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Transit begins in a deceptively soft and spacious way. Introduction opens with a single synthesized flute, others gradually joining to create a sound reminiscent of the glass harmonica. The first movement proper has the guitar effectively feeling its way, rhythmically and harmonically, against a spacious accompaniment. This is developed in the second movement, with shifts in tempo and a sense of developing urgency; but it is not until part four that we fully enter the world of rock, with appropriate bass riffs and drum sounds. Part five is jazz-rock territory and we begin to get a feel of Nicolella's tremendous virtuosity as the guitar solo builds and soars. Abruptly, the rhythm changes and we're enveloped by a strange mélange of funk and heavy metal, articulated by a series of dislocated tempi. Part seven features rapid bursts of synthesizer. Melody sometimes emerges in snatches which, bizarrely, seem to echo Bach, then Hindemith. The guitar work in section eight takes us back to the tentative ground of the second movement; then we're into the world of heavy rock once more. Section ten, the improvised guitar movement, is perhaps the most obviously lyrical, and beautiful of the piece. This segues into the final section, which builds to an almost frenzied climax, and Transit ends in a sonic antithesis of its opening bars.

It's hard to find comparisons. Pat Metheny, perhaps, in Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint. But that's a very stately piece compared with this roller coaster. The closest I can think is Jan Hammer's album from the 1970s, The First Seven Days which, paradoxically, doesn't even use a guitar; everything is synthesized. Perhaps there is nothing quite like it. The only way to find out is to listen for yourself!

Details of Michael Nicolella's other recordings, and also his concert dates, can be found on his website (below). His repertoire is varied; his reviews glowing. If you live in Seattle, for goodness' sake go and hear him.

Copyright © 19 March 2003 Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK


John Fitz Rogers: Transit

Gale 02-003 Stereo NEW RELEASE 43'50" 2002 Gale Recordings/John Fitz Rogers

Michael Nicolella, electric guitar; John Fitz Rogers, keyboards and programming

John Fitz Rogers: Transit (for electric guitar and virtual ensemble)




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