There are those special individuals among us who always seek a challenge. Whether it be learning an instrument, climbing mountains, or running marathons, they will always push themselves to conquer an obstacle.
Guitarist Diego Barber is one of these amazing people. If he is inspired by something, he’ll meet the challenge running and not just figuratively. Barber has invested a great deal of time perfecting his playing of the classical guitar and composing but he hasn’t stopped there. He has recently become enamored with long distance running, training himself to be a peer amongst some of the best long distance and mountain runners in the world.
It doesn’t take much to spark his creative drive, either. After having heard a performance of the singular pianist Craig Taborn, Barber knew that he wanted to write music for the two of them in a duo format. Then he set his mind to it and did it. The remarkable outcome of their collaboration can heard on Barber’s new recording, Tales.
Originally from Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Barber spent many years studying classical guitar and composition throughout Europe. Having performed professionally in several classical settings (including his first place win at the Classical Guitar International Contest in 2004), he moved to New York City in 2007 to pursue further study of jazz. Barber’s intent has been to bridge the divide between the genres. Barber has released two recordings of original jazz and classical compositions on Sunnyside, Calima (2009) and The Choice (2011).
Craig Taborn hardly needs an introduction, as he has become one of the leading figures of the modern keyboard. His innate ability to adapt to any musical setting from jazz and fusion to contemporary experiments in improvisation and electronic music has made him a favorite of collaborators as diverse as Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Tim Berne, and Roscoe Mitchell. It was precisely this aspect of Taborn’s personality that drew Barber’s interest and appreciation.
The composition of the three original pieces was a challenge in itself. There was the consideration of balancing the two harmonically rich instruments, the classical guitar and the piano. Both also have their own acoustic and physical presence that had to be adjusted for in the arrangements, the piano being overwhelmingly more present than the guitar could ever be. The pieces were also a blend of Barber’s more formal, classical composition style with that of contemporary improvisation. All of the pieces have a very formal structure but end up sounding organic due to the space allowed for improvisation.
Taborn was very involved with the evolution of the music. The two met frequently, not only to rehearse but also to conceptualize and develop the music. This process helped to make these complicated pieces of music breath and take on a life of their own.
The recording begins with the epic “Kilian’s Mountains,” an ode to the world’s best mountain runner, Kílian Jornet Burgada, who Barber bonded with during a mountain race in Utah. The ambitious piece is long form composition that contains sections of strictly notated material along with sections where improvisation sweeps out of the form. With many peaks and valleys, the duo traverse a musical path in a winding ascent. Continuing his tradition of composing pieces for trees on each album, Barber’s “Cipres” begins ethereally and picks up intensity as the swaying of the Cypress tree becomes violent due to a storm, only to calm once again, the notes flickering like leaves in a slight breeze.
Written for former Real Madrid soccer phenomenon Raúl González Blanco, “Eternal 7” illustrates both Barber’s love of his soccer team and his ear for avant-garde texture. The piece is at times wistful, sometimes strident, but ultimately strikes a moving balance between the two. Concluding the recording is “Im Park,” a piece written by Barber’s good friend and mentor Ricardo Gallén, a tremendous classical guitarist and educator based in Weimar, Germany. At a well-heeded pace, Taborn’s luminous solo piano develops the theme and finally is joined by the guitar for a breathtaking finale to the program.
Tales is the ultimate outcome of the meeting of two musical personalities in Diego Barber and Craig Taborn who strive to push themselves to the limits of expression. For Barber, the ultimate achievement is in working through challenges to create something wholly original or that very few can achieve. Tales is a testament to Barber’s character and his drive.
released March 18, 2014
Diego Barber - classical guitar
Craig Taborn - piano