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Sharon Isbin's 'Affinity' is a very interesting disc, with pride of place / The Art Music Lounge

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This rather strange CD came to me only as a download from a promoter who works nearly 100% with jazz and jazz-influenced pop music, but I suspected something was different when I saw the name of Richard Danielpour, a strictly classical composer, on the promo sheet and also noted that Chris Brubeck had written a guitar concerto for her. And sure enough, Sharon Isbin is not a jazz guitarist, but a classical guitarist who apparently enjoys playing modern repertoire. Well, good for her!


Chris Brubeck's Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra is a crossover work similar to some of the things his father wrote. Although in one continuous movement lasting over 16 minutes, it does include different sections, the first of which is a fast one with some interesting syncopation and a bass line played pizzicato like a jazz bassist.


Leo Brouwer's El Decameron Negro is a suite of three ballads inspired by African love stories, written especially for Isbin. But these are not all slow, drippy ballads; the music includes some interesting eighth-note runs and the harmony, though tonal, moves around interestingly. 


Natalia is a waltz by Antonio Lauro arranged for two guitars by her partner on this track, Colin Davin. This is much more in the South American pop style and, although very well played, is more of a charming trifle.


No so, however, Tan Dun's Seven Desires for Guitar, written for Isbin in 2002. This is a really edgy modern work using multiple rhythmic devices as well as demanding some string- and guitar body-slapping by the performer. The rhythms seem to want to tend towards normalcy, but Dun keeps breaking them up in asymmetric patterns and at times almost makes Isbin's acoustic guitar sound like an electric with feedback, so percussive are the effects he calls for…and she is up to the challenge in each and every section. As a footnote, I can also tell you that this is a VERY technically difficult piece to play. Also on this CD are Richard Danielpour's three little love songs for voice and guitar.


Overall, a very interesting disc, with pride of place definitely going to the Dun and Brubeck works. -© 2020 Lynn René Bayley