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Guitars by Doug Munro

Purchase College at SUNY has come up with an idea that other educational institutions should emulate: It has created its own record label. Other colleges and universities may have their own labels too, but I'm unaware of anything comparable to Purchase Records' approach. Proceeds from the sale of Purchase Records' CDs benefit the Purchase College Conservatory of Music Scholarship Fund. Not only does such an initiative bring money back into the college for the continuation of music education, but also it exposes the sometimes-underexposed jazz educators who have dedicated their lives to teaching, instead of to major-label work. That's not to say that the jazz educators have settled for a life of education. Quite the opposite may be true: They may have supplemented their lives of superlative performance abilities with the giving-back-to-society rewards of teaching. The list is quite extensive, but some examples include Gary Burton, Chuck Israels, Kenny Burrell, David Baker or Herb Pomeroy.

As the head of the Jazz Studies Program at the college's music conservatory, guitarist Doug Munro is a logical choice to be recorded. Active on the New York jazz scene and acting as a record producer, Munro has taken the engaging concept of combining jazz and flamenco guitars for a unique fusion that deserves a close listen, as well as a sit-back-and-enjoy-the-music enjoyment.

After Munro worked with Spanish guitarist Mariano Mangas in a series of concerts throughout Europe, the quite logical idea occurred to document their blending of styles. Unlike a guitarist like Charlie Byrd or Laurindo Almeida who synthesized Latin and jazz styles acoustically within the work of a single artist, Munro and Mangas deliver a like-minded interactivity, one electric and one acoustic, that's just as distinctive. Interestingly, while Munro, steeped in the jazz tradition, shows an extensive knowledge of flamenco guitar, Mangas in contrast adapts his flamenco learnings to the jazz idiom. The two meet in the middle for a confluence of music that borrows from both genres.

As if to demonstrate the point, Munro and Mangas attach everyone's favorite cocktail lounge song, "Feelings," to the classical flamenco composition, "Concierto De Aranguez." (You would recognize it when you hear it. It's from dozens of gunfighter movies.) The resolution of contrasting modes of song reveals a little bit about each one: "Concierto De Aranguez," after its traditional start, evolves into a singable melody based upon "Feelings'" changes, while "Feelings" develops as tune of shifting internal chord movement that's akin to Brazilian subtlety. As a result, the medley is one of the CD's standout tracks.

While Munro and Mangas perform "Bull Fight" as a purely flamenco-inspired tune (ironically written by American Munro), the two guitarists have fun with Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa," which begins seemingly in a spirited Latin mood. Only when the melody is played does the listener begin to categorize the tune within the familiar jazz genre. The medley of "16 Tons" and "Pink Panther" provides a lot of fun as they take advantage of both tunes' humorous connotations, not to mention the supporting descending movement of the lower part.

Munro's "My Spanish Heart" has nothing to do with Chick Corea's famous album of the same name. Rather, Munro has created the occasion for him to express his appreciation for the flamenco talent that inspires so many other guitarists. Fortunately, Mangas provides authenticity in the execution of Munro's concept as one backs up the other rhythmically under the haunting melody played with emotional flourish and an irresistible but easy flow.

GUITARS is notable, not only for its admiration of the possibilities of the instrument itself, but also for its realization of the infinite sounds that it can create. The focus upon flamenco and jazz guitar narrows those possibilities but leads to the appreciation of the sonic textures awaiting discovery and enjoyment.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Doug Munro
  • CD Title: Guitars
  • Genre: Latin Jazz / Latin Funk
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Purchase Records
  • Tracks: Manha De Carnival, Meeting Point, Autumn Leaves, Bull Fight, Concerto De Aranjuez/Feelings, Popular Melodies, Tocar, Blue Bossa, 16 Tons/Pink Panther, My Spanish Heart
  • Musicians: Doug Munro and Mariano Mangas (guitar)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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