is guitarist Victor Saumarez’s
debut recording. This is also his debut as recording engineer, producer, and graphic artist - truly a one-man effort, made possible by the professional quality electronics and computer software that are available to consumers today at affordable prices. Saumarez’s interest outside of music is graphic design; you may view a portfolio of his work at his Geocities web site.
Saumarez, now 46 years old, began the guitar as a relatively late bloomer, not starting the instrument until he was 29. Now, seventeen years later, he has developed into a versatile and engaging performer, forging a style built around swing and European classical guitar. Though he has no formal musical training, he did study privately for ten years, and has been a semi-professional member of four jazz bands for the past twelve years.
Saumarez confesses in the notes that accompanied the CD that he prefers to play in a duo guitar setting. Using this preference as an anchor point, he has created a set of songs that consist only of his guitar, either as a solo, self-accompanied duo, or multi-layered into an ensemble.
His main playing style is built around the European classical guitar tradition. Tracks like "Made In France" and "Chez Fernand" illustrate his abilities as a classical guitarist on a traditional nylon-stringed acoustic instrument. He handles both the melody and accompaniment playing very well. On the jazz standards such as the opening track, "What Is This Thing Called Love", "East of the Sun", or "All of Me", Saumarez employs a jazz-based accompaniment reminiscent of the sound achieved by Django Reinhardt and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France.
But in the multi-layering of many guitars, especially on "What Is This Thing", the recording is much more reflective of the many records made by pioneer guitarist Les Paul. Saumarez not only pays tribute to Paul by using guitars exclusively, but also in his creative choice of effects and accompaniment figures. Paul was never a "jazz" guitarist in the sense that playing "jazz" guitar involves emulating Barney Kessel or Wes Montgomery. The same can be said for Saumarez; but even though he does not rely directly on the standard be-bop style of guitar playing, his arrangements and solos definitely swing.
Hard-core jazz buffs may find this CD less filling due to its lack of be-bop emphasis, but the guitar community at large should welcome this talented and passionate player into its ranks. Fans of acoustic guitar will certainly not be disappointed.