Few guitarists in the world can play as effortlessly and as gracefully as Sir Richard Bishop. A member of the Sun City Girls and a participant in Locust Music’s acclaimed Wooden Guitar collection — as well as a collector and dealer of rare books — Bishop’s playing reflects his worldliness. On Improvika, he blends Eastern and Western influences to create a work that, while free-flowing, is a consistently fascinating listen. It’s hard to make an instrumental solo guitar album enjoyable, but Sir Richard Bishop pulls it off with flair.

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“Gnostic Gem,” the second track, is a great introduction to Sir Richard’s style. A dirge with Eastern overtones, “Gnostic Gem” sounds like he’s stuck somewhere halfway between an old Western shootout and an Indian raga. The track is a lengthy seven minutes, but Bishop never loses focus. Another fascinating track is “Cryptonymus” a somewhat atonal stylistic divergence from the rest of Improvika. While it’s an interesting track, Sir Richard was wise to keep it to a scant two minutes, as any more dissonance would have been almost unbearable.

Bishop succeeds with Improvika because of his ability to build tension by not sticking to one musical idea for too long. He uses inventive chords and unusual melodies while avoiding the self-indulgence that so many other similarly proficient guitarists fall prey to. He never tries to do too much, making Improvika accessible even for nonguitarists, yet impressive to the most advanced players. It deserves to be studied, dissected, but most of all, enjoyed.

 

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

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