled at working melodies into the midst of chords on the guitar. With Novare, we now know how he learned that skill. This album consists of Valdes playing J.S. Bach pieces on his electric guitar. This is a set of compositions that have come to be called Bach’s lute music, though there’s some debate about whether Bach originally wrote them for lute. Be that as it may, it’s beautiful music and Valdes plays it beautifully. He uses a very clean tone on his guitar without any hint of distortion, though it is clearly not an acoustic guitar being used. It seems that most of the time, when we hear Classical music on guitar, it’s something with a Spanish influence, and it’s nice to hear something different. I don’t know how Bach purists will react to these interpretations, but it seems to me that they’re every bit as valid as Bach keyboard pieces played on a piano — an instrument that didn’t exist in Bach’s time. One of the joys of Bach’s music is the way that melodic lines intertwine, and even parts that are supporting the main melody work as melodies of their own. In the explicitly polyphonic pieces, like fugues, this is literally true, but even in other pieces, the chords backing the main line are structured so that they contain little gems of interest. Novare is more than a curiosity in the catalog of a jazz guitarist — it’s a wonderful statement in its own right, and these techniques are integral to what he does, regardless of how far he ranges afield.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Harvey Valdes

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