Sir Richard Bishop is a consummate guitarist, creating lush, evocative soundscapes on his new album, ‘Intermezzo’. This is one of those times as a music journalist and lifelong student of the art when you are reminded that no matter how much you think you know, there are amazing things going on within the the realms of this art that you just had no idea about. It’s times like these that are the most rewarding, because you become a little educated about your art.
For those of you who may be in my position and know nothing about this man, let it be known that Sir Richard Bishop was one third of a group called Sun City Girls, who came out of the Phoenix, Ar. punk scene, and went on to carve out their own distinct niche. I’ve only had the opportunity to listen to a tiny bit of their vast discography; they produced over 30 albums during their existence, and they supposedly blurred lines musically.
This is important to note, because it helps inform the understanding in relation to what exactly is going on in this man’s musical thinking, because this album is unclassifiable. The only way to approach it is as a guitarists’ guitarist record. Within the confines of the pieces presented, the impression is given of a man who is thoroughly in command of his instrument, yet not overtly virtuosic. That is to say, he can play, and play his ass off, but the technical command presented is subordinated to the idea of musicality. As Franz Liszt put it, ‘Technique should be born of spirit.”
Even on a more stylistically straightforward track such as ‘Hump Tulip’, which is coming straight out of the jazz standard mold and is based on a blues progression, the improvisations are so tastefully developed as to interact with the accompaniment to produce the effect of one solid musical unit. You never get the impression that that he’s in it for himself.
I’m not even going to comment on the rest of the album. There’s so much going on here, and each track is so completely self-contained in its aesthetic individuality, that instead of wasting words trying to evoke an image, I urge you to investigate the matter yourself, especially if you’ve never heard of this man until now. If you’re a fan of creative guitar playing and experimental music that heavily emphasizes the musicality, you won’t be disappointed.
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