Elliott Sharp/Scott Fields – Scharfefelder (CFG 003)
Garrison Fewell/Eric Hofbauer – The Lady of Khartoum
Guitar duos present many possibilities for intrepid musicians. Such pairings can be opportunities for boundary-pushing sonic explorations.
Scharfefelder, a collaboration between guitarists Elliott Sharp and Scott Fields, is a frenetic set of duets performed on acoustic guitars. This is a challenging listen, with dissonant passages a common occurrence, but still obvious that both musicians are masters of the instrument. Tracks such as “Branendrane” and “Put your pennies in my Portuguese cork hat” showcase the iconoclastic—and quite different from each other—playing of both guitarists. Sharp and Fields both contributed to the compositional structures here, with each piece more of a loose set of parameters for improvisation than tunes in any conventional sense.
The more musically interesting of the two recordings, The Lady of Khartoum takes inspiration from the music of West Africa and the Middle East. Garrison Fewell, a well-known educator and performer, teams up with fellow guitarist Eric Hofbauer for a collection of mostly improvised duets. Both musicians used prepared guitars in an attempt to simulate the sound of different ethnic instruments such as the kora. Additionally, both use percussion instruments, such as bells hanging from their tuning pegs, to augment the instrumentation and create the desired atmosphere. Tracks like “Dogon Delta Blues” and “Devil at the Salang Pass” are adventurous and quirky, exploring the boundaries of the guitar’s sonic possibilities. “Farsighted Friendship,” a John Tchicai composition (Fewell is a long-time collaborator), is a fitting closing tune, beautiful and contemplative.