The Rite of Strings

When we talk about a string trio we usually mean violin, viola and cello: acoustic instruments playing chamber music in a broadly classical style. But substitute a guitar for the viola and a double bass for the cello and you get a stringy creature with a rather different complexion. Then, if you electrify the violin and compose a few pieces blending jazz and classical styles, the three-headed beast is completely transformed. This is the rite that Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola and Jean-Luc Ponty performed in the early 90s.

Montreux Jazz Festival 1994

Like the guitar trio in last week’s post we have three virtuoso musicians making unparalleled music together. The individual contributions by each of them are unmistakable but, like true masters of their art, each complements and inspires the others. This video from the Montreux Jazz Festival of 1994 is a particularly fine example. If you want to know why jazz musicians like to improvise, play this clip, study it and enjoy it. Enlightenment will descend upon you, I promise.

As far as I can determine, the Clarke, Di Meola, Ponty collaboration only recorded one album, The Rite of Strings, released in 1995, and it’s only available as a CD. Here’s the cover art and the track listing.

  1. Indigo
  2. Renaisssance
  3. Song to John
  4. Chilean Pipe Song
  5. Topanga
  6. Morocco
  7. Change of Life
  8. La Canción De Sofia
  9. Memory Canyon

Having stumbled across it last week, the absence of this work from the Crotchety Collection became immediately intolerable. Selecting a seller in the Netherlands (geographically the nearest I could find among the dozens advertising online) the Old Man placed an order. The CD arrived a few days later and was soon loaded into the desktop music library.

The first track is a lyrical guitar piece by Al Di Meola with one of the sweetest melodies ever to grace a jazz album. And yet Indigo hustles along on a rhythm section of acoustic guitar and double bass quite oblivious to the lack of any percussion. This one track is worth every penny of the €15 I paid for it.

Indigo

But there’s a lot more to enjoy on this album. The composition credits are split equally between the three musicians: three tracks by Stanley Clarke, three by Al Di Meola and three by Jean-Luc Ponty. (Actually, the Song to John was co-written by Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke, but let’s not quibble.) All nine tracks would sit comfortably on solo albums by any one of these artists. If you like them individually you will love what they have done together.


Delighted by my purchase and wanting to express my thanks to the supplier, the blogging fingers headed for the feedback section on the Amazon website. Puzzlingly, I could find no record of my order. There must have been a glitch somewhere, I reasoned. No matter, there was an email address on the invoice and I used that to send a note of appreciation.

Shortly afterwards a reply dropped into my inbox asking, politely, if I might use the website’s official feedback box. And then the penny dropped. I hadn’t used the market-dominating Amazon; my Dutch supplier was selling on the lesser Discogs marketplace. It wasn’t a glitch in the computer system, it was poor old Crotchety having a senior moment!

Now, where did I put my specs?

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