Lluís Gómez Quartet
International bluegrass is no more consistent in sound and influence than the familiar North American variety. No surprise then that Spaniard Lluís Gómez’s Quartet recording is an eclectic album that will either challenge listeners- again- as to ‘What is bluegrass, anyway?” or be embraced by those who celebrate acoustic instrumental virtuosity.
Barcelona-resident Lluís Gómez is comfortable playing his 5-string banjo in a number of musical settings including one devoted to traditional Irish music. On Quartet, Gómez is joined by three like-minded musical compatriots to explore original bluegrass, jazz, and newgrass sounds.
Entirely instrumental, Quartet features Gómez with longtime friend and musical mentor Ricky Araiza (guitar), Joan Pau Comellas (harmonica), and Maribel Sánchez (bass.) Joining the quartet on mandolin is American Tom Corbett, who also contributes some guitar, Tim Carter and Jose Mari Pulido (banjo), Bernard Molloy (fiddle), and Victor Estrada (theremin.)
The album’s initial track “Doctor’s Tune,” an ode to Gómez’s friend Pete Wernick, wouldn’t be out of place on any Alison Brown album, with mandolin-inspired images of waterfalls and other natural elements forming in this listener’s mind. Comellas’ harmonica breaks are especially appreciated within the confines of this light tune.
Elsewhere, upright bassist Sánchez is allowed to take a prominent role on the bass-rich “Forget the Fiddle,” an Araiza original that features a tapestry of mandolin notes that is quite remarkable. Araiza’s guitar fills and breaks are breathtaking in numerous places including on “Hutnik’s” and “Russtheny,” a tune inspired by two of Gómez’s favorite guitarists, Russ Barenberg and Pat Metheny.
The sounds Gómez coaxes from his 5-string are both exotic and comfortable; he can play it fast (“Stop the World”), he can play it slow (“Desestres”), and always he plays it in a manner that is completely jaw-dropping. On “Moving Cloud,” the most traditionally folk sounding tune on the album, Gómez- and Molloy’s fiddle- remind us of bluegrass’ Celtic origins.
And stick around for the eerie interlude within the album’s final track, “Walkin’, featuring a possible first- a banjo and theremin duet- as well as shades of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.
Quartet is an inspiring collection of acoustic, instrumental music rooted in the sounds of bluegrass but reaching out tendrils to a place where genre labels are inconsequential.