Sebastià Gris Llorer, Clau I Canyella
Review by Chris Wheatley
Sebastià Gris first encountered the guitar at the age of fourteen, taking private lessons in his home town in Majorca. Intriguingly, he spent a year playing on the streets of Stratford-Upon-Avon, in England – a locale famed, of course, as the home of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Gris then returned to Spain, studying guitar seriously at the Conservatorio del Liceo, Barcelona. Since then, he has collaborated with many local musicians as arranger, composer, producer and teacher. Llorer, Clau I Canyella is his first solo album. It was recorded, we are told, "almost entirely on the edge of the kitchen counter at home" in Centelles, Catalonia. For those interested in the details, Gris plays here a Norman Encore B20 Folk acoustic guitar captured on three microphones.
"Aeroblues" will leave no doubt that this is something special. Gris coaxes sounds from his instrument which echo numerous genres yet feel entirely original. You'll hear in his music the blues referred to in the title, but also American and English folk tunes, classic country, jazz and, unsurprisingly, Spanish flamenco. While Gris certainly explores unusual territory, and asks questions of the listener, this music is never less than charming and accessible. Gris plucks, picks, strums and slaps with style and verve. Whatever techniques he employs, however, melody and rhythm lie at the heart of these compositions. The results are both thoughtful and delightful.
On "L'automata," Gris' fluid, mercurial runs are breathtaking. Alternating mesmerizing finger-picking with energetic strumming, he weaves a complex pattern of sound which, at the same time, hooks the ear and moves the feet. "Zelda's Lullaby" is a gently, jazzy affair, with a soft tone to match its title. Even here, though, Gris injects enough originality and invention to reward repeated listens. The more strident "Bemin" is a particular highlight, rolling cinematically before dipping and diving and wheeling across the metaphorical sky.
As a fellow guitarist, I can state that Gris' playing is wondrous. As a music-fan, his compositions offer the best possible combination of the memorable and the challenging. Anyone who loves thought-provoking music with a folk ethos will find much to enjoy in this masterful set.