by Steven Pisano
Kettle Corn New Music continues to present some of the most interesting and varied programs in the city, at venues as wide-ranging as the DiMenna Center, the Donnell Library, and Le Poisson Rouge, which is where I saw guitarist Dan Lippel last week.
Honestly, I was a little hesitant about seeing a show featuring just one man playing guitar all night. I can listen to solos pretty much endlessly on piano, saxophone, trumpet, violin, or cello. But guitars (and also drums) usually make me start daydreaming. Even some rock god slashing his axe at ear-exploding decibels has a tendency to make me numb.
So imagine my surprise when Lippel grabbed me from the very first pluck of a string and kept me mesmerized throughout the night, and at the end, wanting even more. Lippel isn't loud, flashy, pedantic, or boring. What he is is an amazing master of his instrument. And I guess I've been living under a rock, because when I checked out his website after the show, my head started spinning with all the accolades he's garnered, and the list of contemporary composers who have written compositions just for him is long and jaw-dropping.
During this program, Lippel did not play the music I usually associate with solo acoustic guitar--Spanish guitar music, dating back centuries. Most of the works he played dated back to no earlier than 2000; the earliest piece, "Five Intermezzi" by Ursula Mamlok, was from 1992. My favorite work on the program was a section from Martin Bresnick's lovely "Joaquin Is Sleeping, Joaquin Is Dreaming," a three-part piece from 2008 inspired by the birth of Bresnick's grandson. Joaquin is a lucky boy to be honored by this this tender, melodic tribute.
After five pieces on acoustic guitar, Lippel switched over to an electric guitar for two pieces: the world premiere of "No Wave" by Ryan Harper, and the quirky, encyclopedic sounds of "Trash TV Trance" (just love that title!) by Fausto Romitelli, written in 2002 just two years before his untimely death from cancer at age 41.
The concert was an eye- (and ear-) opener for me. So the next time someone invites you to a Dan Lippel solo concert -- GO!
More photos can be found here.