Fort Worth—The Renzo Piano Pavilion at the Kimbell Art Museum is a venue at which one would expect to hear great music. But perhaps only of a certain type. With its cold concrete and glass, it puts a person in the mindset of focus and attention for something of intellectual rigor. It is the perfect place in which to enjoy something contemporary or the sounds of some ancient, lost civilization. But what happened Thursday night was cool.
The beginning of the performance gave us the anticipated, concert-like wisdom of the distant past in the form of a Vivaldi Concerto. Guitarist Christopher McGuire, the founder of Fort Worth Classic Guitar Society/Allegro Guitar Series, was joined onstage by Evan Jacobs at the piano and George Anderson on bass to fill out the continuo. Waiting for the austere, controlled performance of music from the Baroque, however, one soon realized in their playing that we would not have that sort of satisfaction. In fact, they were leading us to a different place entirely by not hiding the possibility that they were actually having fun on stage.
It is special enough when music transports the listener to a different location, but to transport us from a concert space to a comfortable fireside lounge is truly remarkable. Announcing the pieces from the stage, McGuire would share a story or tidbit about each piece. The audience was completely in his hands. Whether a tune written by McGuire or a jazz standard, his musical style and personality was on display completely unhindered.
After the Vivaldi came a variety of blues, jazz, improvisations, and classics, all with the same welcoming and casual flair. A guitar solo, Recuerdos de la Alhambra, left a particular impression. Its difficulty is in maintaining a wandering tremolo above a supporting harmony. McGuire pulled it off with virtuosity and warmth.
Take One Away was an example of the quirky but always congenial playing around applied to each of the more familiar jazz or blues tunes. Imagine Brubeck’s Take Five except in four/four time. This was some serious fun. After the listener became used to hearing the piece in four, a quick wrap-up of tune in its original five/four meter provided a fresh insight into the odd way Take Five can really swing.
Anderson’s bass playing was never lacking a sensitive and supporting rhythmic pulse which kept the music flowing effortlessly. Jacobs’ pianism was an equally serious contribution. He knew exactly how much sound was needed to support the guitar and remain in the background. But in solos he displayed a fine sense of harmony and melodic exploration. The balance, interaction, and single-mindedness of the musicians suggested a group that had been playing together for years.
The concert could have been perceived as long if one watched the clock. At just over two hours, almost any other type of music would begin to wear. But because the audience was treated like guests in McGuire’s own home, the time together was over before thoughts to check a watch ever crossed the mind.