In my Bach-loving childhood home, the names of the great non-Segovian classical guitarists were oft-heard and well-known: Julian Bream, Christopher Parkening, John Williams (not the composer) and – later, but by no means lesser – the great Sharon Isbin. The three-time Grammy-winner and founder of the Guitar Department at the Juilliard School of Music made her name with a recording of Bach’s complete lute suites. Her next few recordings took her through that other hallowed ground for nylon-string guitarists, Spanish and Latin American composers such as Rodrigo and Jobim. Her first attempts at crossing over or, at any rate, departing from repertoire, came early: 1997’s Journey to the Amazon, a collaboration with jazz/New Age saxophonist Paul Winter and percussionist/composer Thiago de Mello.
Now Isbin headlines the staunchly non-purist Guitar Passions, a tour of multi-genre guitar virtuosity co-headlined by jazz and fusion master Stanley Jordan and Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo. Jordan is most known for the novelty of the technique that he rode to his initial fame: a two-hand-tapping, guitar-as-keyboard approach that, in its subtlety and capacity for counterpoint, made the ilk of Eddie look like cave painters. Like Bobby McFerrin, with whom Jordan has toured extensively, the freakish novelty of his approach unfairly colored the assessment of his work; but he has long since ridden that out. 2011’s release Friends is an excellent session by any standard, and it remains boggling how much music this one player accounts for.
Romero Lubambo, who left Rio de Janeiro for the US in 1985, fuses the styles and rhythms of his native Brazil with American jazz traditions in his distinctive, luminescent nylon-string playing. Lumbabo may be best-known for his contributions to Yo-Yo Ma’s album Appassionato.
Guitar Passions makes a stop at the Bardavon Theater on Friday, February 7 at 8 p.m. The program features works by composers such as Joaquín Rodrigo, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Isaac Albeñiz, Gentil Montaña, Quique Sinesi, Ariel Ramírez and Alfredo Vianna. Tickets for Guitar Passions cost $60 for Gold Circle seating, $45 general admission, $40 for Bardavon members and $20 for students. They are available at the Bardavon box office at 35 Market Street in Poughkeepsie; the UPAC box office at 601 Broadway in Kingston; or through Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com.