Those of us who love the guitar experienced a triple treat recently at Koerner Hall, at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music. Three guitarists who are known for their music in different styles – the Latin musician, Oscar Lopez, Rik Emmett of hard rock fame, and Pavlo the Mediterranean guitarist – came together in a concert in support of their marvelous album, Trifecta. And to say it was a magical evening is an understatement.
The album itself had been an experiment in combining styles that have their own distinct flavours to see how well they could mesh. While Latin and Mediterranean music may sound similar and work more organically together, could they then be successfully combined with a rock ‘n’ roll sound? These three musicians gave us a living demonstration that they can.
There is something about watching master craftsmen at work that is just riveting. It didn’t matter what type of music these men were playing: their hands and fingers moved with such ease and control along those strings that you could almost believe the guitars were mere extensions of their own bodies. And they could coax divine sounds from them with the mere flick of a couple of fingers and the fine movements of a guitar pick.
The rock element was somewhat toned down, with the Latin and Mediterranean sound often predominating, as Emmett provided background rhythm and power chords during Pavlo’s or Lopez’s complex finger work. But the guitar leads of a hard rock band are swift and intricate, so Emmett was perfectly equipped whenever he soared into the same heady realms as his counterparts.
The atmosphere of the concert was warm and almost cozy, partly due to the genius of Koerner Hall itself. It’s arranged so that nobody is that far from the main stage. And the warm colours and soft woods around the stage and beamed across the high ceiling guarantees an intimate sound. Pavlo remarked that he’d been to Koerner hall soon after it opened last year, and immediately thought, “This is where we have to play!” He turned to us in the audience and said, “Isn’t this the perfect place for this concert?”
The musicians have been touring, off and on, since January, so they obviously know each other very well by now. Lopez often got the others laughing, and there was a lot of entertaining banter back and forth. At one point, Pavlo and Lopez goaded Emmett into getting up and demonstrating the patented “pelvic thrust” which, he explained, “every rocker has to learn at rock school.” Some of their giddiness might have stemmed from the fact that this was the final concert of their long tour. But the three musicians seemed genuinely relaxed and enjoying each other’s company.
At these moments, we in the audience felt as though we were part of a big family just hanging out and amusing ourselves. But each time these three guitarists got back down to business and began to play again, we were lifted to another realm entirely. A realm of brilliant skill and exquisite music that left us breathless.