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A spectacular work

Post modernist music -
enjoyed by REX HARLEY

'... Nicolella's tremendous virtuosity ...'

John Fitz Rogers: Transit. © 2002 Gale Recordings/John Fitz Rogers

Transit is a post-modernist piece, par excellence. And if you think that sounds a bit high-flown, wait till you read the sleeve notes! There is only one performer involved: the remarkably versatile, Seattle-based guitarist Michael Nicolella. All other 'instrumentation' is computer generated, and programmed by the composer, John Fitz Rogers, and, like it or loathe it, this is a spectacular work.

On one level, the title can simply be taken to refer to the 'cross-over' nature of the music, but this is nothing like the kind of synthesis one normally associates with the rock/classical fusion. For one thing, the piece is more than a set of separate movements; it's actually quite tightly constructed. For another, it's rhythmically extremely complex in places, and harmonically challenging. It's contemporary. It's experimental. But the liner notes also make a point of telling us that the instruments involved are a Gibson 'Les Paul', a Fender Stratocaster and a 1950's Guild guitar, names that will set the hair tingling on any rock aficionado's neck.

Be warned then. If you're a purist, you'll probably hate what you hear; if you're musically a pluralist, especially one whose life-span covers the '60s and '70s, you're in for a treat. Various guitar styles are showcased, but none is a pastiche. Where I think I can hear references to Frank Zappa, Jimmy Page, Steve Miller, Larry Coryell, Pat Metheny and, of course, Jimi Hendrix, another listener will no doubt find a handful of other names I've either forgotten or don't know.

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Copyright © 19 March 2003 Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK


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